Disclaimer: No one belongs to me. I basically plunked Daryl in the TWD comic verse, and threw in my little pony too.
A/N: Sophia is only 6.
Tell me how I did
Sticks snapped. Bushes rustled. Quiet moaning.
Daryl ducked behind a tree and pulled the drawstring back on his crossbow and loaded a bolt.
It was rare for walkers to come this far out, but it wouldn't be the first one that they had up here. He could only see the movement of the branches, not the walker. Patiently he waited for it to wander mindlessly into his sights.
Popular theory was that they were running out of food in the city.
Daryl started creeping up on it. It had found him so it wasn't going to find any food out here.
It wasn't a walker that he caught in the crosshairs, quite the opposite. It was a completely live little girl.
Startled she tripped backward over a log, looking up at the tip of the tip of bolt under a mess of blonde hair with teary crossed eyes.
This was not the first time this particular little one had ended up at the end of his crossbow. Daryl had almost brained her in morning's first light today when her playing behind his tent woke him up.
"Are ya lost, Sophie?" asked Daryl.
He withdrew the crossbow, throwing it over his shoulder.
"No," sniffed the little girl, she wiped her nose on the back of her hand. "Rainbow Dash is."
Rainbow who the fuck? Daryl wondered. Then he remembered he didn't care.
What did bother him was how far she had come in to the woods alone. Whoever was supposed to be looking after her clearly wasn't doing their job.
"C'mon, I'll take ya back to camp."
To Sophie, I'll take you back to camp apparently meant we're going to hold hands as she latched on to his.
The hunter and the little girl walked out of the trees in to their camp. No one noticed the new arrivals. His eyes flitted over the whole place. Dale was on watch, that mechanic was tinkering with some engine part, and Donna's husband and Shane were chopping wood.
"Where's your ma?" He asked.
"Off with the other mommies doing laundry."
"Whose suppose to be watching you?"
In other words who should I be giving a kick in the ass to? He thought.
"Amy and Andrea,"
He was pretty sure Amy and Andrea were the sisters, which there was no sign of. He didn't see any of the other children either. Hopefully they at least had them and they weren't running all willy nilly in the woods to be a nice snack for a walker or bear or just get plain lost.
"Are you mad at me?" she asked softly.
She had picked up on his frustration.
"No, I ain't mad at ya,"
I'm not anything at you. You are not my problem. He reminded himself.
Daryl didn't know why he was getting worked up over this. He didn't even know her till two days ago.
He led her over to the main area around the fire pit before he let go of her hand. Releasing himself from further responsibility. Don't get him wrong, Daryl would step in if she tried drinking drain-o or something but he wasn't babysitting just 'cause they couldn't keep track of her.
Daryl took a seat on a lawn chair. He thought about what to do next. He hadn't caught anything on his hunt and it was too late to go out again. He should dig up some twine and make some snares to put up.
Sophie drew swirlies in the dirt with her finger on the ground next to him.
The quiet whining he mistaken for a walker before started again. It got louder and more pronounced. It could not be mistaken for a walker anymore, it was undoubtedly a very sad little girl.
Daryl tapped her shoulder, she twisted around and looked at him.
"Whatcha cryin' about?"
"I lost Rainbow Dash, " she cried. "I hasn't seen her in forever, Amy said… she'd help me look … then Ben scrapped his knee… and then we…"
He couldn't understand a word she said after that.
" What's a Rainbow Dash?"
"She's a um blue pegansus pony and she has rainbow hair and her cutie mark is a cloud and a rainbow lightening bolt," huffed Sophie.
Out of the whole description Daryl only understood two things she said; blue pony, rainbow hair.
Sophie rubbed at her eye with her dirty fingers, leaving a smear under her eyelid. It wasn't life threatening but it would hurt like a bitch if she rubbed in to her eye. Something little kids always did. Daryl gingerly brushed the dirt off her face with his thumb before that happened.
He thought back over the course of the day with his more developed memory. When he was getting ready to go out hunting, he remembered her playing with Lori's boy over by the Winnebago.
"You were playing near the RV earlier, maybe you left her there."
Sophie got up, she carefully stepped over her little doodle in the dirt.
"Will you come with me?"
"Why?" Asked Daryl, annoyed.
" 'Cause I could get eated"
Maybe it was her improper grammar, or the way she spoke so softly as if it were a secret or that she had the biggest eyes ever or all of the above. Daryl found he was incapable of saying no.
"Sure," he sighed.
What else did he have to do?
He let her lead the way, merely following behind her as she walked around the aged motor home, concentrating very hard on combing through the long grass at the bumper.
A bright red cooler was tucked up against the side of the RV. Daryl flipped up the lid. Sitting among the variety of carbonated drinks were a few cans of Molson beer.
He was going to have to thank that damn Asian kid when he got back. He snagged a can and cracked it open, surprised at how cool it was despite the fact they didn't have any ice.
" uh Sophie?"
The girl had up and vanished. Maybe he had underestimated how hard it was to keep an eye on her. This one was always on the move.
"Sophie, where'd ya go?"
Dale looked down from the roof.
"You lose something son?' asked Dale.
" Sorta," he answered, how could you lose something that wasn't yours to watch, "Sophie was right here a second ago. Do you see where she went?"
Dale gave him a puzzled look.
"Little girl, 'bout yay high," he gestured the height of the little girl.
Before he got an answer from the old eyes in the sky, he heard giggling. He looked under the RV. Sophie huddled under, was looking right back at him impishly. So much for being scared of, as she put it, getting eated.
"You find that dang pony under there?"
"No," she crawled out, "I got some cool rocks"
She opened her hand to reveal a few ordinary pebbles.
"You can have this one," Sophie grabbed his wrist and pushed a rock in to his hand.
"It's a tiger rock, see its got stripes."
"Thanks," Daryl didn't know what to do with it. "I'll keep it in my pocket"
She babbled on about the magical rocks as they continued the search. Daryl really wasn't listening but he caught a few words.
"Well yer ponies are right here, ya goose," Daryl pointed at a picnic table with a bunch of plastic ponies on it.
"No, not Rainbow Dash."
Damn, so close.
"Ok, Where's the last place you remember havin' Rainbow Flash?" Daryl tried a new tactic.
"Rainbow Dash," she corrected.
Sophie twisted her hair around her finger as she thought about it.
"Her and Twilight Sparkle went to the dam." She said slowly.
Who the hell names these things and just how many were there and what dam?
This dam of hers turned out to be the woodpile. The crack of the axes being brought down on the logs made her flinch every single time. They turned over the un-split logs. Daryl had taken a more active role, the sooner she found her missing toy, the sooner he'd be free. Free to do what, he still didn't know.
"Sophie, don't go up there"
Sophie was climbing on top of the pyramid of unsteady logs, setting herself up to fall down and get hurt.
Do you need something? Shane asked him silently.
"She's lost one of her little horses, you haven't seen it 'round here, have ya? She's pretty upset about it" Daryl felt stupid for the explanation.
"No, sorry man," Shane brought down the axe again, hitting the log dead centre. A slight crack erupted,
Dumbass, Daryl thought rolling his eyes. The log was too thick to split down the middle unless you had a chainsaw.
Calling these people survivors was being generous. From what he had seen they couldn't hunt, could hardly even scavenge. They were always asking each other is this poisonous?
To which Daryl's answer if asked was always eat it and we'll see.
"What did I just say," said Daryl. Sophie was trying to climb up the wood again.
And they couldn't even keep track of their offspring.
"I'll look, you stay."
He set down his half full beer and mindfully stepped across the logs. Amidst the earthy tones, a fleck of purple stood out.
"This isn't Raindow Dancer is it?" he pulled out a pony from between the logs
"No, " She giggled, "That's Twilight Sparkle. She got trapped in there by the tinder wolves."
He threw it over to her. She missed it by an inch.
A log shifted under his weight as he stepped down. Losing his footing, Daryl slipped and ended up falling on his ass, well technically his shoulder.
"Son of a bitch" He hissed in pain.
Thankfully only Sophie saw, and it should serve as a cautionary tale as to why she should not climb the woodpile.
They put Twilight Sunlight or whatever its name was with the others on the picnic table.
"We're never gonna find her" Sophie cried, giving up all hope.
"Is this yer tent?"
"Maybe you left her in there?" He tried.
Sophie shook her head.
"Just look, ok?"
Sophie slipped off her shoes before entering her tent.
"You can come in if you like," Sophie offered as he waited out by the entrance.
Daryl declined. He didn't want to take off his shoes only to have to put them back on.
"This is where we keep our clothes and this I sleep here, and my mommy sleeps here," momentarily distracted, she gave a little tour of the tent, "where do you sleep?"
You should know, you were there. Daryl thought back to his wake up call.
" You keep looking, I'll be right back," he told her, just thinking of something.
Daryl wandered back to his tent on the outskirts of the camp.
Sure enough, behind it, where he had nearly shot her was a blue pony with rainbow hair.
"This isn't what you've been looking for?" He held out the trouble-making toy to its owner.
Instead of taking it, she hugged him, effectively squishing his guts.
"Ok, please stop" Daryl started to squirm.
Sophie happily lined all her ponies up, introducing him to her herd. "…And this is Applejacks, she lives on a farm, she talks like you."
"She's gotta mouth that'd make a trucker blush?" Daryl messed with her.
" No, she says her words funny" Sophie tried to explain.
From a six year old that was funny opposed to some sort of shot at his ex-social standing.
Daryl fiddled with a twig.
"You should build a corral then yer horses wouldn't run all over."
"Billy, don't run so far ahead," called Andrea after one of the rambunctious boys, his twin not far behind.
They walked down the worn forest path at a leisurely pace so the boys reached the pond where their mothers were scrubbing down clothes.
"Where's Sophia?" Asked Carol wringing out a shirt.
That was a good question. Sophia had said she was going to help her mom do laundry.
"She's back at camp, " lied Andrea, stepping in for Amy.
"I'll go check on her," Amy said.
Amy waited until she was out of sight before starting to run. She didn't want to worry her mother. Her mother who had trusted her to watch her daughter.
Once she reached the camp, she skidded to halt, scouring the shanty village of their for a little blonde head.
She gave a nod to Allen and Shane as she passed by them. Amy didn't want to ask if they had seen Sophia around because then she'd be admitting to losing her.
Amy heard Sophia's voice. She followed the sound around the Peletier's tent.
There was Sophia playing with her ponies in the grass, happy as could be, chattering away at Daryl.
"Sophia, there you are. You can't just go running off, sweetie." Amy said, "I was so worried."
"Damn well ought to be" Daryl growled.
"Look we built a corral," said Sophia.
The corral was built from twigs, it even had a trough made from a cut in half beer can.
Daryl stood up, grabbing Amy by the sleeve of her hoodie. He took her off to the other side of the tent.
"Thanks for looking after her," said Amy.
"Did a better job then you," His tone still in a growl. " I could tell her mother on ya and wipe my hands of this but I figure she's too nice to yell at ya, so I'm gonna."
"When you say you're gonna watch the kids, you should be fucking watch 'em. You're lucky I'm the one who found her in the woods-"
Sophia timidly approached the pair. Amy was too afraid to cut him off.
" - have you forgotten that ninety percent of the population now wants to eat us and let me tell ya what that little girl would make a great catch. "
Daryl didn't notice Sophia until she tugged on his shirt to get his attention.
"The fence broke again," she told him
"I'll be there in a minute," he patted her shoulder, subtly sending her away.
Sophia nodded and left.
" I'd hate to be out there looking for her or any of them went if they went missin' " Daryl shifted his weight from foot to foot.
"Just keep a better eye on them."
"I snuck off, its not Amy's fault"
Sophia explained when he came back. She felt bad that she had gotten Amy in trouble.
"If she was watching, you wouldn't have been able to do that"
"Are you mad?' asked Sophia for the second time.
"I think if I said no, ya'd know I was lying"
"Are you mad 'cause I could of got eated and you don't want that to happen."
Sophia was trying to understand why this man who she had just met had yelled at someone for not watching her.
"Yes, I don't want you to get eaten."
Sophia still felt a little lost but there was lots of things she still had to learn.
"So you've been letting me call ya Sophie all this time." Daryl wrapped the string around the two sticks to mend the broken fence.
"Sometimes people call me Sophie" she shrugged.
"People who don't know your name's Sophia."
"Yeah" she admitted "and my friends. My friends sometimes call me Sophie."