"But Momma, my doll!" Sophia whined. "We can't leave without her!"
Carol frowned, her lips set in a tight line. "Well, what did you do with her?"
Sophia's eyes turned up in a silent gesture and Carol sighed when she saw the toy caught in a tree.
"Now, how'd she get up there?" Carol demanded softly.
"She threw it," Carl muttered.
"Sophia," Carol said sternly. "You know better. Now, come along. We'd best be moving."
"But I just want my doll," she said with a pout.
"Well, why'd you throw her up there in the first place?"
"She said she wanted to fly. Out of this hell hole."
"Sophia! You stop with that language and let's get going. Now."
"Hold on aminut," a low voice said behind her.
She turned and shielded her eyes against the sun, her mouth dropping open when she saw Daryl reaching above to tug at a branch, testing the weight. In one smooth motion, he jumped up and grabbed it, bracing his feet against the trunk and pulling himself up to the next one. He grabbed the doll, tucking it swiftly into his pocket before climbing down two branches and jumping, somewhat ungracefully, to the ground.
Sophia's eyes were wide when he handed her the doll.
"Best hold onto that there, darlin'. We don't want her gettin' lost in this hell hole," He said with a little wink.
"Say thank you to the nice man," Carol warned.
"Thank you, Mr. Dixon," Sophia said softly, hugging the doll against her cheek.
Daryl shook his head. "Ah, ya make me sound so old. It's just Daryl, kid."
Sophia grinned, running up to him suddenly and throwing her arms around his waist. She hugged him tightly, doll still in her grasp. "Thank you, Uncle Daryl."
His cheeks flushed as he patted her awkwardly on her head. "You're welcome, darlin'."
He looked up to find Carol staring at him with her fist clutched to her collar and an odd expression on her face. She smiled when she saw him meet her gaze, a slightly watery, secret smile and he had to look away before he caught himself smiling back.