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In From The Cold

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Author's Note: Hi, everybody! As I said before, I'm trying to use this account more often and I want all of my Carnid fics to be availiable to anyone who is interested in reading them on here, which is a lot more people than I expected. I'm glad. Carl, Enid, and their relationship was one of my absolute favorites on the show (the only relationship I loved more was Rick and Michonne's. I can't wait for them to reunite in Rick's movies! I miss them! I want my Mom and Dad to be happy again...) and they need all the positive fanfic attention they can get. Henry and Lydia can't hold a candle to them. The show can't make me love them or even like them together. They just can't. They're too toxic and they put not just themselves but whole Communities at risk with their "love". Give me Carl and Enid any day. They had their problems, yes, but they were good together and good for everyone around them. I miss them dearly.

Anyway, this is my first Carnid fic ever posted. It's a big AU but not too unrealistic, I hope. Even if it is, that's what fanfic is for: exploring ideas and expanding boundaries. A new Carnid story will be posted on here and on FFN soon, possibly before the end of the latest season but definitely afterwards. Something tells me that The Walking Dead fandom is going to need all the joy we can get...

Disclaimer: "Honestly, it's not mine!"

There were too many of Them.

They hadn't scented her but They would eventually.

They always did.

Normally, she'd be able to cut through enough to get back to the safety of the woods but the situation wasn't normal. Normal…

What was normal, anymore?

An unexpected and nasty thunderstorm had forced her to go into town to scavenge for more supplies. Of course, she had run into Living Trouble on the way out, forcing her to leave most of her haul behind and to fight her way free. Living Trouble was always worse than The Dead. At least The Dead didn't bullshit her or try to take advantage of her. They just wanted to Turn or Devour her like the overgrown, snarling parasites They were. The Dead were mindless creatures and she felt a bit sorry for Them, honestly. They had been people with lives, people with families and loves but They were shells, now. They weren't at peace. While she wouldn't hesitate to destroy Them before They could get her, she couldn't muster up the same deep distain and distrust for The Dead that she had for The Living.

The Living had motivations within their motivations and 9 times out of 10, their motivations were just plain awful. It had been like that in the Beforetime, too.

The much hyped End of Days had come and much of humanity's goodness had ended with them. It wasn't too shocking when she thought about it. There had always been a thin Line between civility and savagery. Having lost all creature comforts, all government organizations, and nearly all hope had cast that Line into oblivion. It was all about survival of the fittest, now.

It was Natural Selection on steroids and Speed.

Everyone had to make it from dawn to dusk somehow and it was easier to do bad, do harm, than to do good, to help others. She understood that. She had learned that lesson the hard way, time and time again. She understood the Order of Things. She had accepted it and did her best to operate within it when it was necessary to deal with Living beings.

Being the victim of bullets, blades, bullies, beatdowns, and bullshit had gotten very old very fast.

That was why she kept to the woods instead of urban areas and refused to join a Group again.

Groups were either full of predators and prey or consisted of those too weak to survive for more than a few weeks before they were done in, either by hostiles or by despair.

Of course, flying solo didn't make her immune to flying fists, boot stomps, or bullets.

Or from being stolen from…lousy sons of bitches…fucking bastards…assholes

The swelling on the bridge of her nose had gone down. The cut on her lower lip had scabbed over and although it still hurt to breathe deeply, she was certain that all of her ribs were intact, just bruised. However, the small caliber gunshot wound on her right side, a petty parting gift from the rebuffed assailants was angrily infected, siphoning her energy. She had a low grade fever that wouldn't break and of course, she had hurt her left ankle again because it would've been too much like right for her not to.

Why did it always have to be her left ankle? Why?

She was tempted to cut the fucking thing off but she wouldn't.

Even if it was a constant pain in her ass, she was grateful to still have her left ankle and all of her original equipment. Most people weren't as fortunate in that area.

There were too many of The Dead in front of her, somewhere between a dozen and 20. She'd be able to fight a few of Them off but she was going to pass out. It was inevitable. She had been dizzy all week, despite taking the salvaged antibiotics she had been saving for an emergency faithfully. An infected gunshot wound, gunshot graze technically, coupled with lack of food and water would take her down after 3 years of making it on her own.

It was rather anticlimactic, honestly.

She would go down and The Dead would finally get her, just like They had gotten her parents. A two pronged Pack of Them had stolen her family away from her in a violent orgy of blood and screams. When she dreamed, she would end up back in their disabled white SUV, watching as her parents were Devoured before her eyes. She remembered being helpless to do anything but watch the horror unfold, locking the doors and tracing the dripping, pooling blood on the car window like raindrops. The slurping snarls, the crunchy squish of bones being cracked amongst flesh, the sheer hopelessness…

Her poor Mommy and Daddy…The greedy Dead had barely left enough of them behind to bury.

At least their brains had been destroyed in the assault. The very idea of having to Put Them Down, the very idea of them Walking around, not at peace…thankfully, their brains had been destroyed.

Burying them had been devastating but she couldn't just leave them to rot away.

If it had been her instead, they wouldn't have just left her to rot away.

She had wished that it had been her instead or it had been all of them Devoured.

It was bad enough that the End of Days had come, that the Dead rose and Walked but facing it all alone, never seeing her Mommy and Daddy alive again?

She had broken.

She had vomited and wailed until she had no voice anymore. She wept until her eyes burned and passed out from grief after returning to the SUV. After regaining consciousness the next morning, she had faced the cold hard facts. Tears wouldn't undo the End of the World. Tears wouldn't turn back the clock. Tears wouldn't make it so their SUV never broke down. Tears wouldn't make her parents listen to her suggestion that they abandon the truck and try to find shelter until they could hotwire another vehicle.

Tears wouldn't bring her parents back from the dead.

Tears wouldn't keep her alive.

The Dead walked and They were unmoved by any show of grief so it stood to reason that any other Survivors wouldn't be either.

There was no use crying.

There was no room for tears, no room for weakness in The New World.

She couldn't be a crybaby, anymore.

She had to be strong.

It was time to grow up.

Her parents had laid down their lives for her. They had done it so she would have to dry up, toughen up, and get up. No more kid's stuff. She had to fight. She had to keep going. She had to make it. She owed to them to try to…

"Just Survive Somehow."

She had done a fine job of it but all things came to an end, a human life being the first thing.

She had gotten another 3 years in the New World, seen 3 years worth of sunrises and sunsets.

And her death would come on her own terms instead of someone else's.

It was weak comfort but it was better than none at all.

Reaching into her faded black and white duffel, she pulled out the last of her water and finished it, along with her last peanut butter protein bars. There was no use dying on an empty stomach, right? She would need the energy for her Last Stand to be awesome.

Using her favorite yellow hair ribbons, she pulled her long honey colored hair back into 2 low ponytails and rolled her neck slowly, relishing the loosening kinks.

She would draw Them towards the road and go down in the grass after she placed her duffel where it could be easily seen. There was a tree with low hanging limbs that would work for that. Someone out there could use the clothes, matches, and other miscellaneous supplies within.

Hopefully, whoever found it would be kind to what was left of her corpse. She didn't want to be left for The Dead or other scavenging creatures to gnaw and nibble on.

As a matter of fact…

Pulling out her black and gray houndstooth covered journal, she carefully removed a page and pulled out two of her Sharpies. The pink and black writing took up the whole surface.

'WHOEVER YOU ARE, THIS BAG AND ITS CONTENTS ARE YOURS. IF MY BODY IS NEARBY, PLEASE DESTROY MY BRAIN. PLEASE DON'T LET ME RETURN AND POSSIBLY DO WHAT WAS DONE TO ME TO SOMEONE ELSE. BURY WHAT IS LEFT OF ME, IF YOU CAN. LET ME REST IN PEACE…OR MORE LIKELY IN SEVERAL PIECES. THE DEAD LIKE TO USE PORTION CONTROL, AFTER ALL. THANK YOU AND BEST OF LUCK TO YOU AND YOURS. –EHRMacK/JSS'

Her last Will and Testament completed, she folded the note into quarters, tucking it into the main inside pocket with a pink corner sticking out.

Briefly, she considered taking her dad's Zippo lighter to the journal but decided not to, returning it and the Sharpies to their layered Ziploc bag.

Original reading material was rare nowadays and it always hurt her to have to burn a book. She loved to read. She used to spend hours upon hours in the library reading and her Beforetime bedroom had been full of books from comic series to encyclopedia sets. She had grabbed her all of her comic books during the evacuation and they were still in her duffel, protected by layered Ziploc bags.

If the scavenger wasn't into reading, they would make good kindling.

She hoped they were into reading.

She pulled out her Glock 19 pistol, screwing in the silencer before holstering it on her left. She only had 4 bullets left and without the silencer, more of The Dead would be drawn to the area. Just because she had given up on The Living as a whole didn't mean that she wanted anyone to get Turned or Devoured because of her actions. That would be terrible!

Standing up slowly, she placed the duffel bag in the roadside tree and unsheathed her only other weapon, her much cherished machetes taken by her fleeing assailants while she was on the cracked linoleum.

Her mother's knife had gotten her through many a jam, as had her dad's lighter.

It only fit that both items would be on her person at the time of her death.

It was like having Liam and Madeline with her again, protecting her again.

And on the off chance that there actually was an afterlife, she would see them again soon.

Would they hug her? That would be wonderful. She missed their hugs so much…

After taking a last lingering look at the early morning sun, at the beautiful roadside wildflowers, she took a deep breath and let out her cultivated piercing battle cry, drawing the mini Herd's attention immediately.

They were coming.

Today, Enid Hyacinth Rosemary Mackenzie would be twice dead before noon at 19 years old, taken down by The Walking Dead and The Fucked New World that They owned.

It was sad but not unexpected.

One couldn't cheat Death forever.

It always collected its debt with interest.

She would go down swinging, though.

She would take as many of the motherfuckers as she could down with her!

/

Enid was alive.

Enid was moving.

Astonishingly, she was still alive and now she was in a moving vehicle, heading to God knows where with God knows who. Before succumbing fully to feverish oblivion, she had heard two sets of gunshots, along with the warmly familiar sing of a sharp blade slicing through the air and The Dead.

Someone had been nearby, heard her battle cry, and came to see what was going on.

Someone had saved her. At least 3 someones had saved her.

She thought that she was all alone, that she was going to die all alone.

Apparently not.

After the dust settled, she sensed someone squatting next to her, felt calloused but gentle fingertips on her cheek. That someone had checked her pulse, inspected her body for Bites or Scratches before picking her up like Superman and taking off down the road like The Flash. That someone had been in a blue flannel shirt and of all things, a cowboy hat. The flannel she understood perfectly but a cowboy hat, really?

Seriously?

Who actually wore cowboy hats in real life outside of what used to be Texas? She wasn't in what used to be Texas. She was in what used to be Maryland, close to what used to be Washington, D.C. Various road signs indicated that and from the highest treetops, one could see the Washington Monument. The utter ridiculousness of the headgear had her dismissing Blue Flannel Someone and their friends as nice hallucinations but apparently not.

Keeping very still, Enid took stock of her situation. She was in a fast moving vehicle and resting on felt like a pull out couch mattress, meaning that she was in a salvaged ambulance, bus, or RV. Opening her emerald eyes to half mast, she saw the faux wood 1970s motif and the large windows. She was in an RV.

Her left ankle was propped up on a firm surface, maybe old gym mats and wrapped tightly. Her brown combat boots were off but she still had her right blue knee sock on and her hunter green cargo pants. Her gray zip up hoodie vest rested on top of her duffel and her black leather fingerless gloves were tucked in the left pocket. Her beige midsleeved top was gone and her hair was loose, the yellow ribbons tied around her right wrist.

She still had on her orange zebra striped bra and white tank top. The latter had been unbuttoned and shifted enough expose her injured abdomen but not her breasts, which she appreciated. There were half thawed cold packs on the boot shaped bruises on her side, packs she carefully removed.

Moving her hand to her main injury, she was surprised to feel actual gauze and bandages on her gunshot wound. It had been sutured and there was even a small drain attached to it to draw the infection out faster. Her low grade fever was broken and the stinging burn of her wound was nearly gone. She had been given good antibiotics, possibly through an IV. Had there been an IV in her body? Yes, there had been.

Two Band-Aids on the bend of her arm provided proof as did the detached and capped needles. Following the IV lines to the empty bags themselves, she saw an IV stand bolted securely to the wall. There was also a defibrillator and she could see a pair of crutches in the rolling cabinet it rested on, a cane, too.

She was in an RV with a well stocked mobile infirmary inside of it…and she smelled chicken noodle soup.

They had chicken noodle soup.

Who was she with? Where were they going? Why had they helped her and what did they want in return? There was always a price with The Living, always a quid pro quo mentality…

Slowly, Enid sat up and grabbed her mother's knife from on top of her hoodie, noting that it had been cleaned. It had been sharpened, too. There were black fleece blankets over her and she moved them aside, standing up cautiously.

Her injured ankle immediately buckled and she toppled to the floor, landing heavily on her back like an upended turtle.

"…damn it."

Not only did it still hurt to breathe deeply, it hurt to laugh but she couldn't help but do so.

She was alive and she probably looked like a First Class dumbass right now.

She certainly felt like one.

Holy shit, she was alive!

The RV pulled to the side of the road and she held the knife tighter as 3 sets of footsteps approached. A handsome white man with a silvery chestnut beard and pretty periwinkle eyes came in first, his Colt Python .38 trained steadily on her head. He was followed by a strikingly beautiful black woman with long silvery onyx dreadlocks and a drawn katana in her hand. Bringing up the rear was Blue Flannel Someone, her running rescuer. His long sleeved flannel was tied around his waist now with a Beretta 92FS holstered on his right and a Bowie Knife sheathed on his left.

Now that she was lucid, Enid could see not just the same good looks but the same pretty periwinkle eyes as the Python man underneath the ridiculous hat, chestnut hair that was nearly to his shoulders, and that he was tall (about 5'11, 6'0), thin but rock solid, wiry through his gray thermal shirt.

Feeling their gazes on her, Enid slowly pulled herself back onto the mattress. Carefully, she placed her weapon at her feet before raising her shaking hands palms forward in the universal gesture of surrender. After looking to the woman and getting an approving nod, the man holstered his Colt and accepted her offered knife, sitting down at the small table. The samurai took sentry near the bathroom and BFS stayed in the small doorway, his gaze riveted on her like his travel companions but much softer, overflowing with compassion.

They weren't going to hurt her.

If they were going to hurt her, the shit talking and violence would've started already.

She wasn't going to hurt them.

It was a bad idea to even try to hurt them.

They were in better physical condition than her and well armed. They also had the advantage of knowing exactly where they were going. People would miss them and come looking for them if they didn't return. It was obvious that they were a family unit: husband and wife (or very serious like it); a father, a son, and a stepmother. To fuck with any of them would spell her doom.

Although she had been ready to accept Death earlier and still was accepting of it overall, she would not move up her Time to Go.

When it was her Time to Go, it would be her Time to Go.

She'd leave it up to whatever twisted fool of a God was left up there to decide when that was.

Despite terrible odds and all logic, her Time to Go had not been on that grassy roadside.

The day wasn't over yet, though and she couldn't disregard the idea that she could be on her way to death or degradation with this trio and their well stocked RV.

Yet, Enid couldn't and wouldn't disregard the fact that the trio surrounding her had saved her life, even with paranoia whispering warnings in her ears. Yes, The Living were still bullshit overall. Yes, Enid still preferred dealing with The Dead over The Living but these Living People, these likely leaders of Living People were of a different sort.

They were strong but not cold and selfish. They didn't know her from Adam, Eve, or Steve but they had jumped in and saved her. Other Living People would've just let her get Devoured or Turned. Other Living People would've ran away, too scared to think straight. Still Others would have helped her but demanded an immediate Return on their Investment, typically involving her turning over supplies or worse, males or females feeling entitled to her body.

That sense of entitlement usually led to violence that Enid would come out the winner of, albeit injured and annoyed.

The RV trio, BFS and his parents, had heard her scream and came to investigate, came to help her without hesitation. They hadn't left her behind and had given her proper medical care, something she hadn't experienced since before the End.

Attacking them without just provocation would not only be dumb as hell, it would be ungrateful and just plain rude.

/

"How many Walkers have you killed?"

"Walkers? Oh, you mean The Dead? I stopped counting after I took down the 6 that bit and ate my parents alive. It seemed kinda disrespectful to keep score. I mean, they are overgrown snarling parasites now but they were people at one time…"

"How many Walkers have you killed?"

"…it's got to be at least 100 by now, maybe closer to 200."

"How many people have you killed?"

"28. 13 in one Cycle."

"Cycle?"

"Official dates and years ended with the Old World but the four seasons keep coming and going. I used them to come with up Cycles so I could mark time."

"Why?"

"Why what?"

"Why did you kill 28 people? What happened?"

"Sir, this isn't the first and likely won't be the last time I've been on the business end of a beatdown. The majority of The Living I've dealt with until running into you, your wife, and son today were scum. Every person I've killed had to be killed because they wanted to kill me, rob me, screw me over, and one particularly pleasant individual in what used to be Bethesda wanted me to become one of his Resurrection Wives. Apparently, I have comely child bearing hips and creamy towering bosoms, whatever the hell that means. That's what led to the 13. See, once I realized that Michael was malicious crazy and a post apocalyptic reboot of David Koresh, I freed as many of the Wives as possible and burned his house to the ground. He tried to run away. He tried to justify what he did, saying that the Earth needed to be repopulated by any means necessary. He begged me to let him go but I kept him. I kept him, tied him up and fed his cock to a Chomper with him still attached to it. Once it was Devoured, I decapitated him."

Enid noted and appreciated that fact that even though the married couple looked quite disturbed at her confession, there was no lingering condemnation or fear in their gazes. There was understanding and respect. They got it. BFS looked like he was going to smile and nod before catching himself. His parents didn't see it but Enid did. She also saw the flare of his nostrils, the lick of his lower lip.

Her brand of justice didn't disturb or scare him.

Hearing about what she did turned him on.

Enid could tell.

Knowing when someone was hot for her or could become hot for her had kept her safe, just like her mother's knife, her father's lighter, and her much missed stolen Machetes.

Ooh, when she found the lousy motherfuckers who swiped them, when she found the shitkickers who beat her and left her for dead, she would get her blades back and then, she would use them to make Hibachi ingredients out of their collective fingers and toes!

There were only so many humans left in the World, now.

It was likely that there would be a Round 2 and Enid was determined to win.

Maybe BFS would be down to help…

"I spent the following winter and half of spring tracking his 12 Most Faithful down and giving all of the sick bastards the same treatment as their Leader. It was very brutal business but it was necessary. None of them could be allowed to live because more women and girls would be hurt by them later. They deserved to suffer and die for what they did. It had to be done and it had to be me. Nobody else was strong enough."

Another lick of his lower lip and BFS' cheeks flushed pink as he looked away from her, his jaw jumping as if he bit the inside of it. He shifted on his feet and used tightening his flannel as a cover for the truth.

He was trying not to get hard or he was hard and trying to hide it.

Enid appreciated the show of restraint.

Most men didn't give a rat's ass about who saw their hardened cock.

They just wanted it touched, wet and satiated.

It was more than a little interesting. BFS was a skilled Medic with compassionate pretty periwinkle eyes and a deep enough sadistic streak for it to be tied to his libido.

It was quite the oxymoron.

How the hell had that happened?

Who the hell had happened to him?

"The formal Laws of the Land are gone forever but there are still some things that you just don't do. Rape, child molestation, cannibalism, slavery…look, we all have to make it. We all have to find ways to Just Survive Somehow in this ugly New World but The Anointed were just plain wrong. That's what they called themselves. They based their twisted practices on a skewed interpretation of the Book of Revelation. That's not to say that I'm a religious expert or anything like that but I don't think its Writer meant for it to be used their way. The Living are either Chomper Chow or absolute scum."

"Not all of them are like that."

"Most of them are. You three aren't."

"…what's your name?"

"You first."

"I'm Rick Grimes. This is my Partner Michonne and the Medic across from you is Carl."

"Wife and Son?"

"Yeah."

"Mr. Grimes, my name is Enid Hyacinth Rosemary Mackenzie. You can call me Enid, 'Nid, Slash, or Cherry. I answer to all of them. I'm 19 years old. Thank you for helping me back there and thank you for treating my wounds, Carl. If you all hadn't come, I'd be dead right now. Where exactly are you taking me?"

"Home. Carl can explain it to you and answer any other questions you have. I'll keep this safe in the meantime. We won't hurt you as long as you don't do something stupid first."

Enid held back giggles as Rick Grimes walked back towards the front with her mother's knife. He looked and sounded the part of the gunslinging lawman to a T. He'd fit right in a Gary Cooper picture. All he needed was a trusty steed and a new cowboy hat. He even had the bow legged swagger going on. He was probably deep in law enforcement in the Beforetime, maybe a Sheriff or Prison Warden. Michonne, having sheathed her katana stepped forward and helped Enid recline on the pillows and blankets. She even tucked her in. The warrior woman handled her carefully and although her parting words were directed to her, Michonne's eyes were on Carl.

"If you need anything, I'll be right up front."

The door was slid across and the RV roared back to life seconds afterwards, their journey continuing. Enid took no offense at the warnings. In fact, it was another point in their favor. Rick and Michonne genuinely gave a damn about Carl. The End of Days hadn't severed that bond. They still loved their son dearly and would watch out for him, no matter how capable he was. She had a strong gut feeling that if he were just some random kid they had picked up along their travels, it would be like that, too.

Carl grabbed a chair and sat in it, placing his cowboy hat on his lap. He smoothed down his eyebrow length bangs and tented his fingers, waiting for her to begin.

Enid had questions, so many questions but she didn't know which ones to ask first. She was completely out of her depth. She had expected to spend the rest of her life alone or fighting off scumbags between rounds with The Dead. She had expected to die earlier. Being around strong yet peaceful humans, being in close proximity to someone her age, an attractive male someone her age had her reeling.

And the way Carl kept looking at her…it made her skin crawl. Why was he looking at her like that? What did he want? What was that look in his eyes, other than curious compassion? It wasn't lust or fear or pity. It wasn't even calculating. It made her want to run but she wasn't sure whether she wanted to run away from it or run towards it. It was confusing.

This boy, this man, this Carl Grimes, was confusing the absolute shit out of her without even saying a word to her.

Enid hated being confused because being confused around The Living, especially males was the first step towards disaster. She had to get clarity or she'd definitely do something stupid…

"How old are you?"

"I turned 19 a couple months ago."

"When was your birthday?"

"June 27th."

"Mine was June 11th. Are you an only child?"

"No. I have a little sister. Her name's Judith. She's 5 going on 30."

"I hear Deep South in your voices. Where are you all from?"

"Atlanta."

"As in Georgia?"

"Yeah."

"Wow…and I thought I was hot shit making it out of DC alive."

"Is that where you're from?"

"No, I'm from what used to be Southeastern Michigan. I lived in what used to be Novi, about 30 minutes from Detroit. We were assigned to the Southbound Evacuation Caravans. The goal was to try to get down here to the Capital or to the CDC in your hometown to seek help. Everyone had to choose which one. DC was closer than Atlanta and Mom had friends there. We got separated from our Group and our SUV broke down 5 miles outside of DC. That's where our journey as a family ended. That's where my parents were killed. The Dead stole them from me."

"I'm sorry."

"They're at peace, now. I got to bury what was left of them. That's better than most people get."

"True. My hometown is actually King's County, Georgia. It was a straight shot up I-85 outside Atlanta. It's good that you guys headed for DC because the CDC is long gone. The building blew up and collapsed like a sandcastle. It's completely destroyed. I was there with my family when it happened."

"How did it happen? Who or what did it? Was it the military? The military was blowing everything that moved to Kingdom Come towards the End of the Spread, especially in major cities…"

"No, it wasn't the military, although they did bomb much of the city to hell. I saw them do it from the highway. The last scientist standing at the CDC, Dr. Edwin Jenner, let the building self destruct after he wasn't able to find a Cure. He missed his wife and lost all his hope. He was ready to die and he almost took our whole Group down with him. Dad, my biological mother Lori, and my Aunt Carol convinced him to let us try to get out before the timer ran out. The doors were sealed shut so Dad blasted a hole in a window with a grenade that Aunt Carol saved from our old Camp's laundry and we ran for our lives. We lost Jacqui that day."

"I'm sorry to hear that. People die all the time but losing people still sucks."

"She chose to stay behind and at least she didn't suffer. That's better than most people get."

"True. How many people are in your Group, now?"

"16. Most of us are from Georgia but 3 joined us from Texas and Home has 59 people, including us."

"And Home is where, exactly…?"

"Home is the Alexandria Safe Zone, the ASZ or Alexandria for short. It's a walled community of military cleared streets with solar power, cisterns and its own sewer system for the houses. Originally, it was going to be a high end, self sustaining neighborhood for the rich but after The World went to shit and the military never came back, Deanna and Reg Monroe put up the Walls with their sons and people came for sanctuary. My family and I came in a little over 3 years ago and since then, we've all worked together to make something good there. We added new layers to the Walls and Walker traps. We have an infirmary, an armory, crops and livestock. We make our own bullets, now. We've just come up with a way to make biodiesel and most of our vehicles run off of it, including this RV. We call it the Old Rust Bucket."

"Seriously?"

"Fuckin' A."

"Well, what were you all doing out here, then? What do you need that you don't already have?"

"We got a lead on medical supplies, winter gear and sorghum seeds that panned out nicely. That's where your saline and antibiotics came from. We also go out looking for people to bring in."

"Why the hell would you do such a thing? It's fucking stupid. The Living are more dangerous than The Dead. Don't you know that by now?"

The narrow eyed glare he gave her in response to her blistering words could've felled a red oak.

Enid swallowed thickly before looking down at her clasped hands. She had just pissed him off. She wasn't afraid that he'd hurt her but she didn't like that she had upset him. The idea of upsetting him made her stomach knot tightly and she wasn't sure why.

"Look at me. Now."

She obeyed him slowly, feeling like she had been on the business end of another boot stomp.

She would've preferred it, honestly.

Why did she feel the need to apologize to him? Why didn't she want him to be mad at her?

Why did she care?

Why did Carl Grimes make her care?

Like her, he had kept his tone low but the venom in his voice, the thickening of his own drawl made his rebuttal as powerful as if he had shouted at her.

"The bloodiest, most twisted things that have ever happened to us in this World happened because of people. The worst things we've seen, that I've survived, that we've all survived happened because of people so yeah, we know that by now. We know that very well. However, despite being outnumbered by Walkers and absolute scum by 1000 to 1, there are still good people out there who deserve a chance to do more than get by. There are good people who deserve a chance to not Just Survive Somehow but to actually live, to thrive. People like you. Bringing people in to ASZ is definitely risky and yeah, sometimes, things go South and there's a mess to deal with but it's not stupid. It's completely necessary."

As quickly as her anger came, it went away, leaving her feeling like a complete brat.

He was right and even if he wasn't, Enid knew that she had no right to talk to him like she had, like he was stupid, sheltered and weak.

Strong Group or not, Carl wouldn't have lasted a day, much less over 3 years in their World, most of it spent traveling hundreds of miles from home if he was stupid, sheltered, or weak.

"…you're right. I-I know you are. It's just that most Living People will…"

Enid gestured at her battered body and before she could stop them, tears fell from her eyes.

The tears were quickly joined by whimpers and soon, she was sobbing, her knuckles in front of her mouth to muffle them.

Carl's own anger receded and the confusing softness returned to his eyes, making her feel better about blubbering like a fucking baby. Damn it, she hated it when she cried! Crying didn't solve anything. Crying was a waste of time and daylight. Crying was a waste of energy and precious bodily fluids.

She couldn't be a crybaby, anymore.

She had to be strong and capable but this time, she just couldn't hold the tears in.

The last 9 days for her had been terrible. She had been rained out of her woods shelter, forced to go into town. She had lost most of her haul to a steaming bag of stupid, clap ridden dicks. They took her machetes. She had been beaten up and shot again. Her body ached all over. Her life had done yet another jarring 180 and she was still so goddamned tired, even with tangible hope in what was left in her heart again…

"I get it. We're both right."

She nodded in agreement, accepting the clean gray handkerchief he offered her.

Not only was it clean, it actually smelled like fabric softener and dryer sheets.

He really did get it. What and who had happened to him to make him understand so well?

Who was Carl Grimes?

What was really going on in his head?

Why did she even care?

"I'm really sorry for snapping at you. You helped save me back there. You're helping me heal now. I shouldn't be a bitch to you. You don't deserve that. I'm sorry."

"It's cool and you're not a bitch, Enid. Don't call yourself that again. You don't have a concussion so you can lie down, try to get some sleep. I'll be back."

"Where are you going?"

Confusing and exasperating as he was, Enid didn't want Carl to go away from her yet.

"I have to pee and now that you're conscious, you need some fuel for your system. You can't heal right if you're hungry and thirsty. Don't worry. I'll wash my hands."

/

"Wow…"

"Pretty cool, huh?"

"Jesus fucking Fuck…"

Enid knew that Carl hadn't been lying to her about the fortifications of his Home. She knew that in her bones but seeing it with her own two eyes, seeing what was able to be done? She was amazed. The road leading up to ASZ was full of spiked trees, empty vehicles, and remains of houses. Ditches had been dug as well, some of them open but others had been hidden like tiger traps. There were Walkers (such a clever turn of phrase…) impaled in various ways on the spikes, some pinned through the body but most through the head. Halfway to the Main Gate, there began to be speed bumps in the road, forcing a vehicle to slow down or to risk a broken axle.

The outermost Wall was made mostly of thick, tree trunk like wood but had metal at critical areas, along with dark reinforcing ropes. The double door Gates were large and judging from the design of the watch towers, some Alexandrians lived in them or at least slept there nightly. They were stopped at that Gate briefly by a husky white man with a Mullet (an actual goddamned Mullet…) and Enid got confirmation.

She wasn't sure how the entire Hierarchy worked in Alexandria but the Grimes Family were LEADERS. They were the equivalent of the Royal Family. They were at the center of everything. Rick Grimes was the BMOC and Michonne was the HBIC. Mullet Man gave them a quick status report and then, the Gates were opened to the second layer.

There was an area of wooden, metal tipped spikes driven into the ground between the layers and deep pits, some right in range for someone rappelling over or even launching over. That was solid strategy. Even if they got past the sharpshooters, managed to get a rope anchored or the right trajectory, they'd either have a bone breaking landing in the ground or they'd be a kabob.

The second Wall was made of metal panels mainly with stacked cinderblock areas in places, and there were more spiked vehicles there, hollowed out to be used as shooter nests. The watch posts were open platforms and she spotted a few people on them, most notably three women with automatic rifles. The second Gate was a sheet of heavy metal, and reminded Enid of a junkyard. The next person to approach to report in was a Priest, a bona fide Priest. He had the whole outfit but in his hands was a semiautomatic rifle, ready to be used at a moment's notice. The black man had an aura of intensity to him that was apparent even from a distance but his smile was genuine, filled with kindness…

"That's Father Gabriel Stokes. He does Services every Sunday, counseling, and he helps watch and train the kids here. He's in charge of Defense when Dad's gone and good with guerrilla fighting, especially at night. The man at the first Gate is Eugene Porter. He's the main Gatekeeper, our bullet guy and he was Key to us figuring out the biodiesel. He's pretty much a mad scientist. It took a while, way longer than it should've, but he's a hell of a hand to hand fighter, now. He's still iffy with a gun or blade but he made a hammer that looks like a giant meat tenderizer and he can take down anyone with it, now."

"The three rifle ladies up top?"

"Sasha Williams-Dixon, Rosita Espinosa, and Tara Chambler: Sasha's the best sniper we've got, Rosita's great with blades, machetes mainly and Tara can do just about anything with any weapon she gets her hands on. She's also one of our best Supply Runners."

"Those are people who were on the road with you. They're all in your Group, your family."

"There are good people who were here long before us who can get it done."

Hopefully, they weren't outnumbered by the sniveling weak or covert assholes around town.

There were always some of those types of humans, whether it was in a nomadic Group or a Community but none were worse than those in Communities.

Being behind Walls was a double edged sword.

On the one hand, you had an excellent tactical advantage and a mental boon.

Behind Walls, one didn't have to worry nearly as much about The Dead or The Living coming and wreaking havoc. Behind Walls, a person could put down roots, make deep connections, and actually live a life. Defending a home, an actual home with roots and love within it, made people better fighters. It kept them anchored and as sane as anyone was allowed to be all things considering.

They had something to live for, other than spite and habit.

It could be a good thing.

On the other hand, being behind Walls could make people sheltered and weak.

It could make them spiteful and petty.

It could make them power hungry towards those who actually knew what they were doing.

It could make cowards and impulsive idiots, people unable and unwilling to face threats directly.

They could be naïve to the reality of the Fucked New World.

If the Walls were ever breached, if they ever had to leave their Walls, they would be dead. They would either die immediately or be slowly ripped apart by the World outside. Soft people living behind Walls, soft people who didn't know what to do to really survive were nothing but liabilities, easy prey. Soft people who refused to adapt were like slow poison. They could and would easily take down, take out strong people when they eventually self destructed, unable to handle the pressure.

People like that never had the decency to self destruct quietly. No, they always went out with a bang, doing as much collateral damage as they could.

Enid knew that all too well…

The RV pulled through the innermost Gate and Wall, the original ones, and Enid blinked, feeling as if she had been pulled through a Time Warp. If not for the fortifications she just saw, she would swear that she was in an upper class neighborhood in the Beforetime. The streets were paved, the sidewalks neat and the houses looked like something straight out of Architectural Digest. There were townhouses like in New York and McMansions, even a couple of small shotgun houses in the distance. The houses had yards, fences and some even had gardens. The grassy areas were bright green, the numerous crops were visibly thriving, and as soon as the RV engine cut off, she could hear the sounds of a thriving community. She heard conversation, music, the noise of livestock, the faint clang of forgery, and what stood out the most was the sound of children laughing. There were children here and they could laugh, they could play without being scared.

Bad Groups and Communities never had laughing or playing children.

Not for very long, anyway…they were always the first to die or be abandoned…

"Are you okay?"

It was just her and Carl in the RV.

When had that happened?

How long had she been standing there lost in thought?

Rick and Michonne were outside talking with a long haired Biker with Biceps and a mustached Ginger Giant that was strapped like 80s Schwarzenegger. Michonne had her duffel bag and Rick was holding her knife as if he were inspecting it. Her mother's knife was a good knife, reliable and effective. Whatever inspection he was putting it through would be passed.

She would feel a lot better when she got it back.

She'd better get it back soon.

"…I don't know."

She really didn't. Everything had changed again and Enid felt like she was adrift in thick fog. She was happy to be alive. She was grateful that good people had found her but…god, she was so confused and scared and sad and angry and...

"Eventually, you get used to being out there. It's fight or die and you don't want to die. You don't want the ones around you to die so you adapt. You get strong. You get smart. You turn into an ice cold Warrior, a Walker killing machine and if somebody Living fucks with you or yours? It's done. You get up every day, tired as hell but you keep going because stopping is not an option. Giving up is not an option. If you do, even for a second, you die. You get used to having to fight and run all of the time. You even grow to like it a little so when you can actually stop, think and relax? When you find a safe place that you can keep safe with good people in it? It's intense. It's like coming up for air. It's awesome and it is scary as fuck. It's absolutely terrifying. You always held out hope that there could be something more to this Fucked New World than pain, fear, cruelty, bullshit, and death but now that you've got proof of it, you don't know what to do next. You don't know what to feel. You want to run away from it, from everything but you can't do that. You know you can't. You can't run from your own mind."

Carl Grimes had gone through hell.

He had seen hell, raised hell and lived through hell more than once because there was no other way that he could understand so well.

It was like he could see directly into her mind, sense all of her emotions in real time.

He had just put the Feelings buzzing like wasps in her head and twisting her guts into knots into succinct, eloquent, bulls-eye hitting Words.

Damn, did he have a way with Words! If the Old World had held it together, he could've easily gone into politics or become an author, a screenwriter…

Hearing someone understand, someone her age completely understand was going on with her was wonderful. It calmed her paranoia enough to retreat into the back of her mind where it belonged. He got it. He really, truly got it.

He understood.

What had the hell happened to him?

Who the hell had happened to him?

"Carl, you just…you get it. You get where I am..."

"I've been there. It sucks."

Laughing still hurt her sides but not as badly as before.

"I do feel like I want to run away from here. I feel like I should run away screaming but I can't because that wouldn't make any sense. I just…I can't…I don't even know what I want to happen next in my life but I do know that I really don't want to go back to where I was. Not just physically but mentally, too. I was…no. I was just no out there and I…I don't want to be alone. I still don't trust The Living as far as I can throw them and that's not gonna change but…I don't want to be alone, anymore. I could do it if I had to but I don't want to."

"You don't have to. You're fine right where you are."

That was a loaded statement.

Enid was currently standing right next to him, looking right at him with the aid of crutches.

Carl was looking at her again with that confusing softness in his eyes and she sighed softly.

She'd deal with it later…much later if she had a say in the matter.

It was a little past 3PM and her whole World had been rocked to its foundations yet again.

It hadn't been a 180 like she thought before. This was a full 360.

Hell, it wasn't even a circle anymore. Her life was an oval, now. Maybe a sphere.

She needed time to adapt before tackling The Carl Grimes Issue, solving the puzzle.

And she would tackle it, tackle and solve it completely, one way or the other.

Enid had never been one to let a mystery go unsolved, a puzzle left unfinished…

"Besides, even if I did want to go back out there now, doing so would be guaranteed death. I'm still recovering from infection. I'm exhausted. I've got malnutrition. My ankle's not going to be right again for at least a month and I don't have the weapons I'm best with, anymore. The bag of clap ridden dicks that stomped and shot me have them, now."

"What did you use?"

"Two machetes. I found them in a karate dojo just before the bullshit with The Anointed."

"What did they look like?"

"They look like normal machetes except they have pink and black grip tape on the handles. I did like a vertical zigzag pattern with the tape and I cut my initials into them, too. Those were in cursive."

"They sound pretty badass."

"They are. I hope I get them back, eventually."

"You…y-you're pretty badass, Enid."

"I am. So are you, Carl. Game recognizes Game."

He had a nice chuckle. Some people sounded like idiots when they laughed at all but Carl's was nice. Idly, Enid wondered what his full laughter sounded like. Would she be around long enough to hear it? Could she be able to make him laugh, able to just joke around? Was she still capable of that sort of thing? The idea of finding out was a nice one.

"Come on. Let's get you settled in."

/

"Tara and Denise used to stay up here…"

"Denise?"

"Dr. Denise Cloyd's our surgeon and psychologist. She taught me everything I know. She's awesome. You can't help but love her. She and Tara used to stay up here but they moved out a couple years ago. We kept it ready for long term patients. I'd like you to stay close for now in case you get another infection or you take a spill. Plus, it'll be easier for you to get help with your PT if you don't have to come walking all the way across town to find me."

"Don't you mean come limping?"

"Same difference. Unless there's an emergency, I'm downstairs from 7:30-5:00 every day and the door at the top of the stairs closes firmly if you need more privacy. There isn't a lock, though."

"I understand. So, where do you live?"

"I'm still with my parents. I don't mind staying with them. They're cool and I like to keep close to Judith, make sure she's okay. Speaking of her, she should be showing up right about…"

The front door closed with a bang and fast footsteps came to an abrupt halt.

"Big Bro-ther? Where are you?"

"…now. I'm upstairs, Jude!"

Enid couldn't help but smile as a giggling little whirlwind tromped up the stairs and staggered Carl with a hug around his right leg. Judith Grimes only came up to her standing brother's lower abdomen. Her hair was in a messy plait, the honey blonde locks taking on bright highlights from the sun. She had on a purple dress, dark gray capri leggings, black Doc Marten boots with yellow laces, and a flannel shirt like her brother's, only hers was bright pink. She also carried a brown leather satchel ala Indiana Jones. She looked very healthy and her brilliant white smile, a smile that showed a couple lost baby teeth was genuine, full of joy, full of so much hope

Bad Groups and Communities never had hope and joy, especially for children or the elderly.

Carl knelt to her level and gave her a proper hug, his little sister getting up on her tiptoes to hold onto him tightly. Just like there was deep love between his parents and himself, the affection between siblings was potent. It wasn't potent in a way that made people wary but in a way that proved that there was a still a hint of good in the World, even with The Dead rising and roaming.

Not everything had been ruined.

"I missed you. You, Mommy and Daddy were gone for 3 sleeps. Did you find the winter stuff?"

"We sure did and something better."

"What'd you find?"

"We found a new friend. Judith, can you say hi to Enid?"

Although her eyes were warm hazel, almost amber in the daylight, they were just as pretty as her father and brother's periwinkle. They were big and full of curiosity, full of kindness but had a hint of wariness too. That was good to see. Children needed to be aware of danger, especially Living danger. It was more likely that someone would be done in by a human than a Walker in their World and one couldn't trust just anyone. They had to be careful. They had to keep their guards up at all times, even around those called friend and family. Anybody could snap at any moment and just…she was glad Judith was learning sooner rather than later.

She was being raised right.

"Hi, Enid. What happened? Your lip's cut, your nose has colors, and your ankle's busted. Did you fall down? I fell one time while playing tag with my best friend cousin Hershel and my lip was hurt for a week."

"No, I didn't fall down, Sweetheart. Some very mean boys beat me up, stole some of my stuff and left me for the Walkers. I had to get away fast and I busted my ankle. Your family saved me and your brother did a very good job with fixing me on the way here."

"They shouldn't have done that to you. Our Daddy says that real men never ever hurt or kill girls unless they're Walkers or the bad kind of crazy. Do you still hurt?"

"A little but not as bad as before."

"Don't worry, Enid. Carl and Auntie Doctor Denise will make you all better. They can fix just about anyone. You'll see. Are you gonna live in Alexandria with us forever?"

"I'm not sure. I…I'd like to stay for a while but I don't know about forever."

The front door opened again and Judith cocked her head owlishly, listening to the approaching footsteps closely.

"That's Daddy." she declared with full confidence and sure enough, Rick Grimes came into the doorway with her belongings.

"How'd you do that, Jude?" Carl asked with an impressed (and quite beautiful…) smile.

"Uncle Daryl's teaching me how to know footsteps and Daddy always checks on people when they're in the Infirmary so they don't try and do something bad to you or Auntie Doctor Denise. Daddy, can Enid stay here with us? She's nice but she's got sad eyes and that means she needs friends real bad."

Well…shit.

What was it about the Grimes children that made them able to read her so easily?

Really, what was that?

Did they have some sort of shared empathy based Superpower?

Most importantly, Enid wondered why it didn't bother her as much as it should.

Being confused was the first step towards disaster with The Living but being Read was the second. Once someone could figure out exactly what made you tick, it became easier to exploit your various weaknesses. That was never a good thing. Enid had taken great pains to become completely inscrutable, to become an ice cold Warrior as Carl phrased it earlier and yet…

"We'll see, Butterfly. I gotta think hard about it…"

"That means that you have to ask Mommy."

Carl's full laughter was loud, slightly wheezy, and warm, even in the face of an ice cold glare from his ever so slightly pouting father. Rick Grimes was the BMOC, the badass LEADER of Alexandria but was apparently a whipped man for his wife. That was hilarious. It certainly made a lot of sense, though. Anyone who could wield a katana properly had great mental discipline and Michonne was a brilliant, capable woman, definitely worth listening to on all matters, mundane or otherwise. To not do so would be stupid and Rick Grimes wasn't a stupid man.

Enid would certainly listen to Michonne Grimes if prompted to and that was saying something.

Since her parents had gotten Devoured, since the mess with The Anointed, listening to any authority wasn't going to happen unless absolutely necessary and that was to a point. Her autonomy was very precious to her and most Living People didn't know what the fuck they were doing, anyway.

Michonne knew what the fuck she was doing.

All of the Grimes knew what the fuck they were doing.

"Well, Mommy's my Partner so…listen, why don't you go find Aunt Maggie? She mentioned that she had some parsnips she needed help with."

"Okay, Daddy. Bye, Enid. Bye, Big Brother."

"Bye…oh, don't run, Jude…and she's running…"

"That girl never walks anywhere or stays still for long and you know it."

"True. Our girl's always on the move…"

This was one of the biggest things Enid missed from the Beforetime. She missed that sort of interaction between her and her parents with inside jokes, laughter, good natured teasing…

She was glad that Carl and Judith had that.

At the same time, burning pain lanced through what was left of her heart.

Enid wished that her Mommy and Daddy could've made it as far as she had. She wished, not for the first time, that The Dead hadn't stolen them from her. They would've loved it in Alexandria and probably wouldn't be as scared as she still was to be within its immense Walls. Liam and Madeline Mackenzie had always been open optimistic people, hardworking and willing to forge connections with anyone. Enid had always been shy, aloof at times, slow to open up, slow to trust. Her father had once compared her to a cat in her ways and it just…oh, it hurt so much

Tears pricked her eyes again but she held it together, tracing a familiar pattern on the soft (so soft, the softest thing she had felt in ages!) dark gray comforter on the bed she sat on. She had cried earlier in front of Carl and she didn't want to do it again. Not twice in the same day and preferably never again. Once was enough. Once was acceptable given the circumstances but no more. Crying was a waste of time. Crying was a waste of energy. Crying never solved anything.

Enid didn't want Carl or anyone else in the ASZ to start feeling like she was a fragile little lamb. She didn't want them thinking that she was unable to be left alone or unable to handle all of her emotions like a grown up. She wasn't a baby. She was 19 years old, orphaned by Walkers, and had spent the majority of the time since alone, making it on her own. She had been beaten up and down by the Fucked New World but she was still standing, still fighting. She wasn't a baby. She was a strong and capable woman. She had proven it more than once. She had made it this far, hadn't she? She wasn't weak or spineless or useless.

She was strong.

She wasn't a crybaby.

She couldn't and wouldn't be a crybaby, anymore.

Crybabies were the first to die or be victimized.

She didn't want to die and nobody got away with making her a victim.

Nobody.

Enid had managed to stop a member of The Anointed (Samuel) from "fully purifying her in the blood of the Lamb" but it had been a close call, a very close call. Her mother's knife had saved her, as had the "man's" sniveling cowardice. Apparently, he could only "fulfill his due" with girls and women who were drugged out of their minds, unable to fight to win. The louse had even ratted out his fellow "men", giving her the information she needed to get every "Resurrection Wife" out safely and how to set the House ablaze. He had given her the key to Michael's quarters and bolted when she let him, blubbering out his thanks. He had called her a genuine Angel, thanked her for showing him Grace and mercy…

Enid had just saved him for last.

He deserved no mercy. None of The Anointed had.

Enid knowing that the other girls and women in the House hadn't been as "lucky" as she had broken something deep inside of her, something that would never mend. It had made this monstrous Hate emerge from the pieces.

Until then, her Living kills had been self defense but The Anointed, the sheer amount of depravity and despair they caused had required retribution.

The pain and violation inflicted upon their "Resurrection Wives" could sadly never be undone. That would require access to a working time machine but making sure that none of the sick fucks lived, making sure that they all suffered as much and beyond what they put their victims through? She had done it. She had been strong, been decisive, and did what had to be done for the Greater Good.

She had, in the words of Uma Thurman from Kill Bill, gotten bloody satisfaction.

They had deserved it.

A weak crybaby couldn't have done what she did…

"Enid?"

She blinked and straightened up, looking Rick Grimes dead in the eye. Carl had gone downstairs. She could hear him in a rolling chair and opening cabinets. Rick had her mother's knife in his hand, hilt extended to her and she took it back slowly, placing it on the nightstand in front of the alarm clock. How long had he been staring at her? How long had she been lost in her thoughts?

Getting lost in thought so deeply was dangerous nowadays but Enid actually felt safe in the ASZ.

How long that feeling of safety would last was anyone's guess.

Rick had placed her duffel bag on the dresser and the clothes within were in a large basket, freshly laundered and folded neatly. They had access to washing machines here and fabric softener. Enid remembered smelling it on Carl's gray handkerchief, a handkerchief that she still had in her pocket. The basket was also full of things like toilet paper, comet cleanser, and was that a full sized bottle of mouthwash in there? It was. There was a bottle of mouthwash, a tube of toothpaste and a brand new toothbrush, along with shampoo and conditioner and a bar of soap, a whole bar!

She would be able to take a shower soon, a hot shower and not just an icy trapped rainwater one with travel sized toiletries that she salvaged from old hotels. She'd be able to brush her teeth and put on clean clothes, truly clean clothes. She would be sleeping in a bed, a Queen sized bed with soft bedding that she had all to herself.

She would be clean and comfortable.

Enid would be clean and comfortable, truly clean and comfortable for the first time since before the End, before the ugly truth about The Anointed became known to her.

She wasn't offended at ASZ's leadership, Carl's family going through her duffel. Not at all. She had nothing to hide and it was smart. One never knew what vices a person had, especially in the Fucked New World. Bringing an addict, a pedophile or serial murderer into their Community would not be good. Things would certainly "go South" then, as Carl had said and they'd have to deal with it decisively.

Enid wasn't an addict or a pedophile and as for being a serial murderer? Well, she could happily live with that label. She hadn't killed anyone who hadn't deserved to die and from what she could surmise, she was far from the only person in the ASZ to have a high death count. The one of the youngest people, yes but definitely not the first or last. Carl's Fight or Die adage sounded very similar to her Just Survive Somehow and she would take on that philosophy in a heartbeat.

She already had.

"Carl says that it's going to take about a month for your ankle to heal right and that's with PT. I still have to talk with everyone but you can stay here past that as long as things don't go South."

"I don't hurt The Living unless they try to hurt me first, sir. I won't hesitate to defend myself."

"You shouldn't. We have four jail cells so if it comes to that, try not to kill whoever it is. We do trials here. Michonne used to be a prosecutor so she handles them. There's a Council of Leaders and we take votes on verdicts. Everyone over 18 gets a say in most cases. Final say is usually left up to whoever got hurt or their loved ones if they're dead."

"Your justice system sounds very fair and balanced. I like that. Do you do executions?"

"Yes, we do. Usually, it's Exile but if the situation calls for it…"

"I understand. I…I want to stay here for awhile, Mr. Grimes. At least through the Winter. Once I'm back on my feet, I'll find something to do here to pull my weight and I won't be any trouble unless I'm provoked. It takes a lot to provoke me so it should work out but I…I'm not a prisoner here, right? If I ever want to leave…"

"You can."

"Cool. Thank you again for helping me, for saving my life. I won't forget it."

She owed the Grimes family big and she wouldn't leave the Alexandria Safe Zone without making things square at least once.

She was a Mackenzie and Mackenzies always paid their debts, no matter what the cost.

Liam Mackenzie had blatantly stolen that vow from A Song of Fire and Ice but Enid kept it close to her heart like every other lesson her parents had taught her.

Other than her mother's knife and her father's lighter, they were all she had left of them.

/

At first, the water was as hot as she could get it without scalding herself.

Once the outermost layers of filth and grime had gone swirling down the drain, Enid turned it down to warm. The shower alcove she was in filled with steam, steam that became fragrant as she started to scrub herself. The bruises on her side and nose deepened in color from the heat but she didn't care. A bit more pus drained out of her gunshot wound and it stung as suds slid over it but she didn't care.

She was going to be clean.

She wasn't going to smell like dirt, blood, sweat, and Walkers, anymore.

The homemade shampoo and conditioner smelled like vanilla and lavender. The soap was Dial soap, the yellow bar and she had a sponge. Before, she had used those fluffy loofahs that needed to be replaced monthly but the sponge was solid, strong, exfoliating. Her skin had picked up some color from all the time she spent outside but overall, it was still the same milky white she remembered. Picking up the razor and the can of shaving cream, she lathered underneath her arms and carefully removed the hair there before tending to her legs. The rest of it could stay.

The hair on her arms was so fine it was barely visible.

The thick curls between her legs were supposed to be there.

It wasn't like she would be sharing that sort of intimacy with anyone any time soon.

Enid wasn't ready for sex. She truly was not ready for that type of vulnerability, the intimacy, emotionally or physically. She was grateful, so very grateful that the choice to keep her virginity intact hadn't been taken away from her. It honestly should've been, given how twisted and cruel most Living People were but it hadn't. There had been close calls but no.

She would actually get to choose her first partner. Whether they were the Only or the first of many remained to be seen but she would get to choose them.

And quite frankly, if said chosen partner cringed at the sight of her pubic hair, then they weren't mature enough to be inside her, anyway so they could zip up their pants and fuck right off!

Once her body was completely rinsed, Enid turned off the water and sat down in the shower chair bolted to the wall. It could fold up or down and she was grateful to have it. Her ankle no longer buckled at the slightest step but it was far from full strength. She would be limping for a while. She knew some stretching exercises from trial and error but PT was a must to get it where she needed and wanted it to be.

She needed to be able to run again, not just in case of an emergency but for fun, too.

Running made her feel better.

Enid slid the shower door open and grabbed a large white towel, securing it before picking up a smaller matching one. Wiping some condensation from the full length mirror, she took a look at her reflection. Other than her injuries and a bit of lost baby fat in her cheeks (not nearly enough for her tastes, fuck she still looked like a chipmunk!), her face looked the same as it had in the white SUV. The boot shaped bruises on her side had deepened in color but they would fade away, leaving mostly smooth skin behind. She had gotten a little taller and despite being on the road for so long, her body still had curves. Her body still had strength…she had grown. She had lived. She would keep living and growing until Death came for her.

She had already brushed her teeth but she picked up the bottle of mouthwash (cinnamon-mint, her favorite!) for another quick swish and rinse. She still had all of her teeth and they were a good shade of white. The cut on her lip was gaining a thicker scab and that scab would be off soon, possibly in the next 3 days. That was good. The tug was annoying and smiling made it sting again. She wanted the scab off so she could smile. Enid actually wanted to smile.

Having reasons to smile that weren't fucked up funny was a welcome change of pace.

After rewrapping her ankle and putting on her panties, Enid began to clean up the mess inside the shower alcove. She could've left it there until morning but her mother had taught her the value of cleaning as she went. Mainly, it had been a lesson for when she was cooking meals (holy fuck, she would be able to cook again with a stove and running water!) but it applied nicely elsewhere. The longer a mess lingered, the harder it would be to clean up later. That meant that she would have less time to do what she wanted.

Typically, what she wanted to do in the Beforetime was read. She loved to read.

She would be able to read books in peace again, maybe even read for hours like she used to.

She wouldn't have to worry about an ambush or the elements ruining her material.

Limping back to her new bedroom, Enid put the towels in the waiting black hamper and climbed into the bed. She had already turned down the blankets and arranged the 3 pillows just so. It was bedtime. The sun had just now set fully but the day had been so long that she just wanted to crash.

Briefly, she considered sleeping in just her panties but that idea was quickly nixed. Just because she was behind Walls and every person she had interacted with so far was good didn't mean that there weren't assholes around. The door at the top of the stairs didn't have a lock. The front door did lock securely but locks could be picked pretty easily, especially if someone was determined.

She didn't want to have to fight someone off naked or very near to it.

Doing it once was enough.

She needed something to sleep in but she really didn't want to get up again…maybe there was something in the nightstand?

The first two drawers were empty but Enid hit pay dirt with the last one.

A large flannel shirt, the checkered pattern in various shades of brown and gray interspersed with white. It was slightly threadbare when the light hit it but still had all the buttons. Putting it on and buttoning the middle ones, Enid nodded once in satisfaction. Soft, warm, comfortable, and it covered her to the middle of her thighs. The shirt was actually kind of cute on her, at least according the full length mirror on the back of the bathroom door.

Her find would do nicely for a nightshirt and perhaps an over shirt later on, especially as Winter came into the area. Last Cycle's had been pretty mild, barely any snow but the two before had been brutal. They were long overdue for a deep freeze and snow up to one's knees. Every bit of flannel, thick denim, and fleece Enid could get her hands on, she'd keep or give to someone who needed it.

In a world where The Dead rose and Walked, dying from cold was an utterly lame way to go.

It was less painful than the usual ways to go but still…

It was bedtime.

Enid's body was screaming at her to quit dithering and rest while she had the chance.

Whether Alexandria was breached and fell tomorrow or not, she needed to rest.

She needed to replenish her energy, restore her body as much as possible so when the shit hit the fan, she would be ready for it.

Because it always hit the fan and Enid wanted to make it through, even if she got coated with blood soaked shit in the process.

If the Fucked New World wanted her dead, then it would take her down kicking and screaming!

She had believed that before, believed that on the grassy roadside earlier and now, she did more than ever.

It was funny how hope worked.

Enid settled into the bedding and reached for one more item, holding it up to her eye level.

"What say you, Mr. Chairman? Could this be home for us? Do you think we should stay?"

A large stuffed black cat was in her hands. His name was Chairman Meow and he had endured many perilous trials, even before the End. The incident at Old Man Norbert's orchard alone…

"Yeah…yeah, I think so, too but we have to see…we…I have to try."


Three Months Later…

"Okay…all right…I see how it's gonna be with you today. You must be on your Monthly, huh? Or maybe somebody looked at you wrong and now you're pitching a fit? Uh-huh…okay. You want a fight? You've got it, Buster so come on, then…come on, you little shit…bring it on!"

"Enid…"

"I got this, Maggie… nobody move a muscle…I got this. Come on, you mouth breathing, milk chugging, devil horned son of a bitch! Come and get me! I'm right here waiting for you! You wanna go? Let's go!"

Her incensed opponent took her challenge head on but Enid shocked him to the core by meeting his charge halfway. She won the Chicken game. The lasso she had in her hand snapped forward and got her dodging opponent by the aforementioned devil horns, snagging him. Pressing her advantage, Enid dug her heels in and twisted her upper body, giving her waiting partner an opening that he seized quickly.

Rick Grimes tackled their valiantly struggling opponent in a bear hug and together, they quickly pulled, shoved, and wrestled the current bane of their existence back into his proper place. As soon as the reinforced wooden gate was pulled shut, it vibrated with the hard impact of his head.

Enid huffed and put her hands on her hips, peering at their defeated foe with amused disgust.

"Now, that was just plain petty…this whole escaping bit just you did? Petty and stupid...now, look at yourself…you've given yourself a major concussion for nothing, you big dummy…"

The large buck within his separate, metal reinforced pen gave a pitiful bleat in reply to her scolding and Enid sighed fondly, pulling a large carrot out of her pocket.

"C'mere, you evil little maniac…got a carrot for you…yeah…it's no wonder they call you Lucifer. They really should've named you Run or Ram since that's what you just love to do. Dumbass. The next time you decide to escape from Alcatraz, the carrot's going in your other end. Yep, I'm gonna run it right up your ass. It'd be a nice visual pun, don't you think? Don't you start giving me those pitiful Bambi eyes, Lucy. I mean it. You're not changing my mind. If we have to suffer, then so do you. A carrot enema might be just the thing to calm your wild ass down. Either that or some ganja…"

Maggie was wheezing with laughter and Enid could hear Rick chuckling with her. Of all the things she had expected to find common ground with Alexandria's LEADER, animal husbandry hadn't even made the list. However, people had layers. Rick had learned to farm while holding a Prison stronghold in Georgia and had returned to it after Alexandria added the second Wall, the spike and pits obstacle course. Maggie Greene-Rhee was a farmer's daughter. Tilling the soil ran in her veins like her blood and her family's Farm had been around for 160 years before The Dead got a hold to it.

Maggie herself was a good woman, sweet and lots of fun yet steely strong when shit got real. She was the Diplomat in ASZ's Council, the Community's Ambassador when need arose. She was a devoted wife to Glenn Rhee and mother to Hershel Dale Greene-Rhee. Judith thought she hung the stars. Her big brother hung the moon. The tall sapphire eyed brunette was supermodel gorgeous and Thank God, she wasn't a bitch or Enid would totally hate her for it.

Enid didn't hate Maggie at all. She was like the big sister she never got to have.

And Maggie also reminded her of her Mommy…she and Madeline would've gotten along like a house on fire…

Through trial and error, through the help of everyone in the ASZ from the Runners to little Judith Grimes and her mad weed pulling skills, the crops had been put in to grow. The first livestock brought in had been a half dozen wild boars, followed by a large cackle of hens, 2 roosters, 5 cows, and 2 goats. One goat called Florence was as sweet as pie, reminding Enid of a happy puppy.

So, of course, Enid had ended up becoming good friends with Lucifer the Problem Child.

Rumor had it that while ASZ Recruiters/Trackers Aaron Raleigh and Daryl Dixon had found Florence miraculously uneaten in a wild clover patch, Lucifer had been discovered in the back of an old barn turned Meth lab.

The goat certainly acted like it.

Other than Rick, Lucifer would yield only to her.

When he decided to be a little shit and bust out of his pen, they were called in to corral him back to it. Sometimes, it would only take Rick putting a leading rope on him and Enid luring him back with a carrot. Most times, fucking Lucifer wanted to give them a military workout. He wanted to play hide and seek, football, and Chicken. Those times involved her and Rick running like the wind after the rampaging buck, Enid even incorporating some of her Parkour, her freerunning into the heated pursuit.

She could do her Moves and she could run again.

Her ankle had healed properly and she was in excellent shape, the best of her life so far.

She was "healthy as two oxen and a Fairy Queen", as Denise had put it during her last check up.

Carl was right. Dr. Cloyd was absolutely awesome, a bit awkward but precious and brilliant.

Lucifer finished his treat and settled down for a nap, having met his daily mayhem quota nicely.

If one looked very closely, it looked like the big dumb walking sweater was smirking smugly.

Such a drama queen…no wonder she and the little shit got along so well…birds of a feather…

"I promised Olivia I'd help her out with her Pickling today. Everything cool here?"

"We've got it, Enid. Go on. Thanks for the help with Lucifer."

"No problem. It was really fun. Bye, Mr. Grimes. See you later, Maggie."

It was getting towards the end of Harvest time in Alexandria. All crops were being brought in and preserved in various ways. They were getting ready for Winter. Wintertime was when the ASZ went to a standstill. People stayed put. There were no supply Runs unless it was an absolute emergency, very little Recruiting efforts, and the main goal was for everyone to make it through the time without a case of frostbite or hypothermia. Walkers were still a problem but the lower temperatures slowed them down, sometimes to the point of freezing mid motion. Enid remembered kicking big clusters of them down like dominoes. Sometimes, it would be a strategic move, a diversion while running from Living beings but other times, it would be for fun. As twisted as it was, she had to entertain herself somehow out there and she didn't like to bring out her Comics in case they were ruined by elements or stolen.

That was no longer a concern.

She actually had an ongoing swap with Michonne and Carl…Carl

He still confused her.

He still exasperated her.

He still understood.

Enid could talk to him about being out there, about some of the things she did to survive and he would understand. He never pushed her to talk. He never judged her for anything, even when she occasionally cried in front of him. She still hated crying in front of him but he'd just pass her a handkerchief or politely ignore it until she pulled herself back together. He still looked at her sometimes and those looks still made her skin crawl but she no longer had a bad feeling about that. Enid actually had grown to like the looks, even if she still wasn't sure what they meant.

Getting to the Pantry, Enid hung up her hoodie, removed her gloves, and loosened her boot laces slightly, keeping them tied. She would be there for a while with Olivia and she wanted to be comfortable. Her lingering paranoia kept her from removing her footwear entirely. What if she had to run away? She didn't want to lose precious escape time by having to wrestle into her boots. Although, she knew that she would just leave the boots behind in a pinch. That would be most unfortunate however, very dangerous. If she were back in the woods, on the road without sturdy shoes, she'd be more likely to get sick. Wet feet could lead to all sorts of issues, not to mention bare feet were more vulnerable to injury, either by debris or The Living.

Keeping the paranoia in the back of her mind sharp was a good thing. Alexandria had proven to be a good place with good people but going soft wasn't an option. Walls fell all of the time, Groups and Communities disbanded eventually. Enid wanted to stay ready to go back out there. She certainly didn't want to but still…

"Olivia?"

"I'm in the kitchen! Come on in, Enid. We're dealing with pumpkins today. I'm toasting the seeds and we'll make sweet and sour rinds. There's also a juice recipe I want to try…"

She stepped through the sliding French doors and there was Carl, scooping out the insides of a pumpkin. During Harvest time, Denise took over most of the shifts in the Infirmary so Carl could help batten down ASZ's hatches for Winter. Officially, he was the Medic but really, he was a Jack of All Trades. He helped Father Gabriel with the tiny humans and elderly. He gave shooting lessons. She had spotted him harvesting crops with sturdy hands. He had been on the Pit Digging and Spike Trap crews. He even worked in the Forgery. Eugene was the Bullet Guy but if anyone needed a Blade honed or made, Carl was the one to talk to.

The last job explained the mystery of why he had been able to pick her up and run easily 3 months before. At first glance, Carl was skinny, scrawny looking even but that was far from the case.

His pretty periwinkle gaze went from the open pumpkin to her and Enid could see his jaw tick before pink tinted his cheeks, just like in the RV.

That happened a lot, too, along with the confusing looks but again, Enid didn't mind it.

Her hair was up and mussed from tussling with Lucifer. There was dirt smeared on her face, even though she had washed her hands. Her cheeks were flushed red and her lips were slightly parted, damp from the deep drink of water she took from a hose. She wore black overalls, a green tank, and she knew that her bra strap had slipped down again, this one being lilac with white polka dots. She was covered up but there was plenty of sun kissed skin showing.

Apparently, Carl liked her as a dirty Farmer girl.

A lot.

A really whole lot.

To each their own…

He was so weird!

Settling in next to him, Enid began slicing pumpkin skin into thick strips and thin ribbons with a cleaver. A cluster of mason jars were waiting for them and whatever brine Olivia was going to use. If it was even half as good as her cucumber pickling brine, they were in for a real treat in a few weeks.

"…I heard Lucifer got out again. You and Dad have any trouble getting him?"

"No more than the usual. While we're on the subject of Lucifer, do you think you or Denise could give me a crash course in enemas? I have an idea involving a carrot to calm him down…"

"I'll see what I can do but really, the only thing that's gonna calm his wild ass down is death."

"Or some ganja."

"I'm actually on the lookout for cannabis. We always need painkillers and most of the stuff out there's expired by now. If I can find some, maybe get a small indoor crop started…what? What's so funny?"

"…the sheriff's son is gonna be the weed man!"

Carl shot her an icy glare but Enid kept giggling until he shook his head, a smile tugging at his slightly pouting lips. She wasn't laughing at him. He had a really good idea, an excellent Big Picture idea but the irony was just too much. Enid couldn't help but laugh at it.

She had been laughing more, smiling more, too.

Other than the time with Judith bluntly calling Rick out on his whipped ways, she hadn't heard Carl laugh again. He'd chuckle, smirk, and smile but full laughter was rare.

It made sense.

Learning how to be quiet, how to contain one's emotions was a lesson that couldn't be undone. Plus, there was sadness inside of Carl that resonated with her. She had lost her parents, dealt with The Anointed and that was all horrible but Carl?

Oh, Carl…

How was he still standing?

How was he still relatively sane?

Just before the End, his father had been shot in the line of duty and left comatose, unexpected to survive and abandoned after the Outbreak.

The Quarry Lake Camp and The Greene Family Farm had fallen to The Dead.

There had been a post apocalyptic Jim Jones-Josef Mengele hybrid that called himself The Governor. He had attacked their Prison stronghold twice and destroyed it the second time, killing many and scattering the survivors to the four winds. After that, his remaining Group had gone to a place called Terminus and ended up on the business end of actual fucking cannibals. Once that was done and over with, there had been some drama in Atlanta involving former police officers and slave labor within a hospital that made the one in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest look like Club Med. Then, they had gone North and had been On the Road at the peak of that awful blistering Summer 3 Cycles ago, so full of despair…

If Aaron hadn't found them in their Barn, then that despair would've destroyed them all.

He had been through hell.

So much hell…Carl had been so much hell and with that hell came so much death.

He had lost his biological mother Lori during childbirth, making Judith's birthday bittersweet. He even had to Put Her Down. He had lost a beloved grandfather in Hershel Greene, a wise uncle in Dale Horvath. Dear and cherished friends like Beth Greene, Patrick Andrews, Mika Samuels, Dr. Bob Stookey, Sophia Peletier, Tyreese Williams, Noah Boyd, and Andrea Harrison were Gone.

Even his former Godfather Shane Walsh's death hurt him, despite the treachery the unstable son of a bitch showed at the end of his life.

To hell with what ambiguous DNA or niggling doubts said, Cheerful Whirlwind Judith was a Grimes. Rick was a good father to both of his kids, strong and wise. He was a good LEADER for those in his care. Shane had been wrong about everything and if Enid had been around then, she would've happily killed him herself for implying otherwise.

The stupid, selfish fuck had deserved to die. His reckless behavior had endangered his whole Group more than once. He had the right Ideas for surviving the Fucked New World but his methods were awful, alienating, and pride driven. He had become dangerously fixated on another man's wife, his best friend's wife, and did everything possible to take her and the kids away from him. When mind games and manipulation stopped working, he had decided to ambush Rick and try his utmost to kill him. If Rick hadn't moved faster, if Carl hadn't been there to Put Him Down…fuck, just thinking about it made Enid want to spit nails!

Shane Walsh was supposed to be Rick's best friend, his brother in all but DNA and he had betrayed him in all the worst ways! He hadn't even been sorry at the end, just vengeful!

Enid absolutely despised Traitors.

Only Rapists and Molesters were worse in her eyes.

Weak and Cowardly people came in a close third.

So many people in Carl's Group, in his Family had been taken by death at the Quarry Lake, on the Greene Farm, at the Prison, on the Road...Carl had seen it happen or the aftermath, not even getting to say goodbye in most cases.

He had seen death in Alexandria, too.

A sadistic and utterly crazed nomadic group called The Wolves had attacked Alexandria in the early days of him being there. They had Raided, unleashed bloody senseless hell and then, shortly afterwards a Walker SuperHerd had come. Enid had been hunting The Anointed when it all went down but rumors of a large Herd, The Largest Herd Ever in a Western Maryland Quarry had reached her ears. She had dismissed it as bullshit but made sure to go further North for that Cycle just in case. Fortunately, The Anointed had all fled to the North, hoping to hide in the remains of major cities like New York, Philadelphia, or Boston.

The SuperHerd hadn't been bullshit at all.

It had been all too real and the ASZ had become the first and last line of Defense against it.

Carl had seen it and fought against it.

He had stood his ground against The Wolves, too.

There had been a boldly insane attempt to lead the entire Herd away from Alexandria altogether but half had been drawn back by The Wolves' attack. 5,000 Walkers had become 2,500 and it had been a mess, absolute bedlam.

But, the ASZ had pulled through as a whole and that had ushered in their current Era.

There was a Memorial wall for Alexandrians that fell with 32 names up there. Some had died on Runs, while putting up the first Wall, and The Wolves. The majority had been taken out in the SuperHerd, most notably the remaining Anderson family.

The abusive, sloppy drunk sperm donor Pete had been rightfully executed by Rick after he murdered Reg Monroe before the SuperHerd got loose. Even if he hadn't killed sweet Mr. Monroe, Anderson deserved to go straight to hell for two reasons.

The first was that he still had his family, his whole family, yet he treated them deplorably. Granted, he had been like that in the Beforetime but the sheer ungratefulness of doing it after the End was disgusting. It did take a lot for an abusive person to stop their behavior and really, there was always a risk of relapse but seriously? The End of Days had come, The Dead Rose and Walked. If that didn't make someone cling tightly to their loved ones, if that wasn't a catalyst for at least an honest attempt to turn over a new leaf, then why bother trying to make it?

Enid would give anything for the chance to make sure her Mommy and Daddy made it.

Anderson had been blessed and he squandered it.

Ungrateful People were despised by her, too.

The second reason that "Dr." Pete Anderson had earned his Fate was the fact that not only had he been the ASZ's resident sloppy drunk, Anderson had been the Surgeon.

He had been the only person with full medical training and he allowed his Vice to come first.

The motherfucker had endangered every patient he had every time he picked up a scalpel.

Rapists, Molesters, Traitors, Weak people, Cowardly people, Ungrateful People…again, if Enid had been around, she would've happily killed "Dr." Pete Anderson herself.

Pete Anderson's name was not on the Memorial Wall.

His remains were not in the Cemetery or the nearby Woods.

She truly hoped that all of the scavengers had gotten a hearty meal out of the bastard.

Jessie, Sam, and Ron Anderson had been Devoured by the SuperHerd. 10 year old Sam had crumbled to pieces and bolted into the night, drawing Walkers like moths to a flame. The poor kid couldn't handle the pressure and just about every person who had been supposed to been making him smart, making him strong had failed him, too caught up in their own shit to look after him properly.

His older brother had tried to save Sam's life that night, tried to fight The Dead off and protect him like he should've been doing all along but had failed.

Both boys had gotten Bitten, scratched and torn open in several places by The Dead.

All anyone could do for the crying bleeding boys was Put Them Down.

Carl had Put Them Down. His parents had kept The Dead away long enough for him to do it.

Why did it always have to be Carl, though? First his Godfather, then his bio-Mom…so unfair!

Jessie had been too devastated to do it and had disappeared into the night shortly afterwards.

It had been a mercy killing, a tragic loss of young lives.

Although rumor had it was that 16 year old Ron had been harboring long term, elaborate plans to murder one or both of the Grimes men in retaliation for his sperm donor's timely demise.

If that were true…well, he still didn't deserve to go out like that: Eaten Alive.

The Anointed had earned that grisly Fate tenfold but not Ron.

He was just a weak, stupid, pathetic kid.

Enid was glad that she had missed meeting him. She had no patience for stupidity or weakness.

With her usual luck, Ron would've fancied himself in love with her, making things even worse.

It was unknown whether Jessie Anderson had gotten Bitten or not before she stepped into the Lake of Fire that destroyed most of the SuperHerd. It was more likely she had simply succumbed to the despair of losing her whole family and decided to end it all. Either way, her Walker guts camouflage poncho had been found among the smoldering remains when it was all said and done.

Deanna Monroe had been Bitten during the initial Wall breach and Turned, later being put down by her remaining son Spencer and Michonne in the woods…

So much pain and despair…so much death witnessed by Carl Grimes but he was still good, so damned good at the Core.

How?

How the hell did he do it?

Enid wanted to know how.

She wanted to understand him as well as he understood her…

"Are you okay?"

"…I'm not sure."

"Do you want to talk?"

"Not now. I'm still…not now but maybe later?"

"Okay…hey, Enid?"

"Yeah?"

A long indignant squeal escaped her as Carl's hand slowly wiped sticky, cold pumpkin innards on her cheek and she glared at him hotly. He was shaking with silent mirth and Enid began nodding, setting down her cleaver firmly.

"Okay…all right…I see. It's like that, Cowboy?"

"It is like that. Pumpkin seeds are great for skin health. They're full of Vitamin C and…"

Enid grabbed a handful of the innards and winged them at his face. While he wiped them away, she tackled him to the floor and he started laughing as he tried to fend her off. She snagged him by the collar of his purple t-shirt and got him again, smearing more pumpkin over his chin and neck. When Carl tried to get up, she hooked a leg over his gray cargo clad hip and flipped him soundly underneath her, locking her thighs. His Hat fell off in their tussling and she made sure pumpkin got in his hair, making him groan loudly.

"That's fucking gross, Enid! Goddamn…"

"You started it, Grimes…say you're sorry or you'll get much worse!"

"Fuck that shit!"

"You asshole! I'm gonna…"

Enid shrieked as he reversed their positions and started tickling her, even as she pounded at his back. How had he managed to do that? How did he get loose? How did even he know she was ticklish? Who had told him? She was laughing hard, trying and failing to bat his hands away. Carl was smirking at her, his eyes gleaming with triumph and something else as he tickled her harder, showing no mercy…

Most distressingly, she had sticky pumpkin pooling unpleasantly in her cleavage, thanks to him.

He was such an asshole!

When she got out from under him, she was going to practice enemas on him with his stupid Hat!

"Quit it!"

"Nope."

"Carl!"

"Nope."

"C-Carl, I swear to God if you don't stop it…"

"Make me."

Oh, that did it. She was so going to rip his fucking…

Someone clearing their throat loudly made everything freeze and Enid turned her head to see Michonne Grimes looking at them with a raised brow. Judith was with her and peering at them like two specimens in a zoo.

"Big Brother, how come you're on top of Enid? Are y'all Night Wrestling like Mommy and Daddy?"

"What?"

"Night Wrestling…one time at Night, when I got up to go pee and get a drink of water, I saw Mommy and Daddy on the couch and I asked what they were doing and Daddy said they were Wrestling. Is that what you're doing? It's not even night time, yet…"

Enid couldn't figure out what was funnier: Carl's look of utter disgust as he connected the dots or the beet red tint to Michonne's cheeks. Either way, she bit her lower lip so she wouldn't laugh too loudly.

Olivia had less restraint than her and her mad cackling was clearly heard from the kitchen.

Judith Grimes was awesome and they didn't deserve her.

Night Wrestling… really?

"Uh, no, Jude. That's not what's going on. See, I was being silly with Enid and we…um…why don't you go see Olivia? I think she made some parsnip cookies earlier…"

"Cool! Can I go and check, Mommy?"

"Sure, Butterfly. Don't eat too many of them, though. You'll spoil your dinner."

"Okay!"

Carl raised himself off of her and looked at his stepmother with incredulous disgust.

Michonne huffed and pursed her lips before pointing at him.

"Don't even start."

"Wrestling? Really?"

"Your father came up with it."

"And you let him get away with that bullshit?"

"We were caught off guard and I was kind of focused on something else at the time…"

"Gross…so gross…just wrong and soy milk gross…ewww…I need brain bleach…"

"How do you think you got here, my friend? You think the stork just dropped you off one day?"

"Actually, it was a tipsy pterodactyl and it used a catapult to launch me through a window."

"That explains a lot…"

/

"Enid?"

"Yeah, Hershel?"

"Are you and Cousin Carl gonna get mwarried?"

A now pumpkin innard free Enid paused in combing out his freshly cut onyx hair and met his sapphire almond shaped eyes. 4 year old Hershel Greene-Rhee was as happy and healthy as Judith. He had an adorable lisp from his missing front baby teeth and he looked like a little flannel wearing cherub. His flannel of the day was purple and matched his socks, socks that had a neon pizza slice pattern on them. Like his parents, he was a sweetheart and apparently, he was pretty observant.

Not that it took strong observation skills to notice the connection between her and Carl but still…

"Why are you asking me that question, Little Man?"

"Because…"

"Because, why? You can tell me. I won't get mad. I promise."

"Well…Cousin Carl always smiles big when he's with you and you smile real big at him. You two are like best friends. He always says how brave and smart you are and sometimes, he looks at you like Papa looks at Momma or Uncle Rick looks at Auntie 'Chonne or Uncle Daryl looks at Auntie Sasha. All soft and gooey and stuff. It's kinda icky but not really. It's good. They respect and trust each other so they got mwarried. You and Cousin Carl should just love each other forever and ever or get mwarried. It'd be way cool and Auntie Carol could bake a cake and Judith could be your flower girl. She wants to real bad. She saw y'all Night Wrestling in the Pantry earlier and only grown peoples who love each other are supposed to do that…"

Again with the Night Wrestling…Rick was never going to live that one down.

She'd make sure of it.

Night Wrestling…what would be the next funny yet cringe worthy euphemism?

"Pouring the Bisquick"?

Great.

Just absolutely fucking peachy.

What had she done?

She would never look at pancakes the same way, now...

"Hershel, I…it's really complicated."

"No, it's not." a gentle but firm voice corrected.

"Hi, Papa!"

"Hey, Bud…can you take this snack to Momma while I talk with Enid? She's working on Plans again and she'll forget to eat."

"Okay, Papa. Bye. Thanks for the haircut, Enid!"

"You're welcome. Bye…oh, don't run, Hershey Bar…and he's running…"

"He and Judith don't know the meaning of the word 'walk' outside of Walkers."

When she first met Glenn Rhee, Enid thought the young Korean man was absolute bullshit.

She thought that he was on the verge of snapping and in denial about it.

He had to be.

There was no possible way that someone who had been through so much turmoil could still be so optimistic.

No way in hell!

She had been wrong.

Glenn was another Diplomat and the Idealist of ASZ's Council. He was The Dreamer, The Believer. He was a formidable fighter, an excellent strategist and a damned good supply Runner but the Fucked New World had not taken away his Joy. In fact, it made him hold tighter to it.

Glenn had been first in his Group to reach out for love after the End. He had been completely balls out in his feelings for Maggie (despite their rocky start) and they were the first to get married.

Little Hershel Dale may not be the first "Team Family" baby chronologically but there was no ambiguity in his origins. He was the first baby to be made out of pure love between two people.

Glenn had been kicked, punched, beaten down by the World, both figuratively and literally, more than once, more than a dozen times, but he still stayed positive. He still sought and found Joy in so many ways daily.

Carl's Family was full of capable, completely badass motherfuckers but in Enid's eyes, Glenn Rhee was the biggest badass motherfucker of them all, the bravest one.

She had the utmost respect for him…

"You and Carl aren't complicated. Not nearly as much you think you are."

"…I don't understand it. I don't understand him. I've been trying to figure things out since I woke up in the RV and I still don't have an answer. He makes me feel…I don't know how to describe it, really. One minute I want to spill everything, just tell him everything about me and the next, I want to strangle him until he Turns. I can laugh with him. I can cry in front of him. He gets under my skin like nobody else and I just…he's different, Glenn. I don't know why he's so different, so important. I actually trust him. I don't trust The Living…"

"You do know. You're just not ready to accept it, yet. He's not ready, either."

"But what the hell is it?"

"Love. You love Carl and I'm pretty sure that he's in love with you, too."

"What? Glenn, that's…Glenn, that's insane. We haven't known each other for 120 days yet and we're so young. I mean, we just turned 19! What could either of us possibly know about love?"

"If you are old enough to know about death, war, loss, and misery, then you are old enough to know about being in love, too. You're old enough to know about being in love first. Life Expectancy nowadays is 50 being generous and before the End, high school sweethearts, college sweethearts happened all of the time. Enid, I knew I was in love with Maggie from the moment I saw her and she fell for me shortly after we met. Time doesn't matter. It's about connecting."

"That's you and Maggie. You two were written in the stars. Carl and I are totally different."

"Are you really?"

"I…I…don't…I need to go. I need to think…"

"Enid, I didn't mean to upset you…"

"I'm not upset. I just…I need to go. I need to think."

/

"What the hell's going on with you, girl? You're acting like a skittish doe."

"I'm fine."

"Bullshit. Did Carl do something to you?"

"Why would Carl be involved?"

"Because I ain't blind and neither is anyone else. Y'all have been like peanut butter and jelly since you were brought here so if you're fucked in the head, then he's definitely got something to do with it. You were fine earlier so what'd he do to you, Enid? Did he go too far in the Pantry? Do I gotta talk to him? Get Rick and Michonne on his ass? He need a bolt through his nuts?"

"No! No, he doesn't need that. He didn't do anything wrong, Daryl. He'd never hurt me. You know that. You know him. You helped raise him right."

"I do know him. He was a good kid back in the day and he's a good man now. He's a damned good man like his Daddy but sometimes Grimes men can do and say some fucked up shit to the ones they care for, especially their Girls. They don't mean to and when they realize they've messed up, they make up for it tenfold but it happens. I've seen it go down with Rick. Carl's just like him except a little less trigger happy and skinny as shit."

"Their Girls…you think I'm Carl's Girl? You think I'm his Michonne?"

"I don't think, I know. Again, I ain't blind and neither is anyone else around here. Of course you're his Girl and you're…damn. You didn't realize it until now, did you? That's why you're fucked in the head. That's why you're hiding."

"Glenn says that I've been in love with Carl this whole time and that Carl loves me back. We just aren't ready to act on it yet. He said it like it was fact and it does make a lot of sense but…that can't be it."

"Why not?"

"It just can't…we're too young and I'm not…I'm too broken for that kind of thing…"

"Nah. I know what broken looks like. I've seen it on other people and when I looked in the mirror. You ain't broken at all, Enid. You're just hurt and scared shitless."

Daryl Dixon had become the big brother that Enid had never gotten to have and didn't know she wanted. Initially, she had kept a very firm distance. He was gruff and a hardcore Survivor. He was that badass Biker with Biceps. Daryl looked like he'd snap you like a twig and use your blood to paint his hog.

Daryl could and would fuck all of your shit up.

Enid had been frightened of him.

That ended when she observed him with Judith Grimes and his wife Sasha.

Judith was his goddaughter, his Lil' Asskicker. She was his niece. He had loved her from the moment he first held her, first gave her a bottle of much needed formula. He had helped her learn how to walk, helped potty train her, and he would gladly babysit her when the need arose.

He'd play with her, now, anything from freeze tag to tea party. He'd bring back books to read to and with her, and just about any brilliant smile that he cracked was because of her. He taught her how to Track, how to know footsteps and how to climb up trees in case of emergencies. He'd do anything to protect her, including patiently teach her how to shoot a bow and arrow. She wasn't strong enough for a crossbow yet but Enid was certain that when the time came, Daryl would have one ready for her. He'd even make sure it or most of its ammo was pink because Judith adored all things pink.

His intimate relationship with Sasha Williams had been unexpected but not unwelcome. It had started after they arrived at the ASZ, She had been reeling from the back to back tragic losses of her partner Bob and her beloved older brother Tyreese. Daryl had still been mourning the loss of his older brother Merle, the horrible events that led to them losing their Prison home, the worse events pre and post Terminus and the impact of the senseless death of Beth Greene that he felt had happened on his watch had him lost in darkness.

Their losses plus the abrupt Culture Shock of going from being On the Road to being in Alexandria had them both raw. They hadn't been able to acclimate as readily as most of their family members. They literally withdrew from the Group and would go out separately deep into the woods to kill Walkers or to do target practice. Eventually, they had synced up and would go out there together. They'd leave at dawn and return at dusk, sometimes even staying out overnight.

Aaron had added Sasha to the ASZ Recruiters' ranks, sensing that his new friends needed the respite of the long road trips, needed each other.

Sasha had been the one to start the conversations during their times in the woods and for a while, they had been one-sided. Daryl would listen to her vent and let her cry in peace. Then, one day, he had started talking back. He had tentatively opened up to her and both had found acceptance, found understanding.

They had found enough peace together to gain the strength to work through the pain inside of them, to learn how to really cope.

The pain never went away but it became bearable. Eventually, the good memories outweighed the bad and both Daryl and Sasha had been able to put down roots in ASZ.

They were deep friends by the time the SuperHerd crisis erupted and became lovers after its end.

Sasha had asked him to marry her about a year afterwards and they had a small ceremony in the woods, given by Father Gabriel and witnessed by the Grimes Family and a very happy Aaron.

Enid saw how much he adored Sasha, how he was protective yet respectful of her abilities and had softened towards him more.

Looks could be deceiving and Daryl was a good man.

He wouldn't hurt her, not unless she tried to hurt his Family or himself first.

She wouldn't do that.

Enid had established common ground with Daryl via the love of the woods. They felt most at home in the woods, among nature. She had been learning the area on her own until Daryl joined her, citing safety. He didn't want her falling on her ass or getting swarmed by Walkers because she had gone wandering off alone.

She had impressed him.

Both of them could track and hunt their own food, harvest their own plants and could easily live outdoors for good if the need arose.

Daryl had become her unexpected but welcome big brother and she was like Judith to him.

Daryl understood her needs for silence and for solitude. He did not judge her.

In fact, nobody in Alexandria judged her, at least not to her face, anyway…

"What should I do? Should I tell him how I'm feeling? I…I think I do love him, Daryl. I really do or I'm at least falling for him…damn it…"

"Glenn said you weren't ready to deal with it and you ain't. Until you are, keep your mouth shut. Don't make things harder than they gotta be. Don't be stupid."

"Glenn could be wrong. Everyone could be wrong but it's…I need to find out, one way or the other and…shit. Son of a fucking bitch…"

"He can be damned dumb, sometimes but Carl doesn't fuck around when it comes to feelings and heavy shit like love. He don't like leaving things unsaid just in case shit goes South. Tomorrow ain't never guaranteed so if he's feeling something, he'll let you know. Trust me on that."

/

3 Weeks Later…

"Enid!"

The amount of terror in Denise's voice had her sprinting. She jumped down the last 6 stairs and came skidding into the Infirmary proper, Glock 19 ready to go.

Whoever was trying to hurt Denise, whoever was trying to hurt Carl was in for a rude…

Enid's eyes nearly fell out of her head as she took in Carl choking the living shit out of an already battered man. He had his Beretta digging into the man's sweaty forehead with enough force to leave a bleeding ring and he looked utterly calm. The trembling, piss soaked man before him looked towards her with wild hope that was quickly replaced by utter horror. He looked like he was seeing a ghost and Enid didn't blame him because…

"That's the piece of shit that shot me. That's him!"

Enid didn't know his name but she would never forget his ferrety face, his stringy shit brown hair, the yellow toothed smile and smoker's coughing laugh as the bullet hit…

Carl's eyes locked on her and his head tilted, his eyes narrowing as he dropped the shaking man to the floor. He holstered his Beretta before putting a boot on his back. At her words, Rick, Glenn, and Daryl raised their weapons. Denise promptly picked up a scalpel and pointed it towards the bastard. She got in front of her, spreading her arm like a Mama Duck shielding her young.

Enid couldn't help but smile their protectiveness, their loyalty to her.

She had a family again.

Her smile broadened as she spotted two blades resting on top of a dirty red duffel, making her holster her Glock.

Her Machetes!

Enid sidled past Denise, grabbed them and held them up to the light for inspection. The grip tape was starting to peel but her carved initials were still clear and crisp. That was probably how Carl had recognized them. Well, that and who else would take the time to make their weapons look so girly? Who would seriously put pink and black tape on the hilts in a cutesy kitschy pattern other than her? The blades were clean except for faint traces of Walker ichor at their hilts but they were so dull, unacceptably dull! They were like giant butter knives, now!

She huffed and placed them on a cot, her smile replaced by the same deadly calm as Carl.

They had it in common, that same cold and dark place inside of them that made them Warriors...

"So, not only did you and your ilk rob me and leave me to get Devoured or Turned, you didn't even have the decency to take proper care of the weapons you stole? Are you fucking kidding me? Look at me, you clap ridden son of a bitch!"

Sniffling, the fool did so and Enid shook her head in disgust. This degenerate hit almost all of her pet peeves. Weak, Cowardly, Stupid…

"Carl, take your boot off of him."

"Fuck. That. Shit."

"Get the hell off of him, Carl."

"Why should I? Enid, he…"

"I know what he and his friends did to me. I was there."

Carl blinked once, twice at that before sighing deeply, removing his boot. The stone of his face was cracking and he looked so upset, on the verge of tears. He didn't like that someone had hurt her, nearly killed her. He wanted to rip the cowering fool to shreds all because he had been involved in doing her harm.

Trusting the rest of the room's occupants to keep an eye on the hostile, Enid grabbed Carl by the sleeve and guided him into the kitchen. He started pacing like a caged lion and she stepped into his path. Carl began to step backwards from her and Enid followed him until he was backed into a corner. He huffed and looked away from her but she wasn't having any of that.

He wasn't going to shut down on her.

He didn't get to do that.

Firmly, she used her right hand to grab his chin and forced him to look at her, to listen.

Their voices were low, just like during the RV argument but hers was calm instead of venomous.

One of them had to be reasonable.

She would be the rational one…at least until the rest of the bag of clap ridden dicks was found.

They would all get what they earned soon.

"I'm fine, Carl. I'm here. He hurt me. He nearly killed me but he didn't. I got away from him. I got away from the Walkers. You and your parents saved my life. He didn't win. I'm still here."

"He beat you. He robbed you. He shot you. He needs to die."

"He wasn't the only one that attacked me. There were 5 more assholes with him. Well, 6 more assholes but I took one of them down when he tried to take something other than my weapons from me, if you get my drift..."

"I do."

"Look, the rest of the Mickey Mouse Club is still out there and he knows exactly where they are. They may be planning to Raid for supplies or even to try to Take this place with some other Living scumbags. They're way too weak and stupid to do it on their own. We don't know. We need to find out for sure. We need all the information we can get and that piss soaked asshole's got it so you can't kill him, Carl. I know you want to but you can't. And if anyone has the right to End the little rat, it's me. See?"

Stepping back, Enid raised the hem of her white tank top and showed him the scar. It was still pink and raised, looking like a small sunburst. The bullet had only grazed her but debris had gotten into the wound, prompting Carl to use tweezers and small incisions to free all of it. Eventually, it would soften and fade to white, just like her other scars.

Goosebumps erupted on her flesh as gentle, calloused fingertips brushed over it but Enid held his gaze. It had taken some time but Enid had accepted her feelings for the man in front of her. The Carl Grimes Issue was one step closer to being resolved but now was not the time for more. They had pressing matters to attend to.

They had hostiles to find, blood to spill, cosmic balance to regain…

"You're wearing my shirt."

"What?"

"You're wearing my shirt."

The brown and gray flannel had become part of her lounge wear. Currently, it was covering her tank top and half covering a pair of cargo shorts given to her by Rosita Espinosa. Rosita was another older sister figure like Maggie and just badass. She was a riot and a sweetheart underneath her brashness. She and Enid had that in common and she couldn't wait to show her what she could really do with her Machetes. It was going to be so much fun!

In retrospect, she should've known that the flannel shirt was Carl's. Yes, Tara had flannel tops, too but none were that large. And the feeling of safety and security Enid immediately felt when she put it on should've made the light bulb go off in her head. Of course, it was Carl's!

"Do you want it back?"

Carl's pretty periwinkle eyes gave her a long lingering once over and she could feel her nipples harden, her lower abdomen heat as his tongue darted over his lower lip.

"No…it looks better on you."

Enid swallowed and looked away from him, backing up so he could get out of the corner.

"You're right. I know you're right about this fucker and his Group so it's your play, Enid. It's your show. We do whatever you want to do, however you want to do it. I'll back you up with Dad and the others."

She was glad to hear that and there was something that she urgently wanted to do.

Keeping her gait slow and calm, she returned to the main area of the Infirmary and did it.

The ferret faced man's face paled and his eyes bugged out before he let out a whimpering cry.

Enid aimed and kicked again harder, the steel toe of her boot colliding soundly with the fool's genitals with a satisfying thud. There was also a squish. She hoped that she had punctured something, punctured everything. His dear buddy that she had killed had called "first dibs" on her and Ferret Face had been quick to jump on the bandwagon.

He wouldn't be fucking anyone any time soon, now, not even himself.

He collapsed like a puppet cut from its strings and retched loudly, groaning pathetically.

In her peripheral, Enid saw that Carl was smiling at her. His teeth weren't showing but there was a broad smile on his face and fierce pride sparkling in his pretty periwinkle eyes.

He liked seeing her kick ass and take names, did he?

Okay, then.

She could definitely work with that, especially if they ended up in battle together.

He hadn't seen anything yet…

"Motherfucker, if you throw up on this floor, you'll be cleaning it up with your tongue."

/

The Next Late Afternoon…

Ferret Face's name was Henry.

Ferret Face was from used to be Raleigh, NC.

Ferret Face had lost all of his family in the initial Outbreak.

Ferret Face had been all alone until his Group, his "band of brothers" took him in.

Ferret Face was a slimy son of a bitch, he admitted that, but he wasn't a complete monster.

Ferret Face was just trying to get by. It was survival of the fittest, after all.

Ferret Face was trying to illicit sympathy and understanding.

Ferret Face needed to…

"Shut the fuck up."

"But…"

"She said shut the fuck up, asshole."

As Enid had suggested in the Infirmary kitchen, Ferret Face's Group had been staking out the ASZ for a while, for over a month. They hadn't been able to get close enough to the Walls to see if there were breaches to exploit but they were determined to get in. They wanted to take control of the ASZ, use it as a Base. They still wanted to rob other Survivors and get their rocks off in the process but they needed a home, a place to put down roots.

It was getting near Winter. It was going to be a brutal Winter. They were long overdue for a brutal Winter and they deserved a better shelter than the usual abandoned shack, house, apartment building, business place or handmade bushwhacking hovel to endure it. They wanted to get off the road and get some real rest. None of them were smart or hardworking enough to make their own Community or join one legitimately so they wanted to take Alexandria by force. They were a small Group but small could be mighty, even against a fortress full of fighters like the Walled Place.

Idiots…

The leader Buck had a brainwave and decided that the only way to get real Intel on the Walled Place's weaknesses was for one of them to be used as a Trojan Horse to get in and learn. If they could just get someone's trust, then they'd be gravy.

One Group member named Clem, brother of the sleaze Enid had taken out (Collier) had heard about the Walled Place people taking in strays while eavesdropping on a Pit Digging crew. The Leader, his wife and kid had brought a girl in that had been in bad shape, nearly dead, and now, she was a Community member. They were bleeding hearts so the best thing to do was beat the shit out of someone and leave them where they'd be found.

Henry had been volunteered to be the Trojan Horse and they all jumped him. Buck, Clem, Wallace, Vernon, and Slick had stomped him. His "band of brothers" had turned on Ferret Face and he was just so sorry about what happened in that old antiques shop. He had seen The Light. He wanted a fresh start, to do good things instead of bad. The ASZ had inspired him to change his ways…

Bullshit.

He just didn't want to die.

He knew that Death was coming for his Group and he was trying to avoid his share in it.

He was trying to get off scot free, trying to earn mercy, maybe 3 hots and a cot in Alexandria's Jail. He felt no remorse for his actions. He was just a Leech looking for a Host.

That could not be allowed.

Ferret Face was a Coward and Weak and while he claimed to not be a Rapist, that he was just talking shit to keep his "brothers" happy, Enid didn't believe him. Nobody believed him and he had to be dealt with decisively. If they let him go free, he could find smarter, crueler people to hook up with and then, the ASZ could face an actual threat, a threat like The Wolves or worse.

Fuck that shit.

Enid knew that the ASZ would always have a bulls-eye on it. It was heavily fortified with utilities and crops and livestock. They had a steady source of fuel for their fleet of vehicles and ammunition for their stockpile of weapons. Someday, maybe someday soon, there would be a Big Bad Bastard/Bitch with organized Minions like the Georgia ones that Carl had told her about coming in to try and take over.

There had to be at least one out there. Michael and The Anointed couldn't be the largest organized Community of scumbags around, unfortunately.

Maybe there would be a War, more than one War with more than one Group of Living scumbags that they may not win or if they won, they'd take significant losses beforehand.

Maybe there would be another SuperHerd to fight and defeat or die trying.

There was always a bigger, badder, uglier monster out there.

There was always a threat on the horizon.

That was just how nature worked.

It was like that in the Beforetime and certainly in the Fucked New World.

Nobody knew what the Future would hold, good or bad, but they did know the Present.

Presently? Ferret Face and his ilk had to go.

They had to die.

All of them.

Daryl, Rick, and Carl were going to help her make sure that all of them died today.

Enid had a big score to settle.

Daryl knew the woods better than anyone so he would get them to the bastards and back safely.

Rick was the LEADER who took good care of his People so he had to go on the mission to make sure the threat was fully eliminated.

Carl was officially there in case the three of them needed prompt medical attention.

Unofficially, he was there to avenge her and Enid was just fine with that.

"Y-you know…if you think about it, we did you a huge favor, Enid."

"Don't say her name. Don't even look at her, you son of a bitch!"

"She said shut the fuck up, shithead! You need an arrow through your tongue?"

"No, it's cool, guys. Let him make his case. We've got some extra time. All right, you say that you and the bag of clap ridden dicks you roll with did me a favor? Explain that to me. We've got a little over 2 hours before it gets dark. Help me understand your logic. Help us all understand your logic. You guys want to understand his logic, don't you, Mr. Grimes? Carl? Daryl?"

"Nah, I'm good."

"If you want to hear it, fine."

"This I gotta hear…bet it's some straight bullshit, though. Make it quick."

Ferret Face swallowed thickly as everyone's attention went to him but he forged on bravely.

It was likely the first brave thing the motherfucker had ever done.

"W-Well, think about it…you were out there all alone. Pretty Young Thing like you, anybody could've taken advantage of you. Anybody could've raped you, killed you, locked you up someplace forever like a slave or dog but…look where you are, now. Look how good you've got it, Enid. You've got Walls protecting you, plenty to eat, a roof over your head, hot water and electricity, a new family that loves you, you even got yourself a boyfriend…the batshit crazy cowboy there's your boyfriend, right? Y-you wouldn't have any of it if my Group hadn't done what they did to you! We stomped your ass and that was lousy of us but really, we helped you! What happened in the shop was a Blessing for you!"

"So, what? I should thank you?"

"Well…y-yeah. Yeah, you really should. Okay, that's the place up ahead. You see it, Enid?"

"Mm-hm…and everyone's in there? Your whole Group? Everybody's home? We won't have to hunt in the dark? I hate hunting in the dark…"

"Y-yeah. Everyone hangs their jingle can on the tree so if the Rotters come, they'll get a warning. Everyone's cans are hanging so they're all in there, I swear to-"

Enid's preferred method of killing was a firm chop that had her first machete wedged in the top of someone or thing's head. It destroyed the brain effectively, split it neatly in two. Plus, if she was killing a Living being, Enid wanted to make damned sure they were Gone. She didn't want any surprises coming back to bite her in the ass. She wanted to see the light drain out of the scumbag's eyes. She wanted the last thing they ever saw to be her. She wanted them to know who had taken them out and to know that they had earned it.

And everyone knew that head wounds were the most humane way to slaughter an animal.

Ferret Face Henry's mouth dropped slack and Enid gave him a smirk as scarlet blood ran out of his mortal wound, falling rapidly over his face like thick honey. He fell to his knees and let out a low whimper. She leaned down and her smirk became a broad, angelic smile.

"Thank you, Henry."

Using her foot as a lever, Enid pulled her first machete out of his head and with a smooth swing of her arm, her second machete sent the bastard's head clean off of his shoulders. It went flying before slamming into a nearby tree trunk with a crunching thud. Her companions looked between the remains and her with wide eyes, caught off guard.

She didn't blame them. Enid had been able to become a peaceful person during her time in ASZ. She would take out Walkers without hesitation but hadn't felt the need to raise a truly malicious hand to a Living being in months. She had been able to act her age and do age appropriate things.

Of course, they knew about her Death Count and her brutal actions against The Anointed (the gritty details of the latter stayed within Carl's Family) but seeing what she was capable of doing, seeing her go from 0 to 100 had to be quite jarring…

"Damn, girl. Shit."

There was no fear, just surprise, even a little bit of awe. That was good to see and hear.

They weren't scared.

The last thing Enid wanted was for any member of her new family to be frightened of her.

"He had it coming. I made it quick and almost painless. That's better than most people get."

She flicked some gore off of her dripping blades and gave them a jaunty spin, grabbing the hilts tightly as she advanced forward, heading for the shack.

"Make tracks, gentlemen. We have a hunt to finish and the sun's going down."

The three men followed her immediately, ready to back her up.

The smile on Carl's face was absolutely brilliant.


One Month Later…

"Enid?"

"I'm good, Carl. Wet and annoyed but good. I managed to clear the porch but it's coming down in buckets. We'll probably get slammed with a foot before it's all said and done, maybe more. And that's on top of the eight inches we already got. This Winter has been a bitch and a half and it's just getting started. Fucking Nor'easters, fucking climate damage getting undone…"

"I've been up here for 3 years and I'm not used to the cold. I'm still a Southern Boy, I guess."

"Don't feel too bad about it. I've been a Northerner from birth and the cold always kicks my ass. In Michigan, there were only two seasons: 'Holy Shit, When Did We Move to the Arctic Circle?' and 'Hellfire Humid Construction Time of Doom'. Spring and Fall only lasted for 5 minutes."

"I'm glad you told me to let my parents know I wouldn't be home. I wouldn't have made it out the door, much less across town."

"My ankle barometer never fails. If it's stiff, it's gonna rain and if it burns, it's gonna snow."

"Good to know. Go upstairs and dry off. Dinner will be ready in a few."

Carl was making hot chocolate with marshmallows, spicy pumpkin soup, and crusty bread.

She could smell it and it made her mouth water.

Enid propped the shovel against the front door jam and headed upstairs to change. Winter had come in like a wrecking ball and it made everyone grateful to have strong, permanent shelter. The supply runs for gear had paid off and the Harvest had been particularly bountiful. With the usual rationing and surplus, the ASZ would be able to eat hearty. Everyone had at least 3 thick blankets and to keep the power grid untaxed, there had been firewood stockpiled and dispensed. All the faucets were set to drip to prevent the pipes from freezing but repair crews were on standby. They had plumbing materials, HVAC materials, roofing materials, and parts for the solar panels stockpiled to the point of hoarding. It was yet another smart move.

Sustainability.

Alexandria had been built for sustainability from GO and its Legacy would continue on. It was built to last, as were the occupants within its Walls, occupants that included her permanently.

Her actions in the Shack hadn't just been to settle a personal vendetta.

It had been to protect her Home and the people within it.

Enid cared.

She had sworn never to care again, never to open her heart to the possibility of being hurt or abandoned again but life had other plans.

She would never be grateful to Ferret Face Henry and his ilk for their shitty actions against her but she could concede that they had set the ball in motion. She may have very well ended up near and inside the ASZ without their bullshit eventually but they moved up the timetable. Enid had been on that grassy roadside, wounded and ready to face her death and had ended up gaining all the good things she would thought she'd never have again.

Friendship.

Security.

Family.

Love…

Enid had incorporated the flannel shirt into her everyday attire. At least 3 times a week, she could be seen wearing it publicly in various ways and it was still her nightshirt, her go-to for lounge wear, along with thigh high fuzzy socks. The practical reasons still stood but now that she knew that it was Carl's, now that she knew that he liked the sight of her in it? God, if that Ferret Faced piece of shit hadn't been a factor, if they had been alone in the Infirmary, then she would've let him act on the look he gave her.

All of the looks Carl had given her had been noting compared to that slow, leisurely once over.

Apparently, he wasn't immune to the id stroke that men got when they saw a pretty girl in their clothing. Although, Enid was pretty sure that the look had been because she had been in his clothing.

Carl respected her as a fighter, as a fellow Survivor.

Carl was hot for her.

Carl considered her to be a dear friend to him, a valuable ally.

Enid knew all of that for sure but as for the love that everyone claimed to see, that she wanted to be there, she wasn't sure. The simplest solution would be to ask him but it was also the hardest solution. Putting trust in ASZ Living beings, allowing herself to grow attached to people like Maggie and Daryl was one thing but asking Carl how he felt about her? That was a whole other animal that she wasn't sure that she was ready for.

No, that was a lie.

She was ready.

She was just scared shitless.

Carl scared the shit out of her because he could devastate her emotionally if she allowed him in.

Even if he accepted her, even if he did love her, people still died all of the time in their World.

Walls fell, bullets hit, blades sliced, Walkers bit, and people still aged and died of natural causes.

He could and likely would leave her behind, just like her Mommy and Daddy had and then what would she do?

How the hell was she supposed to live with that?

What was she supposed to do if and when he died, if and when he didn't come back?

"…just survive somehow…"

Just like she would be able to go back out there and survive when Alexandria fell, Enid knew that she'd be able to keep on living when something bad happened to Carl.

But just like she didn't want to go back out there, Enid didn't want anything bad to happen to Carl, not for a very, very long time.

The thing was that staying quiet about her feelings for him wouldn't eliminate that risk or the devastation she'd feel if he were gone. If anything, the devastation would be worse because of all the 'what ifs'. Staying quiet would keep her safe from being rejected but it could also keep her from finding her own sliver of Joy like Glenn and Maggie, Rick and Michonne, Daryl and Sasha…she wanted that Joy. Enid didn't want to cheat herself out of that Joy, even if Carl rejected her.

Carl Grimes was her first choice in partner, though. She wanted that Joy with him.

Enid Hyacinth Rosemary Mackenzie was in love with Carl Grimes.

She was ass over heels, crazy in love with Carl Grimes.

There was no undoing that fact and she didn't want to.

She had to let him know and what would be would be.

But, not on an empty stomach.

Just like facing a snarling hoard of The Dead in a Last Stand, opening one's heart, especially in the middle of an inescapable blizzard, required energy.

/

"How did you make it through Winter out there?"

"I stayed near the forest and as soon as the leaves started to turn, I would find a place and make a shelter. It was like a cross between a yurt and a burrow. I'd use large rocks and downed trees as building material and camouflage. I'd go into nearby towns, explore abandoned properties and cars to find blankets. Curtains and sheets would work, too. I'd look for plastic tarps to line the floor and walls, canned goods, warm clothes, medicine and ammo. I'd chop and stack up firewood and stockpile food like a giant squirrel. I didn't really worry about water since the snow was always there. All I had to do was melt and boil it. I ate nuts, berries, mushrooms. I learned how to make salt out of tree bark so I could hunt for meat and preserve it like jerky. I ate rabbit, squirrel, deer, boar, pigeon, and turtle…turtle's actually really delicious, even raw. It's better cooked but raw is good, especially with a little bit of hot sauce or horseradish if you can find it."

"I'll have to try it, then. It's got to be better than dog or owl."

"I'll get one for you. We'll share one. I pretty much hibernated by a smoldering campfire to get through. I'd go outside to use the bathroom and to get a little sunlight so I wouldn't end up anemic but mostly, I slept. It gets so cold out there that most humans don't live long enough to bother you and Walkers will slow down and freeze before they can become a real threat. I know that it's gonna sound awful and disrespectful but sometimes, I would gather The Dead up and kick them over like giant dominoes."

"I used to do that, too. It's fucked up funny."

Enid snickered at the familiar turn of phrase and got up on her knees. She was resting in the window seat of her room, watching as snow swirled and blew in the air. Carl was sitting on her bed, his back against the headboard. His usual gray cargo pants were on but instead of flannel layered over a thermal, he had on a black fleece pullover hoodie that made his periwinkle eyes pop brilliantly from behind his hair. It was long enough to tie back but he only did that when he was assisting with a procedure or working in the Forgery. His weapons were on the nightstand with his Hat, the Beretta in easy reach. His backpack and boots were in the rocking chair.

He had red knit socks on his feet.

Just like her, he hated having his feet cold and unprotected even at rest behind Walls.

The blizzard had blown itself out while they were cleaning up the kitchen and all was calm. The blowing snow came from drifts and rooftops that the breeze picked up. The sky above Alexandria was inky black and filled with sparkling stars, the silver dollar moon bright. The snow gleamed in its radiant beams and the town looked like a scene from a winter postcard.

It was beautiful and it was Home.

Idly, she traced JSS in the fogged up panel and she could feel Carl looking at her.

She knew why.

During dinner she had been wearing a black sweater and leggings but when he joined her upstairs, she had changed into her pajamas. Just like her first night in Alexandria, she was in the flannel and her panties, the only difference being the thigh high gray socks on her feet. She had only done up the middle buttons of the top and she slept without a bra so Carl could see the bare slope of her shoulder. The shirt had a tendency to slip off of her right shoulder. The well worn material and cool air filtering through the window had her nipples at attention. Her being on her knees exposed her legs and although they were mostly covered, she knew that a tantalizing strip of skin was showing. She had pulled her hair up into a messy bun and with it out of the way, he could see her neck, more of her skin, more of just about everything.

"You're wearing my shirt."

"You said that I could keep it."

"It still looks better on you."

The silence between them was charged after that. Enid could feel her pulse pick up and heat began to coil in her lower belly. Carl was the first man to make her feel that way. Exploring her body, experimentation had helped her learn what she liked, learn how to give herself release but she wanted him to do it. She wanted Carl to touch her with those gentle calloused fingertips, his lush pink lips, his everything. She wanted to touch him. She wanted to know what he felt like.

Sometimes, her fingertips literally itched with the urge to go through his hair, over his forearms, all over his body. She wanted to know how he tasted, how he sounded, what he looked like when he was satiated, when he was fast asleep next to her, maybe even in her arms.

Holding Carl would be nice if he'd let her.

Had he ever had a girlfriend, a lover? He had been out on the road with a Group that was his family but that didn't mean that he hadn't come across another survivor, male or female, that he could've explored with.

Had he ever kissed someone?

Had he ever touched someone and let someone touch him?

Did he trust anyone to touch him and not hurt him?

He had told her about what happened with The Claimers after the Prison fell, what that pack of drooling degenerates nearly did to him and Michonne. Had it not for Rick's decisive action in literally ripping the leader's throat out with his teeth and disemboweling the one holding Carl hostage, they would've both been gang raped and murdered or worse, kept as Pets to them.

Enid wondered if that ordeal had tainted sexual intimacy for him forever. As sad as the notion would be, she would completely understand if that were the case.

After everything with The Anointed, she had a visceral reaction of disgusted terror at the very idea of having sex and she never thought that would change. She never thought that she would find someone that she trusted and respected enough to even consider…

Carl abruptly got out of her bed and turned towards the doorway but didn't start walking.

He was conflicted.

Enid kept silent, giving him room to think, to let him decide what he wanted to do.

She would wait.

The flannel shirt slipped off of her shoulder again.

Carl's heavy footsteps announced his approach and this time, she couldn't help but shiver as his calloused fingertips brushed over her skin. She had felt those fingertips before but not like this. He hadn't needed to touch her flesh to fix her top. He had done that deliberately and Enid could feel the heated coil in her lower abdomen begin to pulse. She wasn't going to be able to sleep until the pulsing was dealt with and although she could do it herself, Enid wanted Carl to handle it, to touch her, hold her, learn her…

"I want to kiss you. Can I do that?"

Slowly, Enid turned around and met his now cobalt gaze. He was looking at her with longing, hunger, tenderness, shyness…there was no need for him to be shy.

"I want you to kiss me, Carl. Please."

/

She had felt him on top of her before.

In the Pantry, during their now infamous "Night Wrestling" match, Enid had felt his weight on her and hadn't felt an ounce of fear. She had been irritated at his tickle attack and amused at his audacity but not scared at all. She knew in her bones that Carl would never hurt her. He would never try to force himself on her, especially in such a public area.

He still had those Southern sensibilities, after all.

Southern boys were nice boys.

Their kisses had been clumsy at first. Some were too dry, others too wet, and they had bumped noses, making them both giggle but soon, they fell into a nice rhythm. Their lips synced up. Pleasantly surprising her, Carl had been the one to take their chaste pecks into something deeper, slipping his tongue into her mouth. He tasted of pumpkin, chocolate, and something else, something tangy-sour-sweet that Enid could feel herself becoming addicted to.

She'd never tire of kissing him.

His hands were large enough to span her whole middle and he squeezed her, nuzzling soft, wet kisses into her neck before returning to her lips with ardor.

"…so soft…so warm…you feel so goodyou taste like bliss, Enidfuck…"

Enid moaned and slid her hands further underneath his sweater, sitting them up slowly. Carl was shivering at the feel of her hands closer to his flesh and she wanted to see more of him, feel more of him against her. She was still determined to tell him how she felt but actions could speak louder than words, couldn't they? Carl wasn't a stupid man, far from it, and surely, he would pick up on what she was feeling.

The words were still important.

The words would come later, much later if she had a say in the matter.

"Raise your arms."

They giggled again as his hood got a little snagged but the black sweater eventually hit the floor, promptly joined by the white undershirt. Just like Enid had felt through his clothes, Carl was long and lean, padded with muscle. His skin was a couple of shades darker than hers but still a healthy pale with a trail of dark hair bisecting his lower abdomen and disappearing into the waistband of his blue boxers. He sat up on his knees and gave her a gentle shove backwards, putting his large hands on her thighs. Enid reached up and finally got to indulge her itching fingertips. He was warm to the touch, almost furnace like and goosebumps erupted in her wake, especially when she circled one of his nipples.

"…what happened here?"

There were a cluster of scars near his diaphragm, surgical scars that had faded to white over the years. Carl had been hit with a high powered weapon, most likely a 12 gauge shotgun, and unconsciously, Enid's fingertips slowed, stroking the scars tenderly. He had lived but it had been a very close call, she could tell. He could've died, probably should've died and then, they would've never met.

"It was a hunting accident. I got shot through a deer and that's how we met the Greenes. Maggie's dad got all the bullet fragments out of me."

"That's who Hershey Bar's named after?"

"Yeah. Hershel was boss. You would've loved him. Dale, too."

Sensing that the mood was taking a turn for the solemn, Enid moved her fingertips away from the scars and to his abdomen proper, tracing the many defined planes. Carl's breath hitched and he released a breathy laugh as she experimentally dug into his sides. She did it again and got the same result, Carl even trying to jerk away a little bit.

Smirking, she kissed his cheek before capturing his earlobe between her teeth.

"Some-body's ticklish…that's good to knowvengeance will be mine, Cowboy"

In response to her teasing, he reversed their positions and Enid gasped as their lower halves aligned. Carl was still in his pants but she could feel his arousal pressing firmly against her. He could probably feel her humid heat and she shivered. His gaze was serpent like and his tongue darted over his lower lip.

"I shouldn't be the only one without a shirt."

Enid nodded in agreement and undid the flannel's buttons. This was the first time she was allowing a man to see her willingly. She had been drugged when she had been "gifted" to Samuel and Carl had kept her modesty preserved while operating on her in the RV. She was a little bit nervous but…

"Oh, my God…"

Carl's face was awed and her teeth grazed her lower lip as he took in her bare torso. His hands flexed on her thighs, started to move upwards but he stopped himself. Enid liked that. Most men would've immediately gone for her breasts but Carl was proving to be different, wonderfully different. Not too different, though. His gaze was fixated on her breasts and her nipples puckered even tighter as the bulge against her twitched, grew...

"They're…I know that they're a little small…"

Enid was actually quite happy with the way her body looked but some men were picky and…

"They're fucking perfect…you're fucking perfect…"

He sat up and Enid mewed as his lips captured one of her rosy nipples, suckling ardently. The coil in her lower belly pulled and she held onto the back of his head, arching her back for more. Usually, it took much longer for her to get to this point, to feel like she was on the verge of release but Carl's ministrations had her climbing the walls. She cried out as her neglected nipple was taken between his thumb and index finger and he let out a low grunt as her hips began to buck. The noise was guttural, pure male and quite pleased. Both of his hands went to her behind and squeezed tightly, grinding her against him harshly. Enid quivered and let go with a deep shuddering sigh, moaning breathily as molten heat rippled through her core. Her panties were stuck to her now and she was certain that there would be a wet spot on his lap.

Sure enough, there was. Enid pulled away from him with shuddering limbs and their gazes went to his lap. His cargoes were stained with her and she could see the imprint of him through the material. Before she could stop herself, she skimmed a fingertip over it, curious and filled with a hunger she had never felt before. What she had done to herself in the past was nothing compared to how she was feeling now.

Typically, she'd come and be ready to go to sleep but not now.

She felt wide awake and hotter than before.

The coil in her belly had only gotten tighter, started pulsing faster than ever…

Carl licked his lips and the lusty gleam in his eyes made her whimper softly.

Oh, God.

What was he going to do next?

/

She was going to die.

She was going to die.

Carl Grimes was going to kill her.

His tongue, his mouth was going to kill her and Enid would die happy.

She would die sweaty, shaky, sticky, and hoarse voiced but she would die happy.

"…you taste so fuckin' good, Enid…could live off of you, I swear to God…"

Whimpering, she ground against his mouth, hearing the soft suckles, the slick sound of his tongue skimming over her heated flesh, the soft squish of his fingers dipping in and out of her pulsing channel.

"Fuck…Carl, please…I can't…oh, god…please…"

She wasn't sure if she was begging him to stop or begging him for more. Carl took the decision into his own hands and suckled hard at her clit, plunging his fingers deeper than ever. Enid screamed and she could feel fluid gush out of her, her hips jumping with her still sock clad feet planted firmly on the mattress. His fingers withdrew and he drank of her greedily, massaging her thighs, cupping her ass. He loved her ass and her nipples and her breasts and just…

"Shit…" she breathed shakily he kissed the trembling flesh just below her navel.

His lips curved into a smirk as he continued kissing leisurely up her body, nuzzling her along the way. His hair looked like it had been caught in a windstorm and Enid could see where she had gripped fistfuls of it. Were there missing chunks of hair? She'd have to check later on and even things out if necessary. The lower half of his face was glazed with her nectar and what he didn't lick away, he wiped with some of the bedding. Enid was shaking underneath him, vibrating all over and she accepted his kiss eagerly. She could taste herself on his tongue and that was good to her, very good. Carl propped himself up on a forearm and ran his fingers through her mussed hair, making her look up at him.

"D-Did you like that?"

"Uh-huh…"

"Good."

/

"We can stop…you don't have to do anything that you don't want to do…"

"I don't want to stop. I want you, Carl. I want you to be my First."

"You'll be my First, too. I've never…it's just you, Enid. You're the first person that I've ever wanted to be with like that and…what?"

"You're actually a virgin?"

"Yes."

"You don't do it like a virgin."

"Well, I read some stuff and I saw…it was an accident but I saw some things and made some guesses and… you can stop me anytime here…"

"No. I like it when you get all flustered because of me. It's cute."

"'Nid, I'm a grown ass man. Grown ass men are not cute."

"Whatever you say, Cowboy…"

Setting her empty water glass on the dresser, Enid started to undo his pants with steady fingers. Carl was watching her closely, shifting on his feet a little bit. After her body finally calmed from his ministrations, she had gotten up to get a drink, not bothering to cover up. She had nothing to be ashamed of and Carl hadn't been lying when he said that he found her perfect. The appreciative groan as she put a little extra sway in her hips told her that, as did his erection.

Impressively, it had yet to wane. She believed him when he said that he was a virgin but the self control was beyond what it should be. Of course, Carl had proven to her more than once that he did things with a standard of excellence. Treating wounds, being a big brother, building Walker traps, forging blades, chasing down and thoroughly Ending a cowering Leader of a pack of degenerates for daring to hurt her…it stood to reason that the excellence would continue in the bedroom.

Hell, even if he was a two pump chump, what he had already done to her with his mouth and fingers would make up for it tenfold.

And practice made perfect, as the old adage said. Tonight would be their first time together but it would be far from the last. There would be plenty of time to make a good thing better…

As soon as he stepped out of the last of his clothing, Enid couldn't tear her eyes away from It.

"So, that's where all the fat in your body is. Lucky me…holy shit…how do you even walk?"

Carl smirked smugly and sat down on the bed, giving her a better view. His legs were sturdy, dusted with dark hair from the calves downwards. She appreciated that. Strong arms and taut abs didn't mean a damned thing if the man had scrawny chicken legs. Of course, the Fucked New World they lived in provided plenty of opportunities for a full body workout. Skipping 'leg day' was impossible.

His cock was a good length, a healthy pinkish pale color, circumcised and veiny. It was also thick, very thick. She would need her whole hand to barely get a full grip of it and she swallowed nervously. She was still wet and hot for him but taking all of him in would be quite the challenge. She wasn't built like a tiny pixie but she was still smaller than Carl, especially in her intimate places. It was going to take some doing.

Still, Enid never backed down from a challenge, especially if said challenge was laughing at her.

The bastard was laughing at her, full on chortling and giggling!

Unbelievable.

They were both thoroughly naked, both thoroughly turned on, and he had the gall to laugh at her!

The nerve of Carl Grimes…one day, his audacity would have him on the business end of her mother's knife. She'd never kill him but a good slash or four may be needed.

"I can do this."

"Enid…"

"Stop laughing at me. I can do this. I just… you know what? Fuck it."

In more ways than one…

She would need both of her hands for exploring him like he had done with her. However, she only needed one to hold him still enough for her descending hips. Carl cried out and grabbed her tightly around the middle, steadying her and himself. Groaning and hissing quietly, Enid braced her hands on his chest and forged on, yelping as their groins touched. Her hymen had broken during her hunt for The Anointed. It had broken while she was riding a horse outside of what used to be Albany or maybe the Harley she had found outside of what used to be Newark but still…his cock inside of her wasn't agony but she could certainly feel him.

He filled her.

There was a big pinch and a bit of a burn, almost like a pulled muscle but not. She wasn't sure how to describe it but the discomfort was already starting to be outweighed by something else, something different, something good…

Carl wasn't laughing anymore.

The awestruck, wide eyed look from earlier was back and his mouth was open, his body shaking.

"Carl? Carl? Carl, you have to breathe…"

She thumped him hard on the chest and he wheezed like he had just surfaced from underwater.

"Don't scare me like that."

"…s-sorry…"

"And don't you dare die on me, Grimes. Not now."

Not ever.

"…s-stop trying to kill me with your pussy and I'll be just fine…"

Now, it was Enid's turn to giggle, making them both moan at the effect. The fingers around her middle flexed and she squeezed him with her thighs as he slowly rolled them over. Reaching up, Enid brushed some hair out of his eyes and sighed softly as Carl began to move inside of her. Their rhythm was clumsy at first, just like their kisses but eventually, they settled into a long fast thrusting, Carl's flushed face buried in her neck. Enid ran her blunt nails over his sweaty skin and put both hands at the small of his back, feeling the contract and release of each pump into her. She brought her legs up and whimpered as he touched her deeper inside, a visible shudder racking his form…

"…feel so fucking good…so soft and hot inside…Enid…"

She clung to him like ivy, making his striving hips halfway, gasping as heat rose in her body. She was going to come again. After everything Carl had done with his fingers and tongue, Enid had assumed that her body would be satiated by the time he got inside of her but apparently not. His thumb slid down to her humid heat and focused on her pulsing clit, making her quiver underneath and around him.

"Shit…don't stop…pleaseoh, god…"

The pleased grunt from earlier accented a harsh plunge of his hips and Enid's nails dug into his back as the coil snapped. Her own back arched and her mouth fell open.

"Carl!"

His breathing was deep, fast, raspy, hot against her flesh. She could feel him thicken, start to twitch faster, and she grabbed a fistful of his hair, drawing him into a deep kiss. The first pulse of his climax coated her walls and his body tensed and bowed, his hips pounding with abandon as he succumbed.

"Enid!"

/

The Next Morning…

"We didn't use protection last night."

"I know."

"We don't have any. We were looking for birth control when we found you by the road but…"

"You know that whatever's out there is expired, ruined, or hoarded by now."

"I do know that but there are other ways that I could've…I should've…I just want you to be safe, Enid. I don't…I don't want anything bad to happen to you. Not because of me. It would…"

"I understand. It's cool."

"It is?"

"It really is."

They were resting on their sides and Enid smiled as he held her tighter. Sharing a bed with Carl, being kissed and cuddled by him felt good. It felt safe. Holding him felt better than she imagined. Most of the night had been spent with him sleeping her arms snoring quietly, almost snuffling at times. She had floated between sleep and wakefulness, allowing him to stroke and kiss her drowsily as he shifted around. Her breasts, her clavicle, her nipples, anywhere his mouth could reach at the time got his soft kisses, his exploring tongue, too. His fingers would skim over her sides, dip in between her legs, and a hand stayed on her behind, rubbing it fondly.

The bedding was spread evenly over them and she nuzzled against the flesh where his heart pounded underneath. He was warm and there with her and just…yes.

They were just… yes.

His fingertips massaged her scalp and she put a thigh over his hip, snickering as the realization hit.

"What's funny?"

"We still have our socks on."

"Yeah, well, it's too cold for bare feet. I think it's going to snow some more."

"It already is. My ankle was burning like hell so I checked. 2 more inches and counting."

"Fuck."

"That's your favorite swear word, isn't it?"

"Why shouldn't it be? It's so versatile..."

"It's like the Swiss Army knife or a good slingshot. Well, it's not like more snow's a bad thing. You don't want to spend more time with me, Cowboy? You tired of me, already?"

"Never."

/

"…don't stop…please don't stop…fuck…"

She continued her ministrations and grabbed a hold of his hip to keep him from squirming away from her. Carl hadn't allowed her to taste him last night and she wanted to give as good as she had gotten. His cock tasted musky-sweet and Enid idly wondered if it would taste different at a later time. He had been inside her earlier and neither of them had bathed yet. She was a factor.

She wanted to know what pure Carl tasted like, if he'd taste just as good as he did now.

He would.

He was so fucking delicious.

Addicting…

Looking up, she met his gaze. It was heavily lidded and his pupils were dilated, ringed by stormy cerulean. He was biting his lower lip and his breathing was jagged, his moans deep. The bedding had slid down past his knees, leaving her exposed and she knew that she had to be quite the sight. Naked, trembling, one hand on his hip, the other tending to his sac, and her kiss swollen lips wrapped around his twitching cock. She broke their staring match and continued, using her free fingers to stoke him leisurely.

She couldn't take all of him in her mouth yet but practice would make perfect.

Carl wasn't complaining at all.

"Enid…Enid…Enid…oh god, Enid…"

Shuddering, he started to come and she took what he had to give her, letting it linger in her mouth before swallowing. Salty-sweet-sour…she couldn't pin it down but Enid knew that she liked it. Carl moaned deeply and his hips calmed slowly, his whole body tensing before melting into the mattress. She licked and lapped at his softening cock until all the aftershocks ceased before withdrawing with an audible pop. Enid nipped lightly at his inner thigh before giving his body the same treatment he had given hers. She kissed and nuzzled at his body slowly, tugging gently at his lower lip with her teeth.

Carl's pretty periwinkle eyes fluttered before opening, looking at her with so much tenderness that it made her want to cry like a baby. Instead of doing so, she rested her head on his shoulder and let him embrace her, his arms enfolding her securely. Her thigh returned to his hip and both of them sighed deeply.

"D-Did you like that?"

"…fuck yeah…"

"Good. Nap time."

He made an agreeing noise and the last thing Enid registered was him kissing her forehead.

/

"Tilt your head back."

Enid did so slowly and swallowed at the feel of suds sliding over her body. Carl's palms massaged her scalp, guiding the foam to the drain. Once her hair was rinsed, she opened her eyes and watched as he got beneath the spray to rinse off. He was kind and naked and sexy and hers and just…

Giving into the impulse, she hugged him and he chuckled, wrapping an arm around her. The shower was turned off and she shivered as he opened the stall door. The bathroom was full of steam and Carl wrapped them both in a large white towel to dry off, making her giggle.

"This isn't practical at all."

"Nope, but it feels nice…where do you think you're going?"

The hand not securing their towel went very firmly to her behind, effectively trapping her.

"I'm hungry and I want to go outside. The streets are half cleared and I want to build a snowman. Maybe start a big ass snowball war…"

"Seriously, 'Nid?"

"Do you have a better idea of what we should do today, Cowboy?"

If she wasn't already naked, the look Carl gave her would've made her clothes fly off.

She turned her head just in time to dodge his lips but Carl merely started kissing her neck, growling deep in his chest.

Her giggles had a moaning tinge to them, now but she would stand firm in her convictions.

"That is also on the agenda for today but we need sustenance, Grimes. We need calories. We need fresh air and sunlight while getting some non naked exercise. You're a Medic. You should know all of this already. What the hell is wrong with you?"

"E-nid…"

"Car-l…"

"…okay, you win…"

She squeaked as he swatted lightly her on the ass.

"Don't be so pouty. You know I'm right."

"It doesn't mean I like it and again, I'm a grown ass man, Enid. Grown ass men do not pout."

"Whatever you say, Grown Ass Pouty Cowboy. Make tracks. We're burning daylight."

/

"Okay, I'm gonna make a run for it. Go out the back and head for the rest of the Squad."

"They'll get you, Enid. They're right there waiting. They'll coat you like chicken."

"Then you and Hershey Bar will have to avenge me later on. Can you do it?"

"Heck yeah, we can. Let's do it, Jude. It'll be fun. We can take Uncle Rick down. He's easy, especially if Auntie 'Chonne knocks him down first!"

"Yeah…all right, let's do it. We got you, Enid."

"That's my angels. Are you ready?"

"Yeah!"

"Give me a countdown, Jude."

"5, 4, 3, 2…1. Go, Enid, go! Run!"

She jumped off the Grimes House's porch and did a barrel roll, coming up sprinting. Snowballs whizzed past her and she skidded, pivoted and chucked one back, hitting Glenn right in the face, much to his Teammates' glee. Enid squealed as a large bucketful of snow hit her from above and she threw up the bird to whoever did it, most likely Daryl. Getting off the sidewalk, she jumped-waded through the snow coating her shortcut and bit back a curse as she turned the second to last corner.

Of fucking course!

She had been wondering why she hadn't seen him lately and was that a shovel full of snow in his hands?

Yes, it was.

Goddamn it!

Son of a bitch…

"Good afternoon."

"I should've known that would they draft you to block my way. You guys are some cheaters!"

"It's not cheating, it's strategy and I volunteered for it. I knew you'd come this way eventually. This is the quickest way to get to the Pantry's back door and your Squad. Nice barrel roll, by the way. It was beautiful."

"I'm glad you enjoyed it. I don't suppose that you'd be willing to go away without a fight?"

"Nope."

"Even I ask nicely?"

"Nope."

"How come?"

"Well, my Lady insisted that I come out here and freeze my balls off building snow people before getting into this war that my Squad's losing instead of staying in a warm bed with her so I'm not in a very good mood."

"Your Lady, huh? She sounds like a hot mess…"

"Emphasis on hot. Oh, she's brilliant and sweet and absolutely badass but…fuck, she looks so good naked. Like damn…"

"Mmm…well, you look like you'd look pretty good naked yourself, friend. You think she'd mind if I found out for sure?"

"Not a good idea…you're cute and all but she'd kill you. I don't want your blood on my hands."

"I could take her."

"Yeah, but then she'd kill me and I'm quite fond of living. Living's nice, even in the Fucked New World. You understand, don't you?"

"I understand. Next lifetime, maybe?"

"Nah. I'd just go find her again or fly solo. She means that much to me. She's…she's the One."

The playful atmosphere was replaced by something much heavier and Enid made a decision. Enough was enough. No more bullshitting around, no more chickening out. She had to tell him exactly how she felt. He had to know. She had to say the words…

"I'm in love with you. I started falling the moment I saw your big blue eyes and your ridiculous Hat. I stopped denying it after the Pantry and the Kitchen. I would've told you sooner but I was being a chickenshit."

"…you really love me?"

"Yes, I really love you, Carl Grimes. So much."

Carl dropped the shovel and jump-waded to her, drawing her into their deepest kiss yet. When her back made contact with the side of a house, snow fell over both of them but Enid didn't care. Carl was cupping her face in his large hands and she opened her emerald eyes slowly, returning his look with one of hers.

"I love you, too."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah."

"…cool."