Girl Child

One parent dead and the other being rapidly consumed by her despair, Sofia latches on to the most unusual father figure.

AN: Two stories in one day! That is beyond unheard of for me, but I saw this prompt ob Hermionechan90's profile page when she favorited Safe and I wanted to get this out before the episode next Sunday when I have no doubt it will become AU.

Sofia was huddled into a tight little ball, wedged carefully inside the hollow of a large tree. She'd spent two nights in there, the musty smell of decayed wood had become comforting and safe. She'd left her sanctuary briefly the day before to try and find the highway, but she had quickly gotten lost, and had been so unbelievably relieved when she stumbled upon this same tree again that she had cried in relief like she was a little girl instead of an almost thirteen year old.

She was going to have to leave soon though. She was hungry, and she hadn't seen any water since she left the creek the day before yesterday. She tried real hard not to think about the dead people as she gingerly separated herself from the tree. Once she was out, she carefully surveyed the area and was somehow surprised to realize she had no more idea of where she should go than she did the day before. Where was the highway? All the trees looked alike. She asked the good Lord to pick for her and she closed her eyes and spun around. When she opened them again she was facing the exact opposite of the direction she had taken the morning before. She decided it was as good of a way as any and set off.

Sofia felt like she had been walking for hours. Her feet ached and her tummy felt like it was eating itself 'cause there was nothing inside it. She nearly screamed when she stumbled into a clearing and saw the tall slim figure in front of her, but was able to stop herself when she recognized the long brown hair as belonging to Carl's mom. She managed to stifle the urge to run over and grab Mrs. Grimes from behind just barely, and carefully brushed herself off before she stood tall and calmly walked into the meadow. She didn't need to be coddled, she was glad that she'd been found but she didn't want everyone to think she was some kind of baby. She affected her most casual face as she reached out to tug on the hem of Mrs. Grimes shirt to get her attention.

It wasn't Mrs. Grimes.

The walker lunged at Sofia as she started to shriek. Sofia was paralyzed with the fear, she tried to run away but her feet wouldn't cooperate. Just as the dead lady's cold, mealy flesh brushed against Sofia's arm she heard a soft thunk and the zombie fell twitching to the ground in front of her. In it's place stood Mr. Dixon, carefully removing the ten inch Bowie knife from the back of the geeks skull. Sofia was almost as scared of him as she was of the dead, she cowered away as he reached for her. Mr. Dixon noticed her fear. He hesitated for a moment and then drew back, rummaging through his pack. After a moment, he produced a piece of venison jerky and an old soda bottle full of water, which he passed to her without a word.

She fell on her meager meal like a raccoon in the dumpster behind the Sizzlers. She watched Mr. Dixon out of the corner of her eye as she ate. He didn't look at her, just silently surveyed the woods around them as he fingered the trigger of his crossbow. When she had finished eating, she stood quietly and tried not to look at the zombie, lying face down just a few feet away. After a moment, Mr. Dixon turned to face her again and crouched low so they were at eye level.

"You got pretty far by yourself girly." There was a soft note of admiration in his voice that made her stand up just a little straighter. Mr. Dixon's mouth quirked into a half smile. "We're about five miles from the road. Now, I know you can walk it, but I'm pretty hungry, and you just ate my lunch. I reckon it'd be faster if I just carried you on account of my legs being longer. What d'ya think?"

Mr. Dixon had never said a word to her before. He seemed a lot less scary when he was asking her opinion. She gave him a tentative nod and he got down so she could climb on to him pig-a-back style. He smelled kind of bad compared to the tree, but, Sofia reasoned, she probably didn't smell like bubblegum shampoo herself. She tried to breath through her mouth as she clung onto his shoulders as hard as she could.

Mr. Dixon was right about it being faster. His long legs ate up the distance, and he could just step over things like logs and big rocks that Sofia would have to climb over or go around. He was quiet too. Most adults chattered like magpies when they had to watch her, asking her silly questions and telling dumb jokes. Mr. Dixon didn't say a single word, she wondered if he was so strong he had forgotten that she was riding on his back.

They only saw one walker the whole trek back to the highway, and Mr. Dixon had shot it with his crossbow before she had even noticed it was there. She squeezed his shoulders a little tighter as he retrieved his bolt, wiping the zombie blood off on the geek's pants. He didn't complain about it though, he just asked if she was holding on alright and when she said she was he started off again, a little faster than before.

When they got to the highway her mama ran over and hugged her tight, crying and sobbing and carrying on like she'd died. Sofia wanted to say thank you to Mr. Dixon, but was already walking away to find some lunch.

They wouldn't let her see Carl, but Carl's dad said he was going to be just fine. The grown ups had set up a temporary camp on the edge of the Greene's property for the night, crowded around a low cooking fire eating the last of their deer meat and talking quietly. Her mama had gone to bed early. Mama usually did these days, she needed extra sleep on account of all the stress. She usually had to take her special pills to help her sleep, but Sofia didn't like it when she did that because it made it really hard to wake her up. Sofia didn't want to be alone in their tent when here mama was dead to the world, so she sat up by the fire a lot later than usual. Most of the time Mrs. Grimes would send her to bed when she sent Carl, but Mrs. Grimes was in the farmhouse taking care of her son, and Mr. Grimes didn't seem to mind if Sofia sat quietly and watched the flames.

Mr. Dixon had his own fire a little ways off. Mr. Walsh used to complain that having two fires was twice as dangerous, but Mr. Dixon called him some bad words and told him he couldn't clean the blood off his arrows in the same fire pit where everyone was cooking their food, so Mr. Walsh had backed down. Most nights Glenn would wander over to keep Mr. Dixon company, but Glenn had stayed over by the highway tonight so he could help with the RV in the morning.

Sofia watched him for a little while, wondering if he was lonely. Finally she worked up the nerve to go over and sit with him. Mr. Grimes looked kinda unhappy, like he wanted to say something about that, but he kept quiet even though she could feel him still looking at her back as she settled on a stump a couple of feet away from Mr. Dixon. He didn't say anything at first, but after a moment, when she started to fiddle with the zipper on her jacket, he tossed her a box of plastic feathers.

"You wanna suck up my heat, you gotta work for it, girl child." He pulled a cleaned, still warm bolt shaft out of the pile on the ground near the fire and showed her three little groves near the back end of it. "Okay, so the most important thing to remember when fletching an arrow is that the vanes all gotta be positioned the same way, so when you shoot it it spins and it keeps on its course."

A few hours later her fingers were sore from carefully reattaching all the little feathers to the backs of the arrows after Mr. Dixon sterilized them, and her brain was buzzing from all the information she'd absorbed about flight stabilization and bolt design. He'd made her redo her first one eight times! When they finally finished up she was yawning widely, so Mr. Dixon shooed her off to bed. Most of the adults had gone to bed a long time ago, now the only ones sitting by the fire were Mr. Grimes and Mr. Walsh, who was sleeping. Mr. Grimes didn't look unhappy anymore, he smiled at her as she made her way to her mother's tent. Sofia watched out the tent flap as Mr. Dixon went and sat with him for a while after putting out the other fire. She slept better that night than she had since she'd seen her first walker.

AN: I'm not sure if I have any more to say for this story, so I tried to make the ending so it would be satisfying as a one off. I have a few vague ideas of things I would like to see happen, but no actual plot in mind or end point. Any ideas are welcome! Be forewarned, if I do continue this, it is almost definitely going to get a big side helping of Glenn/Daryl. :)