Honestly, Luke hadn’t felt this safe in a long time; maybe since the cabin, or even earlier... He had food, he had shelter, he had people the offered him a place to stay. Hell, he didn’t want to leave. But he felt obligated to find his friends.
It was in the middle of the night that he woke up with a start, heart beating quickly and palms sweating. He had dreamt for the first time in awhile, and of things, it had to be how he was pulled under. He could still see Clementine’s worried face; her wide eyes, her jaw lowering despite how she was trying to hold onto air. He shook his head, running a hand through his hair. He frowned; it was long and shaggy. And to think, it used to be cut so neat, too.
With a groan, he slung his legs over the side of the bed, standing up and feeling around in the darkness for the lighter they had given him. He needed to light the candelabra in his room if he wanted to move around for a bit. He didn’t want to hit anything and screw up his (almost) healed leg.
His hands fell to the dresser, and he felt around. His left hand came into contact with the cool metal container, and he picked it up and flicked the top of it off. His finger struck the wheel a few times, or at least until it sparked a flame. He waved the light around, trying to locate the candelabra.
The shiny metal of the candle's tray caught the light of the flame, and he walked over and lit the scentless, white candle. (F/Name) said that the Walkers (they didn't call them Lurkers... Just like Clementine) had a really good sense of smell, so she didn't want to risk them getting a whiff of pumpkin spice-scented candles. He smiled softly as he remembered her explaining that.
His relationships with everyone in the house had improved steadily over the couple weeks he had been there; but his relationship with the (blonde, brunette, blackette, ginger, etc.) had improved the most. Whereas she gave off a confident air when they first met, he had learned that she suffered from bipolar disorder and anxiety disorder, so it was hard for her to focus and keep calm. She had long since run out of her medications, too. He had calmly noted that she handled both better than Sarah, then had felt terrible for thinking that right afterwards.
A knock on the door of his room alerted him to someone's presence, and he turned around. "Come in." The wooden door opened. He smiled, "Speak o' the devil. Jus' thinkin' 'bout ya." (F/Name) smiled back at him.
"Can't sleep?" she asked, taking a step into his room. He nodded, picking the candelabra up and walking over to her. How she could see in this darkness was beyond him. "How come?"
"Bad dreams," was his blunt response. She let out a knowing sigh. "I jus'... I keep feelin' the water 'round me. I can feel the Lurker's grip on my leg. I can see Clem's face." She nodded, placing a comforting hand on his bicep. He locked eyes with her.
"But you told us you saved her. You knocked the Walker off of her before you got dragged down." He nodded, then shook his head and stared at the ground. "Luke?"
"I can still see the fear in'er eyes. She knew I was gonna die, n' she though' it was her fault." He kept his eyes averted from hers, instead choosing to stare out the window of his room. "She don't know I'm 'live, n' she thinks I'm dead n' it's all her fault." His bottom lip shook slightly; he hasn't cried in a long time. He never saw the point. But as he thought about the young girl, the girl he saved, he felt the need. He'd probably never see her ever again. He shook his head again; he couldn't...
(F/Name) looked out the window, her eyes catching the light of the candle just right. The (E/Color) orbs sparkled slightly, as if twinkling with mirth. She looked back up at Luke, mouth drawn in a firm line. "You really care about that little girl." He nodded. "Well... Good. It's good to care about them. About someone." She took a hand of his info hers, pressing it in the middle of her sternum. He could feel the gentle thud of her heartbeat. "That's my heart, Luke. That's a heart that has barely opened up for anyone since I was diagnosed as bipolar. But..." She dug in her back pocket with her free hand, pulling out a worn leather wallet with a picture of Superman on it. She flipped it open and showed him the picture of her sister. "But my sister... Ester... She, she broke through my walls. And no one else has been able to since she died. But you? Well..." She let go of his hand and sighed, "As I said: Caring's good."
“You… you care ‘bout me?” The question slipped out before he could stop himself. She blinked up at him, eyes wide from fear. For some reason, he understood that it took a lot out of her to even hint at that. He smiled at her warmly, setting his hand on her head and ruffling her hair. “Tha’s good. I care ‘bout you, too.” Her mouth opened slightly, before her lips pulled into a smile that showed her teeth. She looked away bashfully, crossing her arms and fidgeting. He tilted his head, “What is it? Why ya fidgetin’?”
“I, well, I want to hug you,” she said bluntly. “But I don’t believe I deserve a hug… I haven’t told you how I know Jane… Or why she told me to save you.” She looked up at him, nodding firmly. “C’mon, we’re gonna wake everyone else up. Let’s go for a walk around the house.” She turned on her heel and walked out of the room, walking down the stairs and not falling. He smiled; he would never quite understand her.
He grabbed his boots from beside the bed, slipping them on before snatching his machete and holster off of the floor. He quickly walked out of the room and down the stairs, holding onto the railing so as to avoid falling. He jumped off of the second-to-last stair and landed quietly. Quickly, he did the holster’s straps and slid the machete onto his back. He listened for her footsteps, but heard nothing but the Jameson family snores.
“(F/Name)? (F/Name), where are ya?” he whispered harshly. He hadn’t heard the door open, but the girl was light on her feet; she could’ve easily slipped out. He jumped when a hand touched his shoulder.
“It’s me. Sorry, I was getting my stuff.” By that she meant her baseball bat that she had somehow managed to slam some nails through. And a gigantic cleaver that she kept on her belt. “Don’t wanna get jumped by Walkers or anything.” She opened the front door and stepped out. He followed.
They walked around to the back of the house, where a ladder leading to the roof was located. A stack of wood sat beside it. She sat down on the stack. He gazed down at her, and she stared up at him. “I though’ ya said we were goin’ on a walk.”
“You might want to sit down.” He crossed his arms and drew his mouth into a frown. She sighed and rubbed her forehead. “Okay, don’t sit down. Anyways. Well. It, uh, started three years ago. When this shit storm rolled into town. I… I was visiting some family with Ester. Was, oh, twenty-two then?” She shrugged. “Then the shit rolled in. And everyone died. Everyone died. And came back. And I was trapped, and I was going to die… At least, until Jane strolled in, her little sister with her. She saved me…”
When she didn’t continue, Luke felt like it was needed to ask, “N’ then?”
“And then she left me. I was all alone…” He blinked; Jane had left her? She had left her, like she left him… His stance faltered and his shoulders slumped in defeat. She had helped him feel human, and then she left. She had let this girl live, and then she left… What a bitch. “But I promised Jane that I’d repay her one day. And I did. By diving in and getting you out.”
That set something inside of him off. “You jumped in ta get me?” he asked. His voice had raised an octave. “Ya could’ve froze ta death!”
She shrugged and said, “But I didn’t. And you didn’t know me then, so you wouldn’t have cared… Had I not gone down for you, you’d either be a Walker they’d have to deal with when the ice melted, or a popsicle in the river. And then you’d be dead, and I’d still be stuck in square one.”
He let out a soft, “Oh.” She looked at the ground for a second, then locked eyes with him.
“I’m glad you’re here, Luke. I know you’re thinking about leaving to find your friends, and I know I said that’s fine, but… But you’re making me human again. Until now, ever since Essy died, I… I’ve just been focusing on survival. On making sure my assets, my people, were there to keep me alive. I haven’t seen a person as a person until… Until you showed up. I haven’t cared about someone in so long…” Her voice cracked; she was telling the truth.
Luke stared at her and realized that she was sharing something very important with him. Her confidence, her air of knowing, was all just… an act? She just didn’t know anything but that. It was like her humanity had been turned off. It was like she was an animal with the ability to speak and opposable thumbs. She looked down at the ground and rubbed her temples, sniffling slightly.
“I understand if you take off after your friends. But I’m obligated to stay here and protect JD and Lydia and Bill. I just…” She looked up at him, her eyes swimming in unshed tears. “I just don’t want to stop feeling human again.” A sarcastic smile made its way to her face, her eyebrows drawn together in anger. “It’s so freakin’ selfish of me. Forcing people to do things… Hell, had I not forced Essy come with me that day three years ago, she might still be alive, doing what she does best… making people smile even when times are dark…”
The root of her humanity being turned off. She thought her sister’s death was her fault. Luke crouched in front of her, staring up at her. She covered her eyes, and he could see the tears streaming through her fingers. Cautiously, he raised a hand and pushed some hair back from her face. She looked at him through her fingers, lip quivering and nose dripping slightly.
For some reason, the sight of this girl crying brought tears back to his eyes. He understood. He understood what she wanted to feel; what he had felt for those few minutes he and Jane had sex. That feeling that the world wasn’t shit and that you could do more than survive; you could live.
Awkwardly, he pulled her down into his embrace, hugging her to his chest closely. Her shoulders shook as she cried, but she bit her lip to keep her sobs inside. Her hands grabbed his orange shirt and gripped it tightly. “Please don’t leave, please. Please, Luke, please don’t leave. I know it’s selfish, but, but…”
When (F/Name) looked up at him, his breath was caught in his throat. With her eyes shining and lip bright red, he felt his heart stop. The pure terror in her face scared him. She was honestly convinced that she would never be human again if he left.
He felt inclined to hug her tighter, so he did. She collapsed into his lap, wrapping her arms around his torso and sitting there. He rocked her back and forth, sitting in the snow despite the fact it was cold as fuck. He ran a hand up and down her back, trying to comfort her. She kept crying, though, no matter what he did.
Finally, he murmured into her ear, “I’m not gonna go anywhere. I ain’t leavin’ ya.” She inhaled sharply, then relaxed immediately, her body going lax in his arms. Her grip on his torso loosened, and she laid her head against his chest.
“You… promise?” she asked quietly, her voice barely above a whisper in the wind.
He nodded at her assuringly, “I promise.”
When she looked up, he found he couldn’t catch his breath again. But instead of being frightened of her expression, he was in awe. The girl had a gentle smile on her face, but the smile actually touched her eyes. She gave off a warm vibe.
For the first time, he found her to be enchantingly beautiful, and his heart sped up. He brushed some hair behind her ear, and her smile widened. “Thank you… Thank you, so much, Luke.” She wrapped her arms around his neck, hugging him tightly. “I’ll protect you, Luke, I’ll keep you safe.”
He pat her on the back once and smiled, “I getcha, I getcha. I gotcha back, too.” She pulled away and brushed his hair out of the way, pressing a kiss to his forehead. For the first time, he saw every small detail about her. How her eyelashes brushed the top of her cheeks, how the skin beside her nose was raised ever so slightly from a scar, how her breathing had evened out, how calm she was.
She stood up after a moment and rubbed her eyes. “C’mon, let’s get inside. I’ve kept you up long enough.” He pushed himself up, slinging an arm around her shoulder and pulling her to his side. She smiled up at him, and he grinned down at her. “I’m glad you’re going to stay.”
“Yea… Me too.”