Author's Note: This is my first Walking Dead FF so please be kind. I do not own The Walking Dead. Also, this is AU.
Daddy's Little Girl Lost
"Is he out there again?" Lori asked, as she handed Carol a damp shirt to hang on the line. Carol thoughtfully pinned the garment to the clothes' line, sighed, and nodded.
"Well aint that something," Lori wiped the sweat from her brow with the back of her wrist, "He has been out there every day, hasn't he?"
"Yes," Carol's voice was a shadow of a whisper, "I don't know why, but he's really taken to trying to find my girl. He's done more for her in a few weeks than her own daddy ever did for her in a lifetime."
Lori nodded, and shook out a pair of wet jeans, "It sure is sweet of him."
"Daryl and sweet," Carol smiled a shy smile, "Now don't go telling him that."
"Oh my God," Lori's face was as white as the linen sheets hanging on the line, and the pair of jeans she had been holding clamored to the ground.
"What is it…oh my God!" Carol abandoned the clothes' line and ran towards the two figures approaching the farmhouse, "Oh my God!"
"I'll go get Hershel and Rick," Lori volunteered, but Carol didn't hear a word she said.
Her legs couldn't carry her fast enough, "Sophia! Sophia! Oh my God! Sophia!"
Coming up through the forest towards the farm was her daughter and Daryl. Daryl had his hand firmly planted on Sophia's shoulder, guiding her to the house. Sophia was a dirty, muddy, scratched, and bruised mess, but Carol's only thought was how desperately she needed to hold her little girl in her arms and never let go.
"Sophia!" Carol crouched to the ground, allowing Sophia to run into her open arms, "Baby!"
"Mama," Sophia cried, "Mama."
"Baby I was so scared. I'm so happy to have you back. I am so happy to have you safe," her tears fell into her daughter's dirt-ridden hair. She turned her attention to the man standing in front of them, "Thank you so much, thank you so very much."
"Found her up by the creek," Daryl awkwardly placed a hand on the nape of his neck, "She'd been hiding out somewhere not far from there."
"Oh baby," Carol held her daughter and never wanted to let go.
Hershel and Rick appeared on the porch of the farmhouse.
"She's okay," Carol nodded to them, "just a little bruised up and probably starving but she's going to be," he voice broke, "…she's going to be okay."
That night, after a hot bath and a meal of steak, potatoes, carrots, and pudding, Sophia was put to bed. Carol decided she shouldn't be fussed over too much, as the stress might be too much on her. Carl would be permitted to see her the next day, but for now, Carol just wanted her daughter as calm as she could possibly be. Hershel had given Carol and Sophia his bedroom for the night, and Carol thought it'd be best to put her daughter to bed early.
"Sweet dreams, baby," Carol brushed a strand of hair from her daughter's forehead, "I will come in and check on you in a bit."
"Good night, Mama," Sophia smiled up at her mother.
"Good night, baby."
Carol kissed her daughter before leaving, shutting the bedroom door behind her. Sophia did not want to go to bed, but she did not want to be around everyone either, and was grateful for the privacy.
Her mind began to wander as she lay awake, alone in the big bed. She thought back to that moment when she stepped out of the little cave to get a drink of water…
"There you are."
Daryl was standing across the creek, his arms folded over his chest. She had recognized him as being from their group, but that was about it. To her, he was a stranger.
"Come on, we are taking you home."
"Home? The farm is not my home."
"It's as good as any. Now get over here. Do you even know how worried your mama has been? She's been worried sick, kid. Now get over here and let's go."
"Maybe I don't want to go."
"What do you mean you don't want to…look kid," his face hardened, "…I aint got time to sit here and argue with a midget. Now let's go!"
"Why!" Daryl's face was red, "Look you little brat, your mother has been worried sick about you and everyday I've been out here looking for you. Hell, I've even taken a bullet because of you, so I don't want to hear any more from you. We are going back to the farm if I have to pick you up, throw you over my shoulder, and take you back myself."
"Didn't anybody think that maybe I wanted to run away," Sophia backed away from the creek. He scared her.
"Run away? Run away from what? A mama that loves you just so you can be 'et up by a walker?"
"I don't want to go back to the farm. I will be fine on my own. I don't need anyone."
"Well your mama needs you. Hell, I have half a mind to take that switch right there," Daryl kicked at a stick, "and whip you good."
"You wouldn't," Sophia crossed her arms over her chest.
"Wanna bet on that?" Daryl picked the stick up off the ground and walked towards her, "Either you come over here and we go home, or I will."
Sophia stared at the stick in his hand. Her father used to hit her a lot…it wasn't something she wanted to relive. Rather he would actually follow through with his threat or not, Sophia wasn't about to take the chance.
"Alright. I'll go."
"Good," Daryl tossed the stick away as she crossed over the creek.
He held out his hand to her which she shrugged away from. Daryl rolled his eyes.
"Listen, lima-bean, I don't got time for your attitude. What is your problem anyways?"
Sophia didn't say anything.
"The silent treatment? I risk my own life every day to find you and this is how you thank me?"
Sophia still didn't reply.
"Look kid, I know it aint easy to be growin' up in a world as gone-to-shit as this, but your mama needs you right now. You need to be strong for her. She loves you a lot, you know that."
"A nod," Daryl smirked, "that's an improvement from the silent treatment. Look," he stopped walking, "why don't you tell me why you wanted to run away. I won't tell your mama, but seems to me, somethin's bothering you."
"I don't want to talk about it."
"Yeah, I gathered that much. But seems to me you need to talk to someone."
Sophia sat down on a nearby log and began kicking the leafs back and forth with the toe of her sneaker. She did need to talk, and she couldn't go to Mama about this. Daryl would just have to do.
"It's about my dad."
Daryl didn't say anything, so Sophia continued, "He just died and Mama acts like it's no big deal. I hated what he did, but still…he was my dad. There was a time when he wasn't so…mean. He used to be fun. He would take me fishing with him sometimes, just the two of us. He used to laugh and would put on music and dance with Mama in the living room. But then he changed…and he wasn't my daddy anymore."
"I lost my dad too," Daryl walked towards her, "and he was a piece of work too."
"I just…I wish someone would remember my daddy the way he used to be. He died too. Everyone acts like every one's death is so gosh-awful but then when he died…no one seemed to even notice. Mama even said she was glad. Everyone just acts like nothing even happened. Everyone just…moved on. And Carl has his daddy and it's just…"
"Hard seeing him with his dad when your dad is gone?" Daryl suggested. Sophia nodded.
"Come on," he held out his hand to her and helped her up off the log, "not too far from 'ere is a little waterfall. Not much, just water trickling over some rocks, but it's pretty I guess. We could go there and maybe you could…uh…say a few things…to your daddy. The daddy he used to be."
"I'd like that," Sophia smiled up at Daryl, and for a second, she saw him smile back at her.
She latched on to his hand, and together they found the little waterfall. She said a few things, about how she missed her daddy and how she missed his smile and his laugh, and how she'd never forget the way he used to tuck her in at night, making sure there were no monsters lurking under her bed.
After she had said all she felt she needed to, she looked up at Daryl who had taken to leaning against a tree, and together, they walked back to the farm.
Carol excused herself from the farmhouse to go find Daryl. She needed to thank him, and figured it would be okay to leave Sophia for a few minutes. After all, she was probably sound asleep by then anyway. Carol headed out towards the barn, and found Daryl leaning against it, running his blade across a piece of wood.
"Hello," she nodded towards him.
"Daryl…you know I cannot thank you enough for returning my Sophia to me…it really means the world to me."
"Don't mention it. She's alright…'far as kids go and all."
"Did she say anything to you when you found her?"
Daryl flicked a splinter off the wood he was working on, "Not much," he said, remembering his promise to Sophia.
"She doesn't talk too much," Carol sighed, "not since her dad…"
"Maybe you should talk to her about it," Daryl suggested, "or something."
"Maybe," Carol nodded, "anyways, thank you so much for bringing her back to me."
"Like I said, don't mention…"
Carol stood up on her tiptoes and kissed him on the cheek.
"Good night, Daryl."
"Uh…um…uh…good night, Carol."
Carol smiled shyly at him before turning away, "You're blushing."