I only own Emma Rogers, everything else belongs the genius creators of the Walking Dead.

"Oh, what the hell," I swore under my breath; I had been rudely awoken by my forehead slamming into the backseat window, making my entire head throb painfully. My eyes stayed closed, knowing that, if they opened, my older sister would be glaring at me for daring to say a terrible word like hell in front of her young son. "Sorry—it slipped," I said, eventually opening her eyes to see my sister's face soften.

"Is your head alright?" asked Lori Grimes, her hazel eyes filling with that motherly concern that was far too familiar.

"Just peachy," I replied, smiling tightly and shaking my head slightly. I turned to my 10-year-old nephew sitting beside me, whose eyes—the same as his father's, sterling blue—was gazing out the window, an occasional sniffle escaping him every couple of minutes. Frowning, I placed my hand on top of his head and pulled him close to me. "I know, Carl—I miss him too," I whispered, doing my best not to allow my voice to crack.

The person both I and my nephew were thinking about at the same moment was Rick Grimes, Carl's father and my brother-in-law. The "in-law" part of his title was simply a formality—Rick was my older brother, in my eyes, and I had been close with him as soon as he started dating my older sister, Lori. He had acted as though my blood ran through his veins and never let me down—much more than my deadbeat father had ever done for me.

Unfortunately, a couple weeks before this absolute hell had hit the world, Rick had been shot while in the line of duty—he was a police officer, you see—and forced into a coma. That was why I had left my home city of Boston and hopped on a plane to King County, Georgia: to take of my sister and nephew, and make sure they didn't have to lift a finger, not if I had anything to say about it. But then the world went to shit, in a nutshell, and my family and I had been forced to flee their home and head to Atlanta, where there was supposedly a refugee center. Their beloved Rick had lost his life in that coma in the chaos, and they had no choice but to leave his body behind. It hadn't been easy, but Lori had held herself together and forced Emma and Carl into a car and onto the road to Atlanta. Fortunately for all of us, we had someone else join us.

Rick's partner and best friend, Shane Walsh, had instantly latched onto our family as soon as Rick was injured, and was the one who had delivered the news of Rick's death. He had taken the wheel of that car, and had not moved since—that was, until they were forced to stop at the massive traffic jam on the highway, causing Shane to stop short and my head to slam into the window.

Carl now took in a shaky breath, his eyes closed and head leaning into my chest; his hand clenched , hot and sweaty. I didn't mind—I just squeezed tighter, and refused to let go.

"It looks like traffic's stopped for miles," said Shane now, breaking the silence. He was what you would expect from a Southern police officer—strong, tough, and handsome. I had even had a crush on Shane when I had just started college; fortunately, I had completely grown out of that phase. It was probably a good thing—I had heard of Shane's temper and reputation, and wanted nothing to do with either. "Sorry about before, Emma."

"Don't worry about it," I replied, giving him another brief smile in the rear view mirror. I looked around now, still holding my nephew's hand; the road ahead of us was filled with cars, and there were already about twenty vehicles filling in behind their car. Previous car passengers set up on the road, huddled into folding chairs and holding their group members tightly.

"What's going on?" asked Lori, concern flitting over her pretty face. Her dark hair was somewhat plastered to her face, thanks to this thick humidity.

"Not sure," said Shane, turning off the engine. "Stay here," he ordered us as he stepped out of the car. I frowned—I hated being ordered around; I wasn't a child. I was twenty-five years old, for God's sake!

Shane walked over to a family in the car in the left lane ahead of us; there were only three of them: a tall, burly man with a grumpy frown on his face, a small woman with short, graying hair and a soft face, and a young girl, maybe a couple years older than Carl. He talked to the man for a couple minutes, their voices sounding muffled from inside the car.

"How far are we from Atlanta from here?" I asked Lori; Carl continued to look out the window at the family and Shane interacting with each other.

"About five, ten minutes I'd say," she replied, not turning to me but, like her son, watching Shane. We were both thinking the same—all of this traffic was for nothing but that refugee center. To be blunt, it was not looking up for us, no matter what information Shane came back with.

Shane walked back the car, opening his door but not sliding in. "It looks like we'll be here for a while; there's a road block up ahead, not letting anyone through," he said, his eyes only on Lori's; mine were on her as well, hoping that she would not crack with this bad news. It seemed we were getting some with every corner we turned; it would be only natural for Lori to slip. She had stayed strong though; so far, at least.

"We might as well get out," I answered for Lori, who was thinking deeply and never letting her eyes leave Shane's. All three of my companions turned to me. "Well, it's better than being stuck in here; at least we can stretch our legs, you know?"

"She's right," said Lori now, nodding to herself. "Let's get out, get some fresh air, stretch our legs."

Carl and I unlatched our seatbelts and hopped out of the car; the air was thick with humidity and my long, thick, auburn hair was plastered to the back of my neck. I could already feel the sweat building under my arms just from the heat—it definitely wasn't like the weather in Boston, that was for sure. Fortunately, the sun had just disappeared under the horizon, so the temperature would slowly begin to dip as well. The highway we had stopped on had only two lanes filled with cars, as stated before, and was surrounded by dark woods; I crossed my bare arms nervously, hoping the monsters that had been described on the news for the past few days wouldn't come charging out of there.

"Aunt Emma?" Carl's voice from my left made me jump anxiously.

I turned to the boy, tall for his age and only less than six inches shorter than me, and his eyes were on the family that Shane had just talked to. My hand found the top of his head, tousling his thick black hair, and I said, "What's up, buddy?"

"That girl," he said, "do you think…do you think I could, you know…"

My eyebrows raised and I glanced between my nephew and the girl—she was pretty, with short, honey-blonde hair and wide blue eyes. A smirk twisted my features as I turned to my nephew. "Come on. I'll help you out," I grinned, gently pushing him forward to the family. They all had sad eyes taking over their expressions—but I guess that was what we all looked like, at the time. Losing hope in what to do to protect our families. "Uh, hi," I said a bit louder than I expected, making all three of them immediately turn their faces to me. "I'm Emma Rogers, and this is my nephew Carl Grimes," I continued, doing my best to lower my voice. "He just really wanted to talk to your daughter, and he's a bit shy, which is why he enlisted me to help him."

My voice abruptly died off when I felt the man's eyes on me—it made my skin crawl, and goosebumps form on my arms. The woman, however, didn't seem to notice my sudden discomfort; "It's very nice to meet you both," she said softly, her eyes full of gentility and kindness. "I'm Carol Peletier, and this is my daughter Sophia, and my husband Ed."

I smiled warmly at all three of them, despite my reservations for the only male, and nudged Carl in the back with my elbow. "Go on," I whispered to him. "Say hello."

"Hello," he said finally, his eyes wide as he looked at Sophia. Fortunately for him, she giggled quietly, and an embarrassed smile spread on his face. It was the icebreaker that everyone needed.

About forty-five minutes later, we were all in our designated spots: Shane was in the driver seat, fiddling with radio and trying to get a signal on the Emergency Broadcast System, Carl and Sophia sat in the back of Ed and Carol's hatchback, playing Checkers, while Carol watched, Lori and I sat on the hood of our own car and listened to both Shane fighting with the radio and Carl and Sophia battling, and, lastly, Ed stood away from all of us, doing what he seemed to do best—chain-smoking cigarettes. Helicopters continuously flew overhead but, thanks to the forest surrounding us, we could see nothing of the city, or what exactly was going on. It seemed that everyone was getting restless, pacing the roads and some even getting into small scuffles.

"I'm hungry," said Carl, making Lori and I both look up at him. I instantly berated myself for not remembering to pack some of the baked goods that I had made throughout my stay down South. It would have been perfect for the time.

"I know, Carl," said Lori, fingering her locket—a gift from Rick—as she sadly stared at her son. "We all are."

After a brief silence, Carol turned to us and said, "You know, why don't I get him something to eat? Ed's into all this survival stuff, we've got enough MREs to feed us a whole army."

"I'd sure appreciate it," said Lori, hopping off the hood of the car; I could already hear the stress slowly releasing from her voice. At least we had some good fortune thrown our way.

We both watched as Carol began to open the car door next to Ed, when he slammed it shut. Lori, recognizing a couple's spat, walked over to Shane. I, however, watched Ed and Carol closely, narrowing my eyes when I heard her say, "I'm sorry, I wasn't thinking," as she walked away.

Lori had always said that my personality was strong and independent; being battered or put down was not something I put up with easily, and it had stuck with me ever since Lori and I had to deal with our father going on his drunken rampages and tearing his apart for hours on end. We had survived that hell, and it had made us both stronger in the end. And now, seeing Carol walk away from Ed in defeat, I just wanted to shake her and tell her to fight back—that men should never be given the opportunity to control their wives.

Shane got out of the car, making my attention turn back towards him and my sister. "I'm going to go up the road," he said, "see what I can see."

"I'm coming with you," said Lori immediately, not leaving his side. She glanced back towards me, sitting on the hood and my eyes never wavering from hers. "Can you watch—"

"Do you even have to ask?" I asked smartly, a confident smirk on my face.

That gentle smile that comforted me throughout my childhood flitted over her features, and she shook her head.

"I want to go," said Carl stubbornly, stepping up to his mother.

She shook her head no and kissed him gently on the forehead. Shane tousled his hair just as I did a bit ago and said, "Hey, we'll be back before you know it. Okay, little man?" Carl smiled and nodded, and then they were off to the front of the pack.

I pulled my knees up to my chest and watched Carl talk with Sophia and Carol. Ed had taken post smoking near the side of the car. "Your dad's nice," I heard Sophia say, making my shoulders unintentionally stiffen. I didn't have to see Carl's face to see his worried frown.

"Shane's not my dad," he replied quietly. "Dad's dead."

Before I could contemplate the coldness in his voice, an explosion came from the direction of the city. I was instantly on my feet and clutching Carl's shoulder, a silent reminder that I was still here, even though neither his father nor mother were. More helicopters passed above us, and my arm crept over his shoulder. "What was that?" Sophia asked breathlessly as her mother held her in her arms.

Carol and I exchanged flabbergasted glances, the same worry creasing both of our faces. Neither of us had answers. No one did.

So this is my first "The Walking Dead" story. Let me know what you think of Emma, and my portrayal of the canon characters from the series. I tried to keep them as genuine as possible, but everyone knows how difficult that is. Feedback is much appreciated!