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Private Lost Lydia

Lydia

The Walking Dead
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22
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Human
18 September y109
The Ruby Ranch
@The Governor

Lydia scooped up a handful of snow and shaped it into a ball quickly. With an actual grin on her face, she spun around and gently tossed it at the nearest person, as another snowball landed on her shoulder. When she glanced over to see who had thrown it, something grabbed her legs and pulled her down. She looked down, expecting to see a walker or one of her people disguised as one. There were only powerfully strong, creepy black cords. "Get back! Get the kids away!" She screamed as the cords dragged her down into the ground. She couldn't let anyone else get hurt because of her. Not again.

Lydia was pulled down though the earth and back up again. The cords deposited her among an array of windmills forcefully, knocking her head against the base of one of them. She stood up slowly, not bothering to wipe away any of the dirt that had collected on her during her strange trip or the blood that was trickling down the side of her face. Her gaze was focused on the line of windmills in front of her. The sound should be attracting every walker around, and yet there was no sign of them. There was no snow on the ground either. It made no sense.

Lydia found a road and followed it, thinking she might have a better chance of finding her way back to Alexandria that way. "Daryl?" She called out. She had to let him know she was okay. "Michonne?" There was no answer.

Lydia wandered for hours, trying different roads and staying clear of the strange towns and farms. There was no need to drag another group into the mess with her mother. She decided she was hopelessly lost and told herself it was for the best. Everyone would be safer without her around and she only had to fend for herself. She felt her cheek gently. A few bruises, but the bleeding had stopped. No big deal. Water should be her first priority. Her throat was already dry.

With that thought in mind, Lydia followed the sound of farm animals until she found a ranch. She hopped over the fence of the sheep pen and walked to the water trough. Her every step was careful as not to alarm the animals. Cupping her hands, she scooped up some water and brought her hands to her lips. Just as she was about to take a sip, she heard someone approach. She looked up and stared at him for a moment. A complete stranger. That would have made her run or attack in the past. But Henry, Daryl and Connie had been strangers once too.

"I was thirsty." Lydia mumbled. "Sorry."
 
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The Governor

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The Governor emerged from the barn, his weathered engineer boots crunching grit. His long walking coat billowed in the cool wind, the black fabric matching the black of his eye patch. He set his face into a cold, wary frown, jaw tight with tension and distrust.

He’d been working on his cardboard model of the ranch when the dark furred greyhound had padded up to him, nosing at his hand with his long skinny muzzle to warn him. Somebody was trespassing on their ranch, threatening the safety of their community.

Resting his forearm on the butt of his holstered gun, he prowled after the greyhound, Ezra, rounding the side of a wooden building. Philip jerked to a stop at the sight of a scrawny young girl with messy hair and shabby clothes, bent over the water trough in the sheep pen. He figured she was fifteen, maybe sixteen, tops. Huh. He would’ve figured she was some feral shifter kid, but then she spoke to him. That sorry even sounded sincere rather than sarcastic or sassy.

“S’awright. But you could’ve just knocked on the front door,” Philip chided her gently, his smile faint and dry. “You don’t need to drink from the trough like an animal.”

That was extra droll, ‘cos she could’ve been half of somethin’, but his gut told him that was unlikely. He’d spent the last nine months living with shifter folk, so tended to recognize ‘em by sight these days. She didn’t have that wild, unpredictable air or aura that he’d come to associate with ‘em… With himself. Still, there was somethin’ animal in her hunch. Maybe she hung around with shifter folk? Although he would’ve noticed another community in this area…

Ezra turned his long, narrow head, looking sedately between the two of ‘em.
 
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Lydia

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Lydia's eyes narrowed in suspicion. Just knocked on the door? No one did that with strangers anymore. Even between the communities that knew each other, there were guards on the walls to greet them before allowing anyone inside.

"I don't know you or your people. Or what traps you have for the walkers, the dead ones." She muttered and realized she needed to be more careful with every word she spoke. Walker was the term used by the people brave enough to protect her. It felt like letting them down to even hint at their existence. She had to act like she'd never known them to keep them safe. "You don't have walls. You must have somethin' else." It took more than a gun and a dog to protect a ranch with live animals.

Lydia shrugged. "Besides, I'm on my own. Gotta do everything like the animals to survive." She was telling herself as much as him. She'd have to take the lessons learned from her pack and put them to use. She would use a little of what she'd learned from Henry and Daryl too, just enough to not be evil like her mother. She couldn't expect to make friends or have fun anymore. Her mother had been right. That didn't last. Still, she stayed put instead of running from the man in front of her.
 
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The Governor

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He was silent a long beat, taken aback by an all too familiar term. Walkers. Rick, Andrea, little Mee Shone. That’d been their term. The way the girl spoke about traps, about walls, about doing things like animals to survive suggested she’d come right outta Georgia.

“Y’mean biters,” he said, tilting his head to line her up in the center of his vision. “We don’t tend to get ‘em around these parts. Bandits. Terrorists. It’s usually them. You sure you’re on your own?” There was a trace of accusation lurking in that question.

What if she was part of Rick’s group, hmm? What if they’d sent her here to spy on him? To ambush him, burn his new community to the goddamn ground? It’d been an age since he’d crossed paths with anybody from the prison group. Andrea didn’t count, ‘cos she was on his side now. Well… Now… Or so he liked to think.

He clenched his jaw, a twitch threatening to tug at his stubbly cheek. Just thinking about that group, about little Mee Shone, caused a long buried anger to burn hot inside his chest.

“You with Rick?” he asked outright, studyin’ her face with the intensity of a cop interrogating a murder suspect. He was expecting to see a spark of recognition…
 

Lydia

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Lydia stared at the governor with a level of confusion that might make one question if they were speaking the same language. There were walkers everywhere. It was the way the world was now. Bandits and terrorists were old world terms; she barely understood them. She'd grown up in a world without conventional laws.

"What's so special about these parts?" She asked and tried to think of a way to describe her mother's people without letting him know of her connection to them. "By terrorists, you mean the ones that play dress up? Pretending they're biters?" Dress up was a term she remembered from her very early childhood - having tea parties with her dad until her mom caught them and yelled at him about being a man.

"Yeah, I'm sure. I had a group once, a long time ago, when I was only this high..." Lyda gestured with her hand to the height of a young child. "They left me behind because I couldn't keep up." She let a bit of anger into her voice and turned it to sadness as she spoke, to help sell the lie. The story came easy to her. She'd seen it happen to other children in her mother's pack. "They were right to do it. No group would want me." She wanted the stranger to see her as weak and non-threatening, especially with the way he was getting angry.

Lydia gave him a genuinely blank look. With time, she might have made the connection to RJ's full name or to the bits and pieces she'd overheard about Rick Grimes. At the moment, she was too tired and lost to think of it. "I told you I'm alone."
 
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The Governor

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He scowled at her question, the lines deepening in his forehead. People pretending they were biters? What the hell was that supposed to mean?

“No,” he rumbled. “I mean the ones pretending they’re humans.”

That was a pretty hypocritical thing to say on his part… But what the hell? People dressing up as biters? She getting confused with Halloween?

Her story about being left behind had him clenching his jaw, as well as narrowing his one good eye at the empty air where she’d gestured the height of a small child. He was thinking about his little girl, imagining her tryin’ to survive in a group without her mom, her dad, too tiny to keep up with ‘em on supply runs, to fight biters or bandits, to pull her weight. She would’ve been a burden on a community that was likely short of food, meds, blankets.

A part of Philip buried down deep was relieved when Rick’s name produced a blank expression, ‘cos it meant he wouldn’t have to treat this stranger like a terrorist. Least not yet, anyhow… He still had more questions to ask…

“You got a name? You want somewhere to sit? Rest those legs?” he asked, nodding in the direction of the dorms. “C’mon. I’ll rustle up some food, too.”
 
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Lydia

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Lydia stared at him. They could mean the same people. Her mother could have hidden in his group, wearing one of his friend's faces and pretending she was still human inside. There could be another border, in another direction, with heads on pikes. How far did her mother's territory extend? It almost made her miss the days when her mother was nomadic, wandering all round without any sense of owning land.

"I'm Lydia." Lydia answered. Sharing that information couldn't hurt. Her mother wouldn't call her by name, even if she was looking for her. She'd simply refer to her as her daughter. She might as well be calling her property. "What about you? Do your people still use names?" She watched his reaction as closely as he had been watching her, over the mention of the Rick guy. As far she knew, the only group that had given up names was her mother's people.

Lydia nodded at the offer of a place to rest and food. She could still remember Daryl encouraging her to eat on the day she left the kingdom. She needed to care of herself now that he wasn't there to remind her to do it. She didn't want to completely slip back into her old ways. "What's the catch?"
 
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The Governor

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Still use names? He twitched his lips in bemusement. Why wouldn’t they use names?

“Philip,” he offered simply. He never liked giving his real name to folk, but it was a useful tool in these kindsa situations to build trust. Or least, the illusion of trust.

He began to lead the way to the dorms, snorting dryly at her blunt, cynical question. Asked like a true jaded survivor of the Turn. “No catch. We just love helping out strangers in need.”

As long as they helped ‘em right back in return… You had to pay the bill, hmm?

They passed a few members of the community along their way to the dorms, who kept their distance, glowering at the girl, Lydia. The Governor had trained his people good, giving ‘em a healthy amount of distrust towards outsiders, especially ones that smelt plain, vanilla, human.

He picked Scarlet Dorm, ‘cos it was girls only. Some folk were more comfortable being with their own sex. Not him. He’d rather spend time flirting with meek ladies than butt heads with other dominant, egotistical men. Course to keep things awkward, you got dominant, egotistical ladies and meek men, too. The lines between genders faded more and more every day.

Philip paused in the doorway, turning to use his height to stare down at Lydia. “This is a civilian area. I’m gonna need you to hand over any weapons.”
 
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Lydia

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Lydia felt slightly reassured. Phillip was a traditional name, not a code. The little amused tug of amusement on his face suggested that he'd never had any encounter with her mother.

Lydia shook her head, the reassurance fading. It felt like he was hiding a big secret from her. There was always a catch and that kind of selfless love was extinct. People like that simply didn't survive. Even the nicest remaining communities debated and held a vote before letting her in. "You must want somethin'." Everyone did.

Lydia showed a little fear at the glowers and then looked down. She was seriously outnumbered if this went bad. She needed to look weak, keep them from seeing her as a threat. It wouldn't be hard. It was the truth. As they kept moving, she occasionally looked up just long enough to get an idea of the layout and which direction to run if needed.

Lydia back up at him. "Ain't got any." If she had carried weapons with her, she wouldn't have attempted suicide by walker or by Carol. When she left Kingdom, she told herself that she didn't need weapons because she had a group. She had Daryl. Of course, she suspected that the group wouldn't have trusted her with any. She had hoped that in Alexandria she'd start to train with a staff and be like Henry. That felt like it had been a pointless dream now.

"I'll prove it." She turned all of her pockets inside out, showing him that they were empty. She then unzipped her jacket and pulled it off, holding it out for him to inspect. Next, she started tugging her sweater off. She was wearing layers underneath to keep her warm from the storm she'd been in. It would take a while, but if needed she'd strip down. She was raised to be an animal; she had no need for modesty.
 
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The Governor

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Philip accepted the jacket from Lydia, inspecting every seam, every stitch, every stretch of fabric with the clinical detachment of a scientist. He even felt it with his fingertips in case she’d hidden somethin’ within, but there were no incriminating bulges of knives or guns.

With a cool, impassive expression, he watched her strip away the layers. She was like a goddamn onion. He wasn’t gonna let her get down to the skin, though. She was too close to his daughter’s age. Nor would he have allowed a grown woman. Not outta a sense of decorum, but ‘cos he would wanna keep up a good relationship with ‘em. Having ‘em strip buck naked on a goddamn doorstep, with people nearby, would not sow the seeds to an amiable partnership.

He raised a hand, indicating that he wanted her to stop. “S’awright, kid. I believe you.”

The Governor led the way into Scarlet Dorm, taking her up to the top. Via the stairs, not the elevator. He hated those goddamn metal cages. The rooms up there were all empty, aside from one that was taken by a general ranch hand. Donna. She would’ve been out right now, tending to the livestock over on the south east fields, so he could carry on his little talk in private with Lydia.

Philip prowled into the kitchen, nodding at her to sit down at a broad wooden table. The polished surface gleamed in the sunlight, which streamed in through the windows. He bent to open the fridge, nodding approvingly at the contents. Donna wouldn’t mind him stealing a couple things.

“You want a sandwich?” he asked the girl levelly. “Or somethin’ hot?”
 
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Lydia

The Walking Dead
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Lydia gathered up her discarded clothes. Some of them were dirtier now from having been dropped on the ground by her. She didn't mind; it was all a part of life. She followed him up the stairs, wondering if that was another security measure in itself. It would never have occurred to her that there were working elevators, the height simply had certain advantages. He could look through a window to see if she had more people hiding out there somewhere and it forced anyone else to come up the same stairs. Not that it mattered, she was alone.

Lydia took a seat as directed and watched him carefully. "Whatever's easiest." She replied. It was polite for her. She'd never been taught manners. Not being demanding and not trying to dominate was the way she knew to show gratitude to others. Respect meant knowing one's place. Words like please and thank you had no place in a pack of animals. "You really have a working fridge and hot food?" She blurted out a moment later. The communities back home had it too, and it came as a surprise every time she saw that level of convenience. They were parts of a world that was gone and should not exist. He may as well have had a dinosaur stroll through the dorm. It would have made as much sense to her.
 
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The Governor

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“Well… Now… I got a hankering for somethin’ hot,” he said, flashing the young woman a broad grin. He collected up some bacon and eggs, setting ‘em down on the kitchen worktop.

After his wife’s death, he’d used to cook bacon and eggs every weekend mornin', his little girl sitting at the table, like Lydia was doin’ now. It’d provided great opportunities to talk, about school, her friends, recounting special moments with mom. That’d sure changed after the Turn.

The Governor smiled in bemusement at Lydia’s question, peeling banded strips of bacon out the packet, then laying them across the skillet. He turned on the gas, a low hissing filling the kitchen. Medium heat. One of the mistakes most folk made was to cook bacon too fast. You wanted it on medium heat. Hell. That was true about life in general. Folk wanted things too damn fast. Often, it paid off to take your sweet time working towards getting ‘em.

“That’s right. We got fridges to keep food cold, ovens to make it hot,” he said amiably, enjoying the quiet spitting and crackling of the bacon. The rich, smoky smell of it was heavenly. “So do the rest of the communities in this area. You haven’t been here long, huh?”

He took out a glass bowl, cracking the eggs over the rim as easy as rotten biter skulls. The brains that oozed out weren’t gray and sludgy, but the bright color of sunlight.
 
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Lydia

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Lydia watched him cook. "That's bacon, right? From a pig?" She asked, genuinely asking the question. She was used to eating animals she could hunt in the wild like squirrels, rats, snakes, maybe a rabbit or fox if she'd been really luck. She'd heard one of the other members of her pack call a squirrel - a tree chicken, and had no idea of what a chicken was at the time. She only remembered seeing meat from farm animals at the kingdom and was still learning all the different kinds. She recognized eggs more easily, though not as being from a chicken.

"I don't think so?" Lydia still wasn't certain where here was, only that she was a long way from where she had been before. "There were these things, vines I guess, I got caught up in the somehow, and then ended up in front of a windmill." She admitted, knowing she must have sounded like a lunatic. At least a crazy person wouldn't be perceived as threatening. "I walked around for a long time, then I found this place." She wanted to ask him to name which communities were nearby. Maybe she wasn't as far from Alexandria as she had thought. "There are more communities?" She asked instead, hoping he might volunteer more information on his own. "Are they like this with food and power?"
 
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The Governor

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“That’s right,” he repeated with another smile of bemusement. “From a pig.”

Goddamn. She must’ve spent her short life under a rock. The Governor wasn’t surprised to hear that she hadn’t long joined ‘em in Pandora. He would’ve assumed she was from some backwards ass version of his world, that didn't have bacon, if she hadn’t used the magic word back there at the water trough.

Walkers. Without a doubt, she was from his own walker - biter - infested world.

“They do,” he replied simply. “We got towns and cities, too. Nearest town is Arco.”

He turned away from the bowl of egg yolks, eyeing the girl thoughtfully. How the hell did he explain Pandora? She was gonna think he was nuts… Or she’d go nuts… Or maybe both would happen. Philip didn't hesitate ‘cos he cared about her health and comfort, but 'cos he didn’t want the goddamn inconvenience and headache of a potentially loud, teary, panicking kid on his ranch.

“Not long ago,” he began carefully, still keeping his one good eye on Lydia. “We would’ve laughed at the idea of the dead rising and eating the living. Y’think you could accept other stuff like that just as easily? Vampires? Shape shifters? Aliens?” He paused a beat, running his tongue over his lips, his teeth, as he delivered his point: “Alternate dimensions?”
 
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Lydia

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Lydia looked at him in disbelief. Bacon was one thing, people could raise pigs without needing too much from the world before walkers. Towns, let alone, cities were entirely different. Impossible. "You're teasing me. Any cities are overrun. There's too many dead in 'em." Even her mother hadn't ventured into them in years. "Even a town's got to be about to fall apart. Places like that can't last."

"Not long ago?" Lydia repeated back as a question. This guy must be really old if he thought the years of the undead was a short time. "I don't even remember a time without the dead walkin' around." It wasn't entirely true. While she had been young when it started, her memories of the old world had been manipulated by her mother to the point that she was unsure of what was true.

Lydia's disbelief turned to confusion. As a young child, she hadn't been told stories of fantasy creatures or alternate dimensions. Her mother would have found them pointless and her father wouldn't have wanted to scare her at such a young age. She never learned to read and with the end of the modern world, she knew nothing of fiction other than that one movie night.

"I don't know those words." Lydia admitted. It was probably some fancy talk like Ezekiel used. She never understood why people had to make life more complicated. Walkers were bad enough. They could all speak normally.
 
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The Governor

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The girl didn’t goddamn understand him, one of her remarks even causing him to scowl.

“Turn’s only being goin’ on eleven, maybe twelve months,” he said, his tone stern and certain. He wouldn’t listen to any arguments. “I figure you’re thirteen… Fourteen, tops. You’re older than my little girl, anyhow. How can you not remember the old civilization?”

Philip turned back to his oozing and crackling bacon, fishing the thin rashers out the skillet with a fork and distributing ‘em evenly on to two clean plates. He wiped the grease off the skillet with a paper towel, then squirted a little olive oil, before carefully adding the quivery egg yolks.

Leaving the eggs to fry, he directed his attention to the kid again, giving her another long, appraising frown. “Not that it matters how long the Turn’s been goin’ now. I was hoping to break the news to you real gentle, but I guess I gotta spell out everythin’. Hmm?”

He paused a beat, wondering what kinda reaction to expect from the girl… A shrill, noisy hysteria. Pig-headed denial. Forehead furrowing confusion. He would prefer the hysteria. Hell. You needed the patience of a goddamn saint to deal with those other two.

“You aren’t in America. You’re in Pandora. You no longer have to spend every waking - and sleeping - moment worryin’ about the biters and the bandits, although we still get ‘em from time to time. This new world - this new life - just isn’t defined by ‘em.”
 
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Lydia

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Although Lydia couldn't remember calendars either, she had an idea of time. The days, months and years were tracked for her mother to know where to travel to next. She figured that's why her mother hadn't been around when the storm hit. The nomadic pack had moved on for the winter.

Lydia rolled her eyes at the man's words and his tone. "Months? It's been years. I told you. I've been on my since I was little. There were dead walkin' around then, just like there are dead walkin' around now." She may as well stick with that lie. She had been alone since her father died, she'd been the most lonely when she was with her mother. She realized that when she met Henry and Daryl. "Surivin'. Bein' like an animal. That's what I remember. It's all that there is." That was another lie. Daryl and the others were out there somewhere and they had more to their lives than simply existing. They were just better off with her gone. Henry was dead; no one else from that group should have to die.

Lydia had a vague idea of America, based on memories of fourth of July picnics with her father barbecuing and her mother complaining, before the world went to hell. Pandora could be a part of Canada or Mexico for all she knew, though she doubted she'd bee close enough to either to end it up there so quickly. Maybe it was a place he made up. Names were no longer important.

Lydia shrugged. "It doesn't matter what the place is called. I don't know where your Pandora borders are; didn't mean to cross'em." Borders were important. "And yeah, I know people are worse than biters, but we still gotta worry about the biters. Or you end up one of them." Or end up as a mask for one of her mother's pack. "Life's defined by not being dead." Everything else,like the smell of the bacon cooking, was a luxury. This guy had to know that. Or her mother would show up and be the end of the world in this Pandora camp too.
 
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The Governor clenched his jaw, a trickle of irritation warming his chest. She was in denial, too stubborn to see there was more in life now than biters and bandits. He decided to give it a rest. He’d figure out another way to break through that bubble wrap of delusion.

“Can’t argue with that point,” he remarked dryly, referring to her definition of life.

He picked up a spatula, using it to shift the fried eggs from the spitting skillet to their plates. His stomach did a discreet flip of delight, seein’ the food ready to eat. He’d already had breakfast today, but hell, he was always hungry. The only times his belly felt full and content was the day after a full moon, though only if he’d had a successful hunt. If he didn’t get to cram himself with deer or steer meat, he wound up hungrier than ever the next day.

Philip set the plates down on the table, then sunk into a chair opposite Lydia. Course he preferred to eat his bacon and eggs roar raw, eating ‘em cooked only to create a normal appearance in front of humans. Talking of normal appearances…

He took up his knife and fork, slicing through one of the eggs, proud of the way the rich golden yolk oozed out on to the plate. He’d sure come a long way as a single parent.

“Let’s eat,” he grinned at Lydia, injecting warmth and good cheer into his voice. In the old days, he would’ve bowed his head and said grace, but he had a low opinion of God… All the gods in Pandora. They’d never helped him, only made things a hell load worse.

The Governor popped a section of dissected egg in his mouth, savoring the rubbery, shivery texture and poultry taste. When you were always hungry… When you thought about meat - raw dripping meat - as much as him, it was easy to forget to relish every bite of food. You just wanted to shovel it down your throat, plug up that big old hole in your belly.
 
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Lydia

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The food smelled delicious and Lydia's thoughts were immediately only centered on eating. She picked up a piece of bacon off the plate with her bare hands and tore off a large piece with her teeth, eating it quickly. She finished the slice of bacon, licked her fingers, then wiped them on her sweater. Old habits. She'd never minded eating this way around the others back in the kingdom, though she did make an effort to copy Daryl when he was around out of a respect for him.

It occurred to Lydia that since Philip was the only person she'd encountered since being lost - it might be a good idea not to offend him like Ezekiel's subjects. She glanced to him, then grabbed the knife and fork. moving them in her hands to hold them the same way that he did. She tried a piece of her egg, eating it the same way he did. It was very different from a raw one stolen from a wild's bird's nest.

"It's good." Lydia mumbled sincerely, between bites. It was surprising how much she enjoyed it. Temperature, taste and texture of food weren't supposed to matter. Her mother only valued having just enough to give their bodies enough fuel for the day. And in the kingdom, she only ate when Daryl made sure she did - it had been hard to trust food made by the subjects, after what her mother had done to them. "Strange to eat like this. But good."

Lydia ate more quickly, expecting the smell of the food to draw others. Someone stronger, more powerful and higher up in Philip's pack might take her plate. It was the way things worked. "The rest of your group doesn't mind you eating without them?" She asked. That must have been it. He was their alpha, even if he used an old world name.
 
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The Governor

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He eyed her discreetly, noting the way she ate with her bare hands, licking her fingers like a child… A primitive human… An animal. Though that was nothin’ surprising in post Turn America. If you were livin’ in the wild, the least you’d concern yourself with was table manners.

“S’awright,” he said when she picked up the knife and fork. “Eat however you feel most comfortable.”

They had shifters here who ate with their faces - even when they were human. It wasn’t a pretty sight. Philip guessed he shouldn’t seat her next to any of ‘em when it came to the next big meal. He figured it was gonna take her an age to accept that this wasn’t her world, that there was more to it than the biters and bandits… Assuming she stuck around the ranch, anyhow.

Course she was gonna stick around the ranch. Once you stepped foot on his property, ate his food, you couldn’t just go on your merry way again. You became a valuable member of the group.

“No,” he responded simply, a laugh in his voice. “Most folk eat their meals in private. There’re communal areas, too, where they can go if they aren’t picky about what they eat. But nobody - not me - is expected to attend. I guess the only time it’s a little like that is during the full moon.”

‘Cos he had to play host. The others had never voiced that expectation aloud, but he’d felt it from ‘em.

He bit into bacon, tasting rich, salty meat. There was a secretive gleam in his one good eye. If she stayed around that long, he’d have to get someone to watch her on the night of the next full moon. Obviously someone whose shape wasn’t tied to the light in the sky. She would have to find out about 'em eventually, though. She would have to become one of ‘em. Just a scratch. A nip.

“It’s a religious thing,” he said by way of explanation, baring his teeth in a grin, before swiftly changing the subject. “Tell me about your parents. They treat you good before you lost ‘em?”
 
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