Ben swerved, somehow managing to keep the Impala on the road. The thirteen-year-old knew he was warded, but he thought he must have a guardian angel that kept him from killing them all. Sam was lying in some kind of coma in the back seat, and Jody was practically the same in the front. Her eyes were open, but she didn't seem to be there at all. She hadn't even blinked when Ben spun the car while trying to avoid a packed prison bus that seemed to come out of nowhere, nor when he took the curve too fast and almost went off the road.
They sat at the crossroads. “Aunt Jody,” he said quietly. When she made no move toward him, he tried to make his voice sound stern. “Aunt Jody! I don't know which way the bus went. Where do we go?”
Still, she said nothing, so Ben sat there for a while, hoping Dean might catch up.
They'd both seen what that horrible man had done to Bobby. Beheaded him just like a vamp! He and Jody had come out of the prison to see poor Bobby's body, as well as several of the prison residents' bodies littering the ground. Sam's fallen body was gone, but they found him in the car. Dean, of course, was front and center as the battle raged on. Dean had been so mad that of course he went after that one-eyed, Bobby-killing son of a bitch. He had to have won, too. He had to have.
But Jody had stood in shocked silence, immobilized, and Ben finally had to push her into the Impala himself. Dean had told him to take care of Jody, and they'd done their job with the angel wardings. Cas would come and blow them all to smithereens, and then their group would all reunite and head to safety.
But now almost an hour had passed, and they still hadn't seen Dean come from the prison. To be fair, no one but croats had come by, anyway. They just sat there in the car, silent, as the croats walked right by them. But it was starting to get thick now, and they couldn't just stay there. More and more croats were coming from the prison. If he was going to keep them safe, Ben had to leave.
“Aunt Jody,” he asked again, quietly, “which way do we go?”
She said nothing, and so Ben turned west, back the way that looked familiar. He'd paid attention as they came to the prison. The roads were clear, and he knew where any potential danger might be. He even thought he remembered an empty farm off the main road a few hours out.
The hard part was staying on the road for that long, without hitting anything.
It took way longer than he reckoned, although he went pretty slowly at first. He eventually got used to driving fairly decently, he thought. He'd seen people do it plenty. Once he finally got the curves down, he was a-okay. An hour or so after that, he increased his speed. He thought Dean might have been proud if he'd been there to see it. After all, he only hit two signs during the whole ordeal.
Sam still wasn't awake, and Jody still wasn't registering. Ben took his gun, a Glock 9mm with silencer, and cleared the farm. The back door was already barricaded, so that was good. There was just one croat left inside, and Ben took care of that easily enough. He dragged it off the front porch. He'd learned at the prison, from Michonne, that the smell helped keep other croats away from humans, so he just left it lying there.
The tricky part was getting Sam inside. Ben wasn't near strong enough to pull him up the steps and into the farm. He needed Jody's help, and likely her full help. He had to get through to her somehow. He started with splashing some water in her face, but that didn't seem to work. She wiped it off without even looking at him. He really, really, really didn't want to, but he finally tried a move he'd seen on TV: he slapped her across the face. Hard, twice.
Jody finally turned her head and looked at him with dull eyes. “We are all alone, do you understand?” Ben asked in a tight voice, his eyebrows raised questioningly. Jody nodded, and Ben said, “Good. Now, I cleared this farm, but I need your help getting Sam inside. Something's really wrong with him. We can't stay out here all night. I need your help. Can you help?”
She said nothing, but after a moment, she finally nodded. Ben helped her out of the car and got her standing. Jody rolled her neck until it popped several times, and then she seemed to come back to herself, at least a bit. She turned no-nonsense, grabbing Sam by the armpits and hauling him out of the Impala. Ben hurried to take one side of the large man. It was a tough, long job, and Ben had to take a break twice to kill croats who had been brought in by the noise, but they finally got him up the stairs and into the farm's parlor.
Jody sat in a rocking chair and watched out the window, saying nothing. Ben went back to the car and popped the trunk. He'd never been allowed to mess in the trunk, but he had to now. He grabbed more ammo, a couple of machetes, and all the journals he could find. He was glad Jody had the foresight to grab everyone's bags before they'd seen what had happened to Bobby.
He found the pages with the demon and angel wardings, which he recognized from the prison. Ben took a can of spray paint from Dean's bag and did his best to copy them on each door. He found salt left in the pantry, and he salted all of the window sills. Only then did he finally scavenge the house. He was lucky. The house had been raided, but he pried open a crawl space and found a stash of cash, medicines, candles, and canned goods. He ate some tuna and tried to get Jody to have some, but she was back to not paying him any attention. Sam laid unmoving beside the couch. They hadn't quite gotten him onto it.
Ben hung blankets over the curtain rods, though Jody just kept staring at the blanket that covered her window. He lit a candle and sat down to read the hunter journals. He'd snuck a peak at John's a couple of times when Dean was gone, but he'd never seen Rufus's or the new hunter's, that Ed guy who had owned the island. He tried a spell he found to break a sleeping curse, but it didn't work. He stayed up as long as he could, but he finally fell asleep sometime in the night.
“Don't look back, Carl,” his dad gasped as they made their way from the prison. “Don't look back.”
Carl didn't. His last memory of the prison, where they had lived safely for so long, was of his sister's bloodied car seat. She was gone. His mom was gone, now Judith was gone. Everyone was gone.
His dad wasn't, but he might be soon. Rick had been shot in the leg. He'd tied it off with a strip of dirty cloth, and he wasn't doing too well. He must have lost a lot of blood, or maybe one of those vamps had fed from him. He was just so weak! They walked as far as they were able, but they finally found a house that Rick thought looked promising to stay the night at. They would have liked to have gotten a bit farther away from the prison, but Rick was moving far too slowly by then.
Carl knew they were supposed to go to the rendezvous point, but his dad would never make it on foot. As soon as they barricaded the door and Rick passed out, Carl went looking for supplies. There was nothing to be found in the house, besides taunting video games that he couldn't play, so he climbed out one of the second story windows and went scavenging elsewhere. He was headed down a side street when he heard someone calling for help.
As quietly as he could, Carl ran toward the cries. He peeked around the corner of a house, surprised to see Henry from the prison. He was trying to fight off a trio of walkers – and losing. He'd gotten one with his homemade machete, but then that had gotten stuck in the walker's skull. The other two converged, one biting his arm and the other biting his neck.
Carl started to shoot, but then he stopped himself. His silencer was on, but it would waste precious ammo. Henry was already as good as dead. Killing those things wouldn't stop anything. Instead he shot Henry, putting an end to the man's screams and misery. He felt mildly guilty, but not enough to stop him from sneaking up to Henry's nearby car while the walkers were busy with the body.
Henry had loaded up a car and took off by himself. Luckily for Carl, he'd loaded up a car. Carl wasn't quite sure how to drive, but it was easy enough to figure out. He managed to get the car turned around, even running over one of the assholes who ate Henry, and drove it back to the safe house where his father was. He used Henry's duffel bag and carted everything up through the second floor window, though it took him several trips. There were even a few books and one of the prison's industrial cans of pudding. He sat on the roof and enjoyed that after his labors.
His dad hadn't moved. Henry had even stolen some of the medicines, and Carl tried to give some to him, but Rick wouldn't rouse. Carl sat back and wondered what his next move should be. Just then, Rick's hand began to twitch. Carl gulped and grabbed his gun.
Could I shoot him? he wondered. They're gone. All gone. It'll all be better if I'm gone too. With those morbid thoughts, he resolved not to shoot his father's corpse. Let Rick kill him and be done with it.
Rick groaned, and Carl did what he could to swallow back tears. Then, to his amazement, he heard, “Caaaarl...” His dad wasn't dead!
Carl fell to the floor, cradling his father's head in his lap. “I'm scared,” he whispered, but his father only groaned. Carl opened the penicillin he had found and shook out two capsules, forcing them down Rick's throat one at a time with spilled sips of water. They finally managed to go down, though Rick never fully came to.
Carl sat beside him and watched him through the night.
Mika plodded along behind Carol while Tyreese, with Judith on his back, covered the rear. Mika was safe enough to fret, and she did so liberally.
Her father was dead. She saw him shot down as he tried to help the children get onto the bus. Then Lizzie decided they should fight back, and she'd ran right into the thick of the battle! Mika didn't know what she'd been doing with her hands, but Lizzie did something to help defeat those vampires, and they hadn't liked that at all. No, they'd attacked her and taken her hostage, and now Mika had no one left in the world.
That wasn't entirely true. She had Carol, and Carol could handle anything. Carol tried to teach Mika how to be brave and strong, but she just wasn't as brave and strong as Lizzie was. Still, where had that gotten Lizzie? Likely killed, if not worse.
“Don't worry,” Carol said for the hundredth time. “We're going to find your sister.”
“Carol,” Tyreese said, “I want to find her just as much as you, but we have to meet everyone at the rendezvous point. Rick's gonna be lookin' for his little girl!”
“Take her and go. For that matter, take Mika with you.”
“I can't leave you alone out here.”
“I'm a big girl, Tyreese.”
“Nuh-uh. All this crazy shit going down? I'm staying with you. But these girls need us now. Let's just go to the rendezvous and make a plan.”
Carol sighed. “I have a plan. I'm hunting the vampires who took Lizzie, and I'm not going to waste time going in the opposite direction and let the trail go cold.”
Mika did her best to drown them out with her mind. Vampires, rendezvous...what did it matter? Everyone was going to die no matter which way they took.
They camped in a small cabin, and Carol was gone in the morning. Tyreese changed and fed Judith, then they set out for the rendezvous point. “We need Carol!” Mika screamed, nearing hysterics. “I'm only alive because of Carol! I can't make it without her!”
“You can make it, Mika, and you will make it,” Tyreese promised her. He fondled his trusty hammer. “I'll take care of you. I promise.”
Mika thought that Tyreese could probably follow Carol's trail, but he took them back the way they came instead.
Hershel, Beth, and Daryl were already at the rendezvous point. Apparently all of the Woodbury residents had died when the bus was shot up while trying to leave, although Hershel and Beth both managed to escape. Mika felt sorry for the friends that she lost, but Lizzie had warned her not to get too close to them. It was her own fault for not listening.
Daryl left to go find Carol. Beth and Tyreese tried to talk him out of it, but Daryl didn't stick around long enough to listen.
Mika played with Judith, but she kind of hated it because Judith was still alive and Lizzie surely wasn't. It didn't seem fair.
In the afternoon, Maggie, Sasha, and Bob showed up, but no one else from the prison did. They waited two days, but no one else ever arrived at the rendezvous. Reluctantly, Hershel and Maggie decided that they should fall back to the next rendezvous point some twenty miles north. Sasha found a van with mattresses in the back, and they all piled in. Maggie finally stopped pacing once they loaded in the van, but she kept tapping her fingers nervously. She was worried about Glenn, Mika knew. Nobody spoke of Lizzie.
There was no sign of any of their friends as the remaining prison residents head north.
“Let me go!” Lizzie screams once she comes to. She tries to use her super magic powers, but nothing happens.
The man laughs. “That was some pretty impressive stuff you did back at the prison.”
Lizzie keeps shaking her hands at him, waiting for her powers to flow, but everything just fizzles. She looks at the man with a frown. “What have you done to me?”
“It's called a binding,” the man explains with a smile. “You're a very special little girl, you know that?”
Lizzie scoffs. “Yeah. People been saying that my whole life.”
“Oh, I don't mean special-woo-woo. I mean special.” The man walks the room, and Lizzie finally thinks to look around. She's in a room made of concrete blocks and no windows, and she thinks it might be a basement. There are dusty old shelves filled with all manner of food supplies, games, even toys. “See?” the man says. “You'll like it here. We've got it all set up. And there are friends, too. Other children just like you. Special.”
“You guys killed my dad. Why should I trust you?”
“Because we need you, sweetness,” the man admits. “When this sickness hit, you never caught it, did you?” Lizzie shakes her head. “You are protected somehow. We're not sure how, but something about you – and the other kids like you – kept you from getting sick. And if we drink from you, we don't get sick either.”
“You're a vampire.”
“Smart cookie. Now, your friends killed all of my friends, but I'm not going to hold that against you. I've already fed off you, so I'm all healed up. We can be friends, if you'll behave. You can eat, play with these toys, and once I'm sure you won't try anything stupid, I'll introduce you to the others.”
Lizzie feels her neck, only now noticing the crusted blood where the nasty man had fed on her. She shakes her head. “That wasn't cool.”
“You'll get used to it.”
But Lizzie doesn't want to get used to it. Lizzie doesn't want to be kept like a feed hog. She wants to kill that jerkwad one way or another. She tries to stand, but she's dizzy from loss of blood. The man rushes forward to catch her.
She grabs at him, surprised by his strength. She knows he'll probably kill her, but she's going to fight back any way she can. She leans back to look at him, then flings herself at his neck. She sinks her teeth in just as hard as she can, and she tries to rip his throat out, but it doesn't work.
He flings her to the ground, and she screams at him, “How do you like that? Not so nice, is it? You shouldn't do that to people!” Her mouth is covered with his blood, and she laughs at him, knowing she looks as crazy as people call her.
He stares at her with wide eyes, and for a second, Lizzie thinks she won. But then he says, “Do you have any idea what you've just done?” She doesn't, and she guesses it probably shows on her face. “I just told you that I fed off you, dammit! Now you've fed off me.”
She tries to stand, but she feels even more dizzy. The man barks a humorless laugh, which she barely hears through the ringing in her ears.
“You're turning, you dumb brat. What good are you to me now?”
Turning? She's going to be a vampire? Lizzie could imagine the power that would give her. She grins a big, red grin. “Oh, lots, I think.”