Slowly, like a pulled drain, my anger clears and I can see the blood smeared on Carl, his paler than usual face, the darkness of Michonne's skin and Grace's blonde curls. Carl is still looking at his dad, who is burying his dagger venomously into the man. I can't take it anymore.
"Carl." I call out weakly.
His blue eyes snap to me. He stands up. I drop my whip and my pack plops to the ground. On shaky legs, I stumble hard into his arms. I grip the nape of his neck as he clenches his arms tight around me, shuddering. I feel droplets of water.
"You're okay, you're okay. I've got you." I whisper, my voice trembling.
I can feel him lightly shaking against my body. I could have stopped it. I could have killed that man before he dragged carl out of the car. It would have been so simple, but instead I waited. I pull my head back and press my forehead against his.
In the dull moonlight I can make out the tracks of water from his tears. I press my lips hard against his, maybe I can kiss the trauma and pain away. That would be so simple. I can taste the salty residue of his tears. I angle my head so I can go a bit deeper. I clutch his navy hoodie in one hand and brush my thumb over the smeared blood on his left cheek. Then I realize we are making out in front of Rick, and pull back a bit.
"Your dad is right over there." I whisper in his ear, clutching him.
His lips brush my ear lobe. I thought he was going to whisper something back, but he buries his face in my neck. I hold him fiercly against my body, pressing every inch against him. I bask in this feeling again, of finding him.
"Come on, let's get some sleep." I whisper in his ear.
I lead us to the back seat. Grace and Wes take the space behind the backseat and Michonne takes her spot in passenger. I sit up while Carl nestles his head in my lap. I lean my head against the cool window, a hand deep in Carl's soft hair, my thumb waving slowly as he falls to sleep. I soon fall asleep as well.
Birds chirp as I slowly open my eyes. I stumble to the kitchen in our house and see a banner. 'Happy 4th Birthday Charlotte!' I hear a rustle of keys and see mommy slip a jean jacket over her soft grey v neck.
"I will be right back, need to get more balloons. Kit will be here," she says.
I nod, my brown curls bouncing. Mommy did them pretty for my party today. Even though it's january, we don't have any snow, which is unusual in Ohio. I smooth my jade green dress as I sit on the low brown couch with blue and green throw pillows flanking me. I hum a tune I can't remember where I heard it from. Suddenly, I hear a loud motor stop outside. I run over to the front door and fling it open. I see a man with brown hair and sunglasses on stride up the sidewalk. In his hand was a small box with a green bow, which matches my dress. I smile.
"Welcome to my party!" I exclaim.
Mommy told me to say that to guests last night. I was super excited that I was wiggling around in my twin sized bed, surrounded by my panda bear Mr. Blue and my giraffe Foo Foo.
"Hey. Happy 4th baby girl," he says, his voice husky, but smooth.
"What are you doing here?" I hear kit snarl from behind me.
"He has a present!" I yell at him, turning around.
"Darling, remember what I said? Don't talk to strangers," he scolds, snatching the present and me.
"I have to thank him! Mommy said so!" I scream, wiggling out and racing down the steps of our suburban house.
The man turns around. I hug his leg.
"Thank you!" I yell, smiling wide.
He smiles and rubs my head lovingly.
"Charlie!" kit snaps.
I let go and hurry to his side, watching the man retreat down the side walk and back on his motorcycle.
"I like his jacket, the one with the wings on the back," I confess to kit as we watch him ride off, sitting on the front steps.
Kit doesn't say anything.
"Can I have my present?" I ask, looking up at him.
His blonde hair is messy. He looks at me with cold brown eyes.
"No. Not until Mary comes back. Then we can have cake and presents!" he says, his eyes warm again.
I smile and nod. Mommy comes back with an arm full of multi colored balloons. I squeal and race to her side.
"Happy 4th birthday my little angel," she says after dinner.
The party started at 12 and ended at 3. Now, sleepy as ever and tucked in, I smile in response. I cuddle with my new lion, Wings.
"Why did you name him that?" mommy asks on the edge of my bed.
"Cause of the man here earlier today," I yawn.
"His jacket had white wings on the back," I say slowly, turning over.
She was silent.
"Goodnight honey," she says and kisses my forehead, walking out briskly.
"Why didn't you tell me he was here?!" I hear mommy snap.
"You were gone and I wasn't out there in time. She didn't know it was him," I hear kit say.
I hear an audible sigh, "God, if daryl was here a few minutes earlier..."
I feel my eyelids shut and I fall asleep, forgetting about the present from the man with the wings.
I'm peeking through the crack in the door of my room. Ten years later and I had forgotten about the present until now. I watch kit take out something and sneak it in my pack. He unzips the main compartment and stuffs it deep. He stands up and goes back to the couch in the living room.
I gasp awake. Grabbing my pack, I unzip it and rumage through my supplies. I feel a small hard box. I fish it out. My eyes widen at the box, same as it was ten years ago with the jade green bow on top. I untie the bow and open the box. Inside is a black leather cuff with white wings instiched on the sides.
'Happy 4th angel
I cover my mouth as tears well up and leak out. I lift Carl's head from my lap and open the door. Daryl has his back to me, croutching by the small fire. Rick and Michonne are out there as well.
"D-daryl?" I ask in a small voice.
He stands up and turns around. He freezes when he sees the bracelet in my hand.
"Where did you get that?" he snaps.
"From you." I say, wiping my tears.
"You're Charlie?" he asks.
I nod, "And you're my dad?"
He nods back. I run into his open arms. He hugs me back.
"I never thought I would find you." he murmurs.
I sniffle, "I can't believe you're my father. Badass hunter and survivor."
We both laugh and pull away.
"Wait, how did you and mom meet?" I ask.
He guides me over to the fire and we sit down together.
"I was nineteen and she was seventeen. On spring break with a friend, we met at the beach. We kept in touch for a few weeks after that, then it went cold. It was seven years later that we ran into each other. Few days later, she was pregnant. Her folks didn't handle that too well. I found her again and came up. I saw the balloons on the mailbox... Then that douche prick ran me off," he says.
I nod, "Yeah, I named my stuffed lion Wings because of the wings on your leather jacket."
He smiles, "You did?"
I smile back.
"Did she ever tell you about me?" he asks quietly.
"No. Kit always did something to interrupt her." I confess.
"Charlotte?" I hear Carl ask from behind me.
I turn around and hold his hand.
"How are you?" I ask quietly, sitting beside him.
He gives me a small shrug.
I place a hand on his shoudler. He pulls away and stands up, walking over to Michonne. I furrow my eyebrows together as the guilt of last night drags me down. I look down and see my hands shake some. I see Wes and Grace appear from the car.
"W-wes. Can I talk to you?" I ask.
He nods to grace and she leaves, going over to the fire.
"What's wrong?" he asks as we sit on the edge of the trunk, the top lifted up.
"Last night. I feel like I could have stopped it when the man pulled Carl out of the car, could've spared him the emotional trauma of almost getting raped. I feel like useless shit!" I say, tears streaming down my face.
He pulls me into his arms.
"It wasn't your fault. You're like a little sister to me, and you should never blame yourself for something you couldn't stop." he lulls to me.
I shudder and bawl, "But I could've stopped it! Could've gone around and tackled him off!"
I move into his lap and wrap my arms around his torso, burying my face in his shoudler.
"He is distant now, won't even let me touch him." I say, my voice muffled by Wes's black army style jacket.
He holds me until I quiet down and calm down. He cups the left side of my face and brushes a thumb over my cheek.
"You're going to be fine. You and Carl both, I know it." he says, looking into my eyes.
I slowly nod, entranced by his electric blue eyes. A bang on the car interupts our little heart to heart moment. I peer out the dusty windshield and see Carl's retreating form, back to Michonne. Oh shit. I jump out of the back and make my way over to rick.
"Are we going back to your set up?" I ask.
He nods. Everyone is packed up, so we make our way beyond the car and back to the train tracks. I walk with Daryl as we make our way back to their base.
"So, winter's coming soon." I say, trying to make small talk with my father.
He nods, "Yeah. Need to hunt more."
"Maybe a group? One group hunts and the other scavenges for clothing and other supplies for winter." I plan.
"Sounds good." he says.
"Where were you when we got Carl?" Daryl suddenly asks after a few minutes of silence.
"I was in the bathroom. I heard gun shots and ran back out tp the vault we were in." I answer.
"Where did you find those two?" he asks, motioning to Wes and Grace.
"I found Grace with her brother in a house in the neighborhood. Wes saved me from a walker at base a few days ago." I say.
I hear a few moans and see a group of scattered walkers trudging up the hill. I take out my dagger and I hear the others tense up with their weapons out. I make the first move by kicking one on the edge of the group and sinking my dagger into it.
The next one I had my arm around its neck from behind and went under the chin and through the mouth, the tip penatrating the skull by mere centimeters. The others took out the rest. We reform our group and continue walking.