Safe Haven in the Chaos

BY : IdrilsSecret
Category: S through Z > The Walking Dead
Dragon prints: 3629
Disclaimer: I do not own the walking dead or any of the characters. No money is being made from the writing of these stories

Chapter 29 When the Walls Come Tumbling Down

 

 

Rick gathered the group to talk about how to get the walkers away from the town. If they stayed much longer, the sheer size of the herd pushing down on them would compromise the walls. He told the people his idea. “If I can get out there into a car, I think I can draw some of them away. We just need them to get distracted.”

 

“How the hell are you going to get outside?” Carol asked. “We’re surrounded. We can’t even open the gate or they’ll come flooding in.”

 

“I’ll have to scale the wall. We got any flares left? I just need a couple of you to clear a path to a car so that I have a straight shot,” Rick explained.

 

“It’s going to take more than just one man and one car. I’ll go too,” Aaron volunteered.

 

“No, I need you here,” Rick said instantly, the same way he had when Aaron asked to help lead the herd from the quarry.

 

“Doing what?” Aaron retaliated. “There’s nothing to do here but wait. I can’t sit around anymore. I need to do something.”

 

“I’ll take one of my people, but I need you here.” Rick stared him down, and Aaron knew there was no winning this argument. Rick, even with his recent speech about being one, still referred to everyone as us and them, and Aaron was still one of them.

 

“There’s got to be a better way of dealing with this,” Deanna said. She was trying to keep in charge, but Rick was clearly leading this one. “There are sewers that lead outside the walls.”

 

“We’ve already checked into that,” Maggie said and shook her head. She glanced at Aaron. “There are walkers at the sewer exit. It’s not an option, and they could get in that way too.”

 

“I’ll go with Rick over the wall,” Michonne chimed in. “It’s worth a shot. There’s a couple cars just outside the gate. Maggie and Aaron can fire off some flares in either direction. Rick and I will slip out and head for the cars. We just got to make enough noise to get the herd to start following us.”

 

“This is crazy,” Spenser complained. “You all are going to get yourselves killed, and leave us even more vulnerable than we are right now. Haven’t we lost enough people already?”

 

“Well, if you have a better idea, I’d sure love to hear it,” Rick challenged. Spenser said nothing. “I thought so.”

 

The group all started arguing about what to do, how to do it, and who would go. Aaron thought Rick’s plan wasn’t that far off the mark. The execution was a little strained, but if anyone could pull this off it was Rick. The only one not arguing was Deanna, who sat back and watched Rick take the lead. She almost seemed to smile, and Aaron knew what she was thinking. Rick really did believe in Alexandria. Now if they could just get him to believe that its people could handle it and help out.

 

Everyone’s voices were raised, trying to be heard over the others, but there was one voice that stood out amongst them. “Hey! Guys!” Maggie repeated, trying to get everyone’s attention. “Look out there! Hey! Y’all stop a second, shut up and look!” She shouted the last part so loud that everyone stopped talking at once. Off in the distance there was something floating up into the air.

 

“Are those … balloons?” Michonne asked.

 

Aaron shaded his eyes with his hand and focused on the distance. Sure enough, there was a group of green balloons slowly lifting into the sky.

 

“It’s Glenn,” Maggie said with a smile. “I know it is. It has to be him. It’s what we’ve always told each other. If we get separated, one of us will send a sign or a signal to let the other know we’re still here.” Tears came to her eyes and she covered her mouth with her hands in excitement.

 

“I knew he’d come back,” Rick said to himself. Obviously, he’d been worried too.

 

Aaron was relieved too, and he was happy, if this really was Glenn, but it still left an unanswered question. Where was Daryl?

 

“Maybe they’re with him,” Maggie whispered in Aaron’s ear. She must have seen the look of concern on his face, and knew what he was thinking.

 

“Alright,” Rick said, going into rescue mode. “There’s a sea of walkers at least twenty deep, and we need to get him inside. That’s our first priority now. Then, we’ll figure out how to deal with the herd.”

 

“Wait! What’s that noise?” Spenser asked, and everyone stopped talking.

 

There was a low groaning and creaking, then the sound of wood snapping. It sounded like a forest was falling. And then the movement caught everyone’s eye. The guard tower was starting to move. Aaron thought about it. That’s where the Wolves crashed their truck, making the horn blow, which led to the mess they were in now. The tower wasn’t just swaying, it was leaning, and it was leaning towards the wall.

 

“It’s coming down!” Aaron yelled.

 

“Everyone back!” Rick warned, pushing people away from the location of the tower.

 

It fell, crushing the steel wall beneath it. Dust clouded the area. Pieces of wood flew through the air. Some of the people fell as they tried to run away. Most were choking on the dirt and dust. Visibility was zero, and for a few moments after it was over, there was complete silence. Then they heard it, the groans and the growls … the walkers coming into the town. Everyone stood still and peered into the cloud. Shapes began appearing like apparitions. The people were stunned, and no one was doing anything.

 

“Walkers!” Rick finally yelled. “Everyone get inside. Lock the doors. Turn off all lights. Draw the curtains and keep quiet.”

 

Everyone scattered, but some were already overtaken by walkers. That made some people panic, and they weren’t paying attention to what they were doing or where they were going. Aaron tried to wave them towards him. He would lead them to a safe place, but they were too terrified. It was too late for them. Then, Aaron thought about the people who hadn’t been at the meeting. They would have heard the tower crashing down. They would come out of their houses to see what happened, and they would be vulnerable. Aaron took off to warn them.

 

Just as he thought, people were standing on their porches or out in the street. Aaron began yelling, warning them about the walkers. “Get inside right now and stay there. Don’t come out until someone comes for you. You stay out here and you will die.”

 

People fled back inside, fear on their faces. Aaron kept running up the street, calling out to the people. Up ahead he saw Eric and Olivia. Eric saw Aaron and ran towards him. “What happened? Are we under attack again?”

 

“The tower fell and a section of the wall is down. The walkers are inside. You and Olivia get in the house and stay there until I come back for you. Keep quiet and keep still. No lights. No noise,” Aaron told them. The door to the house they were in front of opened, and Tobin came out onto his porch. Aaron shoved Eric and Olivia. “Go inside with Tobin.” Then he yelled to Tobin. “Don’t come out. Walkers are inside. Stay in your house. You see anyone else walking around out here, take them in.”

 

“Aaron!” he heard someone yell, and turned to see Caleb.

 

“Geez, Caleb.” It scared Aaron that he hadn’t even thought of him during all of this. “Go with Eric. Stay in the house.”

 

“Why? What’s going on?” Caleb asked. “Maybe I can help.”

 

Eric put a hand on Caleb’s shoulder. “Come on. I’ll explain.”

 

Aaron started to leave to check on other residents, but Eric called out to him. “Where are you going?”

 

“I’m warning the others, and then I’m heading to the infirmary. Just go, Eric,” Aaron warned, and he was gone.

 

When Aaron got to the infirmary, he’d hoped to see Rick and the others. It was only Heath and Spenser, and they were moving the patients upstairs. “Where’s Denise?” Aaron asked them.

 

“I don’t know,” Scott told him. Scott had suffered a gunshot wound to the leg, and he was still healing. “She left a couple hours ago and never came back.”

 

“We came to warn Scott and Denise of what happened,” Heath said. He’d been at Rick’s meeting too.

 

“Anyone seen Carol?” Aaron asked, and both men shook their heads. Everyone was scattered over the town, and no one knew where anyone was. “Turn off the lights,” Aaron said, and they watched through slits in the curtains as the streets filled with walkers.

 

“What the hell are we going to do?” Heath whispered at Aaron’s side.

 

Aaron slowly shook his head. “I don’t know.” For the first time, he didn’t have a clue as to how they were going to get out of this situation. All he could do was pray that everyone else made it to safety, and that Daryl was alright, wherever he was.

 

>>------->

 

Tired of watching the chaos outside, Heath and Aaron sat down and started trying to figure out what they could do. There was a back door, but walkers blocked the way. There was a second story. Maybe they could get out on a roof, but what would they do then. The only weapons they had were the ones they had with them, a gun and a knife with no extra ammo.

 

“Guys,” Spenser called. He was still keeping watch out the window. “I think I see someone.”

 

Heath and Aaron jumped up and went to the window. Just as they did, they heard a gunshot. It sounded close. “I’ll cover you,” they heard someone call. “Get inside.”

 

Suddenly, Denise was running towards the door. Aaron opened it just as she got to it. She almost fell inside, and Aaron slammed the door shut.

 

“Denise, are you hurt?” Aaron asked, checking her over.

 

“I … I think I’m ok,” she said, out of breath from running.

 

“We heard a gun,” Heath said.

 

“Yeah, that was Carol. She’s down a few houses, in one of those unfinished townhomes.”

 

“Thank God,” Aaron said quietly.

 

“Where did you go?” Scott asked from across the room.

 

“Morgan came and got me. Said he needed my help. He had a wound. I thought he meant for himself. Turns out, he was keeping one of those Wolves hostage in a basement. The guy had a wound, but he wouldn’t say if it was from a weapon or a bite. Morgan asked me to treat him, but to keep it quiet. I guess Carol followed Morgan. She confronted him. They fought. He knocked her out. That’s when the Wolf knocked Morgan out. Rosita, Tara and Eugene showed up, but this Wolf guy took me hostage and he made us go out into the street. We were hiding in a stairwell, made a break for the wall. I hesitated. He came back for me. He got bite on the arm, but I talked him into coming back to the infirmary. I was prepared to take his arm off to save his life. We were almost here when I heard the gun go off and the Wolf fell to the ground. Carol shot him. And now I’m here.”

 

“Jesus,” Aaron said to her unbelievable story.

 

“What about Eugene and the others?” Heath asked.

 

“I guess they’re still in the basement. They’re trapped just like the rest of us. Guys, I was out there. It’s overflowing with roamers. We might be stuck here for a while,” Denise explained.

 

Aaron and Heath looked at each other. They read each other’s mindd. If they were stuck here for a while, what were they going to do for food?

 

“Maybe it won’t be that long,” Heath said with optimism.

 

“We should come up with a plan to get to other people,” Aaron offered. Food was not the biggest priority at the moment. “What about Rick? Did anyone see which way he went?”

 

“My guess is that he went to Jessie’s house,” Denise said. “I asked Carol where the baby was, and she left Judith with Jesse when she went to follow Morgan.

 

Jesse’s house was at the other end of the street. It was too far to go. “Looks like we’re on our own for now,” Spenser said.

 

Aaron went to the window and looked through the curtains. The street was thick with walkers. They couldn’t go out there. He thought of what Daryl would do in this situation. He wouldn’t go out in the street, that’s for sure. Where was Daryl, he wondered. He should be here. It never should have taken him this long to come home, even with the change in plans.

 

He was looking outside, but his eyes were blind to the scene before him. All Aaron could think about was Daryl. How the hell was he going to get back inside with the town overrun? As Aaron started trying to figure out a plan, he almost missed the unusual commotion going on outside. There was a group out there going against the tide of the walkers. It was dark, but Aaron squinted and focused on the movement. At first he thought it was walkers, but then someone turned their head, and he saw that it was Rick.

 

“Hey guys, Rick is out there,” Aaron called out, unable to peel his eyes away. The others rushed to the window.

 

“Are you sure? It’s pretty dark,” Heath said, trying to see for himself.

 

“I swear it was Rick. I saw his face, and whoever he’s with, they’re all going against the flow of walkers,” Aaron said.

 

“They’re going towards the gate,” Heath pointed out. “They’re making a break for it.”

 

There were so many walkers, Aaron lost sight of Rick, but he kept watching. Suddenly, walkers in that area turned and began going towards the place where Aaron spotted Rick. “Oh shit,” he whispered.

 

“What? What’s happening?” Spenser asked.

 

“I don’t know but–” Aaron started to say when they heard a gunshot ring out. He waited to hear more, but it was just that one.

 

Everyone in the infirmary held their breath and waited to see what would happen next. All they could see was walkers gathering in one place, and that was not a good thing. That meant that someone fell and they were being overrun by walkers.

 

“Should we go out there and try to help?” Heath asked.

 

“It might be too late. Someone out there didn’t make it. That’s why the roamers are all gathered in one place,” Spenser said nervously.

 

“We have to help,” Aaron said with anger. It was killing him to sit there and not do anything. Aaron always helped. That’s what he did. “They’re in trouble. If it was us, you’d want–”

 

“I see Michonne!” Heath yelled. “She’s coming this way. Get the door unlocked.”

 

Denise went to the door and unlocked it, but she waited to open it until Michonne was right at it. “Tell me when,” she told Aaron.

 

Aaron watched as Michonne hacked and slashed her way through the herd. That’s when he saw Rick. He was carrying something … no … someone. “Oh my God,” he said. “It’s Carl.”

 

“Now! Open the door now!” Heath called, and Denise did as he said.

 

Michonne came in first, and then Rick carrying Carl. There was blood dripping from the boy’s head, and his face … it looked as though half of it was missing. Denise slammed the door and locked it as she instructed Rick to lay Carl on one of the patient beds. She went to work instantly, and asked what happened as she tried to figure it out for herself. Rick was in shock, pacing back and forth so Michonne answered for him.

 

“It was Ron. He … he shot him. I had no choice. I had to kill him. He was aiming the gun at Carl. I ran my sword through him, but he still fired a shot,” Michonne explained in a panic. “Can you help him? Can you help Carl?”

 

“Is he dead? Is my boy dead?” Rick said from the other side of the bed.

 

Denise had been checking his vitals. “He’s got a pulse. He’s alive.” She started calling out commands for different medical supplies, and anyone standing around not doing anything started helping. Michonne stayed bent down with her head next to Carl, whispering in his ear, but Rick backed up and started pacing again.

 

Aaron noticed Rick and Michonne had been dressed in what he heard Daryl once call meat ponchos. It looked like they took sheets, cut a hole for the head and smeared it with walker gore. Daryl had told him how they’d done this in the past. It made you next to invisible to the walkers. So, they had disguised themselves in order to get out of Jesse’s house. This made him wonder what happened to her and Sam. Aaron glanced at Rick again. His face and arms were covered in blood and filth. He held an ax in one hand, fresh blood still staining the blade. Michonne mentioned Ron, so Jesse and Sam must have been with them. He was about to ask where they were and who else was with them, when Rick turned to the door and approached it. He didn’t say a word to anyone. He was leaving. Michonne saw him and called out to him, but he ignored her. Rick left the infirmary, closing the door behind him.

 

“Where the hell is he going?” Spenser asked.

 

Aaron went to the window again and watched as Rick started killing walkers who had come up on the porch. All he had was that ax, and he was swinging it, finding a second strength within him, one that seemed almost inhuman. “My God, he’s taking them on by himself.”

 

Michonne looked up at Denise. “I have to go with him.”

 

“No, I need you here. I’m almost–”

 

“You don’t understand. I have to. I have no other choice. I’m sorry.” She kissed Carl on the forehead and ran out of the infirmary, joining Rick in his one man fight against the herd.

 

“This is it,” Aaron said. “There’s no choice anymore. We fight or we die.” He thought of Daryl. He thought of Caleb. He even thought of Eric. That’s why he had to do this.

 

“I’m with you,” Heath said.

 

“Me too,” Spenser joined in.

 

They all got their weapons ready and left the infirmary. They made their way to Rick and Michonne. Rick looked up from his bloody rampage and saw the three men. “Get in formation with our backs to each other.”

 

They formed a circle and started fighting their way through the herd, focusing on anything that came at them and taking it down. Everyone was fighting with such intensity, they almost didn’t notice when others join the cause. Suddenly, Tara, Rosita and Eugene were there, helping to take down the walkers. Their circle grew and they were stronger. And then Carol and Morgan were there. Aaron caught a glimpse of Carol, and he was glad to see she was alright. Aaron’s will and strength doubled with everyone around him, everyone fighting and giving it their all. He felt really good about their odds, when he noticed more people coming to the fight and joining the circle. Tobin, Olivia, and a couple other Alexandrians, people he had never seen in this position. And then, Aaron saw Eric, and remembered that he was in the house with Tobin and Olivia. Now he started to worry, and his need to protect was getting in the way of his need to kill.

 

Rick shouted for them to divide into two groups and spread themselves out more. Instantly, Eric and Aaron fought their way to each other. They were side by side, each with a knife as they slaughtered roamers.

 

When he could finally speak, Aaron started to berate Eric. “What the hell! I thought I told you to stay in the house with Tobin.”

 

“And let you have all the fun? No way,” Eric said as he brought his knife down on the head of a walker before him.

 

Before, Aaron could spend all his concentration on stabbing approaching walkers, but now, he found himself constantly looked over at Eric. It was distracting him, his worry for Eric’s safety. “You need to get to the infirmary. Denise could use your help. Carl’s been shot. She’s trying to save him,” Aaron told Eric.

 

“This is where I belong right now,” Eric told him. “I saw you out here with the others, and I couldn’t let you do this alone. I’ll always be there for you.”

 

Aaron knew that was a jab at Daryl. Even now with everything happening, Eric still managed to take shots at him. There was no time to defend Daryl or argue. Too many corpses were still coming at them.

 

“So, what are we doing? Are we making our way out of here?” Eric asked when there was a slight lull in the action.

 

“Just stay with the group and concentrate,” Aaron said, keeping one eye on Eric and the other on the walkers. That was the last thing they said to each other as a new wave came at them.

 

Aaron was surprised to see how well Eric was fighting. He’d always thought Eric was a bit weak when it came to this. Maybe he’d never given Eric a chance. Aaron was always the protector, doing whatever it took to see that Eric was safe. Now, no one was safe, but at least Aaron was next to him where he could keep an eye out.

 

The group circle was beginning to break down as everyone kept trying to push the herd back. Suddenly, Aaron noticed that he and Eric were further away from the rest of the group than he felt comfortable with. That left a spot open, which Aaron hadn’t noticed. Eric did, though. He looked past Aaron, eyes as wide as half dollars. “Aaron! Look out!” Eric yelled as he lunged forward and past Aaron.

 

As Aaron spun around to stab at his attacker, Eric rushed between them, and grabbed the walker by the shoulders, deflecting it away from Aaron. Both Eric and the walker went down, but Aaron was right there and stabbed it in the head. He stood up straight again to check his surroundings. “Push that thing off of you and let’s get back to the group. We’re too far away,” Aaron told him just before he knifed two corpses in the head. “Hurry up, Eric. Let’s go!”

 

>>------->

 

Daryl, Sasha and Abraham had been through a few days of crazy shit, getting shot at, separated, taken hostage, weapons stolen, and almost executed by a group of punk-ass bikers. Daryl had been looking forward to getting home, seeing Aaron again and sleeping for at least twenty four hours uninterrupted. Unfortunately, what they came upon was more chaos.

 

“What the fuck?” Daryl said as he drove a gas truck towards Alexandria. He stopped the truck, and he, Sasha and Abe got out of the cab. Daryl climbed the ladder on the back of the truck and stood on top to get the best view.

 

“You hear that?” Sasha said.

 

“Yeah,” Abraham said with no enthusiasm. “Son of a bitch.”

 

“Looks like Rick couldn’t steer them away. It’s the back half of the herd that broke away,” Daryl informed them. “Thousands of them and … Oh fuck.”

 

“What?” Sasha and Abe said simultaneously.

 

“The guard tower is down. Took part of the wall with it. The herd’s inside the town,” Daryl said. “They’re everywhere. We gotta find a way in.” He remained calm, but inside, Daryl’s guts were clenching. If the town was overrun, then what happened to everyone? What happened to Aaron? And then he heard a woman yelling. Sasha and Abraham heard it too.

 

“That’s Maggie. Sounds like her and Glenn are in trouble,” Sasha said.

 

Daryl spotted her on the platform where they kept watch on the gate. “I see here,” he said as he scrambled down the ladder. “Get in.” They all piled back into the truck and headed for the gate. Daryl pulled the truck up alongside the wall, and Sasha and Abe climbed on top of the tanker with their guns. Looking down into the yard, they found Glenn about to get overrun by walkers. Sasha and Abe opened fire, giving Glenn room. Now they noticed Enid was with Maggie on the scaffolding. Neither one looked to be badly hurt. Glenn got up, dusted off and opened the gate so Daryl could pull the truck in. A group of walkers surrounded the base of the platform where Maggie and Enid were. Glenn jumped into the cab of the truck. Sasha and Abe opened fire on the walkers until they cleared a path for Daryl, who pulled the truck up to the scaffolding. Sasha and Abe helped Maggie and Enid onto the tanker. Everyone was safe for now.

 

“What the hell happened here?” Daryl asked Glenn.

 

“I don’t know. I just got here myself. The tower’s down,” Glenn noticed.

 

“That’s how the herd got in. You see anyone else?” Daryl asked.

 

Glenn shook his head. “No. Like I said, I just got here, me and Enid. We saw Maggie trapped on the lookout.”

 

Daryl pulled the truck forward a little more, and then he got out to check on Maggie and the others. Everyone came down from the tanker. Maggie’s leg was injured. She was limping pretty badly. He was about to ask her if she knew what happened, but he suddenly heard people shouting across the lake. Daryl climbed the ladder and looked towards the commotion. There were walkers everywhere, all of them crowded into the streets of the town. He could see something going on over there, and then he saw walkers falling to the ground. “I see them!” he shouted to the others. “They’re out there fighting the herd.”

 

“Who?” Abe asked.

 

“Everyone, looks like it. Or almost everyone. They’re getting too close to the wall over there. They’re gonna get trapped,” Daryl informed. With no time to waste, Daryl started taking a mental inventory of everything they had. Their biggest weapon was the tanker of gas, but he didn’t want to burn the whole town down. There could be people trapped in their houses. Shit, Aaron could be surrounded, alone, trapped in their home. An overwhelming urgency to find him almost made Daryl rush to the other side of the lake, and fight his way through the herd to get to Aaron. He reined in his wild tendencies to come up with a plan. The whole town was in danger, not just Aaron. He knew they needed to cause a diversion and draw the walkers away from the people out fighting in the street. Daryl looked at the truck’s tank under his feet, and then to the lake, and he was struck with an idea.

 

“Abe, back the truck up to the lake. Everyone else, get your weapons ready,” Daryl called down to the others.

 

Abraham parked the truck and Daryl told him to open the valve and dump the fuel into the water. Then he told Sasha to hand him the launcher still in the truck’s cab. Now, Daryl stood atop the tanker, aiming the launcher at the center of the lake. Suddenly, he heard Eric’s voice cut through the noise. He was yelling at Aaron, calling out to him to warn him. Daryl lowered the launcher and searched the crowd. Somehow, he spotted Aaron and Eric, saw Eric lunge at him, and both men disappeared as walkers surrounded them.

 

“Aaron!” Daryl yelled, but the noise was too loud. No one would hear him from over here. His heart was leaping out of his chest, knowing Aaron was in danger. He did the only thing he could at the moment, fired the rocket and watched as the lake went up like a bomb. At first, it was too bright and the flames were too high to see what was happening on the other side of the water. As the fire began to calm, he could finally see. The flames illuminated the town, and there were his people, along with some of the Alexandrians. They were still fighting. But he didn’t see Aaron or Eric anymore.

 

Daryl jumped down, took his knife out of his belt and started to run towards the last place where he saw Aaron. Everyone followed him, ready to join the fight, but Daryl’s only thought was for Aaron. He feared the worst, finding Aaron dead and mangled, and knowing he would have to be the one to stick a knife through his brain. He suddenly thought of the time in the prison, when he thought Carol was dead, and he would have to do the same thing. Fortunately, he found her alive. Would fate be on his side this time too? It had to be. He wasn’t ready to lose Aaron, not now when he was so close.

 

>>------->

 

“Eric, let’s go!” Aaron called out again. He saw a lull in the fighting, just long enough to allow him to push the walker off of Eric. What he found made his heart stop beating. Eric was still alive, but there was a gaping wound on his neck and blood was pouring out. Aaron dropped to his knees, not caring if he was about to be attacked or not. All he saw was that Eric had been bit, and he wasn’t going to make it much longer.

 

“Oh Eric,” he cried. “No. No, not now, not this.” He held his hand over the wound to try and slow the blood. Aaron knew what a bite meant, but he couldn’t stop himself from trying to help. Blood flowed through his fingers. Eric was bleeding out. “Why? Aaron argued. “Why did you have to come out here? You should have stayed inside like I told you. The rest of us, we had this.”

 

Aaron didn’t notice when Rick and Michonne stood behind him, looking down at Eric laying on the ground. Rick saw the wound. “We have to go, Aaron. This fight’s not over.”

 

“No,” Aaron said.

 

“You stay and you die with him,” Rick warned with authority. Rick turned around and stuck his ax into the head of another walker while Michonne took the heads off of two more on the other side. “There’s no time left. We have to–”

 

Unexpectedly, there was a huge explosion and a ball of fire went up, lighting the town. Everyone looked up to see what happened, and saw the lake was on fire. Rick shaded his eyes, trying to see what was going on. “That was no accident.”

 

“Looks like help has arrived,” Michonne said. “Look, half the walkers are going towards the fire.

 

Carol, Morgan, and the others came over to Rick and Michonne to regroup. Not all of the walkers were attracted to the fire, but at least the ones who stayed behind were fewer and more manageable. They were still in danger, and they needed to get back into formation and finish what they started. Everyone did just that except for Aaron, who refused to leave Eric to die alone.

 

“Aaron, we have to move, now!” Carol demanded.

 

“I can’t leave him here. I … I can’t,” Aaron answered.

 

Carol was getting upset with him, but Michonne stepped in. “I’ll watch him. Most of the herd is going towards the lake. You all just keep moving, keep clearing them out.”

 

Carol didn’t look happy about it, but Aaron was adamant about staying. Unable to win the argument, Carol took off to help the rest of the group. Michonne took up guard, standing over Aaron and Eric, swinging her katana at anything that threatened them.

 

Eric was still conscious, but he was losing a lot of blood. Both men knew there wasn’t much time left. “Aaron … go … it’s … too late for me,” Eric stammered.

 

Aaron shook his head. “No, I can’t do that. I’m not going to leave you alone. You know you would do the same for me.”

 

“You stay and … you’ll be … dead too.”

 

“Michonne is here. She won’t let anything happen,” Aaron told him.

 

“And … what about … Daryl. He’s–”

 

“He’s not here, and right now you need me,” Aaron said, and Eric started coughing up blood. He didn’t have much longer.

 

Eric managed a half smile and rolled his eyes towards the fiery lake. “Who do you think did that? He’s here, Aaron. He’ll always be here. I … I think I’ve known that … a while now. I … just couldn’t … bring … myself to … believe it. He’s a good man … and … he needs you now.”

 

Aaron lifted his hand slightly, and blood pumped quickly out of the wound. Aaron squeezed his eyes shut and bit his bottom lip. “Dammit, Eric. Goddamn you,” he yelled.

 

Aaron’s shouting didn’t bother Eric. Emotions were running high, and Eric could feel himself giving out. He wasn’t done yet. There was still something he needed Aaron to do. He found what little strength he had left and reached his hand up to grasp Aaron’s arm. “Promise me you’ll look. Promise me you’ll see if there’s really another sanctuary. This place isn’t safe anymore. You have to go somewhere safe.”

 

“Eric,” Aaron said, shaking his head. “That was just a lie that Alison planted in your head.”

 

“But it might not be. The truth is, I … I was getting ready to leave Alexandria. I … was going … to find it … myself. You must look … please … and if it’s true … go … just go … and be safe.” Eric was beginning to fade towards unconsciousness, but he wasn’t done yet. He forced his eyes opened and gazed up at Aaron. “You’ll … take care of me … when … I’m gone?”

 

Aaron’s brows creased, and he looked away for a moment. He couldn’t look Eric in the eyes and agree, but he slowly nodded.

 

Eric’s breathing was quickly becoming shallow. He didn’t have much longer. Aaron saw Michonne out of the corner of his eye, slashing at walkers just to give him and Eric their last moments together, but there wasn’t much of a window of opportunity left as the herd was closing in. But Aaron wouldn’t leave Eric’s side before he passed. He promised to make sure Eric wouldn’t come back. He could never let him become one of those monsters, but he sure as hell wouldn’t do it before Eric died. Staying with him as he lost his life was the only thing Aaron had left to offer him. They’d been through so much together, and unfortunately, the last part of their relationship had been rocky. Aaron would always regret that, and he needed Eric to know. “I’m … I’m sorry I hurt you,” he confessed.

 

Eric forced a smile, receiving comfort from hearing it. “It’s … alright. I … accepted it. You love him, not me, but at least … I had you for … a short while.”

 

“I did love you. I do love you. I hope you know that,” Aaron said as tears welled up in his eyes.

 

Eric’s bloody hand touched the side of Aaron’s face. “Thank you,” he whispered, smiling through the pain. His hand fell back to his side.

 

Aaron watched him, waiting for the final breath, knowing that at any second it would be his last. There was so much more he wished he’d said to Eric, but now, in that moment, he couldn’t think of a single thing. All he could do was make him a promise to look for this other town Eric talked about. “When this is all over, I promise I’ll go back out there and find out if–”

 

“Aaron!” he heard Daryl call in the distance. Aaron looked up and around, but he didn’t see him. “Aaron!” he heard Daryl call out again.

 

“Here! I’m over here!” Aaron answered. Relief started to flow into his body. Daryl was back. He was alive. He’d made it home just as he promised. “You were right, Eric. The fire … it was Daryl. It had to be, you know that? It had to–” But his words failed him when he looked down at Eric, and his eyes were blank. He wasn’t breathing anymore. Eric was gone. “Oh,” Aaron exhaled with regret. He had missed it “Eric,” he whimpered.

 

“Aaron, thank God you’re–” Daryl started to say, but then he looked down at Eric, saw the bite mark, and the great loss of blood. Aaron slowly looked up at him, tears trailing down his bloody cheeks. “I’m sorry,” Daryl whispered.

 

Michonne interrupted the somber moment when things were starting to look bad. “Aaron! Daryl! Better get up. Now!”

 

Daryl looked and saw more walkers approaching. He put a hand on Aaron’s shoulder. “We gotta go,” he said gently.

 

“I can’t just leave him here to . . .” Aaron said. He heard Daryl pull his knife from his belt. “No,” Aaron said. “I promised I’d do it.”

 

“I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but you need to do it now. They’re closing in on us. We ain’t got much longer.”

 

Aaron nodded, knowing what he had to do. He looked down at Eric another moment, leaned forward, and placed a kiss on his forehead. Then he took out his knife, and in one quick movement, brought the blade down so it entered through the temple. He pulled it out just as fast, closed his eyes and stood. Aaron never looked back at Eric. He focused on Daryl for support, trying to keep it together. There was still work to be done.

 

“You ready for this?” Daryl asked with concern.

 

Aaron didn’t speak. He just nodded and looked at the oncoming walkers. The group took up their formation again, and dove into the herd. It would be a long night, but something remarkable had happened. Rick’s group and the Alexandrians had proved just how much they believed in the town. From that moment on, there would be no more us and them, our people and yours. Now it was all of them together fighting to preserve their home. Alexandria would stand as proof that there was still somewhere safe, something worth saving. Tonight was over. Tomorrow would bring new hope.



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