The Hills Are Alive

Glenn and Beth make it to the highway with the slim hope of finding someone. But in this present, it's not always good to be found.

Main Highway

"Squirm, squirm, little girl."

The embankment towards the highway proved to be more challenging than originally expected. Being downhill from the highway meant climbing uphill towards the asphalt road. The congregation of walkers at the bottom of the hill (presumably from falling or sliding down from the top) is enough to delay the process of getting up to the highway, particularly with the natural ditch created by some nearby stream. While Glenn has been here many times, this is the first he's noticed the water-created rivet. Perhaps because he hadn't had to notice before. Or, maybe the seasons are changing. Again.

The tall grass tickles Glenn's ankles as his arms swing the gun like a baseball bat. He wishes he still had his ball cap. At least then, maybe he could've imagined the walkers as nothing more than baseballs themselves, and himself as nothing more than the next batter up. Not that hitting a rotting brain felt anything like hitting a baseball.

Brains splatter and ooze from the dark haired walkers head. Glenn blinks hard and shakes his head. If he squints it looks like Maggie - a fact he doesn't dare utter. Repulsion compels him to take an uneasy step backwards, tumbling to the ground behind him. He looks upwards at his comrade, and hopes that she doesn't see the resemblance. His eyes tick to the left, "Highway."

Moans echo through the infinite wilderness, relaying back and forth across the nothing expanse that stretches out before them. Despite the duo taking out several zombies along the way, more lie in wait.

"We made it." A couple of knuckles scratch at Beth's dirty forehead as she proclaims the triumph slightly early. The muck ahead of them, the climb of it, presents only as a promising horizon over which anything is possible. Even the sight of friendly, safe faces; she makes no indication of seeing a shadow of a sister in the one splattered beside Glenn. Swinging the stick she's procured, already plastered with fresh — freshly decayed — blood, she plants it in the hillside. After a testing wiggle, she brings a foot up with, urging, "Come on!" Her little toes sink into the embankment closest to where the tiny river's splashed up, but she pulls them out and survives another step.

The mud squishes underneath Glenn's hands as he angles himself to his feet. In a way the water may have counted as a blessing if they were at the prison. Thinking of the prison causes him to shudder. Just a little. "Good. Finally," he asserts back as he follows suit up the enbankment, and he forces the edges of his lips upwards, just a stitch. Much like Beth, the first step draws a hint of hesitation. Glenn's second step is a little easier than the first. A muddied hand runs through his hair again as he forces himself to move just a little higher. "Maybe we'll find your dad… find a car for the night — look in the morning?"

"Y-yeah— !" agrees Beth with a stutter of difficulty, heavily focused on hauling her weight up the last portion of the incline. Above awaits— anything. Getting her fingers dug into the dirt, she pulls mightily, heaving her body with a small panic of scrambling knees, up onto the highway surface. Up to nothing. The graveyard of cars lies in front of her — of them, as Glenn joins — as quiet and solemn as the dead-driven night that casts them in shadow. Peppered amongst the open spaces are the corpses of those who never escaped the intertwined vehicles; some, even, taken out by the very hands the two arriving are looking for. But there's no hands on deck tonight.

After a second, Beth clambers to her feet, swaying towards the cars without a real dedication of direction. A flutter of disappointment catches her teeth against her lip even as she furtively casts look to every possible crook and cover. "They're gonna be a little slower," she finally says, looking over at Glenn and then out to the highway, "My dad. An' with a baby."

After righting himself on the asphalt, Glenn scans the nearby cars for walkers more than live bodies, and, for the moment, he deems them safe. The rifle is rested against his shoulder as he follows Beth's path through the cars. He relaxes some at the emptied bodies of walkers' passed. In a way, it grants him hope that he desperately needed. His feet pick up a little more as does his pace. "Right," he agrees quietly. "Makes sense." His teeth play at his bottom lip as his free hand shoves into his pocket. "Doesn't seem likely that we'll lose them. There's no way they'd stay out all night, right?"

His eyebrows raise a little higher on his forehead. "I bet we can catch them tonight if we keep looking — " He peers into a nearby car window and squints. Having a task helps fight away Glenn's feelings of defeat. He squints hard and then continues on his path with Beth.

With a stretch and squeak of her tennis shoes, Beth clambers up the nearest mostly intact vehicle with practicality echoing from her movement to her tone. "They'll wanna find somewhere enclosed, ya know." Holding arms out for balance, the teenaged girl slides her leg up the windshield and hops up onto the hood. From this vantage point, the horizon is fervently searched as though it were brand new. "Judith won't like being moved about. She cries and ya gotta bounce her and sing to her a little. And I don't suppose anybody grabbed any formula or anything on the way out. She's probably pretty hungry by now…" As the words flow, so does the stiffness of purpose begin to sink and crumble out of Beth's voice, leaving a light tremble as she really, truly, envisions her elderly father in the woods with a crying infant for the first time.

With a tough swallow, she looks down at Glenn, her baby face tightened with concentration. "Let's find 'em quick— okay?"

"Sounds good." As soon as the word leaves his lips, Glenn subtly rolls his eyes. Good: the kind of word that seems to lose its meaning in the middle of the apocalypse seems to be his word of choice these days. He presses his lips together tightly and strolls up to another car as his eyes narrow. The obvious path of dead walkers suggests that their cohorts have been through here. "Trunks?" it's a quiet suggestion as he knocks on one of the cars back end. The moan given in return causes him to jump back. "Yeah, I definitely didn't think about grabbing formula." And then as an afterthought, he tacks on, "Sorry." His lips purse. This wandering really is his fault. "I know I rushed us out of there." Others might've stayed to fight. Daryl, Rick, maybe even Maggie. But Glenn had them all bolt. All of them. Separately.

He slides up to another car and shields his face with his hand as he peeks into the glass. The corpse that moves inside has him slide away from the window towards the next car in his path. His lips tick to the side before he thinks aloud, "Maybe we should just follow the path of downed walkers and see where it leads — "

RRRRRRRRRRR — the earth-trembling rumble of a motor breaks the solemn peace of the highway, harkening back to its use before decay. From slightly off-road, a jeep breaks over the crest of hill and lands with four wheels thumping evenly on the old concrete. Although, at the sight, Beth starts to slip and slide down from her car perch, it's unlikely that her beacon of blonde hair was missed by the sharp-eyed men perched along every edge of the all-terrain vehicle.

Noise picks up— doubles— is reflected by a second vehicle weaving along the partially blocked lanes from the other side until it's a veritable demolition derby of squealing tires circling the two prison escapees.

The noise in the relative stillness has Glenn literally hitting the deck, hitting the asphalt hard when he goes down. "Beth!" it's a whispered call as Glenn slides under one of the vehicles and reaches towards his partner in crime. He slides along the asphalt to close the distance between the pair.

With a smack of knees and palms, Beth appears at his level, scrunching down to scurry like a little rabbit underneath the car with him. Bony limbs jab into dirty flesh at they both attempt to curl under the rusty metal underside. For a second, Beth's flyaway hair is all Glenn can see before she settles, a hand over her mouth to cover heaving breaths that seem to match the pounding of footsteps as several bodies jump from the vehicles still spinning to a stop.

"— tell you, I saw somebody," commands one masculine tone.

"Well, they can't have gone far." A thwack and clang sounds like someone hitting a weapon against the side of cars, as if they could be scared out of hiding like rats. Boots tromp right by in front of Glenn's nose, then pause. The figure turns towards them— then away, to lift a rotted corpse five feet away with an examining toe.

Glenn clutches at Beth with one hand and, otherwise, freezes altogether so as not to make a noise. This is one rat that won't be lured out easily. He can feel his heartbeat in his throat as he, holds his breath. Every muscle in his body tenses and he struggles to stay still even with the boots in front of his nose. Swallowing hard, his eyes peek out from below the vehicle.

Dirtied leather in front of him swerves; the man belonging to them a solid tower in a hunting vest bulging with used pockets. Resting a cupped hand on the window across from them, he's far more interested in taunting the walker trapped inside than noticing Glenn's peering eyes. Pulling a knife from a sheath at his side, he picks at the window with its tip, eliciting a sharp squeak from metal against glass.

"Heeeere, sucker, sucker sucker…" he chirps with giddy morbidity.

Then, all at once, Glenn's entire world becomes broken asphault clawing possessively at his clothes, pulling them up as he's pulled, by the feet, out from the underside of the car.

"Look what I found here!" cackles the man with this new prize, wrestling hands further up Glenn's appearing body to haul him to his knees in front of a suddenly visible world of men and machines — and machine guns. "It's a Chinaman." A muzzle jabs into the soft underside of his throat as his head's pulled back by the hair by other hands. "You a terrorist, Chinaman?"

The natural instinct when being yanked from a hiding spot is to struggle. And struggle Glenn does. Although, the struggle is contained by the tight space the two are hiding. When it becomes obvious he's going to be exposed (about halfway out), he presses a finger to his lips towards Beth. She is not to intervene. All he wants is silence for her. He couldn't save Maggie from the Governor, but Beth's silence may protect her from whatever fate he's in for.

His resistance is obvious, and when he's forced to his knees, they may have even label him as obstinate. His heart skips a beat as his head is made to look upwards. Otherwise it just beats in his throat. Awareness of his own impending doom keeps that heartbeat hard. The word Chinaman might have made him cringe in different circumstances. One part of him wants to be openly defiant while another wants to negotiate. Either way, he needs to keep Beth safe. And so he answers: "I'm Korean," he virtually groans the words as his hair is pulled. "But no — not a terrorist." His eyes don't dare look back to the car. If they think he's alone, Beth will have a chance.

A gruff voice sits above the congregation of shuffling feet, sniggers; the knife is still screeching away at the window, more absently now for this voice. "Well, ain't that just too bad." Into Glenn's view swings a hefty fellow in a black collar and biker's jacket befitting his grey stubble, the bedraggled strands of hair parted heavily to one side over his face. He grins. "'Cause that would've been right interesting!" Grabbing up handfuls of his pants, he crouches to get a good bead on Glenn's forcibly raised face. "See, we just ran us into a couple of folks sayin' they trapped an' killed themselves a terrorist and now they was huntin' down this no-good's friends. Naturally, we wanted to help." A tic in his grin and he straightens, casting a long, grisly shadow over the captive. "Help ourselves to their vehicles, that is." Interest sinks off of his face as it grows more distant, gathering in their surroundings yet with a sense of leisure. "Billy, Len— why don't you relieve this Korean of his things as well."

Hurrying on cue, a narrow, pallid figure in a ratty grey knit cap stomps his way into Glenn's direct line of sight, the foot-falls of his stained boots heavy — making up for what the rest of his frame lacks. He might be a scraggly son of a bitch, but he's wiry and strong as this world's made him and the man's pale fingers are harsh as they immediately drill into Glenn's hand, making to snatch the weapon into his possession and enjoy doing it. He has the restless look about him of an animal that hasn't been let off his leash for awhile. He kicks at the man's shin, just incase he feels like being openly defiant after all.

Another wanders closer; his heavy footsteps, on the other hand, match the rest of him, yet it's the man's surly, uncaring face, in a balding frame of tangled brown hair and beard, that's more imposing than his body. This drab example of a human must not be "Len"; all he does is lurk behind their apparent leader, giving Glenn a dim calculation before shuffling to weave between the front of one abandoned vehicle and the rear of the one that hides Beth. He kicks a piece of trash into the ditch.

Glenn crumples underneath the kcik of his shin, emitting a groan as his body instinctively, protectively, curls into itself. His eyes track to the ground. But not to the car from whence he came. Not towards Beth. Nothing will be done to give her away. If this is the end, he protects Maggie's family, his family, with his last breath. His eyes trail upwards to catch Dan kicking a piece of trash, and for a second, just one, his eyes almost track towards the car. But they stop. He has to be conscientious about this. The little blonde has to make it out of here alive and unharmed.

He feels naked without his gun. It's been too long he's wielded that weapon. In a way being vulnerable to people leaves just one thought: he's been afraid of the wrong thing through all of this. All the while he thought the dead were the ones to be feared. But the dead were little more automatons, unable to respond to anything but the sheer drive to consume human flesh. It's the living he should've been warier of. He hopes that Beth learns the lesson. She needs to find Herschel. He longs to tell her. But he can't. He can't utter a word. Not a sound. Not a motion to let her know what she needs to do for her own protection. But he can ask questions and get information. "What kind of terrorist," he murmurs. "And what friends? I might've seen them." He closes his eyes. "Bunch of people down at the prison down the way— "

Challenged by the swiftness of his peer, the so-called Len drills his hand with over-eager groping into Glenn's pocket, shoving and jarring him throughout. His commander broods more carefully, eying Glenn with a nearly genteel nature. "Is that so?" Skepticism keeps his otherwise rumbling voice crisp. "That seems overly helpful of you, Korean." An idle shift of his weight truly shows the power he believes he wields; he's got all the time in the world to survey the kneeling survivor. Broad hands stroke over the sides of his belt. "Y'sure y'ain't just trying to get rid of us? Because that wouldn't be very hospitable of you."

Nearby, the man finishes carving 'L O U' into the car window and bores, twisting with a scuffle of boot so that he faces the car under which Beth silently lies. An eye casts over to his balding compatriot. "Prison," he scoffs.

But Joe's raised palm stills his complaining; the man never takes his eye from Glenn, staring him down now all the more. "A terrorist with a crossbow, is how it's told. Which I just find a real shame, cause a man carryin' a piece like that is someone I'd love to meet."

Dan shrugs the hump that is his shoulders at Lou. Something better get interesting soon with this man on the ground, because he's gonna get bored. He leans against the back-end of a car, hiking his foot up to rest on the front of the vehicle that serves as a hiding place. His careless weight brings a bounce and shudder to it.

The weapon that's been thieved from Glenn is turned on him; Billy has his own, but it's more entertaining to shove Glenn's up under his chin to make damn sure he looks Joe in the eye and tells the truth. Not a big talker, Billy, but this— this kinda silent communication suits him fine.

The hand groping in his pocket is met with unfocused and grumbles from the captive. "Take me with if you need to, but they might be the folks you're looking for. That's all I'm saying." Anything to get them all away from Beth. Besides, if they go back maybe he can concoct a plan to save Carl. Maybe. Without his gun. But then the bevy of beefcakes in his company could serve as an apt distraction. Following the search, Glenn stares up at his captors warily. His chin remains high in the air.

The weapon at his chin, however, causes his body to tremble just a stitch. His voice shakes a bit, "Don't know any terrorists with crossbows, and I didn't stay long enough to get a feel for the prison folks."

"Well," with the weight of his whole chest, Joe sighs, pushing off from his relaxed pose with a dedicated intent, "Mister crossbow's dead now, so I suppose none of us really know him anymore anyway."

A hand gesture starts to round the lazy men up but Len, aggravated from his less than fruitful search through Glenn's pockets, jostles the man and takes an accusatory stance two steps back, "I think he's lyin'!"

Both of Joe's eyebrows raise imperiously as he undoes the slow twist meaning to turn him away from their prisoner, face unfathomable but clearly thinking. "Well now." A swaggering step brings him forward. "Len here thinks you're a liar, Korea. Amongst us," eyes cross along the highway, finding each of his assorted goons in turn as he slowly, solemnly, nods, "that's a very serious offense. However!" His allowing hand causes a sneer over the defendant's face, "Len can be a bit hasty, so I'm gonna go ahead and give you a shot here, son." Bunching his hands at his knees, he lowers squarely to Glenn's level.

He looks precisely along Glenn's sightline, both ways. Here, much lower to the ground. "Is there anything… you feel you been holdin' back on us?"

Glenn takes a deep breath. He has to give them something. And so he lands on, "Look, I was with a group, but we got separated," it's truth enough that he manages to maintain his cool. "I think they're dead. All dead." Again not a lie. If they got back to the prison from Woodbury, they'd likely be dead. He can reason that enough to believe it. He clears his throat. "I was with some other folks in our group when we got cornered by some the walkers and I told them to make a break for it while I held them off — an older fellow with one leg and a baby — I think they're dead too. Should've found them by now coming this way." It's a reminder to Beth: find Herschel. Stay with her dad.

"An older fellow," repeats Joe with slow, lively incredulity, "with one leg. And a baby!" Bemusement paints him up and down but his cronies shift, restless with boredom and inertia. Lou flips his knife, barely catching it— saving it from a thunk down beside Glenn's former hiding spot— and then quickly sheathing to hide the action. A fellow leaning against a defunct tractor trailer picks at his teeth. "It's good to know that tall tales still thrive in this world. Alright, fellas!" Leather and boots stir around that loose semi-circle. A sharp whistle from Joe dislodges the loungers. Len grabs a fist of Glenn's shirt collar, prepared to haul him up.

He's to be their half-willing guide.

Summoned by the round-up, a man rounds a bend of parked cars who hadn't been visible before. African-American, disgruntled lines look carved into his face, defining him. Carrying a long rifle, he must've been scouting, and he approaches Len as the slenderer groupie hauls Glenn to his feet. Purpose speeds him up as the others begin packing it in; he looks, eyes narrow as warning slits, from Glenn to the others then back to Glenn.

Hands readjust on his gun as he stops, short. "This ain't the one I saw on the car."

Action ceases in a ripple of tension. Careful, calculating, Joe reverses from his casual inattention to frame himself against the newcomer. "Would you care to elaborate on that, Tony?"

The rifle shifts out to gesture at Glenn. "Person I saw before was blond. Ain't no Asian."

The lull is wrought with dangerous vibrations. Joe, crisp and cool, turns on Glenn. "Ain't," he defines, with sharp, accusatory deliberation, "no," each word a separate sentence; Glenn's sentence, "Asian." A hand slides to his waist where his holstered gun defines it. His chin lifts with a commander's purpose. "Well, I'm very sorry, Korea. But I do believe you held back."

Straight into Glenn's stomach, the first punch winds him instantly. Air flees his body as pain fills all those desperate spaces. Paralyzed by spasming lungs, he's an open target for the kick that grounds him. Crashing, his landing sends up a spray of broken asphalt his new oppressors are only too eager to shove him into; Len jams a boot into his throat and forces one of his cheeks to burn into the highway. Glenn's head is forced to the side.

His eyes can see straight to the car he was pulled out of. He can see no streaks of blonde, nor lines of concern on a teenager's face. He can see only the scurrying boots of Lou on the other side of the car, coming to participate.

There's no one there for him to protect.

There's also no one there to protect him. A sacrifice the gang of men are more than happy to rub in. Someone laughs at his misfortune over the sound of more scurrying footsteps that follow Lou's. Billy's quicker on his feet, but Dan's the one to stomp toward the open target just behind Lou. Butting in alongside, a heavy boot scrapes along the asphalt right toward Glenn's hip, punctuated with a question that's a little more eager than threatening: "You got a friend?"

The Korean crumples completely to the ground and curls into himself with every blow. The blood runs hot from his nose, and each hit reminds him of the beating the Governor and Merle had issued him just days earlier. Then he'd failed to protect Maggie. But now, at least, it looks like Beth has gotten away. The question is met with moaning rather than an answer as Glenn literally has the crap kicked out of him. Pain across his face, ribs, and legs is enough to cause indiscernible sounds to emit from his lips. Maybe they're intended to be words. Regardless, no one can understand them. Now there's no hope to be found, yet there's reassurance that the blonde is not where she had once been. When the pain subsides enough to respond, and not because the beating has stopped, only because serotonin and the body's wonder drugs have kicked in, he groans, "No. Everyone's gone."

He's yanked to his knees just to be punched to the ground. Men's rough hands and boots interfere with each other in their eagerness to lay damage upon Glenn; perhaps some kind of retribution for the lack of loot on his person. Like a pack of rabid dogs, with Joe standing front and center, his fingers twiddling idly against his belt as he surveys their violent pursuit.

There's no sign of stopping.

A rib screams. Blood splatters onto the highway.

By now, speech has fallen into mere grunts of physical exertion, all expounded onto Glenn. It feels like the world's empty — a desolate landscape of broken cars, forgotten and useless things; a pile that he's soon to join.

And then, a voice. Breaking the pattern, the restless air, as if the first one spoken in decades: "Hey!" Coinciding with a an ear-splitting crash of glass and plastic. Lou, mid-kick, startles, tripping straight over Glenn and having to regain balance on the other side, twisting to meet this interruption. Faces turn, scrambling, searching. They find the odd little vision of a teenaged girl, blonde hair frazzled with an assortment of asphalt litter, standing amongst a spray of shattered headlights. Cupped in her hand, Beth wields a rusty tire iron against an onslaught of grizzled hunters and though she swallows a hard, visible lump, she holds her ground, legs parted at shoulder-width. "I know where the supplies are. A— a lot of supplies. But you leave him alone!"

Rocking onto his heels, Len hovers with a vibrating energy; a dog on a very questionable leash that sees food. Intention darkens his eyes. It's on all their faces, in the way hands flex and legs shift. Belts are touched with soft bends of leather.

With a snap of a rock underfoot, one of the nameless fellows breaks code by stepping forward and Beth's hands whip back, yanking an unfamiliar pistol out from the back tuck of her pants to hold at them with serious intent. "I said back off of him!"

Bemusement undying on his face, Joe lays his hands, palm down, out in the air and bats them, telling his men to ease down. "Now, Lou," he comments blithely, "Isn't that your gun?" To which the named slaps a surprised hand to his empty holster.

Dan's stopped kicking Glenn, fixed on the young newcomer but seeing past the threat of the weapons in her possession. Possession: that's all that shines in his animal eyes. He steps over Glenn to get a better view, but no farther. Blame shoots to Lou in the eyes of Billy.

The beating stops before Glenn really processes what's going on. Beth. "N-no," is all he manages before collecting himself. Beth is supposed to be gone. Far away. Untraceable. They're already tracking some 'terrorist'. There's no doubt in Glenn's mind they're going to track them. If they get out of this. But then there's no way to deal with things now. His sleeve is draw across his face, mopping up the blood spurting from his nose. Everything is going to bruise. Everything. He rights himself a bit and sits up from his curled stance. He pushes himself up to a stand and tries to catch Beth's gaze.

With an antsy glance, she finds him. A tiny twitch of Beth's mouth, it all shining like a burst of a star in her eyes: hold on, she's got you. "You," Fingers firm on the gun, she sidles a couple of scuffling steps to line Joe up evenly in her sights. "You're a man of your code, right? I heard you." The gun bobs in emphasis but remains on track. "So— so I tell you where the prison is and you don't touch him no more."

Contemplation heavier with humor than the deepness of his thoughts keeps Joe engaged. Rocking all his weight to one side, he lifts a hand and nudges the air, beckoning his men off. As they retreat from Glenn's bloody figure with varying degrees of enthusiasm, Beth's gun bobs a second time. "Say it," she presses, "Say it's a deal."

A laugh of true appreciation brightens the face of Joe. He gamely enthuses, "Little lady, you have yourself a deal." To stop a surge of optimism beside the anxious twist of her stomach, Beth's lips press together, blocking. With the circle breaking off, she eases in, curving warily around the front of the former hiding spot to approach Glenn's side.

"Of course," interrupts Joe's voice, face twisting apologetically when it appears to startle Beth, her grip tightening. "You'll have to give Lou his piece back." When her eyes narrow, the gang leader spreads his hands as to the landscape of the world. "You understand."

Beth's eyes lower briefly, dangerously, then lift. "Guess Glenn gets his back, too."

After a flicker of tension, a pause, Joe's smile breaks wider, his head shaking happily for her shrewdness. "Go on," he orders, edging his chin from Billy to the two huddled survivors. Len's lip curls with unreleased argument; he wrestles with his own stance, back and forth, before jutting inelegantly forward. He's stopped with a hard elbow to the shoulder from Tony.

"D-d-don't give up the gun," Glenn groans as he once again runs his sleeve across his face. Evidently his nose isn't stopping any time soon. He pinches the bridge of his nose and squints around the spots he's seeing. "N-n-not right away." He doesn't trust any code. Not when they were just kicking the crap out of him.

In a hushed little voice, Beth reassures him, "It's okay!" Persistent in her belief of their chances. That, unlike when Carl vanished, she won't spook. After an short inner scuffle, the capped Billy leans forward and tosses Glenn's stolen piece onto the highway in front of the Korean's feet. Raising her voice again, Beth addresses them, "He wasn't lyin' about the prison. There's food there. There's shelter." Optimism — purity — warm her voice, her eyes; her entire face speaks innocently of a true safety. "Y'go north, through here," her head cocks towards the woods, "till you find a fence an' follow it west. There's a crumpled entrance there. Y'can go right in!"

No harm could possibly come from something said so sweetly, could it.

Then, shifting her stance, Beth yanks her arm back and tosses Lou's stolen gun in a sailing arc over the tops of cars until it thuds, out of sight, along the sloped bank. When Joe meets Beth's look, her eyebrows raise, a corner of her mouth quirking. Cursing, Lou breaks from the group to trot after it.

"Here— " Beth's quick to fall supportively around Glenn's shoulder, the tire iron still in one hand bumping gently against him.

Except it's not okay, even if Beth attempts to be reassuring. And then Glenn sees her throw the gun. Why did she do that? His fingers reach out to curl around the tire iron. They're going to have to run. He doesn't much look or feel like running. He takes a deep breath as he allows Beth to support him some. He sniffs as his jaw tightens.

Once, she abandons him, a hand against his arm, when she dips to scoop his returned gun off the ground. Rising, Beth's palm rubs further along his back and she tries to hobble them a step along the asphalt with a brave, "Come on."

As, entangled, they finish their first step, there's a sharp squeak as Joe lifts his weight from the truck grill he'd been leaning against. "Now, hold on there." Beth's fingers flex then tighten against Glenn's shirt; he can feel her little fingertips of determined pressure.

"Deal's a deal," she accuses.

"Deal's a deal," Joe agrees, lifting his chin. "Deal never said anything about you."

It happens fast, in one heavy wave. There are hands on her. There are hands on her, dragging her away from Glenn with such momentum that her heels are lifted off the ground. Beth's light as a straw-man, and seems as easy to tear apart.

Billy's in the midst, eyeballing that tire iron. First and foremost, it's Dan who thrusts the girl to the ground by the shoulder, eager to stare down with his critical and then dangerously determined stare, more eager to loom, even more eager still to keep her on the splitting asphalt. He follows her down and shoves a meaty palm against her upper spine.

"Claimed," he announces in a hasty grunt, "Claimed first, I 'ave her first."

Thank god for adrenaline, the truest wonder drug. Glenn's fingers tighten around the tire iron, so when Beth is pushed down, it's he who is in possession of the weighty weapon. He hadn't fought back before — when they kicked him, hit him, and generally beat him up, he hadn't reacted for fear of exposing Beth. But this is different.

There's no time for thought, and so it's only instinct that drives any of Glenn's actions. There's no time to weigh pros and cons. No time to think about how armed the marauders are. And certainly no time to consider what Rick, Daryl, or even Maggie would do in the same situation. It's only anger and adrenaline that motivate the Korean's actions, not that it's entirely clear from Glenn's expression. His own blood, some caked on, some still damp lines his calm face. There's little hint that he boils with anger beneath the surface.

Anger against the Governor. The cannibals. Anger for Maggie. For Carl. And now for Beth.

The tire iron is swung strongly towards Billy's head once. Twice. Three times. And then it takes aim at Dan. It's almost like baseball. And he the batter up to the plate. Filled with adrenaline, but focused in that surge of energy. He'd been good at baseball when people did that kind of thing. The cap had been a strange homage to a life once lived.

Billy's arms fly up, his shoulders rising high; the limbs catch the first burst of Glenn's anger, prompting a crack and shout. He reaches out with his less accosted arm for the second swing, missing a stopping grab of the tire iron; the third hits paydirt, burying Glenn's anger into Billy with a hit that sends the scrawny gang member to the road. His head whips to the side so hard that, by the time he falls to the road, his knit hat's been flung off.

Between Glenn and his aim on Dan appears the bulk of Tony, breaking the swing with a arm padded by shielding supplies that crack and rattle. In the second instant, he's armed with the muzzle almost clocking Glenn in the nose. Hands back him up, most notably Len from behind who jabs at Glenn's armed side with the butt of his own, more antiquated, crossbow. Somebody gets a fistful of the back of Glenn's shirt and pulls— but then Joe's straightening, shouting, "Hands off him, boys!"

Obediently, the only reluctance in the heated violence of their eyes, the gang vanishes back from Glenn several steps; he faces at least three well-aimed weapons as price of his freedom.

As the men slow, the air clears to make truly audible the struggle of Beth on the ground. Her breath escapes like a hiccup, jerking her whole upper body as she tries to squirm forward out of the oppressive heat of Dan's hand. Palms drive into the asphalt; there's already some sticking to her flushed little cheek from the fall.

Dan whips his scraggly, sweating head up and around above his burly his shoulder to glower at what's going on around him. Sick pride in himself burns in his eyes when he sees Glenn. Once he's convinced he's not going to be clobbered like Billy — who squirms but faintly on the ground — his attention is again consumed by struggling blonde prey.   His weight falls on one of Beth's legs, his knee practically wider than her whole thigh. Handfuls of shirt are grabbed, her back underneath scraped, pressed. His other hand shoves her pretty face against the road harder. "Squirm, squirm, little girl."

The blow to the head is hardly felt, but Glenn's body responds to the force of the blow. And then all of the weapons are tracked onto him. His eyes turn towards Beth and then back to the weapons and then to Beth again. His lips curl slightly into a near snarl and his fingers whiten around the grip of the tire iron.

He is painfully outnumbered. But maybe he can even the odds.

He pivots on his foot, and his paces quicken to a jog as he approaches what looks like the most expensive car. The tire iron smashes the vehicle, and the car alarm echoes across the expanse. He darts to the car next to it and responds in kind. They may have cleared the area, but he can draw them back.

"— fuck!" From chortling at Glenn's cowardly ditch, Tony's tune harshly changes as the blaring vehicle alert echoes across the open highway. With Len in similarly hot pursuit, he skids up to Glenn as the Asian wrenches open a second car's door, hooking an arm around his chest and bodily dragging him from the front seat.

At the halfhearted base-camp of others, barely a quiver disturbs Joe, seemingly unmoved by the prospect of an enticed horde. He keeps things slow, like the fellow who approaches Billy quizzically, edging him with a boot and a, "hey". Striding a few steps forward, himself, Joe whistles to his furthest guard dogs. "Bring 'im here! Bring 'im here."

Beth's high-pitched whine's too soft, lost in comparison with the loud alarm; a hidden arrow pointing back to how young she really is. Legs kick inadequately, one pulsing with the pain of Dan's weight. "No!" And her succeeding breath through her nose catches a pebble in it. Hands scramble at Dan's wrist above the side of her head, her hair a stringy blonde mess between both their fingers. "Glenn— "

That blonde mess becomes a target. Dan's wrists are scratched, but he's bigger and stronger than the girl. He hauls her by her hair, and another hand hauls her by her shirt with such force that its seams are threatened between him and her weight when he lifts her off the asphalt. No blessing, not when her burly, heavy-breathing attacker's swinging her about to shove her against a grimy car front-first, allowing a blur of the other men dragging her friend rush past her vision— if she looks. Is that who she's calling out for? Glenn? At least she's spared Dan's vile smile as he tries to keep her pinned against the plastic-and-metal hulk of what used to be somebody's family car; she's not spared from the scrape of his thick hand against the top of her pants.

"BETH!" Glenn yells back in response, as he's dragged from the vehicle, squirming all the while. At least she knows he hasn't left her. She's not alone, even if his ability to help her is limited. He writhes against the much larger man's bulk. Blood drips from his face onto his captor, reminding Glenn of his own already-damaged face.

But Beth can no longer respond; her voice thins into a frightened sob at the nearing invasion of Dan's hand until, her second since the painful wrench of her hair, and this time it breaks in a desperate little noise. The car's built up dirt smears across her strained shirt, leaving a morbid imprint of her struggles, the shape of her soft figure as oppressed by the larger man's.

It sits, this violence, as if in a world of its own, untouched by the men of Joe's, who mill without an apparent care or interest in the world — not slowed by the warning siren of the assaulted car. Striding leisurely forward, Joe comes to meet Glenn as he's hauled much like a — slightly angry — sack of grain back to the outreaches of the well-armed semi-circle. "Now, boy," purrs the leader, projecting his voice above the alarm, "It seems like you care quite a deal about this young lady, and she for you. So, here's what we'll do. Seeing as how you weren't familiar, say, with our way of life, I'm gonna give you a small primer."

As if they were old comrades, Joe lays a steady hand on Glenn's shoulder, using the other to gesture placidly in the direction of Dan's depravity. "Dan here's called 'claim' on that there little female. Nobody else is gon' touch her till he forfeits. That's how we do. We claim things so we ain't bickerin' about them like uncivilized creatures. So. If we were to have ourselves a 'redo', on account of your understandable ignorance, is that what you'd do— Glenn, is it? Claim 'er?"

It's difficult, for one such as Dan, to pay any attention to his surroundings when so focused on the so-called "thing" he has claimed. Joe's voice eventually filters into his skull, presently more important than the piercing alarm set off by Glenn — who he looks toward with a sneer, his lip pulling enough to reveal yellowing teeth. He presses against Beth harder with a claiming shove of his girth and squeezes her hip possessively. That's how he feels about the possibility of a redo.

"Yes!" Glenn rubs his sleeve across his face under his nose to sop up the continued blood, leaving a streak of dried blood under his nose and across his face. "I'd claim her — I'd yessss." The noise of the car alarm continues to echo as the sad lump of Glenn flesh tries to right himself as best he can, even with the other man's hand on his shoulder. The man he obviously doesn't trust. Of course, he doesn't dare move underneath the touch, particularly when Beth's life is at stake. His own? Well, if he can get Beth out, he'll have done right by the Greenes and the rest of his remaining family.

Straight off of Glenn's assessment, Joe crows, "Well, there you have it! Dan— " the name of his cohort a tone brisker, but with his sly warmth, shoos the meaty marauder from where Beth shivers and scrapes her nails against the car's filthy hood beneath him. Once a steadying feature, Joe's hand glides Glenn a few steps forward, letting him leave the wrestle of Tony behind; once again, Glenn stands a free man, but for the newly unyielding aims of the gang brothers. A few begin to side-step and glance around, keeping watch for what the car alarm will undoubtedly bring. But Joe's iron focus remains on the two strangers. Bending slightly to Glenn's height, his greyed facial hair curls with the prominence of his voice. "Now, all you gotta do," simple as that, "is go over there and stake your claim in that young thing." Straightening, "Mark your territory, son, and what you touch no man can ever take from you."

Hearing this, Dan is shooed, but whips around with Beth in tow, jolting her off the car to face Glenn. It's far from a giving gesture; his grip on the girl only tightens. He's a dog with a bone, growling as what's his is threatened. The brute complains, dangerously undermining his wiser leader. "That ain't fair."

A soft "uh!" flies out of Beth, smaller feet tip-toeing in tripping struggles to keep up with her abuser. Cast in terror, that cherub face shines with the path of spent tears but she stares straight forward at Glenn with a tightly firmed jaw. She squirms defiantly when Dan tightens.

Into the tension, Joe warns, "Dan…"

The stains on Beth's cheeks are enough to melt Glenn just a little, his resolve fading some. "Beth…" His head snaps to 'Joe' as he weighs the situation in his mind. He slides his sleeve across his face again to mop up whatever liquid had been left behind. Slow, purposed steps draw him to Beth and Dan with a modicum of hesitation. He slides besides Beth and reaches out to put an arm around her now. All that matters now is her safety. One false move… His eyes squint some at the phrase Mark your territory. What on earth does that mean?

Rumbles follow Dan being peeled away from his prize; a general division amongst the ranks over their leader's decision. Men loom in even heavier in the aftermath, hungry. "Tha's sweet an' all," remarks Joe on the wrapped arm, Beth's fingers grappling onto Glenn's sleeve with torrential force. "But if you wanna keep it, you'd best touch that young thing in a manly fashion before your friendly alarm brings on the vermin or Dan here changes my mind."

Glenn's gaze shifts uncomfortably to Beth. Oh. It sinks in. His jaw tightens. How on earth is he meant to do that? His arm tightens protectively around her. He tries to catch her gaze, a silent question asking what she wants to do. They may have made it his choice, but it's an impossible choice for him to make. Yet there's no question he's going to begin making motions. His hands move to her waist, the question still written across his expression. The ache in his chest chokes against whatever air burns his lungs. Not that he remembers ever having taken a breath. He hasn't consciously breathed since they encountered the posse. His fingers linger at her waist, and they carefully attempt to peel back layers of clothing. Nothing untoward, just exposing her midriff if she'll let him. His face greens. He might vomit.

Standing tall, simultaneously trembling; Beth's quieted to a bare little hiccup that makes no noise but reveals all of the coarse tension holding her throat and jaw hostage. Clear, crystal, understanding in her eyes betrays no interior emotion except a tightened knot of resolution so different from the one throttling the small little toned stomach he exposes to the muggy air of the night and that of the husky breathing of those watching. Somebody shifts his weight; all the leather of his belt and wrinkles of his pants seem to respond, inch by inch. Her head both stony and twitching with repressed shock, Beth finds Glenn's question behind his nausea and she gives a tiny, firm, nod amongst the tremors. Worn, dirtied, fingers, so recently crushed by Dan's, move to his. With conviction, she pushes Glenn's palm onto her skin. But as she feels his cold yet sweaty touch, her eyes squeeze shut compulsively.

Beth can feel Glenn's hand tremble against her skin. His jaw tightens, and carefully he tugs at her shirt. While he continues with his very gentle actions, he is wholly aware of himself in each movement. He lacks his usual agility, and feels increasingly heavy with each passing second. His fingers lack their nimbleness; his expression its general good humour. There's nothing to be optimistic about right now. There's nothing funny or ironic about incest, just the reality that he's being made to fuck his near sister. His eyebrows draw together sharply. The nausea hasn't drained from his face, but he's going to do what he needs to. He casts a glance over his shoulder, "Are you all going to watch? Because seriously," he pauses, "never had a dude watch before." Oh Glenn. This may not be the time…

As Beth stands there, with tremors of Glenn's hands making the difference between the bottom of her worn bra showing or not, Joe shifts his not inconsequential weight, thumbs dragging across his belt, "You've proven yourself to be untrustworthy once before, Glenn. You've left us little choice." As though this— this entire situation, were of Glenn's own making. Division remains a stake in the group; Tony's a tough read but the others divide neatly between enjoying any show and disturb that Glenn's been given any chance at all. Nobody's really checked on Billy.

Right. Because they have no choice but to make them do this. For their enjoyment. Like Beth, his eyes clamp shut as he begins to draw her shirt over her head. Only to stop. He wants to preserve some semblance of decency, not that it's the kind of action that can produce anything. His hands move to her pants instead. His fingers fumble at the button of her pants, but he's all thumbs, struggling to undo the only item of clothing that really needs to come off for what he's been tasked to do. His heart beats violently in his chest. His own eyes clamp shut and he wishes he was home.

He can't see Beth's startled nose scrunch; the way her eyes pop open and roll desperately up to the sky. He can't see but he can feel how her stomach squeezes reflexively in as he paws at her jeans. Unthinking gumption finds her fingers joining his, from where she'd been hugging the bundled fabric of her overstretched shirt against her chest. The button releases with a deceptively innocuous shift of fabric, lack of noise. Greasy smears left behind from Dan's groping point mockingly towards the surreal goal: the little V that shifts as Beth clenches her thighs self-consciously.

"He ain't lookin' so interested in keepin' her from here," slurs Lou from behind the half-flagged point of his gun— he's less so elsewhere. Unlike Glenn's nausea, the gang member's positively riveted, powerfully needy. He spares a look to the side, barely, to spit into the shadows of the road.

"He'll think of something," assures— warns— Joe with a warm ease, "I believe in our little Korean."

When Beth's pants mysteriously come undone, Glenn can feel that lump in his throat tighten further. He tries not to think of Maggie, tries not to think of Beth, and tries not to think of Herschel. Thoughts of Carl and the cannibals, the others taking on the Governor, and the live corpses everywhere wreak havoc on his mind. He's not going to be able to perform at all if it keeps up. He huffs out a single breath, his eyes opening for a moment while regret, sadness, and guilt all drift into them.

His hand tracks down to his own pants, and he mentally tells himself to focus, but even for a young man, his body is thus far unresponsive.

Seeing where Glenn touches himself against his pants brings a sharp reality back into Beth's eyes, lending a sense of too-late panic before she can try to school it away— for his sake. But other, critical eyes leave him no leeway. "This is takin' too long," announces Len, advancing rapidly on the two victims. "Chompers are comin' thanks to his alarm and if he can't be bothered to stick two fingers in 'er, I say we leave him to 'em— " A rustle of husky agreement from Dan encourages him. He's stopped just short, behind Beth, by the narrow of his leader's eyes on him and Tony's ambiguously trained weapon.

He catches Beth's gaze, and Glenn's heart sinks just a little further. And then the voices of the men don't help matters. There's no inspiration to do this. Nothing that makes him even want to get it on with his near sister-in-law. His own button and fly are undone and he tells himself to go through the motions, that everything else will comply. He hopes. A tug is given to his own pants, the first layer of fabric behind him. And then it actually happens. He leans over and the contents of his stomach spray across the pavement, even a little on his shoe. An apologetic gaze is cast towards Beth. Now he smells like vomit to boot.

Apology meets its blue-eyed like; Beth's tiny widened gaze reeks as much of self-blame as what Glenn sprayed on the road. With a chorus of half-disgusted, amused, noises, each of the men of the gang take shuffling steps back. It won't last, this precious distance. Len's recovering, checking his boots at every angle for flecks by which he can excuse a further beating on Glenn. Beth's core of determination flutters anxiously under the impression that she's somehow messed this up; the thought of her made him barf— but it's just. Glenn's a good guy, and.

"This is a waste a'time," voices that dissension again, and now Joe's adjusted, "We've all the time in the world now, haven't we… but I'm inclined to agree."

At the edges of the trees down the grade of the highway's sides, rustling grows loud enough for everyone present to be aware of what's coming. Glenn's dinner bell has roused the natives.

"I'm disappointed in you, Glenn," rumbles Joe in a vein of finality. Noises clock him as straightening, preparing.

Glenn is equally disappointed in himself. And also NOT at the same time. His green face peers back at the rednecks before issuing Beth one last apologetic look and reaching out for her. He can't protect her. Evidently, he can't protect anyone.

Beth's fingertips, dirtied and scraped, brush Glenn; her eyes stare concrete at him with the faith he's lost. As they try to touch, Len gets a hand under Beth's arm and hauls her backwards.

But just as the Asian's about to be left, alone— the first of his cavalry breaks the edge of the treeline.

Rotted, limp faces distorted by urgency emerge from the brush led by their own reaching hands. The first are deceptively fast to breach the incline up to the highway's edge.

For a vital second, everyone on the road's distracted by the oncoming sprawl of walkers.

With Len's head turn, Beth abruptly propels her elbow into his gut. When he doubles over, she twists the other way, kicking up gravel towards the separating protection of stalled cars. Len scrambles to catch up. He gets a hand around her ankle at the last second as she dives underneath an SUV.

Gunshots light up the night— Tony and Dan setting off more flares for any walkers that haven't already been attracted to the highway. While they, and Joe, back towards the Jeep they arrived in, Lou charges singlehandedly towards Glenn as if that's all he's been thinking about.

It takes everything in Glenn not to cheer when Beth manages to put an elbow to Len's gut. There's a moment where he looks like he's going to run, especially as Beth gets away, but then there's a hand around her ankle. And so instead of running away, he runs towards Lou, aiming to dive low. His face steels, his hands fist, and he knows his only hope is speed, so he runs fast and true. Lou and Glenn are now in their own game of chicken.

The Asian aims to dive downwards to tackle the other man's legs. It's not about wrestling. It's about offsetting someone else's balance.

"Bitc— " is when Lou realizes Glenn isn't gonna turn yellow like his Asian skin. Trying to swing a punch at the last minute, he only clips Glenn's shoulder as the young man plows in. Glenn's weight connects with Lou's thigh, sending him rolling to one side by their combined momentum. Smacking into the gravel on his right shoulder, he ungracefully kicks himself free and scrambles a roll around to his knees and then up, dirt on top of dirt. His back now to the approaching walkers cleaves his focus.

Rugged struggles against scratchy gravel and concrete echo around as men— and one girl— fight for ground. There's a grunted effort and then a hard crack and Len surfaces abruptly from the SUV. One hand goes for the blood newly gushing from his nose while the other tosses a pair of slender female jeans to the pavement.

"You forget that and get over here!" commands Joe's voice over the ruckus. The Jeep starts with an attractive rumble.

Glenn roundhouse kicks the man's chin. And when his leg comes back, he's already moving to a sprint to help Beth."Beth!" he's calling towards her, his arms pumping hard and fast by his side to catch up to her. Pants. She could really use her pants. He dives for the pants that the other fellow tossed aside and, after tripping once over his own feet, stumbles back to his feet to get his pseudo-sister-in-law so they can jet. Away from the marauders. And away from the walkers.

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