Remember, remember the seventeenth of September.
Thank you for reading and for all the support. I've been trapped in a GLASS CASE OF EMOTION; MollyMayhem84, itsi3, Rika24, Rebecca taylor, Unfeigned, twin1, DarylDixon'sLover, bearsrawsome, Mione788, Emberka-2012, Magic'sKey, CastielDeservesImpala, Cindy, Guest, Yazzy x, scarfire14, SeverusSnapes'sLover, mks 12 98, I luv ewansmile, Fangirl44, tracys dream, guiltypleasure211, Little Karma, Kountry101, Anonymous (3x), TheDarkDreamerSmiles, General KJ, HeatherFeather99, Soaring Hawk1, galimeril, Guest that was wrong, Amberlyn, Toolulla (2x), Sonic Serendipity, Chelia24, MagickalEveningStar1, IshipCarphia, Robotic Worm, XxBlazestormxX, The Third Biker Scholar, katsruaaagi, Guest that was right, and Fanosiro.
A woodpecker's work intruded on the silent sanctuary of the cabin. The sunrise crept over the window ledge. It was morning all ready. The night had gone by quickly. For once.
Daryl sat up in the golden dust of the sunbeam. His back was weirdly sore when he stretched to undo the stiffness and kinks in his shoulders.
His companions were still trying to hang on to the night. Sophia had curled up into a ball, the tip of her nose beneath the blanket. Carl had turned his head into the pillow so much that he was nearly face down. His eyelids were scrunched up so much that they had the same texture as raisin.
Maybe he was turning into a raisin child because he didn't wake up to get a drink last night, Daryl remembered his thought on that very first night when he didn't know anything about caring for kids.
"Go shoot it," grumbled Sophia.
Daryl got out of bed. Due to the fact that the mattress was on the floor, getting out of bed was a crawling motion. It made his sore muscle throb a bit more. He probably had some bruises from falling down that embankment the other night.
Too awake to go back to sleep even though fatigue was still heavy on their eyes. Carl was staring up at ceiling with a deep look of concentration shading his eyes.
"What are you thinking?" Sophia asked.
"That this feels weird…like that's always just been the three of us. Our parents and everyone else were around a long time ago."
She was surprised to realize that she no longer knew how many days she had been separated from her mom. Carl was right. Waking up in this little cabin didn't have the same strange unfamiliar sensation that waking up in Ikea had. It did feel like it had always been this way.
In the quiet atmosphere they heard the very soft tunk of the crossbow being unloaded. They unnecessarily craned to their ears to hear for the woodpecker. It didn't make a single rap then the door open again.
"Come out and get some breakfast." Daryl hollered.
"I was kidding!" Sophia yelled back but didn't get an answer back.
"Maybe woodpeckers taste like chicken." Carl shrugged.
He threw the fleece white trash throw off and got out of bed. Sophia did as well. She gathered up her clothes splayed out in front of the fireplace.
Her clothes were mostly dry. There were a few damp spot along the hem of her shirt and behind the knees of her capris. Her shoes, which had been soaked before she had fallen in the creek, were in the worst shape. The walls of them were very hard. She did not look forward to having to walk in them. Hopefully she could find some shoes her size before these ones crumbled right off her feet.
They walked out the back door. It smelled like it had rained a few hours ago and the air was a little chill and damp. The sun went behind one of the dispersed clouds and it got Daryl was kneeling down by the fire pit, wisps of flames licked over the metal rim. When they came closer to the pit, they saw their breakfast.
On the top of a grate grill were a pair big flat rocks and frying on top of those rocks were three eggs. The beads of sweat on the congealed white seemed to make the eggs sparkle when the sun shone through the cloud. Daryl was sure that someone – probably Sophia – was going to remark on his cookware Carl and Sophia's pupils had gone as big as eggs as they watched them sizzle. Their stomach's growled
It had been a long time since they had eggs.
"It won't be as good as bacon but it'll give ya some protein." Daryl said as he picked up the second dish of their meal, a fairly big jackrabbit that he caught dozing.
"I love rabbit!" Sophia exclaimed to both their surprise. "Back at camp I was always hoping that you'd come back with rabbit. I'll go find some plates."
Sophia ran back in to the cabin. Daryl was even more proud of his nutritious breakfast now.
"Wait!" Carl stopped Daryl as he was about to skin the rabbit. "We should take it's feet too, y'know for luck."
They could use some luck. So before he skinned the rabbit and placed it over the flames, Daryl hacked off all four feet. He gave Carl his lighter to cauterize them so they wouldn't get blood over them.
Sophia came out with a stack of plates, utensils and even a pair of tongs. When she saw what Carl was doing, she gave him a very puzzled look.
"Lucky rabbit's feet." He handed her one of the finished ones.
"Oh, that's smart." Sophia said.
She put the plates and stuff down and studied it. It was neat to see the webbing between it's little toes and the little claws.
Daryl used the tongs to pry their hot breakfast off when the yolks of the eggs were slightly cloudy and the rabbit had changed from pink to a golden and burnt color.
"Where did the eggs come from?" Carl asked.
"Out of a grouse. They nest at the base of trees. Got more where that came from if we can figure out how to pack 'em so they won't break."
They sat around the fire with their plates in their laps. From out of his pockets, Carl pulled out the ketchup packets that he had hoarded from the condiment back at that twisted camp. They all tore off the corners of the packets in near unison and spread it on the black and orange meat.
"If only you grabbed some hot sauce too," said Daryl.
Carl moaned and shook his head.
"Hey, we need to say grace." Sophia interjected as they were about to dig in. She smiled at Carl.
If it felt like they had always been together, they should do the things they use to.
"Dear lord baby Jesus," Carl started. Daryl snickered after he got over the surprise. "Thank you for making that rabbit slow and that pheasant or whatever it was lay all it's eggs on the ground. Thank you for the shelter and the bedding as well, you didn't have to go through all that trouble we would've been fine with just the four walls. But Lord baby Jesus, we would like to ask that the next lodgings we have maybe include some way to watch movies and the TV show; The Littlest Hobo and a hot tub too. We thank you, Lord baby Jesus –"
Sophia looked over at Carl. There was an impish smile on his face.
" – for the protection from the walkers and gingivitis."
"Amen!" Daryl and Sophia shouted at the same time.
They were quiet as they ate, the kid's mouths were always too full to get any words out. The eggs had a bit of an after taste but that could've been from the ketchup. The rabbit was pretty bland but still good.
"Pretty good game trail in those trees." Daryl pointed over their heads to the treeline as they were scrapping up the last morsels of food off their plates. "I think we should head through it for a bit, y'know avoid the jam up that'll be at the front entrance to this place."
The truth was Daryl had an uneasy feeling that they shouldn't be on the road even though that was where any supplies would be. They had had good luck at the start of their journey in the places they stayed overnight without He didn't get strong gut feelings like this one often so when he did, he listened.
They set off into the woods, leaving behind three plates with bits of rabbit carcass for a passing coyote and the events of the past night in the cabin. The forest was quiet except for the birds chirping. Despite this tranquility, Daryl still felt tense. As if something was going to pop out
"This reminds me of a little hike me and my mom would go on in the summer."
"Sssshh." Carl said
"What is it?" Daryl froze, thinking Carl had seen something.
"No Sophia ssssh, you're going to scare off the game."
"What game? Like the quiet game."
"No like deer, dummy."
Daryl didn't really think of this as a hunting excursion. But he had promised Carl that he would take him out sometime. As they walked along, he started pointing out tracks. Except for the human ones that were too straight to be a walkers bumbling.
"Carl, psst," Daryl knelt down near a little bog and waved him over.
He dipped his hand into the cool mud at the edge of the still algae color water and retracted it once a grayish paste coated his palm. Daryl smeared it on his face.
"Camouflage." He explained.
Carl grinned and did the same.
"You ever take your daughter out huntin'?" Regan's question popped into his mind.
No. For good reason. Daryl would answer if asked right now.
Besides the little yipping at the horse flies, which had gotten bad, the Sophiasaurus Rex sounded like a little moose coming up behind them.
"Pick up yer feet, girly." Daryl called back to her.
Every time he looked back to check on her, she was farther and farther away.
"My feet hurt."
"Good Lord, it's only the beginning of the day. You're tougher than that," Daryl shook his head.
"My shoes aren't. They got wrecked from getting soaked last night."
"Well we'll see if we can get you new ones but we got to go for a little longer before we take a break."
Sophia didn't complain again. She didn't really know why she didn't. The back of her right foot getting sorer with every step even though she tried walk in a way that it wouldn't rub the back of her shoe. Maybe she was trying to be tougher. After all she had started a fire last night. Or it was because it was obvious there was nowhere to get new shoes right now so complaining would only make Daryl and Carl get impatient with her.
"Stupid boys." She grumbled as she struggled to keep up.
When it was finally time for a break after what felt like walking the Great Wall of Chine, she wasted no time sitting right down on the ground. She pulled off her right shoe and Daryl felt like a huge douche. Blood had climbed up to the top of her sock from her heel.
"Ugh, I got a blister."
Daryl cut her holey, bloody sock into strips and tied it around her ankle like tensor bandage. It would protect her
"I'll piggy back you for a bit," he offered
His achy back definitely didn't like it. Progress was a little slower. The girl was heavier than she looked but Sophia had been trying to tell him that her feet hurt.
"Remember the days you use to be afraid of me?" Daryl asked huffing as they started to go up a slight incline.
"I miss those days sometimes."
Something popped out at them in the not to far distance.
Carl saw it first. He stopped dead in his tracks. Then Sophia and Daryl saw it. In shock, Sophia hopped off his back. Through the brush they could see the beige-y golden hide of a Winnebago. They inched to the edge of the woods. They saw familiar tents and vehicles. Daryl's truck with Merle's motorcycle was among them surprisingly.
They had found them when they hadn't been looking per say. If they had chose to take the road more traveled, they could've missed them. Maybe it was the rabbit's feet they were all carrying or maybe it was just time for this journey to be over.
After all the three of them had been through every kind of trial; walkers, dogs, strangers and each other, that the world could throw their way.
Daryl was not as excited as he thought he would be. His heart pounded six millions times in those two minutes they sat in shock and stared at the camp. Their camp it looked like. Carl grabbed Sophia's elbow as she was about to run out.
"We have to surprise them." Carl whispered his plan for how they should go about making an entrance. "We should just sneak in and act like we've been there the whole time."
"I'll go first." Daryl volunteered.
He crept out of the trees and around the RV. Daryl's stomach still felt all tied up. Maybe the gut feeling he had wasn't about the road but about finding the group. Or finding out that one of Carl's and Sophia's parents hadn't made it.
Despite how tight his abdomen felt, Daryl managed to sit down by the fire pit. The door to the RV opened with a sudden jarring creak. Dale appeared in the doorway.
Their eyes meet for a second, then Daryl looked away, picking up a rock beside him and started to kind of sharpen his knife on it just to be casual.
"Mornin' Dale," Rick came over.
One out of three. One by one familiar faces all turned towards him; T-Dog, Shane, Andrea, and Glenn twice. Lori had the biggest deer in the headlights look. The whole thing might've been funny if he didn't feel so awkward and uneasy.
Where's Carol? Daryl wanted to jump up and ask.
"What?" Daryl asked instead. He didn't need to put on an act, having everyone stare at him was making him feel naturally surly.
There she was. Carol joined the disbelieving cluster. The tension in his guts dissipated and pure joy exploded inside him. They had done it, they had gotten back to their families.
Behind the backs of the gathered group, Carl and Sophia burst out of the trees. They sat down on the ground and pretended to be playing in the grass. Carl's rabbit's foot was a hard bump in his pocket. Maybe they just needed a little bit of luck.
"Where…" Lori asked.
Daryl was ecstatic now that he knew neither Carl nor Sophia were orphaned. But still feeling the heat of everyone's attention all he could was nod to where the kids were. Everyone appeared to be too dumbstruck to get it.
"Turn around," he pointed to where they were.
All the attention went off him.
"Carl!" Rick yelled.
Him and Lori raced over to their long son. They crumbled into a happy crying mess.
Carol and Sophia did the same as they were tearfully mumbling 'I love you." And "I missed you so much."
Daryl was too enthralled with the reunion to notice when the rest of groups attention turned back to him. No one would've ever thought they would see gruff Daryl Dixon have such a soft smile or that sort of happiness in his eyes.
"Ya better not have fucked up my truck," he excused himself when he did become aware he was being stared at again.
Carol intercepted him as he was went to go check out his truck. She hugged him around the neck. Daryl just stood there stiffly, than patted her on the back.
"Thank you. Thanks for taking care of my little girl," she said in soft whisper.
"Ok." Daryl really didn't know what to say.
When Carol broke off, Rick was right there to take her place, clapping him on the shoulder.
"I can't thank you enough." Rick said slowly.
Lori came over and hugged him from the other side of her husband.
"We really, really can't." Lori said.
"Ok." Daryl said again.
She turned back to her son.
"What's all over your face?"
"It's camouflaged. We were hunting." Carl explained trying to wipe of the dried dirt.
"You must be starving." Lori said.
"No we had breakfast, eggs and rabbit." Sophia looked over at Daryl.
"Sounds like you eat better than us," Glenn said.
"As long as Sophia's not cooking." Carl joked.
"You know what you did." Sophia playfully hit his arm.
They may longer be missing physically but the inside joke gave light to the fact that there was things about them now that the rest of the group didn't understand. They were different.
Now that their families had had their moment together. The rest of group took the chance to welcome them back. Daryl was oddly shocked when that included him.
"No more hugs!" Daryl sternly ordered.
All the 'glad your backs' mad Daryl have an epiphany, which were more infrequent than gut feelings. He hadn't known Carl and Sophia from a hole in the ground when they first got separated. During their time together, he had really gotten to know them and they became two of the people he cared about most in what was left of the world. The rest of the group was like that, he just didn't know them very well since he had held them at arms length. Since he was going to stay with them (and he was, being alone had proved to be dangerous every time.) Daryl was going to try to not be so distant.
The afternoon went by in a flash. The tasks of the day unfortunately could not be put off. Carl and Sophia understandably hung out with their parents all day. Daryl went on the supply run with Shane, Glenn, and T-Dog. They told him he didn't have to and could rest but Daryl insisted.
The bottle whiskey he had found on their first night was sitting on a folding table under the awning. They had eaten most of the cakesters and the grouse eggs had broke and ruined their backpack so the whiskey was the only thing they really had brought back.
"Anyone wanna drink?" Daryl offered as he unscrewed the cap. Tonight he wasn't responsible for anyone.
He didn't have any takers so Daryl didn't bother get a cup and took a sip straight from the bottle.
As they had every night, they gathered around the campfire. That Sophia had started all by herself to everyone's surprise.
"You three must have quite the tale," Dale said.
All pair of eyes looked around at Daryl, Carl, and Sophia expectantly.
"I saw them standing all alone in that swarm so I grabbed them. We hung out in one of the houses for the first two days-ish, thinking y'all would come back looking for
'em." Daryl started at the very beginning. "I went out on the second night to see if my truck was there so maybe I could drive us out and I accidently stirred up that same swarm outside so we had to get the hell outta that house…"
They took turns recounting the previous twelve days. The only thing they left out was what happened with Maple Ann. It was water way under the bridge. No one outside themselves would understand what made them seek each other out in the dead of night or why Daryl had left in the first place because while they were recounting all the events, it was impossible to recount this new relationship between them.
The fire was nearly burnt out by the time they got through it all and everyone was ready for bed. Daryl stayed out by himself. The sight of the glowing lights in the tents made him happy, knowing that Sophia and Carl were happily tucked inside with their parents and Rick, Lori, and Carol would no longer be developing ulcers.
With a small insight to parenthood, he could slightly imagine the hell they would've felt every night their son and daughter were missing.
A strange feeling of loss hit him in the crisp night air. Daryl was actually going to miss taking care of those kids.
The next morning as they packed up the camp and prepared to hit the road, Daryl really didn't know what to do with himself and the emptiness increased as he drove behind the RV.
Carl and Sophia rode in the Peletier's Cherokee. No one had gotten their heads wrapped around the fact that they were together. While joy hadn't faded yet, they started missing Daryl's company so when the convoy stopped at a roadside convenience store to see what they could find. Carl and Sophia jumped out of the station wagon and hid on the floor of Daryl's truck.
"Hey," Daryl greeted when he opened the driver's door to find them huddled inside.
"Thought we could play I-spy," Carl said.
"Or the penis game." Sophia said.
"I will throw you out while the truck when it's moving if you start that."
He sat down in the driver's seat and turned the key. The kids settled themselves up on the seat and put on their seatbelts.
"Penis," one of them said.
"'Ey I will throw you out."
"No you won't," Sophia said.
"Why can't you go back to being afraid of me?" Daryl asked
They giggled. There were too many reasons not be afraid of him.
"Carl!" A panicked Lori called out.
They apparently didn't think to tell their parent where they were going to travel with him for the next part of the journey. Daryl gave them a rather un-amused look. Their poor mothers must be absolutely freaking. Carl and Sophia turned to each other with guilty expression.
Daryl stuck his head out the window.
"Relax, I'm watchin' 'em"