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Author's Note: Good afternoon, folks. In an effort to use this account more often and as direct protest as the bullshit that is Henry/Lydia that I've been subjected to, I am posting my 2nd favorite and longest Carnid fic written on here. Everything about Lydia fits every conspiracy theory that the fandom came up with for Enid  and everything about Henry/Lydia is what haters claimed Carl and Enid to be: toxic, troublesome, and has the potential to ruin Team Family/The Alliance for good. Vindication for my Emo kids is nigh and neigh and while it doesn't make things better (Carl being alive and Carnid being a perfect foil to Henry/Lydia would've been great!), it does help for inspiration. After posting more of my Carnid fics on here, I plan on returning to them for new stories. That's what fanfic is for. When Faves get done wrong, we step up.

PS: While drafting and discussing this fic Idea with my fellow Carnid Shipper (michaelsjackson, on Tumblr if you're interested in following her, she doesn't watch the show anymore but she still loves all things Carl and Enid after all things Michael Jackson), I called this one the Harley!Enid Idea because my portrayal of her in this  alternate universe story  is heavily influenced by the DC Comic, Video Game, and TV/Movie character of Harley Quinn, particularly the version of her from  Suicide Squad  (2016) (AKA the most valid Harley since Batman: The Animated Series, in my fanwoman opinion, feel free to disagree!) so keep that in mind while you're reading. Enjoy the latest!

Disclaimer: "Honestly, it's not mine!"

 

As soon as he got home, he would be in for The Lecture.

He got The Lecture or some form of it at least twice a month.

The End of Days had come and The Dead Rose, Bit, and Walked. They had many names given by The Living but the most common term was Walker.

If a Walker Bit or Scratched you, it was all over. The wound would get infected and a person would succumb to a fever. Either that or they would simply be ripped apart by the attacking ravenous Walkers, Devoured while screaming. Occasionally, quickly removing the bitten appendage could save someone's life but usually, a Bite or Scratch meant slow painful death or a quick suicide. Even if one did all the right and safe things, thanks to The Virus, there was an extra twist in every person's DNA that made people become Walkers when they passed away. No matter how a person died, they would Turn and unless someone was around to prevent it, they would Rise.

The only way to stop it was to completely destroy the brain.

Not even decapitation or being burned alive could prevent the Turn if the brain was intact. No matter what a person did, there was no escaping The Virus and it was still a hard pill to swallow, even though it had been nearly a decade since everything changed.

Soon, there would be more people who saw The Fucked New World as the norm than those who remembered the Beforetime and that was a blessing, a bittersweet comfort.

He envied those people.

Knowing what could happen, him going out on his own with no word to anyone, him sneaking out was completely stupid and utterly reckless. What was he thinking? He knew better!

What if another Herd of Walkers came? What if a malicious Survivor or Group happened upon him while he was out in the forest doing God knows what? People were more dangerous than Walkers. The years had confirmed that grim fact more than once. What the hell did he even do out there, anyway? There was plenty to do inside the Walls. He had his job at The Forgery, his little sister to watch after, and a library of comic books, not to mention his DVD, CD, and video game collection.

Why did he insist on going outside when he didn't have to? What was he hiding? Why couldn't he take anyone with him on his Outings and really, if he needed to Talk about things, there were plenty of people to turn to. Cutting himself off from others, from those who loved him and cared about his safety was troubling, especially after all he's been through…

19 year old Carl Grimes shook his head and resisted the urge to doze off in the clearing. Contrary to what The Lecture would imply, he wasn't an idiot. Contrary to what the rumor mill said about him, he wasn't going out so he could try to get himself killed. If he really wanted to die, he would've quietly handled the situation years ago.

When Carl was in the forest, when he went through the Alexandria Safe Zone's Gate or over its Walls by himself, he did it so he could feel peace. He wanted to feel like he was living, not just existing, not Just Surviving Somehow from dawn to dusk.

Most of the time, Carl felt like the only things keeping him going (other than his Family, especially his sister, stepmom, and father…) were habit, duty, and pure spite.

He was just there.

That wasn't to say that he wasn't grateful to be alive. That wasn't the case at all. So many people had lost their lives during The Spread and after The End. So many good and bad people had died that the fact that he had managed to stay standing was amazing. He was grateful for every sunrise and sunset he witnessed. People around him hadn't been as fortunate and there had been times when Carl thought that he wouldn't make it.

A vivid reminder of one of those times took up the upper left portion of his face.

3 years before, there had been a Walker SuperHerd trapped in a Quarry West of the ASZ. It used to be a Camp but it had fallen to The Dead. Most of the Walkers in the area would stagger into the pit, contained only by parked 18 wheelers and high walls made mostly of soil. By the time his father Rick had stumbled upon the place, the Quarry had been Ground Zero for the horror.

The Herd had been massive, at least 5000 strong, and dealing with it had been the ultimate case of bravery to the point of insanity. They couldn't just leave it there, despite what many Alexandrians had wanted at the time. They couldn't just ignore it and hope it would magically disappear. It was a Herd, for fuck's sake! Walkers were always dangerous but when big numbers gathered, people always died and places were easily overrun. They had to do something, anything to handle the problem before it was too late. Fortifying the Quarry was not an option due to unstable ground so that had led to Plan X: Herd the Herd.

They had attempted to draw it away to destroy it fully but as usual, something had gone wrong right in the middle of the Plan. That something had been an attack on the ASZ from a crazed Group of looting nomads that called themselves The Wolves. The noise that they had brought with their bloodlust, the horn of an 18 wheeler, had drawn half of the SuperHerd to their doorstep. Due to damage from the attack, the main lookout tower had fallen, breaching a series of Wall panels and Walkers had poured into Alexandria, swarming over the Community.

The scarring on his face was from a gunshot wound, courtesy of Ron Anderson. The 16 year old had been out for revenge against Carl and his family for "ruining everything". Ron had conveniently forgotten the fact that his sperm donor "Dr". Pete Anderson was a longtime piece of shit, wife and child beating (Reg Monroe murdering!) drunk bastard who had deserved to get one of Rick Grimes' Colt Python .38 bullets through his face. Pete had deserved death, not just for the deplorable way he treated his family but also because he put his Vice before the good of the Community he was supposed to help as a certified surgeon.

Pete was a walking disaster, a sloppy drunk, and just a fucking creep.

Ron had forgotten all of those facts and made his sperm donor into a martyr.

It was Carl and his family's fault for his mother Jessie's overall weakness, for her "going crazy and murdering people with scissors" and it was especially Carl and his family's fault for Ron's younger brother Sam being devoured by Walkers.

Sam (and Jessie) had gotten Devoured by the SuperHerd, having frozen and succumbed to fear in the streets. According to Ron, that wouldn't have happened if the Grimes Group hadn't come to Alexandria. Never mind that Jessie Anderson had been weak due to being sheltered from the reality of the Fucked New World and from years of spousal abuse. Never mind that Jessie hadn't seized the opportunity to come into her own, to become strong with both hands after her husband was rightfully executed for being an irresponsible asshole. Never mind that Sam Anderson's mental strength and physical safety were actually Ron's responsibility since their parents were too busy being a pathetic, melodramatic walking Murder-Suicide to look after him correctly. Never mind that had Carl and his family not come to the ASZ, it was likely that the whole SuperHerd would've broken loose and overran Alexandria in less than a day.

None of those facts mattered to Ron.

Oh, no…every and anything that had gone wrong in the ASZ, in Ron Anderson's soap opera life was because of the Grimes Group and Carl would have to pay for it. That was all there was to it.

He would kill the Bringer of all Ruin Rick Grimes' only begotten son and call it even.

That was the Grand Master Plan, a Plan that they had inadvertently fed by teaching him to shoot.

Fortunately for Carl, Ron had been a coward with bad aim and too impatient to wait any longer.

Originally, he was going to shoot Carl near the Lake of Fire and leave his body for the remaining SuperHerd to feast on. No evidence, no witnesses, nothing but revenge.

Instead, Ron had shot him through a window of Alexandria's church, aiming right at him but had been shaking so much, his bullet missed the mark. Carl remembered the searing of flesh and hair, the concussive blast of the bullet lodging deep into the wall behind him. He also remembered a panicked Ron then taking aim at his little sister, at his then 14 month old sister Judith, and he had seen red. A little of the red was from the blood pouring from his wounds but the majority had been rage, both at Ron and himself for allowing things to get to that point.

Ron had attempted to kill him that morning with a shovel. Carl had covered for him with the adults, taking his gun from him at the time. Ron had shakily apologized and Carl had written the attack off as just stress and grief so he spared Ron's life. He had shown the mercy that he had lacked after the first attack on the Prison, when he gunned down Jody without a second thought. He had kept it together, kept himself as calm as possible and let Ron live. The gun had been given back for protection during their Walker Gut covered escape from the overrun Anderson home but what Ron did to him? What he tried to do to his sister? It had been the last straw.

During the second attack and Fall of The Prison, Carl hadn't been there to protect Judith. He had been trying to fight off The Governor's militia and the swarming Walkers. When it became clear that they had to flee for their lives, Carl had searched for his near infant sister to no avail. All he found was his heavily injured father and Judith's empty carrier. His nightmares were still haunted by the memory of the blood soaked pink carrier, by the certainty that his sister had been blown apart or worse, Devoured…

Miracle of miracles, Judith had survived the Prison's fall with just a wet diaper, an empty stomach and without her father and big brother protecting her like they should've been. Tyreese Williams, the Kids of the Prison, particularly Lizzie and Mika Samuels, and later, his Aunt Carol Peletier had protected her. They happily reunited with Judith after the nightmare that had been Terminus and while holding onto her On the Road (only allowing Sasha and Tyreese Williams, his father or Michonne to take her for more than a few minutes), Carl had sworn on the graves of everyone they had lost that he would never let anyone or thing hurt his sister again, not while he breathed.

Judith was his sister.

She was the only living younger sibling he had.

After Michonne had told him about the son she had lost, about Andre Anthony, Carl had immediately adopted him in his heart, just like he had adopted his mom, their mom.

Michonne was his stepmother.

Judith was his little sister.

She was his heart. She was living hope and joy.

He would give his life twice to protect her.

He would take as many lives as he could to protect her before that.

Seeing Ron Anderson point the gun at Judith had been Carl's breaking point.

No more mercy, no more dismissing his feelings as paranoia and disgust for all things Anderson.

Enough was fucking enough.

Nobody got away with hurting or threatening his family.

Ever.

Carl had charged through the window with a candelabrum in his hand, tackled the pleading, treacherous asshole and started swinging.

He kept swinging and it had taken 4 people plus the Walkers drawn to the noise to stop him.

From the restraining arms of Father Gabriel Stokes and Tobin Masters, Carl had blinked away enough blood to see a knot of female Walkers descend hungrily on Ron.

He had been dead at the time.

Carl had beaten him to death.

Ron's neck had been broken, causing him to suffocate and his face had looked like hamburger.

Despite the tragedy of yet another life lost, of yet another Dead Kid, of a whole family Gone, Carl had felt and still felt no remorse for his actions that night. He couldn't.

Ron Anderson had it coming, just like his sperm donor.

Ron had shot him first, wasted ammo, and most importantly, had recklessly endangered his sister, endangered everyone in the church with his bullshit!

He had to go.

He deserved to go.

Plus, he had told Carl before attacking him with the shovel (forcing them to have to leave the Anderson house in the first place!) that staying alive was pointless since they would all be killed eventually. If the SuperHerd didn't get them, then it would be something or someone else later on. Ron had declared himself, his family, and everyone around them dead so Carl had given him exactly what he wanted.

Anderson had given up. He had, in the words of Dr. Edwin Jenner of the CDC, opted out.

Ron Anderson had wanted to die so Carl granted him his wish, simple as that…or maybe not.

Maybe Ron had been speaking and acting out of fear and mental instability in the garage. Maybe he had really wanted to live but didn't know how and was too scared to learn. Maybe Ron was just being a stupid Emo Kid, saying something "dark and edgy" for the sake of getting attention. Nobody would ever know for sure but to Carl, once someone said that they wanted to die and truly acted in accordance, there was no going back.

The Fucked New World they lived in was too dangerous and life was far too short and fragile to play around like that. It was unacceptable.

Fight or Die: everyone had a daily and nightly choice. If they were going to choose Death, choose to opt out, then they should at least have the common decency to do it quietly and give those around them a fair shot of making it through. The less collateral damage, the better…

Carl had passed out after executing Ron. He had woken up 4 days later in the Infirmary with his head heavily bandaged and his first of many migraines. Dr. Denise Cloyd had saved his life. She had extracted the bullet and glass fragments from his body. She also made it clear that he was fortunate to still have his left eye. If Ron hadn't fired through the window, if he had better aim while firing, then he would've certainly lost his eye or just been shot dead.

Instead of losing his eye, the area from his left temple to his zygomatic arch had permanent scarring. Part of his eyebrow would never grow back and there was a line where hair would never grow again on his head, easily concealed by the rest of his long waves. Some of the scars, mainly where the bullet had hit, were raised and ropy but the rest were thin, faded pink now and going white in places. Before, it had all been an angry red, looking infected but not. Eventually, all of it would soften and fade to white, just like the gunshot and surgical scars on his upper torso but every time he looked in the mirror, they were there.

Having a choice, he would much rather be a scarred and living two eyed Human instead of a mangled Walker (or a scarred and living cycloptic Human…) but Carl still winced whenever he saw his face. He was marred and scarred for the rest of his life. He was a frequent subject of pity and revulsion and it fucking sucked. Carl was grateful to be alive, grateful to have his full vision but still…

He had to get back to Alexandria.

He had been out long enough.

He could breathe again.

According to where the sun was in the sky, it was mid afternoon and if he didn't get going, he wouldn't make back home until after dark. The Lecture was always worse when he got back after dark, with more yelling and more people worried about him. Unfortunately, Carl could feel a headache building at the base of his skull. It would probably get worse later on and he was not looking forward to that at all. He was working on some Spikes to add to the new Walker traps and that needed to get done. Being in the Forgery with all of its noise would likely have him bedridden with a migraine before the end of the week but he would burn that bridge when he got to it.

They all had jobs to do.

Everyone had a job to do and he was damned good at his so he would tough it out.

He didn't have a choice in the matter.

Even if he did, he'd still go to work.

Not only was he damned good at his job, he loved it, even when it triggered migraines. Being able to Create, to bring ideas to life that would help others to fight and fortify was awesome.

Carl knew where he could find some black willow bark. He would harvest enough for the Infirmary's apothecary on the way home and use some with his Aunt Maggie Rhee's lavender to brew a headache soothing tea.

The Lecture wasn't as long if he brought something useful back with him.

Getting up slowly, Carl put his faded brown Sheriff's Stetson back on his head and tied his blue jacket around his waist. It had been chilly out when he left but the day was mid Summer hot despite it being early Fall. Rolling up his gray thermal's sleeves, he started walking home. He had gone over the Walls instead of through the Gate. He had only his Bowie Knife and his Beretta 92FS with 4 ammo clips on his person. Typically, he didn't carry more than that unless he was on a Run, on Watch, or working.

His boots were solid and his jeans patched but good. If the need arose, he knew how to make shelter, how to fortify an abandoned place. Carl also knew where to find decent drinking water and how to get something to eat. There were wild berries, mushrooms, nuts, tortoises, and he had spotted the tracks of a rabbit earlier.

Being On the Road for as long as he had taught him how to make do with seemingly nothing. Although he had been in the ASZ for going on 4 years with access to running water, crops, and now livestock, Carl made sure to keep his skills sharp.

Walls fell, Communities and Groups dispersed all of the time. Tomorrow was never promised and it only took a tiny bit of bad luck for the blood drenched shit to hit the Fan. Their times at Atlanta Quarry Lake, The Greene Family Farm, and The West Georgia Correctional Facility had taught them all that lesson thoroughly and painfully.

The Alexandria Safe Zone could and would eventually Fall, forcing them back out there.

Carl certainly didn't want to go back out there but if the need arose, he could survive. He could make sure that those around him survived and that his family would endure.

That was all that mattered to him.

After filling his handkerchief with the bark, Carl heard the all too familiar sound of growling-gurgling snarls and unholstered his gun. It sounded like at least half a dozen Walkers and…someone fighting them? Alarm filled him at the sound of a large blade slicing through the air and he started running. Michonne used a large blade, a Katana, and was amazing with it but the very idea of leaving his stepmother to fend for herself made him speed up. He had to make sure that she was okay and back her up if necessary. He had to!

If she got hurt or worse, it would be devastating, not just to his Family but to all of Alexandria.

Alexandria wasn't Home without Michonne Avery-Grimes.

Plus, The Lecture wasn't nearly as bad coming from her because she understood what it was like to feel confined even in one's own skin. Michonne would be concerned about his mental and physical welfare but she wouldn't yell at him, patronize him, or coddle him. She never did, even when he acted like a complete brat to her in the beginning. God, he was such a reckless little shit back in the day, a real pain in the ass! Hell, he was still a reckless pain in the ass but he had gotten much better with age.

Coming to the site, he arrived just in time to see the last Walker's split head go flying into a tree trunk with a splattering crunch. Instead of his stepmother or another person from Alexandria, Carl was looking a complete stranger, a female one. Using an oak tree as cover, he watched as she moved amongst the fallen Walkers, stabbing with her pink handled Tangs to make sure they were Down…or were they pink handled Machetes? Michonne had once explained the difference between various sword-like blades but that had been a while ago and since he already had his weapons of choice, he had forgotten most of it.

He would have to ask her when he got back home.

The stranger looked to be the same age, maybe a little younger and underneath the all of dirt, sweat, and guts splattering her was a school uniform, an actual school uniform.

The pleated skirt was gray, the blazer tied around her narrow waist was brown, and although the beige of her shirt had faded, her tie and knee socks were still dark green. There was a vest like harness on her back for her blades. Shin high Doc Marten boots and knee pads protected her legs and she had brown hair like his in a tangled cascade, only a shade lighter…and coated with blood. She was splattered with fresh and dried blood, just like her blades. When she bent, he could see a pair of shorts underneath her skirt (along with a sheathed dagger) and that made his cheeks go red. He had seen pretty girls and beautiful women before but nothing like that, nothing so intimate, not that he would ever want to look. Not without permission, anyway.

He had been raised to be a gentleman, after all.

Carl remembered a private school, Butterfield Academy, at the edge of King's County, Georgia. He remembered loudly thanking God that he didn't have to wear a stupid uniform but seeing one on this stranger, this badass stranger…

A twig broke underneath his boot and she whirled, ready to keep fighting. Slowly, Carl stepped out from behind the tree. Shaking, she started backing away slowly, holding her left blade in front of her defensively. Tearful, wary celery eyes focused on him and he swallowed dryly. He thought of telling her that he wouldn't hurt her but quickly nixed that idea. One of the biggest lies that The Living told nowadays was 'I won't hurt you', especially to traveling women and children.

The Uniformed Stranger looked like she had been out On the Road and in the forest for a long time. The way she fought, the mistrust and exhaustion in her body language told him that. There had to have been at least one Governor, Gareth, or Dawn running a bad Community during her travels. Twisted nomadic Groups like The Claimers and The Wolves were far more common than good ones like his Family. How many times had she heard 'I won't hurt you' and it had turned out to be bullshit? Dozens of times? Hundreds, even? Hell, for all he knew, the phrase could be a Trigger and she'd either run away or run him through.

Carl didn't want her to attack him. He also didn't want her to be scared away but what could he say…what could he do to prevent that?

Holding her questioning gaze, he held up his Beretta and placed it on the ground in front of him, keeping his movements slow and open. His Bowie knife was placed next to it and she stopped backing away. Her head cocked and a deep furrow appeared between her brows. She was confused. That was better than her being on the verge of attacking him or running away from him but Carl wanted her to know that he wasn't a threat. What else could he do?

An idea hit him and he went with it, following his gut feeling fully.

After the Anderson family's messy collapse, Carl never ignored his gut instincts ever again.

Still holding her gaze, he slowly lowered himself to his knees and removed his Hat, placing it to the side. His weapons were still in easy reach in case Walkers or assholes came along but he turned his palms up. The last gesture had twofold reasoning. It was a signal that he had removed all of his weapons and it was a gesture of trust. Revealing one's bare hands or feet, making them vulnerable to injury or removal was big.

The Uniformed Stranger slowly sheathed her weapons and Carl swallowed as she approached him, her gait unhurried. The way her hips moved, the way muscles of her legs flexed, the way she cut through Walkers like they were made of paper…who was she? Where had she come from?

Was she real?

Cool, sticky fingertips skimmed over his cheek and shocking him, a slow and sweet smile lit up her bloody face.

"…and just where did you come from, Sinatra?"

/

In The Fucked New World, expecting and rolling with the unexpected was crucial to survival.

Anything could happen at any time, good or bad (mainly bad), so it was best to keep one's mind open, boots laced, and weapons ready. Adaptability was the key and if you could still find some humor in a fucked up situation, you were golden. If she had a choice between laughing and crying, then she'd choose laughing every time. Life was a big grim Joke nowadays and Jokes weren't Jokes if no one ever laughed.

She was open minded and could roll with anything, even when it hurt.

Especially when it hurt.

That was why she was still standing tall.

Still, the sight of a clean and well armed Cowboy so far from what used to be Texas had her wary. She had blinked a couple of times, squinted hard and he stayed put so he wasn't a hallucination. She had to make sure. In the Beforetime, her mind was normal and sharp but afterwards, it had gone deep into left field. It was still a sharp and good mind but it was definitely off center now.

She had lost a good amount of her sanity, at least 50% of it, maybe closer to 75%, honestly.

It made sense.

Nobody could be completely sane after what the much hyped End of Days had dished out.

All organized Governments, all formal Laws, most creature comforts, and at least 95% of the planet's population were gone forever, wiped out by The Virus. The world had turned upside down and ass backwards. The Rulebooks had been burned to ashes. Hope was a rare commodity. Everyone lived in a world full of Reminders, of what used to be and would never be again. Everyone had lost a home. Everyone had lost their anchors, their purpose. Everyone had lost at least one person to death. Nobody was exempt from that Pain.

Death didn't discriminate. Young, old, rich, poor, black, white, or brown…it came for everyone.

Worst of all, The Dead didn't even have the common decency to stay dead anymore!

No, dead people got up and walked around like massive, ravenous snarling parasites. The only way to prevent it was to destroy the brain completely. Otherwise, one wouldn't rest peacefully and would eventually spread The Virus to others, good and evil alike. Everyone carried Walking, snarling, rotting, horrible Death in their DNA. Whether someone was Bitten or Scratched, it didn't matter. Everybody that died Turned and most would Get Up. There was no escaping it.

How could anyone be completely sane knowing that?

If anyone acted completely sane, then they should be avoided. They should be fled from at full speed because they were either too far gone to be human or in denial.

People in denial were dangerous because once they lost their denial, lost all their comforting delusions, they would snap and self destruct.

Those types of self destructions were always loud and messy.

Loud and messy…screaming…squishing crunches…blood everywhere

Her parents had been ripped apart before her very eyes. Most of the company she kept afterwards was of the snarling, rotting, biting variety. Her broken heart, loneliness, and bone deep despair had led to a damaged yet functional psyche emerging. With that new psyche, she would sometimes see and hear things that weren't really there, which was frightening but again, par the course.

Being abnormal was normal.

Anyway, the Cowboy kneeling before her was real and he wasn't looking at her with lust, rage or calculation like other male survivors had when she interacted with them.

In fact, he looked…shy? Awed? Afraid of her? She wasn't sure which one but there was no malice in his body language whatsoever so she sheathed her weapons, came close to him. She was very curious about this Cowboy, this Cowboy who had a hell of a set of manners on him. He was actually kneeling before her and had removed his 10 gallon Hat for her. That was awfully nice of him, especially when he turned his palms up. He was letting her know that he wasn't hiding a weapon on him and that was willing to trust her to not kill or maim him.

The Cowboy was probably from a Community or Group. It made sense. They were in what used to be Washington, D.C.'s Metropolitan Area. Most people in the US Capital, in what used to be one of the main epicenters of human government would have a better shot of surviving than elsewhere. There were more intact buildings, plenty of places to scavenge, and good soil if one knew what to look for and how to nurture it properly.

The military hadn't bombed D.C. like they had other major cities, such as Los Angeles or Atlanta. In fact, from a distance, Washington D.C. looked the same as it did in the Beforetime, just empty. It was only when one got into the city proper, closer to the Potomac when the reality hit. Chompers on the Capital Building Stairs, rotting in the Reflecting Pool, just roaming and swarming everywhere…

The Capital was owned by The Dead.

The World was owned by The Dead.

Everything was theirs. All of it was theirs and humans were just tenants. Humans were either a source of multiplication or fresh Chomper Chow. Every day, every night, every second was a fight for survival against the teeming mass of Dead and the scant remains of humanity.

People had been cruel and selfish before The End but after everything went to hell, it became a Golden Age for the assholes. It was easier to be cruel and selfish than to be a good person. It was easier to take a Predator and Prey mentality. It was easier to take advantage of the weak, the vulnerable to get what one wanted and needed to just survive somehow. Good people were outnumbered 10,000 to 1 by Chompers and 100 to 1 by Scumbags.

Even when one found good people, good Groups, and good Communities, something bad would happen. Nothing lasted forever. Someone would choose to go one way and others would go the other way, wanting to forge a new path alone or with surviving loved ones/Group members. Also, pettiness, greed, bad leadership, attacking assholes, or the ever present Chomper would always come in and tear everything apart.

It was only a matter of time.

18 year old Enid Mackenzie had seen it happen time and time again.

After a particularly harsh example that she had barely escaped from, Enid made the choice to fly solo. Flying solo didn't make her immune to attack, to pain, or to loss but it reduced the times to something that she could mostly cope with. Flying solo meant that she didn't have to answer to anyone but herself. She was the one in control. Whatever happened to her every day, good or bad, would be squarely on her shoulders and that was comforting. There was nothing worse than ending up in a bad situation because of someone else's bullshit, hubris or idiocy…

"Did you hear me? I asked where you came from."

The Cowboy seemed to be entranced by her and while that was nice, his continued silence wasn't helping her get answers. He looked to be her age, maybe a little bit older, definitely not younger. Circling around him slowly, Enid could see that his clothes were actually clean, indicating access to running water and laundry detergent. There wasn't any dirt or ichor on his skin and he smelled like forest, gunpowder, and soap…what kind of soap? Leaning closer, Enid took a whiff and nodded once. Irish Spring, the original green bar, not the blue one. Her father Liam used to use that soap. The Cowboy's shampoo smelled like it was homemade with lots of lavender in it, another familiar scent. Her mother Madeline had loved lavender, the color and the plant. She used to grow it in their backyard, along with cooking herbs and small vegetables.

"Where did you come from? Tell me."

"I…there's a Community nearby…"

His voice was full of Deep South and although it was a soft tenor at the moment, there was the promise of power behind it. She could see the promise of power in his body, too. At first glance, he was skinny, a solid case could be made for scrawny but up close, Enid could see that he was wiry, padded with muscle with very little extra fat. This Cowboy was a cutie. He was tall, well fed, obviously active…and his eyes. Holy shit, his eyes were so pretty!

It was like someone had carefully plucked two pieces from the sky above them and put them in his irises. They were the deepest, brightest bluest blue she had ever seen and so good. She would remember them. Good things, even the tiniest good things should be remembered and cherished. The Cowboy said he was from a Community and since she was back West again, having spent most of her time North, that meant…

"The Walled Place, right? I've seen real estate billboards for it near the highway. Alexandria?"

"Yeah. That's where I'm from."

"Hmm…I was in this area about 4 springs ago and I remember hearing people inside of there. I heard talking, music, and laughter. I thought about going in. I almost did but I decided to move on. I didn't want to risk being around too many people with no easy way out again. I…I like to fly solo out here. I like to roam free because…well, I've been through some pretty awful shit, Cowboy. Everyone has but I've been burned before when it comes to Groups and Communities. Literally."

Stepping back, Enid hiked up the hem of her skirt and lowered her shorts to reveal the flare of her left hip to her thigh to just above her knee. Most of the skin there was faded pink with thick patches of ropy scarring. Before, it had been scarlet and angry, the result of her escaping out of a cell and over a tall fence. She had escaped from the Fires, from the screaming, from the snarling-slurping growls of the swarming ravenous Chompers…

"Holy shit…"

"I know, right? They look gnarly but they don't hurt that much anymore. Sometimes, there's a pull and tug when I have to sprint or kick but overall, it's okay. I'm okay and don't worry. The sick nasty fuck who did it will never hurt anyone else again. I made sure. Good riddance."

Understanding filled his eyes but no fear, pity or judgment. Enid especially appreciated the lack of judgment. Some people still got on a high horse when it came to killing The Living, even if they were malicious. A part of her understood why. There were so few humans left, at least 95% of them were either Walking or rotting underground, that ending someone's life added to the tragedy.

All life was precious.

However, if there was a choice between a hostile and herself or those around her, it would be the hostile. It would always be the hostile. Self defense, defense of companions and innocents was not murder. It was Survival and as long as one didn't hurt those who didn't truly deserve it, killing was okay.

It could even be fun.

One could see grow to see killing as entertainment and Enid would be lying if she said that she didn't have that sadism inside of her heart. It was there, it could be very useful in critical situations, and it scared the hell out of her.

At least she was still scared of those bad feelings. Once she stopped being scared of the twisted ice inside of her, she would willingly eat a bullet or open up all of her veins. There was no reason to stay alive if one would just become a beast in human skin to Survive. It wouldn't be worth it.

Enid fixed her clothes and started to retreat, heading for the forked tree that she stashed her duffel in when he spoke up.

"H-Howhow many Walkers have you killed?"

It sounded like a Question instead of a question. Was he just curious or was it a Test of some kind? Enid answered the Cowboy honestly and promptly while mentally planning her route back to the highway. It was getting closer to sundown and as much as she had enjoyed their interlude, she really had get going. She didn't like being out and exposed at night. She had to find or make some kind of shelter before nightfall…

"Lots. Not enough."

"How many people have you killed?"

"10."

"Why?"

"Because they hurt me, they hurt other people, or they were planning to do so. Just because we live in a Fucked New World where The Dead Rise, Bite and Walk doesn't mean we can't still be kind and good to each other. You shouldn't go around hurting and killing people all willy-nilly. They have to deserve it. You have to have a good reason."

"…you should come home with me. Come to Alexandria."

/

"Why the hell should I go anywhere with you? Who's to say that I won't get hurt or worse by your People?"

"If anyone wants to hurt you, they'll have to go through me twice."

She was surprised at his fierce promise, as was he. What the hell was going on with him? Carl didn't even know the Uniformed Stranger's name but he already felt very protective of her. He shouldn't be. This woman could absolutely take care of herself. She was flying solo, no parents or Group or anything like that. She wasn't lying. If she were with someone, anyone at all, they would've revealed themselves by now.

She had survived extended, brutal torture and didn't let her Injury slow her down. She was capable. The way that she handled Walkers told him that she was a fighter, a Warrior. She could make it on her own just fine but he didn't want that. Carl wanted to bring her to Alexandria, to someplace with Walls so she could rest and regain some perspective.

It was possible to be out there too long. It was possible to forget that there was more to life than running, fighting, terror, loss, and loneliness. He had been in that place while On the Road to bring Noah Boyd back to Virginia. His father had been in that place when they first arrived in Alexandria and it had taken the SuperHerd (along with a timely knock upside the head from Michonne…) to snap him out of it. The woman in front of him wasn't in that place yet but the longer she stayed out alone, the closer she would get to it and nobody would be there to bring her back.

"Thanks for the offer, Wild Bill Hickok but I don't think it's a good…"

"Before you say no, think about it, really think about it. It's going to be Winter soon. You're going to need someplace that you can keep safe to stay in. You're going to need food, water, ammo, and other supplies. Alexandria has all of that and I know the Leaders there. My parents, people I was On the Road with, people I trust with everything run the Community. They might not trust you for a while but nobody will hurt you unless you do something stupid first."

"Which something stupid? There are lots of something stupids to choose from. 31 unique flavors of something stupid, actually."

"You know which one I'm talking about."

/

She did. She really did.

The Waco Kid had a damned good sales pitch.

Even if he was wrong, she would be considering his offer to follow him home but he wasn't wrong. Enid knew that he wasn't wrong. Going home with him made sense but she still had to protect herself. Trust was a valuable commodity, worth its weight in bullets. She couldn't just follow the Cutie Cowboy home like a stray kitten without having a bit of insurance in the form of…

"All right…let's make a Deal: I'll come to Alexandria for a week. 7 sunrises and sunsets. If I don't like it there, I get to leave with some supplies that I need and nobody tries to stop me. No one hurts me or robs me. No one tries to maim or kill me and I don't succeed in killing them. Is that okay with you?"

"It is."

"Good."

/

She picked up his Bowie knife and Carl froze as she grabbed his chin firmly, tilting his face up to meet the metal. She traced over his furrowed brow, his parted lips, even over his Adam's apple. Just the slightest pressure would draw blood, could possibly kill him but he made no moves to end her exploration. The touch of the knife was light, leaving no wounds and he shuddered as it traced over his Scars. Another smile lit up her face, this one so soft and he didn't see the usual pity or disgust in her eyes as she took them all in. The knife tip was replaced with her fingertips and Carl resisted the urge to grab her around her middle. He couldn't help but lean into her touch.

It felt so fucking good…

Why did it feel so fucking good? What the hell was going on with him? Who was this woman? Why was she affecting him so much? Was he that starved for attention, for someone to touch him? No one really touched him anymore, not even for hugs, which he typically preferred but…

She stopped tracing and released his chin, stepping away enough for him to get back to his feet. His knees wobbled as he did so. Carl breathed deeply, thinking of snarling Walkers to douse the rapidly growing heat in his groin. It wasn't the time or the place for that.

Carl holstered his gun and put on his Hat before accepting his knife from her. She was about 3 inches shorter than him and her hand could fit in his with room to spare. Maybe both of them could.

"A bullet grazed your temple and you went through some glass, didn't you?"

"Yeah."

"Why? Who happened?"

"Someone that I thought was a friend turned out to be an asshole. I had to go through a window to end him before he killed my little sister or someone else."

"You have a little sister?"

"Her name's Judith. She's 5 going on 30."

"…I don't understand why anybody would want to hurt you. You're nice."

"You don't know that for sure. You don't know me…"

"I know evil when I see and hear it. You're nice, Cowboy and I think we'll get along just fine."

"Carl."

"Hmm?"

"My name is Carl. Carl Grimes."

"Hello, Carl Grimes. I'm Enid Mackenzie."

Enid…that was a name that he had never heard before. It was a little strange but nice. This time, he didn't stop her from walking away and he watched as she pulled a gray duffel bag out of a tree. She had to stand on her tiptoes to do it. A cool breeze lifted her skirt hem, showing her sheathed dagger and her shorts. They were black and again, he looked away quickly. Not quickly enough, though.

"You see something you like there, Sport?"

She swayed a little in place and his blush deepened from pink to scarlet.

"Um…well, I…you're really…I d-didn't mean to look at you, I swear…"

"I don't mind if you look at me."

Having no words, Carl sighed and looked down at his boots shyly, missing the approving look on her face at his actions. He felt like a total asshole, a huge and perverted asshole. He really didn't mean to look. He had been raised better than that, both by his Family members and by himself. People were people, not objects to be gawked at. Women were just as strong and capable as men. In many ways, they were stronger and they deserved complete respect.

Respecting women and helping them live was more important than ever before.

Once she was set, Carl shyly extended a hand to her and she giggled before accepting it gamely.

"Take me home with you, Carl Grimes."

/

Enid carefully removed her mother's hunting dagger from the center of the Walker's skull and cleaned the blade with her jacket. After it was clean, she scraped it against a nearby rock to keep the edge honed. The Walker probably would've gotten caught on one of the many clever spiked Traps leading up to the Gate but she didn't want to risk it getting too close.

It was never good when Walkers got too close.

Her parents had thought that they had enough space between the white SUV and the Walkers while they worked. They had thought wrong. Before any of them could react, before she could finish warning her father, it was all over. The Dead had grabbed them and although they struggled, they fought, they were brought down, torn apart screaming for her to get in the truck, not to look, to cover her ears…

"Enid?"

Carl's voice had her walking back to Alexandria's Gate, to the 4 people staring incredulously at her. While Carl was talking with (getting lectured by…) his parents (Rick: biological father, Michonne: 2nd wife-stepmother) and a Biker with Biceps (Daryl: slightly younger brother to the father, likely not by blood but still…), without turning around, she had thrown her mother's dagger over her shoulder, sending the slowly approaching male Walker crashing to the pavement with a loud squishing thud. Squishing was a common sound with The Dead. It was in their steps, their growls, and the way they bit and Devoured everything and one.

Chompers would eat anything that moved, breathed, and bled.

The bigger and louder, the better.

Covering her ears in the SUV hadn't helped. She had opened her eyes to blood all over the windows. She could still see the blonde male Walker finishing off her father's body, gobbling up his organs like a bear harvesting fresh honey. The Dead had ruined everything. The Dead had literally ripped her world apart. Her Mommy and Daddy…her family… gone forever…she didn't want to ruin Carl's family…

That wouldn't be right.

"Look, if our little Deal is gonna cause trouble with your family, I can just go. I'll be fine."

"No."

"Carl, seriously, I can go. I'll be fine."

"I said no."

"Carl…"

"No."

"What Deal are you talking about?"

"I've been on the business end of bad Groups and Communities, sir. I still have the scars inside and out. Your son says that this place isn't like that but I want a week to see for myself. If I want to leave, I can but…"

"This isn't about you, Enid. Not really. Dad, it's only for a week and if anything goes wrong, I'll deal with her and take the heat for it, all right? She obviously needs help. Look at her!"

"Gee thanks, Cowboy!"

"…I-I didn't mean it like that…"

"Nah, I know that I look and smell like bloody diarrhea. It's okay. Question: by deal with me, do you mean kill me?"

"I don't want to."

"But, you would if it came to it? You would take me down and Put Me Down?"

"I would."

"Cool."

"Cool? How the fuck is that cool?"

She couldn't help but smirk at his tone and the look on his face.

Being the volatile woman she was, Enid was no stranger to people giving her the 'what the hell is wrong with you?' look and tone at least once a day. It never failed to amuse her. Throwing people off was a lot of fun but only outside of critical situations. She was completely serious in critical situations because they were nothing to fuck around with.

Fucking around at the wrong time was how people died.

"It's cool because you didn't bullshit me just now. You could've. Most people would've. I like your honesty and the fact that you'll go that far to protect your People. That's really nice."

She was peeking at the trio of Gatekeepers from over his shoulder so Carl had to turn his head to talk with her. Her left arm was draped over his chest and her hand rested on his right shoulder, leaving a perfect handprint on his jacket. The whole back of his jacket was stained. She hadn't rinsed all of the mud, blood, sweat, and Walker fluids off of her body in over a month. She hadn't felt the need plus it was good camouflage. Enid appreciated that Carl didn't hesitate to touch her or to let her touch him despite her rank smell and honestly disturbing appearance overall.

Some Humans were still so prissy about dirt, blood and ichor, which amazed her.

Of all the things to fret over and be squeamish about…really? Truly?

How did they even Survive out there?

Most of them probably didn't.

Enid resisted the urge to brush some of Carl's wavy mahogany locks out of his eyes and away from his Scars. She understood why he didn't want to show them fully. His scars were vivid and while they were beautiful to her, she knew that Carl saw them differently. He had a bad case of Phantom of the Opera syndrome about them and that made her feel very sad inside. Feeling uncomfortable in one's skin was the worst. He was a Survivor, a Warrior, and insecurity shouldn't detract from that, especially since he was still lovely overall.

Quite frankly, he was smoking fucking hot.

He was like a Disney Prince and one of those glossy magazine models combined, only better.

Carl was real and raw, beautifully flawed but he couldn't see that.

She wished that he could.

She wished that he felt better about himself.

It certainly didn't help Carl's self esteem that those closest to him treated him like he was a bundle of childish broken glass instead of the capable man he was. Of course, Enid had just met him that afternoon. His Group, his Family had known him for much longer than her, some his whole life, and remembered him Before the Injury.

They were terrified of losing him, felt guilty about his Injury, and acted in accordance. Enid couldn't help but feel envious at the fact that so many people gave a shit about Carl Grimes but she was annoyed on his behalf at their coddling.

His Scars were as old as hers, almost 4 years so he had to be chafing underneath it all. That was why he went out by himself. He needed a break. He needed to be able to think in peace.

Well, that and feeling confined sucked. Sometimes, a person had to be free, even if was risky.

They couldn't Forget. Forgetting was the first step to complacency and that was bad.

Complacency got people killed just as much as denial, idiocy, recklessness and bullshit did.

It had been like that in the Beforetime and was especially true nowadays.

Enid would go in the woods with Carl next time. Judging by the resignation coating the lecturing words, it would be soon. He would probably let her. Once they were together, she could show him some of her favorite places. He probably knew of them already but it could still be fun.

Did he like to run? Would he like running with her?

Running always made her feel better so maybe…

The Gate slid open slowly and Enid surrendered her weapons to Rick Grimes once they were safely inside. She also nudged her duffel bag towards him with her foot. Not only was he Carl's father, he was Alexandria's LEADER. He was the Head Honcho and she knew that he'd want to see what she was carrying. It was mainly clothes but she had other items in her bag.

She had a dozen road maps, all of her comic book collection (mostly MARVEL based), her clarinet, her stuffed cat (Chairman Meow), toothpaste, 2 toothbrushes, a silenced Glock 19 with two clips of ammunition, tampons and pads, half a bottle of cinnamon mouthwash, sharpening stones for her blades, her red Chucks, a mesh bag of soap pieces, her dad's Zippo lighter, flint, a D battery, 2 books of matches, and steel wool for fires, two large tin cans (one used for cooking, the other for purifying water), assorted utensils, stackable plastic bangles, the 'Back to School' binder from the store, and her Idea Book with 6 ink pens.

Her Idea Book was a large black leather journal that buckled shut. Its thick pages held everything from memories of her parents to ideas for trapping or distracting Chompers. Other than her parents' Items, tangs, Chairman Meow, and clarinet, it was her most valued possession. Her Idea Book was also a journal and she hoped that it wouldn't be confiscated for too long.

She had some serious writing to do.

"How many Walkers have you killed?"

So, she had been right earlier. Carl's 3 questions were 3 Questions. They were a way of seeing who could be brought into the fold. It was a solid strategy. It was far from foolproof because even if the 3 Answers were correct, people could still turn out to be assholes in the end but it was certainly better than nothing. These Alexandrians were smart. Again, she responded promptly and honestly. The sun had been on its final descent when she and Carl got to the Gate and now, it was dusk. She was hungry, tired and damn, did she reek…wow

Enid hadn't the time to dwell on her appearance before but now, she desperately wanted a soapy shower before finding someplace solid to sleep for a day. It didn't even have to be a bed. She just wanted someplace warm and easy to defend…and a blanket. An actual blanket to wrap up in would be nice. She used to have two blankets but she had to cut them up for bandages after her Injury.

"Lots. Not enough."

"How many people have you killed?"

"10."

"Why?"

"Because they hurt me, they hurt other people, or they were planning to do so. Mr. Grimes, just because we live in a messed up New World where The Dead Rise, Bite and Walk doesn't mean that we can't still be kind and good to each other. You shouldn't go around hurting and killing people all willy-nilly. They have to deserve it. You have to have a good reason."

"…you can stay for a week and if things work out, longer. Carl, she's your responsibility."

"Don't worry, sir. I'm completely housebroken, I don't have fleas and I don't bite unless I have to…or if someone asks me nicely."

Enid was reassured by the smirk on Daryl's face and Michonne's soft huff of laughter, matched by her stepson's.

Rick Grimes looked less than impressed by her wit but that was okay.

A Joke still counted as a Joke if at least one person laughed.

/

"She's pretty."

"I didn't bring Enid back with me just because she's pretty, Michonne!"

"When did I say that you did?"

"…sorry…I just…I get it. You guys want me to be safe and you want to make sure that I'm not being stupid but this? This is ridiculous! All right, I got shot in the face and almost died again. It sucked but it's almost 4 years since it happened. I'm still here and I'm not an idiot. I can take of myself. I don't need to be coddled and I would never endanger this Community or our Family thinking with my dick. I wouldn't!"

"I believe you, Carl."

"…do you really?"

"Yes. Don't be too long. It's spaghetti night and Judith wants her Best Big Brother to play Makeover Beauty Salon with her like he pinky promised before he went out on his latest Adventure. She held out until noon before telling us you were gone, by the way."

"Jude's getting sneakier and stronger. I'm proud and scared at the same time…she's gonna french braid my hair again, isn't she?"

"Yep. Rosita taught her new patterns and Glenn brought her some new pink glitter ribbons to go in it. You're gonna look too damn gorgeous!"

"Shit."

"You wouldn't have to worry about it if you'd let someone give you a haircut, Carl-punzel…"

Carl chuckled as his stepmother ruffled his hair before gently batting her hands away. The length of his hair was a running Joke between them and everyone else. He wasn't cutting it anytime soon, though. Not if he had a choice in the matter.

The last real haircut he had been given was from his biological mother Lori at the Quarry Lake. He had complained bitterly at the time but after she passed away, keeping his hair had become part of remembering her. Plus, his long hair made it easier to deal with his Scars. There was no hiding them under makeup (not that he'd ever use it) and no plastic surgery to correct them. The scars would be on his face for the rest of his life but his hair served as a distraction.

"I'm surprised that my dad didn't fight me harder on this. You think his age is finally catching up to him? Should we start building a nursing home and bringing back Bengay? Prune juice?"

"No, he's still quite a bundle of energy."

"Ew."

"I wasn't talking about that."

"Sure, you weren't…"

"Well…"

"Gross!"

"Depends on your point of view, my friend."

"My point of view says that you and my dad doing naked things is and will forever be gross. Good but gross…"

Another source of humor between them was Michonne's intimate relationship with his father. Carl still remembered how hostile and mistrusting his father had been when she first joined them at the Prison. Now, Rick Grimes was utterly besotted with her. He was rightfully besotted because Michonne was fucking awesome (he had seen it first!) but it was still hilarious to think about their origins. What a difference time and multiple sources of endured mayhem could make.

Their relationship, Glenn and Maggie's relationship, Abraham and Sasha's relationship, showed everyone that not all changes could be bad in the Fucked New World. The pairings were a source of hope and reassurance. The Dead Rose, Bit and Walked. Most humans were out to destroy you and yours but happiness was still possible. Deep friendships, strong families and true love were all still possible as long as one was willing to keep their mind open and to be brave about the matter.

"I think the reason that he didn't fight you on letting Enid stay, other than the fact that we still Recruit, is that if he said no, he knows that you would've just found a way to sneak her in."

"She's just like we were when we were trying to bring Noah home, when we were all in the Barn…we needed this Place. Enid needs this Place, even just for a few days. She was all alone out there, Michonne. You know better than anyone how dangerous that can be after a while…"

"Yeah... make sure she's settled in and then you come straight home, all right? I won't stop Daryl from eating your plate if you don't."

"Yes, ma'am."

Michonne ducked underneath the garage door and Carl ascended the spiral stairs to the living space. The garage was 150 steps from the Gate. The living space above was used as Trial housing for solo recruits. One bedroom, a bathroom that was taken up mostly by a claw foot tub (there was a shower stall, too but it was tiny), a laundry room, and a kitchen. The house that had been in front of it had been destroyed by the SuperHerd so after salvaging anything useful, it was knocked down and used for building materials.

"Enid?"

"I'm in the laundry roomholy shit, I'm actually in a laundry room…"

Carl slid the door open and once again, blushed. Enid had wasted no time in getting cleaned up. Without her boots, she was actually 4 inches shorter than him. Her skin was a shade lighter than his and her chestnut hair was longer than his, bone straight rather than wavy. It fell to the tops of her…he looked away quickly, shifting on his feet uncomfortably. Enid being pretty wasn't the sole reason that he had brought her back to Alexandria with him but Carl wasn't blind. She was...

"Don't worry, Hoss. I've covered up all of my fun parts and I already told you that I don't mind if you look at me. Do you like my new robe? The nice lady with the glasses from the Pantry brought it with my welcome basket. Her name is Olivia, right? I didn't hear her wrong?"

"Yeah."

"I gotta get her a thank you gift. What do you know about her?"

"She cures meats, pickles vegetables, shoots a Glock .22, has the best bitch slap, and loves cats."

"Cats are majestic creatures. Do you think she'd like a cat to cure or would that be too much?"

"Probably too much."

"Yeah, you're right. Cats are a bitch to trap and they taste like shit, anyways. There's enough meat on them but it's all gummy and tough, no matter how long you cook it. At least with turtle or tortoise, you get some nice flavor, raw and cooked. The meat's kind of like avocado, guacamole if you've got some hot sauce or horseradish handy. Open the dryer for me, please? My clothes are done."

Carl nodded and opened the yellow front loader, impressed at how clean everything was. Some of the pieces looked brand new. She sat down next to him and started folding. Instead of blood and death, Enid smelled like the same lavender shampoo every Alexandrian used (courtesy of Dr. Denise Cloyd) and soap, blue Dial if he remembered correctly.

"My Mommy taught me how to do laundry like a pro. Her family owned a dry cleaning franchise and she could get stains out of anything. Daddy used to call her 'the Stain Nazi'…"

"What happened to them?"

"The Chompers got them. Our white SUV broke down and I said…we should've just left it behind. We were only a few miles from DC. We could've found another car or a building to hunker down in but Dad insisted that he could fix it. He used to work on the Assembly Line at Chrysler so Mom decided to let him try…"

"Chrysler?"

"I'm from Southeastern Michigan. Novi, Michigan…it was about a half hour outside of Detroit. Good schools, family friendly, even with all the Urban Sprawl. It was full of mostly white upper middle class and a few uber rich people who thought that living in Bloomfield Hills or Birmingham would be too pretentious... anyway, Mom and Dad were trying to find Circuit 27 while I kept Watch and…I tried to tell them that we had to go. I tried to warn them that They were coming but…it happened so fast. By the time they could get out from under the car…"

"It was over."

"…yeah…they got torn open and pulled apart like mozzarella sticksI didn't even get to bury them afterwards. I didn't have a shovel and there wasn't enough of them left."

"I'm sorry, Enid."

"I'm not the first nor will I be the last person to be orphaned by Walkers, Carl. People will always die. You know that. It was like that in the Beforetime, too."

"That doesn't mean that losing people doesn't hurt, especially a parent."

"Yeah and you know, once people dying on you stops hurting or you start to crave killing, you've got some serious mental problems. It's only natural to have some nowadays. Shit, The Dead Rise, Bite, and Walk. How can you not have problems? But, when they get that serious, you gotta get help and support before you end up as dead and rotten inside as a Chomper. I've seen it happen. I've seen people, good and bad, shatter into a million pieces. It's horrible. It always sucks when your mind decides to kick your ass because it fights dirty. It pulls hair, gauges eyes out and throws throat punches. It's very mean."

"It is. I know. I've seen and felt it too."

"You've come back from the brink, though. You're still standing tall today."

"Barely."

"Barely still counts as a win."

"…yeah."

"You should go home. You've got spaghetti and glitter ribbons waiting for you. I'll be fine."

"Are you sure?"

"I'm sure. Make tracks. Oh, and Carl?"

"Hmm?"

"Thanks for sticking up for me and for yourself down there."

/

5 Days Later…

"…so, why the uniforms?"

"Why do you think?"

"Enid…"

"I'm not gonna make it easy for you, Sport. Come on, you've gotta have an idea. Is it…dir-ty?"

"Uh, no. I left those ideas to Eugene."

"Ick! Don't get me wrong, I like Eugene and his Mullet of Righteousness already but him thinking naughty thoughts about me makes me feel queasy...and more than a little stabby. Where's he at right now?"

"Don't worry, Rosita and Tara already smacked the shit out of him for it. It was hilarious."

"More thank you gifts to get. What do they like?"

"Rosita likes machetes, jewelry, Sketti Rings, bullets, and Daryl. Tara likes shotguns, orange soda, sour candy, sunglasses, and Denise."

"Good to know…the uniforms started as me being practical. I was holed up in a clothing store after my parents…anyway, it was doing a Back to School special before The End and most of their Inventory was in my size. What wasn't, I altered or eventually shrank to fit. After a while, they became my Thing, my special trademark. Everyone should have a special trademark of some kind, good or bad. That way, they'll be easier to remember when they're gone. Your stepmom has her Katana, Eugene has his Mullet, Abraham's Abraham and a Big Red Mess, you've got your Hat, and I have my Uniforms. They're a source of mental stability plus they're solid strategy. If you're out there and an arrogant shithead, would you really expect a doe eyed wimpy wittle schoolgirl to know how to Survive all by her lonesome, even with the kickass pointy weapons?"

"Nope. Well, I would but the arrogant shithead…"

"…not so much. Assholes thought I was easy pickings but I sure showed them. I slaughtered Walkers, hunted my own food, purified water, built shelters, picked locks, untied knots, hotwired cars, hopped fences, lit fires, promised to chop off both balls and the bat…"

"So, you enjoyed all the usual wholesome and completely sane activities?"

"Every last one of them. I made it out there, Carl. Despite the odds, I made it on my own for a long time before I ran into you. Orphaned by Walkers with no good Groups, no good Communities...I did it. I Survived so I'm not weak. People think I'm weak and stupid. People underestimate and write me off all of the time but it's cool. I don't care."

"You're lying."

"I don't care, Carl. I don't give a fuck."

"E-nid."

"…okay, I do care and I give a lot of fucks. It's unfair and annoying to be dismissed on sight but I always prove myself so it all balances out in the end."

"Things always do. It's the Law of Averages."

"The what?"

"The Law of Averages: after enough bad things happen, good things have to follow them. It's about enduring the bad things to get to the good. The worst things you endure now, the better the good things are later."

"That sounds like some New Age, hippie-dippie, self sacrificing bullshit."

"It does but it works. You know, you really didn't have to stay up here with me for the rest of my Watch. You should've gotten some sleep…"

"I'll sleep when I'm twice dead and I'm supposed to stick close to you whenever I'm outside, remember? We had a Deal. I'm your Responsibility so if I'm seen all alone and out of bounds…"

"Enid, you're not going to do something to hurt anyone or thing here. Nobody's pissed you off or tried to hurt you and if you felt the need to fuck some shit up, you would've done it already and been long gone by now."

"How dare you understand me so quickly! The nerve of you, Carl Grimes!"

"I'm sorry."

"Really?"

"Nope."

It was nice to laugh with someone again. It was nice to able to have banter and to be able to talk about things, even the sad ugly things. Flying solo had been a Catch 22. She was safer alone, less likely to get hurt or fucked over. However, she was so lonely that sometimes, she was tempted to head towards where there would be someone, a Group, a Community, anyone. Yet, if she did, she risked getting hurt and fucked over again, which would be bad, very bad but she was so lonely…such a conundrum!

She didn't miss that conundrum at all.

If she had a choice, she would never have that conundrum again.

Enid had decided to stay in Alexandria well beyond the Week Deal.

She would stay until she was kicked out or it Fell and they all had to make a run for it.

She liked Alexandria and its people so she would stay, put down roots, and when necessary, fight to defend it.

Everyone knew that except for Carl but she'd make it clear soon.

Anyway, it had been a very long time since she had an actual friend, not to mention a huge crush. Enid had no intention of leaving Alexandria behind without fully exploring things with Carl Grimes at least twice. She would say once but sometimes, shit went down and people needed to separate for a while before reuniting to be better than ever. Sometimes, that actually needed to happen.

Enid wanted to know exactly what kind of connection she had with Carl and enjoy it, enjoy him for as long as she could. She wasn't going to let fear or insecurity hold her back.

Life was much too short and fragile for those kinds of regrets.

Enid had unpacked her duffel and brought out her full comic book collection. They were arranged in order, by hero, by Era on the low shelves to the left of her bed. Alexandria had slowed in Recruiting so the garage was her living space for the foreseeable future. ASZ still let people in but it had to be a dire situation.

She had been in dire straits.

Physically, she was sound but she had been the verge of a different sort of mental breakdown, a breakdown that she would've never come back from by herself.

She knew that. Carl knew that and she was pretty sure that at least one more Grimes knew it, most likely Michonne. Not to say that Rick was unobservant but the LEADER had made it clear that he was less than pleased with Carl for bringing her back with him. That could close his mind to the idea of getting to know her, of seeing and trying to understand her. He didn't like her…or maybe it wasn't really about her at all. Maybe there were some deeper father/son issues in play and she was just the latest Round of their ongoing struggle. Carl had implied that at the Gate so…well, she would make sure that the Grimes Boys would play nice one way or the other.

It would be the next Big Idea after her current projects.

Someone had to try and broker lasting peace between them before it was too late.

Enid would give anything to have her Daddy back, to have both Liam and Madeline Mackenzie back. She wouldn't let Carl break from his father, even if Rick was being a big irrational overprotective Angry Goat about his son's affairs. That was the root Issue. Rick desperately wanted to protect Carl from everything and everyone. He needed to make sure his son would be okay.

Carl still wanted and needed Rick's protection. He also wanted the independence and respect he had earned as an adult, as a longtime Survivor of The Fucked New World. He was a grown man, after all and he had proven himself many times.

Both Grimes Boys were right, both Grimes Boys were wrong, and neither of them were willing to compromise so they butted heads on a regular basis.

Father and son were cut from the same cloth whether they liked it or not.

Enid was sure that they liked it but they were being stubborn Angry Goats about it all.

Angry Daddy Goat and Angry Baby Goat…it was completely adorable and completely fucking stupid at the same time.

It was quite the conundrum but still a solvable one if someone could just get both men to talk and actually listen to each other. Somebody had to put their foot down. Someone had to make the Angry Goats graze together in harmony. Someone had to stop the petty madness.

Enid would be that someone with help from Michonne.

If anyone could help her pull the near impossible mission off, it was her.

Michonne knew the Grimes Boys best. It only made sense since they happily belonged to her.

Enid didn't blame them for it because Michonne Avery-Grimes was made entirely of awesome.

If Enid actually managed to make it to her 30s, she wanted to be just like her.

Actually, all of the Ladies of Carl's Family were made of awesome and worth emulating.

Angry Goat metaphors aside, at least Rick still gave a fuck about Carl and Judith. No one could dispute that. Rick loved his kids, his wife, and everyone in his Family, in Alexandria with his whole heart, his whole soul. It was a beautiful thing to see and it showed real strength, real bravery. Not everyone had it, anymore.

Enid had seen parents just outright abandon their children when it all hit the fan. Spouses abandon spouses, children abandon parents, Groups abandon their injured members without even blinking…some of the absolute worst things she had seen in the Fucked New World involved those scenarios…

"What do I need to do to work in The Forgery?"

"You want to?"

"Hell yeah. That and join the Runner Crews. I love math and science. I can take the heat and I've got a ton of ideas for Walker Traps and weapons. I can fight, I can ride a horse, a bike, and a motorcycle. I can drive and hotwire cars. When I'm out scavenging, I always bring good shit back. I know the areas North and Northeast of here well and really, if I can keep my half crazed nihilistic ass intact out there, then making sure that other people make it back safe is a no brainer. Who do I talk to about getting in the mix?"

"You…you're really gonna stay? You want to stay here with m…with us?"

She nodded and Carl grinned, looking as if Christmas and his birthday had come early.

He had a gorgeous smile. Carl smiled with his whole face and his whole body.

His smiles needed to be seen more often.

She would make sure that they would be seen more often.

"I know our Deal said a week but like I know evil when I hear and see it with people, I can sense it with Groups and Communities, too. This Place is a good Place and I want to stay here as long as I can. I need to pull my weight and those are the best ways that I can think of. Who do I talk to?"

"There's a Council meeting at the Monroe's every two weeks. My dad, Michonne, Daryl, Glenn, Maggie, and Spencer run them so you can ask about joining a Run or sharing a plan then. See what you can do. If you're serious about Forging, I'll vouch for you with Abraham, Eugene, and Scott. They've been saying that I need to train an Apprentice. 4 Smiths are better than 3."

"So, what? You're gonna be Master Yoda and I'll be Luke Skywalker?"

"Something like that…"

"Okay, but I'm not carrying you through a swamp on my back unless you're mortally injured, Hoss. Let's get that straight here and now, all right? It'd be weird."

"Yeah, that would be weird…my Relief's coming."

"Yay. You scheduled to do anything other than Watch today?"

"Not that I know of. Why?"

"Can you follow me? I need your help with something."

"Okay."

/

Something was up with Enid.

She had asked him to wait downstairs for a couple of minutes but that had turned to 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 20 minutes…he could hear her moving around upstairs. He had heard water running, drawers opening and closing…what was she doing up there? Did she still need his help? Should he call for her? Should he leave? Should he go up there? What the fuck was she doing?

Did he even want to know?

A sinking feeling filled him at the idea that she was about to ambush him. Sitting in this garage was beginning to remind him of being in the Anderson House's garage and that was not good. He remembered following after Ron, trying to reassure him that they would make it and getting a shovel to the throat in return. Before the shovel, he had pulled a gun on him, determined to kill him and everyone in the house before the SuperHerd could do it. Was Enid about to attack him like Ron had? Was she about to snap like Ron? God, he hoped not!

Enid was a good person, a strong person, a Survivor. She was his friend, goddamn it! She was the first friend his age he had since Sophia Peletier had passed away. Everyone had been older or younger than him at the Prison, Ron certainly didn't count, and Michael "Mikey" Norton had been one of the many casualties of The Wolves' attack so Enid…the absolute last thing Carl wanted to do was to have to Exile or kill her. It would be a tragedy.

She was the last living member of her family. She was 'The Last Mackenzie' as she so sadly put it and she was like him. She actually understood and could put into words the grim feelings always buzzing in his mind, burning in his Guts. She got it. She got him and he was starting to understand parts of her, too.

He didn't feel like damaged goods when he was around her. He felt human. Other than Michonne and Judith, Enid was the one person who immediately saw his humanity underneath all his Scars and demons.

It had been less than a week since they met but it was the God's honest truth, logic be damned!

He didn't want to lose her to The World's bullshit or to her own demons.

Carl didn't want to have to explain what happened to the adults, especially his father, if he had to subdue or kill her. He shouldn't have to explain and he certainly didn't want to see the Look again. The 'poor wee lamb, we must protect him from absolutely everything' Look that had become a constant since his Injury…damn that Look. Damn that Look to fucking Hell and back!

20 minutes became 28 and he finally lost his patience with her.

One way or the other, he had to know what was going on.

"Enid?"

"You can come up now."

After setting his AK-47 on the counter, Carl stood up and reluctantly unsheathed his Bowie knife. He had meant what he said at the Gate. As much as it would hurt him to do it, if Enid had to be taken down, she'd go down. Nothing mattered more to him than the safety of his Family. If Enid was a danger to Alexandria or himself, them she was a danger to his Family.

He had to protect them at all costs.

Getting to the end of the hallway, he saw that her bedroom door was pulled ajar. Looking through, he could see that the blinds were down and the purple curtains were drawn shut in front. Normally, she left the blinds half down and the curtains open. Did she have a headache? Sometimes, when he had a headache, light hurt like a bitch and he needed darkness.

Carl could also smell beeswax in the air. She had lit some candles. Why would she do that? It was early morning and sunny outside. She didn't need candle or lantern light yet. There was plenty of daylight. She also had a desk lamp if she wanted to read…

"Enid?"

"Come in, Carl."

Using his free hand, he pushed the door open and froze, his knife clattering to the floor.

Enid chuckled and shook her head, bringing the sheet around her body closer.

Swallowing dryly, Carl looked away from her and focused on the rocking chair by the window. In front of it were her boots, her knee pads draped over the right arm. The red tie was over the back, along with the matching socks. Her black hooded cardigan was on the seat, the embroidered red and white crest showing but the lettering long gone. Her red and black plaid skirt was draped over the left arm. Her white shirt had slid between the slats, along with her shorts, black as usual.

On the floor next to the bed she sat in were cotton and lace pink panties. The matching bra was on the nightstand next to her knife and Glock 19. Looking back at her, he saw that her hair was draped over one shoulder, a bare shoulder.

Her expression was once again full of understanding.

"You thought that I was gonna hurt you."

"You…you were b-being weird…"

"Not weird… maybe I should try using my words…"

"That would be best. Y-you're naked andEnid, why are you naked?"

"I'm not naked. I'm in a sheet."

"Enid, why are you in a sheet?"

"Why do you think?"

"I…I-I'm not..."

"Come here."

"What?"

"Pick up your knife, close the door, and come here. Come lay down. There's plenty of room."

The bed was Queen sized and the bedding was various shades of green reminding him of her eyes. Her bright green eyes had riveted him during their first meeting, so wide and full of the same hurt he had in his. Obeying her, Carl collected his knife, closed the door snugly, and removed his boots. He didn't want to mess up her sheets or accidentally hurt her with them.

Looking at her now, Carl was struck by just how tiny Enid was.

She was tall and lithe. She could kick his ass twice yet there was a delicacy to her, a softness about her that called to him. He wanted to protect her. He wanted to make her happy. He wanted to wrap his arms around her, his whole self around her and hold on tight. Enid looked like home. She looked like warm blissful solace, especially with candlelight flickering over her creamy skin.

The mattress squeaked quietly as he lay down on his back and a new smile curved her lips upwards. It was tender yet triumphant. Enid had wanted this, planned it carefully. She put thought into the situation they were in and Carl watched her closely, waiting for her next move.

Enid moved onto her side and the sheet slipped down in the front. It wasn't enough to fully expose her but Carl could see a hint of dusky pink areoles, along with tiny clusters of freckles. He wanted to find more of them. Were they just on her shoulders or were they everywhere? The sheet was taut over her left hip and he could see the outline of her Scars. What did they feel like?

They had been Injured at almost the same time, about a month apart by Enid's estimate. If he touched them, would they feel familiar? She hadn't had access to a doctor, a surgeon when her Injury happened. She had to heal on her own. How had she done it? What had she used? She was so much smaller than him, softer than him. Her hand could fit in his with room to spare and he could easily lock his fingers if he grabbed her around the middle. He wanted to learn everything he could about her…

"Have you ever kissed someone before, Carl?"

"No."

"Have you ever made love to someone before?"

"…no."

"How come?"

"I…well, it just didn't seem to be important, you know? I didn't have time for stuff like that. Enid, I had just turned 12 when everything went to hell and Dad was already in a coma before that. I told you what happened. I had to be the Man of the House, even after Shane got us out of King's County. After Dad found us and Shane lost his shit, I had to learn how to Survive for my mother and for Jude. I had to learn how to take care of the Group, be an asset instead of just another Dead Kid and…there wasn't anyone I wanted to kiss or touch or let touch me. I mean, I've had crushes on people before. Sophia, Beth, Mika, even Sasha for a while but I've never…I've never wanted to do anything with those type of feelings until I met you. I just want…"

He cut himself off and looked stubbornly at the nightstand. What he wanted wasn't logical or rational. What he wanted felt right but saying it out loud frightened him. Carl wasn't used to feeling vulnerable anymore. Enid made him feel vulnerable. Her understanding him as she did made him vulnerable and the years had proved that being vulnerable usually led to disaster and…

His Hat was gently removed and placed on the mattress.

Cool fingertips went to his cheek and gently but firmly turned his head.

Enid wasn't going to let him hide from her.

"…tell me what you want. It's okay."

Carl closed his eyes and immediately a series of images began to run through his mind.

He and Enid in the forest, running and playing. Enid walking and sometimes skipping around Alexandria in the way only she could do. He and Enid taking Night Watch talking and shooting the shit while keeping a close eye out for anyone or thing that would start some mayhem. He and Enid fighting side by side, back to back against a horde of Walkers or a Group of assholes in their Home, their Community. He and Enid arguing but making up in the end, working things out and growing closer together. Enid lying next to him asleep, her cheek resting where his heart pounded.

He and Enid in the Forgery, pounding metal and dancing to whatever music that was playing, typically some genre of rock if he was the Shift's DJ. He and Enid cooking, cleaning or doing laundry together. Enid writing and drawing in her Idea Book. Him making her a blade or a pair of earrings. Enid teaching him how to do critical things with his left hand in case something bad ever happened to his right one. Him helping her improve her shooting with pistols and with rifles. Him carrying her piggyback, either for fun or because her ankles were giving her trouble.

Him bringing Enid herbal tea while she recovered from a cold, giggling and dodging his kisses in a vain attempt to keep him from getting it, too. Enid smiling at him. Enid laughing with or at him, either her soft giggle or her full on mad cackling, wheezing and snorting towards the end. Enid calling him a laundry list of nicknames fondly and less than fondly.

Enid in all her Uniforms, Enid in her pajamas, Enid in a sheet, bare Enid, Enid in his clothes, Enid with his Hat on her head…or both of them placing it securely on a smiling Judith's head while he and Enid ate a big Sunday Dinner with their whole family.

Her sitting right next to him, only Judith allowed to come between them as they passed dishes back and forth, laughing and bantering with everyone. They were safe and happy at the long table. Enid just being around and in the mix, being a core part of "Team Family" as Tara referred to their Group on more than one occasion.

Enid in a flowy white dress with lavender in her hair, walking herself down the aisle to him.

Enid swollen, radiant and round with their baby…Enid nursing their baby, their babies.

Silver haired Enid in his arms, sitting next to him on a porch, maybe in Alexandria or someplace else safe…

"A Life. I…I want a Life with you, Enid. Whether we're friends or something more, I want you with me, with my Family for as long as we have left. I want my family to be your family, too. I know that we're young and I haven't known you for a week but that's what I-."

Her lips cut him off.

/

Enid had wanted to kiss and strip Carl Grimes bare from the moment he knelt before her.

That was the God's honest truth and she did not feel an ounce of shame about the matter.

He had removed his weapons, his 10 gallon Hat, and had gotten on his knees for her without a hint of condescension or fear. He wasn't playing a Game. All he wanted to do was put her at ease and that had amazed her. He was the one with the tactical advantage. He was the one with the physical advantage. Other male survivors she had dealt with in her travels had wanted to intimidate her, hurt her, and do their best to make her submit to whatever whims they had.

9 times out of 10, the whims were of a sexual nature.

Just about everybody had a naughty little schoolgirl fantasy.

Her quick and icy rejections usually led to violence afterwards but she didn't mind the violence.

Enid was no stranger to pain anymore and she could take the pain as well as she dished it out.

It was better to limp away battered and bruised. It was better to go down swinging than to spend the rest of one's life as someone's victim. She had seen what happened to victims in the Fucked New World. Enid would rather die and Turn than live like that forever.

Anyway, she had expected to have to fight or flee from Carl in the woods but it hadn't gone down like that. Instead, she had found someone who had managed to become a Survivor without losing all of their humanity or tenderness. And he had some serious balls on him! Carl hadn't flinched when she explored his face and neck with his knife. She could've easily killed him but he showed no fear at all.

It impressed her.

It also horrified her.

What had he been through to make him so calm in the face of potential death? Who had he dealt with? Had someone, more than one someone tried to kill or harm him so many times that he just didn't care anymore?

Was he too far gone?

Thankfully, that wasn't the case. When she first traced his Scars with her fingertips, his calm had faltered. He looked so happy to be touched, to be seen without pity. Enid was grimly lucky with her Scars. Hers could be hidden underneath pants, a skirt, even a pair of tights when she could find some. Carl's were right there, even with his unfairly amazing Disney Princess hair and his Hat. Every time he looked in a mirror, looked in any sort of reflective surface, there they were.

He couldn't really hide them.

He shouldn't feel the need to hide them.

They were beautiful.

He was beautiful, a kind and brilliant Warrior.

And she wanted a Life with him, too.

Starting right now…

Cupping his face, Enid pressed smaller kisses to his trembling lips, tugging gently at his lower one with her teeth. His magenta lips were luscious and delicious against hers. They reminded her of cotton candy but so much better. She could feel him slowly grinding against her tummy. The growing heat of him was apparent even through his jeans. Slowly, she met his grinding halfway and whimpered as his hands went to her middle, engulfing it fully. Like at the Gate, she draped her arm over his chest and her fingertips dug into his shoulder as his lips suckled at her neck.

Her head fell back and she moaned as the sheet around her began to slip lower. Cool air touched her budded nipples and both of them groaned as they made contact with his chest. His t-shirt was beige and she wanted it off. She wanted his gray flannel shirt off, his jeans off, his mismatched socks off...did he do the mismatch on purpose or was it laundry day? She'd ask him later…

"What do you want, Enid? Tell me."

"You."

"What parts of me?"

"I want whatever parts that you feel comfortable sharing with me."

The flat of his tongue followed the cord of her neck and he sat them up, putting her firmly on his lap. Enid spread her knees as much as the sheet would let her and shivered as he cupped her bare breasts. His calloused thumbs rubbed her upturned nipples and her hips twitched at the hot sensations. She felt like she was burning from the inside out. She needed more. She wanted to feel his skin against hers. Gently batting his hands away, she reached and removed his gray flannel, dropping it to the floor. Sliding her hands underneath his shirt, Enid delighted in the shiver that went through him as she slowly moved it upwards. Carl raised his arms and after the shirt was off, he gently but firmly pushed her to the mattress. He stood up and looked at her like he was memorizing her. Carl always looked at her like that, especially when she spoke to him.

Was she already that important to him?

The idea of being that important to him was exhilarating and terrifying at the same time.

"Don't move, Enid."

"Don't move? Are you serious?"

"Completely. Don't move."

"What if I do it anyway? Are you gonna tie me down and gag me?"

The deadpan look he gave her in response made her pulse pick up and mouth go dry.

Unlike the last time she had been restrained, Enid was sure that she would like it if Carl did it.

Not during their first time, though…maybe next time and there would be a next time.

If she had a say, there would be hundreds of times between them.

Staying still, Enid watched as Carl began to take off the rest of his clothes. His knife sheath and belt were placed on the other nightstand. His jeans were unbuttoned, unzipped, removed, and kicked to where her boots were. She was pleased to see that he was muscled all over. He didn't have chicken legs or overworked pecs. He was built like the fighter, runner, the creator of weapons that he was. His skin looked soft to the touch and there was a trail of dark hair starting just underneath his navel that she wanted to follow with her fingertips. She could see scars and freckles and all sorts of areas that she wanted to explore on his body. She wanted to know the story behind every inch of him. She wanted to know what he felt like.

She needed to know what he felt like.

Enid grinned as Carl wrestled with his socks. She cracked up after batting the rolled up pair away from her face. He had thrown them at her with a grin. She couldn't help it. Nobody ever looked sexy while removing their plain socks, stockings and knee socks maybe but not plain socks.

The expression on his face before the grin had tickled her. She hadn't known that it was possible to look aroused and terrified all at once. It was absolutely adorable. Carl was completely adorable and she would be sure to tell him that soon. She could already hear him protesting heartily.

Enid had been tempted to push him over as he hopped from foot to foot, trying to get rid of his socks. She would definitely do it next time or find a way to tackle him. She owed him that. After all, Enid couldn't just let him get away with bossing her around, no matter how wet his commanding tone made her. Christ, did it make her wet! So wet…

Carl Grimes was a sweetheart but there was a dangerous edge to him that appealed greatly to her. He could take care of himself and his Family. Most importantly, Enid knew that he would be able to take care of her in a crisis. He'd be good backup. Enid was no whimpering Damsel in Distress. Oh, no. She was the Damsel causing all the Distress. She was the Damsel that made people run away screaming hysterically into the night from the Distress. Yet, having backup, having kind, competent and sexy backup after being all alone for so long was a very welcome change.

Holding her gaze, Carl pulled down his boxers and stepped out of them. After getting them out of the way, he reached forward and yanked the sheet away from her body.

/

Slowly, awareness returned to him.

Carl could still feel his body moving, still feel her softness around and against him. There was a sticky warm heat surrounding his softening cock and cooling heat against his thighs. His face was half hidden by the sweet curve of her breasts. His parted lips were inches from a puckered nipple and he licked it slowly before pressing kisses to the areole. Rising up on a shaking forearm, Carl looked down at her face.

Enid's eyes were shut and her kiss swollen mouth was panting. Her cheeks were flushed deep red, near scarlet and her hair was fanned out on the pillows. She was trembling a little and he lay flat, trying to warm her. Her fingers went into his hair and he sighed, leaning into the touch.

After getting the sheet out of the way, he had been all instinct. The world around him sped up and slowed down. It was like when he had to fight or flee for his life but in a better way. Carl had one thing on his mind, one purpose at that moment and it was Enid. He wanted to touch her, taste her, learn her, and feel her fully. Enid had spread her knees to receive him, showing all of her angelic body to him and he couldn't resist her. Not that she had wanted him to at the time.

"Come here, Carl…I want you closer…I want you on me…in me…fill me up, Carl…"

Shit, did she have a way with words...and her actions! Fucking Christ, her actions…

Enid Mackenzie was going to be the death of him and he would die happy!

She had pulled him down to her and wouldn't stop kissing him, touching him, licking him. She had grabbed a firm hold of his cock and refused to stop stroking, not that he had wanted her to. Vaguely, he remembered begging her not to stop as his hips surged. He remembered telling her that he was hers, all hers for as long as she wanted him. He remembered her brilliant grin and her soft joyful laughter.

Although she was the one on the bottom, Enid had taken full control of their first of hopefully many times.

She knew what she wanted to do, what they both needed to do, and she was going to make sure they got it done. Instead of fighting against her lead, Carl had let himself go completely. He surrendered to her. He let himself feel everything at once. Enid wouldn't hurt him. She wouldn't literally or figuratively stab him in the back. He was safe with her. He could be himself with her and he could give himself to her freely.

So he did.

The sex itself had been hot, fast, messy, and Carl was sure that he had gripped her hard enough to bruise but Enid hadn't stopped him. In fact, when he had tried to slow things down a little, she had made it very clear that she wouldn't have it. She had smacked his ass hard before gripping it tightly. The smack had hurt like a bitch at the time and still did. Enid was a lot stronger than she looked. It didn't burn anymore but there was a deep throb to the handprint. It was likely that the skin would bruise but Carl wasn't angry about it. The smack had turned him on further, gotten him off faster, and it was solid proof that this wasn't just a vivid dream.

It hadn't been a dream. He wasn't going to wake up.

It was real.

Enid had trusted him enough to let him see her naked, to let him be inside of her and…

"…I'm sorry…"

"Why?"

"I was…it was really fast and…you didn't…it's supposed to be good for you, too and you didn't…you know…"

"I didn't come. It's okay."

"The hell it is!"

"I didn't come but I still liked it because it was with you. How could I not like it?"

"But…"

"But nothingdidn't you feel how wet I was…how wet I still am?"

He could.

His body was already responding to her again, his cock pulsing with need. She was silky soft, molten hot, and oh so wet inside. He wanted her again and again and again…

Carl swallowed thickly and reluctantly withdrew from her. She may have liked their first time together but he wasn't happy with it. All right, he was. He had gotten off. He had lost his virginity and it had felt absolutely fucking amazing but his pleasure was only half of the equation. Sex was supposed to be an equal dialogue, give and take.

Enid deserved slower, better treatment so he needed to have some self control. He needed to think before doing. She wasn't some random girl for him to fuck and leave or fuck, roll over, and go to sleep right afterwards. Enid was special. Enid was his Partner now and real men took care of their Partners. Real men provided backup when they needed it, listened when they spoke, remembered the important things, and satisfied them fully in the bedroom.

With that in mind, Carl began to caress and kiss his new lover's body. He wanted to make her feel good. He loved her soft moans, giggles and sighs. He loved the way she wiggled and arched underneath him. Her skin was glowing. Her hair was tangled and fanned out over the pillows. Her half shut eyes were sparkling. Her smiling lips were parted. She was so sexy. She was so damned sexy. He couldn't help but want her.

Thankfully, Enid wanted him too.

There were more clusters of freckles decorating her torso, reminding him of the constellations that he gazed at on clear nights. Orion's Belt, Cassiopeia, Taurus, Pisces…

"You can touch them. It's okay."

"Are you sure?"

"Fair's fair. I touched yours…and I trust you."

With that, she gently guided his hand to her left thigh, to all of her Scars. They felt familiar yet unfamiliar. While the scarring looked similar, Enid's had a much rougher texture. Some of them felt like they were trying to stick to his fingertips. A portion of them had faded to white and softened but they were ropy pink overall, just like his. Carefully, he crossed her legs and she shifted onto her side again, offering the marred flesh for kisses.

Carl happily obliged her. He gave each scar slow, lingering kisses that made them both sigh and smile. Enid was beautiful. She was brave and strong and beautiful. He desperately wanted to make love to her again and he knew that she wanted more of him but he had to know what happened. Somebody had hurt her badly. Somebody had confined her, tortured her, and tried to clip her wings. Somebody had marred her, scarred her, and he wanted to know why. How could they do that to her? How could anyone hurt her?

"What happened, Enid? Who happened?"

"…the smaller scars are from a 10 blade scalpel and when I hopped the fence to escape. The big ones that look like ropes came from a cat o' nine tails. It was leather mostly but Wyatt had put thicker metal on the tips so he could heat it up longer."

"…why?"

"He hurt me because he was a crazy asshole who wanted a new Toy. I wouldn't give in."

"Did he...did he rape you?"

"No. He wanted to make me want it. He wanted to break me and make me beg for it like he had done to other women and girls. His Community Leader let him do whatever he wanted because he was the only doctor. He was a pediatric surgeon in the Beforetime. Can you believe that? He used to treat and save tiny humans. But, I guess what they say is true: if you want to find out a person's Truth, get them drunk, make them mad, turn them on, give them some power, or put them in a bad situation that they can't escape from. The End revealed his Truth. He was rotten and sadistic to the Core. He needed to die."

"You killed him."

"I did. Like I said, I wasn't the only one that he and his friends had hurt. There was an uprising and someone torched the place before letting 2 swarms of Walkers in. It was an old mansion 50 miles Northeast of what used to be D.C. Wyatt was the last of the ones in charge alive. The others were looking for him so he wanted to run for it and take me with him. I pretended that I was finally going to be a good little girl for him and as soon as we were outside the cell, I grabbed his gun and blew two holes in his diaphragm."

"GoodHe deserved it."

"He did. I wanted to watch him drown in his blood and Turn but I had to get out of there fast. Everything was burning. People were fighting and scattering in all directions. I grabbed his medical bag and found my duffel in the guest house before going over the fence running. I ran until I couldn't anymore and holed up in a forgotten veterinarian's office until I could heal. It took all of that Summer and half of Fall. After that, I stayed on my own in the woods and kept moving. It was better that way. The Living are more dangerous than The Dead. Walkers will just eat you and amble off. Humans will linger, get creative and enjoy hurting you so much that you would let all of the Walkers in the World eat you just to make the pain stop."

Tears pricked his eyes and rage coiled in his chest. If the motherfucker who had hurt his Enid was still alive, if by some sick twist of fate he breathed, Carl would hunt him down. He would rip him apart with his bare hands. He would bring her the monster's head and leave the rest of him for the scavengers. Of all villains in the World, there was nothing more repulsive to Carl than a rapist. Rape was a most heinous crime, worse than slavery or even cannibalism.

Rapists were scum.

The Claimers had wanted to rape him and Michonne. They saw sex as a form of power, currency, and control. They all had wanted to violate them, steal away what little innocence that they had left.

If his father hadn't been so decisive, if Michonne and Daryl hadn't backed him up…Carl remembered being frightened of his father afterwards. He remembered feeling dirty and used, despite not being penetrated. He remembered feeling like a monster for being glad that The Claimers suffered and died as they did but now that he was older, Carl understood. He understood so much more now.

Knowing what Enid had gone through, knowing what she had Survived all by herself made him admire her even more.

She was fucking awesome.

Carl sat up and drew her into a hug, engulfing her just like he knew he would. God, she was tiny!

"You're amazing…holy shit, you're amazing…"

"So are you…I guess your Law of Averages isn't hippie-dippie bullshit after all. I endured something really bad. I endured multiple something really bads and now I'm here. I'm warm and safe and happy with you. That's good. That's better than good."

/

Enid's movements were slow and careful, almost lazy as she made love to him. Her body was still getting used to having a man inside of it. The length and girth of his cock wasn't agony but Enid could certainly feel him. Carl filled her and she was a little sore from their first time. She hadn't lied to him. She may not have climaxed but that didn't mean that she hadn't liked it.

Seeing him unravel for her, making him lose control had been amazing. It was what she had been longing for. Enid could understand why Carl was so stoic, even aloof at times. He had seen so much, lost so much that he had to build up high emotional walls so he wouldn't break down completely. Enid had done the same thing to Survive.

She didn't just want Carl's naked body, though. She wanted his naked soul. If they were going to be long term lovers, then they both needed to go All In, physically and emotionally. Enid wanted to know exactly what the real him was like so she could show him her real self without too much fear. There would always be fear but knowing that Carl trusted her with his real self would be empowering. Enid could let go and trust him not to judge her. She could trust him to be there to catch her before she fell or at least help her up out of the dirt.

She would do the same for him.

Deepening their latest kiss, Enid braced her hands on his chest and sped up, going from grinding to riding. In many ways, riding Carl was similar to riding a horse. Horseback riding was a skill that she had brought into the Fucked New World with her. Riding was all about engaging the core, hips, and thigh muscles, along with having trust. She had to trust that the beast wouldn't throw her off and she had to trust that Carl wouldn't hurt her in a bad way.

Not all hurts were bad.

Some of them actually felt pretty damned amazing.

Their lips parted with a pop and Carl's head fell back against the pillow. The expression on his face was enthralling. His eyes were half mast, his cheeks were red, and his mouth, his pink and lovely mouth was open, panting and groaning. Enid yelped after his hands clapped over her bottom and giggled as he rubbed fondly, squeezing tight. The pleased grin on his face would give the Cheshire Cat's grin a run for its money. Carl was definitely an ass man. Or maybe he was just a man who appreciated all parts of a woman, more specifically all parts of her. Enid had seen him looking at her legs, her ass, her breasts, and the way she walked with appreciation. She knew that he was hot for her.

He wasn't the first man or boy to lust after her. She was an attractive young woman with a wardrobe made mostly of what some saw as fetish wear. There had been looks, innuendos, demands, assumptions and touches that Enid had to firmly rebuff. Carl Grimes wasn't the first man or boy to look at her with desire and he likely wouldn't be the last.

Carl was the only man that she wanted to lust after her.

She never wanted him to stop lusting after her.

Carl looking at her made her skin crawl but in a good way, a delicious way. He didn't see her body, her curves and softness as just trophies to conquer. Carl saw through the Jokes, the blades as sharp as her tongue, the little innocent schoolgirl uniforms she used like steel armor, and still wanted her. The glimpses of real Enid hadn't scared him away. They had made him come closer and become bolder. He was either very brave, very stupid or both for not running away from her but if he wanted to stick around, who was she to deny him what he wanted?

What they both wanted.

Enid cried out as he bent and spread his knees, allowing her to take him deeper. One of Carl's hands stayed on her ass but the other one moved to where they were joined. A tentative thumb found her pulsing clit and both of them groaned as her walls jerked around him. She hissed as he sat up, putting them chest to chest. His thumb stayed on her clit and she started to shudder against him, quiver around him.

"…feels good…so good…don't stop…"

The heated coil in her lower belly tightened and with a last hard grind against him, snapped. Gasping, Enid threw her head back, moving with the molten blissful heat that flowed through her veins. She had climaxed before. Being alone for so long didn't mean that she stopped growing up, stopped having needs. Through trial and error, Enid had learned her body and figured out how to give herself release. This time, it was different. She had a partner. She had Carl Grimes with her, just like she had been wanting. He was still moving inside of her, growling softly into her neck and she held on, letting him have his way with her again.

She had gotten her satisfaction. Now, she wanted him to get his. It was only fair…

Enid squeaked as her back abruptly hit the mattress and looked up at her lover. His eyes were still half mast but now they were sharper, roaming leisurely over her body. He was up on his knees, still inside of her and his hands twitched as if he were contemplating what to do with them. What did he want to do with them? Did he want to spank her? Finger her? Pin her down? She'd let him do it if that were the case…

"I trust you."

His gaze snapped to hers and she nodded, making him lick his lower lip before acting.

Carl grabbed her wrists, putting them on either side of her head. Their right fingers entwined and she let a dreamy smile curve her lips upwards as he pounded into her. He was lying on top of her and her left hand was rubbing his back, her legs tight against his striving hips. This was what she wanted. This was the beginning of what she wanted with Carl and it was going to be a hell of a ride. Enid kissed his neck, traced the path of his Adam's apple with her tongue and he shivered with delight.

"Enid…EnidEnid…oh, God, Enid…"

"Look at me."

"…no…"

Her hand hitting his ass sounded like a gunshot and she squeezed the cheek harshly, digging her nails in deep.

"Shit!"

"Don't tell me no. You look at me or get out of me."

"Enid!"

"You don't get to hide from me. You look at me or get out of me."

The look on his face as he obeyed was mulish, hurt, lustful…so many emotions in her man, so much depth. It would take a long time for her to figure him out if she ever could. Enid had always liked jigsaw and logic puzzles. Carl would be the ultimate one, it seemed.

Both hands free now, she reached up and brushed his hair out of his eyes, away from his Scars. Slowly, deliberately, she pressed kisses to the marred flesh, nuzzling against him until his breath hitched. He tried to turn his face away, to put his hair back in place but she wasn't going to let him. Enid wasn't going to let him hide from her nor was she going to keep allowing him to so lowly of himself because…

"You're not a monster. You're not ugly. You're beautiful, Carl Grimes. You really are."

His breath hitched again and hot tears spilled out of his eyes. Gently, she wiped them away, sucking the salty liquid from her shaking fingertips. He sobbed softly and she kept holding onto him, not letting him move away or apologize. There was no shame between best friends or lovers. Enid had always believed that and she would act in accordance. She would accept and comfort him as much as she could. Carl would do the same for her. She knew that in her bones. Enid rubbed noses with him and he rested his brow on hers, slowly regaining control. She didn't mean to make him cry bad tears…

"They're good tears, not bad..."

"You promise?"

"I promise…you really mean it, Enid?"

"I really mean it. You're beautiful and good and you're all mine, now. You understand me?"

"…yeah…"

"Good. Kiss me."


"…I don't want to leave."

"I'll be fine."

"I know that but I still don't want to leave. It doesn't feel right to leave you."

"You have to go home. The sun's starting to set and people are going to start looking for you."

"I know."

Enid offered him the last forkful of eggs and he accepted it, popping a tomato slice into his mouth. After their second time and several deep kisses, Carl had fallen asleep in her arms. His overnight shift on Watch, losing his virginity, and the emotional storm that he had weathered had worn him out.

Carl had heard variations of what Enid had told him from his Family after his Injury but never with such conviction, not even from Michonne. Enid truly meant it when she said that he was strong. Enid truly meant it when she said that he was good. Enid truly thought that he was beautiful, Scars and all. Normally, he would protest heartily at being called something so traditionally feminine but it was different with Enid.

Everything was different with Enid.

Even if she had told him when they were fully clothed, when neither of them were so achingly vulnerable, Carl would've been just as moved. Enid moved him. She blew him away. He had woken up first and had been consumed with the need to do something, anything to take care of her, to provide. He had also felt the need to wake her up for more lovemaking but he had ignored that.

Enid had to be sore. She was smaller than him and it had been her first time, too. She had shyly informed him of that before they fell asleep. Her confidence in the bedroom came from theory, fantasy, and determination. He didn't want to overwhelm her. He didn't want to hurt her.

She had been hurt enough.

So, instead of waking her from her well deserved nap, he had put his clothes back on and headed for the kitchen. Enid had shown up 2 hours into his Night Watch shift, standing serenely next to him until well after sunrise. She had to be hungry and Carl could cook well. He had learned from many people over the years. Most of his knowledge came from his Aunt Carol Peletier before she moved to The Kingdom to be with her companion King Ezekiel Lewis. His best dishes were breakfast related and the best of them were fried eggs, sliced tomatoes, and home fries.

Enid deserved the best that he could give her.

One of the main staples of Alexandria's diet was eggs, thanks to the flock of 30 chickens they had. Alexandria also had domesticated boars, cows, and goats with aid from Hilltop Colony. The tireless efforts of the Community, spearheaded by Maggie, gave them a steady supply of crops. Barley, potatoes, and sorghum were the main ones but there were other plants put in seasonally. They even had fresh herbs to use for cooking and preserving. They still did food related Runs but the need wasn't as urgent as before. They knew how to produce and what items they couldn't produce, they traded for or did without.

Enid had come into the kitchen in her fluffy pink robe just as he put the potatoes on. She had looked so damned shy and adorable that he couldn't help but smile. Slowly, she joined him at the stove and hugged him from behind. She had then gotten up on her tiptoes to kiss the nape of his neck. Those actions eliminated many lingering doubts about their relationship. Michonne hugged his dad like that. Sasha and Abraham, Maggie and Glenn, Tara and Denise…they all did it.

Real couples did that.

He and Enid were real.

Right?

"Enid…"

"I've never had a boyfriend before so I might fuck up a few times. Be patient with me?"

"I'm your boyfriend?"

"Uh, yeah. Well, if you want to be…"

"Yes!"

"Okay!"

Both of them giggled and Carl used his thumb to get a bit of soy milk from the corner of her mouth. Soy milk by itself was disgusting but soy milk and Enid? Not so much.

"Come on. I'll walk you out."

After gathering his Bowie knife and Hat, he followed her downstairs to the garage. Carl still couldn't believe what had happened in just a few short hours, in less than a week. He had been wishing for a friend his age. He had been wishing for someone who would really see him and in walked Enid, right on time. While he no longer believed in God, Carl did subscribe to the idea of some kind of higher power in charge of things. He believed in karma and justice. He believed in the Law of Averages. He believed in blessings.

Enid was a blessing. He had gained the friend that he had been longing for and so much more than he ever expected.

She carefully passed him the AK and he cocked his head at the troubled look on her face.

"What's the matter?"

"I don't like guns. I'm very good with them but I don't like them. Some people get a hold to guns and they immediately turn into bullying reckless assholes that get people hurt or killed. They're too loud. They draw The Dead and bullet noises scare me and make me cry and…Jesus, I sound like a baby, don't I?"

"No."

"You sure about that?"

"Completely. Come here."

"Why?"

"Why not?"

Enid rolled her eyes and as soon as she was in reach, he embraced her fiercely. Her lips were smiling against his as he kissed her goodbye. Carl still didn't want to leave her but he knew that she was right about people starting to look for him soon. The last thing he wanted was for them to be walked in on.

He wasn't ashamed to be with Enid. Carl was anything but ashamed. Okay, the 'knew that he was just thinking with his dick!' declarations were going to be a pain in the ass to deal with but there was no shame, no regrets whatsoever. His and Enid's relationship was their own business. It was theirs, not anyone else's, despite the both of them living in a small, tight knit Community. What they were doing was good and real and if anyone had a problem with them, they would have to swallow it whole.

"I'm gonna come get you tomorrow. Early, like right after sunrise early. Be ready to go."

"Where are we going?"

"Out."

"Why?"

"Why not? You don't want to spend time with me?"

"I do but you could've at least asked me nicely, you Southern Fried Scarecrow."

Carl started laughing and she stuck her tongue out at him. Enid was not going to put up with a second of his bullshit. He appreciated that. Sometimes, he could be quite the fucking asshole. Having someone to put him firmly back in his place, someone who had their own, brand new bond with him would be refreshing.

"Get some sleep, all right?"

"After the workout you gave me, I'll sleep like a baby."

Getting to the door, he drew her into one last kiss and let out a chuckling moan at her last action.

"What is it with you and touching me on the ass, Lady? Huh?"

"What can I say? I like what I like and other than your eyes, that's my favorite part of you. I hate to see you leave…"

"…but you love to watch me go. Pervert."

"That's me. Make tracks, Cowboy. I'll see you tomorrow."

/

Not for the first time, Enid wished that her mother was still alive.

It was funny. She hadn't been nervous about seducing Carl. She had been eager to declare herself his girlfriend but she was freaking out over an actual date. Well, officially, they were just sneaking out to go in the woods away from prying, overprotective eyes but it was a date. It was their first date as a couple. It was her first date ever and Enid was on the verge of having a complete meltdown.

Madeline Mackenzie had a gift for soothing people, knowing just what to say or do to defuse a situation. She would tell Enid to breathe deeply and to take one step at a time, live in the moment. It was good to worry about the future. That meant that she cared but overthinking, making up worst case scenarios wouldn't do her any good. It would detract from the present.

As much as she adored her father, Liam Mackenzie would've been too busy figuratively cleaning a shotgun to be of much help right now. He had always been protective of her, of both her and her mother. He took the role of Provider very seriously but still managed to be fun and affectionate when it counted most.

If he were still alive and it was the Beforetime, when he had found out what they had done all day yesterday, he would've put Carl in traction and sent her off to a nunnery or military school. Well, he would've tried. Enid would've made a run for it before he could and would only come home after her mom calmed him all the way down. And she was pretty sure that Carl would've been able to defend himself well or at least run fast enough so her dad couldn't catch him. Of course, it wasn't the Beforetime and sadly, Carl would never be able to meet her parents.

All he would have were stories of them.

Enid was sure that both of them would've loved him. They would've adored him even after her father found out that the shy Cowboy had gleefully deflowered his little Princess.

Well, actually his little Princess had gleefully deflowered the not so shy after all Cowboy.

Shit, she really gone for it, hadn't she? No holds barred, no subtlety at all.

She just…did it.

Enid had known Carl Grimes for less than a week and not only became fast friends with him, she had essentially thrown her panties at his face. In the Beforetime, she would be called Easy and hell, once the word got out (and it would. The ASZ was a close knit Community and Carl was one of its most cherished citizens…), Easy was probably going to be the mildest label slapped on her. Someone would definitely call her a Slut or maybe someone would bust out one of the old classics: Scarlet Woman, Jezebel, that little Fast Girl who took advantage…

It was going to be some steaming bullshit to slog through.

She still didn't regret sleeping with him, though. Not even for a millisecond.

How could she ever? It was Carl.

Sunlight filtering through the blinds made the butterflies in her stomach flutter faster and she took one last look in the mirror. Today's uniform was from St. Joseph's Academy, home of the Vikings with blue, black, and white as their colors. The school had been practical and left the white to the plaid of the skirt, the cuffs of the black hooded cardigan, the stripes of the black tie and the middle of the knee socks. The shirt was blue and she put a white bow in her hair, having pinned it up in a messy but pretty braided bun. Usually, she left her hair down but she was going on a date, her first date ever. She wanted to do something fancy. Plus, Enid knew for a fact that Carl loved her neck. He loved to kiss and nibble on it before descending to her breasts.

The pink marks underneath her shirt and tie proved it.

Carl had left his mark elsewhere. Her lips were still swollen from his kisses. Her voice was slightly hoarse. Fingertip shaped bruises were on her hips and there were small twinges between her legs. None of the lover's wounds were painful, per se but they were enough for Enid to take notice and to remember.

Yesterday hadn't been a vivid dream or an erotic hallucination. It had really happened.

Hopefully, it would happen again soon…

"Enid?"

"I'll be right down!"

"Okay."

After checking that her boots and knee pads were secure, Enid grabbed the knapsack that had been part of the welcome basket. She also grabbed her freshly sharpened blades. Briefly, she had considered leaving the trio behind but quickly nixed that idea.

It was better to be over prepared than under prepared. One never knew when a Group of assholes or a Herd of Walkers would show up. She didn't want to be caught off guard nor did she want to leave it up to Carl to keep them safe out there.

Just because she was someone's girlfriend now and had found a good place to stay in didn't mean that she got to go soft. The times were always changing. Alexandria could and would eventually fall and she had to stay ready for it. She wanted to be a Partner, a trusted and valued Companion, to him instead of a Damsel in Distress he had to look after. Leaving their safety solely in his hands wouldn't be fair.

Carl was waiting at the bottom of the spiral stairs and the way he was looking at her made her lower abdomen heat. Instead of flannel layered over a thermal, he had chosen a black thermal and his blue jacket. Like her, he was in boots but instead of jeans, he had on dark green cargo pants. The black top made his gorgeous blue eyes more vivid than they already were and his greeting smile made her blush, even as she returned it gamely. It was a sweet but knowing smile, alluding to all sorts of naughtiness. Enid wasn't sure whether she wanted to kiss or smack it away.

She would decide later.

"Good morning, Carl."

"Good morning. You got everything you need for today?"

"Mm-hm. How are we getting out?"

"Follow me."

Alexandria was still sleeping. There were people near the Gate but they were focused on their duties. Abraham, Sasha, and Eugene were there. Enid could spot the Mullet and Abraham's red hair from a mile away and where there was Abraham, there was Sasha. She liked that couple. They were strong together. Abraham and Sasha reminded Enid of a yin-yang symbol. They were two halves of a whole making something beautiful, albeit a little crass at times, thanks to Big Red's lovely repertoire of curse words and colorful metaphors. Eugene was pretty cool, too. He was definitely a genius and while he could certainly be creepy sometimes, he was a sweetheart overall.

Carl moved quickly and quietly but he made sure to check if she was keeping up with him. His face was placid but his eyes were filled with mischief, anticipation, and she fed off of that. He was sharing something with her, something that was His, and Enid was already looking forward to Running again. She had missed it.

She was going to make him chase her.

She remembered her parents playing that game in their backyard and at the park a couple of times so it wasn't weird or naughty. Of course, it could certainly get a little naughty after she let Carl catch her but that wasn't a deterrent.

Not at all.

God, she wanted to kiss him…

They stopped at an L-shaped intersection of the Walls and Carl quietly pointed out where there were holds. They were probably put there to aid with maintenance but they were an excellent way to scale without using some sort of metal piping or bracing. Looking closely, Enid realized a couple of pieces of T or L shaped pipes could be inserted into the Wall supports like brackets to become a moving ladder. She would keep that in mind…

"Use your upper body strength. Watch out when you get to the top. Some panels are slanted for drainage. Be careful with your landing. At best, you'll have to tuck and roll. At worst, you'll land and bust your ankles. Watch me and then follow."

"Okay."

Carl moved with swift elegance. She could see his whole body moving as he wanted it to, see muscles contracting and releasing. Enid noted just where his feet and hands went, along with his launch method. Alexandria's Walls were solid fortifications but not invulnerable. Nobody was truly safe behind them but on the other hand, it meant that nobody was trapped inside. If they absolutely had to get out, they could. That was comforting.

Enid followed him, picking up a good rhythm quickly. She had always been good at climbing and leaping around. Trees, fences, jungle gyms…anything really. She'd do front flips, back flips, cartwheels and the like. People had called her Daredevil and her parents had been talking about getting her into formal gymnastics classes shortly before The End. The Fucked New World had been a better teacher. It was all about honing existing skills and picking new ones up fast.

Adapt or Die.

Fight or Die.

Getting to the top, Enid swung her legs over and saw Carl standing at the bottom, waiting patiently for her. Silently, he extended his arms and she nodded once before making the move. She hit him hard but Carl was able to stay on his feet. Soon, they were moving through the trees, both of them practically vibrating with excitement. They were out. They were together. They could do whatever they wanted…

As soon as they got to a field, Enid took off at a sprint, free as a bird.

"What the hell?"

"Can't catch me!"

/

Carl had a feeling that Enid had let him catch her in the end.

The catch had been a thing of beauty, honestly. He had snagged her around the middle just as she leapt for a low fence near an abandoned barn and tumbled them into the tall grass. He had buried his grinning face in her shoulder. Enid had struggled briefly yet valiantly before surrendering with a sigh. When she tried to turn to face him, Carl sealed his mouth over the nape of her neck and squeezed her. When she tried to get up, he pinned her with his thighs, keeping her flush against him.

She wasn't going anywhere until he was good and ready for her to do so.

Enid hadn't complained, just giggled and hid her face behind her hands.

Carl was certain that she had let him catch her in the end.

Chasing her had been so much fun that he didn't give a damn.

Chasing Enid, watching her move, listening to her laughter, and seeing her take down stray Walkers without missing a step had been glorious. They had played Cat and Mouse for at least an hour before he caught her. They had rested for a few minutes and then stood up, jogging hand in hand to their current location.

Carl knew the spot well. There were two large logs amongst a few birch trees. They made an L shaped area for people to sit in. 5 feet away from them was a tall hollow tree that could be used as an emergency hiding spot or as a shooter's nest.

Enid walked ahead of him and plopped down with a gratified sigh. Panting, Carl lowered himself next to her. She unzipped her knapsack, pulling out a bottle of cold water. After taking a hearty swig, she offered it to him. He drank deeply before passing it back. Their slowing breathing was jagged. They looked straight ahead, resting in warm companionable silence.

"…so, that's what I do when I'm out here alone. I Run. What do you do?"

"Walk and enjoy the quiet, mostly. I'm glad to be in Alexandria. I'm grateful to still have my family. I love them but sometimes, I need to be alone so I can breathe. Sometimes, I don't want to talk or fake a smile. There are things inside of me that I just don't want or know how to share with everyone and I don't want to feel guilty about that."

"You share with me pretty easily."

"…you're different."

Enid made a pleased noise and Carl kept her in his peripheral. She started to take down her hair, pulling out silver bobby pins. The bow she had put in came out last and was tucked into the same pocket. He hoped she didn't lose it. The bow was cute and looked good on her. All of her looked especially cute and good today. Carl had meant to tell her that once they got outside but Enid had blown all of his plans to shit in the best way.

Inviting her to...demanding that she come outside with him had been an excellent idea.

Instead of letting him wander around silently brooding, she had immediately engaged with him. Enid had played with him, made him laugh and smile. Enid had also given him a mission to focus on. He had to keep up with her, keep an eye out for any Walkers or assholes drawn to their antics, and he had to catch her.

There was no time for him to brood. All he could do was Run. That's all she wanted from him, other than his company. There was no prying, no passive aggression, no askance looks or coddling. She just took him as he was and left how much or little he wanted to talk about things in his control.

He could breathe again.

Usually, it took longer for it to happen, for peace to come but it was an unusual situation.

Turning his head, he saw that Enid was watching him closely. There was a maple leaf caught in her hair. Carefully, he removed it and let his fingers run through the tresses. Her hair was soft, reminding him of silk and now smelled like the forest. She smelled like lavender, soap, forest, sweat, and something tangy-spicy that he could only describe as her. Enid came closer and he gave in to the pressing need to kiss her. He had been feeling it all day and he could finally act on it.

Originally, he had planned to do it when he came to pick her up but he hadn't. If he had, Carl knew that they wouldn't have gone out. He would've taken her back to bed or he would've put her on top of one of the counters in the garage before taking her back to bed.

Not only did Enid move him, she shattered a large portion of his self control.

He had discovered exactly what she tasted like, felt like, smelled like, how she sounded and had become addicted. The more things he discovered about Enid Mackenzie, the more he wanted to learn, and the more he wanted to share with her. She said that she wanted whatever parts that he felt comfortable sharing with her. She hadn't just been talking about the physical. Enid wanted more than the physical from him and Carl was not only willing to give it to her, he was eager to do so.

Whatever she wanted, he would try his best to give it to her, to get it for her.

All she had to do was ask…

They broke for air and Carl kissed her forehead before resting his brow on hers.

"…I've been wanting to do that all dayI dreamt about you last night…"

"Yeah?"

"Mm-hmI dreamt about kissing you…touching youI like kissing you…I like doing everything with you, Enid…"

"I like it too, Carl…so much…"

Rustling leaves and breaking twigs kept him from rejoining their lips. Enid grabbed the knapsack after unsheathing her mother's knife. Carl quickly unholstered his Berretta. Instinctively, she stepped in front of him, extending her arm in a protective gesture. Her head cocked and he waited for…

"Those are human, not Walker footsteps. They're heading right for us."

"We need to go."

Placing a guiding hand on her arm, he urged her in the direction of the hollow tree and they got inside quickly. Carl removed his Hat to fit better and undid the safety on his gun. Enid had all her blades but he wanted to be ready for anything. He needed to be ready. It wasn't just him outside of the Walls. He had Enid with him and like he promised during their first meeting, if anyone wanted to hurt her, they would have to go through him twice.

The hollow tree was on a sloped ridge, giving them more cover and good visibility. Whoever was coming would walk right past them as long as they stayed still and quiet. When the footstep owners emerged from around the bend, relief and annoyance filled him.

"Your parents…they're probably looking for you…"

"No probably about it."

"Are you gonna get in trouble?"

"I haven't done anything wrong."

"The look on Officer Friendly's face suggests otherwise, Sport."

Carl had to agree with her on that. His dad looked angry enough to spit nails. In retrospect, he should've waited a bit longer before going out again. Twice in one week was too much. It was noticeable and with Enid being with him, it wouldn't take much for everyone to connect the dots. Not to say that Carl wanted to hide what he and Enid were doing but more than a day of privacy would've been nice…

"I don't understand what the hell he's thinking coming out here like this, Michonne! He's gonna get himself killed one of these days!"

"Carl's smart. He's a grown man and he knows how to take care of himself."

"So, we're just supposed to let him go sneaking out whenever he wants with no backup? What kind of example does that set for everyone else?"

"A bad one and I agree that he shouldn't be sneaking out but yelling at him and treating him like a little kid is only going to make things worse between you two and you know it, especially now that Enid's a factor."

"What do you think is going on there?"

"What do you think is going on there?"

"Trouble."

"Rick!"

"You asked for what I thought and I told you."

"How are Carl and Enid trouble?"

"He barely knows her but he's already…what if she hurts him? How do we handle it?"

"I think the question you should really be asking is how do we handle it when she doesn't?"

"…he's known her for less than a week. She might not even stay. Their Deal's almost up…"

"Rick, Enid already trusts and cares about him. It's not surprising. Carl's got a way of getting through to anyone. She'll stay in Alexandria, not just for practical reasons but for him, just like I decided to stay with the Group at the Prison because of him, Judith, and you."

"You think it's gonna be that serious between them?"

"know it's gonna be that serious because he's like you when it comes to feelings. He's All In, especially when it comes to who he lets close. He spent all day with Enid after his Watch and she left marks on him. I spotted them while he was giving Judith a bath. He's with her now so you're going to have to talk to him about it. We both have to talk to him about it."

"Now, by marks on him, do you mean…"

"Oh, yeah."

"Shit."

"Shit is right but we have to accept that he's a man, now. You helped him learn how to survive long enough for him to grow up and experience his first relationship. He fought. He grew. He's still here and even after all the things we've been through, he's still human. Those are all good things."

"…you're right. I know you're right. I don't like it, 'Chonne."

"I don't either. It makes me feel old."

"You're telling me. One day, he's pulling my hat up out of his eyes because it's too big for him and the next…damn."

"Damn."

"We still need to find him and bring him home."

"Them."

"Them. I'm going to go look by the creek. I'll radio you in 15."

"Okay."

His dad disappeared into the trees. Michonne stayed perfectly still, not even looking in their direction. She knew they were close by, though. Michonne always knew. Looking to Enid and getting a nod of approval, Carl stepped out of their hiding place. He approached his stepmom sheepishly. Carl was proud to be with Enid. Carl was unrepentant about his need to be in the forest but he hated making Michonne worry about him. It always made him feel like he was going to puke. She didn't look angry, just a little disappointed at his latest antics.

The hint of a smile tugging at her lips made him feel much better about things, as did her words to his dad. Michonne had already accepted Enid as one of them. 9 and a half times out of 10, once Michonne was on board with something, his dad was All In. The half time he wasn't only lasted for about a day (more like a week…) or so before he changed his mind.

Good thing Michonne used her Powers for good instead of evil or they'd all be doomed.

"There you are. Is Enid out here with you?"

"She is."

Enid walked to the bottom of the slope and waved shyly before scuffing the ground with the toe of her boot.

"Hi, Mrs. Avery-Grimes."

"Good morning, Enid. Carl…"

"It was my idea to go out, Michonne. Don't be mad at her and don't let my dad blame her."

Michonne nodded and sighed, taking off in the direction of the creek.

"You two need to go back to Alexandria and stay put. I'll go get your dad."

"Okay…Michonne?"

"Yeah?"

"Thank you."

"It's what we do. Take her and you home, Carl and stay put. I mean it."

"Yes, ma'am."

/

5 Days Later…

Everyone knew.

Everyone in Alexandria and the citizens in the 3 Communities they regularly traded with (Hilltop Colony, Oceanside, and The Kingdom) knew about her and Carl dating.

Including the damned livestock.

Apparently, her boyfriend was The Carl Grimes. He was one of the closest things to a Celebrity or Living Legend that their area of the Fucked New World had. Actually, his whole family was on that level. Enid couldn't really blame people for being impressed. One large Group sticking together for so long, through so many perils and losses, and actually becoming a Family was phenomenal.

Carl's family was full of strong, diverse, multifaceted, kind and capable Warrior People, even the tiny humans. Working together, all of them had done the impossible, endured the unthinkable more than once. They had been key in making the Alexandria Safe Zone into a powerhouse.

The ASZ wasn't just some cushy little enclave that would buckle under the slightest bit of pressure anymore. Its people were smart. Its people were capable. They were Survivors. They were fighters yet still kind, some of them tender even. The influence of the Grimes Group was everywhere and Enid was a part of their Narrative, now. She was an Alexandrian, now.

It was time to start acting like it.

She had to start pulling her weight.

Getting to her destination, she gripped the handle of the red cooler tighter. Since everyone knew that she and Carl were together, she had decided to bring him lunch during his day shift at the Forgery. Enid had business there, anyway. Carl had promised to vouch for her with his fellow Smiths plus Lead Foreman Abraham but she wanted to handle it herself. She wanted to sit for a proper job interview. She had even given Eugene a resume, surprising and impressing him.

Enid had spent most of her time after The End in charge of her own destiny.

That wasn't going to change just because she had a boyfriend.

Of course, Carl would call her all the way out if she ever tried to go soft or meek. He straight up told her was that her fighter spirit was what kept him looking at her, what made him want to become friends and more.

It was yet another difference from Enid's previous interactions with male survivors. Some were completely terrified of her. Most had wanted to make her into their new Toy and break her down so she'd "learn her proper place". They wanted make her a submissive shell that they could push around and fuck at their leisure. Carl just wanted her for who she was and sometimes, despite who she was.

With a fortifying sigh, Enid descended the street level stairs to the Forgery's door and knocked firmly. She didn't want to just barge in. She could hear the clang of metal being shaped, the sound of sparks flying and controlled fires crackling in hearths. Startling those inside could lead to disasters ranging from a ruined project to 4th degree burns. After a few seconds, Scott Wilson came to the door and lifted his safety goggles. Scott was a tall and quiet black man. He was intense but he had genuinely kind eyes, just like his wife Francine Reid from the Wall Crew.

"You here for Carl?"

"Yes, sir. I have food for him. I'm also here to talk about starting an Apprenticeship."

"Good. We need more people trained in case something happens to one of us. Come on in. Watch your step on your way downstairs."

The first thing Enid did when she got inside was unzip her white hoodie and pop open the three black buttons of her gray polo. Even in the mudroom, the heat was everywhere and she really didn't want to pass out from heat stroke. That wouldn't be a good first impression and it would worry Carl. A soft smile curved her lips as she spotted his Hat hanging on one of the hooks. Would she ever lose the bit of excitement she felt when she knew she would see him? Would that feeling ever fade away?

She hoped not.

Instead of her usual skirt, Enid had chosen a pair of navy blue cargo pants. She had four other pairs: hunter green, khaki, black, and steel gray that she usually saved for the dead of Winter. If she got the job, they would become a common sight. The last thing she wanted was to burn her left leg again or have new wounds on her right. She still had nightmares from what Wyatt had done to her in that cold cell. Sometimes, the Scars would feel brand new, the pain all consuming…

Refusing to fall further down that rabbit hole, Enid picked up the cooler and started down to the main work area. The stairs were steep enough for her to put both feet down on each one. The walls were red brick and warm to the touch. Stepping into the arched doorway, she took in the scene. The room was laid out so that workers would never have their back to the door for long periods of time. Everything was in a semicircle with a well ventilated raised fire pit in the center of the room.

Three stoves and 4 anvils were present, along with multiple types of blades and hammers on L-shaped tables. Moulds for bullets and blades were on a long table, ready to be used. Sharpening stones and an electric band saw were in the Northwest corner. A collage made of various road maps, marked and annotated nearly beyond reading were on the South wall. There was a station set up with glass beakers and 4 scales. In the far corner were two rolling boards that could be flipped, one chalk and one white were full of equations, designs, memos…

When her eyes landed on Carl, heat that had nothing to do with her surroundings filled her veins.

Every descent of the hammer made the muscles in his arms stand out in sharp relief. His sweat stained white undershirt clung to his torso like a second skin and his ass in those worn black jeans? Be still, what was left of her heart!

What had she come there to do again?

Enthralled, she came closer and hopped up onto a stool to wait. She didn't mind waiting. His work was important and Enid wanted to appreciate the skill he had. Carl was poetry in motion, a post apocalyptic Hephaestus in his element. Most of The Living spent their time destroying but she was witnessing Creation. She was seeing something useful and good being done. Carl was helping people on a larger scale. He was helping to create weapons and parts for fortifications. He was helping his People, their People protect themselves and their Allies.

It was fucking awesome.

He was fucking awesome.

Her boyfriend was fucking awesome!

After a couple of more minutes of shaping, Carl raised his welder's mask and used the heel of his gloved hand to rub his eyes. He cracked his back and the low noise he let out made Enid's fingertips twitch. Now was not the time to touch him. He was working and The Forgery had far too many hazards around for her to distract him. Not to mention, she was there to ask for a job. It wouldn't be very professional to be caught in flagrante delicto with her potential co-worker, even if he was her boyfriend. She had to have some self control. She had to use common sense. Enid knew all of those facts in her mind but her hormones were screaming otherwise, aided and abetted by the look Carl was currently giving her.

He was very happy to see her.

"Don't look at me like that right now, Carl."

"…how am I looking at you, Enid?"

Carl was looking at her like he had already stripped her naked. He was looking at her like he wanted to lick her leisurely from head to toe. He was looking at her like she was a 5 course meal and he hadn't eaten in a week. There were a lot more ways to describe how Carl was looking at her, each filthier than the last but all of them were stuck in her mind. Speech was impossible right now.

He had come up to her stool, placed the cooler on the floor, and was now deep in her personal space, eliminating it. He still smelled like soap, gunpowder, lavender and forest but it was blended with smoke, along with the spicy-sweet scent that was his. His body heat was searing and when his hand went to the nape of her neck, she melted against him. How could she not?

Carl's kisses were slow, deep, and sizzling, making her grasp greedy handfuls of his shirt. His free fingertips followed the line of her spine before the hand settled onto the flare of her hip. Enid was both sad and thankful that she wasn't in her usual skirt. She was sad because she couldn't feel the full contact of his hand but thankful because if Carl managed to hike up her skirt, she'd ride him until he begged her for mercy, risks be damned!

There would be plenty of time for riding him later, someplace private and soft…

"I thought you were this shy and sweet Cowboy…I was wrong…you're a mean son of a bitch, you know that?"

If one looked up the word 'smug' in the dictionary, there would be a picture of Carl Grimes right there. That smirk, that sparkle in his gorgeous cerulean eyes…he was a motherfucker! Enid was torn between continuing to kiss him and punching his lights out. He was such an asshole! Her asshole but still…ugh!

"I can be both…I've got layers…"

"Apparently…you're so fucking mean. How the hell am I supposed to get through a job interview after that?"

"You'll find a way. You're Enid and you're awesome. You'll kick ass."

"Don't be sweet to me after you've just given me blue balls."

"Oh, my God…"

"My balls are as blue as your eyes right now. It's very distracting."

"Enid!"

"You laugh but I'm dead serious. Shut up."

"I-I'm sorry."

"Really?"

"Hell, no!"

Enid rolled her eyes and picked up the cooler, shoving it into his arms as he shook with mirth.

"Eat and get back to work. You'll come over tonight?"

"Yeah. I'll be there around 8. Maybe 8:30."

"Good. Bring an overnight bag."

/

"Why do you have your big backpack? Are you going on a night Adventure, Big Brother?"

"No, Jude. I'm just gonna go spend time with Enid. She told me to bring an overnight bag."

"Why?"

"Just in case there's an accident or emergency."

"Like when I have slumber parties with Hershey? Are y'all having a slumber party?"

"We are."

"I didn't know grown folks could do that. Carl?"

"Yeah?"

"Is Enid your special person like Mommy is to Daddy?"

"Yes. Yes, she is."

"Cool. I like Enid. She's smart and funny and pretty and she smells like Ms. Olivia's cinnamon snaps. She makes you smile for real. I like it when you smile for real. Sometimes, you smile big but your eyes are still real sad and that sucks."

"Don't say sucks, Judith."

"Uncle Abraham says it."

"Uncle Abraham says a lot of things that you really shouldn't until you're as old as Dad."

"But, that'll take for-ever…Daddy's older than everything!"

"Not everything…almost everything but not everything. Did you go pee?"

"Uh-huh."

"Did you wash your hands?"

"Uh-huh."

"With soap?"

"Yes and I brushed my teeth just like Mommy showed me. I've got another loose one."

"You do?"

"Uh-huh. Watch."

"Cool…want me to pull it for you?"

"I'm a big girl. I can do it myself."

"Well, excuse me, Ms. Thang. I guess we should be teaching you how to drive, huh?"

One of the best sounds in the world was his little sister's laughter, even if it was at his expense.

Once Judith was settled, Carl passed her Mr. Stuffykins. The fifth Run after the SuperHerd had yielded 2 trucks full of things ranging from desperately needed fertilizer and seeds to the pasta maker Shelly Neudermeyer had been obsessing over before The Wolves murdered her. Carl had seen the large stuffed elephant and made sure that it got to Judith. At the time, it had been near triple her size and she had immediately adored it.

Carl still remembered her happy squeals as she first nuzzled the gray plushie's stomach. She had actually forgotten about her legendary red Dixie cups for a week. The elephant had been used as a pillow, a teething ring, and she would crawl with a firm grip on its upraised trunk. Once she was fully mobile, Mr. Stuffykins still stayed within easy reach. Judith and her stuffed elephant were inseparable like Calvin and Hobbes. Even now, she would still wait by the dryer for him to come out when they washed him and everyone made sure that the elephant never got lost.

Judith's eyes drifting closed made him smile and peck her on the forehead before turning on her nightlight. It was shaped like a sphere and projected multicolored stars on the ceiling.

"Night, Lil' Asskicker. I love you."

She patted his hand in acknowledgment and soon was snoring into Mr. Stuffykins' shoulder.

Carl was glad that Judith was able to live someplace with electricity and could cuddle with a stuffed animal. She had an actual house to live in, easy access to running water and food, fresh and preserved. She was able to be tucked into a bed with blankets, be read to, nurtured and loved fully. She was in a place that had Walls and people who knew how to fight and Survive. His little sister had people that she could count on to protect and teach her.

Judith didn't have to be scared all of the time.

That was all he really wanted for her. Carl had been living with the fear for so long, it felt like a body part. He could still be optimistic, still relax but it was always to a point. Eventually, Judith would have the fear, too. She would learn about it but the longer they could shield her from the full impact, the better. That wasn't to say that she was defenseless, though. After what ended up happening to the Kids of the Prison and Sam Anderson, training started young. Honesty started young. Kids learned about Walkers and The Virus before they learned their ABCs.

They knew the Rules.

Don't let The Walkers Scratch you or Bite you.  Ever.

Always destroy the brain . Even if you get a Walker down, as long as the brain is intact, they can Bite you or someone else.

Not every Human could be trusted fully, not even family members.

When you find a good Group/Community/Person, stick with them as long as you can.

Stay alert.

Stay quiet even when you're scared.

If you ever feel the need to hide or run, do it. Make sure that nobody dies or gets hurt before you run or hide, though. You have to protect yourself and others.

Knowledge was power and knowledge kept people alive longer.

The less Dead Kids, the better.

And now that Judith was old enough, they really had to find her a weapon of choice to use until she could start shooting. He'd have to talk with his dad and Michonne about it later.

Much later.

Enid was waiting for him.

He could hear Daryl in the kitchen and smelled leftovers being heated up. His dad had made venison stew two days ago. Briefly, Carl considered climbing out of one of the windows instead of walking out the door but he decided against it. He wasn't doing anything wrong. He was an adult, a young adult but still an adult. It wasn't like he was going over the Walls.

He was going to go see his girlfriend.

He could do that.

"Is Lil' Asskicker asleep?"

"Yeah. She's got another loose tooth."

"Girl's growing like a weed. 'Chonne and your dad are at The Pantry. They're helping with the weapons inventory. They won't be back until after 11, I think."

"Good. I'll be back around noon."

"Hold up, Carl."

"What?"

"…you serious about her? Enid?"

"Yeah. I…uh…I think I'm falling hard for her."

Actually, Carl knew that he was face down bleeding from the impact for Enid already but he wasn't going to say it out loud yet. Not before he told her…

"Make sure she knows. Don't be stupid and let her think that you don't give a shit about her."

Carl knew that he was referring to Carol but didn't say anything in response. Nobody talked about it. There wasn't much to say, really. Daryl and Carol had always had a deep connection. Everyone knew that but they missed all their Moments. It sucked. Carl was glad that Carol had finally found inner peace. He was glad that she found joy at The Kingdom with King Ezekiel especially after what happened to Sophia. She had risen above all the living and undead hell she had been through but his heart still went out to Daryl, not to mention Rosita…

The situation was bittersweet.

Alfred Lord Tennyson was a pretentious, overrated fucking asshole.

'It is better to have loved and lost…'

Absolute bullshit!

Loving and losing someone was just as bad as not falling in love at all.

Hell, it was ten times worse!

Like Michonne, Daryl never pitied or coddled him after his Injury. He worried about him and would sometimes rip him a new one if he was being particularly stupid but otherwise, they were the same as before it happened. Carl deeply appreciated that. Daryl understood what it was like to need quiet and solitude. He also understood what it was like to be marred and scarred for life, both physically and emotionally.

At least someone got it…

Finally leaving the house, Carl kept a quick pace on the sidewalk, resisting the urge to break into a run. He had to play it a little cool, didn't he? Literally running to Enid's side outside of an emergency didn't fit that idea. But, he was so eager to see her. She had gotten the job at the Forgery like he knew she would and he was looking forward to working with her full time. That had fueled him missing her, even though it had been mere hours since he had seen her and was he pathetic? He was starting to feel pathetic about it…

He was pathetic.

He was a pathetic, clingy, needy bastard of a boyfriend.

He needed to pull it together before he scared her off.

Getting to the garage, Carl knocked on the side door and waited. The door opened slowly and Enid squeaked as he immediately picked her up, kicking the door shut behind them. His backpack hit the floor and her moans tasted like bliss. Cupping her face, he could feel that she was grinning and he smiled back.

All right, so he was a pathetic, clingy, needy bastard of a boyfriend.

Big Deal.

Everyone had problems.

Carl knew that if Enid ever had a problem with his ways, she would let him know (loudly and with hopefully pulled punches) so what was the point of being worried about them? He wasn't hurting anybody.

Enid's hands went deep into his back pockets and he pressed her firmly against one of the large red Craftsman cabinets, boxing her in. Fuck, the look on her face…she was looking at him with those big green eyes. She was looking at him with anticipation, desire, trust…

To hell with playing it cool.

He had played it cool by not mounting her in the Forgery earlier.

Carl had seen the look on Enid's face as she watched him swing his hammer. The look had been a blend of awe and hunger. It felt just like the accidental shotgun blast to his chest but without the searing pain afterwards. Was it possible? Did he actually move her like she moved him? Had he really managed to not just turn her on (he spent the rest of his shift snickering at her claim of blue balls) but impress her? It seemed to be the case and that made him feel 100 feet tall.

"…upstairs?"

"No….here… right now…wanted you all fucking day…"

His belt hit the floor and Carl hungrily slid his left hand underneath her blue and yellow tartan skirt. He felt nothing but sweet curves and warm flesh. Enid wasn't wearing any panties. The thin material of her white undershirt outlined her budded nipples perfectly and he hiked it up before moaning. Enid wasn't wearing a bra. Cool air touched his aching cock and he got a firm hold of her thighs before sliding home. Enid groaned and at any other time, Carl would be embarrassed at how loud his answering groan was. Jesus fuck, she felt amazing. She felt like heaven on Earth, silky soft, sultry damp heaven on Earth!

"Mmmmyesfuck me…fuck me…fuck me…please, Carl…please?"

He already loved hearing her beg.

/

"…check the floor…"

"Why?"

"Because I think my brain landed there mid thrust and there's an extra charge if I return it stained…"

"You're renting your brain?"

"I'm leasing to own it, actually…"

Enid knew that she sounded goofy but making Carl laugh was worth it.

And how could she not be goofy after what Carl had just done to her?

If it was physically possible, not only would her brain be on the floor, the organ would be a melted mass of satisfaction. For someone who was new to the pleasures of the flesh, Carl was damned good at them or maybe it was her own inexperience influencing her or both.

An experimental roll of his hips sent ripples through her core and she cooed with delight.

A low noise that was not quite a laugh but very close to it was his response.

Okay, it was both. She was just that inexperienced and happily, he was just that good.

It was definitely both…holy shit

She was a very lucky woman.

Enid had been in a state of constant arousal since she left him in the Forgery. She had refrained from taking care of it herself. She wanted to wait for Carl. The fiery pulsing in her lower belly had been distracting but she knew the wait would be worth it. Once the sun went down, she had changed into comfortable easy access attire. She had been tempted to just be nude for him but she had to keep a little bit of dignity, didn't she? She didn't want to make it too easy for him, right? Plus, the very idea of someone other than Carl seeing her sky clad had yanked the idea out by the roots.

Enid was quite proud of her body, Scars and all, but she only wanted to share it with Carl.

And Carl had gone after her like a man possessed, just like she had hoped he would.

Although their clothes were fixed, neither of them made a move to go upstairs yet. Taking the edge off of one need had led to feeling the need to handle another one.

Would he ever tire of her kisses? Would she ever tire of his?

Absolutely not…each kiss got better with time, just like really good alcohol.

"…are you okay?"

"Never better."

"I wasn't too rough with you?"

"No, babe. You were just right."

"Babe?"

"No?"

"Yes."

"All right, then. I'll add it to the roster."

"You need one, too…"

"Well, everyone back home used to call me 'Nid and Daredevil because I was that one kid that would do flips from stair landings or from the monkey bars all the time. And…my Daddy called me Princess."

When she told him something that particularly got his attention, he'd nod slightly and there would a lightning fast quirk of his lips, similar to a smile but not. He never looked at her with pity when she mentioned her lost parents. Everyone else did when they found out. Carl was different. It wasn't pity. It was empathy. He knew exactly what kind of loss she felt because he lived with it every day.

He understood.

He always did.

"Sugar?"

Sugar…

It sounded good, somewhat country but good.

It sounded normal, not too mushy or lewd for public consumption.

It felt right.

It was yet another thing about Carl Grimes being in her life that felt right.

Being his Sugar felt right.

"Yes."

"Okay, then."

His thumbs rubbed slow circles in the hourglass dip of her middle, a few inches from the flare of her hips. He had left his Hat at home so Enid had immediate access to his hair. She loved his hair. It was silky soft and wavy and felt wonderful to touch. A low feline noise, suspiciously close to a purr, rumbled in his chest as she gently massaged his scalp and she accepted his latest kisses, feather light and brief. They rubbed noses slowly and Enid cupped his cheek, meeting his slumberous cobalt gaze head on.

"Upstairs."

Carl nodded and stepped back so he could make sure his pants were completely secure. The last thing either of them wanted or needed was for him to face plant with his jeans around his ankles. Once he was set, Carl extended his arms and Enid jumped so she could wrap all her limbs around him securely. She rested her head on his shoulder. His footsteps were sure as they ascended the stairs. When they got to her bedroom, he sat down on the edge of her waiting bed. Enid removed her shirt and gasped as his hands immediately went to her breasts. Sometimes, she would wish that they were just a little bit bigger but feeling them fit perfectly in Carl's warm calloused hands was bliss. That feeling deepened as he began to tease her puckered nipples, stroking and pinching them in a rhythm that had her swooning.

"…you're beautiful…so fucking beautiful…"

His voice was rough and low, making her keen. Enid recognized that timbre of voice from when he first woke up and when he climaxed, when he called her name in ecstasy. She wanted that again. What happened downstairs had felt good but it wasn't enough. She needed more…

Carl lay back and rolled them so she was underneath him. The side zipper of her skirt lowered and he pulled the fabric down, tossing it in the direction of the rocking chair. Other than removing his boots and purposely mismatched socks, Carl kept all of his clothes on.

"Aren't you going to…?"

"Not yet. I wanna try something new…"

"And I have to be the only one naked for it?"

"No…but I like the view."

He liked the view, did he?

Okay, then.

It was time to give him a show with it.

Carl's eyes widened and his pupils dilated as she began. His lower lip disappeared between his teeth and his hands twitched. Holding his gaze, she slid just out of his reach and cocked a challenging brow.

"Enid…"

"Mm-hm?"

"Stop it."

"Why?"

"You know why."

Instead of replying verbally, Enid slid another finger inside of her and curled both. She was still wet from earlier and the glide of her fingers was audible amongst their labored breathing. The stimulation had her hips writhing and she pinched her nipple harder, moaning needily. Not only was she playing with herself, she was playing with fire but Enid didn't care. Carl would never hurt her. Not really. Plus, despite him now being her best friend-boyfriend, she couldn't and wouldn't let him get away with bossing her around without pushing back somehow.

It just wasn't in her nature.

Enid laughed merrily as he finally let out a frustrated scoff and grabbed her wrist, forcing her hand away from her pussy. A completely rational person would've recoiled at the look on his face but she laughed harder. Messing with him was so much fun and she knew that deep down, he liked it, too. If he really wanted her to knock it off, he would've let her known and she would've immediately respected his wishes. Teasing him, busting his balls a bit was one thing. Actually hurting his feelings was a whole other animal.

She didn't want to do that on purpose.

That would be cruel and mean.

Enid didn't want to be cruel and mean to him.

The World had been cruel and mean enough to Carl Grimes without her adding to it.

Carl grabbed her other wrist and pinned her to the mattress, straddling her.

"You just love to be difficult, don't you?"

"Pot meet kettle, Grimes."

Carl's lips pursed before he made a 'fair enough' noise and both of them giggled. Their fingers entwined and Enid accepted his latest kiss, expecting it to be somewhat chaste. It was anything but chaste. His kiss was hot, wet, and full of tongue, stroking and sucking. Her temperature rose and she reached to take off of his clothes. As much as she enjoyed being naked and appreciated by him, things would be much better if she could feel his skin on hers. She got the buttons of his thermal undone before he held her off.

"Carl…"

"Not yet…I wanna try something…"

Once his kisses trailed past her rib cage, what he wanted dawned on her and nervous excitement pulsed through her veins. Would he really do it? She remembered girls whispering about it during band sectionals. She also remembered seeing article after article about it in her mother's guilty pleasure magazines. Apparently, it was a crucial part of making sure a woman was satisfied but not everyone was willing to do it at all or do it right. Some people didn't like the hair or the taste. What if Carl didn't like it? What if he thought that she felt weird down there or that she tasted bad or…

"Oh, my…Carl!"

"…you taste…so…damnedgood…"

"R-really?"

"Mmm-hmm…"

His tongue felt like heated silk and she quivered against him. Looking past her heaving breasts, her trembling abdomen, she took him in. Carl's brow was sweaty and she could see that his face was flushed to almost the same shade of pink as her dripping pussy. Enid could feel more wetness gather and pool between her legs, lapped and sucked up by his eager lips. Oh, God, his lips…his beautiful, beautiful lips! Other than his eyes and his ass, his lips were her favorite part of him. They were full, pink, inviting, and perfectly made for kissing her above and down low.

"…you're so good…fuck yes…don't stop, don't stop, please don't…ah!"

grunt, feral and guttural, was his answer and Carl used one his arms to prop her up, bringing her even closer to his mouth. He was panting harshly, the heated air sending her spiraling higher and higher. Enid could feel her inner walls begin to shake and buckle around his exploring tongue. One of her hands slapped the mattress, looking for a pillow to muffle herself and Carl nipped her inner thigh harshly before raising his head. The lower half of his face was glazed with her nectar and the fever in his eyes, the hunger…he was going to kill her.

Carl Grimes would be the death of her and she would die happy!

He tossed the pillow in her hands to the floor as if it had insulted him and his whole family tree.

"Don't you fuckin' dare…let me hear you…let everyone hear what I do to you…"

Hopefully, she wasn't hurting him. Her thighs were locked around his neck and she rode his tongue. She had two fistfuls of his hair and Enid didn't hold back her gasps, her moans. She could feel the need to scream building inside of her but she fought against it. Being too loud wasn't safe. Screaming could draw The Dead and assholes right to you and those around you but…she was behind Walls, now. She was in a good Community with good people who knew how to fight well. The doors to the Garage were locked and her bedroom door was firmly shut, granting more layers of protection. Enid wasn't by herself. She had Carl with her and he wouldn't let anything happen to her without a fight so…

Her heart was pounding in her ears, making everything inaudible to her but she knew that she was screaming. The slight burn of her throat, the strain of her lungs and mouth told her that. Hot tears were flowing from her tightly shut eyes and she could see stars, entire galaxies behind her eyelids. It felt so good. Everything felt so good and she didn't want it to end. Her back arched sharply and her hips coiled before snapping quickly against his hungry mouth. Abruptly, Enid could hear again and his low happy groans blended well with the high, slightly squeaking yelps and sobbing moans escaping her wide open mouth.

"That's it, Sugar…give it to me…give me everything…come for mescream for me, Enid…"

Enid threw her head back and screamed harder, her core pouring more hot nectar onto his seeking tongue. Every muscle in her body tensed before going fluid, making her melt into the mattress. Opening her eyes to half mast, she watched as Carl drank deeply from her well and licked his lips with obvious relish. Not only was he tasting her, he was tasting the seed he had left behind, too. He was swallowing every drop, even using his fingers to get more from her still pulsing walls. From what she had read and overheard about this intimacy, most men didn't like the blended tastes but Carl did. He liked all of it. He liked her taste, their taste. He liked her texture and her scent. He truly liked it and that made her happy.

She pleased him.

She wanted to please him, to make him ache for her like she ached for him.

She wanted him to need her like she needed him.

It was only fair.

/

He couldn't tell her yet.

He couldn't tell her yet.

It was too soon.

They hadn't known each other for a month, for fuck's sake.

He could not tell her yet.

He could tell her that he was serious about her, that he wanted to be with her for the long haul but Carl knew in his mind that telling Enid that he was in love with her would not be appropriate now. His heart, however, was screaming at him to confess. The 3 words were burning in his Gut, running on loop in his mind, keeping him awake. Enid was asleep upstairs, smiling as she dreamed. He should be lying next to her, holding her but he couldn't, not yet. Just like he couldn't tell her how he felt…or could he? Was he using on paper logic as an excuse, as a cover for his insecurities?

It wasn't like he didn't know her. Enid had told him a whole laundry list worth of things about herself, both heavy and light in the brief time that they had known each other. He had memorized every fact already because she was important. If it was important, he learned it and never forgot.

Enid was like a flower in the sun opening up to him. Carl knew that she wouldn't have told him a thing if she didn't trust him, if she didn't like him. However,liking someone and being in love with them were two very different things. And putting himself out there, yanking his heart wide open after spending so much time protecting it made him nervous enough to want to puke and run away. It was grimly hilarious. He could face death in all of its variants with nary a blink but when it came to feeling love, a feeling that was supposed to be one of the best feelings, he was shaking in his boots.

What if she didn't feel the same way?

What if she did feel the same way?

Oh, God…what would he do, then?

He had meant what he said before their first time. Carl wanted a Life with Enid, as full of a life as possible with her. All of the things he envisioned when she asked him were still in play, along with new scenarios. If Enid loved him back, then those scenarios could and would become reality. Could he really handle that? They were both so young and didn't have much experience. Seeing stable and unstable relationships had taught him the lessons he needed to be a good Partner but again, it was all in theory. It was…

He was brooding again.

He was overthinking again.

He needed to quit being an Emo idiot and go back to bed before Enid woke up thinking he left.

Maybe if he slept on it, he would wake up and know what to do about all of his Feelings.

Even if he didn't, he'd wake up with Enid in his arms and that would be awesome.

Standing up from the bottom of the stairs, Carl walked to main garage door and looked out the second window to make sure Alexandria hadn't been breached. The ASZ was quiet, looking normal and…his father was coming. He was holding a lantern.

Carl could recognize Rick Grimes' bowlegged gait from a mile away. That recognition was part of what kept him alive this long and Carl nodded to himself. Daryl must have told his parents where he was and his father was ready to Lecture him. Whether it was about him sneaking out again, his relationship with Enid, or something else, he wasn't sure.

One thing Carl was sure of was that he would stand his ground like always.

Resolved, Carl opened the door before his father could knock and risk waking Enid up.

"Carl…"

"Yeah, I know. We need to talk."

/

"Enid and I are none of your business."

"The hell it isn't! What are you thinking? Carl, you barely know this girl and you're…"

"You barely knew Jessie and you were determined to be with her, despite Michonne literally being right by your side through everything, including cult leaders, gang rapists and cannibals."

"You don't know what you're talking about!"

"Dad, I'm not stupid. I've never been stupid. I wasn't stupid about you and Mom's dead marriage before The Coma and The End. I wasn't stupid about Mom and Shane sleeping with each other after The End. I'm not stupid about Judith probably being my half sister and I'm not stupid about you and Jessie Anderson. You wanted her. You saw a pretty damsel in distress and you chased after her like a dog in heat. You snuck around plotting with Daryl and Carol, lying to everyone. You acted just like Shane on The Farm. You acted worse than Shane on The Farm because you were gonna take over this Place without a real plan to make it work after your dust settled. You got into a window busting street fight with Pete. You shoved me to the ground like I was a Walker instead of your son who was trying to help you. You were waving a stolen gun around and threatening to kill people in cold blood. Michonne, the woman you should've been chasing, had to step up and literally knock some sense into you to stop you from ruining everything, including yourself. We almost had to leave the first truly good Place we had found not just because of Gabriel being spineless at the time but also because our LEADER that we trusted with our safety wasn't thinking with anything other than his pride and his dick. In the end, we got to stay here but Mr. Monroe got his throat slit and then, I ended up with a big ass bullseye painted on my skull from a trigger happy Ron Anderson. Thanks a lot for that, by the way. It's bad enough that you were too scared to accept how you felt about Michonne then. You couldn't have picked a single woman with sane children to be her weak and useless substitute?"

"Carl…"

"Okay, Sam and Jessie being weak and useless wasn't your fault. That was on them and you didn't make Ron try to kill me twice. He decided to do that on his own. Ron had a lot of issues long before we got up here but you cannot stand there and tell me that what you did to Pete and wanted to do to Jessie wasn't part of…you still can't look me in the eye. It's been over 3 years and you still can't look me in the eye. Unbelievable. You can come all the way over here to yell at me, to judge people and things you don't know anything about but you can't look me dead in the eye while you do it? Really? What's the matter, Dad? Are the Scars too much for you to stomach? Too painful? Too ugly? Yeah, well imagine being the one with the ugliness on your face every damned day, every night for the rest of your life. Imagine getting horrible migraines that feel like your head's burning from the inside out that leave you puking and bedridden at least twice a month. Imagine that all of people you know, all of the people that you love as family, looking at your face and always cringing, always pitying you because you didn't die like you should have. You can't do it because that's my life, not yours."

"You think that I don't know that?! Carl, I…I'm sorry. I just…you need to be safe. That's all I want for you. I know you care about Enid and maybe she cares for you, too but you're moving so fast with her, too fast. You haven't known her for a month, for Christ's sake! What do you really know about her?"

"You wanna know what I really know about her?"

"Yes!"

"She's 18 years old from Novi, Michigan. Her birthday is June 11th. She was first chair clarinet in her school's band. She wanted to be a veterinarian or play in an orchestra on Broadway. Her parents' names were Liam Edward and Madeline Lily Mackenzie. Her dad worked at Chrysler on the Assembly Lines. Her mother taught piano lessons and was a substitute teacher. Her clarinet was her mom's and she got it for an 8th birthday present. Walkers ate her parents around the same time that The Governor attacked the Prison for the second time. She was on her own Northeast of here for 8 months before getting to the assholes that burned, whipped, and cut her leg open. She was held prisoner by them for 4 months before she got out. She stayed in the abandoned shops, apartments, houses, and the woods North of here for 2 winters before she decided to come back West. Her favorite color is blue and she loves 90s pop music. She uses blades because bullet noises scare the hell out of her, even though she's an excellent shot. What else do you want to know that I know? Her shoe size? 7. She wears Size 7 women's and 5 men's."

"Carl…"

"If you make Enid feel like she has to leave here, if you ever ask to me to make a choice, I will always choose her. Glenn would choose Maggie. Abraham would choose Sasha and you would choose Michonne. She's that important to me. I need her. She doesn't put up with any of my bullshit. She doesn't make me feel like a baby or a rabid animal about to snap. She sees me, not the Scars. I'm human with her. I'm happy with her. She's…Enid is and will stay a part of our lives now, even if we end up breaking up. You don't have to like it but you will accept it."

The heavy silence that fell after his gauntlet throw made Enid's heart melt and break at the same time. Carl was standing up for their relationship, standing up for himself and that made her feel happy. Yet, hearing Carl promise to break from his Family, from his father if he felt the need to made her want to cry. It also made her want to march downstairs and smack some sense into both men. How long were they going to keep being so stubborn? How long were they going to keep hurting each other's feelings?

It truly wasn't right for them to be at odds. They were family, blood family, good family! Was pride really worth that big of a rift? That was at the root of the whole Frankenstein's Monster of Issues between the Grimes Boys. Pride. Insecurity and pride…

"…I'll try. This is…I'll try."

"Thank you."

"I'm sorry, Carl."

"Me too but it's not going to...forget it."

"Carl…"

"Go home, Dad. It's getting late."

"Son…"

"I'm tired and I don't want to talk anymore so just go home. Please."

"All right…I'll see you in the morning."

"I told Daryl noon. Good night."

"…good night."

The side door closed and Enid listened as he sighed, a metallic thump telling her that Carl was resting his head on the main garage door.

Both men sounded more sad than angry during their latest confrontation. It hadn't gotten to the point where they could only communicate via hostility. That was a good thing. That meant that there was still hope. There was hope that could and should be nurtured. It would be up to her to do it. She and Michonne would team up. They would get their men to play nice, to actually listen to each other and finally move forward. Carl and Rick were stuck in the past, stuck in the 3 year old Horror that was Carl's Injury. They needed to break free.

Enid was an expert at breaking free, physically and mentally.

That was why she was still standing tall.

Climbing out of bed, Enid pulled his gray thermal shirt over her head before going downstairs. Just as she suspected, Carl was at the main garage door and she came up behind him. He sighed heavily and turned around, his eyes welling with tears.

"How much of that did you hear?"

"Enough. You've got a good memory. Is it photographic?"

"I don't know. I meant what I said, Enid. If he…if he can't accept us, then I can't…"

"Carl, he's your father and he loves you so much. I know that there are issues between you two but please don't break from him because of me."

"It wouldn't be because of you. Not really…"

"Still, there's got to be a better way to handle it than that. There has to be."

"…I want there to be. I…I already lost my mom. I don't want to lose my dad, too but I don't know what to do anymore, Enid. I can't get through to him. It's like we have the same conversation, the same arguments over and over again without moving forward."

"You'll figure it out…we'll figure it out."

"Yeah?"

"You said that you wanted your Family to be mine, too and we're best friends-companions, now. That means when one of us has a problem that can't be handled alone, the other jumps in to help. That's how it works. That's how we get it done."

"We're a team."

"My Cowboy's got balls, beauty, and brains. Lucky me."

His smile was genuine and she felt better.

It was nice to use humor in the way it was supposed to be used again.

Enid had once read a book in an abandoned psychologist's office about how some used humor to deflect and distract others from picking up on their various demons. Sometimes, the more a person Joked, the more they hurt inside. Enid knew that she fit into that idea perfectly. She was always in pain mentally, emotionally, and sometimes physically. She had tried being stoic, tried being angry to cope with her pain but humor had become the main way for her to endure. A well placed Joke, a sarcastic quip, even a funny face…whatever she had to do or say to keep moving forward, she'd do it so she'd Survive.

It was nice to make people smile and laugh just because.

It was nice to make Carl smile and laugh just because.

He really did need to do both more often.

So solemn, her man…it added to the whole partnership, yin-yang idea between them. She and Carl were the light and dark or more accurately, two different shades of dark. She and Carl were two functionally broken people coming together to make something beautiful and whole.

Enid pressed a tender kiss to his cheek and allowed him to lead her upstairs. He had pulled on a pair of navy blue sweats before leaving her (their) bedroom to think. Despite being someplace safe, Enid was a very light sleeper and she had missed Carl's body heat immediately. He was like a furnace, almost as if the heat from The Forgery had become a part of him. She would wait a while before asking what conundrum was troubling him. If it could keep him awake, it had to be important and deserved to be thought through without interruption.

After removing their clothes, they climbed back into bed and Enid spread the bedding over them evenly. Carl punched and fluffed the pillows before settling onto his back. Enid rested next to him and their right hands met halfway. His lips pressed against her temple and both of them stared drowsily at the ceiling. Sleep would come back to them eventually.

Until it did, they could share warmth and words.

"You know what you remind me of?"

"Insert real life Cowboy-Western movie related reference that I will never get here…"

"No, I said what, not who, Gary Cooper Jr."

"That's a new one."

"Your dad's more like Gary Cooper than Clint Eastwood. Clint Eastwood's characters never really had a family or depth. It was all about the Law and upholding it with little room for anything else. Gary Cooper's had layers that made them human yet still very badass. Your dad reminds me of him and you remind me of a kaleidoscope."

"How?"

"A kaleidoscope is made of different pieces on the inside that could be seen as ugly but when you really look at it, they're not. Broken things can still be beautiful and they can still be good and…and all of that sounded better in my head. I'm being weird again, aren't I?"

"No, you're not. I get it and I always liked kaleidoscopes. My 3rd grade teacher had a collection of them in her classroom. Mrs. Judith Mueller."

"As in Judith Grimes?"

"Yeah. Dad let me name her. Well, I kinda had to. Dad was…after mom died, he was pretty out of it. He broke down. I don't know if it was because of a broken heart or out of guilt for being distant with her after he found out about her sleeping with Shane and idea of Judith not being his because of it but…yeah."

"That sounds like a fucking disaster."

"It was but we got Judith out of it and that's awesome."

"I like Judith. She's sweet."

"She likes you, too."

"She does?"

"Mm-hm. So does Michonne."

"Even though we…your dad has a valid point. If you were him, would you…"

"No, I wouldn't trust you immediately but I'd believe in my kid."

"He does believe in you, Carl. He's just scared for you and can you blame him? How many times have you lost someone? How many times have you been hurt or left behind? How many times have you almost died since everything went to shit? How many times has he had to see you terrified?"

"…too many…I get where you're going with this."

"Of course you do."

"I feel like an asshole. I'm sitting here fighting with my dad all the time over stupid shit when there are people with all of their family and friends gone…"

"Fighting is a part of living and it's not stupid shit that you two are fighting about. The issues between you and your father are relevant and real. How you two have been dealing with them is absolutely fucking stupid and needs to change. You're being stubborn, petty Angry Goats and it needs to stop. You both need to stop. You're family. You love each other. Find a way to meet each other in the middle and be happy, goddamn it!"

Carl slowly nodded before shifting onto his side to face her. Having said her piece, Enid turned to face him and began caressing his body, falling into exploration. Enid was determined to learn every inch of Carl Grimes, every freckle, bump, and scar. When she found hard knots of tension (mainly near and on his lower back), she applied steady pressure until they gave way. She didn't want him to hurt in bad ways. Each knot undone made him hiss or groan in relief and Enid was again moved by how hard he worked.

Nearly every day, he was in the Forgery, putting his body through strain, sometimes through agony to get what needed to be done accomplished. If he wasn't in Forging, he was Guarding, Scavenging, or looking after his Family. Carl was constantly in motion, deep in the mix of making Alexandria work and she was proud to know him.

He was good person, undeniably tender but strong and capable.

He had adapted to the Fucked New World and made a life for himself.

He made the best of the very shitty situation all of humanity found itself in.

Enid had met other young Survivors who spent all of their time mourning. They mourned what used to be. They mourned what should've been to the point of being useless to themselves and those around them. Enid could understand their deep pain because she felt it with every single breath but what good would it do to forever dwell on her losses? What good would it do to forever dwell on "what ifs?" and "should've beens"?

Yes, she should still have her parents. Yes, she should've been able to become the clarinet section leader or a colorguard member in marching band. Yes, she should've been able to go to Prom and to graduate from high school. Yes, she should be well on her way to becoming a veterinarian or memorizing scores for major Broadway musicals but none of that would happen. It couldn't happen. The Virus had uprooted everything and everyone. The World had been reset and everyone had to adapt quickly or die.

Mourning what could and should've been was natural. Everyone was entitled to mourn but eventually, one had to let it all go. It was good to Remember, to never ever Forget but not at the cost of Survival.

Survival was paramount.

Enid had been accused of being heartless, machine like when she had been around people pre-Alexandria. She was as dead as the World around them, as dead as the Walkers/Rotters/Deadies all around them. She would pull her weight but she was utterly remote. She wouldn't connect with anyone, not even to share a meal. It had been part of the reason why Wyatt had been so drawn to her, other than him being a sicko that wanted a new Toy to play with. He had gotten the idea in his head that if he could break her, he would be able to make her happy. He would be able to make her connect with others again. "The Good Doctor" had called himself helping her while meticulously, happily torturing her.

Asshole.

Sick, twisted fucking asshole!

Wyatt had gotten exactly what he deserved in the end.

The piece of shit had learned his lessons the hard way.

Nobody made Enid do anything that she didn't want to do.

Nobody got away with making her a victim.

Ever.

If she could, she would kill him all over again…

"Come back, Enid."

She blinked and focused on Carl, who was watching her with knowing eyes.

"…sorry."

"Don't be."

"I…I wish that I could kill him again. I wish that I could tie him down and torture him for months like he did to me. I wish I could've helped kill the other assholes and that I could've been the one to set the fire and let The Dead in. I wish that I could've stayed longer to watch them all burn and Turn. Does that…does feeling that way make me a bad person? Am I worse than them?"

"No."

"…are you sure?"

"You're not a bad person, Enid. You're a good person that survived bad things happening to and around you and you can feel however you want to feel about it. It's a person's actions that matter in the end. You're a good person. You're one of the best people I've ever met and I'm not just saying that because you let me see you naked."

She laughed and quipped, "You have done much more than see me naked, Sport."

"Yes, I have…"

The look on his face reminded Enid of an alley cat that not only gotten into the cream but got to lick it off of the pretty pampered Persian princess cat next door. That comparison made her glance at his lips just in time to see the tip of his tongue dart over them.

She wanted him again. Judging by the growing heat against her inner thigh, Carl was in the same boat. Was that normal? They had already been intimate twice in less than 3 hours. Granted, they were young, healthy, and relishing their new sexuality but still, shouldn't they be sated, at least for a little while?

"…I want you again…"

Apparently not.

The need that Enid was feeling wasn't as persistent as it had been after their hot makeout session in the Forgery but it was insistent. She wanted to touch and be touched. She wanted him again and she was going to have him.

They were going to have each other.

The weight of Carl on top of her was already one of her favorite feelings. Enid grunted softly as he slid into her and grabbed his hip, drawing him deeper. He was up on his forearms, reaching for the headboard and a pleased hiss escaped him as she gently bit one of his nipples. There was a thin line between pleasure and pain, a line that Carl apparently enjoyed her toying with. That would certainly be fun to experiment with on both ends. Her pain tolerance was through the roof and Enid already knew that she liked Carl manhandling her a bit so perhaps…

"Fuck!"

It was mouthed instead of shouted and Enid held him tighter with her thighs, meeting the slow rolling of his hips halfway. Instead of the headboard, Carl had decided to hold onto the mattress for stability. She gasped as he abruptly reversed their positions and whimpered as he went deeper inside her welcoming walls. His left hand slid from her middle to her thigh, to her Scars and caressed them fondly. Carl's eyes drifted shut as she moved his hair aside.

Leaning forward, Enid pressed kisses to the Scars that spanned his zygomatic arch, following the trail to the rest of them. Like their first time, his breath hitched but there were no tears, just softness in his gaze when he looked up at her.

Enid wanted to see that softness in his eyes for the rest of her life.

The very idea of her not getting to see the softness, of not getting to spend the rest of her life with Carl Grimes was unacceptable. She had only known him for a short period of time but he was already very dear to her. Honestly, he was the main reason that she was staying in Alexandria. That wasn't to say that she wasn't thankful for the Walls, resources, and the other kind people she had met in The Walled Place but her connection with Carl was stronger than all of that. It reminded her of the connection between her parents…

When would it be appropriate to tell him that she loved him, that she was in love with him?

Enid was sure that she wasn't confusing love and sex, despite what it looked like from the outside. Was it too soon to say anything? It was definitely too soon. They had barely known each other for a month and it wouldn't make sense to say anything. And if she did tell him the 3 words burning in her heart and Gut, would they scare him away? She didn't want to scare him away. She didn't want to ruin things. Carl had agreed that they were going to be together as a couple. He obviously liked and trusted her. If he didn't like and trust her, then they wouldn't have become such fast friends nor would he have shared anything substantial. However, liking someone and being in love with them were two very different things…

Shaking her head slightly, Enid anchored herself to the moment and at the moment, Carl was rocking up into her, his hands firmly cupping her behind. Bracing her hands on his chest, Enid swiveled her hips in the way he really liked, gratified at the way his head fell back. She loved that. She loved that Carl was responsive to her, unafraid to be vocal for her. She had never understood taking stoicism that far. How were people supposed to know what their lover liked if they didn't speak or at least moan? Body language only worked to a point.

"…you feel so fucking good…you always…god, Enidplease"

"Please what, Babe…what do you need? Tell me…show me…"

When he sat up, she expected him to put her on her back but instead, he pulled her flush against him. His right hand slid up from her behind to where her bra band would be. His left buried itself in her hair and Enid accepted the kiss. Her hands shook as they rested on Carl's shoulders and she continued riding him, happily meeting him halfway.

They were skin on skin, heart to heart, as close as two people could get to each other.

After everything that had happened to her, Enid had sworn to never let anyone get close to her again. She had sworn to keep people out, to keep or push them away so they wouldn't be able to move her, to make really care about them. Really caring about people, loving people meant being vulnerable. It meant being devastated when they eventually left her behind somehow. It meant nothing but trouble, grief, and heartbreak…

"Oh, God…"

Her climax felt like she was unraveling slowly. It was potent and rippling from deep inside of her. Low, near pained moans escaped her parted lips and Enid could feel him follow her over the edge. She could feel the now familiar heat of him coming inside of her. Her body went limp and Carl lay back slowly, still cradling her against him. Enid sniffled and hid her damp face in his neck, giggling softly.

Every rule and plan she had made against feeling was shot to hell, now. Carl Grimes had yanked her new rulebook out of her hands and burned it to ashes. She had grown attached to him. She had grown fond of him and was certain that she was in love with him. She had fallen ass over heels in love with the Cutie Cowboy that had wanted to bring her home with him like a stray kitten.

She didn't mean to fall for him. It had been an accident!

Really, it had…

Shit, what was she going to do?

"…what am I gonna do with you, Carl Grimes?"

"…keep me?"

Yes.

Yes, that was  exactly  what she was going to do.


Three Weeks Later…

"Hi."

"Hi. Enid, right?"

"Yes and you are Spencer Monroe. You split Gatekeeping duties with Eugene and teach people about rappelling and climbing."

"Yeah. If you're looking for Carl, he's got Watch until 10…"

"I'm here to share a Run idea with The Council before I go and keep him company. May I come in?"

"Sure. We just finished dinner but if you're hungry, I can get you a plate."

"I'm not hungry. Thanks for offering, though."

"Okay. Everyone's on the back porch. I'll let them know you're here."

"Cool."

She had come to the Monroe house to film an Interview with Maggie Rhee and Michonne on her third day of being in Alexandria. Spencer had been the cameraman and she remembered the look of empathy on his face when she mentioned what had happened to her parents. It was the same empathy that she had seen on Carl's and Maggie's faces. Carl had lost his mother and Maggie? Maggie had lost so much. She lost her mother, stepmother, brother, uncle, aunt, father, sister …nearly everyone she ever loved was Gone. Thankfully, Maggie still had her husband Glenn, her son Hershel Dale, and the blended Family that the Grimes Group had become.

Enid really admired Maggie. Most people, herself included, would've shut down forever after going through such a gauntlet of pain. It would've been too much to bear. Not only was Maggie still standing tall, she had found genuine joy again.

Maggie was a good example to follow.

Local lore had filled Enid in about what happened to Spencer and the Monroe family after The End. His older brother Aiden had died on a Run due to his own carelessness and his best friend's selfish cowardice. His father Reg had been publicly, senselessly murdered by the abusive alcoholic surgeon that was supposed to be an upstanding Community member. His mother Deanna had died during the SuperHerd's invasion of Alexandria. She had been Bitten during the initial breach and Turned before sundown. Spencer even had to find her Walker in the woods to Put Down after the dust settled.

Just like Enid was The Last Mackenzie, Spencer was The Last Monroe.

Her heart went out to him…but only to a certain point.

See, Enid not only remembered the empathy but also remembered the lightning quick looks of resentment that crossed Spencer's face every time Rick Grimes was mentioned as being Alexandria's LEADER. Nobody else noticed them or maybe they did notice but dismissed them. After all, there were always bigger fish to fry and Spencer seemed harmless. Operative word being seemed. Everyone had breaking points.

She saw the resentment and didn't like it one little bit. Overall, Spencer seemed to be a good person but Enid would keep a watchful eye on him. Spencer Monroe reminded her of Fredo Corleone, an ambitious yet fumbling puppy of a man. Both men had no guile, no sense of what the world was truly like past their own noses, and quite frankly, no guts.

If Spencer ever saw an opportunity to seize power from Rick or his successors, he would likely take it. He probably felt entitled to it since his parents were the ones who established Alexandria in the first place. Spencer had been there from the beginning. He had helped build the Walls. He probably felt passed over and like he could be a better LEADER simply because his was a Monroe. Enid could understand his flawed logic but like when Fredo tried to be more than what he truly was, it would lead to disaster. If someone else didn't get killed in an attempted coup d'état, then Spencer would certainly die himself or wish that he had.

Just like there was deep kindness within the Grimes Group and its members, there was also deep ruthlessness. They were Survivors. They were Warriors. They knew what reality was. Anyone who became a threat to them or those they had taken in would be dealt with decisively. And if someone they had taken in betrayed or ever attempted to betray them? Oh, boy…

Spencer would do well to stay in his lane and to keep his all of his resentment to himself or in a well hidden journal.

If he didn't, his Fate would be his own fault.

Looking through the sliding door, Enid took in the scene. Spencer was standing by the stairs, refilling a tumbler of scotch on the rocks. Carl's parents were standing by the longest railing, looking out towards the pond. Rick had a glass of scotch in his grasp but it was still nearly full. Michonne nursed a deep mug of tea. They were holding hands. Glenn and Maggie were standing next to them and Maggie's shoulders were covered by an indigo poncho. Glenn had an arm around her waist and she rested her head on his shoulder. Daryl had taken up sentry on the part of the railing closest to the Gate, resting comfortably in the corner. Instead of nursing a drink, he had an unlit cigarette in his mouth and one of his green fletched crossbow arrows in his hands. The crossbow itself was leaning against one of the porch's support columns, ready to be taken up at a second's notice. Michonne's katana was on her back and Rick put aside his tumbler of scotch to fiddle with the top of his Colt Python .38's holster.

Carl did that, too. Both with his gun holster and the sheath for his Bowie knife…

Squaring her shoulders, Enid stepped outside and squashed the urge to run as all eyes went to her. These were good people. They were Carl's family. They wouldn't hurt her without just provocation. She had faced worse things and people than this Council. She could do this. She wasn't a little kid. She was a grown woman. She could do this. She would do this. She was an Alexandrian with a good idea to contribute and she would be heard, damn it!

Enid knew that she was proving herself every day. She had taken to Forging like a duck to water and some of her designs were already being created at Hilltop Colony. Hilltop was the Test grounds and there had been good reports. She and Carl were solid. She had been adopted by Judith and Hershel Dale as a playmate. She was also their first choice of babysitter (after Olivia and Carl), which Enid didn't mind at all. They were good kids and in the Beforetime, she used to be a student cafeteria/recess helper for K-second grade. It was nice to do something like that again. It was nice to be able to play and teach again.

She was a good fighter and she didn't cause trouble. Well, unless one counted her and Carl eventually breaking a bed as trouble. She'd fix it when it happened. Bed frames were essentially giant jigsaw puzzles and she was good at those….

"Spencer says you've got an idea for a Run?"

These Alexandrians were smart. Carl's family was smart. Having Maggie make the first move was perfect. Maggie was the gentlest one (other than her husband) and Enid could sense a maternal air about her when it came to her. It made sense. Enid was an orphan and she was around the same age as her sister Beth had been when she was murdered. Maybe Enid reminded Maggie of her and she wanted to make sure that she would be okay. If that were the case, Enid appreciated that and would keep encouraging it.

Nobody would ever be able to replace her Mommy, just like nobody would be able to replace Maggie's Beth but it was nice to be cared for again.

It was nice to be a part of something good.

Enid stepped up to the main railing and opened the Back to School binder she had salvaged from the store. Turning to pages 20 and 21, she unfolded the road map she had tucked in before pointing to the large red circle in the middle.

"Marie Curie Academy, home of the Electrons. It was a private high school that focused on math, science, and college prep. After getting civilians out, the military used it as a medical Quarantine and Research Post during The Spread. I guess they were trying to see if they could find a Cure or at least protect the public from The Virus. Of course, we already know how that turned out. Anyway, distracting the Chompers, I can do just fine. What I need help with is the actual Run part."

"How far away is it?"

"8 miles North, 3 miles East of here. I stayed in one of the houses near it after my leg healed enough for me to travel long distances. I spent months in that neighborhood and I didn't see or hear anything but The Dead and the occasional moose. I checked the area before I decided to come back West and it was still deserted."

"How long ago was that?"

"Carl found me a month after I got back in the area so I'd say about 4 months. Things change so I can go and make sure it's still quiet before going in. According to this map, the school is shaped like a rectangle with 3 square wings and a courtyard in the middle. Before whoever was there left or died, they managed to get most of The Dead into the courtyard. I can keep them there."

"How?"

"They like fire and noise. All I need are a few Molotovs, some fireworks, a boombox to blast music, and something to put all the fires out before leaving there. I can do it from the roof. Some parts of the playground make it easy to get up there if you've got a running start and no fear of heights."

"You want to do all of that by yourself?"

"Yes. It's best that way."

"You sure about that?"

Enid was about to answer with her usual 'yes' but she hesitated. Being by herself had been best for her for the longest time. Being by herself had put control firmly in her hands and kept others from being hurt from one of her choices. That was another thing that kept her away from Communities and Groups after escaping The Mansion. She didn't want to be the one with the Idea that got people killed or injured. The Fucked New World was brutal and anything could happen to anyone at any time but still…the thought of having an innocent's blood on her hands, a good person's? It was horrible.

But, Alexandria was different. Its people were different. They knew what they were doing and they stuck together. If one person faltered, then someone else would be there to help them up and fight off the threat. Enid was sure that if things went wrong, they would be able to handle it and nobody would blame her specifically. Well, nobody other than herself but just like she was used to pain, she was used to feeling guilt.

The same book that had so aptly explained humor as a coping mechanism also went had a section devoted to the topic of Survivor's Guilt. Other people hadn't made it. Her Mommy and Daddy hadn't made it. They should've. The Virus should've never happened in the first place but it had and despite all odds, Enid was one of the last ones standing. She felt grateful but melancholy.

What was so special about her that she got to live?

Why couldn't her parents, Carl's mother, Maggie's sister, and countless other good people have made it, too?

It was unfair.

The World was unfair, now more than ever but still, it wasn't right. She lived and others didn't. People who deserved better, who deserved to live were Gone. Did she even deserve to live, now? Was she still a good person? Carl told her that she was and he was a good judge of character but he could be biased, not just because they were together but because he didn't know her whole story yet.

Enid had done some questionable to very bad things before Carl brought her to Alexandria. The laundry list of things she had jokingly shared with Carl before their first time was just the tip of the iceberg of her actions. They were in the name of Survival but still, the things had been bad and she would be lying if she said that she hadn't enjoyed doing them a little bit. Not too much but enough to…

Just like in The Forgery's mudroom, Enid forced that train of thought to a screeching halt and focused on the now. The present was what was important and presently, she had to answer Rick's question correctly or her Run would be nothing more than an Idea. The Council was a Council but Rick was the LEADER and he had final say for major moves.

There would be plenty of time for a spiraling existential crisis of conscience later.

She had to make her case and part of that was compromising. Compromising was good…

"…I could use three people on the roof with me: two to keep watch and another to help with the distraction. There are school buses, ambulances, and FEMA trailers in the back parking lot so it'll be easier to hide whatever vehicles we use. And we could check the trailers while we're there too. By the looks of things, the facility fell to The Dead quickly and they had to get out fast. It could be a goldmine."

"Are there any other Groups up there? Any Communities?"

"None that I heard or saw. The most people I dealt with up North were those in The Mansion but they're all dead, now. They're dead or they went as far away from D.C. as possible. Anyone who wasn't an asshole was a prisoner there. Once the fires started, everyone got revenge. All of the assholes died. They were shot or stabbed, burned, or they were Eaten alive. Somebody let 2 passing Herds in and they got what they deserved. All of the prisoners got out of there before they could get Eaten and burned up, too...or just got Eaten and burnt up in the chaos. I don't know. After I shot the bastard that ruined my leg, I ran away. I didn't look or go back. I didn't look for any survivors, afterwards. What good would it have done? The Mansion wasn't like here. People care about each other here. People love each other here. In The Mansion, it was all about keeping your head down and screwing someone over to take your place so you wouldn't end up raped or worked or tortured to death or to the point of begging for death. There were no friends there…no families…just a bunch of sick fucks and their sad little victims. Including me."

The silence after her words was heavy as lead.

"Enid…"

"Please don't."

There was a heavier silence afterwards and Enid wiped stray tears away before looking straight into Rick's pained, empathy filled cerulean eyes. Looking around the porch, she could see pain and empathy in everyone's eyes and body language, even ever stoic Daryl's. She had just revealed far more than she had intended about her trauma up North but that was par the course with Alexandrians, with Carl and his family. They all made her feel safe. They all made her feel like a part of something good so talking about the multiple something bads she had endured was easy…easier. That being said, she still didn't want to hear the 'I'm so sorrys' or be pitied to the point of coddling. What happened to her and the others had been horrendous but it was in the past now.

The Mansion was nothing but a big pile of ash and rubble, reclaimed by nature.

"Dr." Wyatt was dead and rotting in the ruins or shat out of a Walker's ass.

All of those who wronged her and the others were twice dead and properly unmourned.

There had been justice and she was still standing tall.

That was what counted in the end.

"So, are we doing this?"

Enid hadn't come to them for a Confessional or a Group Therapy Share. She had come there to be an asset to their Community, their Home and she had to remind them of that. It was nice to know that they cared but now wasn't the time for all of that. Rick looked at Michonne and she nodded once. With that, Rick cleared his throat and made his decision.

"…we'll do it. We'll go the day after tomorrow."

"I'll be ready. Thanks for hearing me out. May I please leave now?"

"Yeah…Enid?"

"Hmm?"

"Carl's on The Roof. He switched shifts with Gabriel."

"Thank you, Glenn. Good night, everyone."

Enid managed not to break into a run while retreating but if the sliding door rebounded a bit after she shut it, the Council had the decency to ignore it. Sitting on the bottom front porch stair, she buried her face in her hands and took slow, deep breaths. Her knees were shaking and that made the closed binder rattle quietly. She had done it. She had accomplished what she set out to do and now…now, she just wanted Carl. He was on The Roof and if the Council didn't want her near him right now, then they wouldn't have told her where he was, right? Right. Exactly right…

Enid knew that she had lots of work to do. She had to prepare for the Run. It was her Run, her Baby. It was her chance to prove that she was more than a pretty orphan girl in a multitude of schoolgirl uniforms with a tragic back story. It was her chance to prove that she more than The Carl Grimes' girlfriend (although, she was damned happy and proud to be said girlfriend!). She was an Asset, not a Liability. She was a grown woman, not a sad and lonely little girl, anymore. She was a Warrior. She was a Survivor. She…she…

She wanted Carl.

Getting up, Enid wiped her eyes with the back of her hand and headed for The Roof. Instead of one of her uniforms or her work clothes (cargos, tank top, hoodie, and boots), she had come to the Monroe house in black sweatpants, her red Chucks, and a long sleeved top that was somewhere between lavender and pink. She wasn't sure what color it was. She just knew that it was pretty and it had been part of her welcome basket from Olivia. She had put her knee pads on and all of her blades were present but she had wanted the Council to see Enid the Person.

She wanted to show them Enid the Person, not the Shit Shooting, Stiff Slashing Schoolgirl Survivor she had become after losing her parents to The Dead and almost all of her innocence to The Mansion.

Enid the Person was still there underneath all her armor and that was very reassuring.

Sometimes, a lot of times, facades were necessary for Survival but if they took everything over? If they made someone into a Jay Gatsby, then they weren't worth maintaining. There was a fine line between protecting yourself and erasing yourself entirely…

"Enid."

Looking up, she saw Carl looking over at her with concern. Oh. She was at The Roof, already? The Roof was actually a platform overlooking a larger pond. It was down a long curving path and towards the very back of the ASZ. It was beautiful during all 4 seasons and even had little fish in it. The fish were sometimes caught and thrown back. How long had she been standing there? How long had he been trying to get her attention?

"Hi."

"What's the matter? You've been crying…"

"It's nothing anyone did or said. It's just…it's just bad shit in my head again."

"Do you want to talk about it?"

"Not now. Later?"

"Okay."

Enid tossed the binder up and ascended the ladder. If she were in a better mood, she would've just climbed up one of the supports, maybe did a quick tumble before landing but there would be plenty of time for that later. Settling next to him, she sat down and let her legs hang over the edge.

"They said yes."

"When?"

"Day after tomorrow."

"Are you nervous?"

"Yeah."

"Don't be. It'll be fine."

"You don't know that."

"I don't but I'm saying it anyway. I'm speaking it into existence."

"Is that the Vodka Aunt to The Law of Averages that ruined Christmas Every. Single. Year?"

"Enid…"

"There was always that one relative or that one couple that had to be rotated through the family. Whose turn is it for Aunt Mildred and Uncle Edgar? It's yours? Sucks to be you…"

"Uncle Edgar?"

"He's the one with the crop dusting gas and the unfortunate mouth breathing asthma."

"Oh, my God…"

Making Carl laugh always cheered her up.

She still felt sad but it was much more bearable.

Carl made things much more bearable.

She sighed deeply before pulling out her father's lighter. After everything that had happened to her, Enid had expected to have an unreasonable fear of fire. Fire had fueled a lot of the horrible things she had seen and endured. However, one of the best ways she soothed herself was to fiddle with her dad's silver Zippo lighter. Part of it was making sure that the lighter still worked but the rest was about control. She could spark it. She could have the flames as high as they would go or so low they were barely visible. Her fingers could flip it open and closed steadily, even with her eyes shut, even with her hands tied behind her back. Eventually, the lighter stayed in her left hand, her thumb idly tracing the trigger and glancing down, she saw Carl's hand resting on the platform, just waiting to be held. That was part of her Going Steady privileges, was it not? Handholding when a good opportunity arose…yes…

Slowly, she rested her free hand on top of his and slid her fingers into the spaces between his. Enid chuckled at the sight. Their hands looked like mutated spiders riding piggyback or recovering from a failed round of leapfrog. Her whole hand easily disappeared in his palm when they held hands the regular way and she liked that. She honestly liked being Carl's girlfriend, not just because of the sex (which got better every single time they did it) but because of their dynamic. They were best friends who genuinely respected each other, raised good hell together and liked to be naked together on a regular basis.

That was the best kind of relationship, honestly.

"Do you want me out there with you?"

"…yes and no. More yes than no. Yes, because I always want to spend time with you and I want you to see what I can really do. No, because if things go wrong, I don't want you to be in danger...but everyone's always in danger. I just…it's really confusing, sometimes. Having all these damned Feelings. That's why I tried to shut them off and when that didn't work, laugh them off. Laughing them off works most of the time. I don't do it with you, though. You're different."

Carl was looking at her so tenderly but she kept facing the water, pocketing the lighter to keep it safe. If she looked at him, she'd say it. She would say that she was in love with him and although she was no longer denying the feelings, she wasn't ready to tell him yet. It wasn't the right time.

Slowly, Enid rested her head on his shoulder and closed her eyes, feeling completely worn out.

"You sleepy, Sugar?"

She nodded and yawned.

"Come on. I'll walk you home."

No, he would walk her back to the garage.

Home was him, now.

/

"What did Enid say to you guys?"

"Carl…"

"Glenn's holding onto Maggie and Hershel like he's afraid they're going to disappear. Spencer's looking like someone killed his puppy. Daryl went off on his bike and Dad's walking the Perimeter without you. What did she tell you?"

"She just…is she sure that they're all dead? The people who hurt her?"

"Yeah. Why?"

"If they aren't,they will be."

Carl nodded in agreement and sat in the brown wicker chair next to hers. Michonne's left hand was resting on the armrest, her thumb tracing the gold band that his father had given her. Her right hand was holding the katana on her lap tightly. Michonne was holding it as if she wanted to unsheathe it and cut the whole fucking world to shreds. He recognized that grip, the icy look in her tearful amber eyes from times of trouble and grief. Their Family had been thrown into a bad situation. Someone had hurt one of their own. Someone had kidnapped or murdered one of their own and that someone needed to pay for it with interest.

Enid was one of their own.

"When we first spent the night together, she told me exactly what and who happened to her leg and how she got away. She…what we've gone through was bad. We've all been to hell and back again but we always had each other, you know? Someone good was always there. We weren't alone during and after the trouble but Enid? Until we met in the woods, the only good people she had were her parents. She was all alone out there and sad. That's why I brought her back here with me. I just…I just wanted her to see that not everyone will hurt or screw her over. I wanted her to see that not every Community or Group is bad and that she didn't have to be alone if she didn't want to be. She could have hope. She could be safe and happy again."

A long beat of silence and then…

"You're in love with her, aren't you?"

Looking away from his stepmother, Carl focused on his bare feet and the wood of the porch underneath. He needed to clip his toenails, especially the big ones. They were starting to look like talons. Some of the planks of the porch could use some sanding and a fresh coat of sealant. Maybe he could have Judith and Hershel help him while he handled that. That could be fun…

"Carl?"

"Michonne, I…"

"Carl, I know a Grimes man in love when I see it. I also know when one is lying or about to lie."

He couldn't help but grin at that but he kept his gaze down. There was no use lying. Michonne always knew. She always figured things out. Sometimes, she would know even before they knew, not just with Grimes men but with people in general. Not for the first time, Carl wondered if she had some sort of telepathic or empathy based superpower. Honestly, he didn't want to lie about his feelings for Enid. He didn't know how to handle them yet but lying was not an option. What sense would that make? Lying wouldn't change the facts and it would be disrespectful, possibly hurtful if Enid got wind of it.

Carl didn't want to hurt her.

He didn't want to be mean and cruel to her.

The World had been mean and cruel enough to Enid Mackenzie.

He wouldn't become another asshole that hurt her, not if he could help it.

"It's too soon, isn't it?"

"Maybe. Maybe not. Every relationship is different and sometimes, you just know immediately."

"Was it like that with you and my dad?"

"I can't speak for him but as for me? No. At first, I wanted to cut his head off and wipe my ass with it..."

"Michonne!"

"…but as time passed, as I got to know him, things changed. When he was going to turn me over to The Governor, I knew that he didn't decide to do it because he was cruel or cowardly or because he hated me. He did it because he wanted to protect his Family. It made me realize that even when he messed up, he always had good intentions so I forgave him. He was a good LEADER and a damned good father to you and Judith. I realized that when it counted the most, I could trust him. Once that happened, the whole world opened up. Your dad became my friend and eventually, the love of my life. Do you feel like you can really trust Enid?"

"Yes."

"Even if you two break up?"

"Yes. I trust her. She's my best friend."

"Okay, then."

And with that, Michonne stood up and went inside, making him laugh softly. That was what he liked best about confiding in her and Daryl. There was no coddling or bullshit, just straight to the point words that were full of lots of common sense. Once they made their point clear, the conversation ended and they were on the move.

Having being in love explained simply instead as some big overwhelming emotional roller coaster took dealing with his ever deepening feelings for Enid from being an existential crisis to…well, it was still an existential crisis, to be honest but a more manageable one.


The Run...

Enid's Run had been announced last night at the Church.

Everyone had known about it beforehand but the details were released, assignments given.

They would take the RV, the gray Lincoln, and Daryl would be on his bike.

Crew 1 would be Heath's. Crew 2 would be Glenn's.

Crew 1 was Heath, Tara, Scott, himself, and Rosita. Crew 2 was Glenn, Michonne, Daryl, Aaron, and his dad. Enid would go in first to clear it. She knew the surrounding area best. Once they were all in, everyone would start out searching the trailers and other vehicles. If things held steady, they would go into the school itself. They were heading out early and would stay until about noon for the first Run. If things worked, there would be more Runs to the Academy, as well as Runs to the nearby homes and businesses.

When they went inside the school, Enid would be on the roof with 3 people of her choice.

She had chosen Daryl, Glenn, and surprising everyone, his dad.

Before the Church meeting, Carl had only seen her in passing. She had been holed up Eugene's lab, making what she needed for the roof. She had been at the Gate, writing a master list of what the Infirmary needed, what the Pantry needed, and personal requests. She had been at the Armory, signing out one of the sniper rifles, a Remington 700 along with its silencer and 2 clips of ammunition. She had left with Daryl on his bike after lunch, showing him the way to the Academy because like during the SuperHerd, he would be in front of the cars. Right before the meeting, she had been speaking with Gabriel by the pond, looking sad but resolved.

In front of everyone, she had been nothing but determined.

The Run would happen. The Run would go well. They would get what Alexandria needed and they would all come back alive. Enid would not accept another outcome. The look in her eyes, the undercurrent of steel in her voice as she spoke to their Community made that crystal clear. The Fucked New World they lived in was unpredictable. Anything could and would happen but if the Marie Curie Academy Run went wrong because someone had fucked things up, there would be hell to pay.

He was determined not to be the person that fucked things up.

He didn't want to disappoint or embarrass her nor did he want her to be truly mad at him.

Enid was not one to be messed with.

Carl was secure enough in his masculinity to freely admit that his girlfriend scared the shit out of him. Not enough for him to stop being best friends with her, definitely not enough for him to stop loving her but enough for him to be sure to watch his step and his ass.

If anyone had a shot of taking him down and keeping him down, it was Enid.

And knowing her, she would find a way to make him like it as she did him in!

"…you should do that more often."

"Do what?"

"The thing you're doing with your face. It's not as pretty as the sunrise will be but it's a close second."

Enid traced his lips with her fingertip, following the curve of his smile.

"I hope you're not mad about not being up top. We'll blow shit up together, soon. I promise."

"I'm holding you to that. I'm not mad. Just confused. Why my dad?"

"He's one of the best shots around and I need to talk to him about something. It's important."

"You…you're not leaving, are you?"

"I'm staying. That's why I need to talk to him in a place that he can't easily escape from."

"Nice."

"It's not like he would be able jump off the roof to get away from me. Well, I guess he could but I think he might break a hip or something else he needs. Your dad is a tough SOB but still…"

"He's not that old, Enid."

"He's old enough and broken bones have no age limit…ooh, look…"

Carl watched as the sun truly began its ascent. The sky looked like a watercolor painting, full of soft pinks, purples, blues, yellows and reds. Birds started chirping and some took flight, heading for the horizon. The clouds were high in the sky. They were white and cirrus mainly and the sunset had no red in it. It wouldn't be raining for a while, at least for a couple of days and that was good. As usual, audible amongst the sound of wildlife and the wind, were the snarling moans of Walkers but not too…there weren't enough to worry about another Herd building up.

Even one Walker was a Walker too many.

"Watching the sunrise always makes me feel good. It's proof that I'm still here and it just…there are still plenty of beautiful things to see in this Fucked New World, Carl. You just gotta know where and when to look."

"Yeah…"

He was looking straight at her.

Enid was standing near the left booth of the RV. Her knapsack was on the table next to her gray duffel. What she needed for the roof was in it, along with the rifle. The boombox was on the counter next to the sink, along with a small stack of CDs. Marie Curie Academy's uniform was the same one she had been wearing when they first met in the woods. A dark green and beige embroidered atom was on the brown blazer right where her heart pounded underneath. Since it there was quite a bit of frost in the air, instead of the gray skirt and dark green knee socks, she had on her gray cargo pants. The harness for her tangs was on the table and the long blades were next to it, a sharpening stone ready to be used on the way to their destination resting in front of them.

She took off the blazer and tied it around her waist, revealing the now clean beige dress shirt and it was unbuttoned enough to give a hint of cleavage but not enough to show. Another button would have to be undone for it to be shown and Carl felt his fingertips itch with the desire to undo the button. He wanted to undo all of her buttons, lower her zipper, her bra straps, her panties…

Slowly, she turned her head away from the morning sky and he didn't look away from her, even as pink slowly tinted her cheeks. Why should he? Enid was quite lovely and for some strange but very good reason, she had chosen him to be her boyfriend. He could look at her if he wanted to and she had just given him some very good advice. Appreciate beauty whenever and wherever he could find it. That was exactly what he was doing.

He wanted to do it some more, show deeper appreciation…

Carl stepped forward and she took one back, a smile already breaking through on her face. Emboldened, Carl quickly boxed her in and she nodded, welcoming him, urging him closer. Instead of going for her lips immediately, he began to kiss a slow path up from the base of her throat. His Hat joined the items on the table. Soon, he was moaning as her fingertips massaged his neck and scalp. God, he loved it when she did that. Even with the leather gloves covering her hands, it felt wonderful.

With a quiet impatient grunt, Enid raised his head and kissed him hard, meeting him halfway with her tongue. Carl slid a leg between hers, giving her his jean clad thigh to grind against. When she arched her back, his hands spanned the small of it, his fingers interlocking. He chuckled against her lips as one of her hands went deep into his back pocket and both of them groaned as he put her flush against the wall. Grasping a sliver of self control, Carl broke the kiss and looked at her again, appreciating a different version of her beauty.

She was panting and her eyes were closed, both of her hands braced on his chest as she stood up straight. The plait she put her hair in was mussed from his hands and she whimpered as he gently took her lower lip in between his teeth before sucking on it. She tasted like honey from The Kingdom's apiary and herself, her addicting self.

"Look at me…look at me, Enid…"

Her eyes opened and he was lost all over again. Her big green eyes were his weakness. All she had to do was glance at him and he was a mess, a big lovesick mess…

"Your heart's racing, Carl."

"It is."

"I do that to you?"

"Yeah. Always."

"…fuck."

His back made rough contact with the edge of the countertop but he didn't care about that. Enid had him by the lapels of his open pale blue flannel and he ground against her, letting her feel what she did to him. She moaned deeply and ground back, burying her face in his neck.

"Carl…Carl, we have to stop."

"I know."

"I don't want to."

"I know. Find me later, okay?"

"I dunno…maybe I should make you find me, Sport. We had a lot of fun with playing cat and mouse last time…"

Gently but firmly, he pushed her away and Enid put an extra sway in her gait before slowly bending over to collect her things. When she straightened up, Carl saw that the button was undone and he could see a hint of pink lace, most likely the same pink lace from their first time making love and…

"You are not helping."

"Payback's a bitch, Grimes. You gave me blue balls and now, I've done it to you."

"Like you don't have them now?"

"I do but yours are obvious. You might wanna keep your Hat on your lap for a while."

Before he could recover enough to retort, the RV door opened and Carl quickly sat down in the left booth, staring straight ahead.

"Hi, Glenn. Tara."

"Morning, Enid…are we interrupting something?"

"No. Why do you ask?"

"Because we've been waiting outside for 10 minutes. We would've come in earlier but you know the old saying: when the RV's a-rocking…"

Carl put his head down on the table with a loud embarrassed groan, even as he laughed with the 3 of them. Matter of factly, he took Enid's second piece of good advice. He placed his Hat on his lap as Glenn began to drive to the Gate and the rest of the waiting Runners. He accepted a passing Tara's fist bump and turned his head as Enid slid into the bench seat, a triumphant smirk curving her kiss swollen lips. Even as she put on her knee pads, even after she started sharpening her blades, the smirk was there. He pursed his lips against a smile and sat up, prepping his own weapons.

She had won this round.

He would accept that and let her gloat.

She had earned it.

However, the day wasn't over yet, far from it, not to mention the coming night.

Once they were back home safe, he was going to find her and she was going to get it.

And he would enjoy every moment of giving it to her.

/

People trusted her.

People were depending on her.

This Run was her Run, her Baby, and she couldn't fall apart.

It wasn't the time or the place to fall apart.

She had a job to do.

They all had jobs to do and they needed to get done.

She had to pull it together and keep it together.

Falling apart would have to wait….

Being up North again was so hard. Before, it hadn't been hard at all, sans the ordeal in The Mansion. She had been all alone and preferred it that way. The only living company she had was wildlife. The Evacuations in the DC Area had been the most organized and the most thorough. The area around Marie Curie Academy had become private military property, the school and neighborhood annexed to become a frontline against The Virus. There were still police and military barriers up. There were abandoned vehicles of all sorts, most of which had been cleared.

There were signs telling people to leave the area with maps and messages drawn on them. Head South, Head West, Head East, Head North, follow the Military…some maps were X-ed out or covered completely.

Others were intact and worth taking another look at later down the line. Maybe they would find another Community to trade with, more friends…or maybe they would find a Community full of assholes like The Mansion had been, worse assholes, even. Time would tell. The graffiti was mostly spray paint but as they got deeper into the neighborhood, messages were written in dried, faded Walker blood and guts.

Some of the messages were to loved ones saying goodbye or asking them to come find them if they could live long enough to travel. Others were to various deities asking WHY. Still others were asking various deities to forgive their sins and of course, some messages on brick walls, road signs, carved deep into trees trunks, were full of rage and hate. Those messages blamed all of humanity for becoming so complacent and arrogant that THIS had happened to them. The Virus, The Spread, and The End were overdue punishment. It was long overdue, cruel and unjust punishment because the good ones were destroyed as mercilessly as the wicked ones…

The best ones were messages of HOPE, urging whoever saw them to keep moving forward, to keep holding on. The World had indeed ended but that didn't mean that all hope was lost. Keep going, keep moving…it would be some form of okay in the endDon't give up.

Her graffiti was a part of the gallery. Her personal mantra, JSS- Just Survive Somehow had been traced in thick dust, drawn in the mud, painted on interior walls. Had someone seen it? Taken some comfort from it? She hoped so…she also hoped that whoever saw it had cleared out or if they were still around, they weren't malicious.

The RV began to slow down and Enid opened her eyes. She had closed them after arming herself, not wanting to talk. Being up North meant being quiet. Being quiet had become part of how she coped. She was either Joking or Mute, On or Off, mostly Off with nothing in between. Middle ground came with meeting Carl Grimes. Looking to her left, she saw that he was watching her closely but not in a coddling or creepy way, though. He had put his Hat back on at the halfway point and he was ready to go. He was ready to do what they came here for, what needed to be done.

He was also ready to support her. She could see it in his body language and again, she had to stop herself from saying The 3 Words. Enid was in love with Carl. She absolutely fucking adored him and definitely needed to tell him that soon but it had to be private. While she was completely unashamed to be with him and no one had been hateful about their relationship, she didn't want to be a complete spectacle. Telling him her feelings, whether they were returned or not, shouldn't be a spectacle.

Just like there were still beautiful things in The Fucked New World, there were still special and precious things, too.

The bond they shared was special and precious.

/

The Find of the Day was in the trailer right next to the playground.

Carl had entered it and after clearing it, blew and shook the thick dust off of a large folded note, explaining what had happened to the Facility (it had been abandoned after all of the patients they were trying to cure became a medium sized Herd…), who the writer was (Mr. Nathan Lutz, Army Reserve and former biology teacher that had worked at the Academy since after returning home from Vietnam), and saying that if they found anything, it was theirs. The note ended with his best wishes and a plea for to God to Bless not only what was left of America but what was left of the World.

Carl sincerely hoped that Mr. Lutz, that Commander Lutz had managed to Survive out there, maybe found himself a good Community or Group to teach in.

Underneath that was a puzzle, a series of scrambled words with instructions to put the first letters of each unscrambled word in order. Instead of getting annoyed, Carl had smiled and gotten to work. He had always loved science and brain teasers. Other than comics, his King's County bedroom had been full of puzzle books, particularly fill in the blank crossword collections. He used to do them in pen, impressing and amusing both of his parents. There had also been books about everything from carnivorous plants to space phenomena like supernovas. In fact, he had either wanted to become a cop like his father, a comic book or screenplay writer for MARVEL or DC, or some form of scientist, hoping to end up at NASA one day. He didn't want to go into space. No, that was not on the agenda but maybe he could've been part of one of the research teams that got people up there…

The scrambled words were from the Periodic Table of the Elements and the solution to the overall puzzle made his eyes widen:

FALSE FLOOR FROM BEDROOM TO HALF OF KITCHEN. CROWBAR IN THE BATHROOM.

Grabbing it, Carl had moved the bed aside and pulled up some flooring to reveal the all too familiar sight of not one but two RPGs. Underneath them were pistols and plastic wrapped boxes of ammunition for all the weapons. Daryl had come in just when he found some boots underneath the left nightstand and Carl had felt the same elation he remembered from finding his first true contribution to the Group on the Vehicle Jammed Highway outside of Atlanta.

Everyone had come to the trailer and soon, they had quite the haul, enough for them to decide to save going into the school and onto the roof for another day. Three RPGs, 8 pistols, an AK-47 with 5 ammunition clips, 3 cases of MREs, water purifying tablets, a yellow duffel bag filled with medical supplies (bandages, disinfectants, and painkillers), and 10 wooly blankets, 5 of them having army fatigues folded within them.

It was an excellent haul and he had been the one to find it.

The best reaction to the find (other than broad and proud grin on his dad's face) was Enid's.

She had squealed, squeezed nearly all the breath out of him in a side hug, and pressed a series of smacking kisses to his blushing, smiling cheek, making them all laugh.

"You're the Best. Boyfriend. Ever! Oh, my God, Babe…"

It was a good day.

The other vehicles and trailers had yielded good results, too. Clothes, shoes, blankets, individual MREs, road maps, 2 hatchets, 3 arsenals of knives, another AK-47 with ammo, crop and flower seeds protected by plastic wrap, books, and assorted small trinkets, including one in a small, long silver box that Enid had slid across the RV's table to him. The note she had written instructed him not to open the gift until they got home and he was alone. It also said to come find her after he did so. He wondered what it was. Whatever it was, he'd cherish it. Enid had taken the time to find something just for him. She had been thinking about him. She cared about him….

A memory hit him. Michonne used to bring him back comics when she came back to The Prison and she would always bring something back for his dad, too. Always. A new shirt, a pair of gardening gloves, a pair of headphones for his walkman, the electric razor…Michonne had given him the razor and the smile he had given her afterwards, even as she gently ribbed him about his beard had been soft. Every little gift had gotten Michonne that soft smile from his dad and Carl understood now. Not only were the smiles for the gifts, his dad smiled like that because Michonne had been the one to get them for him. She had so much on her plate, so many responsibilities but she still got him something.

She cared enough to stop and get his dad something and…yes

He got it now.

The older Carl got, the more knowledge he gained.

He still didn't understand a lot of things about love and general life but time would fix that.

Sitting up in his bed, Carl opened the silver box and pulled out the gift. Holding it up, he grinned before bringing it up to his right eye. The kaleidoscope was bright orange with a gold vertical stripe going up the right side. The image inside was beautiful, looking like a vivid stained glass window in various jewel tones, mainly blue ones. The main design was circular, radiating outwards into opal like quadrants and spirals. Each section was made up of pieces that on their own seemed useless or broken but in reality? Nothing was useless or broken. No one was useless or broken…

Setting the kaleidoscope back in its box, he swung his legs over and pulled on his boots. Since the Run had gone so well, Spencer had opened the Monroe house for a Community party, reminiscent of the ones his parents used to throw.

Carl had said to his dad and Michonne that he'd show up later when they were on the way out. He wanted to rest for a little while longer and he'd catch up with them. Only a pinky promise to Judith had stopped them from making him leave immediately. He never broke his promises to Judith and everyone knew that. He would be there. He would mingle, eat finger foods and make sure that he was seen by his parents before leaving to take care of some unfinished business with his Sugar.

He hadn't forgotten what happened between them in the RV that morning.

No, he hadn't. Their morning encounter had been in the back of his mind all day, both exciting and aggravating him at the same time. She teased him mercilessly. She always kept him on his toes, always kept him thinking.

That was part of the reason why he loved her but still, Carl had to get even. He had to thank her for her very thoughtful gift and get even.

Enid had waved a red flag in front of his face and he would charge forward, catching her and keeping her close.

Come find her later?

Later was now.

/

"I found you."

"You found me..."

Enid hid her smile behind her glass of red wine. There was a wine cellar at Hilltop Colony and some bottles had been kept in the Monroe house for special occasions. To be honest, Enid didn't really like the attention she had received. She had been hailed for being the one who organized the Marie Curie Academy Run in the first place. Without her, they wouldn't have found such a good spot and she acknowledged that. She appreciated the praise and the hugs she had gotten from people had been nice.

Remembering Carl's words from before their first time, Enid had brought back a box full of costume jewelry and 4 pairs of sunglasses. She had given Olivia a pink bracelet with a Hello Kitty charm. Rosita had gotten a pair of heart shaped hoop earrings, and she had given Tara the white sunglasses with rainbow smiley faces all over the frame. She had thanked them for making her feel welcome in the ASZ and for handling Eugene being pervy about her Uniforms so she didn't have to cut him into hibachi ingredients. After that, she had gotten into a discussion with Glenn, Abraham and Heath about future North or Northwest Run ideas before setting up another appearance before The Council. Even if she didn't have another destination to hit, they still wanted to hear her Ideas. Right after that, Judith and Hershel Dale had found her and she joined them for a few spirited rounds of Uno before she just had to go outside by herself.

She needed to breathe.

Although Alexandria was a good place, full of good people, Enid still felt the need to withdraw from large gatherings, large crowds sometimes to feel safe. She was still getting used to being noticed as a person instead of a prisoner or a potential conquest. The Alexandrians, Carl's family saw her as Enid. They saw her as the lonely girl that had been brought in by one of their own and became one of them. She was an Alexandrian. She was a member of Carl's family. She was part of something good again. She had a home again.

She belonged again.

It felt wonderful.

Carl came up next to her and she offered him the last of her drink. It was a sweet wine, smooth and rich without being overbearing. After draining it, he carefully set the glass in the grass before pulling her into a tender embrace. Enid smiled as his lips found hers again, his kisses soft but full of promise. His tongue traced the seam of her lips and she parted them, getting up on her tiptoes to increase their contact.

She had been waiting for him when the rest of the Grimes family arrived. Spotting her confused face, Judith assured her that Carl would show up. He had pinky promised her and he never ever broke his pinky promises. Plus, Enid was his Special Person and looked so pretty tonight that he not showing up to see her would be really dumb. While her Big Brother could and would do dumb things sometimes, he wasn't dumb, honest! Her brother was one of the smartest, kindest people in Alexandria, maybe in the whole World…

That was the Gospel Truth.

Enid's party dress was black with white and yellow daisies printed on it. It was long sleeved and fell just past her padded knees, about an inch above the tops of her boots. The dress was scoop necked and showed a little cleavage, not too much, though. Instead of putting on high heels or her sneakers, she had put yellow bootlaces in to match and to stay practical. One never knew when they might have to run or fight. Her plait had stayed intact through the day so she twisted it into a bun that left her neck exposed. Said neck was once again being kissed and Enid whimpered as his thigh returned to the juncture between her legs. The siding of the Monroe House rattled a little as her back made firm contact with it and she whimpered as he kissed the tops of her breasts. Like she had in the RV, she buried her hands in his hair and used it as a lever to raise his head.

"…where'd you find this dress, Sugar?"

"It was with the latest shipment from The Kingdom. Your Aunt Carol made it."

"Remind me to thank her. So, I found you like you asked…"

"On your own or with help?"

"Does it matter?"

"…not tonight… all right, you found me, Cowboy. What are you going to do with me?"

"…keep you."

/

"I won't hurt you, Enid…I could never…"

"I know…I k-know that…"

His lips pressed against the nape of her neck and Enid gasped as he began to enter her, deeper than ever before. This was another intimacy that she had heard about from older girls, read about in women's magazines. According to them, being taken from behind was a hot yet risky, even controversial sexual position. Done wrong, it could harsh and cruel. It could be demeaning and ugly. It could hurt someone in all the bad ways. However, if done correctly, it could feel exquisite. Lovers could go deep and while there was no eye contact, variations could have plenty of skin to skin and…

Once her head stopped spinning, Enid rose up on her forearms and he leaned forward, closing what little remaining distance between them.

"Oh, my God…"

Her back was flush against his front and both of them shivered as she spread her knees wider, having him bottom out inside of her. One of Carl's hands was on her left hip, holding her steady and his free fingers went through her hair, loosening it fully. What had her attention riveted was the sight of them in the full length mirror. Star light filtered through the blinds to join the candlelight, giving their skin an ethereal glow. Carl was still kissing her, following the slope of her shoulders, the notches of her upper vertebrae. Both of his hands were spanning her middle now and she looked…they looked…

"…beautiful…Carl, look at us…the mirror…"

"… oh, fuck…"

Anyone who came in the garage would know exactly what was going on. Not only were they quite loud, so was her…their bed. The headboard was banging, the mattress was squeaking with each impact of their hips, and Enid's arms gave out. Half of her face was buried in the pillows and she cried out as Carl sat up on his knees, making her body follow his. Her hands went to his hips to steady herself and he slowed to a fluid grinding that had her head spinning again but faster. One of his forearms went over her chest and he tilted her head so he could nibble at her ear.

"Come for me…"

Enid's inner walls began to buckle faster and she whimpered as he thrust hard into her, hitting all of her spots with surgical precision.

"…come for me…let me hear you…feel you…that's it…"

"Carl!"

/

"Where did these come from?"

"…they're from a 12 gauge shotgun and my first surgeries. It was an accident. I was in the woods looking for Sophia with my dad and Shane and there was this baby deer…it was so gorgeous, Enid. It was just like you said earlier about sunrises. Anyway, I was watching the deer eat and someone was out there hunting and I got shot through the deer. If it hadn't been there grazing, if I had moved even just a little bit, I would've been killed instantly. It saved my life."

"Wow…"

"Yeah…the shotgun blast itself didn't hurt after like the first 10 seconds. It was like BOOM and then this fiery pain that radiated everywhere before everything went numb. My body just shut down. The last things I remember before waking up the first time was my dad screaming and the smell and taste of all the blood."

"You must have been terrified."

"I was. I mean, I had hurt myself before but…getting shot? It was beyond all of that. Getting shot sucks and it really, really hurts. Don't ever do it."

"I'll try my best not to."

"Good. Getting bullet fragments fished out of me was the worst pain I have ever been in. I passed out and had a seizure after the first one. Dad had to give me blood transfusions and Shane killed the guy who shot me. His name was Otis."

"Why?"

"Other than him starting to lose his shit, he and Otis got caught in a huge Herd trying to get medical supplies at a high school so Shane kneecapped him so the Walkers would have something to Devour so he could get out alive. Then, he lied about what happened."

"Christ…"

"Shane was fucked up, 'Nid. I don't know if The End triggered his breakdown or he had Issues before but he just…he was a danger to himself and the Group so he had to go. He pissed the wrong people off. Hershel almost kicked us all off of The Farm because of him. He undermined everyone's good Ideas and came up with bad ones to replace them. Even though he started sleeping with Andrea, he was still obsessed with my mom and that got worse once he found she was pregnant with Jude. He was my Godfather. He and my dad were like blood brothers but that didn't matter to him anymore. Shane tried to kill him twice to get her back and take over. He murdered another person named Randall, who was a piece of shit but still didn't deserve to go out like that. Shane murdered him and was gonna lie about what happened, use it as a way to take my dad out and blame it on Randall or the rest of his Group, wherever they were. I went out looking for them and I heard their last fight. I heard what Shane wanted to do, what he was going to do. Dad didn't want to kill him but in the end, he had to. It was self defense. He stabbed Shane in the chest and I had to Put Him Down afterwards. The fight and gunshot drew a huge passing Herd coming from Atlanta and The Farm fell that night."

"I'm sorry you had to do that."

"It's all right."

"The hell it is!"

"Okay, it's not all right but it's something that I've been able to live with. Anyway, I almost died 4 times before Hershel got me stable but…it wasn't all bad. If I hadn't gotten shot that day, we wouldn't have met Maggie and her family. We wouldn't have found Sophia. We wouldn't be…we were just a bunch of random people thrown together by The End before we got to The Farm. While we were there and after it Fell, that's when our Group started to become a Family."

"I'm glad that you weren't all alone out there…I'm glad you're still here…"

"So am I…"

/

Every kiss she pressed to his flesh made goosebumps rise and she traced them with soft fingertips. They had woken up to the sound of driving rain and low grumbles of thunder. Neither of them had anything to do until Night Watch so after breakfast, Enid had quietly suggested spending the day in bed. Carl had readily agreed and they had ended up in a lovely cycle of napping and kissing.

He was with her. He was warm and safe and with her, not rotting or Walking. Hearing about his first shooting, about his Godfather's betrayals had been sobering. For all intents and purposes, Carl should be dead. He shouldn't have had a snowball's chance in hell of surviving the Fucked New World but he had. Despite all the odds, he had made it. He fought to live. He learned to Survive and while Enid no longer believed in God, she did believe in a higher power in charge. She believed that there was more. There had to be. As awful as things had become, the idea of not having some sort of afterlife, some sort of peace to look forward to was unacceptable. Enid believed in Justice and she believed in Blessings.

The man sharing her bed, holding her heart was a Blessing.

"Enid…"

"Shhh...let me…"

"Y-you...you don't have to…"

"I want to."

She really did. She wanted to learn everything about Carl Grimes, mentally and physically. She wanted to understand and learn and explore...

Her grip tightened on his cock as she used her hand to stroke it, feeling him tremble. Carl's teeth grazed his lower lip and he groaned softly as she bent her head, trailing kisses up his inner thigh. He was erect in her hand, pulsing and twitching. Enid liked it when he kissed her there, nipped her there, and she did so tentatively, gratified by his pleased hiss. She wanted to make him feel good. She wanted to tease and play with him like he did with her. Laying a firm hand just past his navel, she kissed upwards and playfully dipped her tongue in the small hollow before continuing her exploration.

"Enid...Enid, please!"

"Please what? Tell me what you want...this?"

She used her free hands to cup his sac and he shuddered, a low near pained moan escaping his panting mouth.

"...or this?"

"Enid!"

Moaning, she took more of his shaft into her mouth, suckling at it gently. The magazines had warned against going too hard, too fast with this intimacy. Not only would it increase the risk of being gagged, it wouldn't be nearly as enjoyable for either of them. Take it slow...learn...follow...that was the way to do it right, to please him and herself.

Her tongue licked and lapped at him, following the veins and collecting the thick drops of his pre-come as she moved back and forth. She found a rhythm and her confidence grew, taking more of him until she got all of him. One of her hands rested on the juncture where his leg met his torso, holding him open to her. The other one gently but firmly massaged his tightening sac, feeling the churn of his seed within.

Soon, it would be within her.

Carl's hands were on the mattress, gripping tight handfuls of the bedding and his head was thrown back on the pillows. Enid felt heat pool between her legs as she continued to go down on him, enjoying him immensely. His moans, his growls, his sweet filthy praise...why hadn't she done this sooner? She should've done this sooner. His taste was something that she couldn't neatly label, salty-musky-sweet but it was good. He tasted so good and she wanted more.

She wanted it all.

"Mmmm, Enid...so good...your mouth, your tongue...god, baby...ohhh, fuck…"

Withdrawing until her lips hovered over him, Enid licked the head of him slowly and took him back, making him shout. Both of her hands stroked his inner thighs and his buried in her hair as he began to lose control, to let go. She wanted it. She wanted this. She wanted more of him, all of him. She let her tongue linger on the hypersensitive ridge beneath the head of him and he grew thicker, twitched faster in her mouth until he couldn't hold back anymore. Carl's whole body tensed, froze, and Enid kept licking him, waiting for…

"Enid!"

She shivered and kept taking what he had to give her, swallowing every last drop. He was delicious. He was sweet-tangy-musky and he was all hers. She had made him come. She had made him feel good, just like he always did to her.

"Enid...Enid...Enid...oh, God, Enid…fuck..."

Once he was spent, Enid moved up and rested her head on his side, panting with him. Carl was coming down slowly and she closed her eyes. The rain was still falling outside and the wind was howling or was that the rush of blood in her ears howling? She wasn't sure. What she was sure of was that he was looking at her and she met his azure gaze head on.

First one, then the other of his hands went to her shoulders and he hauled her up into a powerful kiss, firm and deep.

/

3 Days Later…

"I'm in love with your son."

"...I know."

"Good. I don't want to come in between you two or the rest of his family. That wouldn't be right and I shut down that idea after I heard you two arguing in the garage. Family is precious. Good families should always stay together."

"Right. I just...how much has he told you?"

"Pretty much everything. I understand where you're coming from. What Anderson did to him was despicable and horrifying and what makes it worse is that it's not the first time The Living has tried to take him from you. Every place you all have gone, something horrible has happened to him. You've had to see him in pain and terror and you just don't want him to get hurt anymore, especially by a human. You love him and you want him safe. We can agree on that, can't we?"

"We can."

"Carl thinks that you don't trust or believe in him, anymore. He thinks that you think that he's damaged goods and a Liability instead of an Asset."

"That's not true!"

"I know that but does he? Have you told him?"

"Not in a long time. Too damned long...I try to talk to him like I used to but I don't have the right words, anymore. It starts out okay but then I end up pissing him off somehow and then, I end up pissed off, which makes things worse. I've never been good with words, even before everything changed."

"I've heard you speak to our Community. I've heard you with representatives from other ones. People have told me stories about how you've spoken with them and inspired them to do better, to be better. You've got the words. You're just not very good at expressing feelings, which is fine. Not everyone can do it, myself included. I've gotten better, though. Being here has made me better."

"I'm glad."

"Are you?"

"Yes. You've been good for Alexandria and for both Carl and Judith. You make them happy. Does...does he know that you love him?"

"Not yet. I'll tell him, soon. I just wanted to touch base with you beforehand. Mr. Grimes, Carl doesn't hate you. He really doesn't and he doesn't want to break from you. He told me that. He told me that he already lost his mom and he does not want to lose you, too so I'm gonna tell you what I told him: the issues between you two are relevant, real and far from stupid. How you both have been handling them is absolutely fucking stupid, pardon my language, and it needs to stop. You both need to stop. You are being stubborn, petty Angry Goats and it needs to stop. You're family. You are blood family, good family, which is so rare nowadays. You love each other. You still have each other to fight with so you guys have got to find a way to meet each other halfway. I don't know how but you're both smart men. You'll figure it out and do us all a favor? Do it soon. Enough bullshit. Sit down, talk to each other, hear each other and find a solution that will work for you both so you can be happy and we can have peace, goddamn it!"

"Does Carl know how bossy you can be?"

"Yeah. He likes it."

A beat of silence and then Enid realized that not only did Carl inherit his father's eyes, he got his smile and chuckle too. Pleased to have made her point (and to finally make Rick laugh), she continued walking the Perimeter with him, yawning softly. She had stayed late at The Forgery yesterday, helping with a big batch of bullets for Oceanside and she had spent the day helping to clear and expand the Spike traps leading to the Gate. It was nasty work but satisfying. Every Walker impaled was one less Walking, one less to Bite or Scratch someone. It was one less Walker to worry about and that was always a good thing. Granted, for every 1 or 2 Spiked, there were 10 to replace them but it was still satisfying to see them Down. Walkers were no longer humans. They were overgrown, ravenous parasites in human skin that needed to be eradicated and contained for the Greater Good. They brought nothing but misery with their arrival and once they were finished, left nothing but devastation behind in their wake.

Sadly, the same could be said about most Humans…

A familiar shriek of laughter made Enid stop and grin at the sight of Carl playing with Judith and Hershel Dale. It looked like Cat and Mouse or maybe a new version of Tag that included tackling. She wasn't sure. What she was sure of was the sight of Carl with tiny humans, being so good with them made her heart beat a little faster. Carl had told her that he wanted a Life with her and that feeling was mutual. Part of having life was giving it, making and raising babies. Not to mention that the planet still needed to be repopulated. Obviously, with The Virus and the teeming mass of Dead ambling around, it would be impossible to get humanity's global number back in the billions. Hell, it would be a miracle to get it back into the hundreds of thousands but that didn't mean that people couldn't settle and have families. Just because everything had been uprooted didn't mean that people couldn't rebuild or be happy.

Humanity had seen pandemics before and always rebounded, always endured as a whole.

Enid had always wanted to have a big family. Not insanely big but big enough so her children would always have someone to play with, to talk to, and raise good hell with. Carl was a good big brother and older cousin. The proof was right in front of her and he would be an excellent father. She knew that in her bones and…

"Enid, come play! You too, Uncle Rick!"

/

The Next Evening...

"I love you."

She froze and raised her welder's mask slowly, her eyes as wide as saucers.

"I'm in love with you."

"You are?"

"Yeah. I've been twisting myself into knots trying to figure out how to tell you, when to tell you, if I even should tell you but...Enid, life is too short and fragile for bullshit, especially when it comes to the heart. Anything could happen and I just...I just wanted you to know. I don't...I don't want you to think that I'm anything less than serious about you, about us and...I love you, Enid Mackenzie. You're my best friend in the world. You look at me and you see me and you're not scared. You...I fell in love with you the moment I saw you and I'm gonna love you until I'm twice dead."

"...it was after you caught me."

"What?"

"When I realized that I was in love with you. It was when we were laying in the grass after you caught me. You had me pinned. You could've done anything to me but I knew that you wouldn't hurt me, not in the bad ways. I knew that I could trust you when I told about my leg and what I did to get out of The Mansion and you didn't look at me like I was a monster or some fragile little doll. You look at me and you see me: the good, the bad, and the more than a little crazy and it doesn't scare you. You don't shy away from me and...I don't know how much time I have left in this Fucked New World, full of assholes and Walking Dead but...whatever time I have left? I want to spend it with you. You are my dearest friend and I love you, too. I fucking adore you. I'm in love with you, too, Carl Grimes. I'm sorry I didn't tell you sooner. I was being a chickenshit."

"You're in love with me, too?"

"Yes."

"Really?"

"Yes."

"Oh, my God…"

Carl picked her up and spun her around, much to her delight and squeezed her tightly. Enid's laughter had a sobbing tinge to it but her smile was brilliant, brighter than the sun. With an amazed shake of his head, he kissed her smiling lips and rested his brow on hers.

He could breathe again.

He felt at peace.

And it was all because of her.