Stranger (Carl Grimes)

Twenty-Two

I'm still awake, staring at the wooden rafters in the warehouse we were currently staying in. It's a nice one, two stories made of brick, barred windows, heavy sliding doors, a small stream near by, and woods to our backs. The dirt path is the only way to come in, besides the railroad tracks to the west of us. The wind is picking up outside, making it very cold in here.

I wish Charlotte was here, she could keep me warm and I could echo back the heat. I still don't think she is dead. I take a deep breath, hold it, close my eyes, and exhale. What is she doing now? I hope she didn't run into those men outside, they might be like Seth. I grind my teeth at his name and the dirt he brought with him. I hate that fucking bastard.

She's out there all alone, and it's hurting me so badly to know that she could be hurt or scared. No, she wouldn't be scared. She is tough, tougher than dad. Dad is scared right now, farming softened him up, made him vulnerable. I toss for a few more minutes, then fall into a dreamless sleep, cold as ever.

CHARLOTTE'S POV

Ever have those times were you wake up cold and go back to sleep for what seems like two seconds and have to get up for the day?

That's what I'm facing now. Here I am, slightly shivering as I spoon luke warm spegatti o's from a styrofoam bowl with the other two. They look like they went through the same thing last night, with light rings under both their eyes.

"This is what we are doing today. First, I need to go get my pack from the house. Second we are going to decide whether we are staying or leaving. Third, well that depends on the second thing we do." I announce to the two.

They nod.

"Stay here and be quiet until I get back." I say, getting up with my gun in hand.

I open the door and shut it behind me, turning to the house that was once my base. I jog over and spot my backpack, fortunatly untouched. I hoist it onto my shoulder when I'm knocked down. I hear a moan and a gun shot. Someone is on top of me. A boy with black hair and electric blue eyes. To say he wasn't hot was a lie. His arm was extended out to the left, his hand gripping his silver revolver, which looks a lot like Rick's.

I know it's not. His jaw line was strong as he clenched his teeth visibly. His chest was heaving under the tattered plaid that hung loose on his sharp stature. I could see his eyes dart for anymore walkers before getting off me and helping me up.

"Sorry about that, I'm Wes." he says as we sit on the couch.

"No need to be sorry. I'm Charlotte." I say.

"You have a group?" he asks.

I squint, "Why?"

"I have been alone for a long time. Can I join yours? Or stick with you?" he asks, looking at me.

"Well, you did just save me from a walker, I do owe you." I say.

His blue eyes light up and he flashes me a handsome smile, "Thank you."

I get up and grab my backpack. Wes follows behind me and grabs his navy duffle that was on the front porch by the door. He shuts it and I hear his footsteps follow behind me. I go back to the house on the corner and go inside with Wes behind me.

"Guys, this is Wes. Wes, this is Grace and Chase." I say, introducing the trio.

We all sit around the square table.

"Guys, since I found Wes, you can stay here. I need to find my group. I know they are out there somewhere." I say to the three when we are seated around the square table in the kitchen.

Wes shakes his head, "No, I want to go with you."

I see the others nod.

I sigh and say, "Okay. You all can come, but you have to follow some rules."

They stare at me, a silent sign for me to continue.

"I'm the leader of the group. I make important decisions. Trust no one except the people in our group unless I say. No one goes anywhere alone, not even to take a piss, we don't spilt up or get seperated. If there is a walker, don't shoot it, just a simple stab is good enough. If we run into any people, we don't stay for long. Always be prepared to run and fight. Last, but not least, don't get bit or scratched." I say.

They all nod.

"I was with someone, but they were taken. We were very close." I say sullenly.

"What did he look like?" Chase asks quietly after a few seconds of silence.

I cringe in pain mentally.

I gulp and say, "Um, he was a little taller than me, brown hair, blue eyes, a sheriff hat."

He nods, "Yeah, I saw the hat."

"Where?" I snap.

"This man had it." grace pipes up.

"What did he look like?" I demand.

My heart is pounding in my chest.

"He had on this leather vest with wings on it. I didn't see anything else." she says.

I almost cry in relief. He was safe.

I smile, "That is a member from my group. His name is Daryl."

I have hope now. I glance out the window.

"We can leave now. Everyone packed?" I say, standing up from the table.

They all nod.

"Then let's go." I say.

We all leave the neighborhood. As we walk, I notice the grass is frost tipped. A bad sign for us. Winter is right around the corner. I tug my green army jacket around myself tighter, zipping it up and flipping up the collar. I'm in the front, leading our little pack down the sidewalk. I look over my shoulder. Grace and Chase are holding hands. My heart clenches at the sight, brother and sister, all they have left of the past world. I have no one from my family left.

"Keep your eyes peeled for any walkers or people." I call to the two.

They both nod. Wes walks in step with me. I glance at Wes. He smiles. I reveal a small, shy grin.

"So, how old are you?" I ask.

"Fifteen. You?" he asks.

I stiffly smile and anwser, "Same age."

He nods. I look around and see railroad tracks.

"We should follow the tracks. My group would have done the same." I say, walking over to the tracks and walking on the wooden planks.

The pack follows me lead and we walk in silence. It's noon now and so far I haven't seen anything that would be helpful for finding the others. To get spilt up from the group not one but twice, maybe I shouldn't be finding them? As fast as the thought appeared, it went. No, I have to find Carl, even if it means that I'm the last one standing in the pack.

"Look!" Chase hisses.

I turn around and see what he is pointing at. Under a pecan tree is a single deer. I get out my gun and aim for the head. Just when I was about to shoot it, an arrow pierces the skull. At first, I thought the arrow belonged to Daryl, but then a man with a compound bow steps out of the tree line. I tense up. He sees us.

"Joe!" he shouts.

I back up, away from the man. Another man comes out. He seems to be the leader. Grey hair and a cigarette in one hand. He stares at us. I don't lower my gun. He raises his hands in defense. Other men come out, about six more. I recognise one from the base, the night before who was snoring on the couch. I glare at the group.

"What's that look for girl?" Joe asks.

"Did you take my base forcefully? The house you were at last night?" I ask in a tone colder than the air around us.

He shakes his head, "No, it was empty when we got there. We don't want any trouble."

"Neither do we, all we want is the deer. He spotted it first." I say, jerking my head to Chase.

"How about we invite you kids to supper, we can all share the deer and in the morning you can go along your merry way." Joe says.

"Let me talk to my group for a few minutes, then we will decide," I say, keeping a stone mask on.

"So, what do you guys want to do?" I ask as we huddle up.

"Personally, I want that deer. But I don't like how there aren't any women around. Who knows what they do to girls without men to protect them." Grace says, cringing at the thought.

That reminds me of Seth. I grit my teeth.

"All in favor of eating with the group." I say.

I get no response. I nod and we break the huddle.

"Yeah, no thanks. We should be getting on our way. Enjoy the deer." I say.

As I turn around, I see some of the men staring lustfully at Grace and I. I glare at them and keep walking, intertwining my fingers with Wes. After a while, we spot a small dirt path leading off the tracks. I lead the group and find a small cottage, really homey. I check for walkers and see that it is clear.

There is a sitting room, which only has chairs, two bedrooms, a kitchen with a working stove, a big bathroom, and a living room with a stone fireplace. The first bedroom as a queen and the second is the master with a queen as well. Next to the house is a small stream, rushing with clear water. Grace and I take a big black pot with lug it inside. I turn on the gas stove and let it boil so that we can drink it later tonight. Chase filled up a smaller pot for chicken noodle soup.

"I'm going to go hunting." I announce.

"Don't go outside. I will knock three times once, then two times. If anyone tries to break in, go out the back and stay under the pecan tree. Stay quiet and I will be back with something to eat hopefully." I say.

They nod. I smile when I hear the audible click of the lock behind me as I swing the white picket fence gate open, slamming it shut behind me. When I feel like I'm a good distance away, I set up a simple trap. After that, I pick up some branches and twigs for the fire tonight. I round back to the trap and see a medium sized brown rabbit. I take my dagger and put it out of it's misery. We eat roasted rabbit and chicken noodle soup. Soon it's dark and the fire is low.

"So, who's sleeping where?" I ask.

"I'm staying with Grace," Chase blurts out.

I nod, "Hit the hay everyone, we have a busy day tomorrow."

Wes follows me to the second bedroom. I slip out of my boots and lay my jacket on top. Wes does the same. I crawl under the covers. I feel guilty for sleeping with Wes tonight, knowing Carl is out there somewhere cold tonight, but safe. I push the feeling down as Wes flips the covers up to our shoulders. I shiver.

"Come here, I know you're cold." he says, his arms open.

I hesitate, but move into his arms, resting my head on his chest. I feel tears well up and spill over.

"Hey, are you okay?" he asks, concerned.

I sniffle, "No. Just go to sleep."

I'm sorry carl, I think before sleep claws me down under the waves of consciousness.



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