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Stephanie "Stevie" Darden

A quirky geek who isn't sure where she fits in.

0 · 469 views · located in Season 3

a character in “The Walking Dead: Online”, as played by Fear of a Female Planet

Description

Stephanie "Stevie" Darden

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 Profession
Recently the new Press Secretary, Hillard for Governor; music reviewer, blogger

 Age
29

 Gender
Female

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 Height/Weight Eyes/Hair
5'1" / 135 lbs. Brown/Brown

 Nationality/Ethnicity
American

 Tattoos/Scars
Scar on bridge of nose, between the eyes; long scar across her lower belly; small tattoos on the insides of her wrists; tattoo of a giant red Phoenix stretching from shoulder to hips on right side of back; large blue bird from mid-back to left side of ribcage; snowflakes behind her right ear; massive Orion/Cassiopeia constellation piece on right side of ribcage; fireworks across middle of the back

 Clothing/Outfit
Knee-length navy blue jumper with a long red t-shirt, navy blue leggings, yellow asymmetrical leather boots, burnt-orange coat

Traits:

MBTI Personality type: INFJ (Introverted Intuitive Feeling Judge)



 3 Strengths

Perceptive
Stevie's got sharp instincts and loves to make guesses about outcomes of situations. Her first inclination is to follow her "gut" feeling.

Book-Smart
She loves to read anything educational; was definitely the kind of kid who read encyclopedias for fun.

Honorable / Positive
Stevie has a very strong sense of values, and holds herself to very high standards. She doesn't like the idea of breaking ethical or moral standards, and works hard to keep herself from going down that path. She's also an ardent Roman Catholic; but like most modern Americans who are Catholics, she's not particularly strict and doesn't follow all of the Church's laws, but she does believe in basic teachings of right versus wrong and the concept of Reconciliation.

 3 Flaws

Emotional
Stevie can operate in both highs and lows. She is so often overwhelmed by her internal feelings, which can sometimes change her behavior or block her logic. This can make her prone to moodiness.

Anxious
She's a high-anxiety type and can become very nervous or introverted during conflict.

Bad Eyesight / Childhood Health Condition
Stevie has been near-sighted since the age of 7; it was discovered when she was showing struggles in school, and when she couldn't spot paratroopers jumping out of a C-130 one afternoon with her mother and sisters as they were out at a jumpzone with other families during a training several years ago. On another note, that same year she spent a month in the hospital due to a kidney condition. Almost three years later she underwent surgery to fix the problem, but still heeds caution: too much physical exhaustion occasionally sidelines her for a few days at a time, even as an adult.


Personality:


 Fears
Aggressive people, losing her eyesight, heights, compromising her values

 Aspirations
To publish a book about music, live in Europe again, have a family

 Dominant Emotion
Cautiously optimistic

 Demeanor
Loves to connect with others. Stevie has a sweet, sparkly personality, and feels happiest when she can help someone who has a problem. She does not see listening to people in a crisis as a waste of time, and regularly volunteers in her community to work in soup kitchens, pick up trash, mentor children, and assist women in need, amongst other endeavors. She's most happiest when she is useful and can put a smile on someone's face. However, she becomes withdrawn and nervous around conflict, and has worked hard to try to overcome being a very sensitive person. When faced with dire conflict, she either doesn't react to it at all, or meets it head-on. Her best bet is to walk away, cool off, and come back after she's had time to think through a proper level-headed response. Her rebellious streak causes her to only give in to demands opposing her own internal code as a last resort. Sometimes she can surprise people in this way, as she's not afraid to push back forcefully when the need arises. She doesn't always feel very good about herself after doing that when the situation isn't clear about who exactly is right or wrong, and hates the idea of alienating people she actually likes. She enjoys being alone from time to time, listening to music or writing, as she can burn out easily. She's very attached to her family and works to nurture close friendships. She loves to laugh. She keeps a lot of her closely-held thoughts and feelings to herself, not in the habit of wishing to burden others with her troubles. Stevie prefers to view the world through a happy lens and feels miserable if she can't find something to be happy about. She's an optimist at heart and has a hard time containing joy.

 Quirks/Oddities
Tends to be quirky in general.

 Skills/Proficiencies
Knowledgeable/book-smart, firearms, kayaking, knitting/sewing/crochet, guitar/piano/bass/drums, public speaking, Italian, French, German, geography, literature, music knowledge, applied chemistry, leadership training, DIY'er (house repairs, art, cooking, etc.)

Equipment:

 Carries a travel bag with a road map of California and a highway map of the United States, spare change of clothes, Ruger pistol
 Case full of knitting needles of various sizes, a few balls of red and black yarn
 Black scarf that was a gift from her mother


History:

 Born to a military family; her father, an infantry officer, underwent Airborne and then Special Forces training throughout her childhood, ready to rapidly deploy anywhere in the world at a moment's notice; mom kept the house together miraculously with three daughters during frequent, sudden deployments
 Lived around the globe, living in Germany, Italy, and Spain in addition to installations around the U.S.; this results in her becoming adaptable and friendly, but also prone to acts of rebellion due to the at-times suffocating nature of military dependent society
Graduates from high school in Heidelberg, Germany, in 2003, ranking 3rd in her class
 At 18, moves back to the States to attend the University of Texas at Austin and studies journalism and writing; becomes news director of her college radio station and a sharp advocate for the campus in the student government; also does a semester exchange in New York City, a semester exchange in Siena, Italy, and internships in Washington, D.C. and Atlanta; cuts her teeth with music journalism via SXSW, changes mind and decides to devote her talents to writing and talking about her two of her favorite subjects: music and politics
 After graduating with honors, she works for a prominent music blog reviewing albums, and hosts occasional radio gigs spotlighting specialty music; highlights of her career include election/music discussions on MTV News and pieces published in Rolling Stone
 Lives mostly in Seattle during her adult life, working on her own schedule and preferring to spend most of her time at rock shows, political debates, and music festivals; keeps a close circle of friends who don't typically see eye-to-eye with her on political or philosophical views, but enjoy the same hobbies and interests; her oldest friend in Seattle, Mark, was actually a classmate and close friend all through their time at UT, and the two had decided to move to Seattle after graduation for work
 Asked to come on board with Hillard for Governor campaign as Press Secretary after meeting Hillard at a museum bash; Mary Hillard is a U.S. Representative currently seeking to become governor and is currently topping polls as a moderate politician, in the habit of employing team members with more experience than just being busy political workers
 Plans a trip down to L.A. for a campaign training, then a week off with Dean, her boyfriend of several months, to drive back up to Seattle for fun


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So begins...

Stephanie "Stevie" Darden's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Stephanie "Stevie" Darden Character Portrait: James Marshall (NPC) Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC) Character Portrait: Niobe Kajja Character Portrait: Carl Dupree (NPC) Character Portrait: Christopher Jones

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...

The setting changes from season-1 to Season 2

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Stephanie "Stevie" Darden Character Portrait: James Marshall (NPC) Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC) Character Portrait: Niobe Kajja Character Portrait: Carl Dupree (NPC) Character Portrait: Christopher Jones

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James shook his head as he peered over the edge of the roof while Harper stood next to him, staring intently through the rifle's scope as she followed the two women below as they snuck their way to the cars near the metro entrance. If any walkers were to pose a direct threat that Stevie or Niobe couldn't handle, she was ready to eliminate it herself from above.

"Shoulda gone through the building," he grumbled as he, too, watched them. "Woulda had a roof over our head and everything. This is ludicrous."

*CLUNK*

The top of the roof offered possibilities in terms of distracting walkers on the street. A few lawn chairs were scattered about, and a large cellophane-wrapped package of bricks sat near the door from where Christopher had come. Carl, Laura, and Jack gleefully lobbed bricks from the roof onto cars below, testing to see if they'd been outfitted with sensitive car alarms. Sure enough, a black Corvette began to shriek in protest at having been rattled by the unanticipated brick.

Carl pumped his fist and high-fived Laura enthusiastically. "Oh, yeah!" he cheered, a big grin instantly appearing on his face. "We shoot, we scoooore! Let's do it again!"

The three laughed as though Carl's joke was the funniest they'd heard in a long time. It probably was.

James rolled his eyes and turned back to Harper, who was still focused on the scene below. "Acting like a bunch of children," he gruffed bitterly. "Waste of time."

"Well, we are where we are," Harper sighed back, blinking and pulling her eye away from the scope momentarily to look at the older man directly. "You might be singing a different tune if this works."

"We could have just gone through the building like I'd said in the first place," he stubbornly ruffed, flexing his fingers and gripping the ledge distractedly. "Woulda been a lot simpler."

"Niobe said she didn't feel like creating more work for us by going through the building," Harper recounted, "and I'm pretty sure she meant she didn't feel like running into more walkers than necessary." She turned her focus back onto the street, then picked the rifle back up to her eye level. "Look. They made it."

The two watched as the silver and red vehicles slowly made their way toward their building, keeping quiet and inching along in order to avoid detection. A few walkers in the distance appeared to notice them and slowly bobbled and ambled toward them, but not quickly enough to put them in immediate danger.

"Hey! They did it!" Carl's voice boomed from behind. James and Harper jumped, startled by the sudden sound unexpectedly coming up so close behind them.

"Dammit, Carl!" James exclaimed, throwing his hands in the air.

Harper continued to look downward. "They sure did," she said flatly in an effort to hold back any premature excitement.

# # #

Both cars parked in front of the building, and both drivers peeked around in order to make sure it was safe to open their doors quietly.

Niobe paced toward Stevie. "Any reason why we didn't go into the alley, where the ladder is?" she asked quietly when she came within a few feet.

Stevie gestured to the entrance of the alley and shrugged. "It looks too narrow," she pointed out. "Let's just wave them down. And it'll be easier to get out of here this way."

Niobe stared at her for a brief moment, then walked past her toward the mouth of the alley. "Fine," she uttered as Stevie skittered after her. They jogged to the metal railing of the ladder, where Niobe turned toward her again. "After you," she permitted, waving a hand at the bottom rung.

Stevie gritted her teeth and looked up. "I'll slow you down," she said quickly. "I'll just wait here for you guys and show them the way. Mind asking your friend if he can bring my gun down with him?"

Niobe blinked, unsure of what to think. She sighed and began to palm her way up to the top. Stevie hung back on the ground, relieved that she didn't have to once again channel all her strength into not imagining herself falling and slipping. She stretched her arms above her head and glanced about. The silence was eerie... no cars, no passerby conversation, no airplaines, not even the sound of air conditioning churning from within a building. But silence also meant that nothing was coming her way.

And then it hit her. Niobe was well on her way back up to the roof and within sight, sure, but for the first time in a while, she was alone. Normally she relished the feeling of finally having a moment to herself. But not this time.

# # #

"So, where's your buddy?" James growled as Niobe took a moment to catch her breath after reaching the group's level.

"Down below," Niobe panted slightly, then took a deep breath and stood up straight. "She's down there. She said she'd help." She looked around at everyone and beckoned them toward the ladder. "I've got keys to one, she's got keys to the other. There's only enough room for maybe three in hers, five in mine."

"Shotgun!" Carl rang out cheerfully.

Niobe smirked and pitched her set of keys toward him. "After you, my friend."

His grin collapsed into a straight line. He and sheepishly looked at the ladder, then back to Niobe, then sighed as he slung a leg over the edge of the roof and began to slowly make his way down. "Y'know, I could just go last and still have shotgun," he commented as he disappeared over the other side.

Harper hid a laugh behind her hand as she stepped forward and followed suit. James, Christopher, then Jack came after, one by one, waiting until the previous person was at least safely halfway down the building before making their own climbs down, leaving Laura and Niobe up top by themselves. "Ready to roll?" Niobe asked.

Laura nodded. "I got it, you go ahead and I'll bring up the rear," she offered.

*THUD*

They darted their eyes at the door. Two snarling walkers burst from the metal barrier, taking less than a second to examine their possible prey before burling toward the two women. "Go!" Laura barked at Niobe, who vaulted over smoothly and began to make her way down. Laura pressed the backs of her legs against the inner wall of the rooftop and watched them come closer, peering back over her shoulder to ensure that Niobe was a safe distance down before she herself would descend. She then looked back at the walkers and felt her heart begin to pound.

# # #

"All ready?" Stevie asked Carl, James, and Christopher as they settled into the Nissan. She leaned through the open driver's side window and smiled at James and winked. He rolled his eyes and looked out his window on the right side of the vehicle. Stevie inwardly laughed. She loved it when she could just smile at anyone who had given her any ounce of a difficult time if it would cause them a moment of angst. A silly source of amusement at a time like this, but the plan had worked.

"Yep, just going to wait for our esteemed driver, then we ought to be hunky dory," Carl said as he buckled his seatbelt. He reached over to stick the keys in the ignition and switched the radio on, cruising through the channels. Static. Static. Static. And more static. He could have sworn he'd heard muffled voices on at least one setting--but the frequency sounded weak. Distant, maybe? "So, who wants to argue with me over what station we listen to?"

Stevie smiled and stood up straight and looked back toward Jack and Harper, who leaned against the Mazda, chatting quietly. She tilted her head in curiosity--Harper's face was tightly drawn, and even though she couldn't hear their conversation, she wondered what exactly it was that they were discussing.

Niobe dropped down, within view of the two vehicles, and motioned to the others frantically, trying not to shout and possibly draw in attention. She then pointed up at the ladder. Laura was about halfway down the side of the building and there were a couple of walkers clawing pointlessly up top. Suddenly, one of them heaved itself over the side and tumbled toward the ground. It all happened so fast--the walker fell directly onto Laura, sending her tumbling down with it. The two bodies hit the ground with a sick crunch. Stevie gasped and covered her hands with her mouth. James immediately opened his door and grasped the handle of his long knife purposefully as he sprinted toward the scene, pushing his physical limits considering his age. Jack and Niobe rushed after him instinctively. The others' faces went white as they witnessed the two bash in the skull of the offending walker before stooping down to take Laura's pulse. It didn't take long to figure out from their body language that Laura was gone.

A couple of distant guttural shouts curdled out from behind the vehicles. Harper and Stevie whirled their heads around just in time to see a sizable swarm heading toward them, and then another from the opposite side. They scrambled into the Mazda as Christopher shut the passenger door to his right, and Carl frantically pressed on the buttons on his own door to roll the driver's window up.

Harper looked at Stevie from her spot in the passenger seat, and watched her wince as the walkers began to swarm the cars. Soon they couldn't even see the Nissan through the thrashing mess of faces, hands, and teeth bashing onto the windows. The car rocked with the force the walkers pushed onto it from all sides. "Are you fucking kidding me?" Stevie breathed, hitting the locks on all the doors and gripping the steering wheel tightly, despite still being in "Park." She knew perfectly well that they were safe, but the sight was still incredibly disconcerting. No way to back up, no way to move forward.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Stephanie "Stevie" Darden Character Portrait: James Marshall (NPC) Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC) Character Portrait: Niobe Kajja Character Portrait: Carl Dupree (NPC) Character Portrait: Christopher Jones

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The car jerked from left to right, fists pounding on the exterior and groans waning muffledly through the glass and creaking metal. Harper clutched the shoulder strap of her seatbelt while Stevie continued to grip the steering wheel with tensed white knuckles.

"I can't see the other car," Harper muttered loudly, peering intently through the shifting series of faces outside. Suddenly the hard heel of a hand bunted like a rock against the glass, inches away from Harper's face. She let out a loud scream and leaned away from the window, backing into Stevie. She pulled Harper in and reached back for the handle of one of the fencing weapons. She yanked one forward and quickly bent the blade to point safely toward the cracking glass. Harper gripped the handle and pointed the weapon purposefully toward her feet.

"Just hang in there," Stevie said steadily, "we'll be okay, we just need to stay calm..." She trailed off, glancing around at the gray and green faces cramming noisily around them. She took a deep breath and kept her face still, trying hard to hide her panic.

Harper eased back into her seat and reached for the rifle, set on top of the boxes of ammo stacked in the back. She handed the epée to Stevie and pointed the gun ahead, preparing to shoot if necessary.

A loud horn sounded a short distance away, drawing the swarm away toward the origin of the sound. The two women held very still and sank down into their chairs. They watched as a yellow school bus pulled up in the middle of the street nearby, each window filling up with a face, arms, and firearm of some kind, targeting walkers and taking them down easily.

Harper turned to look back at the Nissan--still intact. She caught Carl's eye as he stared beyond the Mazda toward the bus, then followed the trail of a couple more straggling walkers as they went on. Niobe jogged by, accompanied by James with his machete. The old man enthusiastically chopped ahead, connecting with walkers' heads and sending them toppling down. He almost made it look easy.

Harper turned her head again and watched as Carl signaled something; Niobe beckoned widely with her arms. A small group of people with pistols raced out to the Nissan and pulled Carl and Christopher out, then ran them onto the bus. Harper let out a brief yelp when she felt the door behind her open--Jack stood there with the fire poker he'd been carrying around for days. "We're heading to the bus," he informed them, "Ni and Carl are saying they've met them, so we better go, now!"

"What about the ammo and everything in here?" Stevie asked, looking around. Would all that work have been for nothing, after all?

Jack shook his head. "Maybe we can come back," he offered carefully, "but for now, let's go!" As he offered Harper a hand to pull her from her seat, Stevie pulled a Sharpie from her coat pocket immediately after springing from her own side and began to scribble something on the driver's side window. She tossed the key under a floor mat, slammed the door shut, and darted toward the bus with the others. After everyone jumped inside and ducked into the faux-leather seats, the diesel engine roared to life as it propelled the group forward toward their next destination. Harper could have sworn that she saw Lauren struggling slowly after them.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Stephanie "Stevie" Darden Character Portrait: James Marshall (NPC) Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC) Character Portrait: Steve Hilpin (NPC) Character Portrait: Niobe Kajja Character Portrait: Carl Dupree (NPC) Character Portrait: Christopher Jones Character Portrait: Silas Quinn Character Portrait: Patrick Dunn (NPC) Character Portrait: Eli Sharp (NPC)

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+ Niobe Kajja +


The nearest Capitol pulled the folding door shut as the bus rumbled to life, tearing forward across the littered street ahead. Harper, James, Stevie, Jack, and Christopher were all ushered towards the back of the bus by a few others as various weapons were thrust into their hands. They stepped into the open spots near the makeshift shuttered windows to help clear the sides of clinging walkers. A heavier-set woman rose from her seat near the back upon seeing the sudden strangers around her.

"Uhh-- excuse me?" she said loudly, waving at the driver through the front mirror.

Eli jerked the wheel to the left, his teeth clamped down on his lip as he fought with every muscle to not flip the bus. "They're friends," he shot back without taking his eyes off the road. Patrick held on tightly to the back of the driver's seat as he exchanged quick handshakes with Niobe and Carl. They held onto whatever they could to keep from falling over as the bus violently swerved through the streets. A small gaggle of walkers splattered across the front of the bus as Eli braced the wheel for impact.

"Wish we were meeting again under better conditions," Patrick said, disparagingly.

Niobe squeezed his shoulder, her face damp with sweat as she breathed quick and shallow breaths. "We're very-- thankful," she managed.

"Yeah, man--" Carl butted in, "We were in a pretty shitty spot back there."

Niobe turned to look towards the back of the bus where her friends were -- each of them involved in some activity amongst all the moving bodies. "Where's Silas?" she asked, noticing his absence.

"He's back at HQ," Patrick replied.

Eli shook his head, somehow having managed to listened to their little conversation despite the clusterfuck of a road he was navigating through. "Alright, Cobra Commander--" he teased. He glanced at Niobe in the large rearview mirror. "He means Amoeba. Y'know, the record store? We relocated there after the Capitol was hit."

Carl frowned. "We wondered what happened to you guys."

Patrick shrugged, glancing between the two of them -- until something took his focus past their shoulders. He shoved past them, walking towards the back of the bus. His gaze shot out the back window into the growing darkness of the night. "Eli!" he shouted back, pushing past some of the other passengers as he fought towards the front. "Eli-- the b-bus... it's gone." Everyone onboard lurched forward as Eli applied the brakes slowly, turning onto a side street.

"What the fuck, Speed Racer?" Jack shouted out from his spot near the window, drawing his head back in. Others around him did the same, wondering what was happening as well.

Eli stood from his seat to face the hushed crowd. "Where's the other bus?"

Muted voices and whispers bubbled up from the group as they pressed their faces against the windows, anxiously searching outside for any sign of their tandem vehicle.

"Oh, God..." somebody cried from deeper back in the bus. "C-Claire... Boone... Gus? They all made it right?"

"We can't stay sitting here!" another voice shouted out. Several others seemed to agree as the hype built inside the bus. Eli looked pleadingly at Patrick, but they both knew it before they said a word. There was no going back. Black ash had caked against the edges of the buses windows, a reminder of the ticking clock to get indoors -- lest they risk further... biological problems. Eli slid back into the driver seat and flipped the bus back into gear, lurching it forward. His white knuckles gripped the wheel as they dipped around the next corner, gunning for home.


* * *


"Once the gate's shut, you high-tail it indoors," Eli warned Patrick. "I'll back it up against the rear exit and come in that way, but you'll have to unlock the door for me from the inside." Patrick nodded his understanding and clasped the man's hand tightly as the last few passengers exited the bus and filed into Amoeba through the side exit as one of the Capitols held the door open. A makeshift, wire gate had been erected over one side of the alley -- wide enough for vehicles to move through, and fully retractable. A clever feat of engineering given the circumstances. Several of the Capitols helped the more injured members of their party inside as Harper, Jack and the others followed.

But it was Stevie who ended up coming in near to last. Her eyes adjusted to the light and met his, and their breath caught for just a moment. It wasn't love at first sight or anything like that -- but rather like the remembrance of a distant memory... as recent as it may have actually been. He walked towards the door with several other armed Capitols in tow to receive their injured allies, rolling up his sleeves as they approached and slowing to a stop and he recognized who he was was looking at.

"Stevie...?" the man's coarse voice asked -- disbelief in his eyes.

Silas knew this woman. And she knew him.

The setting changes from season-2 to Season 1

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Stephanie "Stevie" Darden Character Portrait: James Marshall (NPC) Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC) Character Portrait: Niobe Kajja Character Portrait: Carl Dupree (NPC) Character Portrait: Christopher Jones Character Portrait: Silas Quinn

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...

The setting changes from season-1 to Season 2

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Stephanie "Stevie" Darden Character Portrait: James Marshall (NPC) Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC) Character Portrait: Niobe Kajja Character Portrait: Carl Dupree (NPC) Character Portrait: Christopher Jones Character Portrait: Silas Quinn Character Portrait: Patrick Dunn (NPC) Character Portrait: Eli Sharp (NPC)

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"Silas!" Stevie exclaimed as her tired brown eyes lit up with an almost joyous air of surprise. Without hesitation, she wove ahead through the others and half-sprinted to him and threw her arms around him in a tight hug. She looked up at him after letting go and blinked, her mouth creaking into a jubilant, open smile. This was quite possibly the best thing that could have happened. "Silas, it's... it's really good to see you."

# # #

Stevie examined the wood panel on the glass door of the entrance to the restaurant that Dean had raved so much about, insisting that they come out to Venice Beach for this occasion. He opened the door and paused to allow her to enter first, stepping ahead on gray wedge-heeled shoes toward the smiling hostess perched at a podium. Stevie reached a hand up to smooth back her long hair and returned the smile.

"Hi!" the woman greeted cheerfully, sizing the two up as they approached. "We don't have a table free until around 10."

Dean nodded and gestured slightly toward the sleek, wood-dressed dining room crowded with people. "Actually, we're here to join someone who might have showed up already," he warmly answered. He confidently strode ahead after gently tapping Stevie's shoulder to usher her along. "Oh, I just know he's already here," Dean assured her as his eyes scanned about, searching and searching. He brightened just seconds later, offering a hand to the far-shorter woman and leading her ahead. "I see him now."

"Dean!" As if on cue, a tall black man, impeccably dressed in a light gray vest with dark slacks and a scarlet-red tie. He smiled broadly at the blond man and expanded his long arms out to his sides. Stevie paced ahead slowly, allowing Dean to simply strike out ahead to embrace the man in a friendly, brief hug. Dean extended a hand toward the pretty woman—Silas' date, no doubt—seated on one of the benches at the table, and soon all three looked back toward Stevie. Dean patted a hand on her shoulders as she got closer, almost proudly beaming at the other man. "Dean, you didn't tell me she was so pretty!"

The man immediately stepped forward to greet her. Stevie placed a polite peck on his cheek as he bent down, and smiled at him after he drew himself back up to his full height. "Hi, Silas," she greeted sweetly, "I'm so thrilled to meet you. I've heard so many wonderful things."

Silas batted his hand and laughed teasingly. "All lies, I assure you," he answered with a grin, "I guarantee that that Pike's palace you live in is paid for by the money I fork over so that Dean can keep saying those nice things about me."

She laughed and shrugged. "Actually, we rehearsed it on the way over," she joked with a small smile, then turned her attention to Silas' date and greeted her. The very beautiful woman was clearly three drinks deep. At least. "Hi," she tested gingerly, smiling respectfully to gauge her comfort level, "I'm Stephanie."

"Oh, hiiiiiii!" the woman slurred. There was a grating, Kardashian-esque quality to her voice that instantly made Stevie want to burst into peals of laughter. "Oh, what a pretty name!" She craned her neck to look up at Silas from her spot on the bench. "Siiiiiiilas, you should have told me Stevie wasn't going to show up!"

Silas' brow furrowed in confusion. "Pardon?"

The woman took in a high-pitched sigh and gestured her head toward Stevie. "She just said her name's Stephanie!" she insisted. "Where's Stevie? Is she coming, too?"

Stevie didn't know how she managed to keep a straight face. She could feel Dean's amused expression directed at the side of her head, just waiting for her to turn and meet his eyes. She willed herself to just keep looking ahead—otherwise, the evening would have been cut short abruptly by an uncanny inability to control her laughter.

Silas blinked. "Deirdre, 'Stevie' is short for 'Stephanie,'" he gently corrected, managing a battle-tested smile.

The woman wrinkled her nose. "Oh, seriously?" she remarked. "I've never heard that before. Is he for real?" she asked Stevie after turning her eyes back to her.

Stevie managed a kind smile. "It's true," she said simply, shrugging her shoulders mildly, working hard to be as neutral as possible. "My mom's been calling me that since I was a baby. It kind of stuck."

Deirdre took a sip of her glass of wine. "Wow, I can't believe your mom calls you that!" her voice gritted out girlishly. "I would never name a kid 'Stevie.' No offense."

Stevie held her smile in order to mask her surprise. Silas blinked again and signaled toward the table with his hands, desperate to change the subject. "Let's eat!" he interjected cheerfully as he cleared his throat.

Dean stepped aside to allow Stevie to slide onto the bench across from Silas. The two quickly exchanged knowing glances. Stevie looked away and out a nearby window to compose herself after Dean crooked his eyebrow at her, and then back at the two across from her, allowing her laughter to manifest in another large smile. Dean picked up two menus from the table before him and handed one to Stevie. "Pretty much everything here is great," he commented as she read through it. "I'm sure even the tripe is good."

"Tripe?" Deirdre blurted out. "What's tripe?" She glanced down at her wine glass and blinked at the maroon lipstick smudged on the rim, then reached down into her large purse—a Palladino, by Stevie's estimation—and retrieved her lipstick and a compact mirror and proceeded to smear more pigment on her mouth, not without the assistance of her previous drinks.

"Tripe?" Dean parroted back, putting his menu down and glancing across the table at her. He propped his elbow up on the table and rested his chin in the palm of his hand. "Deirdre, you mean to tell me you've never had tripe?"

Deirdre blinked her long, caked eyelashes at the blond man. "Well, no, but what is it?" she asked, holding her lipstick up against her lips in mid-application, visibly intrigued.

Stevie could see Dean's eyes flash wildly. Uh oh. "Deirdre, it's amazing," he assured her. "My mom used to make it all the time growing up. I'm serious. My favorite meal growing up was tripe with a side of macaroni and cheese. I still ask her to make it for me when I visit my parents."

Silas took in a breath. "Dean—"

"But, what's it made of?" Deirdre persisted, putting her lipstick on the table, half-applied. Stevie turned her head to Dean to continue to suppress her laughter.

"It's only the best cut of chicken you could ever ask for," he said, doing well at feigning playful indignance. "Deirdre, you just haven't lived until you've had a plateful of tripe."

"Oh, my God, I had no idea that chicken was so good," Deirdre spoke wonderously, almost as though having some kind of an epiphany. She paused, then looked at Dean suspiciously. "But, you made it sound like you haven't eaten the tripe here before. Why not?"

"Because I just love the way my mom makes it," Dean answered earnestly without skipping a beat. "This traditional Danish recipe has been in my family for generations." Stevie saw Silas' stoic face waver just a little, not daring to look at Deirdre.

"Awwww, that's so sweet!" Deirdre chirped as she plucked her compact up from the table. She clicked it open and took one look at her messy lipstick and immediately snapped it shut. She pursed her lips and picked up her bag. "Excuse me," she offered quickly as she stood from the bench, "I'm headed to the little girls' room. Si, could you order me some tripe, please?" She started to prance away, almost giraffe-like on skyscraper heels, her perfectly-coordinated ensemble suddenly cursed under a cloud of ungainliness.

Stevie watched the woman walk away. As soon as Deirdre disappeared behind the hallway in the far corner of the restaurant leading to the ladies' room, she immediately looked over to Dean and thrust the heel of her hand out to punch him playfully on the shoulder. "Dean, you are such an asshole sometimes!" she offered hushedly but loud enough for Silas to hear, finally allowing herself a long-anticipated laugh. Dean bordered on giggling as he doubled over.

"So, why are you laughing?" he asked

"I'm not laughing!" she insisted, while, in fact, laughing.

"Si, I'm really glad that you brought Deirdre as entertainment to dinner," he managed between breaths. "You... you must have known I was going to completely die over this."

Silas laughed and rolled his eyes. "Oh, Deanie, I see you haven't changed a bit."

"'Deanie'?" Stevie repeated, "did you just call him... 'Deanie'?" Silas nodded with a grin. Stevie laughed through her nose and turned to Dean. "That's funny."

"Your man has always had a flair for the funny," Silas offered, "so he deserved a funny nickname when he came to work for me." He grinned and glanced at Dean. "A nickname perfect for a 22-year old twerp who walked into my office wearing boat shoes. Ten years ago."

Dean pointed to his feet. "And I'm still wearing them," he said smugly. A series of tonal chirps cheerfully extruded from his pocket. He to retrieve his phone, glanced at the screen, then back up at the two. "I better take this. Stevie, could you order me the bigoli with the chestnuts? I hate tripe with a burning passion," he added with a grin. He stood, planted a quick peck on the top of Stevie's head, and headed toward the door to take his call outside in the cool evening air.

Silas glanced across the table at Stevie and laughed. "And then there were two," he said, picking up his glass and taking a long sip. "It's nice to finally meet you."

Stevie nodded and smiled. "You too," she answered sweetly. She reached for her glass and took a sip of water. "Dean talks about you all the time."

His eyes seemed very kind. "Well, he's one of a kind. Good kid." Silas nodded as he glanced back down at his menu. "Should I really order her the tripe?" he asked sing-songedly, "I'm afraid she's going to be mad at me."

The brunette smoothed the skirt of her light blue dress and adjusted her yellow cardigan as she studied the menu again. "Well... there's polenta on the side, so..." she trailed off, wanting to stop in her tracks.

Silas peered across the table at her and laughed. "Go on. Just say it. We're practically old friends and I'm not going to judge."

Stevie pursed her lip, then smiled. "She might not know the difference," she finished. She relished the rare opportunity that she had a chance to be truly irreverent while talking to others. Normally she kept these sorts of observations close to the vest to avoid offending others. But there was something about Silas that told her that she didn't have to worry about what she said.

He let out a ring of laughter and shook his head. "Yeah, I know," he sighed.

"She's going to hurt her throat if she keeps talking like a little girl," Stevie offered with slight apprehension. But she was just dying to talk about it, all the same, now that she knew Silas had a sense of humor about it. "That's some serious vocal fry she's got going on, there."

"Vocal 'what'?"

"Vocal fry. You know when grown women talk like little girls?" She cleared her throat and offered her best imitation. "Like, seriously, listen to how much it must hurt to do this alllllll the tiiiiiime!" she abrasively half-growled, half-whined. Her throat stung like hot water was poured down it. She coughed mercilessly. "See, I can't... ugh, God, I just felt my IQ dip down to extraordinarily low levels."

Silas laughed again. "And you haven't even started drinking yet."

Stevie returned the laugh. "Oh, don't worry. After the week I've had, I'm ready to lose a few brain cells, myself. But the difference is that I have to work at it." She paused. Maybe she'd gone a little overboard. That didn't feel very good to say. "Well, if that's not a good first impression for me to make. I'm ridiculing your date to your face. Please forgive me. It's been a long week..."

Silas shrugged his shoulders. "And I'm not stopping you." He rose his glass to her in a mock toast, downing half the glass with a few deep gulps. Stevie joined him, easing the sudden silence between the two of them as a server placed four drinks on the table. There was an odd feeling of familiarity between the two, though they had heard more about each other than from each other at this point. Silas cleared his throat, resting his arms on the table nonchalantly. "So--how long are you in LA for?" he asked, grasping for a topic.

Stevie set her glass down, dabbing her lips dry with the back of her hand. "Just this week," she replied, "then we're heading for Seattle."

"Ahhh, Seattle!" Silas exclaimed, clasping his hands together. "Great city. I mean, I'm a Bears fan... but--"

"You're really gonna bring football up?" Stevie said with a wry smirk.

Silas raised his hands in the air, guiltily. "Mea culpa, mea culpa..."

She laughed. "No worries. I like football, but I get wrapped up. You don't want to see me go on about my team."

"Mmmm hmmm," he said in a friendly taunting manner, "I heard you're a Dallas fan. You poor thing. How the hell did that happen?" he asked, making it apparent that it was only friendly jabbing.

She shrugged. "That's not the first time I've heard someone say that," she said somewhat resignedly. She paused and sat up a little straighter, and softened her tone. "So... Dean's relieved that you're back. He was really worried about you."

Silas shifted slightly in his seat, adjusting his tie routinely. "I'm just--glad it was taken care of quickly," he began. "I have some court-mandated counseling and therapy for my part in things, but there was enough evidence to clear me from anything bad. I was very, uhh--fortunate, I guess." He scratched at his beard in contemplation. He certainly dodged a bullet, getting cleared of his charges. Every part of him hated the situation that he was put in... especially the fact that it was his own brother that put him in the sights. He took another sip of water. "Time to just bury my head in good music for a while I think," he said with a wide smile.

Stevie grinned at that, looking past his shoulder over at Dean, who had apparently decided to walk back into the restaurant to have his conversation -- leaning against a wall by the bathrooms talking animatedly with his hands. Deirdre came trotting past him, slightly stumbly in her unfortunate heels. Stevie had to quickly look away before she laughed too loudly. Silas noticed the expression on her face and picked up the cue instantly. He gripped the tablecloth playfully. "Doth she approacheth?" he growled frightfully. Stevie covered her mouth, nearly losing it as they both held back laughter. Deirdre wobbled over to them using Silas' shoulder to brace herself as she lowered back into her seat.

She fanned her face with one hand, dramatically. "The lines of women in this place, my God--it's like, like I need to use the restroom!" she complained, rolling her eyes. She reached across the table for a glass of water and took a huge sip. "Did you order yet?"

Silas shook his head. "We were waiting for you guys."

Deirdre set her bag down on the floor next to her adorned feet and lifted her hands up to drum her fingers on the table. "Shots!" she belted out as she leaned forward, "because it's NECESSARY!" Her own bag let out a little series of glittery-sounding noises. She bent over to grab her cell phone from her bag. The device was suddenly obscured by a flurry of fingers and shiny red fingernails, the enthusiasm suddenly transferred as she stared into the screen, her face frozen in concentration as it glowed in the light of the screen. Stevie nodded and shifted her eyes to Silas, who waved his hands.

"She'll be absorbed for a few minutes," he commented.

"What?" she responded distractedly, not lifting her eyes from her phone.

"See what I mean?" He shrugged at Stevie and then sighed deeply. He looked at his watch and scanned his eyes over the heads of other patrons in the restaurant. "Speaking of waiting... I'd better see that someone comes over to help us with that. You know what Dean wants?" Stevie nodded. He smiled and raised a hand, easily and charmingly obtaining the attention of a server who was all too willing to help.


# # #

One of the armed members of Silas' entourage nervously tensed, watching awkwardly while obviously preparing to raise weapons. "It's all right," Silas assured them as he raised a huge hand to calmly demonstrate his comfort level. "She's an old friend." He turned back to Stevie, then flicked his eyes up to quickly scan the small crowd of new faces. The one that would have been the most recognizable obviously wasn't there. He looked again at her, and she shrugged and averted her gaze to the floor. He felt his chest tug, and worked to try to cover his sudden sadness. Instead he patted her shoulder in a somewhat dry, consoling fashion. "We'll talk," he muttered to her under his breath. She nodded wordlessly and stepped back into the new group, not wanting to continue to risk being a distraction. She wondered what was going through his mind as she noticed a very cursory glint of sadness in his eyes.

Harper stepped ahead cautiously and nodded at the two. The armed companions this time raised their weapons at her. She jumped backwards, raising her hands and splaying her fingers. "Easy, easy!" she belted out grouchily. Stevie could see a strain in her expression that she hadn't seen the last time. Then again, maybe everyone's face now had something that was never there before... Harper looked to Carl and Niobe, then back at Silas. "There's no need for you to raise weapons if you're a friend."

"She's right," Silas continued, turning towards her. "Please. Put the guns down..."

Several of the Capitols slowly lowered their weapons, taking in the faces of the newcomers -- as equally worn down and frightened as they were, too. Silas pushed out from the crowd to shake Harper's hand. She reluctantly accepted, unsure of who this man was. His eyes broke off from hers to scan the rest of the group -- mostly unfamiliar, except for a couple more familiar faces.

"You might remember these two as well," Patrick mentioned, shrugging himself out of his vest.

Silas' eyes lit up again as he noticed Niobe and Carl. They stepped forwards from the group to greet him, nodding their thanks. "You made it," he said with relief. "I wondered about you guys after the bombs fell."

Niobe shook his hand. "Your people saved us," she began, "I've never seen so many walkers in one place."

Carl jumped in to shake his hand too. "We wouldn't be here if it wasn't for Eli and Patrick and the others," he admitted.

Silas brow furrowed as he suddenly noticed. "Speaking of the others..." he began, trailing off as he turned to Patrick. The young man's gaze fell to the floor, answering Silas' unmentioned question. "How far back?" he asked, running his hand over his face.

Patrick scratched his head. "They were with us until the last few blocks..."

"So they made it out of the Capitol? You're positive?"

A different girl spoke up from deeper in the crowd. "We have to go back for them. They won't survive the night out there like this..." Others around her nodded in agreement, heavy murmurs rippling amongst the crowd as Silas held up his hands to quiet them.

Harper looked at James and Jack, their eyes all betraying the same thoughts to one another. Their own friends were still trapped underground back in the tunnels, likely starved for food and supplies. Either that or part of the horde of walking dead roaming the nuclear streets of Los Angeles. Neither circumstance held much hope, but they certainly couldn't just leave their friends behind. That's what had happened with Calvin... and each day that passed proved to be one day less likely to find him. They couldn't surrender the rest of their friends so easily -- not when they needed each other the most.

"Some of our people are trapped out there too," Carl offered. "There was a, uhh-- accident."

He exchanged a glance with Niobe as they both thought about George. Wondering if he even made it back to the tunnels in the state he was in. And the rest of them?

"If you're going back for them, we want in--" Jack demanded, straightening his jacket.

Silas shook his head. "Not right now. Not with things the way are out there. With all this fallout, we'd risk a slower and far more painful death than the walkers would have afforded us."

Stevie turned to the rest of her group. "He's right, you guys. We're pretty much stuck here until things clear up outside."

"It'll give us a chance to regroup and patch up," Silas continued. Chatter immediately broke out amongst the group of survivors as Silas rose his booming voice over them to settle them down. "PLEASE! Please, everyone... we'll talk more at tonight's meeting. For now, let's get to our stations. Tend to the wounded. Somebody help Eli gas up the bus. Let's get our newcomers situated in the bunks on the west end by the classical music... and Stevie," he said, turning to the woman in glasses next to him, "maybe we can talk in my office?"

She nodded as Patrick helped the crowd disperse to their different duties. Jack pushed past him with some of the other tunnel survivors towards their bunks as others crossed paths, clearing the room. Harper and Stevie exchanged glances as she passed, following the others. Carl had his satellite phone in his hand, talking to a small group of Capitols over near one of the record towers by the checkout kiosk. Niobe walked with Patrick towards the back of the shop where the bus was parked.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Stephanie "Stevie" Darden Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC) Character Portrait: Lisa Pazzino (NPC)

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Stevie maintained her breath in mid-pigeon prep, folding forward in order to get the benefit of a full stretch. The others hadn't come downstairs for breakfast yet. Her muscles felt fairly stiff, and she thought it might be a good idea to go by the pool to do some light yoga. She could already feel the positive effects of the various bends and stretches that she performed, no sounds except the whispers of trees off in the distance.

"Boo," interjected an enthusiastic, confident voice. Spencer. She bent her spine further ahead, bringing her face closer to the ground in order to avoid making eye contact and risking the possibility of losing focus and concentration. Out of the corner of her vision she could see him take a seat on the tile by the pool, facing toward her. "You're up awful early after so much to drink."

She didn't say anything until she sighed, calmly brought her legs back together beneath her, and nodded. "I recovered fast, I guess," she mused, switching sides and leaning forward again. The truth was that her head was pounding and her stomach felt like it was turned inside out. But why admit it? No one else needed to be bothered by it.

"Do you have to keep quiet, or do you end up losing your focus? Your inner maharishi? What do you call it?" he spoke out.

Stevie wondered how on earth he was so cheerful. Funny he'd mentioned that she'd had a lot to drink—he had had far more. "What?" she asked after a long moment. "No, I just do this by myself."

"How do you know what to do if no one's taught you?"

She crossed her hands up from the ground in a nonchalant manner. "I learned the basics," she assured him flatly, then sat up and held her feet in a forward seated bend. "It's not rocket science."

"It's not!" Lisa's voice broke out from the kitchen door as she cheerfully crossed toward the tile and set down on the ground. "I've been doing this a few years. I love it." She dipped down into a perfect scorpion handstand, grinning from ear to ear with pride.

Stevie laughed. "Show-off," she teased playfully. "I'm still trying to work on a tripod headstand and you can pull this off."

"My girl used to dare me to do the deaf man's pose," Lisa chirped, laughing a little as she held herself up on her palms well enough.

"What's the deaf man's pose?" Spencer asked, his curiosity suddenly piqued.

"Nothing you need to know about," Stevie laughed back.

"And her brother used to laugh and laugh at us," Lisa continued, then slowly settled into a plank with her arms extended. "Then he sprained a tendon playing baseball and he had to do stretches as part of physical therapy. Then he got even better at it than we were." She rolled her eyes as she recollected the memory, then glanced at Spencer. "I have twins, back in college out east," she said, suddenly realizing that she might not have mentioned it to him before.

"You're serious?" he responded, nodding. For a moment, Stevie wondered if that was a different expression on his face than the ones she'd seen on his face these last several days. Almost sad, contemplative. "I'm a twin."

Lisa smiled broadly. "No way. Do you have a brother or a sister for yours?"

"A sister."

She paused, then blinked vacantly, struggling to catch her composure. She barely choked back a few tears, then let out a long sigh. "Like mine." She shook her head and took a deep breath, then seemingly sprang back into a handstand, apparently also determined to maintain a positive exterior. Stevie couldn't help but feel a little stung at seeing that sadness. "Well. What do we make for dinner?"

# # #

Stevie rounded the corner and spied Harper crouched on the ground in the corner of a hallway lined with metal fencing and stacked boxes. She stopped in her tracks and knelt down a cautious distance from the dark-haired woman. "Hey, Harper? Are you all right?"

Harper nodded her head and continued to clutch her stomach. "I'm just fine," she attempted thinly.

Stevie rolled her eyes and offered her arm. "No, you look like you're about to fall over," she insisted quietly. Harper frowned and got up, following Stevie's lead as she headed toward the bunks. "Let's go sit you down."

They followed the path indicated—and came face-to-face with Jack. Stevie nodded a greeting and gestured to the talker woman. "Hey, umm... Jack?"

"That's right. Stephanie?"

"Right. Do you know if they'll let her lay down?"

Jack tilted his head curiously at Harper, then turned back to Stevie and nodded his head. "Look, I'll make sure she gets to a safe spot," he offered.

Stevie turned to Harper, who nodded as she stepped toward him, shoving her hands in her jacket pockets. "I'm good," she said insistently, "I know you've got to talk to Silas... Just... just make sure we can get out as soon as possible." She stopped for a moment, looking over her shoulder as Jack paced back ahead. "I know you're wanting to go back out and look, too." She turned back and followed alongside Jack, leaving Stevie to stand alone for several seconds, looking after the two as she contemplated what Harper said. She was right. They may have been out of danger for the moment, sure, but there was no way they were all right. Everyone had someone out there, on the outside—no one was going to be satisfied until everyone was present and accounted for, dead or alive. To be fair, these so-called "Capitols" also had the same interests. They hadn't gotten through the day without their own problems.

Stevie jolted back to reality as an impatient passerby shoved a shoulder into the middle of her chest. She coughed restrainedly and shot a dirty look to the offender, then turned back in the direction she'd come from. She still needed to talk to Silas.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Stephanie "Stevie" Darden Character Portrait: Silas Quinn

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Stevie Darden

- Silas Quinn -


Stevie hung back in the hallway not far from Silas' office, leaning against the wall and looking down at her legs, examining her torn stockings and battered boots. Her right foot still ached from the bite incised by the walker at the vehicle when she'd swooped in to help Schantz when the horde had initially showed up. She slid down on the wall and sank down to sit, her left knee curling up in front of her chest. She stretched her right leg before her and unzipped the mustard-colored mid-calf boot and slowly lifted it off of her foot. She winced as she suddenly noticed the slight swell near her toes. She frowned and reached for a hole that had been ripped not far from her ankle, and carefully stretched out the tear to encircle off of her foot to check out the damage. She cringed when she noticed the small half-circle of red marks chomped just past her toes. She reached down to touch her foot, relieved to see that she had no broken skin… but, gosh, those teeth had held on fast.

"What's that?"

She snapped her head up to meet Silas' gaze. She blinked, then suddenly understood. "Oh, no, no, I'm fine, it didn't bite in," she hurriedly reported, "one bit my boot, but couldn't go through the leather." She quickly lifted up her boot to demonstrate, featuring the teeth marks.

He took the boot and examined it, then turned down at her foot to study it visually. After a few long seconds he seemed satisfied, and offered his hand to her. She gratefully took it and pulled herself up, then stood on her left foot as she balanced herself against the wall, sliding the torn stocking back over her sore right foot. He returned the boot to her after she looked over at him. "Can't be too careful, you know?" he sighed, his voice almost sounding frayed as he gestured to the door. "Let's not talk there."

Stevie let the corner of her mouth smile upward as she zipped the boot, then followed him toward the stairs. "So, how long have you guys been here?" she asked, hoping to make some kind of conversation that he, or she, might not mind being overheard. Her fingers played nervously with a torn corner of her long orange jacket, which was now spattered with blood from the last nine days. She made a mental note to switch the thing out sometime, even if she did replace the buttons several years prior when she'd bought the coat. None of that seemed to matter anymore. "If you had to pick a place, you couldn't do much better, huh?"

Silas shrugged, rounding the corner toward a glass-walled office overlooking the main floor of the record store. Its shades were lazily drawn half-way across the glass panorama, casting a low light over the carpeted floor. Stevie immediately noticed the shift in the atmosphere--a quiet perch amongst all the chaos outside. She couldn't think as to why he'd ever leave the office unless he absolutely had to.

"Shut the door behind you," he commanded, quite bluntly as he strolled over to his large oak desk. Stevie complied, closing the door gently. She timidly stepped over to his desk, not knowing if she should sit or not. He was already hovering over some stacks of papers, hastily moving them aside to clear a better line of sight. Stevie took that as her cue to sit and so she did. Silas stopped fidgeting with things on his desk, perhaps realizing--as Stevie had already--hat he was just doing things to keep his hands busy. He turned toward the windows, locking his fingers over the top of his head and heaved a well-needed sigh. "I apologize if I seem a bit--" His voice trailed off slightly, as if something had caught his eye--but Stevie could see them from where she was, and they were both closed. "We've just been through a lot lately..."

Stevie settled into her seat, now feeling a little uncomfortable since Silas was still standing. "No worries. I know what you mean," she assured him, softly. "Today was almost too much." For a moment, she couldn't even fathom where the others might have safely holed up. Enough buildings were sabotaged by the bombings to make shelter hard to come by in the dark of the night. And what about food? How were they going to find water? Stevie shook the thoughts from her mind immediately. Dwelling never saved lives. "We've lost a lot..."

Silas turned to her, almost as if seeing her for the first time. "Of course you have," he continued, clearing his throat. "Of course you have. I'm sorry our reunion couldn't be under better circumstances."

Stevie shook her head, defiantly. "No, no, please--you guys saved us today! We are so thankful... the others too--you don't know what that means to us." She paused. "I mean, I haven't known many of these people long, but… but I think I speak for all of us when I… when I say that," she added quickly, as though to clarify something.

Whatever had happened to the man, his spell seemed to be broken for the moment. Silas hung his head with reluctant bashfulness. "It's good to see you again, Stephanie."

She smiled back at him. It was nice to see a friend from before everything had happened. "Likewise... Silas."

There was a beat as a silence hung in the air. Silas stepped over to his desk and eased into his chair as Stevie fiddled with the loose stitching on the arm of her chair. "So--" he began. Stevie looked up at him, causing him to rearrange his arms on his desk awkwardly as he searched for the proper segue. "How many did you lose?"

Stevie's eyes tracked toward the ceiling as various names and faces ran through her memory. How many of these people she could actually claim to have known enough to lose was arguable. But then again, who else did she rely on after everything happened? "Dean..." she began. Silas grimaced, gritting his teeth against the truth he knew was coming. Being right had never hurt so much. "He was the first."

Silas was already up out of his chair, crossing toward her. His giant frame knelt down in front of Stevie's chair as he looked her in the eye. "I'm sorry that had to happen to you." She nodded, trying in earnest to shake off the urge to start crying. She'd kept this specific memory out of her conscious thoughts as often as she'd been able to, had done everything she could to forget--but seeing Silas again was surely beginning to stir up those feelings at long last.

She finally broke her stare with Silas, her eyes glossy. "Say, was that desk here, or is it yours from your office?" she asked somewhat absently, hoping desperately to change the subject. Now was not the time to unload her feelings.

Silas nodded. Stevie could almost hear the gears and the logic working in his head--he patted her on the shoulder as he stood, then circled back around the desk to sink into his chair and lean forward. "Talk about it when you're ready to," he said quietly. She nodded back gratefully, then dabbed the corner of her eye with her sleeve. "How do you feel about these people? We've already met Carl and Niobe." He glanced out the glass wall and down on the bustle of people and activity below, then back at Stevie. "What's your read on them?"

Stevie took a deep breath and blinked, as though trying to connect something in her mind. "Carl and Niobe… could you remind me?"

"They were on the bus with you coming back. Guy with the phone and his friend."

Stevie nodded, her face brightening slightly in recognition. "Right, right, right," she repeated quickly, looking up at the ceiling. "They're fine. She's really tough. Doesn't mind jumping in to help get things moving. He's helpful. Not bad." She sat up straight, and put her hands over her face, rubbing the sides of her cheekbones exhaustedly as she suppressed a yawn. The day had been a doozy. "The old guy with the pot leaf on his belt? Do not be fooled. He snaps. I suggest you feed him three times a day and give him something to do. He's kind of grumpy. The other old guy? I'm not sure. He kind of just showed up. The guy with the jacket… I'm not sure about him. Couldn't get a read. Seems kind of nervous."

"And what about the other woman in the group?" Silas asked, connecting his fingers busily.

"Oh," Stevie said, nodding and laughing just a little, "funny story. That's Harper. She used to work with my best friend from college and my old roommate, Mark. Really small world."

"What do you know about her?"

Stevie thought for a moment, then sighed. This story Mark had told had really surprised her. "She's pretty tough, is what he told me. They went to Iraq together a couple of years ago. Apparently this bomb hit not far from where they were at and she didn't even flinch." Stevie made a quick mental note--she'd forgotten that Mark had told her that story at all. It almost made sense now that she thought about it… "Mark said she's… diligent."

"You mean difficult?"

Stevie shook her head. "No, no, just… serious."

Silas nodded and raised his eyebrows. "Oh, I see. Well, is she trustworthy?"

Stevie pursed her lip, and nodded, looking at Silas in the eye and folding her arms across her chest. "Yeah, I think she is," she said matter-of-factly. She looked down to her chewed boot, then back to Silas. "If it wasn't for her, I wouldn't be here." Silas nodded, as though expecting her to go on and elaborate. Stevie gave in to the brief uncomfortable pressure. "She and two people she worked with helped me when I got sick at a FEMA camp. They helped find someone to get me out of there."

"A FEMA camp?" he repeated back, tilting his head with interest. "And who got you out of there? Where are they now?"

Stevie felt her stomach twist guiltily. "Well, I think they're alive," she said, "all of them. I think they are. Eight other people besides me." Liar, she admonished herself internally. She had no idea. And it was killing her. "Harper's friends, and mine. I think you won't get an objection if you tell everyone we're sending out a search party."

Silas blinked, straightening his back and smiling amusedly. "Okay, General," he teased good-naturedly, "and how do you suggest we do that? We've got bad walker traffic in that area and a cover of ash coming down from the north."

"I don't know how you do it, but I've got something else." Stevie reached into her coat pocket and pulled out a small notepad, tearing out a couple of leaflets and presenting them to Silas. "Here's what's in it for you guys," she said quickly, leaning forward in her seat and flipping the papers so he could read them. "Supplies. Lots of them. Me and my people were bringing them with us. First aid, some weapons, food… lots of food. Water. Tools. And the best part, ammunition. Lots of it." She pointed excitedly at the scribbled pages as she highlighted each section, grinning wide partially to be friendly, partially to force herself to even just look as though she felt completely confident. She watched his eyes flicker up and down the list enthusiastically. "My group might not be all together but now, but… but I know you'll help us. And we'll share with you. As thanks. For everything."

He looked up and nodded, allowing himself to smile warmly. "It's just the human thing to do, right?" he commented, his deep voice uplifted just a little with a mild air of relief. He rose from his chair and half-circled back around his desk, sitting on the edge and folding his arms, facing the younger woman in the chair. "We've got a crew lost, too. There's already been talk of sending out a search party." He stuck his hands in his pockets and flicked his eyes up to the ceiling in contemplation. "I figure a contribution of supplies with manpower is a fair exchange for a ride back to your side of town to find your pals." He reached out a hand to shake hers. "Hate to wheel and deal like this, but it's not just you I'm dealing with."

Stevie cast her eyes out at his hand, then back up at his face, her expression fraught with concern. "I don't know if I can make that deal for everyone right now," she said carefully. "What if some of them don't agree? I'm not one of them, you know?"

Silas shook his head, not wavering his hand in the slightest. "They'll want to make this deal, because it's the only one they'll be able to make," he responded assuredly. "You made a good deal that'll help everyone."

Stevie stared for a long moment before finally accepting his hand. "All right." She stood, turned, and looked again out the window at all the people below. "I think you'd do well to go get some face time with them at some point." She nodded pointedly at the cluster containing Niobe, Carl, James, and Christopher. Jack and Harper were nowhere within sight. "They're a little antsy right now."

"Oh, I almost forgot, you're all invited as our guests to dinner tonight," Silas said quickly, almost as though he'd remembered very quickly. He clasped his hands and rubbed his palms together. "My apologies."

Stevie nodded as she stood from her chair. This seemed almost as good as any time to wrap up. "Keep offering to help us out, and we may never leave," she cracked.

He laughed quietly and shook his head. "Well, at this rate, you've got nowhere else to go," he observed lightly. "Tell me, though. The names of your people. I'll talk to the others to learn about theirs. But yours. Tell me about yours."

"Well," Stevie started, racking through her brain to think. "There's Althea. She's tall. From here. Then there's Lisa. She's a chiropractor. Not from here. Jordan, this college kid. Maria and Alejandro, this couple… they don't speak much English, but they're really nice and extremely helpful. Then there's Spencer. From Britain. Really funny. Terrence, too. Not British. Those two are in the service."

"That explains how you got out of the FEMA camp," Silas added. "It doesn't hurt to have a couple of people who know what they're doing have your back. But who's the other one?"

"What?"

"You said there were eight people besides you. You only said seven names."

Stevie felt her stomach twist. She didn't know why she left his name out. Probably because she was worried about him the most. "Oh. You're right. Tom. Also in the service. Canadian. Very helpful."

Silas blinked. For a moment, Stevie wondered if he figured It out. "Good, and we'll let everyone else know, too." He also stood, and gestured for the door. "Talk to your people. Let them know about the deal. Their help and your supplies for our help."

Stevie smiled and nodded. "Sure thing," she responded.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Stephanie "Stevie" Darden Character Portrait: Silas Quinn Character Portrait: Delaney Byron

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...

The setting changes from season-2 to Season 1

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Stephanie "Stevie" Darden Character Portrait: Silas Quinn

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The setting changes from season-1 to Season 2

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Stephanie "Stevie" Darden Character Portrait: Silas Quinn

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Stevie looked at Mark with a sidelong glance as she rapped on the door. "Your costume kind of sucks," she offered with a laugh. "I mean... how much effort did you put into this, exactly?"

Mark smirked and ran a hand playfully through his thick black hair, and pushed his sunglasses further up the bridge of his nose with a quick swipe. "This is not preparing?" he scoffed playfully, pointing at his black suit and tie. "I had to take this thing to the dry cleaner's. That's prep. That so counts as prep."

"Nu uh!" she fought back. She batted her mascara'd eyelashes and spun around in place, still dizzy from the drinks from their previous Halloween party. "This is prep."

"Whatever. You’re just Snow White in glasses," he syrupped back in a high-pitched voice. "Very creative! Not like you're not Snow White the other 364 days of the year."

Before Stevie could open her mouth to respond to such a thin, an excited shriek greeted them after the door opened. A tall, blue-eyed woman in a banana suit stood with her arms outstretched, diving toward Mark with a happy hug. "Welcome back to Seattle, stranger!" she chippered quickly, looking at his suit and nodding approvedly. "You look great! And is this Stevie?" she asked, turning to the other with a large smile. It sounded like a band was playing somewhere in the house.

"Stevie, this is Heather," Mark introduced as the woman ushered them into the loud entryway of the home, "she and her husband both work at UW."

"We love your blog," Heather started with a smile. "My brother, especially. He's the one who told me about it. He's in here somewhere. Can't miss him." She politely offered Stevie her hand to shake.

"Oh, well, thank you," Stevie responded with a broad smile, taking Heather's hand. "And thanks for having us. Mark was so excited to see you and I've always heard so much about you."

"The pleasure's all mine!" Heather led them down the hallway after the two guests kicked their shoes off of their feet, and before them was a large living room with massive bay windows overlooking Green Lake. Other homes' lights were visible on the other side of the water, doubly illuminated in its reflection. Sure enough, a four-person band raucously played near a flight of stairs to the upper floor. The large space was jam-packed with a variety of people in a variety of costumes. Stevie couldn't help but smile at the sight of a large blue shark wildly waving its stubby fins, telling a story to another banana. Next to them, a sock monkey and a Barack Obama were taking shots next to a table stocked with plenty of beverages. Intense. "What can I get you two to drink? You came all the way from Fremont!"

"Oh, I'll get it," Stevie offered, turning her head to look over at the table. "Want anything?"

Heather shook her head. "No, no, you're my guests, so I'll--hey, there's Dean. Dean!" A man in a tattered suit and moppish wig turned around when he heard his name, then caught Heather waving her hand to get his attention. She flexed three fingers in the air instructively at the bruise-eyed zombie, his face covered in pallid makeup and crude red and purple streaks darting about. "Three rums and Coke!" He nodded casually and headed toward the table.

"So, how long have you been back from Atlanta?" Heather asked Mark as he stood next to Stevie and eyed the zombie from afar.

"Not even forty-eight hours, doll," he answered relievedly. Stevie smiled. She knew Mark loved to chatter. "I loved Atlanta. But I gotta tell you, I'm so happy to be back. All my buddies from there will come visit, anyway. I just missed Seattle too much, you know?"

"I'm happy you're back," Heather cheered. Stevie looked around the room while the two continued their conversation, scanning the room to examine all the amusing combinations of costumes. She quietly stepped away, rounding about a couch and carefully threading through a throng of people to catch a glimpse of the band playing. She finally found herself standing in a decent spot, looking through a few sets of shoulders ahead instead of having to crane her neck or prop up on her toes to even chance seeing anything going on.

After a few minutes, a set of fingers tapped her on the shoulder clumsily. The zombie brother of the banana, Dean, held a plastic cup in his hand and offered it to her. "I only had these left," he shouted apologetically over the band, examining her face intently. His brilliant blue eyes were easier to see up close.

Stevie smiled as she accepted the cup, and took a sip. "No, it's great," she answered. She wrinkled her nose a little. "You didn't skimp out on the rum, that's for sure." She offered a hand quickly. "Stephanie. I'm here with Mark."

Dean peeked over everyone else's heads to spot him, then turned back to Stevie. "Oh, uhh, sorry, I didn't realize," he sputtered, stepping back just slightly.

"What? No, no, not like that!" Stevie cracked up, taking another sip of her drink. Dean had a funny quality about him that she just couldn’t put her finger on. Despite the cheesy zombie get-up. "No, no, Mark is… Mark's…" She stopped herself, then shrugged. "Mark's not into women."

"Oh!" Dean said, a wry grin twisting the corner of his mouth upward. "So, what do you think of the band, Stevie?"

She blinked and suppressed a laugh by sipping at her cup. She hadn't introduced herself that way. Clearly, he knew exactly who she was, even without his sister telling him directly. "I dig them… Dean?" she attempted a little absent-mindedly, thinking back to how Heather had referred to him. "Dean what?"

"Jensen," he volunteered immediately, winking mischievously.

Stevie blinked again as she felt her face draw in from having a broad, approachable smile to her mouth opening slightly, unsure of what to say. "Dean Jensen?" He nodded. "Sub Pop?" He nodded again. She took in a breath and offered an embarrassed laugh. "I'm sorry. I didn't recognize you. That… that wig. I, uh…" she trailed off, lifting her cup to her lips again. She was unsure of what to say to the record producer whose career she'd been following for years, who was clearly taking some degree of interest in her. She'd even ran into him a few times before, just briefly. She chastised herself for not knowing better. "I… I like your work."

"I like your work, too," he answered, grinning as he faced forward to watch the band.

Stevie similarly turned ahead, trying hard to not allow a smile to spread across her face along with the sudden elated feeling pulling on her stomach, like a fast elevator hurling up toward the sky.


# # #

"Are you all right?"

Stevie set the wastebin in her lap and frowned. "I'm so sorry," she said, clearly disapproving of herself as she sheepishly rolled her eyes up to the ceiling.

"Why? Why are you sorry about something you can't control?" he asked, chuckling to himself a little as he pulled a tissue box from inside a drawer in the clunky desk before him. "I mean, I'm sorry you're not feeling well, but you can't exactly turn it off. What's wrong?"

"Oh, I was pretty sick after everything happened," she explained sullenly, shutting her eyes and turning her head to brace against the pit in her stomach. "Pretty sure it was a kidney infection. Happens. Had some antibiotics, and it got knocked out, or so I thought…"

Silas furrowed his eyebrows. "You didn't look sick a few minutes ago."

She shrugged. "Yeah, I was feeling fine until about, oh… three minutes ago." She shut her eyes and breathed, then leaned her head resignedly on the rim of the wastebin. "I am going to throw myself outside of a window if I'm sick again." She then snapped her eyes open jarringly, and proceeded to vomit into the container.

Silas sprang to his feet and whirled around the desk, bending down and patting Stevie on the back empathetically, shaking his head and watching her. "We've got a pharmacy," Silas offered quietly after her brief fit died down. "Well, sort of. But we have antibiotics. I'll need to find someone who can see how you're feeling. Rules are rules. Can't give you anything without checking you out. Don't want to make the problem worse." He paused for a moment, then shrugged. "But in the meantime, you can rest, and eating something won't hurt later." She vomited again. "… unless you're not up for it."

He reached a massive hand toward the desk to fish a tissue from the box he'd retrieved from the drawer. Stevie accepted it gratefully and dotted her mouth, then stuck it in the bin and nodded. "I'll get some rest," she echoed tiredly. "Let me know when you find someone?"

Silas reached out a hand politely to help her up, then gestured toward the door. "I'd help you but I really ought to do a few things before dinner," he said apologetically. "Are you good to find your way back?"

She nodded quickly. "Yeah, no problem!" she managed about as chipperly as she could, then began to heard toward the door. "See you soon?"

"See you soon," he confirmed with a nod.

With that, Stevie nodded and carefully made her way out of the office, peering through the large front window as she opened and shut the door behind her. She didn't even remember slinking down the stairs when she suddenly found herself quietly watching a sleeping Harper in her bunk, then looked over her shoulder to check for any familiar faces. Seeing none, she crawled into the bunk across from Harper's and tucked in, curling her knees into her stomach to anchor herself to the ground again.

The setting changes from season-2 to Season 1

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Stephanie "Stevie" Darden Character Portrait: James Marshall (NPC)

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The setting changes from season-1 to Season 2

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Stephanie "Stevie" Darden Character Portrait: James Marshall (NPC)

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"Hey, Glasses!"

Stevie's eyes snapped open and her stomach surged again. She suppressed the urge to contract into a tighter-wound ball of a human being on her makeshift bunk as she looked up and blearily made out the face of the older, cranky man. She blinked and reached over to put said glasses on. She let out a sigh. "Speaking," she countered shortly, her eyes annoyed.

"Rise and shine, it's time to eat!" James chirped with the greatest of feigned enthusiasm, clapping his hands a few times before turning on his heel to scoot off. "If you don't get there now, can't guarantee space. A little crowded!"

She continued to lay on her side as she watched the old man disappear around another section of bunks before pushing herself up on her palms and looking about. It almost looked like they'd taken shelves that had once stored untold numbers of music and books and converted them into somewhat usable bunk space. They were stacked in rows, two to a row, thanks to what must have been the use of power tools judging by the tightness of the screws that clung into the old, splintery wood.

Stevie drew a hand on her cheek and dragged it down her face tiredly. She hadn't even taken her boots off, she noticed, as she scooted toward the outside of the bunk and stuck them over the edge, her legs and hips following as she slid off and dropped to the floor. She hadn't realized how high-up this bunk in particular had been. Stevie rubbed her eyes and looked about. It was quiet. No more sleeping Harper, or any noise at all in the immediate area. They must have all been at dinner.

She glanced back at the bunk as she headed off in the direction that James had seemingly skipped off toward, and tossed her blood-spattered coat onto the flat board she'd just slept on. It was very different from where she'd been about twelve hours previously. The house she and the others had stayed in had been far more comfortable. She wondered if any of these people had had a shower like she'd been able to have earlier that morning. Having choices when it came to meals. Lots of alcohol. Privacy. In fact, she began to wonder if they'd had the relative freedom to relax as she and the others had been able to. Was this almost a karmic answer to what seemed like a completely unfair situation? She continued to walk down a short corridor, with chicken wire lined against the windows, as she began to seriously contemplate that concept. Maybe whatever was up high making decisions for everyone on earth had intended for this to cut back at her and the others for having it so good while all of these people clearly had not.

She felt her face turn red when she began to think about where the others might be. Especially Thomas. She certainly felt guilty about Dean. More than she really wanted to acknowledge to herself. But maybe there wasn't really anything wrong. Maybe the rules changed. Maybe it was more important now that people simply be protected. And had it not been for him... Still.

Stop it, she chided herself. It happened. And there's nothing wrong with that.

Still.

She missed him.

"Stevie! There you are!"

Harper's long hand set itself on Stevie's shoulder. She smiled and started to pull her toward a door on the other side of the room she'd just found herself wandering into, and pointed just ahead. "Ready for dinner? They've got it all set up. Silas is about to talk. People are starting to get hungry."

Stevie nodded and followed. "Crabby Appleton pretty much said the same thing," she laughed as she trotted along with the green-eyed woman, who still wore her boots and a pair of loose, dusty jeans with the same purple top she'd worn last week.

"James found you, huh?"

Stevie nodded as they reached the door. And then she remembered. "Oh, wait, I need to talk to you-"

Too late. Harper had already opened the door.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Calvin Hawke Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Stephanie "Stevie" Darden Character Portrait: James Marshall (NPC) Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC) Character Portrait: Niobe Kajja Character Portrait: Carl Dupree (NPC) Character Portrait: Everett T. Bronson (NPC) Character Portrait: Oliver O'Brien (NPC) Character Portrait: Christopher Jones Character Portrait: Dax Faraday (NPC) Character Portrait: Silas Quinn

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.: Calvin Hawke :.


Dax rolled the Jeep to a stop alongside a couple of the others, their occupants spilling out of their ashy vehicles simultaneously as various figures unloaded crates and weapons out onto the pavement of the parking garage. The heaviest loads were carried by two men, while others grabbed what they could and rushed towards the stairwell to the adjacent apartment building.

Calvin watched through the dirty tinted windows as bodies blurred past in motion. He gritted his teeth, sinking lower into his seat as Oliver stowed his weapon in his waistband and reached for his bag down between his legs. "This is as far as we go," he mumbled, pulling the bag onto his lap and ripping the zipper open. His hand plunged inside sporadically pulling out a few ammo clips, his knife, and a few other random things before zipping the bag shut and tossing it back to Calvin. "There's enough gas in this thing to get you as far as you need to go... so you wait until the garage is clear -- and you get the hell outta here. You understand?"

Calvin slid the bag off of himself onto the seat next to him and looked up, catching Dax' eyes in the rearview mirror. "You guys are seriously going back in there with that guy?" he asked. "After all that you know he's capable of..."

"That's exactly why we have to go in there," Dax insisted, shakily. "You don't understand this man. You didn't see him when we were all still locked away." His eyes looked towards Oliver's. "He doesn't let things go..."

Calvin's eyes narrowed as he tried to comprehend their sudden irrationalities. When suddenly his mind lingered on something even more complexing. He leaned forwards, grabbing onto the back of the front two seats. "Were either of you with Sarah when she left?"

Dax fidgeted in his seat. "W-Well-- we walked her to the stairs out in the--"

"No," Oliver offered, quite bluntly. The notion had started to dawn on him now to. It was just like Bronson to have kept an ace up his sleeve. Nothing was beneath this man.

Dax turned to stare at him, then craned his neck back at Calvin. "What are you saying?" Calvin leaned back in his seat, rubbing his hands over his face while Dax was still left wondering. Oliver slammed his foot against the dashboard, cursing aloud.

"I have to know," Calvin muttered through strained breaths.

"I know you do," Oliver replied, defeatedly. Of course he understood. "I gotta know too," he admitted.

"I'd fucking love to know what the fuck you're fucking talking about..." Dax blathered, still eagerly wanting to know what was happening.

"If we're gonna do this, we're gonna play it out then--" Oliver ordered, straightening himself in his seat. "Open up the bag and grab those handcuffs and a shirt.

"What are we doing?" Dax asked again, becoming more annoyed by the second.

Oliver grabbed the shirt out of Calvin's hands as soon as he pulled it from the bag and began tearing a thick strip out of it using his knife. He looked up at Dax, knowingly.

"You remember Star Wars?"


* * *


Calvin marched front and center down the aisle, flanked on each shoulder by Dax and Oliver. Or at least that's who he assumed it was beside him. The makeshift blindfold had been fastened around his one good eye before they had left the Jeep, so he hadn't seen much. They had gone up at least 8 flights of stairs -- which had taken forever and was filled with countless stubbed toes, rolled ankles, and missed steps. More recently though, they had arrived on another flat surface. Carpeted. Hallways, based on the narrow lengthy turns.

"I think I hear him up here," Dax whispered over his shoulder. They continued along the corridor as the raucous shouts of the convicts rousting any squatters in the vicinity echoed throughout the halls. Vacant gunshots and loud thuds rattled off from the floors above. Calvin gingerly stepped across the cluttered floor towards where he hoped Bronson would be waiting. "This is it," Oliver said, motioning at the door to their right. "You still sure about this?"

Calvin swallowed. "I gotta see this through. If there's any chance she got out..."

"We'll find her." Oliver said, gripping Calvin's shoulder and nodding to Dax. "See you on the other side."

Dax pat him on the back as he ushered Calvin forward towards the door. Oliver grabbed the handle and the three of them passed through the threshold of the doorway. Calvin could already tell there were others inside, because whatever conversation they were having stopped as soon as he entered the room. Bronson's gravelly voice boomed out from the farthest corner.

"Well, I'll be damned..."

Oliver shoved Calvin to the center of the room, careful not to send him tumbling too hard. "Look what I found," he feigned. "Crawling around in the back of one of the Jeeps."

Bronson couldn't believe it. He walked over to Calvin, holding his hands in the air. "I do have to apologize, dear boy-- for having to leave you behind. I knew you'd be safe locked away in that room though. I wasn't gonna leave ya to no biters."

Calvin bit his tongue. "Gee... thanks."

"And now you're here..." Bronson said, pulling the blindfold up from Calvin's good eye. Light flooded back into his vision, even in the dingy and dimly lit apartment he discovered himself to be standing in. Several of Bronson's henchman, including Freddie-- the coward who had taken his eye, lingered around the edges of the room. They each rose to their feet as soon as the newcomers had crashed their party.

Calvin rubbed at his eye with his bound hands, readjusting his sight. "I am," he replied, maybe a bit too defiantly. "I could've left. I should have...."

"Then why'd you come back, Calvin...?"

His question hung in the air for awhile as the other shifted in the silence.

"Don't I have a debt to settle?" Calvin said, mockingly.

Bronson shrugged, rubbing the scruff of his greyed beard. "I thought an eye for my guy made us square?" He turned and walked towards the edge of the room, tearing down the sheet draped over the window as it fell to the ground to reveal distorted blinds. "Since you're here though, maybe there is something you can do for me..."

"Haven't I given you enough?" Calvin sneered, tapping his hidden eye.

Bronson grinned, looking past him at Dax and Oliver who both struggled to hold his gaze. Even he could sense the odd vibe in the room. Other convicts stood idly by behind him, weapons dangling loosely in their hands. "This is about the girl-- isn't it?" he continued, kicking the sheet aside.

Calvin's eye widened as his breath caught in his throat. How could he have known? Calvin turned quickly to look at Oliver-- immediately realizing the trap he'd fallen into. That was the giveaway Bronson was looking for -- his eyes lingering on their exchange as he motioned to his surrounding men. They sprung into action, grabbing Oliver and Dax and dragging them out into the hallway in a flurry of arms and legs.

"They didn't have anything to do with this!" Calvin pleaded, struggling against the men who had come to restrain him.

"It doesn't matter," Bronson grunted. "They got too close to the girl, and now they're feeling sympathetic. That's when a person starts making the wrong types of decisions." Dax and Oliver's shouts echoed from further down the hall as Bronson's men began working them in.

"What did you do with her!?" Calvin growled. He wished he had dealt with this coward the second he got into the room. It was at the point now where the bastard was preemptively doing horrible things, just as collateral to protect his own ass.

"She's just fine," Bronson replied. "Or at least she was the last time I saw her..."

"If you've done anything to her, I swear to God--"

"Relax, cowboy. She'll be alright, so long as you continue to cooperate for just a little while longer. I'm gonna need one last favor from you, and then we're square." Bronson turned and ripped the last of the mangled plastic blinds off of the window next to him, revealing the distinct form of a charred building through the falling ashy haze -- its burnt facade only a silhouette in the blackening night. "It's amazing what people will do to protect what they love..." he said-- salivating at the thought as he gazed upon the Capitol, salaciously.


* * *


+ Niobe Kajja +


Niobe found herself embedded in a room full of smells and senses she'd long been missing. Accompanied of course with the unfortunate whirring grind of a number of running generators, powering portable electric stovetops, microwaves, lighting, and other such fixtures. Steam coated the ceiling as boiling pots and trays of food were shuffled around the makeshift kitchen in a hurry. All it really was though was a converted back office outside the commons. The tiled floor made it an excellent candidate for the chef and others to setup shop since they wouldn't be dealing with the carpeting.

She suddenly felt a hand on her shoulder from behind. "Grab and go. Otherwise you might get trampled," Patrick said, handing her a plate from a shelf nearby as Niobe snapped from her food daze. She hadn't seen this much goodness in over a week. Not knowing where to start, she wandered over to the longer portion of the table where several trays of vegetables and meats were organized waiting to go out to the commons.

"Coming back to the kitchen like this-- isn't that kind've like cutting?" Niobe asked, dryly. She grabbed a large spoon from the table and dug into the buttery mashed potatoes in front of her, dropping a large dollop on her plate.

Eli fell in beside her, heading for the greens first. "We're staff. We were busting our asses gassing up that bus." He said, flashing a toothy grin as he piled a heap of vegetables onto his plate.

"Can you not talk about asses and gas, please. Seems a little pre-mature considering we haven't stuffed our faces full of all this food yet..." Patrick added, childishly.

A large pot of some kind of pasta was suddenly dropped right center on the table by a broad-shouldered man in a fedora. "Oodles of noodles, mates--" he chimed, tossing the lid off to the side and stuffing a pasta ladle in the pot. A half-burnt cigar tumbled around his mouth as he wiped his hands on his apron and held one out to Niobe stiffly. "And what's your name, love?"

Niobe rose one eyebrow, grasping his hand firmly. "Niobe."

The man spoke quickly, as if the greeting was something he had to get out of the way. But he held her gaze as firmly as their grip. "Gorgeous name-- beautiful. I love dark meat. Let me know how the potatoes turn out, eh?" And like that, he was off.

Niobe was slightly stunned. "Uhh-- who was that?"

Eli and Patrick both chuckled to themselves, apparently more used to the stranger's antics than she. "That's Lou," Patrick confessed. "He's the Cook."

"He always that strange?"

"Think of it as eccentric and be thankful he's a good cook," Patrick advised, giving her a hard pat on the back. She shook her head as she followed the two of them towards the back of office. The door swung open to reveal another hallway. Random stragglers filtered into the commons area where boxes and crates had been pushed together to create small clusters of tables around the floor. Others sat in small groups on the floor or ate on their cots. The heavy din of conversation washed over Niobe as she followed Eli and Patrick through the arched doorway. She figured there had to be somewhere upwards of 60 or so people all collected together-- but it seemed like so many more. The space, though convenient, was not necessarily built to accommodate so many people for such a long period of time.

A hand stuck out of the crowd, waving high and wide trying to get Niobe's attention-- which it had. The arm belonged to Carl, who sat in a circle of cots around a table with Harper, James, and Christopher. The two old men were engaged in conversation over some talking point, but Harper sat hunched over her barely-touched plate of food, resting her chin on one hand as she stirred at the food vacantly. Niobe split from Patrick and Eli to join her friends and crossed over towards them.

"There you are," Carl crowed as she neared their table. She leaned over to set her plate down and lunged over the cot to take the open seat. "We were wondering what happened to you."

Niobe brushed her hands off on her pant legs. "I was helping Eli and Patrick work on the bus," she replied, not really feeling like she had to explain.

"Those the two that picked us up?" James cut in, switching conversations.

Niobe nodded, grabbing her fork and digging into her food with one huge bite.

"You sure warmed up to these folks quickly..." he finished, his voice ripe with judgement.

Niobe gulped down her first bite with some water and wiped her mouth. "They saved our lives, James... have some respect."

"This seems like a good place to stay if we have to," Carl reasoned, pushing his already empty plate aside. "They're good people."

"What do you mean stay?" James barked from across the table. "As soon as this dust clears, we gotta get out of here. This city is going to shit, frankly-- and I don't want to be inside it any longer than I have to."

Harper sat up, rubbing her temples. "Don't you think that's a decision we should be making as a group?" she said, voicing her concerns aloud.

James scoffed. "I'd think we would all have the common sense to see that everything bad that has happened to us has happened because we're still in this giant goddamned city. The bombings, the nuke, all these walkers... we need to distance ourselves from this place fast. We'll have a better shot out there."

"Out where exactly?" Niobe asked, challengingly.

James shook his head, slumping back into his chair with his arms folded. "Anywhere but here..."

"We still have friends out there..." Carl said, mindfully. "We can't leave now-- even if we could."

"And why not?" James argued.

Harper turned to look at him incredulously. "Are you seriously this selfish?"

"Now c'mon you two--" Christopher interjected from the sidelines.

"It's a completely legitimate question. We don't owe anybody anything. Not even El Capital and his Capitols, or whatever the hell they wanna call themselves. All we owe is to ourselves-- to get out of this city while we still can. Do we really have time to waste sitting around waiting to find all these missing people when we don't know where they are or whether they're even alive?"

"We have to make the time," Harper said, resolutely. "We're all we have, James. Can't you see that? This is what it takes. This is humanity. What else is worth saving if we can't save our friends?"

Jack's bulky frame suddenly plopped down next to Carl as he vault onto the cot between him and Harper, unaware of the conversation he had just interrupted. He turned to Harper, handing her the coffee mug he had borrowed earlier. "Looked everywhere. Couldn't find any coffee."

Niobe laughed at the thought. "That would be heaven. You should go ask Lou in the kitchen. Nice guy..."

Jack's eyebrows peaked in interest. "Oh yeah?"

"Forget to grab yourself a plate?" James chided from his side of the table.

Jack looked around at the plates in front of everyone else. "Oh, I-- uhhh..." he began to bumble, gesturing over his shoulder.

***TING TING TING TING TING TING TING***

Silas rapped on his glass with the butt of his fork, silencing the grounds effortlessly as everyone settled into their seats and turned their attention towards the staircase where he stood alone. The soft sound of the generators poured out of the kitchen office behind him as he cleared his throat to speak.

"I, uhh-- never know how to start these kinds of speeches," he began, scratching his head. "This time last night there were many more of us... and we were thankful that we had been able to endure a week without a night like tonight." Others around the room nodded in silent agreement, lamenting the nights events together. "I want to welcome our newcomers. Strangers to our home, but brothers and sisters in loss." There was a collective murmur of welcome from scattered individuals. Carl gave a half-wave as the others at the table awkwardly looked around at one another. "For those of you haven't heard, the surviving bus stumbled across these individuals during their escape. Some of which we've met before..." Stevie suddenly came into view through the back hallway with her plate of food. She snuck along the back aisle as Silas continued, scanning the crowd for familiar faces. "We all know somebody who is lost out there... somewhere. And we all want to do something about that. I think we can all agree we feel the same way." Harper glanced over at James, who fiddled with his toothpick between his lips as he listened to Silas drone on about salvation. "But we have to do it in a way where nobody else gets hurt. We have to wait for the streets and skies to clear before we can search for the bus... there's no point making any needless risks."

The crowd broke out into hushed whispers as disagreements bubbled up from various corners of the room. "How do we know they'll last the night?" somebody shouted out from the back.

Silas shook his head. "We don't. But there's nothing we can do about it right now. If they're still alive now, then they will be in a few days when it's safe to go look for them."

"And what are we supposed to go after them with?" another voice cried out. "We fled the Capitol so quickly, most of our stuff was left behind..."

Silas rose his hand in the air trying to settle the crowd so everyone could talk at once. "One at a time, please-- I understand that a lot was left behind. That is what we are going to spend our idle time preparing for. One of our newcomers, Stevie, has been kind enough to offer up a couple vehicles worth of supplies in exchange for our assistance in providing them with their own search party to recover their losses. We welcome them... and their help... in these dire times. We have a lot of ground to cover, and more bodies now to get it all done. Detailed plans will be made in the following days so that we understand what our priorities are going into this, but for now-- rest, recover, and remember: we are survivors. We've made it this far. We'll make it further yet, OK?" Silas rose his plate into the air. "Now let's eat! Thank you for the dinner, Lou." The broad-shouldered man waved from his post near the hallway's arch, his never-ending cigar still cradled in his mouth. The crowd applauded his contribution as everyone returned to their place and dug in.

Stevie had just finally reached Carl and the others at the table as Silas spilled the unsettled news of their private conversation. James glared at her from his seat as she set her plate of food down on the table. "Sneakin' around makin' promises in the dark, are we?" he growled.

"James, cut it out--" Harper wheezed.

Stevie stammered slightly, adjusting her glasses with one hand. "I didn't mean to speak for anyone... I even told Silas th--"

"We just heard all about what you told Silas. What? It doesn't bother any of you that we've been here barely a couple hours and she's already making deals... deals involving us with this so-called leader? We don't know these people..." James balked.

Stevie sighed. "I know him better than I know any of you..." she remarked, scathingly. "And those vehicles? They weren't yours to bargain with anyways. They belonged to my people. The one's your people shot at. I wouldn't forget that..." she scooped her food back off of the table and marched off towards Silas and the others.

Carl tapped his foot nervously. "What the hell man? What's gotten into you?"

"Nobody seems to have their head on straight around here," James fumed, striking out from the table as well. Christopher watched him go as he took a big fat bite of corn, chewing complacently.

Harper buried her head in her hands, trying to rub away the pain mounting in her forehead. Jack pat her on the back and leaned in to her ear. "I managed to swipe a mostly full bottle in that coffee mug for when you need it..." he began. "But you really need to figure out a more long-term solution for this, Harper-- it's getting worse." She nodded quickly, waving him away. That was the last thing on her mind with these new problems at hand.

"I'll be right back," she muttered, forcing herself up out of her seat. She pulled her blanket down over her shoulders as she headed towards where Stevie stormed off to.

Niobe mopped up the last few bites of her food and stood as well, having had enough drama for one day. "Done there, hotshot?" she asked Carl in his haze.

His attention snapped back. "Huh? What? Oh-- yeah..." He got up to join her, grabbing his empty plate and following her back towards the kitchen, leaving Jack alone with Christopher.

"One big happy family..." Jack said, mockingly. Christopher simply smiled and nodded, taking another bite of green beans, genuinely unbothered by the goings on of the group around him. Their problems went far over his head-- too far to care about.

Jack sighed, watching his so-called friends disappear into the crowd in separate directions-- and he wondered for a moment if there was such a thing as true happiness left in this world anymore, or if everyday would be a different version of the same struggle. How could they ever be content again? The rest of the Capitols stuffed their faces and corralled in conversatjon and laughter as they ate -- seemingly oblivious to the nightmarish landscape just on the other side of those walls. Feigned normalcy. A true escape. It didn't seem to be enough anymore, Jack thought to himself.

Not while their friends were still out there.

In the distance, Carl jogged a few strides-- catching up with Niobe. "Things are getting really bad around here--" he said, solemnly-- glancing at some of the Capitols as the two of them weaved between tables towards the kitchen.

Niobe pressed on, not even looking over her shoulder at him. "We're all handling this shit in different ways, Carl. Some of us better than others." That was the truth of it after all.

Carl furrowed his brow. "And how are you handling it?" he asked, sincerely.

That stopped Niobe in his tracks. Nobody had asked her that yet. Hell-- she hadn't even asked it of herself. But she thought about it for only the slightest second, and she didn't like what she found. "We've got to tell them... y'know-- about what Silas told us about the infection," she whispered, drawing breath.

Carl adjusted his glasses, evasively. "I-I know, we just h-have to--"

"They have every right to know. It doesn't feel right keeping that from them. Silas and everyone else in this room knows the truth about infection... they'll find out eventually," Niobe reasoned.

Carl scoffed. "Were you sitting at the same table I was? That could be the end of us. Just one little secret could undo everything. As far as they're concerned-- what is there to know?"

The setting changes from season-2 to Season 3

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Stephanie "Stevie" Darden Character Portrait: Silas Quinn

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Previously on TWD:O

Season 1
Season 2

… 3 Days Later …



Harper Hopkins


The occasional din and clatter down the stairs sounded far away in the apparently reshuffled interior of what used to be Amoeba Records. Nearby, Stevie and Harper sat next to each other on the bench outside of Silas' office, staring straight ahead out over the railing looking down into the larger room below. Stevie's hands gripped the edge of the seat as she leaned forward, her legs crossed before her on the surface. Her eyes focused distantly off and away on some unknown point, clearly lost in her own thoughts.

Harper's posture was far more relaxed by comparison, her ankles pressed together, back leaning up against the wall. On her lap rested a yellow legal pad with a series of scribbles neatly columned and labeled—judging from the condition of the pad, it must have been pages' worth of recorded information. The morning after the group of six arrived at Amoeba, Silas had requested her help in assessing the status and the needs of the group--who was missing? What did everyone need? Shoe sizes, medications needed, blood types, allergies, birthdates?... all to be noted, categorized, and wrapped up before the group ventured out into the unknown to search for those they'd endured those first crucial days with. Hours were spent interviewing each person under Amoeba's roof… and while she'd managed to hit all of Silas' checkmarks, there was a problem. Something she didn’t know how to explain to Silas quite yet.

The door creaked open to Stevie's left. Silas poked his head out, smiling warmly as he stepped back to make room for the two to pass through to head into his office. "Harper," he greeted as he extended his hand ahead to the woman with the fatigued violet rings beneath her green eyes, "good morning."

Harper stopped just briefly, then nodded drowsily and accepted his much larger hand, squeezing it politely. "Good morning, Silas," she offered coolly, walking past him to promptly take her place in one of the chairs in front of the large desk toward the wall. She knew her mannerism was on the cold side… but there really wasn’t any time for much in the way of pleasantries. Not when there was so much work to do, and so much uncertainty to prepare for. She'd not only compiled a list of supplies needed to keep the group running along for at least another week, but she'd also drawn up a suggested plan and timeline for the rescue, as well… written for Silas' review, then set to be up for discussion with the group preparing to head out, hopefully standing up to questions they anticipated that the group might have. Harper had to admit that not only did Silas' methods resemble some variation of task-driven, structured hierarchy, but also that Silas' methods at least showed a measurable rate of progress toward a goal of some kind. Harper liked that. She had to admit.

Silas watched Harper carefully for a long moment, then turned to look at Stevie, her head still apparently stuck up high in the clouds. "Morning, Sunshine. Feeling better?" he asked cheerfully.

No answer. He reached forward and tapped her on the shoulder. She startled briefly, then turned her head up to acknowledge him. "It was good to rest for a few days," she replied softly as she stood up, raising a hand and patting him on the arm in a friendly greeting. She shuffled in casually to take the seat next to Harper's. The other woman gave her a quick glance; Stevie adjusted her glasses and nodded as she affixed herself in the same position she'd been in on the bench outside, setting her elbows on her knees. "Silas helped me get some antibiotics. Everything I had last week was in the car," she reminded Harper as she rested her face in her palms, filling her in on what the conversation the two had been having had focused on. Harper nodded, controlling the expression on her face. Someone else might think that Stevie was nervously over-explaining herself. It even annoyed her sometimes. But if there was something she'd learned about the jittery girl in the glasses, it was that she was committed to honesty and transparency, even when it didn't suit her own interests. Harper knew that Stevie would work with the group to find a way to make things work.

Her head felt cloudy and closed-in all of a sudden. It was still early, and the unsettling fuzz that still stuck to her brain from the three tablets she'd taken the previous night to settle down hung hazily into all five of her senses. The metallic taste in her mouth intermittently triggered what she was sure looked like a souring of her face, as though a lemon hit her square on the nose. Breakfast that morning had been extremely unpleasant, despite the heaps of praise sent toward the kitchen for a job well done. Her sense of smell felt a little duller than it had three days previously--not by much, but she knew the difference. The buzz in her ear thrummed constantly, causing her hands to reverberate just slightly… or to at least have a sensation like that. Maybe she'd gone more than a little overboard when she'd settled on three…

She refocused on Stevie's face, and nodded curtly. Silas had asked her a question—a question that had disappeared into the background noise in her head. "Right." She sat up straighter as though to take control of her end of the situation as Silas wound around the desk, examining Harper somewhat distantly as he carried two bottles of water with him. He set them before the two women as he settled down into his chair. Just as he opened his mouth to speak, Harper set her legal pad on the table between the plastic containers, pinned one corner with one hand and turned the pad upside-down from her view, and pushed it toward the man opposite of her. "Here's everything, chopped up and organized." Also as though adding a punctuation mark to the end of her action, she meticulously set a Sharpie, cap faced toward herself, next to Silas' right hand.

Silas eyed the precise offer, then stretched out a hand slowly to accept the yellow paper, pulling it along the surface of the desk toward him and thumbed through the wavy pages that had obviously been turned several times. He then took a second turn, this time examining more intently. He put the pad down and glanced up purposefully to Harper, folding his hands in front of him and tilting his head. "This… isn't everything." He blinked. "Where are your notes?" he asked coolly. "I thought you mentioned you might include them."

Harper looked up diagonally and to her right. She had promised him the notes. She really had. No doubt about it. She'd hoped he might have forgotten about that part of their conversation. But it was no use. Silas was as stubborn as they came—just like her. And her need to protect her own was just as strong as his need to protect his own, so she could justify no need to deliver those notes immediately. There was no way he was ready to know about this yet.

It might buy a little more time, at the very least, before she could make sense of what it was that she'd stumbled upon.

She blinked vacantly at Silas. "Oh. Right. My bad." She shrugged. "I just didn't have time."

"I really want to review your notes before we go, actually," he said calmly, his voice not betraying any degree of exasperation, but still just a little frustrating to Harper, all the same.

"Look. We've only got so much time today," she dismissed airily as she shook her head. She reached out a hand to pinch the end of the first page to start in on her pitch—only to lose her grasp as Silas' hand gently touched down on the yellow lined paper and firmly pinned it in place. Harper visibly flexed her jaw and fixated her eyes on the desk instead of Silas' face, willing herself to keep her mouth shut.

Stevie straightened up calmly, glancing at the two and scooting forward into the edge of her seat. Her eyes darted across the table quickly. "Can we just photocopy the notes in the office when we get back?" she volunteered carefully, as though tiptoeing around the sort of confrontation potentially brewing between the two headstrong personalities. Harper and Silas turned their heads almost in unison in the direction of the voice, both pairs of eyes staring at Stevie expectantly. She let out a brief sigh. "It's not going to make a difference right now, at this moment, if you have them or not, Silas," she continued, moving her eyes to his and nodding. Harper had to admire Stevie sticking up for her… despite having not been told what had triggered Harper's apprehension to fully comply with Silas.

He held her gaze for a few long moments, then nodded as he turned back to Harper. "I've been outnumbered by two extraordinary women," he peppered briskly, drawing in a deep breath and allowing a broad smile to cross his face.

Stevie let out a stream of air through the corner of her mouth, rolling her eyes playfully. "You are so full of shit," she tossed at him jokingly as she re-crossed her legs beneath her.

Harper let a smile cross her face mildly as she watched the interaction. It was corny, and tedious to sit through at times, but Stevie made it work. Their friendship from before the event that had occurred 12 days prior had served to the small group's advantage. Anything the group wanted or needed was something that Stevie could talk Silas and his people into providing. So far it had benefitted all members of the group well—with the exception of James, who had elected to speak as little as possible over the course of the last three days to anyone, not even to their small group. For some it had provided a brief reprieve from his hard-charging ways and loud voice, while others saw it as a glaringly obvious fissure in the group's morale. Harper held a mixture of both views—while she could hardly tolerate much noise at all these days, she did rather like James, and wished that the confrontation at dinner the night they had arrived had not occurred.

Still, all the same, things had gone well.

Mostly.

Harper nodded after the two returned their attention to the yellow pad of paper and stretched out a long, thin arm to peel back the first page. She cleared her throat and took in a sigh. "We're going to send five people on each bus. It'll mean that there's enough weight to carry people and supplies back." She paused, flicking her eyes over the black and blue writing by her hand. "Or whatever else we need to bring back with us," she added somewhat grimly, then felt her dry throat scratch against itself. She sputtered into a series of coughs, prompting Silas to reach his own long arms forward to grasp the water bottle he'd offered to her, effortlessly unscrewing the cap and presenting the plastic container to her.

"Might want to go get some vitamins, too," he suggested lightly. Must have been his own way of suggesting she get checked out for a cold… some of the others were self-admitted germaphobes who had expressed fear of becoming sick. It wasn't long before Silas had begun to take them seriously. People getting sick without enough antibiotics to go around would be a challenge, and one they certainly weren't ready to handle.

Harper shook her head and waved her left hand as she sipped from the bottle ravenously. The water was on the cooler side of room temperature, and felt satisfying as it seemed to heal the dry, scratchy sensation that had sent her into a fit of coughs. "No, just went down the wrong pipe," she tossed out nonchalantly. She'd drank no less than four cups of water just fifteen minutes earlier at breakfast, even…

After a beat, Silas' eyes quirked down to read over the page before him. "Eli and Patrick are leading up the team looking for our people," he noted aloud. Harper felt the corner of her mouth tug down in disapproval. Still this whole business of 'ours' and 'yours.' It was irritating. "Niobe leading yours to go to the tunnels and grab your cargo." He swiveled his head toward Stevie. "Your name is here. I thought you weren't going."

She blinked suddenly, as though surprised he had even pointed it out. She reached a hand reactively up to rub the back of her head idly. "I changed my mind," she said quietly, then after a quick pause, continued. "I have the keys to the cars. I know where they're parked. I know exactly what's in them. And I know where the truck is."

Silas moved on, satisfied with the explanation. "So you've got Niobe, Stevie, Jack. Harper, I see you're on the list, too." Harper responded with a wordless nod. "From your group I notice that Carl, James, and Christopher are staying… James seems to know how to handle himself. Why are you keeping him back?"

"We need someone back here to help," Harper answered, closing her eyes to brace against an upcoming pang of a headrush. She quickly composed herself and moved on as though nothing had happened. "I still have to tell him. Last night we thought he was going to go. But…"—she glanced over to her right to the brunette sitting quietly—"… Stevie really wanted to… make sure the supplies made it back."

Silas nodded and offered a slight laugh under his breath. "Good luck," he offered somewhat puffily, then moved on. He eyed the pad again, then stood. "I like your recommendations. Good work, Harper." He picked up the pad and tucked it under an arm as he drew himself to his feet, then gestured his hand forward, his fingers filed together, indicating toward the wispy, tired woman still seated. "And please remember those notes this evening," he reminded, raising his eyebrows and lowering his chin. Harper nodded somewhat distantly. Maybe he'd forget about it later… "Stevie, what's up?"

The shorter woman had locked her gaze with the window, her eyes boring outside and actively scanning the view for something. Harper couldn't exactly tell… but she knew what might be on her mind, perhaps. "I'm just eager to get out there," she answered, glimpsing to Silas and rustling to her feet.

Harper watched as Silas turned his attention to her. It didn't take long at all for her to realize that the tension was as thick as a curtain between them… but it didn't seem like it was anything personal. Silas was this way with most everyone who wasn't obvious a member of his circle. Guarded. Maybe even a little clannish. For now, having Stevie on "the inside," so to speak, worked. In reality, though, Harper knew that whatever was bothering Silas clearly had nothing to do with her. It wasn't personal. There was something else… something else was bothering him. Something important.

Harper knew that she'd find out what it was, no matter what it took.

Stevie nodded to the two. "Ready to go have a chat with everyone?"

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Stephanie "Stevie" Darden Character Portrait: James Marshall (NPC) Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC) Character Portrait: Silas Quinn

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Harper Hopkins

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"Everyone understand?"

The question soared through the room slowly, almost as though it dripped slurredly from Silas' mouth. The lights were bright, too bright, almost like having a preposterously painful hangover. A series of nods almost made it look to Harper like the room was waving, like a jumpy earthquake. Silas smiled, and returned the nod with a confident grin. "All right. Good."

Harper's wrist felt creaky as she reached up to adjust her sunglasses. She watched Stevie tap Silas on the shoulder from behind, and lean to the right to murmur quietly into his left ear as he ducked down relaxedly, as though he were all too willing to listen. His eyes drifted to the floor momentarily while she spoke, then squared his vision with the others after she finished and backed away. "Harper And Stevie want to remind everyone to get their list of emergency needs from the others who aren’t going before we go, and turn it in to them before we zip out. Stuff like shoes, if you've lost or ruined the ones you had on before. Medicine for debilitating conditions, allergies. Things like that. Nothing too crazy, though, keep it practical, and remember to turn in excess items to the storage room. Including meds of all kinds, as a reminder! We've all got to keep each other safe."

Harper gave a silent nod of thanks. She knew Silas kept a pleasant look on his face for a reason--he was the kind of person who wanted to get along with everyone else, who wanted to feel like he was being useful, who wanted to find a way out of this mess… not just for him, but for everyone else, too. Part of accomplishing any of these tasks involved getting along with everyone else, and putting his best face forward. If he was annoyed with her, he was doing his best to not show it. She was perfectly aware of her tendency to quietly push, even "nag," as Nathan used to call it, to get something done. Some parts of the three days spent at Amoeba had been challenging.

"Twenty minutes, everyone," Silas spoke up, his deep voice ringing out over the room at an authoritative but calm volume. The group began to stand up, stretch, and otherwise disperse.

Harper opened her mouth to say something, but was interrupted by the large metal doors of the small room bursting with a grand slamming twist of the door handles. The scene felt like it was unfolding in slow motion, the effects of her morning tablets unable to keep up with the pace of what was taking place. James' loud voice barked over the heads of those who were still sitting upon benches fashioned crudely from deconstructed media racks. He looked grizzled and haggard compared to when he'd first arrived with the others—at least, he looked far worse for wear than them.

"Son of a bitch, you left me out of this on purpose!" he bellowed as he rushed up to Silas. Off in the corner of the room, Stevie perked her head up from behind a shelf to study what was going on, then urgently ducked back down to remain unnoticed by the angry man.

Silas raised his hands calmly, but didn't move. "James-"

"-don't you 'James' me, you asshole. You left me out of this on purpose, and I know why!" James stood less than four feet away from Silas, firmly planting his worn hands on his hips, his plaid sleeves rolled up messily to his elbow. The group gathered inside quietly shuffled out in the background through the double doors to cut back out into the main back hall of the record store, leaving Silas and James standing across from each other in the center of the room. Harper watched as a tense-looking Stevie shiftily ducked out with the group, the two nodding to one another as she left.

"James," Silas started calmly, tilting his head and gesturing toward the front of the building, "you've been spending an awful lot of time on watch."

"So? What's that got to do with this?" the older man growled back defensively. "It doesn't mean anything."

"It means we haven't had a chance to talk. I had no idea you were interested in coming along."

"Now, why the hell wouldn't you think I'm interested?"

Silas shrugged. "I wasn't going to force you to do anything against your will, or suggest you do something you might not wish to do."

"Of course I want to go help them," James insisted flatly.

"And you still can. Right now," Silas responded somewhat brightly. He nodded, and gestured toward the door. "Go get Carl, and find me again. You're going with him."

"… why?"

"Find me again, because we need to talk," Silas repeated patiently, then twisted his shoulders back toward the doors. "Harper? You got this?"

"… Hey, Hops?"

Harper blinked suddenly, realizing a little too late that they'd been speaking to her. "What?" she crabbed fatiguedly.

"… you all right? You don't look so good," Silas spoke up. His eyes blinked at her, as though running her face through a series of checks to match her pallid complexion and blank expression to some kind of familiar set of symptoms. "If you're sick, you need to take something and go lie down."

"I'm fine," she answered, her words echoing hollowly in her own head as they rattled back through her own ears. "I better get out there and help find Nathan."

Silas held a hand up, and slowly placed it on the end of her shoulder. "You look exhausted," he observed aloud in a calm, genuine tone.

"Silas, I-"

"I'll take her place," James volunteered, his scratchy voice softening just enough after he relaxed his posture to hold a hand up toward her with a finger pointing in the air knowingly. "You rest, Hops."

"James, I still need you to do something… important," Silas answered steadily. "Your best bet is to find Carl."

"Yeah… well…" James shoved his hands in his pockets as he took another look at Harper, peering at her and blinking his eyes a few times over the course of several seconds before turning around. "… all right." He exited through the double-doors, in a far calmer condition than when he'd originally entered.

"I'm going to ask Jack if he can go in your place," Silas finally said after several seconds.

"No. He's been on watch all night," Harper protested as she stifled a yawn.

Silas shook his head. "He specifically asked to go so he can help stock up the pharmacy."

She felt her face redden. "H-h-he did?"

"Yeah. He knows a lot about this stuff. Man with a mind, I tell you. Overlooked talents in the real world, if I ever saw any." Harper felt her jaw tighten with a tinge of guilt. "Look, I've been demanding a lot of you these past few days. How about you stay back. Keep things calm, or rest, whatever you want to do. No one's going to bother you if you sleep, and no one's going to get in your way if you're awake. You've got my word. All right?"

The sweet smile that made its way across Silas' face was almost too much to bear. She really did have to wonder at times if he was being truly authentic in his words and deeds, or if his intentions were far more nefarious in nature. However, it was just so… difficult… to dispute him. "All right. I'll stay."