Clementine wakes after a few pokes to the arm, letting out a grunt of protest before sitting up with a yawn, rubbing her eyes and looking to the child next to her.
“I… I had a nightmare. Could I-“
Before he could finish his sentence she scoots over, making room for the boy on her bed. He hops up, pulling himself under the blankets right next to her.
It’s silent for a few moments, uncharacteristic of the usually snarky and talkative child. Even after nightmares he always finds something to say, usually explaining what happened in his nightmare or asking questions about Clem’s dream.
“So, you gonna tell me what it was about?”
She sees him furrow his eyebrows before closing his eyes. She almost thinks that was a sign for her to return to sleep before he’s sitting back up.
“I… I’ve been thinking.”
Clem shakes her head as she pushes herself upright. She’s learned him thinking always seems to be a bad thing.
“Mmh, what about?”
AJ clasps his hands together, a conflicted expression on his face, the moonlight shining through the window softly illuminating him and the room around them.
“You haven’t told me much about your parents. I know you had them both, I also know you had Lee after you lost them.”
He trails off, looking to Clem before looking back at the hands resting in his lap. “I know I’ve asked you not to in the past but… Could you tell me about mine?”
Clem gives him a soft yet sad smile, motioning him to come lay in her arms. “Well. What do you want to know?” She asks as the child shifts, trying to find a comfortable place to lay, proving to not be too difficult with only one leg in the way.
“What were they like?”
Clem runs a soft hand through his hair as she stares up in thought.
“Well, your mother, Rebecca, was a very smart and independent woman. She was a voice of reason in the large group she was in and she got shit done. She didn’t like being waited on like she had to be when she was pregnant with you, she cared very deeply about each person, even if she seemed apprehensive at times.”
AJ tilted his head as he continued to listen intently, his current expression almost unreadable, something the teen wasn’t used to.
“-and you’re father, Alvin, was a gentle giant, much more passive. He was very caring and protected people the best he could, everyone’s needs going before his own. This went double for you and Rebecca.”
Clementine felt a bit sad thinking about her old friends and how they hadn’t got to meet their amazing son but pushed that off to the side as she continued to think of what else she could tell him.
“How did you meet them? I know about the story with the dog and how it attacked you but that’s really all I know.”
She thought quietly to herself, debating for second how she’d like to start this story.
“Well, it was when I was almost shot in the head by a guy named Nick-“
AJ sits up, confused look on his face as she laughs.
“Anyways, I was found in the woods by two men. A young guy named Luke and an older man named Pete. They saw how I was about to be eaten by a group walkers and decided to take me back to their home to help me.”
AJ returns his head to her thigh, closing his eyes and she continues to recount the story.
“They saw the dog bite on my arm, hardly believing me when I said it wasn’t from a walker. I had collapsed after attempting to walk on my own, waking up on the ground in front of the group.”
Clem’s continues to rake through the child’s curly hair, fingers stopping every once in awhile from a knot within the untamed strands.
“Your mom was very worried I might be a danger to the group, bite or not. Your father had wanted me to stay, saying they had the supplies they needed to fix me up. Even so, I spent part of that night in the shed.”
She leans forward as she hears him laugh.
“What’s so funny?”
He shakes his head as he continues to giggle.
“The idea of you getting locked in a shed. You . You always manage to fight or something, no group has really ever ordered you around.” He says, laughter subsiding.
“Well, you’re right. That’s why I didn’t stay in the shed for long.” She says as she looks back to the large scar on her arm.
“I broke off a piece of the wall and tried to get into the house to get the supplies I needed to fix my arm, I ended up talking to your dad, he helped me by giving me one of the things I needed, even kind enough to spare a juice box.”
AJ gives a small noise of content as a small urge for her to continue..
“After I stitched my arm I was let out of the shed and kinda just became part of the group, following them as they were being hunted by the leader of a community.”
She lets out a sad sigh,. “Your dad… He ended up… Dying there. He had urged me to go on, he protected me as one of the community members came in, they shot at him and he shot back-”
Clementine felt her voice hitch, she hadn’t expected to become so emotional at this. She hadn’t thought about them in such a long time. She was forced to live so into the moment she never got to grieve, she never got to think about how else she could have helped the people she lost before they were gone.
She suddenly feels a hand on hers, AJs eyes glistening with his own sadness.
“-and your mom… You know she didn’t make it after you were born… She had lost too much blood and I had to shoot her.” Clem hugs AJ close, shaking her head as if it’d make the sadness disappear.
“Kenny and I took care of you for awhile. I’m not sure if you remember him but he adored you just as I do. He ended up getting swarmed after an accident, and we lost him.”
She shakes the image of Kenny being eaten alive as she ran away with the toddler in her arms.
“They’d be so proud of you AJ.”
Clem gives him a sad smile.
“You’ve become exactly what they hoped for. You are a strong and caring boy. They had hoped that you’d be able to survive and find a way to be happy, too.”
The tears in AJs eyes began to flow freely now. He closes his eyes as they continue to fall, remaining silent.
“I wish… I wish you had gotten to meet them and that they got to know you.”
She pulls him into a proper hug, wishing that she was able to let him have a real mom and dad in his life, wondering if they’d have done a better job at raising the child in her arms.
She knows they would have been amazing parents.
She lifts her head as she’s pulled from her thoughts.
“I- thank you. I know I say it all the time but, thank you for taking such good care of me. I know I can be not easy and you’re still just a kid to-“
Clem shakes her head, “Alvin Junior, we’ve talked about this. I don’t need-“
“-You don’t need me to thank you for caring. I know, I know.”
She ruffles his hair, sitting back to look at him, lighting squeezing at his cheeks as she held his face. “You thank me as if leaving you behind was an option.”
AJ shakes his head, an amused smile on his face, tears slowly drying from his cheeks.
“I could have easily been walker food. I was like, really small. I couldn’t even shoot a gun.”
Clem smirks at him, “you mean, you’re still small.”
AJ gives a small push to her shoulder, an annoyed huff as he crosses his arms.
“Only kidding. Jeez, goofball, no need to fuss like baby-“
AJ rolls his tired eyes before looking to the window.
“It’s pretty late, I think we should get back to bed.” Clem says as lowers herself back to her pillow. AJ looks back to her before nodding and following her back into a lying position.
It’s quiet for a few more moments before she hears AJs breathing become lighter. Her heart feels content as she tucks the blanket tighter around them to fend the feeling of the chilly room.
He stirs slightly before muttering a goodnight back.
“Love you, goofball.”