A/N: Sorry, I didn't mean to make all of you wait so long. Enjoy!
Carl kicked the can with a vicious accuracy, sending it tottering down the alley way. His dad and Michonne were just around the corner; the area had been cleared. He was giving them a moment. Carl knew they didn't think he knew, but he knew. Well, he knew something was different. It had been since the last place. Over the past couple of weeks, Carl saw it in the side glances between the two, even the lingering shoulder touches. So yeah, he was fifteen… okay he'd be fifteen in the fall but he wasn't a damn kid anymore. He knew there was something different between his dad and Michonne.
Part of him was pissed. Okay, a big part of him was pissed at them. He was mad that they thought he couldn't handle it. They thought he was some kind of damn kid, that he wasn't old enough to understand, or get it or whatever. He was pissed too for his mom, even though he knew on some level he shouldn't be. Carl knew he should be okay with it. Hell, it was Michonne but… well, it was his mom too. His mom. But she was dead and they weren't. Carl felt the sharp pain of grief and fury pierce him. He unleashed it as he kicked the can once again.
There was another part of him, one that was buried a little further in. A voice of reason, perhaps, a glimmer of hope for what he saw when his dad and Michonne thought he wasn't looking. Was it happiness, could he be okay with it all? Carl thought, maybe, he could be if they ever really told him. It was okay, on some level, it would be okay. But they still treated him like a kid, and he was tired of it. Carl knew he wasn't an adult, but crap, they could at least tell him.
Carl wandered around the next corner, knowing he shouldn't get too much farther away. The immediate area had been cleared by the three of them the day before, but walkers could come from anywhere at any time. They were still searching the surrounding buildings of the tiny town for supplies. However, the trio had been coming up short and were most likely going to move on. It was almost like someone had been here before them.
This area Carl had wandered into was different; it was the back of small gas station. They hadn't been down here before. Carl's hand instinctively went to the hilt of his knife at his belt while the other tipped his father's sheriff hat of his father back and out of his eyes. There were rotting dead bodies on the ground, decaying flesh and sun bleached bone. Dead walkers, Carl could tell by their mauled faces, lips missing and blows to what was left of their skulls. There was dried, blackened old blood on the walls. He had seen enough battles and close calls to know this one had been close. Carl wondered if the human or humans on the other end had survived.
He was so entranced by the scene that he almost walked by it completely. Carl paused mid-step, his heart skipping a beat as his unbelieving and blinking eyes focused on the sight. Written in big black letters on the brick wall were the words:
Daryl and Beth are here.
"Dad! Michonne!" The excited words escaped Carl before he realized it, his eyes still focused on his find before him. It was the first time in a year they had any sign, any hope. The prison had fallen, so many had died. He and his father had barely made it to a white house, a place to allow his dad to heal after his near death fight with the Governor. Michonne had found them a couple days later and then that was it. No sign of anyone else, not Maggie, not Carol, not Daryl. And here he was, staring at proof that at least two of their extended family had survived the chaos and bloodshed.
Michonne arrived first, her Katana out and ready. Rick was behind her, gun pulled. Both adults were breathless, eyes wide with concern. Carl knew he shouldn't have cried out like that but at the moment he didn't care; he pointed at the wall. They weren't the only ones left.
"Carl?" Rick panted, his eyes scanning the area carefully with his wild eyes while grabbing his child into his hold. "What? What's wrong?"
"Look!" Carl answered, wagging his pointed finger at the message before them. Below the bold and large names of their two family members was a smaller message. A cryptic location, outlining from references and terminology only those from their extended family would know. The place where Daryl and Beth would be waiting.
Michonne stepped forward, placing her blade back in the safety of its holder. Her dark eyes narrowed as she looked over the message, her lips moving with the words. There was a stoic disbelief in them as Carl could see her reading them a second time.
His father released him, his eyes reviewing the message on the wall. Rick was silent and still for the moment. Then he walked forward and placed his hand on Daryl's name first. Then he slowly moved it to Beth's.
Michonne was the first to break the silence. Her voice was rough when she spoke, "Is it them? Can it be?"
Rick turned back to her, his blue eyes piercing on his dirty and bearded face. "Yes. It's them," he stated simply despite the smile that was growing on his face. He walked back to the both of them, stopping close to but not touching Michonne.
Carl grinned at the both of them, proud he was the one to find it and ecstatic to finally have something to hope for. It had been too long, too much hardship and heartache in the last months since he had seen the blood stained carrier of his sister's.
"So what now?" asked Carl, feeling the need to bounce his weight from one foot to the other.
Rick looked back at the writing. "We find our family," he said with unwavering certainty.
A/N: I really appreciated all the kind words from all the wonderful reviews I have received. It really does make writing so much easier and fun. THANK YOU! Another big THANK YOU to the woman who has helped me so much - ElsaEditorial - I couldn't do this without you.
So, Rick, Michonne and Carl are alive! I threw you all a bone, an answer... of sorts. These three will make another appearance later but please be patient. You know I never make it easy. I also have plans for Roslyn and Jonah but other than that... Readers, is there someone who want to see? Carol perhaps? Maggie? I don't have solid plans for everyone yet and I'm wondering who you'd like to see back? Or maybe is there someone you don't want to see?