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The Walking Loner

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Carl is fine. The camp is fine. His mother is fine. Shane is fine. Their new friends are fine. Still, Carl wants his dad; he can't have him and he had to find a way to be okay with that. Carl's father is dead. Rick Grimes never woke up in his hospital bed or if he did... he's dead now. Carl knows that. He knows it but he doesn't always want to believe it, it's a weird day when he finally accepts it.

Glenn comes home from a difficult run, his first with a group and Carl can tell it was a hard one. He doesn't ask. He knows better than to ask after he sees the blood. Besides, he has this horrible feeling that the wrong people have come home from that run. He checks again. Merle, Andrea, Jacqui, T-Dog and Glenn. Five people went out and the same five people returned. Carl doesn't know why that feels wrong. He tries not to glare and he ignores the squirming in his gut when Daryl and Merle share the infamous Dixon half-hug. It's barely a hug, Carl only calls it a hug because Merle half puts his arm around his brother as they shake hands. He doesn't like the Dixon brothers but today he's especially angry to see them together, he can't out a finger on why. He never will.

He hears an inkling that they lost a guy out there. Glenn had tried to save him but the guy had been too excited to use his gun, it had attracted too many Geeks and they overran him. Merle is pretty sure the guy was a police officer, Carl hears him telling Shane that it was "one of you pigs", but the man is promptly shut up when people see that Carl is within hearing distance. Probably so that Carl didn't immediately jump to conclusions, he did. It probably wasn't his dad, it's pretty far-fetched. One man wakes up in a hospital room and makes it this far before dying right in front of Glenn? Carl chooses to believe it was his father. Glenn saw the man die, it's much easier to know someone is dead when someone you trust saw them die. He believes Rick is dead now, it barely hurts. He already grieved.

He doesn't know that in another world, today is the day his dad comes home. He has no idea that in another world he got his dad back because this isn't that world. In this world, Rick Grimes is dead. He cries one more time. Carl is fine.

Chapter Text

"Will you teach me how to fish?" Carl asks the younger of the blonde sisters.

Amy chuckles as she looks up, "Of course. If it's okay with your mom?"

Carl looks at Lori eagerly, a grin on his face. His mom nods and doesn't seem to have a problem with it, which is good. It's not something that will likely get him far if they get stuck somewhere without a lake, but fishing will be helpful. Plus, it sounds kind of fun. The two women start talking teasingly about how it would be nice to have some help from the men. He can tell they're joking.

He glances over to where Daryl and Merle are sitting, hoping Lori isn't watching him too closely. She doesn't like the men and she wouldn't like him paying any attention to them. He takes a heavy breath, wishing he could ask the brothers if they'd teach him how to hunt. Which is ridiculous considering he's terrified of the Dixon brothers. Besides, his mom would never let him go into the woods with just Daryl to protect him. She doesn't trust the man further than she could throw him, which wouldn't be far. Carl is watching the men and slowly zones out of the conversation that is happening around him to hear what Daryl is saying.

"So, China saved ya life?"

Merle nods, his eyes not meeting his brother's, and Carl can just about understand why. Doesn't seem to be in the men's blood to accept that they were saved by someone who wasn't themselves. Although Carl doesn't quite understand why the brothers hate Glenn, he knows they do.  

"And 'parently, he's Korean." Merle finally speaks, poking the fire pit with a stick even though it's daylight and there aren't even embers to poke.

"Don't get cozy. Idiots didn't even know you have to get the brains when that fucker came up to camp earlier." Daryl warns, but his voice isn't full of malice like Carl normally hears when the brothers are talking.

"Ain't cozy, city slicker just knew what he were doing for once."

Carl knows if the two knew someone else was listening, their words would be harsher. He lets himself wonder for a moment if that means that all of their anger and cruelty is just for show, he doesn't want to find out. He has to stop wondering after the gravity of Daryl's reminder sinks in. When Daryl had been coming back from his hunt, Carl had just found a walker. He's only still sitting here alive because the walker was already feeding on something else. The adults had protected him, obviously, but the thing had been so close to the camp. So close to them. Blood is pounding in his ears all of a sudden and he can't hear any conversation.

Carl hasn't seen many walkers, a few before they got to the camp and only that one since. Mostly his mom had shielded him from the dead while Shane killed them for good. He had seen through gaps in her fingers or between her body and her arms a couple of times though. Had once had to stop himself from screaming out when Shane had cut a guy down, it was confusing for Carl... they didn't look dead. They are dead though, Shane has promised him. It had helped to see the walker reanimate after Dale had cut off it's head, made Carl see that the thing was not alive. He hadn't felt upset when Daryl shot it with his crossbow. Well, he had felt upset, but he hadn't felt guilty. He didn't feel guilty now either, he'd want someone to do the same for him. He didn't want to roam around as a dead thing.

He's dragged out of his horrifying thoughts by Shane's voice, he looks up at the man and fakes a grin quickly, not wanting to have to explain the thoughts he was having. He turns to Amy again. "Shane's teaching me how to catch frogs, you'll teach me how to fish and one day I'll be able to catch all the food for the camp."

The girl laughs and Carl frowns, she's not laughing to be cruel but it's still frustrating. Maybe not right now or tomorrow, but eventually he's going to know how to do everything that anyone can do here. He's going to help, that's what his dad would have done if he was here; he wasn't which means the job fell to Carl. His breath catches when he realizes that Amy isn't really laughing at him, she's laughing at the absurdity of the camp being around for long enough for Carl to learn all of that. He goes to find Sophia and the Morales kids, he wants to lose himself in their laughter for a little bit, even if he feels like he knows a horrible secret that he can't tell them.

 

-

 

After Jim digs holes in the hill and can't really tell anyone why Carl gets a new reason to toughen up and learn new skills. The horrified look on his mother's face as Jim tells her to look after her family and keep them safe, make him curl into his mom. Lori wants to keep him in her eyesight all that afternoon, and so he doesn't ask Shane, Amy or Andrea to take him down to the water. Instead, he sits down next to Sophia and draws while she does her homework. He already did his earlier in the day, though he has started to wonder how helpful it is to do homework in this world. He watches Carol help Sophia but eventually gets bored, the itch to be helpful gets to him again and he looks for Dale.

"I want to help." He tells the man who is looking at the engine of his RV.

Dale chuckles but he nods, "Are you sure? Don't you think it would be more fun to be drawing?"

"I'm sure. I want to be like my dad. My dad always helped, and I need to learn how to do lots of things. If I want to be like my dad." Carl speaks quietly, not wanting his mom to overhear.

Dale just nods and sends Glenn, who had been helping him, away. Carl helps Dale for the rest of the afternoon. He doesn't really feel like he learns anything but he now understands that you can replace car parts with parts from a different car. He doesn't think the simple fact will come in useful, but it was still nice to help Dale fix up the RV  engine with the parts from the truck that Glenn had accidentally brought back from their bad run. Now at least, Dale will stop complaining about the engine being broken. Carl hopes.

"Is that it all fixed up? All that stuff you said was wrong with it?" Carl asks as he sits against the wheel of the RV, finally in the shade.

Dale nods, "That's about as fixed up as I can get her Carl. Thank you for helping."

"You're welcome."

Shane comes over now, "You did good, bud."

Carl tries (and fails) not to look too happy and proud about that before Shane helps him to his feet and guides him over to the campfire. Carl can smell the fish that Andrea and Amy had caught earlier cooking over the fire. He looks up at the sky, realizing that even though he's moved away from the RV, it still feels like he's in the shade. The sun is setting. Carl's stomach growls a little and he grins at the thought of dinner, sitting down in a space next to Sophia. Sophia's dad isn't joining them for dinner apparently, he shares a small smile with Sophia when she tells him and reaches to squeeze her hand gently. They both know that Sophia loves her father but loves it more when he isn't around, even if she won't say it herself.

He's trying desperately not to think of this camp as a family, his mom and maybe Shane but not really are the only family he has left. The food was eaten hours ago and they're still all sat out around the fire. Maybe they aren't family, but they're something. Something pretty close. It's way past his bedtime, he knows. Sophia laughs at something Jim says, he didn't hear it but the sound of Sophia laughing is contagious and he finds himself laughing along. The world might not be perfect, but right now it's okay.

Ed's shouting pulls him out of those thoughts and Amy's scream pulls him up to his feet with a shout of his own.

 

-

 

He doesn't know. He's not sure who's with them and who got left behind. He doesn't know who's alive and who's dead. He can't think straight. His face is buried in his mom's shirt where it has been since the camper has started driving. He takes a steadying breath, tries to think through what happened, but it was chaos. The only way to know who survived and who's with them is to look around. He does.

They're sitting at the front of the RV. Dale is driving, Shane is next to his mom. Carl buries his face back into his mom's shirt and shakes his head. She raises a hand and strokes the back of his head, she whispers something to Shane but Carl doesn't care to listen. He whimpers, trying to at least take note of the noises around him. To find some more people that survived. He can hear a woman screaming, it takes him a moment to realize that it's Andrea. Andrea is alive.

He doesn't think that he'll be able to hear anything over her, but finally, he recognizes that Glenn is trying to calm her down. He can't register what the man is saying, only that he's speaking and slowly Andrea quietens. Carl can now hear Carol, much closer to him. It sounds like she might be saying a prayer and he hopes that Sophia is with her. He can't bring himself to look. When the sun starts to rise, the RV slows down, it stops. Carl finally looks up again, but the daylight shocks him, it had been a long night.

He looks into his mom's face, listening as everyone climbs off the RV. He whimpers but climbs off his mom's lap so that she can move. He still clings to the woman when she stands and he follows her off the vehicle, taking a deep breath and finally letting himself look at everyone.

Andrea sits on the side of the road, her face still red, her bottom lip still quivering; she's not crying anymore. Dale moves to crouch in front of the blonde woman and Carl tears his eyes away. Sophia is crying, she's standing with her back to Carl, in her mother's arms. She's crying but Carl feels relieved that she's alive. Glenn and Shane are walking away from the RV, he can't see anyone else. Is this everyone?

There had been 33 people at the camp, Carl had counted them all and written a list of all the names for Shane. He abruptly realizes that he can't remember so many of the names of people not here. There are only eight people here. How can there only be eight people here? Carl checks over everyone again to see if he's missing someone. When he looks back over to Glenn, he almost breaks down in relief. There are three cars coming to a stop behind the RV, it's not going to be everyone, Carl knows that. At least it's more than eight.

He moves towards the cars to see who's in them but his mom pulls him into a hug. He doesn't resist.

Chapter Text

Three cars. The Morales family, the Dixon brothers and Jim. Carl wriggles free from his mom's embrace and runs to the Morales' car, he's opening the door to get to Louis before the adults can. In his peripheral sees Glenn checking in with Jim while Shane goes to the last car, none of that matters. He gathers the 7-year-old up in his arms and hugs him tight, it surprises Carl when Louis laughs but it makes him smile even now, after everything.

"Hey Liza, you okay?" Carl asks, looking up at Louis' sister. The girl only nods tearfully, she's a few years older than Louis and she understands better what happened. Louis had probably fallen asleep in the car and forgotten all about the horrors of a few hours ago or at least thinks it was a dream, Carl strokes his hair anyway. He can see Miranda trying to open the door on Eliza's side but she doesn't seem to be able to.

"Carl," Shane finally speaks from behind him, "their parents want to check on them."

Carl nods, unwillingly letting go of the young boy and taking a step back as the kid's mom and dad rush to get to him. It doesn't take long for everyone to be outside of the cars. Carl returns to his mother and takes a deep breath. Jacqui was stood with Jim, that was one more person. Fifteen people. That's still not even half of the people that had been at camp. After a few long moments, someone speaks up to the whole group, it's Jim.

"I remember what my dream was about. I remember why I dug the holes."

Glenn shook his head, "I feel- I mean, there's nothing I could have done but I- they deserve a burial, y'know?"

"Weren't we gonna burn the dead? Wasn't that the deal?" Merle asks, stepping towards the group.

"Not our dead!" Glenn spins to face Merle, "We bury our dead. Alright?"

Merle could take Glenn in a fight easily and they both know it, but he just raises his hands in surrender, "Alright Korea. Take it easy. Didn't know it was a big deal."

"His name is Glenn."

Carl wonders who spoke for a second, but his mother pulls him closer and Merle looks over at him. It had been Carl speaking up. Glenn nods his thanks to the child, Merle just rolls his eyes and stalks away. Carl can't help but feel a little better. He helps Shane get water from the RV and hand it out. They don't have much food, most of the food had been with them at the fire when they had to flee.

Once he's done, he sits with Sophia and he holds her hand. Carol kisses the tops of their heads and moves to talk to the rest of the adults. He asks to borrow the black marker that Sophia carries everywhere in her pocket. He writes out the names carefully on the road in front of him.

Amy. Ed. Jamie. Katie. Clarice. Daisy. John. Megan. He can't remember any other names, Sophia reminds him of one more. Zoey.

He can't bury them, and he doesn't know all of their names. This is the best he can do. Sophia reaches carefully and crosses Ed's name off the list, she doesn't have to explain.

The Morales family is leaving.

Andrea tells everyone she wants to die.

Jim has been bitten.

Merle tries to kill him.

Carl is still holding Sophia's hand.

There's a little talk about going to the CDC but Shane wants to go to Fort Benning. Fort Benning is 125 miles away, Carl isn't really sure how far away that is but it sounds far. He watches Jim, the man is sweating and the Dixon brothers are about ten minutes away from trying to murder him again.

Carl stands up, "Shane? Dad would want us to go to the CDC."

Lori shakes her head, "We don't know that."

"You think so, bud?" the cop asks, reaching out to ruffle his hair.

Carl moves slowly to where Jim is sitting on the roadside, Carol is sitting with him, a cold towel in her hand. He watches them for a moment before he turns back to Shane.

"The CDC is closer, and Jim has more of a chance making it there," he says quietly.

Shane nods, "But it's a big decision because it's in the opposite direction. Fort Benning is more likely to have protection for all of us."

Carl opens his mouth to speak, but Dale speaks first, "If we leave now, go to the CDC, if it's overrun then... we turn around. We'll have to get more fuel, but we'd have to do that if we were just going to Fort Benning anyway."

Carl nods eagerly to his mom, knowing that they wouldn't listen to him anyway, he's just a kid.

 

-

 

Apparently, the CDC was a good idea, in the end, it was the idea that they settled for. Carl is in a car now, the car that Jim used to catch up with the RV. Shane is driving and his mom is in the passenger seat. Carol and Sophia are next to him, despite the fact that there was more room on the RV. Sophia had wanted to stay with Carl, Carol hadn't minded the extra protection of being in the same vehicle as Shane.

The RV slows, the Dixon's truck slows and then so does Carl's own car. Shane gets out to see what's going on, both Merle and Daryl get out of the truck in front of their car and follow Shane. It's not long before Jim is being carried out of the RV by Shane and Merle. Everyone follows eventually, they sit Jim against the tree. The man insists that he's not going to make it to the CDC, even though everyone keeps assuring him they are very close.

Shane offers Jim a gun and he refuses because they'll need the bullets. Carl tries not to throw up. Everyone speaks to Jim quietly, Jacqui cries as she whispers to him. Carl doesn't have anything to say but he moves to give the dying man a hug.

Jim holds his hand out, "Not too close Carl, just in case."

Carl nods, he hears Daryl offer to shoot him with a bolt. Sees Jim shake his head, something about wanting to be with his family. It doesn't make much sense to Carl. None of this does.

They leave him there.

 

-

It confuses Carl that they've continued towards the CDC. There's no-one left to save with any medicine they might find there. It never occurs to him that this could be a safe place for the group until they pull up outside.

The building is large, and the shutters are down. If anyone is in there, they are safe. Carl decides that it's not 'if'... there is someone in there. There has to be. Carl runs toward the building with everyone else. There is a lot of shouting and their group starts to realize that maybe these shutters aren't going to open. Everyone is shouting to head back to the cars, Carl can't. He moves from where his mom is holding onto him, pulling him back towards the car, he hits the shutter.

"Let us in!" he screams, hitting his whole body weight against the shutter.

"Carl. There's no-one here!" Shane tells him, but Carl won't believe it.

It's not dark but there are walkers. Sophia is crying again.

He throws himself against the shutter one more time, "LET US IN!"

Even though he believed it so strongly, he's still surprised when the shutter opens. His breath still catches in his throat as Shane pushes him inside the building. He finds his mom, curling into her side again, turning and checking that everyone had made it inside safely.

"Close those doors. Watch for walkers." A clicking noise echoed around the room and it obviously endangered them because every adult pointed their guns toward it, "Anyone infected?"

Carl finally sees the man talking, Shane answers that no-one is infected and the man nods.

"What do you want?" the man asks, raising his eyebrows as if it wasn't obvious they didn't have anywhere else to go.

No-one speaks and Carl raises his hand before realizing that no-one will reprimand him if he speaks, "We want to be safe." he answers, it appears to be the right answer.

"That's asking an awful lot these days."

Carl just nods, "Can you try?"

"You've got stuff to bring in, you do it now. Once this door closes, it stays closed."

Merle grumbles to himself about the situation but no-one argues with the man's instruction. Merle, Daryl, T-Dog, and Shane run back outside quickly and bring their stuff from the cars to the building. The new man shuts the doors and they get into an elevator, he finally introduces himself.

His name is Doctor Jenner, and he's the only person left. Carl wants to throw up and can't help but feel cheated. The adults are drinking and Carl wonders if that dulls their sense of betrayal. Bad things are said, even worse things are hinted at and everyone goes back to eating and drinking like none of it is true.

He vaguely hears Daryl teasing Glenn, but it doesn't sound hateful. Carl doesn't think about how that's good, instead, he thinks about all the people who are gone. Where did they go? The bodies. Did the Doctor lock them up in a room somewhere or are they the bodies he saw outside? Carl tries not to think about it. He is aware that he's probably the only one thinking about it. The adults have let their minds be clouded by alcohol and Sophia didn't really seem to understand what the man had been saying.

Merle is really drunk, Daryl practically carries the other red-neck to bed. Sophia and Carl are sent to bed next, Carl is okay with that. He thinks sleep might help. Instead, he lays in bed with his eyes wide open, missing his dad and wishing beyond anything that something would go right for them. He knows that he shouldn't complain, that tonight his family got warm showers.

But, he also thinks it won't last and soon another awful thing is going to happen.

 

-

 

It takes two days from arrival. It happens right when Carl is finally settling down and thinking maybe everything is going to be okay. It's been a day and a half since he watched the video of a patient dying and coming back to life. They have food and more drink. But then, Dale asks what the countdown is for.

The countdown is bad and Carl tries not to panic.

The CDC starts to shut itself down and Carl tries not to panic.

Vi tells them that when the CDC runs out of power, they're going to die and Carl tries not to panic.

Shane tells them to grab all their stuff and Carl tries not to panic.

They still have a chance.

They don't.

Carl whimpers as the metal doors slide shut, he watches as Daryl is held back from killing Jenner and then Shane. He watches as the men hack at the metal door like it'll do anything. He watches as his mom begs for their lives.

Carl steps forwards, "Give us our choice. Let us try to survive." he says quietly and Jenner stares blankly at him like he hadn't heard.

The door opens, everyone runs. Well, most of them run. Jacqui is staying, and then Andrea. Dale too apparently.

They run up the stairs and hack at the windows to get out, Jenner can't unlock the doors up here. Doesn't have the power or the authority. The window cracks. It breaks. Carl is carried out of the building by Shane because he can't bring himself to run. Carl watches from the front of the RV as Andrea and Dale finally appear at the window, he stops Shane from driving away. The pair run. The building blows up. Andrea and Dale duck out of view. They're still alive. They make it to the RV. It seems to take forever for the RV to finally start driving away from the fire, two vehicles following it. Carl throws up.

Chapter Text

Fort Benning.

Carl has only ever heard about forts in the context of building a tiny one in his living room. Blankets and pillows would never have kept the walkers away and Carl is starting to doubt that Fort Benning will still be standing. Shane thinks it's their best bet and no-one disagrees, even the Dixon brothers are still following them along the road. Carl feels bad that the Dixon's make him feel more confident in this decision than Shane does but they seem to always know what to do to survive.

Glenn is reading a map and trying to guide them but it's hard because there are things on the roads that maps don't show. Merle had made a couple of jokes about how Asians can't see, let alone read maps, but at some point, it had become acceptable for Glenn to just hold his middle finger up at the man. Merle didn't even lash out when that happened. Daryl is on his bike, it's easier for him to ride up ahead and check everything is okay. Carl had asked his mom if he could ask Daryl to go with him, that was a hard no, he thinks maybe it made his mom cry too so he didn't ask again.

Daryl is behind them at the moment, signing something at Merle that makes Merle hit his horn. Carl sighs as all three vehicles slow down, Shane gets out of the car and walks up to the RV, Daryl and Merle follow. It's the same routine every time they stop.

"Mom, I need the toilet." Sophia insists all of a sudden.

"Soph, can you wait? I don't think it's a good idea to get out of the car right now."

"I'll take her up to the RV," Carl tells Carol.

"We can all go," Lori agrees, "It'll be perfectly safe."

So, that's what they do. Carl, Lori, Carol and Sophia get out of the car and move to the front of the RV. Lori and Carol join the conversation with the adults but Carl leads Sophia to the bathroom, the girl is nervous even just being away from the car, she's even more nervous when she realizes Merle is watching her from where he stands.

"It's okay. I'm going to be right outside the door." Carl promises.

Apparently, there's a traffic jam up the road, but Daryl thinks they should carry on. He tells the group that there's every chance the RV could fit through, there doesn't seem to be a lot of walkers and the cars are stocked up on food. That makes up their minds for them since they fled the CDC with no warning, they haven't had enough to eat.

Sophia comes out of the toilet and clings to Carl's hand.

"You don't have to hold my hand." Carl hisses.

Sophia pulls back too quickly and Carl sighs, he hadn't meant to upset her. He reaches for her hand again and squeezes it, guiding her toward her mother. He tells her about how they're going to get food to cheer her up and it works.

Carl and Sophia stay on the RV as they drive towards the traffic jam, they stop right before it and head to the side of the road where Shane is giving instructions.

"Dale, you're on watch. Everyone else spread out. Be careful, Daryl says he didn't see any walkers but that doesn't mean it's safe." he bites his lip and indicates the two children and then their mothers, Carl knows he's telling him to stay with an adult. "Medicine, weapons and water need to be brought back to the RV, food to the Dixon's truck. You find anything and you're not sure if it's useful, bring it to me."

Sophia sticks to Carl's side like glue and Carl only pretends that it's annoying. When Sophia moves away, he sticks to her too. He finds a yo-yo and tries to distract Sophia from her fear with it, he wishes he could be more helpful but he doesn't want to leave Sophia alone.

Suddenly his mom and Carol are diving under a car and hissing to get his attention. Carl pulls at Sophia but he knows that he won't be able to get to the car that they're under, he's seen the walkers.

He pulls Sophia close to him and whispers, "We're gonna hide under a car too. Be quiet."

Sophia nods, he can see her bottom lip quivering. His probably is too as he turns to get under a car. A walker gets close and Sophia lets go of his hand, getting under a car on the other side of them. It wasn't what Carl was aiming for, but Sophia was scared and it was better than Sophia still being out in the open.

He glances over at his mom and then looks for Shane under the cars, he's with Glenn. Dale had been on top of the RV, so Carl only doesn't know where Andrea, Merle, Daryl or T-Dog are. He chews on his tongue, watching as the feet of the walkers shuffle by, taking deep breaths and praying that everyone stays silent.

The herd passes. Carl reaches towards Sophia, she reaches towards him but suddenly there's another walker. It dives for Sophia's hand and she makes a noise, it attracts another walker and Sophia darts out the other side of the car. Both walkers follow her and Carl feels sick. It's his fault, she wouldn't have moved if he hadn't. In the next moment he realizes that no-one can follow the girl, everyone else is too close to their own walkers to move. He doesn't even really make a decision, he's chasing after Sophia.

 

-

 

He's not sure when it started getting dark but the light is fading quickly. He only knows that he has to keep Sophia safe. It's been a few hours at least and he has no idea how to get back to the road. At first, he had tried to stay parallel to the road as he guided Sophia, but they had to outrun the walkers. Merle had followed them into the woods after a while but Carl couldn't stop or call out, the walkers were too close.

He sits down against a tree next to Sophia, "I promise we'll find the adults again." he says quietly.

She whimpers, "I'm thirsty."

"I know 'Phia... I know." Carl mumbles, reaching for her hand.

"Don't." Sophia pulls her hand away, "It won't make me less scared."

Carl frowns, "Okay. We should move... it's not safe here."

"I'm tired, Carl. I'm tired."

Carl sighs and stands up, "We gotta move."

"Why? We're lost."

"The adults will find us."

Sophia shakes her head, "Mom always says, if I get lost, I should stay where I am until she finds me."

"I don't think that counts if where you are, isn't safe." Carl sighs but he holds his hand out, "Give me your marker."

Sophia sighs and pulls the marker out of her pocket, he carefully draws a sheriff's star on the tree they're sat under and then an arrow. "So we walk in the direction the arrow is pointing. The adults will know where we're going."

Sophia finally moves. They move through the forest like that. Walking in straight lines and drawing stars every few feet until they have to turn, an arrow on a tree in the direction they move. Then, there's another walker and they're running again and Carl can barely keep Sophia with him let alone mark their directions. They outrun that walker too and Carl leans against a tree, breathing heavily.

"I'd like to hold your hand now," Sophia whispers, Carl holds his hand out, it's Sophia that squeezes this time. It does calm him down a little.

"Look..." he whispers, he's seen a house through the trees.

Sophia is the one pulling him now, but when they get to the house he takes the lead again. He knocks on the door, no-one answers but no walkers seems to respond either. He opens the door slowly, instructing Sophia to stay behind him. He needs to look through the house but he wants to keep Sophia safe too.

After he checks that at least this room is safe, he opens the pantry and grabs a tin of peaches. He opens it slowly and then holding it out to Sophia. She takes it silently and he turns back to the pantry to look for something for him. Once they've eaten, he checks the taps but they don't work.

"Sophia? I'm going to check the rest of the house okay? We need water."

"Don't leave me." She whimpers.

He nods, "Keep hold of my hand then."

They walk through the house slowly, there isn't anyone here but there isn't any water either. They go back down to the door and Carl draws a big Sheriff's star on the front door so that if any of their group see the house, they know that they're inside. Then he draws a star on the bedroom door too, shutting it behind them to keep them safe. He chews his lip, Sophia and himself are both so tired. It doesn't take long until they both fall sleep in the small bed.

 

-

 

Sophia needs a drink. They had tried to stay in the house until the adults found them but two nights was long enough. The pantry is empty now, and they had been drinking and eating from the tins. There's no more food and no water. Sophia is slow, so Carl hopes they don't see any walkers.

They are only about 12 steps away from the house when they hear a gunshot. Carl is tired and he's thirsty and he's definitely not thinking straight. Instead of running back into the house, he starts to call out.

"Who's there? Hello?  Hello? Help! Please, help us!"

For a minute, Carl thinks the person must be too far away to hear them. Shane had once mentioned that the sound of a gunshot can sometimes be heard for miles. His voice hurts so bad from even that small amount of shouting. Sophia squeezes his hand, trying to pull him back to the house.

"I can help! Who needs help?" a voice finally replies.

"Help!" Carl calls again and a large man barrels into the clearing that the house sits in.

"Oh my!" the man frowns, running over, "My name is Otis. What's your name?"

"I'm Carl. This is Sophia. Do you have a drink? She's thirsty."

"I'm thirsty." Sophia agrees, her voice scratchy and she whimpers at the pain.

"Well, I ain't got no water but our farm isn't so far away and there's plenty of water there."

Carl nods, "Can you... carry Sophia? I couldn't but she doesn't feel well."

Otis agrees and as Sophia sticks her tongue out at Carl, Otis kneels in front of her so that she can clamber onto his back. Carl quickly runs back to the door, getting the information about where the Farm is and writing it on the door.

Carl and Sophia don't speak much and they walk fairly slowly. Carl imagines that Otis would normally walk faster but the boy isn't feeling great so they go pretty slowly. He gets slower as time goes on, slowly he notices his head hurts more than it had and his throat felt like there were knives in it. When Carl slows down to a crawl, Otis encourages him and tells him they aren't far. He isn't wrong, they break the tree line a few minutes later and Carl sees the farmhouse. The farm house is getting further away though and the light looks funny. The world is spinning too fast.

 

-

 

Carl wakes up. For a moment he fears that they're still in the house in the woods, that someone helping them had just been a dream, but Otis is sitting next to him.

"What happened?" he asks, wincing in pain.

"You passed out, Hershel said you're severely dehydrated. Much worse than the girl."

Carl nods, slowly sitting up, "I gave her as much of the tin stuff that had liquid in as I could."

He reaches for his head when he realizes how much it hurts and whines a little. Otis gets up, telling him that he's going to get Hershel. Carl doesn't know who Hershel is but he's too worried about the fact that he has a needle in his arm by that point. An old man enters the room, Sophia trailing behind him, she runs to his bedside.

"I'm sorry Carl they wouldn't let me see you and I don't know where anyone is or what to do," she says quickly with no breaths in between her words.

"Hey, Sophia... It's okay. Have you had water? Have you eaten?"

"She's done plenty of both." the old man speaks gently, moving around to the other side of the bed, "My name is Hershel. Try not to talk too much Carl, Patricia is getting you a drink now but your throat might hurt for a bit." he checks the needle in Carl's arm and then a bag of what looks like water which is on a hook next to the bed. "Do you know where the adults who were looking after you are?" the man asks after a moment, "Sophia isn't sure."

Carl shrugs, "I'm not sure. We're on a big road. It can't be so far from here, it took us maybe half a day to get to the house in the woods but we stopped a lot."

"Alright..." says Hershel, "As I say, don't talk too much. Try and get some sleep. You've been asleep since yesterday but it's not the same kind of sleep. Do you mind if I leave Sophia in here with you?"

Sophia grabs for Carl's hand, "Don't make me leave." she whispers and Carl just nods.

They're safe. Away from their parents and Carl feels pretty ill but they're safe.

Chapter Text

The sun is going down, which marks another day that the adults haven't found them. Now that Carl is safe and fed, he's got plenty of time to think about how his mom and Carol must feel. He's upset that he can't tell Hershel in more detail about where their cars are, Maggie is going to go out in the morning on her horse to look for them, but Carl is still worried.

Sophia, Hershel, and Beth are sitting out on the porch with him, Beth is the only person that Sophia will speak to other than Carl. Carl is secretly pleased that Beth is out here so that Sophia has someone that isn't him to talk to. He feels bad for thinking that. He watches as the girls talk, not really concentrating on what they're saying.

He hears the bike before he sees it and suddenly Carl is sprinting down the steps of the porch and off in the direction of the entrance to the farm. Hershel follows him with confused shouts to the boy, Sophia is held back by Beth in the confusion. Carl can't bring himself to care. He runs until he reaches the bike and laughs a little when he sees Daryl.

"Never thought I'd be so relieved to see you in my whole life," Carl says, reaching for the man instinctively.

He doesn't get to Daryl though because Carol is on the back of the bike and she jumps off to hug Carl. She grabs his cheeks and brings his face into her hands.

"Is Sophia okay? Is she okay?" Carol asks and Carl nods, pointing back to the farmhouse.

Sophia is already running towards them and Carol meets her halfway. Carl turns back to Daryl, his bottom lip quivering, Daryl rolls his eyes.

"It's alright kid, is fine. Rode ahead to check it was safe, I'll ride back and get ya mama now alright? Sit tight."

Daryl starts the engine up but Carl holds his hand out, "Can I come?"

"Your mom'll kill me," Daryl says but he doesn't drive off.

Carl gets on the back of the motorcycle as quickly as he can, hears Daryl say something about holding on and the man pulls Carl's arms around his waist. Hershel is telling Carl to stay but Daryl doesn't seem to care, he starts the bike up again and they drive off. It turns out that the traffic jam they had stopped at, it only a few minutes bike ride away but Carl can't find it in himself to find that funny.

The bike pulls up next to their cars and Carl hears his mother asking Daryl if Carl was there, if he was okay.

"Ask 'im yourself." the man chuckles and Carl moves to the side so that his mom can see him.

She's so happy to see the boy that she doesn't even seem angry about the fact that he's on the back of the bike. He jumps off and hugs her. For the first time in days, he cries. He cries for how scared he was, he cries for being lost and thirsty and hungry, he cries for having to look after Sophia and he cries for the fear of never seeing his mom again.

"Come on, we've got to go... Hershel said we can all stay at the farm. It's safe. Where's Shane?"

"Carl..." his mom pulls back from the hug now, her eyes full of water.

"Mom! Where is he?" Carl moves closer to the woman as if she's going to point him out now.

"Carl, he loved you so much..."

"No!" Carl shakes his head, taking a step back, "No. I kept Sophia alive. Everyone is supposed to be fine."

He's being loud, in a world where they can't afford to be loud, he knows that. He looks around wildly for the man, but he can't spot him so he throws himself back into his mom's arms. He tries to quiet his sobs but he can barely think straight, Shane is dead. Shane. If Shane can't survive this world, then how can anyone?

After a few minutes, Carl becomes aware that everyone is watching him warily. He hates it. He takes a deep steadying breath and pulls himself back out of his mom's arms.

"He's dead?" he asks quietly, needing the confirmation. Lori only nods so he takes another breath and chews on his lip, "how?"

Lori shakes her head, "Carl..."

"How?" he asks, this time more determinedly.

"I can't." The woman admits quietly, her own tears spilling over onto her face.

Carl turns to the rest of the group, "How?" he asks as he tries to stop his voice from shaking.  

"Freak accident." Daryl finally speaks, "No-one saw the walker coming, by time I got a bolt through it's head, it had torn pig's throat out already."

Lori gasps as if the information is new to her, it's not but hearing Carl being told makes her reach for the boy again. Carl pulls his arm away from Lori and walks over to Daryl who is apparently the only person present who will tell him the truth.

"Did he turn?" Carl whispers, his voice shaking undeniably now.

"Nah, didn't let 'im," Daryl says, his voice softer than Carl had ever heard it.

"Good." Carl half-growls and doesn't miss the way his mom flinches.

Carl wipes at his face to get rid of the tears, "Anyone else?" he asks carefully after a moment.

"Everyone else is okay," Lori says, standing up slowly and wiping her own tears away.

Carl turns to look at her for a moment but turns back to Daryl, "Yeah?"

Daryl sighs, "Everyone else is alive." he finally settles on.

"Alive... but?" Carl asks, raising an eyebrow.

"Merle 'n Andrea left, dunno where they went. T-Dog is passed out from an infection."

"The infection is nothing to worry about Carl, he'll be okay."

"Stop coddling the boy, he wants t'know." Daryl sighs, "S'bad, but we get antibiotics 'n he could be fine."

Carl nods, "The farm, they have medical stuff at the farm. Why didn't you go with Merle?"

Daryl looks at the floor in front of his bike for a moment and then sighs, "Had to find the girl."

"You were looking for us?" Carl asks, chewing on his lip.

Daryl nods. "Found the house, ran back got my bike 'n rode round to the farm."

It's dark now and Carl knows they need to get to the farm. Everyone is packed up and ready to go so he moves towards his mom and then shakes his head, he misses the look she gives him when he moves back towards Daryl, climbing on the back of the man's bike.

 

-

 

Hershel has agreed to let the group stay in his home after speaking to Carl. The man only has two rules in order to keep the group there. No guns in the house, none to be used within sight of the house and that his family deals with walkers, not their group.

There's not much room in the house but it would fit the fourteen of them just fine. Even so, Dale and T-Dog are staying in the RV right outside the house while Daryl camps in his tent on the other side of the yard. It means that someone is staying with the guns that aren't allowed in the house, so no-one has made a fuss yet.

Carl likes the new place and the new people and in the four days that he's been here there hasn't been any walkers on the property, he's starting to feel safe. They have someone sat up on the RV keeping watch at all times, but other than that, they don't feel like they need the security.

Carl is clambering up the side of the RV for his watch, he's not allowed to be on watch alone yet so he sits with Glenn. They don't say anything to each other, Carl is a few minutes late, Hershel had needed the boys to help with something. He sits down next to Glenn, his shoulder leaning against the Korean's own shoulder.

"You know, I could do this alone," he says after maybe an hour.

"It's not me that says you can't. I'm the one who offered to let you practice keeping watch on my shifts." Glenn murmured, "You're just as capable as the rest of us."

Carl laughs, "Thanks, but you don't have to pretend."

Glenn raises an eyebrow, finally looking away from the fields to look at Carl, "Hey. You did a better job than all of us of keeping Sophia safe. We couldn't even find her."

"I got us lost!" Carl frowned, "I kept her safe but she could have died because I didn't know where the road was."

"And now, you're bugging Daryl for lessons in tracking and direction. You're a good kid."

Carl looks down at his lap and nods, "Thanks Glenn but..."

He doesn't get to finish his sentence because someone is at the bottom of the RV ladder calling his name. He smiles at the sound of Beth's voice and leans over the side of the RV to look at her, grinning when he realizes that she has food. She's balancing two plates on one arm and using her other arm to climb up the ladder.

Carl rolls his eyes at the girl, "Were you a super-waitress in another life?" he teases gently, taking the plates off of her and handing one to Glenn.

"No, a gymnast." Beth giggles, "I'm sorry there's not so much food, it's been a busy day and there's a lot of people."

"It's okay." Carl nods, "When we settle down a little more, my people will pull their weight more. I promise. Thank you for the food, Beth. Tell Patricia thank you too and Maggie if she helped, and anyone from my group who helped."

Beth smiles, "I will. But it's our group now."

Carl smiles and tries to wink at her but his wink turns into a blink, they both laugh as Beth climbs back down the ladder. Carl settles back into his seat, a blush on his cheeks as he digs into his meal.

"Someone has a crush," Glenn notes quietly.

"Okay." Carl nods, a small smirk playing on his lips "Mister Where-Is-Maggie-And-Can-We-Go-On-Another-Run-Together-Please."

That shuts Glenn up and the two sit in companionable silence until the sun starts to set and Dale comes to relieve them of guard duty for the night. Carl high-fives Dale as he passes the man and heads back into the house.

"It's getting dark, you know you shouldn't be outside in the dark," Lori says as he comes through the front door.

"It's not dark, the sun is setting. Get off my back. I couldn't leave watch before Dale relieved us."

He can vaguely hear his mom arguing with him behind him about how Glenn is perfectly capable of being on watch alone. He ignores her and finds Sophia in the kitchen helping Patricia to wash up, he taps Patricia on the shoulder.

"Excuse me? May I wash up? You're doing an awful lot for us." Carl asks, winking at Sophia and though the wink still fails, Sophia just grins back at him.

Patricia nods, presenting Carl with the washcloth, "Thank you Carl." she says, her voice as soft as it always is.

Patricia just returns to chores on the other side of the kitchen but Carl still feels better because he's helping. He splashes Sophia who is drying things up and she giggles, it makes him reach out with his dry hand and rest his hand on her cheek. He's not sure why he does it and then he sees Carol watching them so he pulls away and gets to washing up. Maggie ruffles his hair when she passes him to get to the dining room and for some reason, it doesn't annoy him as it used to when his aunt did it.

He turns back to the sink and sighs, "Sophia, we're not safe here." he finds himself whispering, "I felt safe at the camp and then at the CDC. It's not safe."

Sophia watches him for a second. "Okay," she nods, "but we'll be alright."

Chapter Text

Carl makes his way down to Daryl's tent and knocks on a piece of wood by the door, "Daryl? You hungry?" he calls out.

"Nah, kid. Go back up to the house."

"I want to talk to you..." he tries carefully, knowing better than to just open Daryl's tent himself.

"Ain't got time to talk." the man replies.

"Carol..." Carl starts but he doesn't know what to say.

"Tell Carol she can fuck herself."

"Daryl!" Carl sighs and stands back up from where he had been crouched in front of the door, "Fuck you man."

"You can fuck yaself too!"

Carl finds himself laughing as he runs back up to the house, Daryl's stopped scaring him ever since he's been reunited with the group. He knows the man gets frustrated but he won't so much as raise his bow in Carl's direction. Carl suspects that Daryl doesn't like spending time with Carol because Carol sees that he's not just an angry hick. Carl sees it too but he tries not to comment on it, letting Daryl be angry when he wants to be.

"He's fine Carol... just not hungry." Carl tells the woman who is stood in the doorway of the house, "Where's 'fia?"

"She's still sitting at the dinner table, drawing."

"Thank you," Carl says, wrapping one arm around the woman quickly and hugs his own mother as she comes into the hallway.

"Carl we need to talk."

"Mom, everything is fine. Can you just leave me alone?"

"Carl, don't speak to your mother like that," Carol spoke up from the doorway.

"I'm pregnant," Lori whispers, her bottom lip quivering.

"You're going to have a baby?" Carl frowns, pointing his toe and tapping the floor nervously.

Lori nods and Carl doesn't bother to say anything before running off to find Sophia.

"Thank you for dinner Patricia!" Carl says as he sits down at the table, even though he's already thanked the woman twice. Otis' wife has taken to cooking for all fourteen residents with little help.

Beth is sat opposite Sophia, they're talking about the horses. Sophia wants to learn how to ride and Beth is saying that if her daddy lets her, she'll teach Sophia.

"Me too?" Carl asks and Beth laughs, but she nods.

Carl has got a reputation for butting in on people's conversations to ask if he can learn too. He just wants to learn everything and he barely has to butt in on the conversation anymore because normally someone will suggest that Carl will want to learn too.

He's even been learning how to hunt. He's not allowed in the woods yet, not after he had been lost, but Daryl is still teaching him the basics. How to walk silently, how to set up a snare and how to follow tracks. This morning Daryl had taught him how to skin a rabbit much to the disgust of his mom. Carl looks over at Sophia's drawing and smiles when he sees that she's drawing a rabbit.

Carl is thinking about going back to talk to his mom when he hears it. Otis is screaming.

Carl moves quicker than anyone else in the room, "You should all stay here. It's safe." he promises quickly.

He rushes out of the room and past his mom and Carol in the living room, his mom grabs at him but he avoids her easily. "Stay here mom. Look after the baby!"

Otis isn't screaming anymore, Carl knows that means he's probably dead. He runs anyway.

Daryl is already there, Otis is laying on the floor and Daryl drives a knife into the head of the walker who tore Otis apart just as Carl gets to him.

"Is there more?" Carl asks and, in reply, Daryl shakes his head.

Hershel and Dale are right behind Carl. Dale seems relieved that the danger is over, he bends a little so that he's the same height as Carl. Gently trying to encourage the young boy to look away from the bodies.

"You killed him!" Hershel shouts at Daryl.

"It was a walker!" Carl says as he spins round to face Hershel, "It was already dead!"

"No... No!" Hershel argues, trying to get past Carl to get to Daryl.

Carl holds his spot, "Hershel! It was dead."

Daryl stands up, moving between Carl and Hershel automatically, "It was dead. Back away man."

"Who's dead?" Patricia shouts, she's approaching them with Maggie and Lori.

Hershel turns his attention away from Daryl to tell Maggie to get Patricia back inside, the woman runs from Maggie's grip and over to her husband in the grass.

"Nah! He was bit! I didn't get his head yet!" Daryl calls, which causes Hershel to grab at Daryl's arm.

"I might still be able to save him." the old man insists.

"Daryl says he was bit!" Carl shouts, running towards Otis.

They're too late. Otis is sitting up, Patricia is thanking God but Carl knows better. He also knows that if Patricia doesn't run, Carl won't get there in time. He doesn't. Otis, or the thing that was Otis, pushes Patricia backward and the woman screams. Carl freezes as Otis' teeth sink into the woman.

Daryl runs past him and gets them both in the head. Maggie is screaming, Hershel is shouting, Carl's own group is suspiciously quiet.

"You killed them!" Hershel shouts at Daryl and the man actually laughs.

"They were bit. Good as dead or already dead. I did what had to be done."

Maggie and Hershel are guided back into by Jimmy. Carl moves towards Daryl but Lori finally reaches him and pulls him back even though the danger is over. Carl lets himself be wrapped up in her arms even though he doesn't really want to be there. He knows his mom needs the comfort of having him in her arms.

Daryl is looking at something that's attached to the walker, a stick that is wrapped around it's neck. Carl isn't sure what it is.

 

-

 

"I think we should be talking about why Otis was using a snare pole on a damn walker!" Daryl growls.

"He just died last night Daryl, maybe this isn't a good time," Lori says quickly.

Carl watches from the yard as the adults go round and round in circles on the porch. They'd be inside except that Hershel has banned Daryl from the house for killing Otis and Patricia. Apparently, no-one knows why Otis was guiding a walker with a snare pole. Hershel suggests that Otis was taking the walker away from the property so that it couldn't hurt anyone. Carl thinks that's the stupidest thing he's ever heard but he doesn't bother to argue, Daryl is doing enough of that.

"Dammit! Guy got himself infected and now it's my fault he's dead? Bullshit!"

"You don't kill sick people!" Hershel replies, his voice steady where Daryl was losing it.

After a few more minutes of arguing, Beth appears in the doorway and begs them to stop. Carl moves closer to the porch, "Daryl, come on. Let's go back to your tent."

Daryl doesn't need much convincing, he heads down the steps and towards Carl. "Idiot don't know his up from his down. Otis were dead and I had to kill Patricia, you don't just let people turn. You can't let people turn."

"I know. You did the right thing." the young boy promises, "Did the right thing by all of us."

"Don't give a shit what y'all think of me."

"Alright." Carl sighs, he opens his mouth to speak again but Daryl cuts him off.

"Leave me alone Carl."

Carl nods, "I'm bringing you lunch later though." he informs the man, though he has no idea if the Greene family will let him feed Daryl after last night. Carl heads up the steps and gives Carol an awkward smile as she passes him to attempt following Daryl herself.

The rest of the day passes uneventfully, Daryl disappears into the woods which seems to calm things down around the house. Glenn and T-Dog dig a grave, Carl can't bring himself to offer to help with that job so he finds Sophia and sits with her.

They gather around the grave before nightfall and people speak about Patricia and Otis, Daryl is the only person who doesn't come to pay his respects. Carl suspects that he wouldn't be welcome. When everyone is done, Jimmy coughs for attention, everyone looks at him and the boy glances nervously at the farm-hand.

"There are walkers in-" Jimmy starts but Hershel steps forwards and the boy stops dead.

Hershel shakes his head, "I saw was Otis did to Patricia. He never would have done that if he was... himself, not even if he was ill. I have my family and friends in the barn. They're... walkers. That's why Otis had a snare pole."

Time seems to slow down for Carl, but the group goes crazy. Everyone is moving towards the barn and no-one really seems to know what they're going to do when they get there. The group walks past Daryl's tent and the man looks up.

"What's goin' on?" he asks Carl.

Carl frowns a little, the question confuses him. Even though he was only told seconds ago, he feels like the whole world should already know this awful news. "They're keeping walkers in the barn."

Daryl and Carl walk side-by-side. No-one really knows what to do once they get to the barn, everyone is looking blankly at each other.

"We... we have to kill them," Carl says quietly, everyone turns to look at him.

"I don't think-"

"Hershel. We have to kill them, they're dangerous." Carl repeats his sentiment, still staring at the barn and then turns to Hershel, "How many are in there?"

Hershel shakes his head but it's Beth that speaks up "Mom is in there. Shawn too. Please don't kill them."

"Won't be us killing 'em girl, they're already gone." Daryl says with a frown, "He's right, we need to know how many."

"There's seventeen." Maggie says quietly, "Seventeen walkers."

"I made myself eighteen bolts. I'll get as many as I can, y'all can knife the rest." Daryl says, rubbing his nose with the back of his hand.

"Quieter than a gun." T-Dog says, "If there's a loft in there, you could get up there and take them all down before it's even dark."

"No!" Beth whimpers, Maggie hugs the girl and whispers to her.

Jimmy steps forward, "The way up to the loft is this way."

Daryl nods and follows him. Carl checks that Sophia is with her mom and then follows Daryl, Glenn, and Hershel not far behind.

"What if they're just sick?" Hershel asks as they watch the walkers scream up at them.

Carl frowns, "They're not. They're dead."

"If I hit a living woman in the heart with a bolt? Would she still be standing?" Daryl asks and the old man shakes his head.

Daryl points his bow down into the crowd of walkers and hits a woman in the heart, she doesn't even notice. Hershel whimpers but nods. Daryl takes out sixteen walkers, one bolt misses its mark. The final walker looks like a teenager, Daryl's bolt sticking out of her neck.

"I got it." Glenn frowns, heading for the ladder down to the barn.

"Back up." T-Dog tells the man, pulling a gun out of his waistband and aiming it at the walker, "One gunshot is safer than you going down there." he insists.

Carl finds himself turning away, there's something different about watching a bolt go through a head. He had seen bullets go through the head but a bolt felt more like a knife. He feels Daryl squeeze his shoulder and then the shot goes off.

"Clear!" Daryl shouts, the doors to the barn open and Beth runs in to kneel next to her mother, Maggie isn't far behind her. Hershel is already halfway down the ladder.

Carl turns to leave the barn, barely hears Glenn confirm that they'll bury them tomorrow and jumps down to safer ground. Sophia reaches him before anyone else.

"Are you alright?" she asks as Carol and Lori round the corner to collide into them.

"You just have to do what needs to be done sometimes," Carl whispers as he takes Sophia's hand.

Chapter Text

Carl has a routine, he's not entirely sure when he fell into it so easily, but he has one. He wakes up in the morning and does his chores, he helps other people with their chores and learns things from people. After that, he'll sit up on the RV with Daryl, Glenn or Dale, whoever's on the watch that afternoon, then he eats dinner before spending the rest of the evening with Sophia. The routine is calming to Carl even though half of the routine involves things that he needs to do because the world has gone to shit.

It's late morning and he's helping his mom feed the poultry when she notices that the chicks that they're feeding don't seem to have a mother.

"Maybe she got eaten." Carl murmurs in answer to his mom.

"Sorry?" Lori frowns.

"Everything's food for something else."

"I don't think the chick's mother was eaten," Lori argues, frowning at her son.

"Actually..." Beth says softly, "Patricia probably used her to feed mom, the walkers from the barn I mean."

"So she was eaten," Carl whispers, feeling no satisfaction in his victory.

Beth tucks her hair behind her ear and runs back up to the house now that she's done with her chores. Lori and Carl share a look, both wanting to go after her and comfort her but knowing that there isn't a point. Lori moves to stand up and pick up the chicken feed bucket but Carl takes it out of her hand, Lori laughs a little.

"You know I can lift things on my own." she teases Carl.

Carl raises an eyebrow, "Hershel says you shouldn't lift heavy things. I have to look after you and the baby."

Lori smiles, "I don't think that bucket counts as heavy, but thank you."

Carl returns the feed to the shed and chews on his lip before double-checking his chore list in his head. He's all done, which relieves him because he's been busy all morning. He moves towards Daryl's tent, whistling out the short tune that warns Daryl he's coming.

"Hey, kid," Daryl says without turning around once Carl is close enough to hear him.

"Can I practice knots with you again?" Carl asks, watching as Daryl hangs up his leather jacket.

"Aren't you riding with Beth soon?" Daryl asks, finally turning to face Carl and leaning against the tree next to him.

"Not for another hour or so."

"Mm, and then you're on watch with Korea and didn't you promise the girl that you'd help her wash up?" Daryl raises an eyebrow, but Carl just stares at him. "Glenn. Sophia. I know their names, don't need to look at me like that."

"Point?"

"You should take a break. Ain't gotta be going all the time. I see you."

"I'm trying to help the camp. Not that you'd understand." Carl says, but his voice has no bite.

Daryl chuckles, "No, obviously not. Can practice knots tomorrow kid."

"Why not now?" Carl asks, moving closer to the man.

"I'm 'bout to go huntin'"

Carl rolls his eyes but leaves the man alone anyway.

There isn't anything else to do, he's done all of his chores and no-one else needs help, so he sits at the dining table and does what Daryl told him to. He takes a break, probably his first break in days. He borrows Sophia's pens to draw a picture, which feels stupid and unhelpful but weirdly calming. Then, just as he's starting to get bored, Sophia appears at his side.

"Missed you," Sophia says, leaning her head on his shoulder as she sits down.

"I woke you up this morning." Carl murmurs. "It's barely been two hours."

"Yeah but..." Sophia begins.

"You don't like it when you're stuck in here doing school work and I'm outside. I know."

Sophia lifts her head up and looks at Carl, "I don't like it when you're not with me."

"I know," Carl says, studying the girl for a moment. "But I'm not going anywhere far."

Sophia nods, "But anything could happen, you know that."

Carl is quiet for a moment, "Anyone here can look after you. Your mom will protect you."

"My mom didn't ever protect me before," Sophia whispers, but then she looks away from Carl, staring at the wall. "Shane did."

Carl frowns, reaching for Sophia's hand at the mention of her dad. "Shane's gone."

"But you're still here."

"I'm not going anywhere." Carl repeats his promise from earlier, "We should find Beth for riding lessons."

Sophia doesn't let go of his hand as they walk down to the stables and after their conversation, Carl doesn't make her let go. Not even when Glenn jokingly winks at him as they walk past. Beth isn't at the stables yet so Carl opens the stable door and heads to his horse, or at least, the horse he normally rides.

"Hello Albie," he says softly, using the hand that isn't holding Sophia's to stroke his nose.

"Hey." A voice calls from the other end of the stables as Beth comes in.

Sophia laughs, "This is really stupid, but when Beth said 'hey'... I thought the horse replied for a second."

Carl laughs, "That's because you're an idiot."

"Don't talk to her like that..." Beth frowns a little.

Sophia steps forward, "Oh don't worry, he doesn't mean it. He's teasing."

Beth nods, then she smiles a little, "You really thought I was a horse?"

"I guess so." Sophia grins.

They ride for a couple of hours, still only around the pen outside of the stables, but Beth finally lets the two of them gallop a little bit. They're both pretty good at riding now and Carl knows that the only reason they aren't practicing outside of the pen is that Beth isn't allowed off of the farm. He doesn't complain though, he doesn't really want Sophia out there either.

Shaking that thought from his head, since he's not Sophia's mother, he guides his horse back over to the girls. Beth asks if they're alright to stop riding now and they both clamber off their horses, Carl gets to the floor first and helps Sophia down automatically. They lead their horses back to the stables and Sophia's horse doesn't put up any trouble at all. Albert, on the other hand, doesn't want to go back inside, Beth takes the reins when she realizes that Carl isn't going to be able to get the horse inside. Her voice has a cadence to it that is calming to even Carl, so the boy isn't surprised that she's better with the horses than she is.

"I got it. You should go back up to the house."

"Thank you!" Sophia and Carl call to Beth as they move to leave the stables.

"No worries. You can let anyone else from your group know that if they want lessons, I can give them."

"Our group. All twelve of us." Carl says, a frown forming on his face as he turns back to Beth.

"Beth. We're not separate groups." Sophia agrees, "We're one group."

"Yeah?" Beth asks and the hopeful look on her face is enough to make Carl run to hug her.

Carl wraps his arms around the taller girls waist, "You said it first. When we first arrived, you said it's our group. This is ours."

Beth sighs, wrapping her arms over the boy's shoulders. She doesn't say anything, she doesn't have to.

 

-

 

Carl isn't exactly thinking straight when he tells Glenn he needs to get something from the RV while they're on watch that afternoon. The only thoughts going through his mind are that Sophia doesn't feel safe and his mother is having a baby. There are so many people to protect and so many people he loves here. He goes straight for the weapons bag and finds Shane's gun.

They had started having shooting practice for everyone who wanted to learn and since the walkers in the barn, Hershel hasn't minded the guns being around so much though he did say that they should only be used in emergencies. Carl wonders if that rule counts for him, he knows that it doesn't. He isn't allowed a gun at all because it would scare his mom, but he's got good aim and Shane's gun hasn't been used by anyone since Daryl put it back in the weapon's bag.

He returns to the roof and makes up a lie about needing a drink. Glenn doesn't point out that the RV doesn't have any water stocked up and he would have needed to go to the house to get a drink. He just gives Carl a sideways look and starts talking about Maggie again.

They're taken off watch by Jimmy, Carl finds himself high-fiving the man as he comes down the ladder. Just like he would if it was anyone else, even though he and Jimmy have never had a proper conversation the whole time Carl has been here.

Carl heads in for dinner, sitting in his usual place between Sophia and Lori. He asks if Carol and Maggie need any help in the kitchen but they're already plating up the food.

"Does anyone know if Daryl's eating?" Carol asks, but her eyes fall on Carl.

"He's out on a hunt." Carl shakes his head.

Carol sees the gun hiding under his t-shirt before he's even finished helping Sophia with the washing up half an hour later. Carl doesn't know that though so it's a surprise when his mom appears and pulls the gun out of his waistband before he can argue.

"Give it back!"

"Carl! You cannot have a gun!" Lori says, stepping back away from him.

"I need it." Carl insists, stepping towards her. Hands still soapy.

"You do not need Shane's gun. There are plenty of people to protect you here."

"I'm not gonna play with it, mom. It's not a toy." Carl frowns, "Look, I'm sorry if I disappointed you, but I want to defend Sophia. I want to defend your baby. I want to defend our camp. I can't do that without a gun."

"Maybe he's right Lori..." Carol cuts in carefully.

"He is right." Daryl finally speaks up, coming to lean in the doorway and holding his kills from the hunt out to Maggie. "We should all have a weapon."

Lori looks lost for a moment, but finally, she rounds on her son and hands him the gun back, "You will take this seriously and you will behave responsibly and if I hear from anyone in this camp that you are not living up to our expectations..."

"Alright! Alright. I promise." Carl whispers, putting the gun back between his pants and his skin.

His mother watches him curiously but when Carl goes back to washing up. She finally turns away to help Maggie clean up the kills. When the adults are back to not paying attention, Sophia leans against him slightly and Carl smiles a little as he continues to wash up.

"You could have told me," Sophia says almost silently.

Carl laughs a little. "I only got it while I was on watch... I was going to tell you. I always tell you."

"Mkay." Sophia chews on her lip, deep in thought.

"'phia?" Carl gets the girls attention again, "You're my sister. No secrets. No lies. I promise."

Sophia smiles a little, bumping their hips together and then nodding, "Okay."

Carl doesn't stop to think about how it's only been three months, about how they live in a world where people die too often. He just rinses his hands and moves to the living room where people are already settling down to sleep. He turns to make a grabby hand at Sophia and indicates the small area they've been sleeping in. Everyone is moving to get comfortable around them, eleven people living in one house is a lot.

Carl was almost grateful for the space Daryl saved by sleeping out in his tent still, though the days were getting shorter and colder. He and Carol had both tried to get Daryl to come inside a few times, but he insisted that he was more useful outside where he wouldn't wake anyone up coming and going. That only frustrated Carl more because it wasn't really safe for Daryl to come and go.

That night Carl and Sophia sleep the same way they have been since they got to the farm. She curls into his side and he wraps his arms around her, the only difference from their first nights on the farm is now their mothers lay on either side of them. Carl can't help but think of it as a small, messed up family.

Unbeknownst to the survivors, as they settle down to sleep, a large herd of walkers is less than a mile away; with no gunshot to guide them in, they continue west and straight past the farm.

Chapter Text

"Another herd was nearby again." Daryl calls into the house as he drops his kills on the table, "In the woods this time but by their prints, it looked like there were about thirty of them. Maybe more."

"We have fences, Daryl." Beth says, pulling her hair into a ponytail.

"We don't know if our fences will hold up against that many." Maggie steps into the room.

"I've said it before and I'll say it again I'm not leaving the farm." Hershel stands from his spot at the table and looks around at the group. "Besides, Lori is heavily pregnant."

Carl glances at his mom and his eyes travel to the bump, he smiles a little. He's sure she wasn't that big a few days ago but he's starting to realize that when no-one keeps track of what day it is, months seem to happen in days. It feels like she could have told him she was pregnant only a few days ago but he knows that seasons have passed since then. She told him at the end of summer, they're deep into the winter now, maybe even near spring.

"The farm isn't as safe as it used to be." Carl speaks up, "But we have look-outs and plans... We need to stay here at least until the baby is born. There aren't any other options." he turns to Maggie, "Unless you've found a magic wardrobe to take us to another land where walkers aren't?"

"Carl. There's no need to be rude." Maggie reprimands gently but she concedes, "we're staying, don't panic."

"I've forgotten the plan." Daryl says, doing his best to look confused, "I ride away on my bike and never look back, right?"

"Yes." Carl sticks his tongue out, "And don't never look for us either."

"Don't ever look for us." Daryl corrects, "Don't gotta talk like me, I ain't cool."

Later, after dinner, Sophia asks about the plan but unlike Daryl, she's being serious. It's maybe the hundredth time that Carl has reminded Sophia of how safe they are and the plan they have in place. He doesn't mind explaining again.

"Mommy and me go in the RV," Sophia says almost proudly as they get to the part where everyone leaves.

"Yep, and if we have to go quick then I might not be with you, but I'll be fine." Carl reminds her, their shoulders press together as they talk.

"You'll be fine." Sophia agrees softly, "You have a lot of ways to escape. I don't. I have to go in the RV."

"If everything goes really bad. I can run through the woods to the meeting point, so no-one has to wait for me. Especially not you. Alright?"

"Alright," Sophia whispers.

Carl watches her, they have this conversation too often but he knows that if she or Lori can see he's not safe, they'll try to stop the RV. The RV will have most of the group on it and it has to get away, it just has to.

He grins and covers Sophia's eyes, "It's pitch black. How do you get to the RV?"

Sophia points vaguely in the direction of the door, "It's that way. Right outside the door and Dale will put the lights on anyway. Shut up." she grins, pulling at his hand.

"I'm going out for watch duty in the barn." Carl suddenly stands, almost knocking Sophia over, "Sorry. I was supposed to go before sunset."

Sophia glances out of the window at the sunset and frowns, "You're not supposed to be on watch at night."

"I swapped with Jimmy." Carl pulls his finger up to his lips "Don't tell anyone." he grins.

As Carl turns to run out of the door, he almost runs straight into his mom and his eyes widen. His mom raises one eyebrow and crosses her arms across her chest making Carl roll his eyes.

"I'll just go upstairs and tell Jimmy I got caught." Carl sighs, heading straight for the stairs.

"Mhm. Tell him I want to talk to him too."

"Mom! It was my fault, please? It's embarrassing." Carl spins around at the bottom of the stairs to face her.

Lori thins her eyes at her son, "Fine. But it won't happen again?"

Carl makes a face but he shakes his head and runs up the stairs.

When Carl comes back down the stairs, he sits next to Sophia on the floor and tries not to sulk too much. She laughs at him and he hits her arm, his swing is a little too hard and she flinches away from him. The world feels like it's going in slow motion for a second before he manages to pull her into a hug and press their foreheads together. She's smiling and that would be all if no-one else had seen it.

"Don't hit her." Carol's voice travels across the room.

"It was a joke mom. Stay out of it."

"I'm sorry," Carl whispers to the girl, glancing at Carol.

"Hey." Sophia pulls Carl to look at her, "I know you weren't trying to hurt me. Stop freaking out."

Carl looks at the floor and Carol reaches them, crouching down next to Sophia, asking if she's okay.

Sophia's face turns cold, "Mom. I'm fine, thank you for checking on me, but Carl isn't as strong as he thinks he is. Unlike some people who have hit me."

"Sophia!" Carol frowns, looking around automatically to see if anyone heard the girl.

"Mom. Just go away. Alright? I'm fine. Thank you." Sophia won't make eye contact with Carl or her mom.

Carol does and Carl doesn't miss the look of hurt on either of the ladies' faces. He lets his forehead fall back against Sophia's and sighs, not needing to tell her that he thinks she's been mean. Sophia scowls at him even though he can barely see it because of how close he is to her, he just laughs at her.

"M'cold," Sophia complains after a few seconds.

Carl shrugs, "I'm not keeping you warm until you go and apologize to your mom."

"I didn't do anything wrong." Sophia pouts, "I'm right. She can't come to my rescue now. It's too late."

"Would you rather she cared now, a little too late or never cared at all hm?"

"You're evil Carl Grimes," Sophia grumbles, but it makes her get up and disappear into the other room where her mom had gone.  

Carl shuts his eyes and rests his back against the wall, he laughs a little to himself. He must drift off a little because Sophia is waking him up a few minutes later and curling into his side.

"You promised to keep me warm." she reminds him.

He doesn't reply, only rolling his eyes and wrapping his arms around the girl and entwining their legs. There's a fire in the living room but for some unknown reason, Carl and Sophia spend most of their time in the dining room which is colder.

 

-

 

The sun hasn't even managed to struggle it's way over the horizon when the warning horn sounds. Carl jumps up from his sleep, waking Sophia and calling out to the rest of the room as he finds his jeans and weapons belt.

"Herd headed this way," he mumbles sleepily to the people who weren't woken up by someone sounding the horn. Carl tries to remember who's on watch at the moment but the fog won't clear his brain so he gives up and head to the door, he opens it and waits for T-Dog and Hershel to pass him out of the house before calling into the house, "Lock the door behind me!" and shutting it. Glenn and Jimmy are on watch, Dale is coming out of the RV and Daryl is already at his post down by his tent. Carl moves to get off the porch but suddenly the barn is up in flames, which can only mean one thing, walkers have broken through three sets of fences and there's only one fence left between them and the farmhouse.

Carl squints and can see Jimmy climbing down from the barn so he turns his attention back towards the house, throwing the door that hadn't yet been locked back open and shouting into the house, "Barn's on fire! Let's go!"

Everyone inside the house starts moving and Carl blinks against his sleepiness to try and focus on what he has to do. From the other side of the house, where Glenn is on watch, he won't be able to see the Barn burning, that's his job. Get Glenn to where the fight is. He double checks that everyone within his sight is okay before tearing off to the other side of the house.

"Glenn!" he shouts up to the post, "Barn's gone up, we gotta fight!"

Glenn is in front of him a few seconds later and they both run back around to where everyone else is as gunshots sound out. He has one more job before he climbs onto the top of the RV to shoot from there, it's the only place his mom would allow him to fight from so that the RV couldn't accidentally leave without him. He moves to check all the windows are shut and locked on the ground floor of the house, he's not entirely sure this is a useful job but is also grateful that no-one told him he should just run for the RV like Carol, Lori and Sophia have to.

As he returns to the RV to climb up, he finds Beth leaned against it crying.

"I'm supposed to let the horses out so they can run, but I think I'm too late." the girl whispers.

Carl bites his lip, "Are you leaving in the car or the RV?" he asks, she indicates the RV so he nods and opens the door, "Get in. I'll see if I can free the horses."

"You're not supposed to!" Beth shakes her head.

Carl only shrugs and before she can argue, he's running towards the stables. They're not in the direction that everyone is shooting but Beth is right, it might be too late. There are more walkers than any of them could have anticipated and Carl can't see properly but it looks like they might already be over the stables. When he gets closer, he knows he can't do anything, the stables are surrounded so he shoots a few walkers who get close to him and runs back up toward the house.

The farm is overrun quicker than Carl could imagine, he's fighting off walkers left and right and his gun feels useless at this close range. He doesn't have time to climb up onto the RV, it's all he can do to keep his footing as he shoots into the crowd. He hears Maggie screaming for help and blindly runs in the direction of her voice. He's the first to her, he wonders if anyone else even heard her over their own gunfire. There's a walker on top of her so he pulls his knife out and gets it in the back of the head but she only points to Dale and Carol who have somehow been surrounded even though they're supposed to be on the RV by now. He doesn't have time to think about that now though.

He runs toward them, shooting the walkers that are in the way. Dale pulls a walker away from Carol and Carl watches in disbelief as it bites his shoulder, pulling away the skin there. Carl doesn't have time to stop, he grabs at Carol and practically throws the woman towards Maggie, screaming at them to get back to the RV as he turns to Dale.

Dale isn't making any sound which only scares Carl as the man falls to the ground under a walker. Carl kills the walker with his gun, his hands shaking as he crouches next to Dale. The man is still awake.

"Carl? Carl? You have to leave me. I'm going to die." Dale reminds him.

Carl covers his mouth and he has to fight back the tears, "I can stay with you."

"No, you can't. There are too many walkers. You have to go."

Carl wipes at his face and then nods, "Do you want me to...?" he holds his gun up uselessly.

Dale shakes his head, "I'll be okay." he promises.

Carl nods standing up and running back toward the house again. Dale was right, he had to go now. He finds Carol before he can get near the house, walkers had separated her from Maggie.

"I told her to go and... Dale... I just told her to make the RV leave. Sophia is on it."

Carl looks up at where the RV should be in front of the house and it's gone. For a second Carl is relieved but then he realizes that he has to navigate Carol out of here.

Carl takes a deep breath, "We have to make it out of here. For Sophia." he tells Carol.

The woman is crying now, but she nods and follows him towards the porch. The sound of Daryl's motorcycle is once again, one of the most beautiful sounds in the world to Carl, the man skids to a stop next to them.

"Ain't gonna both fit," is all he says and Carl is already pushing Carol towards the bike.

Both adults argue but Carl points to Hershel who is still putting up a fight a few meters away and then Hershel's car.

"I can make it," he promises, running in that direction.

When he reaches Hershel, he pulls at the man's arm, "I'm not leaving my farm to these things!"

"You've got to! It's time to go Hershel!"

"A hundred and sixty years, I'm not letting them take it!"

"Hershel!" Carl pulls his arm again, "I don't know how to drive and I don't have another way to leave."

That seems to do the trick, Hershel's face softens and he nods, "Get to the car!"

"Let's go." Carl agrees, pushing a walker out of the way and then climbing up on top of the car to get over it and into the passenger seat. Hershel starts up the car and they drive away from the farm, Carl looks through the back window at the farm behind them, the sun rising behind that. When he feels like they're far enough away from the danger, he settles down in his seat and lets himself cry.

"Mom's gonna kill me," he whispers to himself but it makes Hershel sigh.

Chapter Text

Months ago, this spot is where they lost two children temporarily and one adult forever. Now, it's the spot they use to find each other again. Just far enough away from the farm that any noise they make won't attract the herd and close enough that no-one risks running out of gas.

Hershel pulls up next to the RV and Carl just sits there, Hershel does too. Carol and Dale weren't near the RV, he doesn't want to find out if anyone else was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He just wants to sit here, he doesn't want any more bad news, he doesn't want to stop feeling like this about Dale. He just wants to let himself hurt. His mom tries to open the car door, he locks it. He watches Carol pull the woman away and probably tell her about Dale. Carl doesn't care.

Sophia moves towards the car and watches Carl for a moment, she takes her marker out of her pocket and writes on the window. She forgets to write it backward so it's the wrong way round for him but he can probably still read it, he doesn't look to find out. Hershel puts a hand on his shoulder after a few long minutes and then he gets out of the car, Carl locks the door behind him and tries to breathe evenly so that he won't cry again.

He's not sure how long it takes but eventually, curiosity gets the better of him and he glances at the window that Sophia wrote on. 'I can wait' is scrawled across the window and it catches Carl off-guard, making him cry again. He unlocks the door but doesn't get out. Sophia stands up, he hadn't realized that she had been sat down against the car since she wrote on his window. She opens the door when she realizes that he's not getting out and, when he doesn't stop her, she climbs into the car and shares the seat with him, shutting the door again.

"Did anyone else die?" he asks the girl, staring out of the front window.

"I think Jimmy is dead. No-one saw him after the barn went up."

"Okay," Carl whispers, even though he saw Jimmy after the barn went up. It didn't matter, the boy was dead now.

"It doesn't have to be okay." Sophia reaches for his hand and squeezes it.

 

-

 

How they've stayed alive, Carl's not really sure. It's pipe dream after pipe dream once they start looking for places to stay. They start with places close by that Hershel knows of, then they start using the maps to look for anywhere that could be a stronghold, but they keep getting pushed back by the few herds that are roaming in the area.   It feels like they're going in circles.

It's been a month since they left the farm. He just has to keep his family safe and fed, that's his only job now. There isn't anywhere left to look for, they could make a break for Fort Benning but they have no idea what's there and no idea what's on the way there. They just want to stay safe.

They stop their cars and Carl gets out, he checks for walkers and then whistles to let Daryl know that he can't see any. Daryl whistles the all-clear back and Carl taps on the window of his car while Daryl does the same with the other car. Glenn, T-Dog and Maggie are out of the cars quickly and they move to the house, breaking the door down and then backing up to take on the walkers inside. It's easy to clear. All the walkers are right by the front door, they clear the rest of the house within minutes. Carl goes to the door to tell the others they can come in and smiles when he sees Beth and Sophia bound up the steps and then Carol helping his mom, Hershel on their six. This is always the rewarding bit when his family gets to sit down inside. He starts to look for food.

 

-

 

Weeks later, they stop their cars. Carl gets out and whistles the all-clear before banging on the window of his car. Glenn, T-Dog, and Maggie come to the house with them, they break down the door. There aren't any walkers and the house is cleared in minutes. Carl goes to the door to tell the others they can come in and then he searches for food.

 

-

 

The cars stop. Carl whistles the all clear and then hits the window of his car. They break down the door and five people easily clear the house. Carl invites the others in and searches for food.

 

-

 

They stop. Carl whistles and bangs on the car. They break down the door and clear the house. Carl invites the others and searches for food.

 

-

 

Stop. Whistle. Bang. Door. Clear. Invite. Search.

Twice, sometimes three times a day. They need the food and frankly, no house is safe from walkers even after they've cleared it. When they stay somewhere overnight, someone always stays on guard and it's not unusual for them to have to move on in the middle of the night.

Stop. Whistle. Bang. Door. Clear. Invite. Search.

 

-

 

They pull up at the edge of the woods, there aren't houses here so the other car must be out of water and needing to fill up at the creek. Carl rubs his face and opens the door, standing up and whistling the all clear when he doesn't see any walkers. Everyone gets out of their cars and T-Dog confirms that they need water.

Carl hands over his empty bottle and then opens the trunk of the car to grab one of the bigger jugs. He doesn't speak, he's tired and Sophia is tired which makes him somehow more tired. He glances at Daryl, Glenn, and Maggie who are looking over a map, normally he would join them but he's not in the mood. Instead, he checks that people are on watch and gets back in the car, resting his head on his mom's shoulder.

"Huntin', you coming?" Daryl asks when he opens the car door a few minutes later.

Carl glares at Daryl but nods, "Can 'Phia come?"

Daryl sighs, "Ain't much point hunting if I don't catch anything."

"She has to learn Daryl." Carl puts his middle finger up and no-one tells him off.

Sophia follows Carl out of the car and Daryl doesn't seem to actually argue so they follow him. Sophia walks more quietly than Carl does, she's not a problem out in the woods unless something makes her panic. When she's panicking, she's talking or in this case, she's running.

There's a walker and it's Carl's fault that Sophia doesn't have her knife. He had panicked when he saw the walker going for Sophia and pushed her out of the way but she already had her knife out, now it was on the ground somewhere. There are more walkers, Carl kills the one in front of him and then one that was behind him but when he turns back to Daryl, Sophia is gone. Carl gets a tight feeling in his chest when he sees that she's a few meters away being chased by two walkers. She doesn't have a weapon and last time this happened she had almost died. Carl runs.

The walkers are dead less than a minute later but Sophia is still running.

"Sophia! You're safe!" Carl calls, Sophia hits the ground.

Carl frowns and runs to her side, checking her over with his eyes, "Are you okay?"

"M'fine. Sorry, I didn't mean to scare you. I'm fine." she sits up and sighs.

"Everyone good?" Daryl asks and when the two nod he sighs, "We're supposed to be quiet when we're hunting."

"You try being quiet when those things are chasing you and someone knocks your weapon out of your hand." Sophia pouts and slowly stands up.

Carl follows suit, "She's right. I'm the one that messed up." he assures Daryl.

They're not where they're supposed to be now and in the panic, Carl didn't keep track of where they were. He looks up at Daryl and makes a face, the hunter just shrugs, of course, he knows where he is.

"Come on then, get me back to the car." Daryl challenges Carl and the boy looks around.

"I don't know," he admits, glancing at Sophia and frowning.

Even though they were with Daryl who could definitely get them back to the road, this situation felt all too familiar and made Carl feel awful. He reaches for Sophia's hand, not sure if it's to comfort her or to get comfort himself, even though Daryl isn't angry, he still feels like he's being told off.

"Just try?" Daryl eventually sighs and Carl looks around again.

He tries to remember which way he had run after Sophia, he nods to himself and starts to walk in the direction he thinks the road might be in.

They've been walking for fifteen minutes when Carl realizes that he's going the wrong way. If this was the right way, he'd probably be able to hear the others on the road or even see it by now. He looks up at Daryl but doesn't say anything, just stops dead and sighs.

"What?" Sophia asks with a frown.

"I went the wrong way," Carl admits, looking at the ground and kicking a stick there.

"It's okay. I think we're supposed to be here." Sophia replies and both Carl and Daryl raise an eyebrow, she laughs a little. "Look." she points at some white flowers and Daryl grins.

"What?" Carl frowns, feeling like he's missing the point entirely.

"Cherokee Roses. I gave one to her mom when we couldn't find ya."

"It's a wildflower, could grow anywhere." Sophia comments but then she heads towards them anyway, "But Daryl found the rose the day before he found us. I think they mean something."

"Means hope. That's what the Cherokee people prayed for." Daryl mumbles, but no-one is really listening.

Sophia gasps when she gets to the roses and Carl's panic settles in, he runs to her but when he sees what she sees, he understands why. They've come further into the forest than they were supposed to, further than they would plan on because now they were a half-hour walk from the road, but it's brilliant.

Daryl moves to stand behind them, "Why are we acting like we just found gold? It's a prison."

"We could take it," Carl says, turning to look at Daryl and then back to the prison. "Look, the yard there, it looks like it's mostly locked up and there are only about thirty walkers in there. We could be in that bit, safe, before the sun sets."

Daryl looks over the prison and chews on his lip, "I don't think-"

"Please Daryl," Sophia says and her voice is shaking, which is all it takes to convince the tough hunter.

Daryl just nods, "We've gotta get back to the road and tell the others."

So they do, moving a lot faster than they would have in any other situation. Sophia is normally the slowest of the three when they're walking but now she is ahead of them most of the way back to the road. They practically run all the way back to the cars where people are starting to worry about their whereabouts.

"I got us lost." Carl admits as he comes out of the tree line to his mom's worried face, "But we found somewhere to stay."

"Somewhere... it might be alright to stay for a little while." Daryl corrects carefully. "It's a prison."

"We found somewhere to stay," Sophia repeats Carl's words.

The two don't care that the adults think they're crazy because they're sure. They needed to find somewhere, Lori will give birth any day now. They've found somewhere. They have.

Chapter Text

"We can do it." Carl insists as everyone stares at the fence behind him.

They've been trying to talk him out of this idea for the past twenty minutes but he and Sophia won't give up. If they can shut the gate on the other side of this yard, they can take out the walkers in the yard, giving them space and safety until morning when they could try to get into the prison. Either way, safety for tonight.

Maggie throws down a walker for Glenn to kill and Sophia calls out to Carl. While everyone is watching Maggie, he and Sophia slip through the hole she cut into the fence while everyone was listening to Carl.

"Carl Grimes. Get out of there right now." Lori grabs at him but he's on the other side of the fence.

"We're doing it," Carl says, glancing sideways at Sophia. "So you can come with us, or you can watch us."

The adults all stare at them, "You can't." Maggie reprimands and she steps toward them.

Daryl sighs, "Well, they ain't gonna manage it on their own." he mumbles, following them through the hole in the fence.

"If we're all in, we can do this. We need this." Carl tells everyone else.

Now that Daryl is in on the plan, no-one can really argue with Carl. Sophia cuts through a little more of the fence so that everyone can fit through the hole quickly and Glenn stays on their six, repairing the hole with wire once they're through.

"Right kid, what's your damn plan?" Daryl asks Carl.

Carl bites his lip, "Mom and Sophia stay in here." he glares right back at Sophia when she glares at him, "Two people up in that tower, two people in the other one." he points at the two guard towers, a frown forming as he struggles to check the plan in his head so that he doesn't say anything stupid out loud. "Four against this fence calling over the walkers and popping them through the fence. I run through the yard and shut that gate. We take the walkers out, it's ours.

Everyone watches him for a moment but then Daryl speaks again, "Alright. Carl-"

"You can't let him!" Lori frowns, stepping towards the man.

"I didn't say I were gonna." Daryl growls, but his face softens when he looks at Lori, "Lemme finish girl. Carl and Hershel are our best shots. Hershel take the left tower with Carol, Carl take the right with T-Dog. Everyone else on the fence, I'm gonna need y'all to distract those walkers from me. I'll shut the damn gate."

"No!" Carl shakes his head, "I'll shut the gate. I'm faster."

"And I'm the fastest, but we're doing what Daryl says right now," Glenn says, putting a hand on Carl's shoulder. "Go."

"Lori, open the gate for me and then stay outta the way alright?" Daryl says to the woman.

Carl glances at Sophia but knows she'll kill him if he makes a point of trying to get her away from the fence again so he just follows T-Dog up the guard tower. When they reach the top, Carl whistles and Daryl whistles back.

Carl watches as Daryl darts his way through the field and shoots at any walkers that get close to him, the problem is that now they need to be relatively quiet so that when Daryl gets to the gate to close it, there aren't a thousand walkers trying to spill into the yard. He sees bullets fall in front of Daryl and knows that Carol missed a walker. Daryl turns to look at the watchtower and in the second that he's not paying attention a walker comes up behind him, Carl aims and shoots. He doesn't miss, which is a blessing because he doesn't know if Daryl would have turned around in time.

Daryl makes it to the gate and pulls it shut before diving into the little building by it to get away from the walkers that have started following him.

Carl grins, "Light it up!"

Everyone gets out their guns, even Lori and starts shooting into the yard. Within seconds the walkers are all dead, Daryl climbs up on the roof of the building he was inside to start shooting and laughs when he realizes it's already done.

Carl runs down from the guard tower and straight into the yard, "Look at all this space!" he demands of his family, grinning as he races across it and then back to the gate where his mom is.

"You should sit down." he tells his mom, "I'll get all of our stuff from the car."

Half the group comes with him to get their things from the cars and when they're coming back into the yard that they've cleared, Glenn asks Lori if she's okay. Carl can't help but beam when his mom answers that she hasn't felt this good in weeks. He's a little relieved when Daryl assigns him to start a fire, it means that he doesn't have to move the walker bodies.

Sophia, Lori, Hershel, Carol, and Beth sit down around him as he starts the fire. When the wood finally starts to burn, Carl sits back, leaning himself against Sophia but letting one of his hands fall on top of his mom's hand.

"You did it." Sophia grins, resting her head on the boy's shoulder.

"Daryl did it." Carl corrects easily but it's Lori that shakes her head.

"I didn't think it could be done, I thought you were just being a big dreamer. You convinced us."

"I can hear the but in that sentence," Carl grumbles.

His mom squeezes his hand, "Don't you ever pull a dangerous stunt like climbing through the fence alone again."

"Wasn't alone," Carl whispers, but it's quiet enough that only Sophia hears him.

 

-

 

Two days later, they're inside the prison. Once again it had been a fight for Carl to convince everyone that it was a good idea, clearing the inside. Eventually, he won because they needed the food and medical supplies that were probably inside.

They've cleared an entire cell block and Carl has his own bed, Sophia sleeps in the bunk above him. Carol and Lori in the cell next door. This place is safe but they have to go further into the prison today, to get to the cafeteria and hopefully the infirmary. His mom should have given birth days ago, maybe weeks ago, no-one is sure. They need to act fast. Carl stands by the cell block door as the group is readying to leave and Daryl shakes his head.

"You ain't coming, kid. We won't be long. Stay here 'n look after your mom."

Carl wants to argue but he knows that there's no point. If he argues every time he wants to do something, then Daryl won't listen to him when it's really important. He just rolls his eyes and nods, holding up his set of keys.

"I'll lock us back in." Carl mumbles, "Be quick."

"Alright, mom," Daryl smirks, heading out of the door and taking T-Dog, Hershel, Glenn, and Maggie with him.

Carl leans against the wall by the door, planning on being there when they come back, he doesn't argue when Sophia comes to stand beside him silently. There's been a lot of that on the road, one or both unable to talk due to hunger or thirst. Now they barely need words, just the company.

The group does come back quickly but Carl hears them before he sees them and Daryl is screaming instructions. He barely hears Daryl shouting for him to open the door as he grabs the keys and pushes the right one into the lock, letting them back into the cell block. There's so much blood, Carl can't focus.

He follows them into Hershel's cell blindly and is only confused by the information that Hershel was bitten. He can't have been bitten, that's the most ridiculous thing Carl has ever heard. It's Hershel. Then all of a sudden he remembers Dale laying on the ground, covered in blood and he realizes that they might lose Hershel too. There's too much blood for this to be a bite, but then he hears Carol say that they might have cut it off in time. Hershel's leg is gone but they might have saved his life.

There's noise outside and when someone says there are survivors, Carl races to the door. He lets T-Dog out before closing and locking the door, he has to keep everyone safe. That's his job. He's outside of the cell block though, he knows he shouldn't be. That everyone is tending to Hershel and that Daryl expects him to be locked in there. But he can't. Daryl might have his crossbow aimed at the men, but they're in prison for a reason and Carl isn't leaving Daryl and T-Dog's lives to chance.

"There ain't nothing for you here! Why don't you go back to your own sandbox?" Daryl tells the men as Carl moves into the room so that he can see the five men.

Immediately, everyone in the room turns so that their eyes are on him. He holds his head up, ignoring Daryl's warning glare and taking another step into the room.

"How many of you are in there?" the prisoner with long hair asks Carl.

"Don't talk to him!" Daryl growls, taking another step towards the men.

"Too many for you to handle," Carl answers, standing so that Daryl is between him and the men still.

"You guys rob a bank or something? Why don't you take him to the hospital?" the same man asks, indicating towards where Hershel had disappeared.

"I said. Don't. Talk. To. Him." Daryl says again, his voice hard this time, T- Dog steps so that he's in front of Carl.

Carl wants to laugh but instead, he frowns, "How long have you been in here?"

The ring-leader is clever enough to direct his answer to Carl's question at Daryl, "Going on ten months."

T-Dog and Daryl talk the prisoners through the situation, tell them they can leave or die. Carl doesn't like it, he turns back to the cell block, there's nothing he can do. He knows that these people are a threat to his group's safety and his group is the priority. He catches himself. There is a way for this to work, there has to be. That's the point of prisons, you don't just kill people when they do bad things. You can't kill people for a crime they haven't committed yet. Exiling them to whatever is out there without enough warning is just as bad as killing them.

Carl knows better, his dad taught him better. Justice, but also kindness. He doesn't have time to think through what he's saying, there are better options. There is always a better option than killing people on sight.

"There is no army," Carl whispers, stepping back towards the prisoners and back into their eye-line around T-Dog. "There is no government, no hospitals, no police. It's all gone." he's speaking louder now and he can feel Daryl trying to cut him off, so he holds up his hand.

"For real?" asks the man who had been trying to calm the situation down.

"Serious," Carl says, taking another step towards them.

"What about my moms?"

"My kids?"

"And my old lady?" the man who says this, steps forward and asks for a cell phone.

Carl shakes his head, "No phones. No computers. Half the population's wiped out, probably more."

"Ain't no way." the ringleader spits and Carl sees Daryl bristle beside him.

"See for yourself." Carl indicates the door, once again, Daryl goes to argue but Carl just stares at him. "When you understand. We'll help you clear out a cellblock of your own for half of your food."

Carl moves back toward their own cell block, he wants to know how Hershel is and he doesn't want to see the look on  Daryl's face after his big promise. T-Dog opens the door for the prisoners to look outside and Daryl grabs Carl's arm, spinning the boy around.

"Carl. They can't stay here. You get that right?"

Carl turns and stares at Daryl before nodding, "I get it, but they have to stay. We don't get to kill people."

"They're criminals." Daryl tries but Carl shakes his head.

"We don't know what they're in here for." Carl frowns, "Tell me there's no chance you could have been in here, or your brother."

They stare at each other, they both know Carl is right but Daryl is also right.

"If they want to leave, then let them leave. We can't kill them for no reason, I won't let you." Carl finally speaks up again.

"You ain't gonna stop me if I gotta protect our people."

"I know." Carl sighs, looking up at Daryl, "But you always listen to me. Please, can we try it my way?"

Daryl takes a deep breath, but he nods, "We'll lock them in another cell block. Tell them that they'll die on sight if we see them after that."

Carl thins his eyes at the man, "Fine." He holds his hand out to shake the man's hand but Daryl just knocks it down, shaking his head.

Chapter Text

Hershel is walking, and Carl can't help but feel a little proud that he got those crutches from the infirmary himself. Later, they're going to go outside and Hershel is going to go down the stairs and feel the sun on his skin. Carl is happy.

He needs to go and help the others now though, they're moving the cars and burning bodies in preparation for actually staying here. Safe and sound. He's dragging his second body when two people that Carl had been hoping not to see come into the yard.

Only two prisoners had survived the clearing of their cell block, but it still scared Carl a little to see the two of them walking towards him. Axel is the one with blonde hair and the other one is called Oscar, Carl thinks.

"You ain't supposed to be here!" Daryl calls, marching up the yard towards them.

Carl can feel the two men trying to get his attention, he protected their lives last time, but he doesn't want to be involved now. Unless Daryl is about to murder them on the spot, Carl doesn't particularly care about what happens to them. Glenn, T-Dog and Maggie are with Daryl, this is nothing to do with Carl.

"We had an agreement," T-Dog says to the men.

Axel answers quickly, "Please mister, we know that. But you gotta understand... we can't live in that place another minute. You follow me?" he frowns, "All the bodies. People we knew. Blood, brains everywhere. There's ghosts."

The man is still looking at Carl and Carl is desperately trying not to make eye contact, he feels Daryl step between him and Axel, blocking his view and breathes out in relief.

"Well then, move the bodies out," Daryl says.

"You should be burning them..." T-Dog adds, the man is shaking his head.

"We tried!" Axel says, taking a step forward, "We did!"

Finally, Oscar speaks up. "The fence is down on the far side of the prison. Every time we drag a body out, those things just line up. We have to run back inside."

"Please!" Axel says, he's walking forwards now, trying to catch Carl's eye.

"Don't fucking talk to him." Daryl growls and Carl turns himself away more.

Axel sighs, "We had nothing to do with Andrew and Tomas. Nothin'." he throws his hands out, "If you're tryin' to prove a point, you proved it, bro. We'll do whatever it takes to be part of your group." when Carl glances up, the man really is close to tears, "Just please, please don't make us live in that place."

Carl wants to say something, but he knows safety is the priority. He wonders what his dad would do but stares at the ground when he realizes he has no idea. He has no idea what anyone would do in this ridiculously specific situation, so he just has to wait to see what Daryl will do.

"Deal ain't negotiable. You stay in your block or you leave," is Daryl's answer.

"I told you this was a waste of time." Oscar speaks to Axel now, "They ain't no different than the pricks who shot up our boys. You know how many friends' corpses we had to drag out this week?" he asks Daryl.

Carl drowns out his words, not wanting to hear any more about that. They were not like the people who shot their friends, they weren't. Daryl could have killed them on sight but Carl didn't let him, they're still alive and safe. Maybe it isn't the best place to live but neither is Cell Block C, they had to move their own bodies too. Nobody they knew, but it still wasn't ideal.

The next thing Carl knows, Daryl is telling them they can take a weeks' worth of food and a car. Then he's turning to Carl and telling him to go inside. Carl doesn't waste a second arguing, he just races back up towards the building. Sophia meets him at the door with the set of keys he had left with her, letting him in.

He turns to shut the door and makes sure Sophia locks it before wrapping an arm around the girl, stealing his set of keys back off her with a small smirk.

He checks on his mom who he finds in Hershel's cell. He's not sure if the woman is checking up on Hershel or if Hershel is checking up on her. It doesn't really matter as long as they're both okay.

"Are we still going outside later?" Carl asks Hershel and the man smiles.

"Soon." Hershel nods, "Shall we go now?"

Carl grins, uncaring of the fact that the prisoners were outside, "Yeah."

"Come on then." Hershel chuckles, standing up with his crutches, Lori helping him.

It takes time for them to even get to the steps and Carl starts to fear that Hershel won't make it down the steps at all. But Lori walks backward in front of the man, hand on his chest. Carl on one side, Sophia the other side and Beth walking behind him. He makes it, and everyone who is moving the cars, even the people who are outside the fence now pause to watch as the man walks down the yard.

"It's starting to look like a place we can really live in," Hershel says as he looks around at the yard which is newly-cleared of bodies.

"Alright, Hershel!" they hear Glenn shout from the outside fence.

Carl laughs a little when he sees Daryl tell the man off for making so much noise. Hershel smiles.

"Wanna race Sophia and I?" Carl teases him.

"You give me another day." he answers easily, "I'll take you on."

Sophia laughs, "Good luck old man."

Carl looks around, everyone is grinning and Carol, T-Dog and Maggie have come over to congratulate Hershel. The moment is ruined when he hears a strange noise behind him and glances backward.

"WALKERS!" he screams when he sees them. There's a lot.

Suddenly everyone is moving. Carl moves between the walkers and Hershel, Beth, Lori, and Sophia. None of them have weapons on them because they were in the safety of the yard. He pulls his gun out and tries to cover his family.

Maggie, T-Dog and Carol are with him seconds later and they're trying to keep the walkers at bay while Daryl is screaming at them to get into the outer fence. He hears T-Dog say that the gate is open and tries to cover the man as he dives toward the gate, but his priority is Hershel and Lori.

Hershel and Beth are safe. They're behind a fence and that's all that matters. Carol has gone after T-Dog and now Carl has to get Lori and Sophia somewhere safe. It's a relief when he hears Maggie's voice.

"Lori! Sophia! Over here!" the woman calls, throwing open the door to get back into the prison.

Carl gets them over to the door and wonders for a second if he should run after T-Dog too but Maggie pulls him inside and shuts the door behind them. They head towards their cell block but walkers start to come out of it. Maggie grabs at Lori's arm, pulling her away from them so Carl pulls at Sophia. A walker has her other arm but she spins away from it and they run after Maggie and Lori together. An alarm starts and Carl squeezes Sophia's hand to comfort her before letting go of her hand to run ahead when he sees there are more walkers.

"Something's not right!" Lori whimpers, leaning against the wall.

"Are you bit?" Maggie asks, checking the woman's arms.

"No! No. I think the baby is coming."

They're cornered, Carl is checking every door as they go but walkers are coming from the other direction. He stares at Maggie for a second, fear evident on both of their faces but when he glances at his mom who is struggling to walk, he dives against another door. The room is clear and he herds his family into it, pulling the door shut against the arms of the dead. He only pulls harder and eventually, the door shuts.

"What are those alarms?" Lori finally asks, now that they're safe.

"Don't worry about it," Maggie instructs, frowning.

"What if they attract more of them?" Carl asks.

Sophia puts a hand on his shoulder, "Maggie said don't worry about it." she said softly.

Carl turns to Sophia, "Mom's going to have her baby. Now. Without Hershel." he whispers.

Sophia nods, "And we'll get through it, like always." she promises, reaching for his hand.

He pulls away before she can take it and moves towards where his mom and Maggie are now on the ground.

"You're gonna need to help deliver your baby brother or sister, you up for it?" Maggie asks and Carl nods, moving to kneel next to Lori.

Sophia kneels on the other side, "I can help too." she insists quietly.

Carl barely understands what Maggie and Lori are saying, something about dilation and then Lori says she has to push. Carl can't handle how painful it sounds, his mom reaches for his hand squeezing it, until it hurts. He doesn't react, only watches Maggie. Something is wrong, he can tell. Sophia is sweeping his mom's hair out of her face, telling her that it's going to be okay but Maggie already knows it's not. Carl can see it in her face.

Maggie finally speaks, "Lori wait! Don't push. Something's wrong."

Suddenly Lori is screaming and it feels like she might break his hand. Carl doesn't care. The scream is awful but all Carl can concentrate on is the blood on Maggie's hand.

"We need to go back and get my dad," Maggie says, she's starting to panic.

Lori shakes her head, "We don't have time." she whispers, strangely calm.

"Lori!" Maggie leans over her, "With all this blood... I don't even think you're fully dilated yet."

"I know what it means," Lori says, an eerie silence following her words.

It crosses Carl's mind that when someone stops screaming it means they're dead. But his mom isn't dead, she's right here. She's right here, but she's silent and she obviously knows something that they don't. When someone stops screaming... They're dead.

"I'm not losing my baby." Carl's mom whimpers, Sophia moves to touch the woman's face, "You've got to cut me open."

Carl can feel himself starting to shake, his bottom lip quivering.

"No." Maggie shakes her head, "I can't. I can't do it."

"You don't have a choice," Lori tells her, glancing at the two children either side of her.

Carl feels like everything is going to explode, "I'll go for help!" he says, moving across the room, "I can make it."

Lori and Maggie say no at the same time, and he stops at the door. The women argue. Maggie doesn't want to do it, she's never done it before. They have no anesthetic or equipment but Lori is insistent.

"Carl has a knife." Lori's words have Carl returning to her side.

"You won't survive." Maggie whimpers.

"My baby has to survive. Please, for all of us."

"Mommy..." Carl whispers, a word he hasn't used for years.

"Carl? Baby, I don't want you to be scared okay?" Lori speaks, "This is what I want. This is right. You take care of your little brother or sister for me alright? You take care of them."

Carl can barely hear the woman's words, "You don't have to do this." it's not really a statement, he's pleading.

"You are gonna be fine," Lori says firmly, tears are running down her face and Carl can feel the tears on his face. "You are gonna beat this world. I know you will. You are smart, you are strong, you are so brave... And I love you."

"I love you too." Carl manages, his hands shaking as he holds his mom's.

"You gotta do what's right, baby. You promise me, you'll always do what's right. It's so easy to do the wrong thing in this world." Lori is fighting sobs to talk now, Carl is pretty sure that if he tried to talk, he'd throw up, "So don't… so if it feels wrong, don't do it, all right? If it feels easy don't do it. Don't let the world spoil you. You're so good!"

Maggie sobs and vaguely, as if far away, Carl can hear Sophia whimpering. He tries to focus on his mom, on her words.

"You're my sweet boy. The best thing I ever did. I love you. I love you! You're my sweet, sweet boy, I love you." she turns away from Carl now and looks up at Maggie, "Okay… okay, now. Okay. Maggie, when this is over, you're gonna have to…"

"Hush." Maggie whispers, "We don't have to talk about that."

" No, you have to do it, it can’t be Carl." Carl knows this isn't the time to argue, but he won't let Maggie do it, he just won't. "Alright, alright, it’s alright. It’s alright… Goodnight, love." her attention is on Carl now and he shakily hands his knife over to Maggie.

Seconds later, his mom is screaming again and then she's silent. Silent. Silent. Why is it so quiet?

"Sophia! Give me your hand! I need your hand!"

Carl looks up to see the girl sobbing as Maggie tries to get her attention, he can't focus though. Can't get the ringing sound out of his ears.

"Sophia, please. If I cut too deep, I'm gonna cut the baby!" Maggie begs.

Carl frowns, "Leave her alone." he mumbles, letting go of his mom's hand, "I'll help. Let me help."

He doesn't think about it as he puts his hands inside his mom's body, doesn't feel the blood run over his hands. Suddenly there's a baby in Maggie's arms, it's not crying and babies are supposed to be crying. There's so much blood but the baby isn't really covered in it, Maggie is rubbing it's back. It finally cries.

Carl is pulling his jacket off and shoving it towards Maggie before he even realizes it, she wraps the baby up and starts to stand.

"It's a girl. We have to go," is all she can say.

"She'll turn!" Carl protests when Sophia is standing up to.

Maggie struggles to get the gun out of her belt and Carl shakes his head, holding his own gun up.

"Carl..." Maggie shakes her head.

"Get my sisters out of here." Carl stands, pushing Sophia towards Maggie "She's my mom. She's my..." he can't speak anymore.

The three girls head to the door and Carl turns back to his mom, "I love you." he whispers.

He doesn't register that he's raised his gun until he hears the shot.

Chapter Text

The baby isn't crying, she's loud though. Making all sorts of noises as they walk back into the courtyard of the prison. She attracts everyone's attention as soon as they come outside, Carl can't focus on anything. He barely notices Daryl run to them and check Sophia over until Daryl is in front of him, checking him over.

"Mom's dead," Carl whispers to the man as if it isn't already obvious by the amount of blood everywhere and the lack of Lori with them.

Daryl nods, Carl feels the man's hand start to shake on his shoulder but he moves on to checking on Maggie and the baby.

"Where's my mom?" Sophia asks and Carl sees Daryl freeze, no-one will look at Sophia or him.

Carl knows why no-one will look at him, he suspects that they won't look at Sophia for the same reason and he reaches for her hand.

"Where is she, Daryl?" Sophia demands, pulling away from Carl and moving towards Daryl.

"Sophia. I think your mom is dead, but we don't know that." Daryl says, the girl barrels into his chest.

Carl walks past the two, making his way to Hershel and looking back at the baby, "You need to look at my sister."

Maggie seems to be moving at a snail's pace to get to them and Carl realizes it's because Glenn is trying to calm her from her sobbing. Maggie and Sophia are lost to crying, Carl wonders if something is wrong with him, he feels weirdly empty but he doesn't want to cry.

When the baby finally gets to Hershel, the man checks her over carefully even though he can't use his hands.

"She looks healthy." Hershel says firmly to Carl, but more quietly he adds, "but she needs formula, and soon or she won't survive."

"Nope, no way, not her," Daryl says, Sophia still against his chest. "We ain't losing no-one else today."

Carl is in a dream as he's given the baby, he holds her close to his chest like Maggie had been but then he wanders back into the cell block. Daryl will sort it out, he'll get formula and everything will be okay. It just has to be, so he's decided that he won't worry about it.

It feels like hours later that Sophia comes to sit next to him on the bed, but it can't have been long because he hears Daryl's bike leaving and he knows Daryl would have left to get formula as soon as humanly possible. They sit in silence for a long time but eventually, Sophia speaks, her voice quiet and shaking.

"They haven't found her body. She could have turned, or she could have been eaten."

Carl leans against Sophia a little, "Do you think it would have been better if you could see her die?"

"I don't know." Sophia shakes her head, "Your mom got to say all that stuff to you, but you had to..."

"Neither of us won," Carl says softly, chewing on his lip.

"Neither of us won." Sophia agrees, "You haven't cried since we left that room."

"Yeah." Carl nods as he looks down at the baby in his arms, "We have a baby sister, we don't get to lose ourselves and not look after her."

"Okay." Sophia agrees again and they fall back into silence.

Carl hears Daryl's bike outside again and he glances at Sophia, they both stand up and head out of their cell. Everyone looks at them, Carl had seen people hovering in the doorway but no-one had bothered them. Sophia reaches for Carl's hand and frowns when she realizes that both of his arms are holding the baby. Beth steps forward and holds her hand out to the girl, Sophia moves to the girl and Carl finds himself in the middle of the room alone. The baby starts to cry.

Carl rocks her but she won't stop, it's so loud and Carl finds himself scared that it's going to attract walkers. His thoughts start to spiral as he rocks her, everyone is staring at him. Everyone is watching as he messes up with his sister, he doesn't know how to make a baby stop crying. She's probably hungry. Daryl is back, maybe he'll have food. Maybe he won't and the baby is going to die, Carl wouldn't be caught off-guard by it. The baby is going to die and she's crying and she won't shut up.

"Hey! Hey, kid." Daryl is in front of him, "Focus on me, you alright?"

Carl lets his mind focus on Daryl for a second, "I'm good. I'm good." he mumbles, "Do you have milk?"

"Maggie is making it. We got some, it's alright kid." Daryl murmurs over the noise of the baby's cries.

Daryl takes his sister so carefully that Carl doesn't even argue, Daryl pulls the baby close to him and rocks her gently. The cries stop slowly. Carl wonders if his panic was only making her cry harder, he needs to be a better big brother. She doesn't have anything else.

He watches as Maggie hands Daryl the milk and Daryl feeds the baby, Sophia's hand finally finds one of his and he relaxes against her. Everyone seems to go back to what they were doing, Carl doesn't know what to do so he just stays where he is, watching Daryl with Sophia.

The baby gets handed off to Maggie and then to Beth who coos over her and changes her into real baby clothes. Carl doesn't take his eyes off of her for a second until she is handed back to him, he pulls her close to him and bites his lip.

"I'm going to bed," he says, putting her down next to his bed and crawling into his bed, not complaining when Sophia joins him, only reminding her that he needs to feed the baby throughout the night.

 

-

 

Beth had taken Judith for a few hours during the night but ultimately Carl realized that he couldn't sleep without the baby there and had taken her back.

Carl is exhausted when Daryl stands in the doorway of his cell the next morning, "Kid, you want to stay up here or come and secure the corridor?"

Carl looks up at the man, "Corridor." he nods.

"Can I come?" Sophia asks.

"Sophia..." Daryl begins, but he doesn't continue because Carl interrupts him. Carl knows what Daryl is going to say, that Carol's body might be down there.

"One of us has to stay with the baby. I go or you do, not both of us."

"That's not fair." Sophia frowns, "You know I won't go down there without you."

Carl shrugs, "I'll come back. I promise."

He hands her the set of keys that are attached to his belt because he's going to be with Daryl and Daryl has the other set and he walks away. Following Daryl and Oscar out of the cell block, as they walk, Daryl explains that Oscar and Axel helped during the walker attack. Carl's not really sure he cares, it seems like anything could kill their family, the prisoners don't feel like a threat anymore.

He follows Daryl through the corridors, killing the walkers that make it past him without a word. During moments where they don't have any walkers to kill, Carl keeps his eyes on his feet to avoid Daryl's eyes. He can feel the man's glances and he cringes when Daryl sends Oscar to cover their six.

"You know, my mom, she liked her wine." Daryl begins and Carl sighs, but he nods, letting Daryl continue. "She liked to smoke in bed. Virginia Slims."

Daryl digs a blade into a walker's brain, pausing his monologue for a second. Another walker appears and Carl raises his gun and shoots it, rolling his eyes when Daryl raises an eyebrow. They're not really supposed to take down walkers with guns, because of the noise and the ammo but Carl has a silencer on his gun and he honestly doesn't feel like Daryl will actually tell him off for wasting ammo right now.

Daryl sighs and continues, "I was playing out with the kids in the neighborhood. I could do that with Merle gone. They had bikes, I didn't. We heard sirens getting louder. They jumped on their bikes, went after it, you know, hoping to see something worth seeing. I ran after them, but I couldn't keep up. I ran around a corner and saw my friends looking at me. Hell, I saw everybody looking at me. Fire trucks everywhere. It was my house they were there for. It was my mom in bed burnt down to nothing." Carl feels Daryl glance at him, to see if he was still listening, "That was the hard part. You know, she was just gone. Erased. Nothing left of her. People said it was better that way. I don't know. Just made it seem like it wasn't real, you know?"

"I shot my mom. She was out. Hadn't turned yet. I ended it. It was real." Carl feels weird about how easy that was to say, so he adds, "Sorry about your mom."

"I'm sorry about yours," Daryl replies, for a second the man's hand is on his shoulder and then it's gone and they go back to hunting walkers.

When they come back up to their cell block, Carl stops dead. He glances at Daryl and then heads for the door to outside.

"Don't let Sophia follow me. I want to be alone with my mom." Carl whispers, only feeling bad because he doesn't feel guilty about it.

Daryl nods and lets him go, he walks down to where the graves are and stares for a second. Carol's grave has one of those white flowers on it, maybe it was Sophia but he doesn't think she would have come outside, which means it was Daryl. T-Dog's grave has his full name written on it, Carl wonders whether he would have wanted that. Just before Carl turns to his mom's grave, a walker catches his eye, he turns to look at her and realizes she's holding a red basket.

"You're not a walker," he says, loud enough for her to hear, but not loud enough to rile up the walkers on either side of her.

The woman shakes her head and Carl runs to the fence, the basket has baby formula in and Carl frowns, "Why aren't they attacking you?"

The woman can't talk, but she points at her torso which is covered in walker's guts. It makes as much sense as anything else so he nods, "Come to the gate."

She stares at him but then the effect of the guts seems to fade, walkers are suddenly turning on her and she starts to limp towards the gate. Carl races to the gate and opens it, shooting at walkers that are getting close to her and shutting the gate behind her.

"I'm not supposed to let people in, but you have baby formula and I have a baby sister," Carl says quietly.

The woman looks like she might answer but instead, she falls to the floor and Carl fails to catch her. The woman is still awake and Carl crouches down next to her, telling her that they have a doctor if she can just get to the prison with him. They move slowly, Carl holding her up and holding the baby formula in the other hand. When they get inside, Carl drops her off in the common area and promises to bring her a doctor. Hershel isn't a doctor but he's something, it will have to do. He takes her sword and walks into the cell block with a basket-full of baby formula and a sword. Everyone is looking at him.

"There's a woman. She had baby formula so I let her in but she's been shot in the leg. I left her out there. Someone should check on her." he drops the basket and then the sword.

Before anyone can ask any questions, he takes the baby off of Beth and dives into his cell, climbing back into the bed where Sophia is still laying. With the baby in between them, they curl up together. It feels like they are the only two people in the world who can understand how the other person is feeling. Carl reaches to push his fingers through the girl's hair, they don't speak and no-one tries to bother them. Carl can hear people interrogating the woman but he ignores it, he doesn't care. He doesn't care about anything except the baby and Sophia and how they are so he's here, keeping an eye on them and that's what matters.

"Sophia. You're going to want to see this." Daryl calls from the doorway.

The three children move slowly to follow Daryl. He guides them to the cell that used to be Carol's and Carl frowns, almost grabbing Sophia's arm. He doesn't want to the girl to see anything that will hurt her right now, the girl screams and Carl can't understand what's happening.

Sophia is in Carol's arms. Carol is alive. Carol is right there.

Carl cries for the first time since his mom's eyes shut, he holds Judith close but falls to sit on the ground, his body shaking with sobs. It feels like they're never going to stop because his mom is gone and she died right in front of him and he had to shoot her and it was really horrible. Someone pulls him onto their lap, he suspects Daryl but can't even find it in himself to look. Beth takes the baby and Carl sobs into the man's chest, desperately grabbing at him.

Chapter Text

It's only been forty-eight hours since he stopped his mom from turning. It feels like it could have been weeks but it hasn't, it's just a lot has happened.

He found out Carol and T-Dog were dead too, and he had a baby sister to look after. He saved Michonne from outside the fences, she told them that Glenn and Maggie were in danger. He found out that Carol was still alive and now the group is splitting up to go and save Maggie and Glenn. The day isn't over yet.

"She got a name yet?" Daryl asks Carl as he takes the baby off of him to say goodbye to her.

Carl frowns, "Not yet, I was thinking maybe Lori..."

Daryl smiles, "You like that hm? Lil Asskicker."

"You can't call her that."

Daryl gives the baby back gently and shrugs, "Better think of a name real quick then. Right, I'm heading out."

"Come back. I know you can't promise anything, but..." Carl looks around and almost silently whispers, "You're all we have."

Daryl sighs, "Look after ya sister and I'll be home soon."

"Daryl." Carl frowns, "I mean it, whatever you have to do to get home. I don't care how many people you have to kill."

"I'm coming back kid. Bloody hell." Daryl says, but there's no bite in his outburst so Carl just shrugs.

"Do you like the name Judith?" he asks as Daryl leaves, the man shrugs back.

Carl is walking around with glassy eyes and he knows people are worried about him. He knows that people glance at each other worriedly every time he picks up his sister but he can't bring himself to care. He glares at Sophia every time she comes near him, even though it's not her fault that her mom is alive. Beth takes the baby off of him so he doesn't know what to do, he ends up sat on the floor in Daryl's cell.

He feels lost when Sophia doesn't come to sit with him, not that he was expecting her to after how he's treated her for the past few hours. He doesn't even really want her here but with his arms empty of the baby and his side bare of Sophia, he feels alone. He gets up to find Hershel.

"How are we doing for formula?" he asks the man.

Hershel looks up at Carl, "We've got enough to last us another month."

"I'll take Carol to get some at the end of this week," he says quietly.

Beth's soothing voice sounds behind him, "Daryl and the others will be back by then."

"We don't know that. The baby is the only family I've got-"

He's cut off by a noise and Beth asking "What was that?"

"It came from inside," Hershel says, his face darkening.

"Was it Sophia? Carol?" Carl asks, getting to his feet.

Hershel shakes his head, "They're up in the guard tower with Axel."

"What if they came back in for something? What if they're in trouble?" Beth is panicking.

Carl can't afford to spiral right now, he shakes his head, "I'll check the guard tower."

There's a scream from deep in the tombs and Carl pulls his gun out of his holster to check his ammo.

"I can't let you go down there," Hershel says, holding his crutch across the boy's chest.

Carl pushes past him, "Daryl would go." he argues, Hershel lets him go.

The tombs are dark and mostly empty of walkers, he runs into a couple but they're easily dispatched with his knife. He follows the sound of a woman crying out, she's in pain and it sounds like Carl is too late, but there are other noises too. Other people.

He rounds the corner into a room and it's carnage. There's a woman dying on the floor in a man's arms and three more people fighting walkers around them. Carl raises his guns and shoots two walkers, it's relatively safe now but more walkers are coming.

"Come on! Hurry!" Carl shouts when he had the people's attention.

They're following him but there's a pause and Carl turns back to see the woman who is dying is still being dragged through and the man that is carrying her is struggling.

"Go! Just go!" the man calls but his group won't have it.

The bigger guy moves forward to pick the woman up while the other woman covers them by killing a couple of walkers.

Carl shoots a walker but shouts back, "You have to leave her!"

"No way!" comes the reply and Carl almost argues but he just carries on running instead.

The group can keep up now and Carl gets them up to the commons area, the woman isn't screaming anymore.

Carl point's his gun at her temple, "I'll take care of it."

"Whoa! Whoah kid!" the man who had carried her in pushes his gun away. "Wait a minute."

Carl looks around frantically, "She doesn't have that long."

"Tyreese, he's right." the woman who is alive turns to Carl now, "Who are you? How did you get in here? Who are you with?"

Carl sighs, "Look, we can help you. But, first things first." he aims his gun again.

"No. We take care of our own." Tyreese argues.

Carl nods, he can respect that so he steps back. The man picks up a hammer and starts arguing with the other man, Carl thinks it's the dead woman's husband. He chews on his lip harshly, he doesn't know these people and he has to keep his sister safe. The lock on their cell block clangs out, the group turns to look at him.

"You'll be safe," Carl says, wide-eyed and suddenly wanting to push Beth out of the way.

Tyreese stands up before he can get the woman's brain "Hey, kid. Did you just lock us in here?"

"Open the door!" the woman says, moving forward.

"The room is secure, you're safe in there. You have food and water."

The woman moves to take a hold of the bars of the door and now Carl does move Beth backward away from it, "Open this door." the woman demands again.

"I can't," Carl says, glancing to the cell he knows his sister is in.

"Oh come on man, we're not animals. Don't do this." the woman sees Hershel and bangs on the door, "Hey! Hey! You can't just leave us in here!"

She's screaming and Carl takes a step back, Tyreese moves for the door and Carl glances at the ground, maybe bringing these people up here was a bad idea.

"Sasha!" Tyreese is reprimanding her, "Back away from the door and let the man go."

They walk away and Carl hears Tyreese pointing out that this is the best they've had it in a long time. Carl doesn't doubt that's true, the prison is a palace compared to the outside world.

"Shouldn't we help them?" Beth asks quietly.

Carl shrugs, "I did."

He moves to find his sister, craving the knowledge that she's safe. He can hear the girls little gurgles, when he steps into the cell, Sophia is holding her.

"Hey..." the girl says, standing up to face Carl.

"Give," Carl says, not making eye contact with her, holding his arms out for the baby.

"Carl please, it's not my fault."

Carl steps forward and takes the baby out of her arms, "I'm not angry. I'm upset. I'll get over it."

He leaves her again and there isn't a trace of guilt, or upset. There isn't much of a trace of anything, he doesn't feel bad for the people outside the cell block who are killing one of their own. Carl's had to do worse. He doesn't feel guilty that Sophia is upset and he doesn't feel scared for Glenn and Maggie.

He's sitting in his cell when Carol comes to sit next to him, she sits in silence for a few moments and Carl doesn't argue but then she speaks.

"I forget how loud the world used to be." she comments softly, "Used to be that it was never silent."

When Carl didn't reply, she continued talking about things that made noises in the old world. Relics of a time gone by, things that the baby might never hear. Carl finds himself missing the noise, if only because it might drown Carol out now.

"What I wouldn't give for the sweet sound of a jumbo jet." Carol finally says.

"It'd be even sweeter if we were all on it," Carl said after a few moments of awkward silence.

"Your mom was proud of you."

Carl shifts, of course, it came back to that, "For what? Being mean to her all the time?"

"You can't think about that," Carol reaches for the baby's tiny hand.

Carl looks up at the ceiling, knowing he's close to tears again, "It's all I think about."

Carol moves to stand up, kissing his forehead, "She was proud."

He cries again and he hears Carol and Sophia arguing in low voices outside the cell about whether it was better for Carl to be walking around emotionless or to be crying. Carl didn't know the answer. Crying hurt so bad, it felt like someone was pulling at his heart and trying to rip it out of his chest. But he wanted to feel like this, he wanted to feel this pain forever. It was the memory of his mom and he wanted it, needed it, to hurt like this.

He falls asleep, still crying with the baby in his arms and when he wakes up she's gone. Every part of him panics before he realizes that Beth probably just took her from him so he could sleep properly. He stands up and rubs at his eyes, checking on the baby and Beth before eventually moving through to the common area where his group is mingling with the other group.

He's quiet, listening as Hershel gives medical advice and learns more about the new arrivals. The father and son are Allen and Ben, it's their wife and mother that died yesterday. Carl already knew Tyreese and Sasha's names but he learns that they're brother and sister.

Beth appears at the door, "Can I come out?" she whispers to Carl and he glances over at the group, it seems safe.

He unlocks the door for her and she heads straight for the food, cradling the baby close and ignoring the newcomers. Carl knows that if he had the baby in his arms, he would do the same.

"How old is the baby?" Sasha asks, standing up to get a better look.

"Not yet a week." Hershel answers.

"To be honest... we never thought we'd see another baby." Sasha is walking towards Beth and it puts Carl on the defensive, "Beautiful."

Beth glances awkwardly at Carl and then back at Sasha, "Uh, thanks."

"How are you feeling?" Sasha asks.

Beth looks up at Carl again, chewing on her lip, "She's not mine."

"Where's the-"

Sasha is cut off by Carl's own voice, "She's mine." He steps forward to take the baby from Beth, "Everyone else is gone."

"I'm sorry," Sasha says, frowning.

"Don't be." Carl glances at Sophia, "We've got all the family we need."

"What's the baby's name?" Sasha asks after a moment of awkward silence.

Sophia moves back to her normal position at his side as Carl says, "Her name is Judith."

He doesn't listen to the rest of the conversation, more interested in the baby in his arms and Sophia at his side. He bumps the older girl's hip with his own and rocks Judith easily.

 

-

 

Carl is waiting down at the gates when the others arrive back. Glenn and Maggie are in the car but they look worse for wear. Daryl gets out to pull Carl into a hug, distracting him from the mess that is Glenn's face.

"What is it?" Carl asks, watching Daryl curiously as the car drives up to the prison.

Daryl shakes his head, pulling Carl closer, "Ain't nothing."

Carl lets himself be pulled closer but he frowns, "Tell me."

"It was my brother who had them. He were looking for me." Daryl frowns, "He were looking for me."

Carl pulls back, out of the hug and frowns, "What happened to Glenn and Maggie isn't your fault."

"Ain't that." Daryl sighs, starting to walk back up to the prison with Carl, "Almost stayed to find him."

"Oh..." Carl doesn't have anything to say, so he falls silent.

"Merle's blood. Ain't like Michonne, we don't know her. Merle is blood."

"But you didn't stay," Carl comments, looking at his shoes.

"Well, I had blood waiting for me at home, didn't I." Daryl looks at Carl, "How's Asskicker?"

"Her name's Judith." Carl shrugs, "She's alright."

"Good," Daryl whispers back, resting an arm around the boy's shoulders.

Chapter Text

It's funny how the world can be so easy and so terrifying at the same time.

Glenn and Maggie were captured by Merle, who took them to a tiny town of actual civilization. Which could be good news except Merle tortured Maggie and Glenn and the town is a pipe dream, a wolf in sheep's skin. Its leader calls himself The Governor and he's been acting as God, killing people to keep the town going. Maggie gave up the location of the prison under force and that means that the Governor could attack any day now, but Carl is finally starting to feel okay again.

Sasha is holding Judith and it's the first time since the girl was born that Carl has been comfortable with someone who wasn't himself, Sophia, Beth or Daryl holding her for more than five minutes. He's sat next to her of course and he's probably months away from leaving her with Sasha alone, but it's a start.

Merle appears in the doorway and in a moment of utter confusion, Carl grabs Judith off of Sasha and pulls Sophia into the cell block. Glenn and Maggie jump to their feet, Glenn moves to stand between the cell block and the doorway that Merle is standing in. Carl has locked the door and ordered Sophia to hide before Daryl appears behind Merle and Carl relaxes a little.

"What have we got here?" Merle says, leaning against the doorway with a grin on his face.

Daryl stands between Merle and anyone who might hurt him, "He ain't come here to hurt anyone. He came to warn us."

"Oh... yeah." Merle rolls his eyes and rises up onto his toes before slamming back onto his heels, "Governor's coming. Now."

Everyone seems to spring into action although no-one knows what to do, everyone is just kind of moving. Carl finds himself pushing Judith into Beth's arms and unlocking the door to come back out.

"How long do we have?" Glenn asks, glancing back at the cell block where Beth has followed Carl out.

"Twenty minutes tops." Merle answers, "But he's only coming to show his power, he's got a truck full of biters and he's gonna drive 'em right through your gate. Shoot a few bullets, show you what he can do."

"How do we know you're not part of the trap?" Beth steps forward into the light.

"He ain't. He came to warn me alright?" Daryl says, it's so matter of fact and there's so little time that no-one argues.

"Daddy's outside!" Beth says suddenly, running forward with Judith still in her arms.

Carl shoves her backward, more harshly than he means to. "I'll get him." he promises, "Don't let Merle near my sister."

Daryl is staring at his brother like he hung the sun in the sky and Carl doesn't have time for it. He glares at the man, "Are you taking point or shall I?" he asks.

Daryl stares at him for a second and nods, "Go and get Hershel. Carol and Axel are in the guard tower, get them to come in too. Everyone else in their cells. We'll lock the doors, we'll be safe."

Carl hears people arguing behind him, but he's already tearing outside.

"Hershel, you need to get inside. The Governor is coming. Now." Carl tells the man as he's running past to get to the guard tower.

"It isn't our damn fight Sasha! We're leaving." he hears Allen saying behind him, he doesn't care.

He shouts for Carol and she pokes her head over the edge of the tower to look down at him, "We gotta go inside, we're gonna get attacked. Get inside!"

Carol looks surprised but she moves quickly, her and Axel are running past him less than a minute later to get back up to the prison. He turns to follow them but Allen and Ben are marching down the yard, Sasha following them.

"Get back up to the prison! It isn't safe down here!" Carl stands between them and the gate.

"These are good people. You haven't got to leave just because they won't give you a gun to..." Sasha trails off when she hears gunshots.

Carl starts running up the yard, "We gotta go!" he calls.

He grabs Sasha's arm on the way up, maybe Allen and Ben are right. Maybe they're not. It doesn't matter, what matters is that if they're out here... they're probably going to die. Allen is screaming behind him and Carl knows that means Ben is dead, he feels Sasha resist him for a second but just tugs on her harder.

"Tyreese wants you to be alive," he tells her.

They start running. Allen's screaming stops, and that only means one thing, so Carl runs harder. Someone grabs his hand and he pulls Sasha with him to the safety of behind the bus, he makes eye contact with Michonne. He hadn't been going to warn her, because he had forgotten that she was outside and now here she was, saving his life.

A truck drives straight through the fence and Carl turns to Michonne, "We've got to go. That truck has walkers on it."

"How do you know?" Michonne frowns.

"Merle came to warn us, he said they'd have a truck full of biters. That's what you said they call them right?"

"Shit." Michonne pulls out her blade, "We can't run for it, I'd rather try my luck against the walkers than the bullets."

Sasha is shaking next to Carl and he turns to her, "If I give you a gun, are you a good shot?"

Sasha nods, holding her hand out for the weapon. Carl pulls his weapon out of his holster and hands it to her, as he does, the back of the truck falls open. The walkers start to spill out, more than Carl could imagine fitting in there and then someone jumps out of the cab, shooting in their direction. They all dive round the other side of the bus and Carl feels relief flood him when he hears the sound of the Governor's retreat. Merle hadn't been lying, it was just a visit to show what they could do, it was over. Well, they had to get past the walkers and back up to the safety of the prison, but then it was over.

"Hey Carl, swapsies." Sasha holds out his gun to him and points at his knife.

He takes his knife out and holds it out, "You sure?" he asks.

"Yeah, this way you don't have to get near them."

Carl rolls his eyes at the woman, "I'm not a kid Sasha."

Sasha shrugs and Michonne pulls their attention back to the task at hand. The longer they leave it, the more spread out the walkers become and it becomes harder to get to the prison. They fight their way back up to the prison and Carl has to save Sasha twice with his gun, when they're safe inside the gates Carl holds his hand out for his knife.

"I thought you were an adult who could handle yourself." he grins.

Sasha shakes her head, but there's a smile on her face. "I thought you weren't a child, but here you are being childish."

Then Daryl is running towards them to check they're okay and both of their smiles fall. They remember what danger they had actually been in and Sasha remembers that her friends are dead. They walk side-by-side silently, and Sasha ruffles his hair before he goes into his cell to check on Judith and Sophia.

Beth is in there too and Carl climbs up to Sophia's bunk so he can lay down, "Three out of three on the sister front, and Beth doesn't even sleep here. What a pleasant surprise."

"Did you just call me your sister?" Beth looks over the edge of the bed at him as she feeds Judith.

"Maybe. Maybe not." Carl shrugs, closing his eyes, "I'm running short on family members. Forgive me."

Beth smiles, "You know, that makes Maggie your sister too."

"Absolutely not." he shakes his head, eyes still closed, "She's my weird aunt."

"But she's my sister," Beth argues.

Sophia laughs, "Yeah, but Hershel's your dad, and he's obviously Carl's grandad."

Carl grins, "That's the spirit 'Phia."

"So, is Glenn your weird uncle?" Beth asks, laughing a little.

"Yep." Carl sits up and opens his eyes, laughing with the girls.

Sophia climbs up onto the bed with him, "Can I be your twin?"

"That's asking a lot Sophia, I already have to call you my sister." he teases, "Sure. You can be my twin."

"What does that make Daryl?" Beth asks, moving Judith onto her other arm.

Carl frowns, clamming up a little and then mumbling, "He's just Daryl."

"He's kinda like your dad." Sophia grins.

Carl flinches away from Sophia, "No. He's nothing like my dad. My dad was a good man and a good dad, Daryl is just... he's not family."

He feels guilty as he says it, feels worse when he glances up and Daryl is looking at him from outside the cell. He can't be absolutely sure that he heard it until he sees the way Daryl's face has fallen. He directs his eyes back down to his bed, neither of the girls say anything, finally realizing Carl wasn't having fun anymore.

"People died and we're just sat in here laughing." Carl comments.

Sophia's eyes widen, "Someone died?" he asks, her voice too high.

"Allen and Ben. They were trying to leave, they were shot." Carl mumbles, climbing down from the bed and moving into the main room again.

He can't see Daryl but Carol is stood by the cell, "You said that loud."

"Didn't mean to upset anyone. Where did he go?" Carl keeps his eyes on his shoes.

"I think he went to sit with his brother. You can apologize later, come and talk to me first."

Carl looks up at Beth to check Judith is okay and then follows Carol to her cell, feeling like he was back at school and going to the principal's office. She sits on her bed and invites him to sit down, for a little bit, they sit in silence.

Carl cracks, "I'm sorry."

"What are you sorry for?" Carol asks.

"You were listening to Sophia laugh. That's why you were stood outside the cell, I made her stop."

Carol nods but then shrugs, "You made her laugh in the first place, I don't think you need to apologize."

"Then why am I here?" he turns on the bed to face her, raising his eyebrows.

"Someone died and you were sat in your cell laughing."

"I didn't... I forgot. I shouldn't have..." Carl stumbles over his words.

Carol sighs, "Carl. People die in this world and you carry on. It's okay to laugh. It's okay to be happy."

"Not right after someone's dead though." Carl frowns.

"Maybe not." Carol agrees, "But... after your mom, it seemed like you weren't going to come back to us for a little bit. Like you were running around blind and the only thing you cared about was Judith. I understand that, but it was scary for us. It was scary for Daryl."

Carl is quiet, he looks down at his lap, "I call Sophia my sister, Beth too. And it's nice to have so many sisters. Nice to have the family that we have. Our group."

"But?" Carol asks, sensing the word in the way he was talking.

"I don't feel like I belong to anyone." Carl starts, "Not that I've got to... but Beth is Hershel's and Sophia is yours and Judith is mine. She's mine."

Carol sighs, "You're all of ours." she looks at him for a long moment, "I think we all forget you're a kid sometimes. You take the lead as much as Daryl does."

Carl stands up, "I really need to go and apologize to Daryl."

Carol nods, "Just remember that we all love you."

Daryl isn't far away, he's just sitting around the corner in the common area. Carl moves to sit across from him and Merle makes a comment, but Carl ignores it.

He watches Daryl for a second, "You aren't anything like my dad."

Daryl raises his palms in surrender, "Second time I've heard that, kid. I got it."

"No. Listen." Carl insists, "You're not my dad and I don't want you to be. I had one of those and I lost him and it was the worst thing to ever happen to me... and I shot my mom in the head. So, I don't want a new dad and that's what they were trying to make me say. They were trying to make me say that you're my dad."

"God, if you've got a point?" Merle says, sitting down at the table, "Make it now, this is real boring."

"Merle," Daryl warns, but immediately turns his attention back to Carl so he can finish.

 "And you're not my dad." Carl repeats one more time, "But I don't have a word for what you are, so I panicked. Because you're not my brother or my uncle... you're Daryl, but you're blood."

"You ain't his blood. I'm his blood." Merle laughs, but he frowns when Daryl doesn't laugh, "What? You gonna call some kid family? A kid who got lost in the woods and made us split up?"

Daryl looks at Merle, "You left me. You fucked off with Andrea."

"I came back." Merle hits the table and Carl flinches, "You weren't there anymore."

Daryl stands up and puts an arm around Carl when he follows him. Daryl guides him back into the cell block, locking Merle out.

Carl is already walking away when he hears Daryl say, "Blood."

Carl is smiling again by the time he gets to his cell.

Chapter Text

Daryl crosses the room to stand in front of Hershel, "He's my brother!"

Carl is watching the argument from his cell. He'd join in but he can't be bothered to argue with Daryl, and he doesn't have a solution anyway. The argument has been raging for hours. Carl was more involved at the beginning but ever since it's turned away from the dangers of The Governor and more toward Michonne and Merle's eligibility to stay here, he's been sat against the wall next to his cell door.

"He's a psycho," Michonne says lazily from where she's leaning against the wall.

Daryl turns on her, "You could be a psycho! We don't know you. I don't know you."

Carl rolls his eyes because now he has to join in, Michonne had saved everyone in this prison too and had never hurt any of them. "Daryl!"

Daryl turns to look at him and rolls his eyes, but he concedes, "Fine. Fine, they can both keep sleeping in the common area, but he ain't leaving."

Carl stood up, rocking Judith in his arms, "No-one is asking you to make him leave. Even if we should be. He's just not coming in this Cell Block." he sighs, "Shouldn't we be more worried about The Governor than the Dixons?"

"The kid is right," Merle says after a few moments, but he doesn't come up with anything useful.

Carl takes another step forward, officially joining the conversation, "So we stop arguing. We get guns and we talk to Andrea."

"Andrea?" Michonne asks, finally standing up straight, from where she had been leaning, at the mention of her friend.

Carl nods, glancing around to see if anyone disagrees but finally continues, "Merle says she's on The Governor's side but Andrea was one of us, and you say she's still good people. If we can get through to her, maybe that's all we need."

Michonne frowns, "Then why the guns?"

"Because even good people could screw us over," Carl says quietly, chewing on his lip.

"More importantly kid," Merle says from where he's sat in the common area, "where are we getting these guns from?"

"My 'we' doesn't include you. I already told Daryl where there might be guns." Carl says, stepping up to the bars.

 

-

 

It turns out that they don't need to leave the prison to find Andrea, she turns up barely a day later when Carl and Maggie are on watch. Carl notices a walker moving weirdly through the outskirts of the trees around the prison but it's Maggie that realizes it's Andrea leading a walker. Carl runs back into the prison to tell Daryl and Daryl is following him outside to take a look in seconds.

"Looks like it's 'Run away to the prison' week in Woodbury," Merle comments as he follows too.

No-one pays any attention to him though, because when they get outside, Andrea is in danger. She's against the gate, begging to be let in and walkers are closing in on her. Carl runs forward to try and let her in now, he doesn't care if it's a trap because he just doesn't want more people to die on his watch. Daryl grabs the collar of his shirt. Carl frowns but he pulls his gun up and lets the adults move forward.

Daryl reaches the gate first, asking if Andrea is alone, she's too busy screaming at them to let her in to answer. Daryl holds his hand out to Carl for the keys to the gate and the boy scrambles to get them off his belt, throwing them to the man. It's a relief for Carl when Andrea is through the gates but everyone else is still on high alert.

"I asked you if you were alone!" Daryl demands, throwing Andrea onto her knees so that he can check her for weapons.

Once Daryl throws her bag to the side, everyone starts to lower their weapons. Carl moves toward Andrea, watching her curiously. If she hadn't brought an army or weapons of her own, why had she come?

Once she's inside the prison, she's looking around at them as if she's amazed that they even survived this long, and then comes the dreaded questions. Who's dead? Who didn't make it? They had lost so many people since Andrea had left them on the highway, it made Carl feel sick to hear the names reeled off.

When Andrea stepped forward to offer her apologies to him, for his dead mom and his alive sister, he practically bared his teeth at her. She had left them, and she had no one to vouch for her like Merle did. No reason to come back.

"You all live here?" Andrea asks, instead.

"Here and the cell block," Glenn says, indicating in the direction of the rest of their group vaguely.

"Over here?" Andrea moves toward the gate, "Can I go in?"

Carl moves to stand between Andrea and the cell block, and to his relief, Daryl blocks the way too. Andrea begins her argument that she's not the enemy, but they have no reason to believe her.

"If you're not the enemy? Why are you sleeping with the enemy?" Carl asks.

Andrea looks at him in shock, "Carl, we are not the enemy. You need to stop fighting us."

"We need to stop fighting? We had this whole prison until your boyfriend tore down our fences."

"He said you shot first."

Daryl looks on the edge of laughter as he steps toward Andrea, "Well, he's lying."

Hershel speaks up now, "He killed two people who were trying to leave because they didn't want to be involved in our fight."

"I didn't know about any of this..." Andrea pleads, "I didn't even know any of you were in Woodbury until after the shootout."

"That was days ago," Glenn argues, raising an eyebrow at the woman.

"I told you. I came as soon as I could." Andrea frowns and then turns to Michonne.

Michonne tilts her head at the woman. Carl had asked Michonne about it, she found Andrea after Merle left the woman for dead. Maybe that was why Andrea had come back, maybe it wasn't for their group at all but for her one friend in all of this.

"What have you told them?" Andrea asks Michonne.

Michonne shakes her head, "Nothing."

"I don't get it. I left you all safe on the road in Atlanta and now I'm the odd man out?"

Glenn steps forward again, "He almost killed Michonne and he would have killed us."

Andrea points at Merle "With his finger on the trigger! Isn't he the one who kidnapped you? Who beat you?" she covers her face with her hands in despair. "Look, I cannot excuse or explain what Phillip has done... but I'm here to try and bring us together."

"We're gonna kill him," Daryl said decisively, daring Andrea to argue with him.

"We can settle this, there is room at Woodbury for all of you," Andrea promises.

Carl wants to believe her but Merle laughs and makes some comment about her knowing better than that. Carl takes a few steps backward to check the cell block, wanting to see if Sophia and Judith were okay. 

When he returns to the conversation, Daryl is speaking. "I'll tell you what, next time you see Phillip, tell him I'm gonna take his other eye."

Then Glenn adds something that makes Carl feel sick, "We've taken too much shit for too long and if he wants a war, then he's got one."

"If you want to make this right. Get us inside." Daryl growls out.

She shakes her head, "No. There are innocent people inside."

The discussion is over and everyone knows it, Michonne and Andrea head outside. It makes Carl uneasy, he wonders for a second if they're in on some secret plan together. He watches them out of the window. Maybe Merle is in on it too, and they're all inside the prison, ready to kill the whole group. Michonne is heading back inside.

Carl fumbles for the keys on his belt before he realizes that he doesn't have them, what if Merle has them? What if Andrea has them? Whoever has those keys can get to his baby sister. His breath is catching in his lungs, his heart feels like it's in his throat and his stomach feels heavy. Suddenly, he can't see straight, but he thinks Michonne is in front of him.

"Carl, are you okay?" she asks, putting her hands on the boy's shoulders.

"I don't have the keys. Where are my keys?" Carl whimpers, looking around wildly.

"Daryl has them. Daryl has your set, Carol has his set... remember?"

That's true. Carl remembers throwing Daryl his set of keys now but he still can't calm down. His thoughts are still spiraling as his chest burns. "Please... I don't understand."

Michonne sighs, "Carl, you're having a panic attack. Try to breathe alright?"

He sucks in desperately at the air, but it won't fill his lungs properly and even though Michonne is telling him that he's doing well, the lack of oxygen is making him dizzy. He tries to breathe with Michonne, letting her count for him to breathe in and then breathe out. It doesn't feel like it's working for the longest time, but eventually, he's focusing so hard on his breathing that it's all of a sudden that he notices he's okay again.

"I'm really sorry," Carl whispers, not raising his eyes up to Michonne.

"You don't have to apologize, Carl." Michonne is crouching in front of him now, maybe she has been the whole time.

Carl shakes his head, "More important things to worry about."

Michonne is quiet for a moment and Carl almost walks away but then she speaks, "Do you want to talk about it?"

"About what?" Carl frowns, he doesn't understand.

"Do you want to talk about why you panicked? Because if you do... I'm around. Alright?"

Carl shakes his head again, how could he tell Michonne that he had been spiraling around her possible betrayal of the group? She nods, pressing their foreheads together for half a second before turning to walk away. Even as she does, she reminds him that he knows where she is if he needs anything.

The moment Carl isn't being spoken to by Michonne, Sophia is by his side. Carl pushes their hips together, glancing at her before he looks for Daryl. He's already making his way over, glaring at anyone who hasn't had the common sense to look away from the boy by now. Like Sasha, who is watching him as if he's a fragile item on the edge of a shelf.

Daryl puts a careful hand on his shoulder, "Alright?"

"Alright." Carl agrees, looking at the ground.

Daryl looks uneasy and sighs, "Was it the right thing to let Michonne talk to you?"

Carl takes a second to answer, but eventually, he nods, "I think she's one of us."

"I really like her," Sophia announces quickly, grinning up at Daryl.

"Well, I'm glad you both like her because I'm probably going to take her to get guns," Daryl says.

Carl finally looks up, "Are you sure that's a good idea? Can't I just come?"

"No," Sophia shakes her head, moving to rest against Carl's shoulder, "Just stay, Daryl will be fine."

"She's right, kid." Daryl agrees, patting the boy's shoulder, "We're not going now anyway, it can wait until tomorrow."

"Can it?" Carl frowns, watching Daryl's hand retreat from where it had been sat on his shoulder.

"Well, we need to wait for Andrea to leave before we try anything, we'll go at sunrise."

Daryl wanders away and leaves Carl with Sophia, "We should talk to Andrea."

"We should?" Sophia looks confused.

Carl just nods and walks over to the woman who is talking to Carol and Axel, Sophia follows. When they reach the two women, Carol and Axel both turn to look at them but Andrea just keeps talking.

"Andrea?" Carl says, voice as hard as a teenage boy's voice can be.

"Mm?" Andrea finally turns to look at him.

Carl glances at Sophia and then nods to himself, "You need to fix this."

"That's what I came to try. You know that Carl."

Sophia speaks before Carl can, "Trying is stupid, the only thing that matters is doing. Daddy used to say that."

"What we're saying..." Carl trails off to think straight, "is that you need to get The Governor to stop this war."

Andrea laughs, obviously still seeing him as the kid he was when this all started, but almost a year has passed since he last saw Andrea. He and Sophia have grown up in this new world, grown used to it almost quicker than the adults could. They weren't children anymore. Children could hardly exist anymore.

"I'm serious. Make him talk it through, because we don't have the weapons to fight in a war. We don't have the defense system to protect ourselves and my baby sister is here." It's a half-lie, they're probably going to have weapons soon, but Andrea doesn't need to know that. "We're going to die, but we'll take out as many of your people as we can. Everyone loses. What's the point?"

Sophia catches his intention immediately and lets her lip wobble. It's so obviously fake to Carl, who has seen Sophia cry a hundred times, that he's surprised Andrea falls for it. The girl is a good actress though, she even curls into Carl's side as if she's scared. She is scared, Carl knows that, but she also trusts this group to protect them and she knows that guns are coming.

"Please..." Sophia mumbles to Andrea, "I just want to stay alive, and it's already hard enough. Please."

Carl tries his trump card, deciding there were enough people here that he trusted, "Would you like to meet my little sister?" 

 

 

Chapter Text

Carl and Sophia are the dream team. It must be true because after their tag-teaming on Andrea, she somehow manages to organize a meeting with The Governor. It has to be one-to-one and Carl had begged to be the one to talk to him; it was decided pretty quickly that Daryl would be the one. Beth, Carol, and Tyreese had all promised to look after Judith, which means Carl feels safe enough to leave the prison with Sophia. It's the first time the pair have left the prison since they had arrived.

Carl can tell Sophia is scared but she had begged to come. They're sitting in the back of the car or more accurately, Carl is sitting in the back of the car, Sophia is laying with her head in his lap. Carl is worried that this won't work out, but he isn't scared as he cards his fingers through his best friend's hair.

There are five big guns in the trunk of the car, plus all the weapons they have on their belts. Carl hadn't been wrong about there being guns at a nearby sheriff's station, and although they had left most of them behind for the safety of the prison, he had insisted that they bring one for each of them, and one for Andrea in case she needed it.

Daryl pulls up outside the building where they're supposed to meet The Governor, they're early to check the place out.

"Phia, I'm gonna take Daryl inside to check and then I'll be out, look after Hershel won't you." Carl murmurs, sitting her up so that he can get out of the car, "Hershel, look after Sophia."

Hershel winks at him and Sophia sticks her thumbs up, that's enough for Carl and he climbs out of the car, looking at Daryl over the roof.

Daryl raises an eyebrow as he shuts the door, "You know, they'd probably protect each other without you telling them to."

"Yeah well, I just like to..." Carl shrugs, he isn't sure.

Daryl nods, "Make sure everyone is covered when you aren't there, I know. You're a good kid."

Carl shakes his head, moving to the entrance of the building, "I ain't a kid."

"I'm not..." Daryl corrects and Carl sticks his middle finger up at him.

"If you don't want me to talk like a red-neck, you better stop yourself."

Daryl just rolls his eyes at the statement, so Carl gets on with the plan to make sure the building is secure. He hits the door a few times listening for the sound of walkers inside and when it's quiet he slowly opens the door. Daryl shakes his head, pointing into the room, there's already a man inside and he isn't dead.

Carl frowns, raising his knife into the air, "Are you The Governor?"

The man nods and Daryl steps past Carl into the room, "I got this," he tells Carl, "go back to the car."

Carl nods and shuts the door, but he isn't stupid, he knows that Daryl still wants him to check the perimeter and he does. There's no sign of anything though, which is almost more concerning than finding something. He returns to the car.

"He was already in there, Daryl's with him now," Carl tells Hershel, frowning a little.

Hershel looks around again, "I don't see any other cars."

Carl nodded, "Something don't feel right, keep the car running."

The next second, there's a car coming toward them from the other side. Carl moves toward it, glancing back at Hershel to see him getting out of the car. He pulls his gun out of his holster, pointing it straight at the driver. Sophia and Hershel aren't far behind him but he can tell that Sophia is walking slowly so that Hershel can keep up with her.

Andrea gets out of the car and Carl drops his gun back down into the holster, "Why is he already in there?" Carl asks.

"He's here?" Andrea asks, clueless as ever as she runs into the building.

When she comes out less than a minute later, she looks disheartened and before Carl can tell her not to, Sophia has gone over to sit with her on a bench. Carl sighs, moving so that he can sit on the roof of the car they came in. Hershel is talking to the Doctor who had arrived with Andrea and Sophia was with Andrea, that leaves Carl with the guy holding a gun, he looks like some sort of hired muscle and Carl doesn't want to talk to him. Instead, he decides to keep watch.

Daryl isn't in the building for very long and as soon as he comes out, he moves to the car and although Sophia and Hershel scramble to get to the car too, they don't hear what Daryl says to Carl in a low voice.

"He wants Michonne."

Carl can tell that Daryl is asking for permission, and he shakes his head. Michonne is a part of their group whether Daryl likes it or not, and they're not giving her up, not even for the safety of the rest of the group. Daryl sighs, he doesn't argue but his eyes are pleading.

Carl stands on top of the car, "Andrea! Come here."

The blonde woman stands up as Sophia and Hershel reach the car, when Andrea gets to the car too, Carl indicates for Daryl to speak.

Daryl sighs, "He wants Michonne. Says he'll leave us alone... if we give the girl up."

"You can't," Sophia said quickly, pushing at Daryl to get his attention.

Carl sits back down on the car and reaches to put his hand on the girl's shoulder, "We should leave, Andrea... do you want to come with us?"

The woman looked between all of them, "I do, but I can't. I have to go back to Woodbury..."

Sophia frowns, "Andrea! He's-"

Andrea cuts him off, "I have to protect the people of Woodbury, and I have to stop them from coming to kill you all."

Before anyone can argue, she's stalking off in the direction of The Governor. Their group moves quickly, Carl and Sophia in the back of the car, Hershel and Daryl in the front. 

The car is driving toward the prison before Carl realizes that this meeting hasn't helped anyone. It didn't do any good. Plus, now he has to keep an eye on Daryl and Michonne to make sure the man didn't try to take her to The Governor.

When they get home, Daryl tells everyone what The Governor said and Merle mouths off for a long time about how they should just hand Michonne over. No-one agrees with Merle out loud, they all agree that they should continue to protect Michonne. But, Carl doesn't miss the glances that Hershel throws his daughters or the way Sasha looks between Michonne and Tyreese like she's already making a decision right now.

When the group splits up, Carl doesn't rush to the door between the cell block and the common area. Merle watches the boy for a second, waiting for him to move, but when he doesn't Merle follows Daryl into the cell block. It occurs to Carl that he doesn't care. He thinks about this morning when Merle had been the only voice that could calm Judith, how Daryl hadn't let his brother hold the girl but he had sat by him and let him talk to her. Carl hadn't minded, because it had stopped Judith from crying and Merle was a good story-teller anyway. The man knew a ridiculous amount of folk tales and legends, Carl had learned over the past few days.

Axel has been allowed in the cell blocks since Oscar had died saving Maggie and Glenn, he had struck up a friendship with Carol. Sasha and Tyreese were good with Judith, Michonne didn't go near the girl but seemed to care about the whole group.

Carl smiles as he thinks about it, it's the first time in weeks that he hasn't been stood by the door making sure only his 'family' could get into the cell block. He realizes now, that no-one else is taking up his job, Sophia is eyeing the door and Carl curiously, but no-one else is concerned. Carl wonders how long everyone else has been okay with everyone mixing. How long has he been the only one policing who was allowed where?

The thing is, there was the two months on the road, in two cars and barely enough heat. Ten people. Carl hadn't cared who he was huddled against as long as he was warm and he knew where his mom and Sophia were. It didn't matter if he was holding Beth's hand or curled into Hershel's side, he didn't care if it was Daryl's arm around him or Glenn's. The prison was supposed to be a safe place for them, and it was but they had lost two of their ten, Lori and T-Dog.

Losing them had done something to Carl's feeling of safety, the feeling he had around his family. He had gone from feeling protected to feeling wildly protective. In part, he knew it was because he had a tiny baby sister to protect now and he took that job seriously. It was also because losing people was terrifying, he only had these people. These were the people that had got him through the end of the world, helped him survive for the past year. If he lost any more of them, Carl had no idea what he would do.

Now though, watching his family and the rest of the group, Carl knows that he needs to practice what he preaches.

In the few seconds that he's been having this realization, Sophia has gravitated away from her mom and to him. She raises her eyebrows at him, he shrugs and in return Sophia nods, which makes Carol laugh and they both look up at her quickly. She dismisses them with a shake of her hand, but Carl knows she's laughing because they were so easily having a silent conversation.

He reaches for Sophia's hand, "Will you help me move everyone's stuff into the cell block?"

The gesture is quickly undermined by Michonne seeing him holding her stuff and helping him. Everyone joins in then, which means that everyone is moved into a cell in the cell block within about five minutes. Which makes Carl nervous when it shouldn't.

"Even little old me gets to stay in here?" Merle asks from the stairs when he sees what's happening.

Carl glares at him but Sophia nods, "But we'll rip you apart limb by limb if you hurt anyone, don't worry."

Carl blinks, turning to look at his sister. Her voice had been sickly sweet, but her words had been dangerous, he stares at her with wide eyes. Even Merle doesn't have anything to say to that, Carol and Daryl are looking on like they're not sure whether to get involved.

"It's alright, Merle isn't going to try anything," Carl reaches his spare hand up to put it through her hair.

Sophia has a dangerous edge to her voice when she replies, "Oh, I know."

Even with the way they're stood, with Carl now between Merle and Sophia, the girl hasn't taken her eyes off the tall man. Carl ducks his head a little to catch her eyes, and for a second she looks scared but then she shrugs and leads Carl back to their cell by the hand. Leaving Carl to wonder what the hell happened, but not quite wanting to ask.

When Carol stands in the doorway to their cell a few minutes later, Carl doesn't hesitate to go and find Judith.