It's On
by Leela

Carl likes Andrea's hair.

It was the first thing he noticed about her when his mom and Shane stumbled upon the small camp of survivors outside of Atlanta months prior. He likes the way it pools in ringlets around the base of her neck, even when it's in a ponytail. He likes the way the sun catches it during the day and makes it appear almost white in the warm light. Sometimes, as he walks beside her, his much shorter stature makes it hard to differentiate between strands of Andrea's hair and the sun's descending rays, especially in the fall air with yellow and orange leaves falling all around them and tendrils of blonde blowing in the air. And in the evenings, as the sun starts to bid goodnight, he likes the way it takes up the color of honey and warm caramel. Often at night, as they sit around the fire, he looks at Andrea's hair and the light of the flames and sparks send off flecks of yellow and white all around her, and he falls asleep dreaming of a mighty prince coming to save Rapunzel from her tower.

Carl likes Andrea's eyes.

The first time he noticed them they were pale blue, and it reminded him of winter and snow and icicles. The second time he noticed them, they were pallid green, and they brought up images for Carl of sweet limeade on a hot summer day. When she's sad they take a particular aqua hue, and when she's happy they are bright blue and green. When she's angry or determined, or firing her gun, they get so icy and light they're almost white, but then just as soon as her tempers cool, they take on their normal pale blue color. She probably doesn't know it but there is a whole world in her eyes, an open book anyone who pays attention can easily read, of past experiences, heartache, loss, and disappointment, but also of happiness and love. He likes that he can see so much of her in her eyes.

But mostly, he likes the way they light and warm up when she looks at him and gives him a smile. It makes his heart do a weird pitter-patter thingy and his cheeks feel warm and tingly. Sometimes, when she catches him staring, she smiles and winks at him, and he feels a burst of energy in his little heart so big that he spends the rest of the day smiling for no reason (even when his mom yells at him for not doing his homework).

He likes Andrea's personality.

He likes seeing her square off against Shane or his dad. She's small, smaller than Carol, even, but she doesn't seem to be scared of them. His dad learns really quickly that she's a force to be reckoned with, and though it takes Shane a little longer, eventually she earns his respect as well. She doesn't give up ever, and when he sees her stand up for herself Carl wishes he had the same amount of strength and determination to rebel (because really? Homework?). The grown ups used to ignore her a lot but now a lot of them treat her as a leader. Carl likes seeing her shooting alongside his dad, and when the two take on dozens of walkers together, he knows she's one of the very few people in the camp he would feel safe with one on one.

But he also likes seeing her when she's at home, when she's soft and sweet and takes care of Carol, or when she sits by herself with a book on her lap. Once even, when his mom's tummy began to hurt and his dad was away, Andrea sat with her all night long, until the baby finally calmed down in his mom's stomach and she fell asleep. Carl hid under the covers as he watched the whole thing, and when his eyes drifted close Andrea was still there, gently massaging his mom's stomach.

Carl likes seeing Andrea fire her gun.

She does it with such resolute determination, such fiery intensity, but something about it is just as delicate and gentle. Almost like a choreographed dance, like that play with the ballerinas his mom used to go see with her girlfriend during Christmas. While everyone else yells and shot their guns with a dangerous twitch and panic, Andrea always seems calm, like she's most at peace when she's firing her gun. One time Carl saw her take on to about fifty walkers on her own, and later that week, when T-Dog came home with a pack of comic books for Carl to read, he put away all the Wonder Woman ones, thinking they couldn't possibly be any better than real life.

Carl likes Andrea. He doesn't know what that means or why his heart feels funny or why sometimes his hands sweat when she's around, but he likes looking at her. He likes being around her. He likes hearing her laugh or tell jokes around the campfire. He wonders what it would be like to hug her, or touch her hair, or hold her hand. He wonders why he wants to do those things.

It's a goofy kind of feeling, he thinks. It makes him feel giggly and silly. He knows it makes him look silly, too. He learned that one afternoon weeks before when he was in the bedroom with his mom. She stood in front of the mirror, complaining about her growing figure, when Andrea came in to let them know dinner was ready. At that moment Carl saw the look on his face in the mirror, how in an instant it went from annoyed to bright, happy, and goofy. Thankfully his mom was too occupied with her belly to notice.

(He's tried not to let his face get like that again, but more often than not in vain.)

Today is a mellow day, filled with light household chores. They've found another house, a much bigger one, but it needs a lot of repairs. His dad and Shane started early that morning, but the rest of the group has decided to sit and relax. They are out in the front porch, regaling each other with tales of their past lives, funny moments from long gone college years, awful first dates, etc, when Carl walks out. He knows he probably shouldn't be around all the adults without his parents around, but he's getting tired of being glued to his mother's legs twenty four hours a day. So he sits on the floor not too far from them, pretending to read one of his comic books, but listening to their conversation instead.

Glenn has just finished an embarrassing story. Something to do with shooting a gun too quickly. Carl doesn't know what that means, but they all laugh and he smiles at his book. He shouldn't be listening to them; he knows better. But ever since they lost Sophia he's been experiencing a kind of loneliness, and listening to their laughter helps him feel like maybe, if he pretends hard enough, he still has friends.

"Come on, Dixon," suddenly Andrea coaxes, and Carl looks up quickly at the sound of her voice. "Worst first date."

"Nah, I ain't playing," Daryl says quickly from where he's leaning on the railing, a bit away from them. Carl can already imagine the look on Daryl's face: a scowl and a frown. Daryl doesn't try to hide it when he's annoyed. But when Carl looks at him he sees something else entirely, and he sits up.

Andrea knows not to push, and fires the same question at T-Dog, who rolls up his sleeves and starts to tell a story about a woman with a wooden leg. Sounds interesting, but Carl can't seem to make himself concentrate. He's still looking at Daryl, whose features still haven't hardened. There's no scowl, no frown. He quickly wonders if something happened while he was taking his nap. Maybe Daryl is in a good mood, for the first time... ever, because all the walkers are gone. Maybe this whole thing is over and they can finally go home. Nothing, Carl imagines, could make Daryl look like that.

But something tells Carl otherwise, because even though Daryl has that look on his face, he doesn't seem to be thinking about the fate of the world. He doesn't seem to be thinking much, really. He's got his crossbow resting by his feet, his fingers play with each other in a twitchy way, and though he's trying to be discreet, he's still looking at Andrea.

But he's not looking at her the way his dad or mom look at her, or the way Glenn looks at her. He's looking at her in a way Carl doesn't understand, and it's not until he sees a flash of the reflection of his face in the mirror that he finally understands. He feels something weird in his stomach, but this time it's not silly or goofy, doesn't make him feel happy at all, and he reaches a definitive conclusion at that very moment.

Carl doesn't like Daryl.

to be continued...

I don't even know where this came from, or where it's going, but... there it is.