Disclaimer: All rights for The Walking Dead go to Robert Kirkman and AMC

Author's Note: Jesus… I can't stop writing these things.


Daryl isn't one for remaining sedentary. At all. So he snuck out of his tent when Carol and Andrea walked into the RV and Dale took Shane aside to have a word with him. The cigarettes he'd taken off Dale's hands were burning a hole in his back pocket and he finally had use again for his beat up lighter.

Daryl was so set on having his first cigarette in months that he almost missed seeing Carl sitting on the "thinking log" (Dale's name for it) with his pale neck obscured by the wide brim of his father's hat.

Deliberately, Daryl stepped a little heavier in his approach. Carl nervously glanced over his shoulder and gave Daryl a strained smile when he saw him.

"Hey. Shouldn't you be lying down?"

"Shouldn't you be with yer ma?"

"Touché."

Daryl smiled and lit his cigarette. The noise of the lighter closing drew the kid's attention, and Daryl blew smoke out of his nostrils. "Don't get no ideas. These things're bad for ya."

Carl nodded.

"Heard you learned to shoot today."

The boy craned his neck to watch Daryl's face. "Yeah. Did pretty good, too."

Daryl nodded and started out at the tree line. "Yer ma know that you're out here, Carl?"

He sat down on the log and tipped the ash of his cigarette next to his bare foot. Carl subtly wiped the corner of his eye in an attempt to clear the tears that were gathering there without looking like he was actually crying. Daryl wasn't fooled. He'd invented that move. Feeling for the kid, Daryl changed the subject.

"How're ya healin'?"

"Better. You?"

"Been worse."

Carl turned and watched Daryl smoke for a few seconds. "This wasn't the first time you've been shot. Dad said you had another gunshot scar. Like his, but in your shoulder."

He should have known Grimes would catch that one.

"The three of us should start a club."

"Members only?" Daryl snickered. "Yer ma would flip out."

Carl stared at his hands. "Mom's got other stuff on her mind right now."

Daryl stubbed out his cigarette in the dirt and dropped his elbows on his knees. "I heard. Couldn't think for all the yakkin' that was goin' on around my tent today."

Carl looked miserable again, so Daryl moved on to another issue. "You wanna help me look for Sophia tomorrow?"

The kid's face practically lit up. "You're goin' out again? Shouldn't you—"

"Like I said, I've been worse, kiddo. I've got a pretty good idea where she's been holed up. Ask your parents and if they okay it, I'm leavin' at first light."

Carl nodded emphatically and opened his mouth to say more when another voice interrupted them. "Daryl! What in the world are you doing on your—"

Daryl and Carl shifted to see Dale moving fast for the pair of them. His face was pale and it looked like whatever Shane had said to him wasn't good at all. For a brief moment, Daryl wondered what the hell happened with Andrea during the day.

"Needed to move around. What's got you in a lather?" he asked.

Dale's eyes blatantly said "later, not in front of Carl" and, being a smart kid, Carl rolled his eyes and stood from his seat.

"Fine," he groaned. "Thanks for talkin' with me, Daryl."

"Go get permission—I don't wanna get chewed out if you tag along."

Carl nodded and ran toward the Grimes family tent. Dale took the kid's seat and turned that wide-eyed expression loose on Daryl.

"We have a problem," he intoned.

"Shane's gone fuckin' crazy."

"Yes."

"Y'all need to learn volume control, I swear to Christ."