A/N: Fairly short chapter this time around, but I think it makes up for that in its twists ;) This chapter was meant to be longer, but I liked the Clementine-centric feel we've got going on in this one, plus I wanted to get up a chapter for my birthday :P
"So, you're telling me this asshole knew my family would die, and did NOTHING about it?!"
"How can you trust him if he doesn't even tell you what's going to happen?!"
"Honey, calm down, he might've not-"
"Don't tell me to calm down, Omid! I'm with Kenny on this one, if Dom knew all this shit, he should've told us! You too, Lee!"
"You wouldn't of believed me anyway! Dominic tried to save people! I've seen him do it! He saved Shawn back on Hershel's farm, remember Kenny? He saved Carley, and tried to warn us about the St. Johns. You're making him into the villain when the real villain is still out there! You can't blame the kid for being human!"
"Fuck that, Lee! My wife and child are dead because of this motherfucker. Because of his arrogance! I vote we kick him out RIGHT NOW!"
"We're not kicking Dominic out! Lee's right, he's done nothing but try to save us since the beginning. He took a bullet for me! You're acting like he's the one that killed your family; that he was the one giving our supplies to the bandits! He had no control over what went down, so cut him some slack!"
"Fuck you Carley, you kept this a secret too! Don't you think the rest of us have the right to know this shit?!"
"C-can we all just calm down?!"
"Shut the fuck up Ben!"
"Stop bullying him Kenny! All you ever do is fucking point your finger at everyone; if you got off your damned high horse for a second, you'll realize that we're not the fucking bad guys here! You're just like Lilly!"
The scene came to a standstill as everyone stared in Carley's direction, shock, awe, and confusion etched across their faces. The heat of the moment turned onto its side, leaving a glimmer of complete sadness etched across everyone's faces as the room fell into a deathly silence. Clementine, standing off to the side, shook as the booming voices launched throughout the room, tiptoed behind Lee, hiding from the backlash sure to come. Kenny's seething audibly filled the room; a wild monster ready to pounce on its elusive prey.
"I- I am NOTHING like that bitch," Kenny growled, his fists clenched tightly. He shook as he gazed at everyone in the room with a frown on his face, as if Carley had really hurt his feelings. He swayed as he talked, pointing a wavy finger at Carley.
"Take that back." He mumbled.
"We're not throwing anybody out! If you want to get rid of him Kenny, you'll have to go through me," Lee spat, gesturing Clementine to Carley's side as he approached the angry southerner.
Kenny's eyes narrowed. "Get out of my way."
Everyone remained where they stood, eyes wide, as the two men approached each other. Lee looked onward to Kenny, like an old friend who had betrayed his group; Kenny looked, just the same. With fists clenched, they peered into each other's eyes, the blood pounding through their veins, ready to pour onto the skin beside them. The cold air rested, surrounding the group, the taste of the overwhelming hatred filling everyone's mouth.
Clementine charged out of Lee's way like a speeding bullet, clinging to Carley like a fatal lifeline. Everything had gone from simple to chaotic in the recent hours, like fine china dropped, to forever shatter and never return to its former glory. When Lee revealed Dominic's past, she had imagined nothing but sympathy, possibly a little apathy, for her best friend. As the broken glass took a final shift before stopping forever parallel with friction, that dream remained lost in the cracks. She imagined the secret like a gift; accepted graciously as a token of their friendship. For Kenny, apparently, this was a declaration of war; only the blood of his newly found nemesis would be accepted. Like the famous domino metaphor, more china fell as her group fell apart at the seams, all the while clutching onto Carley's leg, the warmth of her skin and the jagged ripples in her jeans the only comfort left in this nightmare she never wanted.
"Fine," the word slipped out of Kenny's mouth as if it was a curse. "Have it your way then. But if he comes to, I don't want 'em anywhere near me. He's your problem now."
As quickly as it began, the tension in the air dispersed. Kenny marched out of the room, twisting around and stomping up the stairs, grasping the wall for support. Everyone remained still as they watched Lee limp away, staring down at Dominic's unconscious body before lifting and carrying him into the living room, laying him down on the couch once again.
"Well, that could've gone better…" Molly's voice trailed off from her section of the kitchen as she exchanged glances with Lee and Carley.
"We're going to need some antibiotics for his wound," Lee stated, ignoring Molly's sarcastic remark.
"What about him?" Chuck mumbled, pointing towards Vernon, who stood in the doorframe, frozen to the spot.
Lee turned to Vernon, his eyes narrowing towards the slouched man as he spoke. "If Dominic doesn't like you, he must have a good reason. I need you to leave."
"I haven't done a thing," Vernon shot back, immediately straight and alert while obviously hurt by Lee's lack of hospitality. "Just because he's some time traveler doesn't mean he knows me."
"Just leave, Vernon." He pressed, shrugging the old man off. Vernon eyes narrowed as he stared at Lee. After an agonizing moment passed, he turned around, heading out the back door for the last time, slamming it with a loud bang. Once he was gone, everyone turned, eyes on Lee.
"What now?" Ben inquired, his eyes jumping between the remaining members.
"Dominic mentioned a boat," Carley stated, leaning against the sink as all eyes were now shooting to her, "he said all it's missing is gas and a battery. Said that we could get those in Crawford, along with medical supplies."
"Crawford? Are you serious?" Molly shouted, slamming her fist on the counter in defiance. "Dominic said that place is full of geeks. We could get trapped in there."
"I know but… it's the only way we're getting that medicine, and the parts we need for that boat." Carley sighed.
Lee glanced up to the stairwell, then nodded his head slightly. "We can't leave Kenny here alone with Dom. Christa, can you stay and look after him?"
"I-" She hesitated, her eyes flickering between the unconscious boy and Lee. "Fine. Omid stays here too; his leg stills needs time to heal."
"Alright, we've got ourselves a plan then," Lee muttered, wiping his face with his hands.
"How are we gonna find these supplies?" Chuck asked, leaning against the wall as he spoke. "We've got no idea where Crawford had their supplies stashed; we'd be going in blind."
"We'll figure that out once we get there," Lee muttered, taking his significant point into account. "Alright people, let's go."
"Wait!" Clementine squealed, releasing Carley's leg from her grasp and tugging on Lee's hand. "Can't I come too?"
Lee let out a small sigh before kneeling down in front of her, his eyes softening as he spoke. "It's too dangerous, sweet pea. I need you to stay here and help Christa with Omid and Dominic, okay?"
"But…" she whined, a pouty face forming between her eyebrows. "But you said I'm supposed to always stay close to you…"
"I know Clem, but I need you to be safe. I need Dominic to be safe. Please, do this for me?" Her eyes fell to the floor as a tear welled up in her eye, her shoulders crashing to the floor along with her hopes and dreams. She wanted to stay with Dominic, helping him and watching him get better, but she didn't want Lee to go in there without her. She could help him, maybe even save him. With the enormity of the dilemma and her tiny fingers clenched for rebellion, she realized her fate. She made things worse by telling her 'friend' over the radio about Dominic, and because of her actions, there was no hope. And if Dominic died, it would be all her fault. She let out a sniffle as she nodded her head slowly, returning her gaze to Lee.
"Good," he soothed as he hugged her tightly, "we'll be back before you know it."
He patted her shoulder before leaving the living room and stepping out of the back door, flanked by the others as they grabbed their weapons and stepped single-file out of the house. A silent cry echoed out of her soul as she crashed beside Dominic's lifeless body, unsure as to why it had crushed her all at once. The emotions tore through her small limbs as the house buzzed with whispers, but felt so dark and empty at the same time. The tears fell into her tiny palms as she imagined this was the last time any of them would walk through that back door, even Lee. As she sat there, she wrapped her arms around her tiny legs and mumbled under her breath, a mere whisper that barely reached Omid and Christa's ears.
"Please be lucky."
"Clementine baby, can you hear me? It's Mommy. If you can hear me, please answer…"
She groaned as the rain stained glass came into focus. She shifted her arms as her head pounded with the brutal nightmare she was awakening to. The memories branded her brain rapidly like the earth falling against the soaked bricks. Clementine stretched her tiny legs as she watched in agony, her friends leaving the night before; all determined to find the supplies. She sat up, gazing out into the streets. The earth ran as the water hit, gently falling back against the house, mud and grass laying carefully under the glass. She sighed, watching as her memories turned black and white, with only three of five of her friends returning from Crawford through the dreaded back doors. Tears welled up in her eyes again as Ben and Chuck's voices rang in her ears for the final time, knowing she would never hear them again. Their faces scarred into her mind, as she silently cursed the supplies that took their lives.
She rolled over, staring at the chandelier above the center of the room, it's light long gone, leaving only shadows stretching across the dark room, then replaced by the glare of the sun through the windows as the ball of fire rose above the horizon. She glanced at the desk, gazing at the designs and the texture of the chair that lived beside it. She rubbed her eyes, more memories flooding the trenched dark void behind her eyelids; Molly had left, the others said as they stumbled through the door. Her chest shook her with heart breaking agony as Lee's face pierced her mind; tears streaming down everyone's face as the news was released. Everyone went their separate ways, silence devouring the depression inside of the house.
Dominic remained unmoved, unconscious as he lay on the couch, the appalling news awaiting him. Kenny had shut himself out with the door unmoved since his disappearance, swearing to not return until Lee informed him of the boat stowed away in the backyard garage. Carley and Lee retreated upstairs, resting in an office down the hall and passing out together on the couch inside. Christa and Omid had never left their room; the concerned woman tending to his wound all night until he fell asleep, only for her to join in soon after. This left Clementine alone after the horrific incident, stumbling to a random room, tears blinding her vision. She lay atop the windowsill, steadily crying as her mind processed the day. She cried, her mind shifting from Chuck and Ben, to her parents as the skies began to rain.
Their laughter filled her ears. Will I ever see Mommy and Daddy ever again? The thought pounded in her head as the realization struck her: they will never find them. She bawled, curling her tiny body into a ball of tears. She overheard, the group thought it best to leave the city immediately, seeking shelter elsewhere. Her heart tore itself to pieces, leaving Clementine to scream a silent wail of pain. All of her hope faded as she heard her parents laugh. She cried herself to sleep, only to wake up inside of her mother's arms. I remember this. Her mother held her as she giggled, watching dad tickle her. Her dream faded, recovering as she ran inside her home, the bus engine starting back up in the background as she called out "I'm home!", thrilled to see her parents coming around the corner, hugs and kisses awaiting her. As Clementine continued to dream, tears slowly fell from her eyes, the knowledge seeping in that her mother, father, and home were gone, and that she would never feel their warmth, again.
"Clem, sweetie? I need you to listen to me. Your father's sick and-"
Clementine stirred, jolting off of the windowsill as the infamous voice filled her ears. She searched the dark room, searching for the direction of the female voice. Her heart raced as she scanned the desk, finding nothing but dust. She glanced across the room, noticing Lee and Carley cuddled together, asleep on the couch. She shifted her eyes before the couch, seeing the red light beaming throughout the room; the walkie-talkie. Her voice cracked as she let out a soft murmur.
"and… the doctors aren't sure if he's going to make it but… I know he will." Clementine could hear a faint sniffle before the voice continued. "John says that daddy only has a fever, and that it'll all be okay. But, I needed to know that you were safe… and after I couldn't get ahold of Sandra I- I didn't know what to do. John promised to help me find you."
Clementine rushed over and picked up the radio, her skin running cold as she clicked down the button and whispered, "Mommy, it's me. I'm here!"
"I don't know if you're hearing this but, just know that we'll find you baby. Everything is going to be okay. We're going to be okay."
"Mommy?" She repeated over and over again, holding down the button but received no response. "Mommy, please tell me where you are…"
"John's here now," the voice croaked, cutting her off."He's going to tell you where to find us. I'll see you soon…"
The voice stopped. Clementine stared at the radio in silence as her mind attempted to process this amazing scenario; Her mother was out there! A smile stole the frown that had been etched into her face, quickly receding into more crying as she held the radio close to her ear. Her heart pounded a steady rhythm, whispering into her veins that she didn't have to pretend anymore; Mommy would find her, they can go home. It was almost too good to be true. She clicked the transmit button again, ready to call out for her mother again, but the radio roared to life once again, a new, yet familiar voice replacing her mother's.
"Clementine, it's me, John. Your mother, uh, walked out. Can you hear me?"
She knew that voice, the average tone, shaky and yet demanding as it screeched out of the tiny receiver. It was the Stranger's.
She froze, her blood pausing in her skin as her mind searched for hundreds of responses, only coming to a halt at the same crossroad. If the Stranger is with my parents, then Dominic…
"Where are my parents?"
"They're close, don't worry. Your mother went to go check on your father." His voice sounded rushed as she pressed her ears to the talkie, backing away from the table and sitting on top of the windowsill once again.
"Did he get bitten?" She questioned.
"...No, I don't think so. He's going to be fine Clementine, but it's you that I'm worried about." His tone shifted with every response; from hurried and rush to a more worried, sentimental voice. She glanced over to the couch, Lee and Carley unable to hear her hushed conversation.
"Why?" She asked, her fingers starting to shake as the unbearable phrase scratched at her lips.
"Because you are still with them. They've been keeping you from your family, all to themselves. They don't want you to find your mother and father. They've denied you that reunion since the beginning."
"You're wrong." Clementine hissed, defending the family that took her in. She stared at the walkie-talkie, knowing fully well uncertainty lingered in her preaching. Deep down, that nagging feeling surfaced; maybe, all this time, she was being lied to, about everything. "I wouldn't be here without them." She croaked.
"That may be true, but that doesn't make them the good guys. Anyone can save a child, Clementine. Even the cruelest, most wretched people can be heroes. Why do you think Dominic wants to kill me? Just because I'm a 'threat'? He knows I'm the only one that can bring you home. So why trust him when all he ever does is lie to you and put you in danger? Keeps you from your true family? Why care about him at all, if all he does is stab you in the back?"
The tears returned with every word the Stranger... John released out of the talkie. Every moment she could remember of her and Dominic filled her mind; the laughs, the cries, him teaching her how to use a gun. Was it all a lie?
"Please, just listen to me. Your parents miss you. If you're ready to see them again, just meet me at the Marsh House, I'll escort you from there, okay? You remember the Marsh House right? Where you and your family would stay when you visited Savannah?"
"Yeah…" She gulped, the lump in her throat devastating. "Yeah, I remember. I'll…" Her eyes flickered to the sleeping forms of her friends, realizing now that they weren't her friends all along. "I'll be there." She whispered.
"You don't know how relieved I am to hear that, I'll go tell your parents now. Just stay safe, okay? Everything's going to get better soon."
She set the radio back down on the table, taking one last look at her old friends laying on the couch. Carley had her arm draped over Lee, who's head pressed against the arm of the couch. As she stare at them, hatred built up inside her body, nausea following soon after. Why did they lie? Her vision quickly shifted of Lee from him being a savior at her house, to a kidnapper. What if John had been looking for her? What if he got scared when she wasn't there, and Lee had taken her? She turned her back on her savior that she used to hold so high, and tiptoed out of the room.