The night sky felt too low and oppressive as Glenn sat on top of the RV. He'd read that description once in a book, and could never understand what it meant until now. The sky was the sky, it didn't lower and raise itself nilly-willy. But now, he wished he didn't understand it He could hear Carol sobbing in the tiny bedroom of the RV, Lori trying to comfort her but failing. There's no real comfort when a child has gone missing and you have the concrete knowledge that they're in terrible danger. Glenn hated this helplessness, and kept hoping that any second now he's spy Andrea and Daryl coming back out of the forest with Sophia in tow, shaken, but unharmed.
When he saw the two coming back, his heart dropped. No Sophia. A heavy weight settled in on his chest, and all he could do was pray that the little girl had been swifter than the walkers. From his vantage point, Glenn could see that Daryl looked furious and grim. There was no doubt that he blamed Rick for this, because Glenn did too. Who the hell tells a panicked little kid to head back alone?
Glenn called down to Dale, who was sitting by the RV, re-bandaging T-Dog's arm wound after having washed it out yet again. “Hey, can you cover for me for a second?”
Dale looked up, and then over to Daryl. He sighed. “Fine, just hurry back ok?”
Glenn climbed down the metal rungs. “Thanks.” Dale just nodded and went to take his place. The old man wasn't sure if he approved of Glenn being around Daryl like this. He'd told Andrea as much, proclaiming that tigers don't change their stripes. But he wasn't about to open his mouth about it to Glenn, not now. Dale felt a certain tenderness towards the kid, and didn't want him to end up hurt.
Daryl was leaning against one of the hundreds of abandoned cars, looking tired. When he saw Glenn he just nodded.
“Hey.” Glenn wasn't sure if he should hug him or not. “You ok?”
The older man just snorted, looking away.
“We're gonna find her. Hell, you're probably going to find her before any of us do, what with your tracking skills.”
Daryl just kept fiddling with the strap of his crossbow. He didn't want to talk about this, because all he could think of was Sophia not being able to outrun the walkers, getting more and more lost in the woods. Thoughts of sour dead breath down her neck and teeth in her throat. The whole time he'd been out with Andrea, he kept hoping that they would find her curled up against a tree, safe and still holding her doll. But no. The sound of Carol's sobs, audible even far away from the RV, were reminders of his failure to help the little girl.
“She said I was awesome.” He mumbled.
“What?” Glenn stepped closer, hesitantly putting his hand on Daryl's shoulder. The other man didn't shrug it off.
“Sophia drew me somethin'.” He pulled out a carefully folded piece of paper out from his pants pocket, and handed it to Glenn. “She said I was awesome.” A wave of sadness and despair that had been cresting all day finally crashed within his being. Its sound was his own voice repeating 'What if I can't find her?' over and over again.
Glenn stared at the drawing, and his heart hurt worse. He pulled Daryl into his arms and held him. The older man was tense, but then relaxed into the embrace, his arms going around Glenn's torso and resting on his lower back.
“We're going to find her.” Glenn had no idea if that was a fantasy or not at this point, but what other option did they have? He kissed both of Daryl's cheeks before placing a kiss on his mouth. The older man kissed him back, then pulled away, trying to maintain some semblance of strength.
“We're gonna head out early tomorrow. Soon as the sun rises.”
“Wanna find a backseat for us to sleep in? I gotta finish my watch shift first.” Glenn gave him back the drawing, which Daryl folded back up carefully.
“Yeah.” In any other circumstance, the thought of sleeping next to Glenn would bring him great joy, but right now it couldn't do anything to break the sadness.
As Daryl cleared off the backseat of an abandoned SUV to share with Glenn, he wished he could be weak right now. It would be easier to cry, to howl at the injustice of it, or to go over and beat the shit out of Rick for not protecting Sophia. He couldn't though, not in front of Glenn. He wanted to show him that he wasn't weak, or scared, especially after he'd run away from him at the CDC. As they'd rode earlier that day, Daryl swore to himself that he'd never let himself be that weak again. Glenn had clung tight on to him on the motorcycle, holding onto him like he was the only thing keeping him alive. Feeling him there was the best thing, the most perfect thing. It was a ridiculous gift, and he was going to fight to keep it. So Daryl would be strong for Glenn, and for Sophia.
“How is she?” Andrea whispered to T-Dog.
“Bad. She can't stop crying.” He still looked a little dazed and feverish, despite the antibiotics that Daryl had given him. “Can't blame her though. Jesus Christ, we better find that little girl soon.” T-Dog shifted like he was about to stand up, but then thought better of it. Despite the pills and Dale cleaning out his wound, he did not feel good at all.
“I'm gonna go check in on her. How you feeling?”
T-Dog gave her a crooked smile and a thumbs up. Despite the pain and feeling like his whole head was on fire, it was still better than being bit. Andrea gave him a thumbs up back, and she climbed up into the RV, and peeked down where the small bedroom was. Carol was curled up into a ball, shaking and crying, Lori besides her, trying to talk to her. Andrea went over and stood in the doorway.
“I can stay with her if you want.” Lori looked up at her gratefully. All she could think of was how devastated she would be too if it had been Carl instead of Sophia. She left them in the RV, trying to ignore the worst case scenarios swirling in her mind.
Andrea sat by Carol's side and looked around the tiny room. It was funny how calm it looked in here now. The only evidence of her encounter with a walker was the slightly busted bathroom door.
“Did you find anything?” Carol croaked, wiping the tears from her face.
Andrea was dreading this. “No...we'll be out there again first thing in the morning.”
Carol let out a pained wail. The thought of her baby, her sweet Sophia, alone in the dark, scared and cold, made her want to die. The only thing she'd held onto was gone. She couldn't protect her. She'd failed.
Not knowing what else to do, Andrea bent down over her, covering her with her body, and held her. Carol's body was shaking, and she felt too small. The blonde shifted so that she was laying on the bed with her, spooning her. The physical contact was soothing. Carol couldn't remember the last time she'd been held like this. When Ed would hold her, it didn't feel like an act of tenderness, but like he was holding her down and reminding her that she didn't belong to herself, she belonged to him. This different, it was gentle, and full of kindness. She could feel Andrea's breath against her neck, making strands of her hair flutter. While it didn't cut through her despair, it made her feel less alone. Her sobs quieted down a little.
Andrea was surprised that the other woman didn't pull away. This was a pretty intimate gesture after all, and she had no idea if Carol was alright with physical contact like this. She kicked herself for not asking first.
“I'm sorry,” the blonde started to move away but Carol clung to her arms.
“No, please, stay with me.” Her voice sounded raw and torn.
“Ok, don't worry, I'll stay here with you.” Andrea held her tighter in her arms, one of her hands stroking Carol's short hair. She always thought Carol had the cutest haircut, until the other woman told her why she wore it that way. Carol had let it slip once that she kept it this short because of Ed. He'd hated long hair on her, and what he said was the law. Andrea hoped that the bastard was rotting in a particularly nasty corner of hell.
She kept stroking her and petting her, trying to soothe her just a little. It worked. Carol dozed off in her arms. She whimpered and cried, even though she was asleep, and all Andrea knew to do was to keep holding her. Laying there, she listened to the sounds coming from the top of the RV. Glenn taking his post from Dale, then after a while Shane coming to take over. She heard Dale come back into the RV. He poked his head in the back, and when he saw Andrea cuddling Carol, he gave her a wry smile. He mouthed “thank you for staying with her” at Andrea and she waved him away. She didn't want him to wake up Carol, who was now gripping onto her other hand.
Dale sat in the drivers seat of the RV and tossed his hat onto the dashboard. Sleeping there wasn't the best kind of sleep, but he doubted he'd get much sleep even if he was on a pillow top mattress in an air conditioned room. Besides Sophia, he was worried about T-Dog. The antibiotics would probably stave off anything serious, but there were so many other things that could go wrong. He was just thankful that he'd escaped the walkers.
Dale liked T-Dog. He was a kind person, and even offered to help with the RV from time to time. Not to mention he had a smile that was like pure sunshine. He couldn't believe that the other man had referred to himself as useless to the group. Dale accepted the fact that, yes, he was most likely a burden to the group because of his age, but T-Dog was young, smart, and strong. Besides, it wasn't right to categorize people as useful and not useful. Dale sighed and attempted to make himself comfortable. It was like every day now only had the promise of pain, and attempting to stay positive through it all was getting old real fast.
Carol jolted awake. Everything was quiet except for the noise of shuffling feet on the roof. She could feel a warm body next to her, which surprised her at first, until she remembered Andrea had promised to stay with her. The blonde was asleep, her mouth slightly open, her breathing occasionally interrupted by a soft snore.
Carol slipped out of Andrea's arms, sat up, and quietly went to the tiny bathroom. Dale was dozing in the front seat, and she did not want to wake him or Andrea. She turned on the faucet in the sink and cleaned her face. She'd cried so much that the salt from her tears felt crusty on her skin. She bent down and put her mouth under the faucet. She took several long swallows of water before standing back up. There were no tears left now, just fear and despair lodged deep inside of her heart. Carol tried to tell herself that Sophia was ok, that she would survive, that she would no die. It all felt like lies.
As she laid back down in the bed, she turned onto her side so she could look at Andrea. Having her there was helping a little. From the moment Carol had met her, she'd thought the blonde was someone special. She didn't take any shit from anyone, and wasn't afraid to stand up to people. The fact that she'd tried to to defend her from Ed had shown her that she was not the one to back down. The other woman wished she could have her strength.
Carol inched closer so that she could be in the warmth of the other woman's body. She closed her eyes, but sleep didn't come.
Sophia couldn't remember what Rick said. Keep the sun on which shoulder? It didn't matter now, the sun was gone. She'd ran and ran and ran until she was sure she couldn't hear the groans and rattles, or the sound of heavy footsteps, or the sounds of hunger. Her shoes were still wet and felt awful on her feet.
It was dark now, and the moon wasn't giving her any light by which she could run. So she stopped. She was too scared to cry and too frightened to scream out for her mother.
She kept moving though, slowly, her hand groping the air in front of her. Her eyes were used to the darkness now, so she could make out the shapes of trees. She stopped in front of one that looked bigger than the others. Her hands moved across its bark, and she found a split in it. It was a hole within the tree, just big enough for her to squeeze herself into. Inside of the dying tree it smelled rotten, and there were sounds of insects moving and rustling. Sophia could feel them against her skin. But staying in the open was not an option.
Holding onto her legs, she laid her head on her knees, her doll between her chest and lap. She allowed herself to close her eyes once, then jolted awake when she thought she heard footsteps nearby. When she looked out it was just a deer bounding away in the dark.
Sophia let the tears come, but stayed quiet. She kept imagining that any second now her mother or Mr. Daryl would peek into the tree, hold out their arms, and take her back to the cars. But the night wore on, and she was still alone.
When it became light enough for her to see outside, she crawled out of her shelter and kept moving. Sophia knew the old rule. If you get lost in the woods, stay in one place until someone finds you. That was useless now. Staying still meant death, and she was not going to choose that.
Tired, but not willing to give in to it, Sophia walked through the woods until she found a clearing. There was a church there.
'Sanctuary.' She remembered the world from the Hunchback of Notre Dame movie. She used to have it on DVD, before they had to leave everything behind and run away from their house because people were dying and not staying dead.
She hobbled up to the wide church door, and opened it a crack.
When she saw what was inside, she had to bite down on her tongue to keep from screaming.