AU, Set in a future time. Caryl Fic…What you need to know: Sophia didn't die in the woods, but all other deaths stayed consistent. Ridiculously fluffy and happy-go-lucky. Don't we all just love that crap sometimes? Because this fic is so fluffy, I've decided to write something equally angsty to even things out. Expect a new one-shot from me soon!
"Dad - - stop it," Sophia said walking up to her step-father.
"Stop what?" Daryl asked innocently. He finished skinning the squirrel in his hand, skewering it next to the others he'd caught.
"Carl said you gave him a 'talk'. He was still shaking when I left him!" she said, cocking one arm on her hip. He shook his head. She was an adult, technically yes, but she still acted like the teenager she was. She ran a hand through her short, blonde hair and glared at Daryl. That was Carol's contribution to her daughter's attitude…the glare. The saying rang true when the pair of them were angry and glaring in his direction, if looks could kill…he'd have died a thousand times over. Under their sweet and caring demeanors, they had Medusa's glare.
Daryl steeled himself for a quick argument, not wanting to deal with Sophia's teenage angst. "Rick told me I could talk to 'im, so I did. Didn' tell him nothin' he didn' need to hear. If yer gonna run off and spend time 'lone in a cell with this boy, you both better expect to be hearin' it. Yer mama is gonna get to you sometime today," he said with a smirk, stoking the firepit.
"I'm old enough – "
He interrupted. "This ain't happening with me Sophia. We have rules 'bout datin' 'round here. Unless yer ready to be a mama, ya'll need to stay out in the open with everyone else." Before the end of the world happened, Sophia would legally have been considered an adult now. In this world, he was in charge of her. That went without saying, known throughout safe confines of their prison compound. He prided himself on being fair, taking advice from Carol on all of his decisions…especially those regarding his step-child. But the problem was…this world ate up children. You either grew up quickly or you died. Sophia had crawled through those woods, hid from walkers, slept in the closets of abandoned homes and waited for rescue. Daryl carried her out of the darkness almost two weeks after her ordeal had begun. The little Sophia that had entered those woods died. A young woman had emerged, scarred yet grown from her ordeal.
Sophia had matured alright. Right around the time Carol and him got together, she hit puberty. He'd stepped in right quick as a stand-in father, raising Sophia as his own…and keeping the Grimes boy's grubby mitts off of her. Her freckles were still present, but had faded into her pale complexion. Her soft features mirrored Carol's. Little Sophia had become a stable emotional center, one that the young people of the group turned to for advice. Without her overbearing biological father shadowing her, she'd thrived in this world.
"What if I am?" she countered.
"Am what?" he asked absentmindedly, stoking he flames.
"What if I'm ready to be a mama?" she said and Daryl's stomach dropped. He sputtered out a few words unintelligibly, and Sophia just flashed him that damn smirk. That damn smirk. He recognized it because Carol reminds him almost every day that it's the same half-mouthed smile he gives with attitude. He may have not raised her most of her life, but this little trait she managed to pick up on. Between the glare and the smirk, he wasn't sure how he'd managed to make it this long unscathed.
With that statement hanging in the air, Sophia spun on her heels and walked back towards the cell block. Daryl sat stoic, unable to concentrate on the task at hand. It wasn't long before Carol came from the other side of the yard, laundry basket in tow. She placed it down, coming up behind Daryl and planting a soft kiss atop his head. Eight years and they'd learned to show affection publicly. "Hey, I saw Sophia…everything alright?" she asked.
"Yer daughter is going to give me a heart attack," he explained resuming the roasting of the squirrels. When Carol had captured his heart...he thought she'd be the death of him. With every private, passionate encounter, something in Daryl changed. He couldn't stand the idea of something happening to her. The thought kept him up at night. But really…it had been because of Sophia. When she'd gone missing, he'd had an overwhelming need to find her. Everything he had, had gone into the search. If he didn't find her…he can't imagine the devastation Carol would have faced. Really, it was him finding Sophia, curled into a ball and near starvation in the pantry of an abandoned home, that brought Carol and him together. Their bond was solidified during this time…even though it took a few years for them to publicly name their relationship.
Carol assisted her husband, planting the stakes in the ground over the open flame. The squirrels sizzled when they made contact. "Oh, she's my daughter now is she? What'd she say?" she asked.
"Jus' givin' me grief over talkin' to the Grimes boy," Daryl said. "said maybe she's ready to have a baby."
"Oh she's just pullin' yer strings. Tryin' to rile ya up," she laughed. At one look from Daryl, she silenced herself. "I'll talk to her when I head inside."
Daryl looked to the woman he called his wife. Her hair had grayed steadily in the past 8 years, her age becoming more apparent. He cared less and less as time went on. The few extra years she had on him were nothing in the larger scope of things. Carol had become his best friend. She'd been his rock, pushed down walls he hadn't realized he'd built, and because of her, someone called him dad. That in itself was a miracle he'd never tried to understand the makings of. Content with the only real family he'd ever known in his life, he smiled at Carol.
"I love you and you know Sophia loves you," Carol said sidling up next to her husband. "…no matter how she acts."
Daryl nodded his head. "I know. Jus' wish she didn't have to make things so damn hard." They wove their fingers together, Carol resting her head on Daryl's shoulder. "I love you," he murmured, kissing her forehead lightly.
Daryl descended the stairs of the guard tower, ready for his watch to be over. It was Carl's turn. The young man stood vigilant on the top of the tower and Daryl had no fears in leaving him to watch. Carl had grown up. The death of his mother had certainly had an effect on him. This world did that to children. Night had fallen, but a row of lanterns lit the path to the cell block. He glanced up and saw Sophia waiting at the door to the block.
"Can't sleep?" he asked, waiting for a secondary assault.
"Yeah, I wanted to talk to you…" she explained looking at her feet. She gave a sigh. "Mom and I talked. And I talked to Carl…"
"I don't wanna argue Sophia," he started, shaking his head.
"You were right," she responded quickly, not meeting his eyes. "I'm sorry. I forget how things used to be…on the road. I take this place for granted sometimes."
Daryl opened his arms to his step-daughter. "You were small when Lori…" He couldn't bring himself to say the words. "I don't want anything happenin' to ya…you'll always be a little girl to me."
She walked into his arms and hugged her father, "We've never…I mean…I'm not
having – "
He shook off her comment. "That's between you and yer mama. We jus' want ya careful." They released their embrace and with one arm slung over his daughter's shoulder, they continued on together.