Night had fallen by the time the city limits sign for Macon passed by the truck. Lee stared off into the distant trees behind them, lost in his own thoughts, while Dominic and Clementine talked in hushed whispers; about what, Lee had no clue. It felt strange being back in Macon, after the murder and his trial in Atlanta, Lee felt a feeling of happiness wash over him thinking about being back home, but deep down he knew that regret still plagued his heart. Everyone in his family was so disappointed in him. They were once proud of his accomplishments, back when he first became a professor, but now… now when they hear his name or see his face, all they feel is a deep, boiling disgust in their hearts for their son. He just wished he could go back and fix it all; hold in his anger rather than taking it out on the senator. But not even he could change the past, but he knew that the future could always be better, even after all of this had happened.
To his left he could hear Clementine and Dominic laughing about something, clearly oblivious to all the self-pity and regret emanating from Lee. He almost envied them, being able to smile and laugh despite the whole world going to shit around them. Clementine probably had Dominic to thank for that. The boy had a sense of humor, and nearly always in a cheerful mood, but he also knew the full extent of what they were facing, and when the challenge calls, he grabbed it by the horns and does what Lee can only dream of. This boy was meant to be here, whether he knew it or not. Without him, Shawn would've died, and Lee wasn't too sure if he'd even be here without him.
Lee found himself pulled out of his thoughts as the younger boy asked him, "So, where we heading after Macon?"
"Well, we've got to find Clem's parents. So, probably Savannah," He replied, noticing a smile on Clementine's face out of the corner of his eye.
"Alright, cool. At least we got that plan then. Anyway Clem, I'll continue the story later."
"Awww… but it was getting good!"
Dominic laughed before patting her on the shoulder, "I know, I know. But it looks like we're finally in Macon."
A few moments later, a motel came into view to their right. Dominic recognized it immediately, but said nothing about it as they approached, until the noises started. Someone was fighting, shooting.
"Guys, we have to stop."
"What? Why?" Lee asked, who presumably was too lost in thought to hear the gunshots.
"They need our help!" Dominic replied, banging on the back window of the truck, "Kenny, we need to stop!"
The truck began to slow down in front of the motel, the fight coming into full view. The motel, other than the ruined cars and walkers, looked rather ordinary. The paint on the walls cracking from years of neglect. In the parking lot, a man and a women were struggling to fight off a group of six walkers surrounding them. The man wore a plain orange T-Shirt, with a brown jacket and a blue and white baseball cap. The women wore a white button-up shirt, with short brown hair down to her neck. Once they had stopped, Dominic hopped out of the truck, with Lee in tow. Kenny comes around the side of the truck, wondering why the hell they had stopped. His look changed when he noticed the group.
"Guys, I don't think we can help them. We'll only get ourselves killed."
"No, we can do this," Dominic replied, looking to Lee for backup, "You know we've got to help."
"I…" He looked at the ground, before looking back at the younger boy, "Yeah, I'm with you. Let's help them."
"Fine, if you insist," Kenny muttered, grabbing some weapons from the bed of the truck, "Here, use these."
He threw Lee a crowbar, then threw Dominic a baseball bat, finally taking out a large wrench for himself. Dominic felt a rush of fear wash over him. He hasn't killed one of these things before, and the last time he tried to help, he couldn't stop the walker from nearly getting Lee. Taking a deep breath, he rushed over to where the two strangers were fighting, Lee and Kenny shortly behind.
Dominic ran across the road and into the parking lot, going for the closest one, who lingered behind the rest trying to get to the two survivors. He kicked it in the leg as hard as he could, knocking it to the ground, then with as much force as he could muster, slammed the baseball bat down onto its head. The sound of the skull cracking and the brain being crushed inside made him want to vomit, but he held it back, as he hit it one more time for good measure. It didn't move after that, to Dominic's relief. He looked up to see Lee and Kenny fighting off another pair of walkers, the two strangers staring at the new group with shock.
Of course it would be these two. Glenn and Carley. Dominic mused as he kicked another walker to the ground, crushing it's head with the bat yet again. The second time seemed to be much easier than the first, but guilt still found a way into his stomach while he looked at the dark-crimson blood flowing onto the cement. He wasn't raised to be a murderer. The area fell silent as the last walker was taken down, Dominic and co. looking over at the two they had saved.
"Shit. Thanks for the assist," Glenn said, panting from the exertion.
"No problem," Lee replied, holding his hand out to the man, "I'm Lee. These two are Kenny and Dominic."
Glenn looked at Lee curiously before reaching out and shaking his hand, "Glenn. The sharpshooter is Carley."
"Hi," she replied, looking over in Lee's direction. Dominic already knew what was going through her mind.
"You got yourself into a tight spot there. Were you scavenging for supplies?" Lee asked, curious about their intentions.
"At first, yeah. Then we found this girl, just locked up in one of the motel rooms. Then she…" His voice trailed off as both of their eyes lowered to the ground, "Then she killed herself… with Carley's gun," he let out in two depressing breaths.
"Holy shit," Kenny's voice rasped from behind them, "Why the fuck she do that?"
"She was bitten," Carley started, her voice trailing off between words, "She didn't want to risk hurting anyone if she turned." The trio exchanged a glance, thinking back to Shawn, before looking back at the strangers.
"Listen, we're holding out inside a drug store in town, you can come with us if you want, some place safe to stay for the night," Glenn offered, "Besides, you guys seem pretty cool," he finished with a smirk.
Exchanging another glance with each other, Dominic spoke for his group, "Yeah, that would be great. Thanks."
"Glenn. Lilly's not going to like this," Carley warned, crossing her arms, "And just because they saved us, doesn't mean they're good people."
Glenn turned back to Carley, "Fuck what Lilly says. These people saved our lives, we'd be dead without them. They're useful."
Lee coughed, getting their attention, "We're standing right here, you know." There was a brief pause before Lee continued, "Listen, you don't have to take us in if you don't want to. But we are good people, and we have children with us. So if you have some place safe, we'd like to go there. Please."
Carley stood quietly for a moment, staring at this group of strangers who just aided them. After a moment's thought, she turned back to Glenn, "Fine, but I'm not the one who's going to take the fallout if Lilly refuses to accept them." She made her case.
With the argument won, Lee lead the way back to the truck, introducing Katjaa, Duck, and Clementine to the newcomers. After a friendlier introduction, they hit the road, heading straight into downtown Macon.
The truck ran out of gas when they finally reached downtown, sputtering to a stop just opposite the drug store. The area was deathly quiet, like a scene straight out of a horror movie. The drug store was small, and stood out from the rest of the brick stores around it, with a neon-red sign stating "Drugs Rx" right about the entrance. Kenny slammed his hand on the steering wheel, "Well, looks like this is our last stop."
"Alright, I'll introduce you guys to the gang," Glenn added before hopping out the back of the truck, the newcomers shortly in tow. He pulled out a small key and unlocked the lock that kept the metal shutters closed, and pulled it open. Opening the door, he called out, "Lilly, it's Glenn. We've got some new friends!"
Not waiting for her response, he led them inside, closing the door behind them. The newcomers observed their surroundings; deserted shelves lined the store, with a few bottles here and there, of different substances. A side door stood just to the right of the pharmacy counters, along with a bathroom on the opposite side. Windows, now barred with wood, peered out into the streets in the front of the room, near the entrance. Dominic and Clementine walked around, getting a feel for the place while the others talked with Lilly's group.
"Who the fuck are these guys, Glenn?" Came a roaring voice from the back of the store, presumably Lilly.
"Calm down Lilly, they saved us from a group of walkers. They're cool," Glenn replied, which earned him an angry stare from Lilly.
"I don't fucking care if they're 'cool', Glenn. We don't have enough food in here for all of us!"
"Listen. Lilly is it?" Lee intervened, getting in between Glenn and Lilly, "I know they took a risk bringing us in, but we're good people, and we can pull our own weight. We're stronger together." She huffed, staring down the newcomer angrily.
Clementine grabbed Lee's hand, getting the older man's attention, "Yes, Clem?"
"I… I have to use the bathroom." She stuttered.
"Alright, get Dominic to take you over there while I deal with this," Just one glance to the younger boy, and he was off, taking her over to the restroom, "Now, back to business…"
Dominic and Clementine walked to the back of the drug store, and up to the restroom door, he halted, holding Clementine back and pressed his ear to the metal door. Dominic heard nothing, but he remembered this moment. He knocked on the door hard, causing Clementine to give him a confused look.
"What did you do that for?"
"Just in case, you never know," he lied.
A second later, there was startling bang against the door. The telltale moans of a walker on the other side forced them both to take a step back.
"Uh, Lee…" Dominic called, looking back at the group in the middle of the store.
"Yeah?" Lee answered, looking questioningly at the young boy.
"There's a walker in the bathroom," He stated flatly, getting the attention of everyone in the room. For a second, everything was silent, then the next, Lee was hastily walking towards them with the crowbar in his hands.
Lee looked at Dominic sternly, "When I tell you, open the door."
"Okay," Dominic replied, gripping the door knob. The next few seconds felt like an eternity as Lee counted down, "Three, two… one…" Dominic held his breath as he waited for the final word, "Now!" The door flew open, but Dominic pushed the door ajar, trapping the walker between the door and the wall. Dominic forced the door in place, keeping the walker trapped, while Lee repeatedly pounded his crowbar into its skull until it stopped moving.
"Good catch," Lee panted, looking over at the younger boy beside him, "No one knew it was here. It could've gotten Clementine if you hadn't checked."
"I like to be careful," Dominic replied, feeling guilty that he was hiding everything he knew from these people. He still wasn't quite sure how he got here, or if he could ever go back, and ever since he met Lee, he couldn't decide whether or not he should tell him everything he knew; about what is to come, and prevent most of it from even happening. It was like an internal war; One side screamed to tell Lee what he knew, but a calmer voice of reason warned him away from it. He didn't know how this universe would react if he told someone who he was and what he knew, or how Lee or even Clementine would react if he told them, despite all the good he has done for this world so far, the future is never certain. In the blink of an eye, everything could change, including every single thing he knew that would happen. His very presence could save Lee, or kill him sooner. That thought alone was enough to depress him.
"I've convinced Lilly to take us in, but we can't stay here. Any ideas?" Lee's voice brought him back to reality, looking over at the older man, he shrugged.
"Perhaps we should fortify that motor inn? It looked fairly defensible, at least, it you had the resources to make a proper fence around the place," Dominic suggested.
"Sounds good, I'll suggest it to Lilly. For now, let's scour this place for anything useful, meds are going to be hard to come by if this doesn't all blow over," And with that, Lee left the bathroom, leaving a wild-eyed Clementine with Dominic. He looked over at her, and noticed the sadness in her eyes. She wanted to find her parents, but we were looking to find a place to stay for a while.
"Don't worry, Clem. We'll get to Savannah," Dominic assured her, patting her on the shoulder, which seemed to make her happier, "Now let me get this thing out of here so you can do your business, eh?"
"Thanks," she replied, looking up at Dominic with a smile.
One week later…
Dominic held the rifle in his hands timidly. He had never used one of these things before. Hell, he's never fired a gun before, at least, not before all of this happened. Lee and Kenny decided to teach him how to use a pistol, and now a rifle. He never really knew just how loud guns were until he fired one for the first time. It felt like his ears were going to bleed at first. Now, he just sat there in a lawn chair on top of an RV they found, parked within the walls they were building around the motor inn. It was about an hour or two past noon, and his job was to watch for trouble, be it walkers or people. Must've been the most boring thing in the world. Oh, what I wouldn't do for cup of tea and some video games right about now. He mused to himself, weighing the rifle in his hand. But, it's not every day that I get to use one of these.
"Hey," A voice called to his right, disturbing the young boy's thoughts. He looked over to see Lee climbing the ladder up to the top of the RV, plopping another lawn chair down next to him and sat down.
"Hey," Dom replied, inspecting the gun in his hands again, "How are things with Lilly and Kenny? Heard them bickering last night."
"Getting worse. They don't really see eye-to-eye. And they both have different ideas about how things should go," Lee looked down at the roof of the RV, inspecting it as if it was the most interesting thing in the world, "Personally, I think they're being idiots. But, I can't fault Kenny for wanting to leave. We let Glenn leave without a fuss when we took this place. Even I want to leave, for Clementine's sake. Even if it's just to find her parents."
"You and I both know that they're dead, Lee. But… there's no real way to tell her that, without crushing her spirit, or her going into denial about it," Dominic sighed and laid the rifle in his lap, turning to look at his friend, "We should at least find her parents, even if they are dead. For closure. I'm not saying that we should leave now… but we can't expect this place to be home forever. In the end, we may not be able to survive here."
"Now that's a depressing way to look at it," Lee remarked, a small smile stretching across his face, "But I agree. We should stay here for as long as we possibly can, after that, we need to leave."
He looked back at the roof again, seemingly lost in thought, before finally asking, "Hey Dom. If you don't mind me asking, why did you lie for me to Hershel? We had only just met, but you defended me as if we've known each other for years."
The question caught Dominic off-guard, and he scrambled to find something to say, "Well, uhm… well to be frank, Lee. I know who you are, and what you've done."
This earned him a curious look from Lee, "Oh, really?"
"I followed your case a bit," Dominic lied, "The senator thing. Frankly, I think you were in the right. He did sleep with your wife. And I doubt that you had intended for things to go as far as they did," When Lee looked back at the ground with regret, Dominic finished, "But I know you're a good man, Lee. And that's why I defended you."
Lee sat silent for a moment before adding, "Thanks, Dom. I really appreciate it. But next time, let me handle it, and save yourself from being put on the spot by someone like Hershel," Lee patted him on the shoulder, taking the rifle from him, "Now, ready for that rifle training?"
Dominic laughed, "Thought you'd never ask."
"Things have gone to shit out there, Andy," Danny St. John spoke in hushed tones, as he and his brother walked the perimeter of their farm. His brother looked at him for a second, before turning away to gaze at the treeline just beyond their fences.
"Don't worry about it, Danny, we're safe here," Andrew replied, "And once we've got the electric fence up, ain't nothin' gettin' in to this farm."
"God, I hope you're right. Momma's scared of them bandits, and those walkers."
"Well, we've got food, and we've got the cows for milk and butter. I reckon we'll be fine here. Besides, we're out in the middle of nowhere, Danny. Ain't nothing comin' out here, at least any time soon."
This seemed to satisfy Danny, as he continued to check the perimeter, but before they could head back to the house, a shriek pierced the air as a man limped down toward them, with two men with bandanas covering their faces and rifles in hand giving chase.
"Go get Momma, I'll handle this!" Andy yelled to his brother, who ran off towards the house. He pulled his rifle off of his back, and shot the two bandits in the chest, both falling down to the ground with a sickening thud. The man who was attacked fell to his knees just beyond Andy's fence, sobbing loudly.
"Hey man, are you alright?!" Andy yelled to the stranger, who didn't seem to hear him over his wails of pain. Cursing under his breath, he lifted the wire of his fence and crossed to the other side, inspecting the man for wounds. He was shot in the leg, right below the knee. Who knows just how he was able to limp to them in the first place, but Andy knew that this man would probably not be able to walk again, at least not without help.
"Come on, let me help you. Momma can fix you up good inside."
Hearing this, the man stopped crying and looked up at his savior, murmuring his thanks as if the man that stood before him was Jesus reborn. Andy helped the man to his feet, and cursed as he heard the man weep in pain from the movement.
"Put your arms 'round me, and I'll get you back to the house."
"Thank you, sir. Thank you…"
"Don't worry, everything's gonna be fine."