A/N: I'm so excited to be sharing this next chapter. It's something I've been working on for ages, and has gone through so many scrapped ideas, but I'm finally ready to share it. The dialogue alone is the culmination of close to a years notes in my notepad, loose lines that I've finally managed to put together with a lot of humming and hawing on my laptop.

An absolutely massive thank you is in order to androidsnot on Tumblr. My first ever piece of fan art was drawn by them, and it's so humbling to have such a wonderful piece of art attached to my work. Since I first started writing, it's been my dream to have someone draw a scene from my writing, and I am so happy that dream has finally come true. They also very generously drew the cover art, and it is absolutely beautiful. I can't put into words how happy it makes me. I am so grateful to you, you're absolutely amazing and I am delighted that you like my work! Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Really.

Another huge thank you to ForeseeObstacles for giving me endless advice and guidance in both writing and life, and for being all around an absolutely amazing friend. They're an absolute delight to talk to, and their writing is some of the most heartfelt and genuine pieces of work I have ever read. That, and they're genuinely one of the funniest and wittiest people I've ever met. I can't count the amount of times I've been left laughing from the things she's said. Thank you Foresee!

And thanks to you, the reader, for reading my work and leaving your thoughts. It's the thing that keeps me writing, knowing people enjoy what I have to share. Thank you, and I hope you enjoy this new chapter!



Jane sighs through her nose, twisting the fishing rod between her fingers. The sound of the river before her is relatively undisturbed, a consistent and relaxing trickle that wraps far beyond her sight in either direction. Yet, despite how large the river appears to be, there isn't a single fish in sight.

Certainly, though, it's a nicer area than where they'd been camped before. Less rainy, for one. From the weather, it seems like the break of spring. It's impossible to tell, though. Jaime's dad used to keep track of the days, in a very loose and vague way, once upon a time. All rough tally marks and a forgotten leap day. But ever since he'd passed …

Well, she's never liked math.

Jaime's sitting against her mom's legs, humming a tiny little song for both their sakes. Now and then, Jane gives her daughter's head a little scratch with one spare hand, asking a soft 'you okay?' every other time. She's not sure why. It's just one of those things she catches herself doing, around the kid.

Maybe to remind her that she needs to have a haircut, soon.

Maybe to make sure she's still awake.

Maybe to remind her that she's not alone.

Maybe she's trying to make her daughter smile.


"Have you caught any fishy?"

It's the first time either has spoken in a long while. Certainly, it's a welcome distraction from the mindless monotony that is fishing, but truth be told the conversation isn't much of a saving grace. Especially considering it's about ... 'fishy'.

"Not yet. Be patient."

The girl hums, going back to her own business. More mud drawings. Jane wrinkles her nose as she looks at this one. Figures and a blob that she assumes is meant to be a dog. Clearly, she isn't raising another Rembrandt, Da Vinci, or Picasso. Not that she even wants an artist. She'd heard enough about 'art history', and all it entails, a long time ago.

What a stupid thing to major in.

She shakes her head, twisting the rod again and swallowing. Her stomach rumbles, and she tries to distract herself. Another scratch of the little girl's hair. Scrtch. Jaime gives a little smile and looks up at her. Jane tries to ignore the fact that she can see his eyes staring back at her.

"Will we get fishy soon?"


"I hope so."

Jaime wrinkles her nose, looking back down at the mud drawing. Jane watches as the blob gets four sticks for legs and a silly smile. Floppy ears. Jane looks over her shoulder, listening carefully for movement. No snapping of branches underfoot. No gurgling of blood. No whispers between bandits. No barking of hunting dogs.

Maybe she can relax. Just try and talk to her daughter and catch some fish. Or … try to, anyway.

"Dad was good at catching fishy."

Jane blinks at the comment made by her daughter, and promptly decides he was anything but 'good at catching fishy'. It'd been all bluster and trying to make it 'fun', the few times they'd gone fishing as a 'family'. As if sitting by a river and twiddling your thumbs could be anything other than what it is - a task that needs completing. That was dad, though. Smiles and poking tongues and silly voices for the worms they used as bait. 'Please don't eat me, mister fish!' Jaime giggling like it was the funniest thing on the planet.

Masking her own smile, at the sight of her daughter being so happy.

Jane bites her tongue rather than voice all this, though, shrugging as she contemplates her next words. Somehow, she imagines the conversation that'd follow from her saying 'your dad was a completely useless fisherman' would not go down well with the small child. Instead, she swallows, tries to shake him from her mind, and raises her voice just above a mumble.

"Dad was good at a lot of things, Jaime."

"Lots," her daughter agrees in a small voice, nodding.

They lull into silence for the thousandth time this afternoon, Jaime giving her mom a long look before going back to her drawing. Jane opens her mouth to ask what's on her mind, but hesitates. The thought of a long 'deep and meaningful' about her dad makes her stomach feel like it's being grabbed by iron hands. After a moment's thought, she settles for another scratch of Jaime's hair, and to clench the rod a little tighter.


Jaime gives a tiny giggle, this time, and Jane finds herself giving her daughter's mess of hair a little more of a fuss. The girl wriggles, her head plopping against Jane's knee. Her eyes slip shut, for a moment, and Jane feels her heart twitch at the tiny yawn the girl gives.

"You didn't sleep well either, then."


Jane hesitates, looking back at the river to buy herself time to think over her next words. For some reason, she thinks of eggshells. Trying not to squish them beneath her heavy boots, while Jaime dances between them in her little sneakers, all smiles and girlish giggles. How, try though she might, she's never being deft enough to not crush a few on the way to her daughter, even as she dodges a few now and then.

"... Do you want to talk about it?"

Jaime's features fall suddenly, and she bites her lip. Jane feels her heart sink into her stomach as a look flashes across the kid's face. One that isn't a shy smile as she doodles or asks questions about people who've come and gone. Nor is it the innocent and peaceful look on her face, when she's not having a nightmare.

It's a look Jane had decided, way back when she first saw it, that she doesn't like. One she likes even less when it's just the two of them. And one she likes even less when the only noise to come from the kid is -



A little shake of her head, her hair bouncing. Jane notices the hurried way Jaime goes back to drawing with the stick in the mud. The hasty movements. The way she doesn't look at Jane as she does it. Jane bows her head, and shuts her eyes. Tries to remember the book she once read, the book still buried in the bottom of her backpack. The first time she'd read it, when she'd first 'met' her little girl on a cold and rainy night. Dad cooing silly nothings down at the girl, while she lay restless in bed. Reading the same words over and over.

"You know you can. Talk to me, I mean."

Maybe. Maybe.

Jaime doesn't reply, the sound of the stick against the mud getting more fervent. Jane swallows, not prepared to force an answer out of the kid. Not over something as … as tender as this. The lack of humming filling the air feels wrong, somehow, so Jane decides - after a long moment of hesitating - to hum a similar tune to the one Jaime had been.

Before she … made it weird.

She watches as Jaime's ears prick up a little at the sound of the gentle humming, but there's a distinct lack of noise from the little girl. Besides the frantic scratching of the stick against mud, anyway. Still, Jane persists, the same song Jaime always does. Probably one her dad taught her, ages ago.

The longer Jane hums, the less feverish the scratching gets. After a couple minutes, Jane feels her shoulders relax as Jaime lays her 'paintbrush' down and gives another tiny yawn. Her fingers trail through the kid's hair, again, and her daughter flops her head against her mother's leg. Jane sighs through her nose, finally ceasing her efforts of humming and feeling her shoulders slump at the silence from the girl.

Silence feels wrong, now.

It's not as comfortable as it used to feel, when this all started. When it meant a break from her sister's crying, or the sound of walkers. She keeps trying to open her mouth, to try and say something to rectify her earlier mistake, but as soon as something gets to the tip of her tongue it sounds wrong, and she closes her mouth again.

Maybe you should tell her she can talk to you.

Maybe you should say sorry you made things weird.

Maybe you should say you're sorry you couldn't save dad.

Maybe you should say how much you lo -

"How big will the fishy be?"

Jane flinches at the soft voice, looking down at the kid and wrinkling her nose. She wonders if the kid thinks she has magical powers. That let her know how big a fish'll be before either has even seen one. If only.

"Not sure. Hopefully pretty big."

"This big?" Jaime asks, spreading her arms as wide as she can. Jane watches the action with a fond eye, snorting a single laugh out of her nose. The little girl lets her arms flop back to her sides, still staring up at her mother, and Jane finally answers.

"That might be a bit big, kiddo."

"Will it be Rainbow Fish?"

The other book in her bag. Jane sighs through her nose, trying not to think about the time they'd spent at the hardware store, and the short time after on the road. Before the end. The sing song voices for different characters, the way her daughter'd be out like a light as soon as the story was told, rather than protesting and trying to avoid sleeping.

How he was a better parent than she'll ever be.

"... Maybe," Jane lies gently, humming. "But you wouldn't want to eat him, would you?" The look on Jaime's face tells her everything, and Jane gives a small grin in response. "We'll find something. Don't know when, but it'll be … soon. Hopefully." She adds the last word under her breath, and takes some form of relief in the fact that Jaime didn't seem to notice the decidedly pessimistic aside.

"My tummy hurts."

"Mine, too."

Jane gives the rod a little shake, hoping the action will make the bait look more appetising to whatever scaly shits are swimming mere feet away. But it's very quickly made clear to her that bouncing bait is no less appealing than perfectly still bait to the seemingly non-existent fish that live here. Jaime's head droops back onto Jane's knee, another little yawn accompanying the movement.

Jane smiles slightly, ducking her head and looking down at her little girl. Her shoulders relax when she sees the way Jaime's nuzzling up to her. She can't remember the last person, before her and … and him … that she'd let in this much. How oddly nice it feels, between the worry and the 'making it weird'. The little fleeting moments of niceness, anyway.

The smile fades, like it always does, when she notices just how … fucking similar the girl and her dad are. The eyes, the mess of hair that's always got tangles in it. Hell, she's half surprised that she doesn't hear the kid going on about the minor in agriculture she's somehow already gotten, to keep her old man happy. Hopefully there'll be something like that for her kid, one day. Pointless stuff to major in, working in a coffee shop, blowing all her money on a business venture that's obviously doomed from the start.



Still weird hearing that word.


"… I had a bad dream. That's why I didn't sleep good."

Jane opens her mouth confusedly, only to pause and whisper a gentle 'oh.' She's talking to you. About … it. She takes a slow breath through her nose, shuffling an inch closer to the girl. Jaime keeps her knees in the mud, but the stick is just buried in the mud. No movement. Just … stuck there.

"Okay." Jane hesitates. "What about?" She uses a kinder tone than she once would have, her voice still quiet. She can't figure out if she's being quiet to keep walkers away, or for her daughter's sake.

Maybe both.

Jaime inhales sharply, wobbling the stick with the heel of her palm. Jane doesn't make any effort to bridge the silence, instead pretending to be fascinated by the fishing rod in her hands. The words from that book keep popping into her head. 'Being a mom is a full time job … Show them how much you care and remind them often … Give your child time to speak what's on their mind … Let them know you'll listen Be present.' What does that even mean? She's always present, in the literal sense of the word anyway.


Still, maybe it's not so bad. Maybe it's about spiders. Maybe it's about the dark. Maybe it's about the mean looking coyote they saw a couple days ago. Maybe, maybe, maybe.

Maybe not, though.

"I … It was scary."

"I can imagine," Jane sympathises. "I have them too, sometimes. Not the same ones, but … It's okay to talk about them, to me. I don't mind."

"You always say that I shouldn't be scared."

"I tell you it doesn't matter if you're scared, it's how you handle it that matters." When Jaime doesn't talk, Jane swallows and does her best to fill the silence, her tone and voice uncertain. "It's just … you have to learn to manage it. Being scared can be good, kinda."

"I don't get it…" Jaime replies despondently, looking away guiltily. Jane's heart twitches, and she gives her daughter's shoulder a quick pat. She sighs, and looks out at the river for a moment. Gives a short nod as she considers how to broach this particular subject, before delicately laying the fishing rod at her feet and resting her hands under her chin, her elbows balancing on her knees.

"It means … It means that you can be as scared as you want to be. As long as you can still … 'function' …" she makes air quotes around that last word, sparing a quick glance Jaime's way. Jaime stares intently, unblinkingly, her eyes full of unanswered questions. "Then it doesn't matter so much."

"But … I don't like being scared."

"Nobody does. At least, I don't think. But … you don't need to be scared, okay? As long as I'm here."

"As long as you're here."

"That's right."

Jaime gives a little nod of her own, looking back down at her drawing. Jane looks away, again, the fishing rod abandoned at her feet. She drums her fingers against her cheeks, humming under her breath and shaking her head slightly. That'd been much easier than she thought it'd be. The day's still young, and so is …

"What do you mean when being scared can be good?"

There it is.

"It …" Jane gives another sigh, thinking quickly. Jaime isn't looking her way, going back to drawing idly with her paintbrush. "It means you care about something. Which, to be fair -" Jane's voice gets quicker and her eyes widen, looking at the girl quickly. "- isn't always the smartest thing to do. Caring, I mean."

"What does that -"

"... no, never mind." Jaime makes a confused face and an equally confused little noise, and Jane feels a smile twitch at the corner of her lip before she continues. "It's sometimes good to be scared, because … being scared means you care about something. And that's … a reason to keep fighting. I guess." Jane carefully uses the toes of her boot to add her own squiggle to the end of her daughter's drawing. "Does that make any sense?"

"Kinda … But how do I make the bad dreams stop?"

I wish I knew. Dreams of guns and walkers and tall buildings and sobbing sisters and bleeding farm boys and little girls getting torn limb from bloodied limb prowl her mind's eye, every waking and sleeping moment. She takes a deep breath, weighing her options carefully. Brutal honesty doesn't seem like the fairest thing to burden the child with. But …

Fuck it.

"You … can try talking about what they are. That helps some people."

Jaime hesitates again, doodling shapeless lines next to Jane's addition to the art. Jane finds herself biting her lip, watching the child stew over their next words. Again, she has to remind herself to be patient. Needling never works. It's all soft touches and warm smiles to get her to talk. Concepts that elude her, even at the best of time.

Which leaves her with the other tactic. Patience. Waiting. Two things she has to be good at, given the way the world is. Waiting for food. Being patient, whether with a bow, a fishing rod, or with a little girl. Having to have faith that things will maybe come good, with the right mindset and a level head. Though, even that feels like a stretch.

"Just … daddy. And how he …" Jaime sniffles, looking away. Jane's throat feels dry, and she has to refrain from pressing. That night is something she knows will never leave them. How could it? One bad thing after another, back to back, with no respite for either of them. Every moment imprinted in her brain for the rest of time, and possibly even longer. Blood mixing with water, screaming, gurgles and gunshots and -

Say something!


Nice one.

Jaime wrings her hands together, her chin tucked to her chest, and with a look in her eyes that Jane doesn't like. One that suggests guilt, or something to that effect. Jane can't help but wonder if … no. She has to know, right? The kid has to know it's not …

Not her fault.

"I … I can see why you're not sleeping good, then." Jaime doesn't reply verbally, instead giving another little sniffle. Jane ducks her head. "I wish I could tell you it all goes away, but …" Jane gives a shaky breath. "It doesn't. It never does."

"How do you know?" Jaime mumbles nervously, looking up at Jane. "Have you been alive forever?"

"W - Well, no. But … I've had bad dreams for a while. It gets easier, but … never goes away."

"That's sad…"

Jane gives a bitter nod, tightening her jaw. Her eyes feel watery, and she irritably swipes at them. Masks her face with one hand to not let the kid see. Being strong in front of her is half the battle - if not the whole battle. Too damn impressionable. And the last thing she wants is both of them turning on the waterworks, when they need to be focussed on fishing.

"... but I can stay up and keep the bad dreams away." Jaime pipes up in a small voice. "Right? I can scare them off so you can sleep better, and we can take it in turns. That's what daddy did." Jane raises an eyebrow slightly, but doesn't talk. Stop thinking about him. "He'd stay up and scare the bad dreams away, when I couldn't sleep."

Jane lets out a wet chuckle and shakes her head, still not moving her hand from her face. If things were that easy, life would be … well. Less interesting, she supposes. God only knows she can do with a less interesting life, from time to time. Doing a boring nine-five job, going home to see her kid and help her with homework.

Rather than helping her learn to skin rabbits and struggle to keep her fed.

"You need your sleep more than me."

"But we're a team."

A smile inches onto her face, and she slowly moves her hand away. She looks down at the girl and gives her hair another ruffle, a feeling in her heart and stomach that's much warmer than the one that'd been there mere moments ago. When she'd been thinking of … Don't. She shakes herself, a little, and tangles her fingers in the kid's hair.

"The best," Jane's voice is scarcely louder than a whisper, but - judging from the proud smile on Jaime's face - it's heard loud and clear. She licks her lips and opens her mouth to tell her something that she feels'll help with the nightmares, something that deep down, not even that deep, the girl needs to hear, when -

A splash in the river makes her sit up quickly, grabbing the rod with both hands and lurching to her feet. Jaime gives an excited gasp, her earlier sniffles seemingly forgotten, and she eagerly shuffles to the river's edge, eagerly waving to the fish and squeaking out an excited 'hello mister fish!'. And Jane feels her smile widen, even as the fish fights for its life on the end of the rod.

Maybe this is their luck finally - finally - starting to change.

Maybe things aren't so bad.

Maybe she and her daughter will get through this.

Maybe she doesn't need to be so afraid.