Out Of Town

After fire debris falls on the group and separates them, Rick and Andrea fight about whether they should stay or if they should go.



"Best quote"

Everything becomes hazy. Smoke billows from the fire, blurring vision. The sounds muffle. The world loses its colour. Things become dull. Michonne's words fall on nearly deaf ears. To Rick, it seems as though time has stopped. His brain has slowed. Only the image in the smoke makes him cognizant once more. His head snaps back to his attention and is blue eyes, now irritated from the smell of the smoke and fire squint to bring the image into greater clarity.

In the smoke, something wicked this way comes.

The former sheriff feels his blood boil. Hand goes to his holstered gun, and, in turning towards the fence, away from the fire, Rick draws, pointing it at the image he thinks he sees. The image of the Governor in the haze— the man responsible for all of this nonsense. From beginning to end, the Governor is and always will be, Rick Grimes' enemy.

Yet something tugs back at the normally fearless leader. A whisper. A song. Familiar and beautiful. Terrifying and broken. The weapon lowers a stitch as it sears all of his senses.

Andrea, however, has already been through her paralyzing grief. Michonne's words ring true to her and she is quick to look up. The smoke and large fiery debris that falls in their direction is something that jerks her into a primal action. As Rick is right near her, she shrieks, "Look out!" before yanking him forward with a wrenching motion. Tumbling forward, she attempts to bring Rick along with her and out of the way of the deadly fire.

Debris cracks into the alley wall nearby then breaks into further destruction — some over their heads and the rest tumbling up into the barricade until its various interlocked pieces begin to pick up the heat. Metal warms in the glow and rubber sends up a smell as poignant as the smoke swirling up from every fiery pore, blocking sight and distorting sound; residents of Woodbury yelling covers up calls of friends closer by.

The projectile's barely missed Rick, landing with a meteor's force where he used to stand, but the fire's trickling towards them on the barricade Andrea's thrown them against.

They say there's no going home — well, there's no going back into Woodbury.

The force his body exerts against the barricade receives little reaction besides the small thud his body makes. Rick is almost like a dummy — brainless, but able to move. He wonders if this is how the walkers feel. Present, but empty. He wonders if it's how Laurie felt, how Daryl felt, in the end. His hands reach out against the barricade, feeling its breadth and texture beneath searching fingertips. But it's not mindful touch. It's clumsy. A first time. A first hint.

The song plays. A tune he once knew. A memory.

His head turns towards Andrea, and his eyes stare through her, almost like he doesn't know who she is. The song tugs his gaze away. Is it playing in Woodbury? His jaw tightens. His eyebrows draw together. The others. He turns back towards where the meteor has landed and levels his weapon at his former spot. His eyes squint, and he releases a breath.

All that's left here is hell. Fire and brimstone. Torture and pain.

Kill the Governor.

Sentence them all.

Andrea doesn't let go of Rick's arm, though her shoulder is aching. It's possible she pulled something when she attempted to yank Rick out of harm's way. Her eyes focus on the projectile that almost landed on the former sheriff and then attempts to peer beyond it, to where the others are. "Michonne?" She calls out, though the fire is crackling and raging in front of them. Can they hear her? "Carol, Maggie?" As the fire edges ever nearer, she takes steps backwards, attempting to move Rick along with her. He barely gets a sideways glance.

She doesn't owe them anything. They left her behind, they left her to die. Even Michonne left. She could just turn and run. Leave this horrible town behind, leave these people. Start some place new. Some place alone. But, Michonne also stayed with her all winter. She kept her safe, did not leave her to die when she got impossibly sick. Attempting a louder cry, she moves away from the fire, but attempts to peer through the flames. "Michonne!"

The image doesn't subside, nor does Rick's aim into the smoke. His eyes narrow and his nostrils flare as the blaze agitates is every sense. His eye twitches as the song plays on, sad and mournful. The arpeggios emit from some invisible piano, slow. Steady. His lips part. It's reminiscent of another song. Except slower. Sadder.

He tries to call out to the smoke, the billows of smoke acting as an extension to heaven's stairs themselves. Lori. Daryl. Maybe death, true death brings ultimate peace.

And then it stops. The song stops. And adrenaline wins.

One word finally escapes his lips, "Walkers." His throat clears and his head snaps back towards the wall. "Walkers," he repeats. Singularly. "They'll come— " the town itself is a beacon of light and fire to those outside. It's only now his hand lowers, drawing his eyebrows together, confused that he was aiming his weapon back into the town at all.

All around them is chaos and clamor. Andrea tears her eyes from the smoke and flames to finally look at Rick. Her eyes are wide with panic and worry. She left Daryl behind, sure of his safety, and now he's dead. She can't leave the others. Michonne. "Th-then we have to find the others. Fast." She's not sure how. This is certainly impossible. But, they have to try, they have to do something.

The smoke starts to catch in her throat and fog her eyes. She coughs, putting a hand over her mouth as if that will help. Tears start to stream down her cheeks - equally from the fire and her own emotions. "We can't just leave them here!"

With the confusion having subsided, Rick's eyes scan the fog once more, "Can you see any of 'em?" His voice, raspy and edged with urgency, as his weapon remains unholstered. His eyes squint through the mounting smoke, that scratches against each of his sinuses in turn. Once more, his eyes track back to the town, and the weapon is leveled. What he wouldn't give for a flare right about now—

She's sure he already knows the answer to this question. Defensive and not willing to give up, Andrea returns, "No, I can't. But, they could just be on the other side." Though she doesn't know how they'd climb a flaming pile of building and debris in order to get to the others, there has to be a way. She wasn't there for the 'Ricktatorship' conversation and so she's not willing to back down from him so easily. One of the last times she saw him involved a vote. "We could try and circle around, find them. We can't just leave them here."

A skeptical eyebrow is raised at the comment as Rick stares at the blaze in front of them before he turns to face the wall again. Walls. Always walls. "We need to get out of here for now," he says as evenly as he can muster. "Don't mean we don't come back," he says quickly. "Don't mean we can't double-back— but— " he clears his throat, "right now they're safer from the alkers," but perhaps not from the townspeople. "Fire may attract 'em," he already scaling the wall again, "but burnin's gotta 'least slow 'em down. Corpses don't move so good without muscles to move 'em." He reaches the top of the wall and squints towards the fire, trying to catch sight of those beyond the flames. He turns the other way and stares into the distance.

Through the crackle of flames and smoke, the only dusty figures are those of hurrying townsfolk heading their way. The only shouts are those of Woodbury, pointing towards the newest disaster. The other direction, the distant woods beyond the old road and car pile-ups denoting Woodbury's outskirts sees the first shaking of leaves and shuddering shadows of the biters, attracted, as expected, by the wildly crackling wall of flames. Two walls.

Andrea does not follow him up the wall that quickly. She's still fixated on the fire and the people beyond it. They have to be somewhere and safe. Will they be able to make it through Woodbury without being caught? That seems like an impossibility with the fire and the droves of people coming to fix and assess. All the more reason for them to get out of here, but she can't make herself take that last physical commitment to leaving them behind. "But…"

Rick bends down to reach for Andrea's hand. "C'mon!" he urges now. "We will double back. We will." He releases a quiet breath as his eyes turn back towards the smoke. "No buts. We've got to get out of here." For everyone's sakes. "Everyone gettin' trapped here will do nothing for anyone." His eyebrows raise, "This is our only option! Get up here and you'll see it's true!"

Finally, Andrea reaches over and gives Rick her shotgun to take up. It's strange to hear him talk about coming back and making sure they find the others. With a breath half clogged by smoke, she then climbs up to the top of the barrier. Immediately, she notices the townsfolk coming to put out the flames and then the walkers on their way toward the brilliantly lit beacon that is now Woodbury. That leaves her just as speechless and exposed high up there where people can see them. "Come on, then," she finally says softly to Rick. She keeps glancing behind her, as if expecting the others to burst through the fire and join them.

A little bit of fire must have jumped the barrier and lit a pile of garbage on the other side. It crackles, alone an due to flare out without grass to carry it onto the next chunk. Otherwise, from the ground, the area looks abandoned and safe — except on that horizon.

With Andrea in agreement, Rick lowers himself on the other side of the wall slowly. And then the tune. I am fine. A single lyrical arrangement plays, piquing Rick's attention back towards Woodbury. Who would be playing music at a time like this? His eyes narrow as his gaze turns up to Andrea. But he doesn't ask her if she hears it— the music will only beckon the walkers speed up.

It's not so much music when, below Rick's realm of hearing, the fire breaks with more than lively crackling — something dead stirs, lashes out, as Rick ignores it for Woodbury, and, as she lowers, it grabs Andrea by the ankles while flames lick at its own decaying shoulder. Legs have burned to where they cannot hold them, but this fireball walker latches with the dead's unparalleled grip.

For a moment, Andrea thinks it's Rick helping her down. That is only for a moment, though. With a shriek, she starts kicking at flaming walker as it latches on to her ankles and pulls them toward its still hungry mouth. Instead of lowering herself to the ground, she now attempts to pull herself up and away from the biting, snapping creature on the ground. However, as she was taken by surprise and this is the end of her climb, she doesn't have long before falling back onto the limbs she's attempting to get away from.

The riff plays again, I am fine, prompting Rick to squint towards the music's direction. But his squinting is broken by the shriek and flaming walker who has eyes for Andrea. While it's not ideal, particularly in terms of bringing on the walker's little friends, Rick aims his firearm at the animated undead attacker's head and pulls the trigger. One shot. There's no emotion there. No registered panic. Just a surreal emotionless calm.

Brains split like sparks of the flame, flying across Andrea's leg and the wall she'd been climbing as the once-human creature drops, instantly inanimate, from its head being blown open. One hand clutches in a remaining death-grip against her leg as the flame continues to eat what's been left.

With a struggle, Andrea drops to the ground - the zombie leg still attached to her pants. Without a thought, she scrambles away from the flames and exploded head part. Her legs kick forward and shake in an attempt to dislodge the arm without actually having to touch it. The deep breaths turn into something closer to hyperventilation as heat and panic start to make their way from her brain to her lungs.

Rick's head snaps back towards Andrea, then the music, and then the walkers. "We gotta move," he mutters gruffly before reaching to the ground to pluck a heavy pipe. It's not mental action, it's sheer instinct that has him moving. There's no thought or thoughtfulness to his actions, just his own survival instincts kicking in. He wraps his fingers around the bulk of the pipe. It could only serve as at type of bat. Swing for the fences, she says. He swallows hard as his heart races.

He turns around, swinging hard with the brunt of the pipe, like a batter coming up to the plate.

The hand finally flings free and collapses into a pile of ash, flesh and bone not far away. Her pants are singed and bloody now. Andrea picks up her shotgun and attempts to get her breathing under control after the close run in with both fire and zombie. Slowly and shakily, she stands and gives Rick a hard look. "The shot'll've attract them," she agrees. Them meaning both people and creatures. "We should make a straight shot back around. We can find a safe place to hole up and wait so we can find the others."

With all of its momentum, the pipe cracks loudly against a walker's skull, cracking bone and damaging brain. The corpse collapses to the ground as all neural connections ceases once more. Nice hit. Rick gives the voice no acknowledgement, wrinkling his nose at the rotting corpse in front of him. In a way, he pities it. In another, he may envy it. His eyes narrow as he wields the proferred weapon once more. "Agreed," he mutters as he marches onward. Maybe this is what shock feels like.

It takes a moment for Andrea to follow the former sheriff. This wasn't what she wanted and she certainly didn't want to end up alone with Rick. With deliberate footsteps, she picks her way through the debris to follow him. As she does so, she continually looks over her shoulder toward the thick black smoke and the place that she hoped would be a home. She hopes that Michonne has made it through the fire and is leading the others toward them. She attempts to not think of the decapitated head on the floor and how she failed to save Daryl from a man she trusted.

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