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Clementine Remembered That

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Clementine hadn’t thought about peace since before the end of the world. Even then it didn’t seem important. After all, she was eight-years-old before it all went to shit. The most pressing matter to her was how many pancakes she’d get on Saturday mornings. Then all of a sudden peace became the one thing she sought after. It almost felt impossible to reach. Now, sitting on the steps of Ericson’s, she knew she finally found it. The sky was orange and pink painted by the sunset. A couple of stars were already showing. It was getting late. Rosie was curled up next to her. The kids were chatting happily with each other. This was peace. It was what she wanted for years. She knew everyone would be proud- Lee, Kenny, Luke, Rebecca, and Alvin. They’d all love this.

“Penny for your thoughts?” Ruby sat next to Clementine with a soft smile. “Don’t mean to pry, of course. You just always do so much for us and we don’t really ask how you feel about anything.”

“That’s really nice, Ruby, but I’m okay right now.” Clem smiled back. “Actually, I’m more okay now than I have been in a long time.”

“Good.” Ruby turned to look at the others, each one enjoying their night. “Look at ‘em, Clem. When’s the last time you saw those kids this happy? Really truly happy?”

Clementine turned to look at the courtyard too. Willy and AJ were excitedly talking about something. AJ was handling the other’s energy pretty well. Though what they were so excited about was beyond her. Aasim and Omar were getting the table cleaned off. They were all smiles as they talked. Louis was nowhere to be seen but Clem knew he was playing the piano. That’s what he tended to do when it started getting late.

“They deserve it, Ruby. We all do. We’ve all been through Hell.”

“Of course we do. Just think; it’s only been a year since you and AJ crashed that car.”

“We really got off on the wrong foot, huh?” Clementine looked down at her nub. “No pun intended, of course.”

“It got better.” Ruby giggled at the unintentional joke. “It woulda been bad either way. You saved us. You still help us. If it weren’t for you, we’d all be fightin’ some war for terrible people. You’ve really been helping everyone deal with their traumas. Louis and Tenn especially.”

“Hey, where is Tenn?” Clementine realized he wasn’t with AJ or at the table drawing. She didn’t see him at all.

“Same place he usually is.” Ruby looked towards their makeshift cemetery. Sure enough, Tenn was standing over a grave. “Maybe you should go talk to him. He trusts you. I think he sees you like he used to see Minerva.”

Clementine nodded as she stood. It was getting easier to move on her own. She gave Rosie’s head a scratch and exchanged a small smile with Ruby before heading towards Tenn. He saw her as a sister huh? Maybe even a mother figure. Ruby compared her to Minerva. That’s a high pedestal for Tenn. It felt nice.

She noticed the grave he stood near wasn’t either of his sisters. It didn’t take much to figure out who’s it was, then.

“Hey, Tenn.” She approached slowly until she was standing right next to him.

“Oh. Hey, Clem.” He tried to smile but she could see the pain behind it.

“What are you doing?”

“Visiting Vi. I wanted to apologize for… You know. Everything.” His voice dropped. Clementine’s smile vanished for a second. She knew he felt guilty. If he had just listened to her, Violet would be here and alive. He didn’t though, so she wasn’t here. Clem wasn’t angry, of course. She was upset but not angry. Violet was her friend, after all, but Tenn was like her little brother.

“I know it’s dumb since she’s gone and it doesn’t matter.” He continued. “But I want her to know I’m sorry. Even if I’m just pretending she can hear me.”

“It’s not dumb.” Clem leaned heavily on one crutch, her way of leaning on one foot. She made it seem so easy. “I do it all the time.”

“But you’re you. What did you mess up…?” Tenn’s question was a mixture of concern, shocked, curiosity, and a bit of fear. Clementine looked up at the back wall. Smaller crosses covered it. 34 were names she didn’t recognize but had heard the other kids mention maybe once or twice. The other half of names she knew entirely too well. She pointed to the different ones as she spoke.

“Let’s see… There’s Lee. I made him get bit because I ran away. Ben fell off a building while they were looking for me. Omid was shot because I left my gun and he was trying to save me. Kenny was launched from the car I was driving. Luke fell through ice because I got too close.” She looked like she was going to break any second but she didn’t even shed a single tear. It didn’t mean it didn’t hurt. “I could have stopped all of it. I didn’t though. And they’re all dead because of me.”

Tenn looked at her with sorrow. “You lost all those people. You feel guilty for all of it.”

“Yep. Pretty much.”

“How do you do it?”

“Well, it’s not easy. The best thing to do is to try to be happy without them. It’s super hard but you can’t let their deaths be in vain. You have to try and make the most out of everything, even when it seems hopeless.”

Tenn glanced at Violet’s grave as Clementine said this. He was pulling at his fingers and frowning. Clem saw the guilt in his eyes.

“You did something stupid.” She offered. “You did. But she wouldn’t be mad at you and I’m not either. You’ve gotten better. You know how to shoot, you know how to survive. I’m proud of you.”

“Really?” Tenn looked up at her hopefully. When she nodded, he smiled appreciatively. “Thanks, Clem. I think you’re right. Thank you. For everything.”

“You’re welcome, kiddo. Now, it’s getting late. How about let’s sleep and we’ll keep at building the school tomorrow?”

“That sounds good. I’m glad I can help.”

Clementine ruffled his hair, mindful of the scar that leads into his hairline, and the two headed towards the dorm building. She waved goodnight to Ruby, Aasim and Omar. Willy almost ran into her as he was coming out the dorms.

“Woah! Watch it!” She shouted as she regained her balance. He was quick to grab her so she didn’t fall.

“Sorry, Clem! I’m sorry! I didn’t hurt you or anything, did I?” He glanced over her with worry. Despite everything, he was a sweet kid.

“I’m fine. It’s okay just cool it. What’s with the rush, anyway? It’s late and you should be getting into bed.”

“Just had to grab something for AJ. Don’t worry.” Willy tried to sneak by her without her noticing. He failed but she did not stop him. She did, however, shoot him a suspicious look.

“Alright, then. Goodnight, Willy. Don’t get into too much trouble.”

“Promise! Goodnight, Clem! Night, Tenn!”

He ran off to where AJ was sitting. The younger boy met Clem’s eyes and waved at her. She guessed it was the ‘okay’ for them to go on to bed. She and Tenn walked down the hallway and towards their rooms. It was silent aside from the crutches tapping on the floor. Tenn looked up from where he was fidgeting with his hands to look at her when he broke the silence.

“They’re making you a leg.”

“Oh yeah? That’s nice of them.” She couldn’t help but smile. She noticed she was doing that a lot more lately.

“It was AJ’s idea. We all got to add something to it to make it from all of us. Willy’s making it. But you can’t tell them I told you. It was supposed to be a secret.”

“I promise I won’t say a word.”

Tenn flashed her a smile and moved closer to her. They made it to Tenn and AJ’s room and she opened the door. AJ bolted down the hallway to meet with them, his breathing a little labored.

“It’s about time you joined us.” Clem ruffled the newcomer’s hair.

“I’m sorry! I just got caught up with something.” AJ offered.

“Sure thing, goofball.” She gave him a knowing look. “Now both of you need some sleep. We have a long day tomorrow.”

Both boys nodded. They didn’t get into bed immediately, though. They wrapped their arms around her and she returned the hug with a kiss to each of their heads. With a proud smile, she let go. They each got into their own beds after that. Tenn’s side of the room was decked out in drawings of their little family, new and old, and flowers. He had a stuffed rabbit that looked old sitting on his bed. AJ had drawings too. They were similar to Tenn’s, pictures of their family, except they were more childish. It was clear AJ did them. He had decorations too just not flowers. Toys and rocks and other things he had found on their adventures littered the room. He got his collecting habits from her.

Each boy crawled into his own bed and curled up. AJ patted his back to make sure his weapon was in place. Once he was sure, he took it out and hid it between the mattress and the head of the bed frame. Out of sight but within reach. It was a sign of trust far deeper than anyone truly understood. Rosie moved past Clementine and rested between the beds. She was being a very good guard dog.

“Alright, boys. Goodnight. I love you. Both of you.” Clementine looked between the two as she spoke. Tenn’s smile wasn’t hidden.

“We love you too, Clem,” AJ spoke for both of them.

“If something happens, if you hear a noise or get scared, even if it’s a nightmare, come get me. I’m right next door.”

“Okay. Thanks.” Tenn started to get cozy against the wall. AJ mimicked his motion. With a motherly look about her, Clementine left the room. As soon as the door shut she could hear whispering. She was glad they were getting closer. With some struggle, she managed to limp her way into the room next door. All of her skulls and plants and whatever else she found was absolutely everywhere in the room. The walls were covered in drawings by Tenn and AJ both along with actual photos taken by Louis. Curse that damn camera he found. Regardless, she noticed how happy everyone looked in every picture. Instead of two bunk beds, there was just one large one pushed against the wall. It wasn’t much but it was hers.

She slipped into it easily, letting her crutches lean against the wall. She didn’t realize how tired she really was until now. With some effort, she lay on her side. Her back was to the door. A long time ago, sleeping like this would have been the worst thing she could do. It made her vulnerable. It was dangerous. Anyone or anything could sneak up on her and shoot her or take a bite out of her. She was safe here, though.

The door opened and closed quietly as she was thinking this. Soft footfalls got closer and closer to the bed. Clementine tensed but didn’t act on it. She tried to convince her body that it was safe but the instincts she had drilled into her wouldn’t have it. She felt the bed indent as the person crawled over her and settle next to her. Finally, she calmed. It’s not like this didn’t happen every night. She knew it was Louis. She still had problems with him sneaking into the room, though. He smiled at her and she couldn’t be upset with him for any of it. He looked tired. She could see the bags underneath his eyes. It was like he wasn’t sleeping. She knew he wasn’t.

“You have to try to sleep tonight, Lou.” She watched his face fall and he looked away. Softly, she moved hair out his face. Once she was done there, she put her hand on his chin and rubbed below his lip with her thumb as she continued speaking. “You have to. You didn’t sleep last night or the night before. You need to rest.”

Louis let out a small sound and moved her hand to his cheek, holding it there and closing his eyes. She knew she made him feel safe, like no matter what happened nothing could touch him.

“I won’t let them get you. You’re safe.” Clem finally got him to look at her. “I promise they can’t get to you. They can’t hurt you. Nobody can.”

He moved closer and nuzzled his head against her chest. He seemed to be trying to bury himself entirely in her chest. She wrapped one arm around his torso and played with his hair with the other.

“She can’t get to you.” She whispered softly, lovingly. “No one is getting to you. I’ll protect you.”

Louis looked up at her with a smile. She could see the trust in his eyes. Without another word, he rested against her. She put her head on his with a kiss. It didn’t take long for his breathing to slow as he fell asleep. Clem hoped and prayed he would go without a nightmare for once. Holding him close, she followed suit and fell asleep against his warmth.

Chapter Text

The first thing Clem noticed upon waking was the general lack of warmth next to her. Louis must have gotten up without her noticing. Then she realized everything was different. All their decorations were gone. The whole room was set up differently. It wasn’t her room yet it seemed so familiar. She reached for her crutches. They were not there. Her knife was gone too. She was in a new room left completely defenseless. This wasn’t good. Without hesitation, she stood and balanced herself with the bed. Lifting her nubbed leg, she used the wall to hop to the door. Everything inside her screamed for her to be cautious and she vowed to try. Her people- AJ, Louis, Tenn, Willy- came first. She would do whatever necessary to protect them. Carefully opening the door, she peeked outside. What she saw horrified her. It was Lily sitting on top of an RV that also seemed familiar. Her hair grew out and she looked tired. A rage filled Clementine. Did Lily really think coming back was a good idea? How wrong she would be.

Exiting the room with caution, she looked around. Nobody was running to stop her so she wasn’t noticed. Yet. She quickly snatched up a piece of broken glass near her door. It was better to be armed. Her heart was racing. The banging on the other side of the complex mimicked it. Saying something wouldn’t be wise. All she had to do was find the kids and go home. She couldn’t though. She was too angry at the one sitting above her like it was a throne. Clementine knew she was not above torture. She also knew she herself could be ruthless. She was a force to be reckoned with.

“Lily!” She yelled, looking at the woman with challenging eyes. The banging stopped and she saw people looking out the corner of her vision. They weren’t the ones she cared about right now. She paid them no mind.

“Yes, Clementine?” Lily asked with uncertainty. The tone only angered Clementine more.

“Where are they?!” Clementine demanded.

“Where are who?” Now Lily sounded frightened. Good.

“Cut the bullshit! Where’s Louis? AJ? Where are the kids?!”

“I don’t know-”

 

“Fuck you, you piece of shit! You said you wouldn’t bother us anymore! Haven’t you traumatized them enough? You cut his fucking tongue out for Christ’s sake!”

Lily’s eyes were wide with utter horror. And confusion. Clem felt two pairs of strong arms grab her and hold her back. She fought against them but to no avail. She felt weaker than before.

“Let me go! You’re all cowards! They’re children!” In defense, she wielded the glass shard and slashed. It turned red. She had cut someone.

“Son of a bitch! Fuck!” The voice that screamed in response sounded painfully familiar.

“Clementine! It’s okay!” Another voice equally as painful and familiar. Slowly, she looked up.

She couldn’t believe it. On her left was a face she had only seen in her dreams since she was nine. It was Lee. His eyes were filled with worry. On her right was the man she had watched break and repair over and over. The one who loved her like his own. She had sliced his hand. From what she could see, it wasn’t deep but it still bled. His unharmed hand cradled and his eyes were trained on her as if she’d attack again. It was Kenny. Tears welled up in her eyes before she could stop them. They weren’t supposed to be alive, to be so young. Yet they were. Her arms locked around both of them. She was so much smaller than before. In fact, she felt younger too.

“You’re here. You’re actually here.” She whimpered out between tears. Both men gave each other a worried look. Lee was cautiously slow as he rubbed her shoulder.

“Yeah, we’re here.” He said softly. She dropped the glass shard and openly cried as Lee hugged her close. It was one of the only time she had shown such strong emotions.

“What got into her?” Lily had gotten off the RV at some point and was approaching slowly. Kenny and Lee both felt and saw Clementine tense. It was almost instinct when Lee’s grip got tighter and Kenny stepped closer to them.

“I’ll tell you what.” Larry’s loud voice came from somewhere behind Lee. “She’s been around them too much. The habits of a man like him and the mouth of a fucking redneck.”

“Well you’re no angel either, you overgrown piece of shit.” Kenny spat out bitterly.

“That’s enough!” Katjaa forced Kenny towards the RV. “Come and sit, dear. Let me patch you up. Lee, why don’t you talk to Clementine?”

Even with the two separated Larry screamed accusations of every kind.

“You should’ve left them outside that drug store, Lily. That little girl would’ve been better off dead than with them!”

“She stabbed my hand not my ear, you fucking dumbass!” Kenny shouted as a retort.

“Stop it! Both of you!” Lee shouted then sighed. “Let me talk to Clementine.”

Larry kept shouting but Lee had enough and picked up Clementine and took her into her room. He sat her on her bed and got next to her. Nothing was said. They just looked at each other. Lee looked worried for the little girl he cared about so dearly. Clementine was confused. Happy. Scared. She was a lot of things. Apparently ‘little’ was also one of them. She couldn’t keep looking at him. Her leg suddenly became super interesting. Like the fact it was still there. She had both legs. It was odd to see it again but she wasn’t going to argue with that. It was also odd to be eight again and she had a lot of arguments against that but she didn’t know how to fix it.

“Clementine,” Lee said gently. “Can you look at me?”

She didn’t want to but she did. It took at her might to not look away again.

“What was that?” His voice was sterner and full of worry but it never lost that softness. She tried to find the right words. It would sound crazy. Telling him would make her sound like a scared little kid who had too many nightmares. It wouldn’t sound believable. She wouldn’t believe it at least. Keeping him in the dark, though, would lead to them not trusting her. She cut Kenny. Why would they trust her?

“Clem? Honey, you’re not in any trouble. We just need to know what made you act like that so we can stop it or at least be prepared next time. If it ever happens again.”

The easiest thing to do was to lie and pretend it was a nightmare. It wasn’t what he taught her but it seemed better if it was the alternative. If they thought it was a nightmare then it would be a one time only thing. Then they’d trust her with a gun. With a gun, she could protect them. It wasn’t a great plan but Lee did teach her to think on the fly after all.

“It was just a bad dream. I’m okay now, don’t worry. I’m sorry.” Clementine winced at the level of maturity coming from that squeaky voice. Lee gave her a suspicious look.

“You understand what you did right? What you said to Lily?”

“I know those were bad things. I promise I won’t say them again.”

“And you stabbed Kenny.”

“He scared me. I’m sorry, Lee.” She didn’t know what else to say. Saying too much was risky but not saying enough, not acting like a child, would also be bad. She already felt like she messed up. She had never realized how much she had grown up until now.

“Do you want to talk about the dream?”

She shook her head. It was too much. Too much emotion, too much pain. Too many people gone.

“Alright then. You know you can talk to me anytime.”

Clementine nodded.

“And we won’t talk to anyone else the way you talked to Lily, alright?”

She paused. That one was harder to agree to. A nudge from Lee managed to get her to nod.

“Good girl. I’m not mad. We’re all just surprised. You’ve never done anything like this before.”

Clementine nodded stiffly. They didn’t know what she was like as an adult, what she would do or say just to protect AJ. He didn’t know what she had been through because it had not even happened yet. Nobody knew.

“I’m going to tell the others you’re okay. Do you want to apologize to Kenny?” Lee stood as he urged her gently. He watched her nod one more time.

“In a little bit.” She wiggled her toes, her attention going back to her leg. Lee nodded back with concern in his eyes and he left.

Clementine curled up on the bed and sobbed now that she was alone. They were all dead and she was grown up. Why were they alive? How was she here? She had no hope of knowing. She wasn’t sure if she should be happy about having the people she loved back or upset that her new family was gone. The bond she had with Kenny? Gone. But he was still alive. Every relationship she had built up and watched break was gone. Everyone was still alive though. Her composure returned with a shaky breath.

“Okay, Clementine.” She started talking to herself. It was a habit she wished she could kick. “This can work. We save everyone and take them to Ericson’s. Keep everyone alive, pick up Luke and the others. Stop Marlon from trading the twins. This can work. This will work.”

The door opened just as she finished speaking and she jumped in response. It was Carley.

“Hey, it’s okay.” She held up her arms and shut the door, keeping her distance. Clementine noticed saw a scar on her forehead. It lined up exactly where the bullet went through her head. Clem couldn’t help but stare.

“Kenny’s okay.” Carley offered as she slowly came over and lowered her arms. “Lee said you had a nightmare.”

“I’m okay now.” Clementine insisted.

“Look, I know I’m not Lee but if there’s anything I can do to make you feel better…. Well, I’m always here, okay?” Carley’s choice of words made Clementine grimace. ‘Always going to be there’ was so far from the truth. Then she suddenly sat up straight and looked at Carley, a realization coming to her. She looked at the woman hopefully.

“There is something. Do you have any scissors?” Clementine grabbed the ends of her hair as she spoke. Yup, it definitely needed to be cut.

“Overdue on a haircut, huh?” Carley asked playfully.

“Oh, you have no idea.” Clem smiled for the first time since she woke up.

“Alright, kiddo. Let me go grab them.” Carley left the room. Clementine slid off the bed, leaning heaving on the foot that wasn’t cut off. She still found it so weird to have that leg back. Even after it was cut she could still feel it but now it was there. It was too real.

It didn’t take long for Carley to come back. The scissors looked sharp. Sharp enough to be used as a weapon if need be.

“Alright, come on.” She pulled a turned over chair to the middle of the room and stood it upright. “Let’s not get hair on your bed.”

Clementine did as she was told and sat in the chair. She looked straight forward and was ready to stay completely still. At least keep her head still Carley started cutting. Javi told her she was bad about squirming.

“So…” Carley tried to make conversation. “Does anyone know I’m doing this?”

“Nope.”

“And you’re not worried what anyone will say? Even Lee?”

“It’s safer. Nobody can grab it when it’s short.” Clem shivered at the memories of her hair being used against her. Twice at least.

“Smart. It’ll look really cute too.”

“Oh yeah. It will.”

Both girls smiled. Everything felt so light-hearted. It was nice.

“That was some hate for Lily.” Carley blurted out. So much for light-hearted. “I know you didn’t want to talk about it, I’m sorry. It’s just been a long time since I’ve seen anyone that angry, let alone a little girl.”

Clem didn’t respond. She wanted to tell Carley but she also wanted to be taken seriously. She wanted to be able to protect them.

“There you go.” Carley interrupted her thoughts. Clem forced a smile and turned to look at her.

“I told you it would be cute.” The older of the two looked very proud of herself.

“And I agreed.”

A comfortable silence went over them. The younger girl swung her feet, still marveling at her leg. Something else got her attention though. The dog bit on her arm was healed completely. Only a pale scar indicated there was anything there. Then she noticed the mark on her upper arm. The New Frontier brand. It was there but really dull as well. It startled her. Was the New Frontier even a thing now?

“Do you mind if I ask how it happened?” Carley motioned towards the dog bite. She hadn’t seen the mark. Hopefully.

“I got bit by a dog,” Clementine said it matter-of-factly. “What about yours?”

“You mean this?” She pointed to the little one on her forehead. “Your guess is as good as mine, kid. I’ve always had it.”

Clementine tensed. She looked at the floor, then back at the other. Guilt filled her. She could tell her why. Carley was understanding. Carley was nice. She would listen and wouldn’t tell anyone. Maybe at least tell her what happened to her so she would know where the scar came from.

“Carley.” She began. “Lily-”

An argument started outside. Listening closely, she heard Kenny. No surprise there. He was fighting with Larry again. Also no surprise. Lee was trying to intervene. Typical of him. Both girls glanced at each other and left the room, curious to see why the fight was happening.

“So you mean to tell me this lazy piece of shit gets to eat our food and do nothing but sit around?” Larry was almost in Kenny’s face. Clementine tensed immensely. She was very heavily reminded of Carver and seeing him beat Kenny’s face in with that walkie talkie. Slowly, she inched her way over to the smaller man. Not again, she thought.

“Just because I can’t shoot a rifle don’t mean I can’t beat your fat ass to the ground.” Kenny retorted.

“That’s enough! I’ll take someone else.” Lee tried to reason with them. “Until his hand heals at least.”

Larry opened his mouth to argue back but Carley cut him off, snatching what was supposed to be Kenny’s rifle out the back of the truck.

“I’ll go. It was my turn after Kenny anyway.”

“Sounds good to me. Any problems with that, Lee?” Kenny looked at the man in question. Clementine never did forget how everyone looked to Lee for approval on almost everything. He was a natural-born leader.

“Sounds good. Come on, Carley. Let’s hope your dead-eye will get more than Kenny could.” Lee was clearly poking fun and Kenny clearly didn’t take it to offense. It was clear the humor was a bit forced but he seemed to see her. He was trying to keep it as light as possible for her. She did have a rough day so far, after all.

“Just you wait ‘til I get my hands on a reel. Whatever shit you bring back’s got nothing on that.”

“We’ll see, won’t we?” Lee grinned and went with Carley to the truck. Mark was waiting there for them, ready to go out hunting for the day. Larry growled and stomped off, followed by Lily. Clementine just looked around. The hunting party departed. Larry was yelling and Lily was trying to quiet him. Kenny and Katjaa were talking quietly. Chalk on concrete indicated Duck was having fun drawing. There wasn’t much to do right now. She had no idea how far back she was. It was before Ben she assumed. The truck wasn’t bloody and Ben wasn’t around. That should be the next thing to happen. All she had to do was wait and be ready.

But waiting around was killing her. She had to do something. Check the walls or clean something out. This wasn’t the school, though. Their current threats were far less severe. There was something much more important she needed to do anyway. With a breath, she decided to talk to Kenny. She was afraid. She liked Kenny, always did, but didn’t know him well before everything happened. All she knew was how happy he was when he was trying to keep going. How broken he was when he lost Sarita. She only knew broken and repaired and this wasn’t either. This was Kenny before the pain and that scared her.

She made her way over to the little seating area they had made. Having two legs again was amazing but she was stumbling a lot more. It would take time getting used to.

Duck was coloring some silly picture just like AJ would do. Her heart ached for him.

“Clementine,” Katjaa spoke from a lawn chair near her son. “How do you feel?”

“Okay.” Clem took a breath, just like Sarah told her when she felt panicked. Her attention turned to Kenny. “I’m sorry I cut you.”

When he looked at her, she saw no anger. He didn’t even look annoyed. He looked understanding and appreciative she thought to apologize. He even looked a little impressed.

“Looks like I’m not the only thing you decided to cut.” He chuckled.

“Kenny, take her seriously.” Kat urged softly. “Your hair does look very pretty, dear.”

“I am!” Kenny ruffled her hair with his uncut hand. “It ain’t that bad. The hair does fit you by the way.”

“So your not mad?” Clementine slid on the couch next to him, fixing her hair. She hated anyone touching it but Kenny was always an exception.

“For what? Bein’ scared? Nah, darlin’. I ain’t mad. Next time, though, if you’re cuttin’ anyone, why don’t you cut that wall of meat over there?” Kenny nodded towards Larry’s direction with a small smile. Clementine couldn’t help but stare at him. This was the Kenny she knew. The one who wanted to leave her and AJ at Wellington because he put them first. The one she walked away with and raised a baby with. This was her Kenny. She just hated that now it wasn’t just her and Kenny and AJ. Now, it was everyone. Including his family. The family she wasn’t a part of because he had his child. He didn’t need her like her Kenny did. A part of her wished Katjaa and Duck would be out of the way so it could be just them again. The guilt came heavy and hard after those thoughts.

“Lee told us you had a nightmare.” Kat’s voice made her jump a little. “We’re here for you, Clementine. Nightmares are nothing to be ashamed of.”

“Thank you.”

They fell into a silence that lasted all but 10 seconds before Kenny and Katjaa started chatting. They talked about things from before the world ended and things they were going to do next. Every so often Kenny would crack a joke. She couldn’t help but smile. It was nice. Now that she had a chance to look at them, Clementine noticed scars on them too. Kat had one right where the bullet went through her head. Kenny had a lot of them but the most noticeable one was over his left eye. She remembered watching him get beaten and her heart broken. It was her fault. He was protecting her.

Now wasn’t the time for those memories, though. She had to fix things before they got bad. The only problem with that was nothing was happening. She had to wait. If she was going to wait, she may as well try to fit in again. Comparing herself to how she used to be, that would be hard. Damned near impossible. Here goes nothing, she supposed.

Chapter Text

Clementine sat next to Duck on the parking lot ground. She was better at drawing now than she was then but it still wasn’t the best.

“Your haircut is awesome!” She heard Duck say. She forced a smile.

“Thanks. Carley did it.”

“It looks super cool.” He smiled that big goofy smile she hadn’t realized she missed. Then his attention went back to coloring. She focused on her own drawing.

Tenn had taught her how to draw and she tried to learn. It didn’t go well mostly. She wasn’t horrible anymore but she definitely wasn’t Picasso either. She’d say she was a little lower than Tenn. So she put that somewhat-of-a-skill to use and drew the school. It was Aptly titled ‘Happy Sunshine Land’ instead of Ericson’s. All the kids were out front including the ones they lost. Rosie was in the corner though it was hard to tell she was even a dog. As happy as Clementine was to have Lee and others back, she missed AJ and the rest of the kids. They were rowdy, loud, partially untrained, and so hard to manage but, God, she missed them. Especially AJ. She missed her goofball the most.

“What’s that?” Duck tilted his head to see her drawing better. It couldn’t hurt to tell him.

“That’s my school.” It wasn’t a total lie. “Those are my friends.”

“Cool. What’s that?” He pointed at Rosie. Clem didn’t blame him for not knowing what it was. She did look bad in the drawing.

“That’s Rosie. She’s our dog.”

“You’re school has a dog? Cool!” Duck paused, looking the girl up and down. “Wait. Where’s your hat?”

“I… think it’s in my room?” Clementine didn’t even try to put it on. She never did anymore. After all, it was AJ’s now.

“I’ll grab it for you!” Duck smiled and took off to Clementine’s room. She watched him go into the wrong one, come out, and go into hers. The smile that spread across her face couldn’t be stopped. While they always got along, she never got a chance to really know Duck. That would change this time. It took him a few seconds but eventually, he came barrelling out her room, hat in hand. With all the care of a reckless child, he placed it on her head. It was very crooked and tilted forward but instead of fixing it he just grinned happily.

“You know what the ‘D’ stands for?” He asked, the tone indicating he knew even if she didn’t.

“Yeah but I like to pretend it means ‘don’t die.’” She remembered Louis saying that before the battle with the raiders.

“Then I’ll pretend it stands for ‘Duck.’” The dumb comment actually made her giggle.

There was a sudden commotion at the gate. Kenny and Katjaa both got up to check. The two kids peeked around the RV. Lee, Mark, and Carley had just brought in the legless man and Ben. The adults started arguing loudly, something about food. Right. They were low. Unlike home, they couldn’t fish and had nothing to hunt. There were more zombies, less food. Rosie wasn’t around to help and there wasn’t a greenhouse. Clementine hadn’t really thought about how lucky they were in a long time.

“What do you think happened to him?” Duck tried to whisper. He was really bad at it.

“Lee cut his leg off,” Clem remembered Lee talking with Ben about it. A bear trap with no latch to open it, he had said. She froze. A realization hit her and gave her chills. This man was going to be the St. John’s next meal. It was the only reason there would be no escape mechanism. It was also probably one of the reasons the brothers even came out this way. They were looking for their food.

“Duck.” Clementine’s overprotective side showed. “Don’t go near him or the brothers from the diary, okay?”

“Okay.” He agreed but eventually realized something. “Wait, what dairy? What brothers? Clem?”

“They’ll be here soon. You just can’t trust them, okay?”

“How do you know? Do you have some sort of superpower?” It was dumb and childish and stupid. It was the perfect excuse.

“Yes! I can see the future and the future says to stay away from them.” Clementine felt like she was getting good at the ‘not a total lie’ thing.

The arguing stopped with Lilly handing food to Lee and demanding he picks who eats. Everyone else was returning to their positions and Katjaa started working on the legless man with a hopeless expression. Mark was being tyranted over by Larry near the wall. Carley sat down near Kenny, making sure to bring Ben with her. She held so much sympathy for the young man and it was all for nothing. Clementine looked at Lee with her own sympathy. She knew what it was like to not eat so someone else can, to eat in front of someone who doesn’t have food. Many days Kenny made her and AJ get what little food they had. More often than not AJ had food when she didn’t. It always was so hard to see his face fall when he got food and she didn’t and he knew. The guilt of knowing they didn’t have enough food for the week was hard too. Nothing was quite as difficult as hearing him ask for food they didn’t have. She vowed she wouldn’t ask Lee.

Duck tugged her back to their spot on the ground, rambling about something she wasn’t paying attention too. She just let him pull her. It wasn’t like she had anything better to do. Ben sat on the ground and stared at their drawings. There was no emotion on his face. Duck tried to make conversation with him but he didn’t respond. The little boy wasn’t dissuaded and directed his full attention to the other. Clementine focused her attention on Carley. She had to be certain of something.

“Carley?” Her voice was soft and quiet as she approached. She still hated it.

“What’s up, kiddo?” Carley tried to smile but was clearly shaken up.

“That man Katjaa’s working on? He won’t live. He’s lost too much blood. He’s going to turn.”

Carley tensed. Her brow furrowed and she leaned in closer, voice just as quiet as the little girl’s. She looked worried.

“What do you mean? He’s not bitten.”

“He doesn’t have to be. He’s lost too much blood. There’s no way to save him. He’s going to die. Then he’ll come back. Be prepared to shoot.” Clementine waited for Carley to ask something or really react at all. Instead, the woman sat back and watched her with concern and intrigue.

“Clementine can see the future! She’s like a superhero!” Duck announced a little too loud. They received some stares from Lilly and Kenny. Both looked amused. They probably shrugged it off as ‘kids being kids.’

“Duck!” Clem glared at him and he gave a proud smile. Not proud of himself, though. He looked proud of her. Like he was happy she could ‘see the future.’ Cute.

“Oh, can she?” Carley looked at Clem. “What does the future hold, then?”

After a few seconds of a thoughtful pause, Clem gave a sad, too-mature answer. “Too many bad things.”

“Hey girls. And Duck.” Lee approached, interrupting their conversation. Clementine still couldn’t get used him being here. “Carley was right. The haircut is cute.”

Clem smiled. “Thanks.”

“So what’s going on over here? Nothing serious, I hope.” Lee smiled at the kids and Clementine saw the father he was meant to be in him.

“Apparently Clementine can see the future.” Carley smiled too like they were pretending. If only they were.

“What happens in the future, Clem? Do we find food?” Lee was trying to play along but a part of him was serious. Any hope was good, she guessed.

“I find a little goofball. A silly little goofball.” Her words were more bittersweet than she intended and it wasn’t the answer anyone wanted. Her heart ached for AJ, though. She needed to hold out hope for him. It was hard not hearing him, not seeing him. Even if some of the things he did were annoying she loved him more than anyone could ever guess.

“I think one goofball is enough.” Lee handed Duck a pack of cheese and crackers. The little boy grinned and bounced in place, thanking Lee repeatedly before he helped himself to the food. Lee chuckled and handed Clementine half an apple. She loved apples and hadn’t had one in years. It excited her.

“I know it isn’t much but it’s the best we got.” He put a hand on her shoulder and looked at Carley apologetically. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay.” Carley gave him a somber look. “The kids need to eat first anyway. I know you’re still taking care of me.”

Suddenly the apple was a lot less appetizing. Lee tried to give to who had gone the longest without food but he wanted the kids to be fed. It was tough. Mark and Larry got what was left. Lilly and Lee started talking. Clementine couldn’t look. Lilly made her stomach turn. The apple got her attention instead. She wanted it but she didn’t need it. She could afford to not eat it. She still had a full meal the night before, even if it wasn’t here. It would make sense to save it. She didn’t want it to go to waste, though. It was a lose-lose situation. She split it in half and held out one of the halves to Carley. The older girl looked up at her with surprise.

“Aren’t you hungry?” She slowly took the apple piece.

“Not really.” Clementine munched on her piece slowly. She gave Carley no time to protest before making her way over to Kenny. She didn’t mean to lean towards him so much but she really missed him. He watched her sit next to him on the couch. It didn’t take long for her eyes to fall on his injured hand and guilt filled her.

“How’s your hand…?” Her voice shook more than she wanted it too.

“It’s just a scratch, Clem. I’m fine.”

“Okay…” Clementine inched closer to him. She couldn’t help but remember those long nights in the cold with just Kenny and AJ. The pain she had caused him, both physically and emotionally. She knew he was difficult and complicated but he had every right to be. He had been through so much. She always stood with him even when everyone else didn’t. At some point, she started loving him as much as she loved Lee and her parents. Maybe at some point, she started to love him more than them.

A struggle came from the other side of the RV. Clementine met Carley’s eyes and gave her a knowing look. Kat screamed. The man had finally turned. Everyone rushed over, including the kids. Lee was struggling to get the fresh walker off Katjaa even with Mark’s help.

“Get that damn thing off her!” Kenny demanded.

“Carley! Shoot!” Clem shouted. She was getting worried. Carley had her sights lined up but it seemed she was having a hard time keeping it on the walker.

“Get it away from Lee! I’m not risking that shot!”

“For fuck's sake,” Clementine muttered, then shouted again. “Give me the gun!”

“Clem-”

The little girl took the gun out the other’s grip. It was easy enough. She only needed a second. Line the shot, breathe, shoot. The gunshot rang out. The walker dropped dead. Clementine lowered the gun and took in the shocked expressions from everyone around her. She put her hand on her hip and scowled. Yeah, being an eight-year-old with no survival experience was hard.

“Where did that little girl learn to shoot?” Larry was exasperated. “Why did you give her a gun?!”

“Clem, give me the gun.” Lee slowly reached out. She responded by holding the gun out safely. He took it. “Where did you learn to shoot?”

“You didn’t teach her?” Ben squeaked out.

“She’s eight! Of course not!”

“Stay where you are!” Lilly screamed, looking over the wall. Clem froze. It was them.

“Now hold on, we don’t want any trouble. We just need some gas.” That rough voice was so full of deceit she wondered why they even trusted them to begin with. Peeking over the walls, she saw them. The St. John brothers were watching Lilly, studying everything about her. Clementine felt a fear she hadn’t felt in a long time. This is where people started dying. This is where Larry would be killed by Kenny, where Lilly would start to lose it. They would lose Mark, almost eat him. Things were going to go bad and only she knew. Only she could stop it.

But how?

Chapter Text

Lee had agreed. Gasoline for food. They were going to scope out the supposed safe haven while they took it. It seemed like a good deal. A little gas for a lot of food and safety for at least a night. Only it wasn’t a good deal and it wasn’t safe. Nobody knew this but Clementine.

The brothers waited outside the gate for them. Lee was putting together a scouting party while Mark got the gas ready.

“Lee,” Clementine pleaded. She sounded like a child and she hated it. “Don’t go.”

“I’ll be back before you know it.” He let her take his hand. He noticed she had gotten clingy lately, though he could never guess the reason. “I have to make sure it’s safe before I bring you and Duck.”

“It’s not safe and nobody should go. Please, Lee? Please?” She hated begging but what else could she do? She couldn’t make him stay.

“I'm sorry, Clem. We need food. We have to take this chance.” He was being stubborn and for a good reason. They did need food. They could use protection. This wasn’t what it seemed, though, and there was no way he could know that.

“I’m sure as hell not going alone, though.” Lee looked at their small group. “Ben, this is your chance to prove your worth.”

“A-are you sure? I mean… okay.” He stuttered in response.

“I’ll go too, watch out for Ben.” Carley smiled at the young boy. Lee nodded and handed her the pistol back.

“I guess I’m goin’ too.” Kenny stepped forward. Clementine’s eyes went wide.

“Sure, Ken,” Lee smirked. “As long as you can pull your weight with that cut.”

“I don’t need both hands or a gun to kick ass.” Kenny gave him a look but it was entirely playful. “And your ass is next if you don’t leave me and my hand alone.”

Lee laughed in response and they all got ready to head out. Hopeful looks and words were going around. Even Lilly looked excited. Clementine was panicking. She couldn’t stop anyone from leaving. They wouldn’t listen to her. Besides, Kenny was supposed to be here. It was Mark that was supposed to go. She didn’t want to lose anyone but if anyone was going to die here, it couldn’t be Kenny. She didn’t think she could do that again, especially when they hadn’t even had a chance to really connect yet. He had to meet AJ, had to see how amazing that kid was. She couldn’t let him die now.

“I-I’ll go too!” She blurted out. “I’m a good shot, I can help!”

She received concerned glances that only got directed to Lee. She hated that they looked to him for her choices. She could make her own.

“Clementine,” Lee got down to her level, putting a hand on her shoulder. “We’re going to make sure this place is safe. We have to keep you here. Besides, we need to talk about that incident with the gun. It can wait, though.”

“If I’m with you, won’t I be safer?” Clementine tried to play the childish card. She remembered Lee mostly fell for it. Mostly.

“Always. This time is special, though. Stay here and Mark can protect you.” Lee noticed she shuddered and gave her a concerned look but didn’t mention it. Truthfully, Clementine didn’t mind staying. She wouldn’t, at least, if not for two factors:
One, Mark was supposed to go instead of Kenny. Mark was supposed to go and die. If Kenny went in his place, then it would be Kenny. She didn’t want that. It was too soon.
Two, she really didn’t want to be left with Lilly.

“Please let me go with you.” She ran out of childish arguments. “Please.”

Lee gave her a defeated look with a sigh. “I’m sorry, sweet pea. It’s just too risky.”

Clementine deflated. She couldn’t make them take her and she couldn’t make them stay. She wasn’t sure what to do.

“I got a better idea.” Kenny butted in. He held a gun out to her. It was the pistol he kept for himself just in case something happened. She slowly took it, confused but grateful to be trusted.

“Kenny!” Lee looked horrified. “What the fuck?”

“She’s a good shot and I’ll trust Clementine over Lilly and her hunk of meat any day.”

“She’s eight, Ken!” Lee argued.

“And she likes Duck and Katjaa. I know if something were to happen, she’d step up and try to protect them. Besides, you saw her make that shot. That little girl knows what she’s doing.” It was hard to argue with those points.

“I know the rules,” Clementine spoke up as she held the gun by her side. Her finger was not on the trigger and Lee noticed that. She held it like a professional. “I know the rules and I’ll be careful.”

Lee let out a defeated sigh.

“Alright. Clem can keep it. Don’t use it unless you absolutely have to, though. Keep your finger off the trigger unless you mean to shoot.” He lectured her. She nodded, an unintentional smile played at her lips. It felt good to be trusted. And armed.

“If you folks don’t mind, we’re burning daylight,” Andy called from outside. Carley and Ben were already out there with them. Before Kenny or Lee could walk off, Clementine trapped them in a hug. Her little arms were barely big enough to wrap around their legs. Lee was quick to return the hug and Kenny patted her head. He was warming up to her too.

“Please be safe.” Her tone indicated she wasn’t asking. It was a command. “Be careful. Don’t go outside their fence for anything. Don’t let anyone be left alone with them.”

“We’ll be safe, honey.” Lee gave her a reassuring smile. To her, it felt like a dagger to the chest. Saying they would be safe was one thing but she knew how this would play out. Losing him again worried her.

“Keep an eye on Duck, will you Clem?” Kenny glanced at the boy in question, then Larry and Lilly. The distrust was clear.

“I’ll take care of him and Katjaa. I promise.” She smiled. It was faked but she had gotten better at faking it. With final goodbyes, Kenny and Lee joined the others and soon disappeared into the trees. She had an iron grasp on the weapon in her hands.

“Are you fucking joking?!” Larry yelled at Lilly from the wall where he stood. “They gave a little girl a gun? They just want one of us to get shot while they go and eat all the food!”

“Dad, please,” Lilly begged. Clementine walked away and ignored the rest of whatever was said. It wasn’t worth her time, the people in question less so. She sat on the couch and watched Duck. Kenny had told them nothing gets to Duck but Clem noticed otherwise. Everything got to Duck. She started to notice the fear that was in his eyes only for a second. It came and went along with Kenny. She noticed it was also there while Katjaa was being attacked. Sometimes he would go silent and stare at the floor with this look she couldn’t read. He wouldn’t do this for long though, going back to acting like the Duck they knew. He was good at faking the smiles. He wasn’t dumb or clueless. Smiling and laughing was just how he dealt. In a way, he was like Louis. A pain squeezed in her chest. She missed Louis.

“Woah!” Duck said from beside her. He had somehow gotten past her defenses. “They let you have a gun? Mom would never let me have a gun.”

Clementine saw Katjaa’s head snap up and felt her eyes pierce right through her. She wasn’t happy.

“Yeah?” Clem said slowly, like what he said was dumb. “I know how to use it and I’m careful.”

“Awesome.” Duck grinned and sat next to her. “Can I hold it?”

“No.”

“Please?”

“It’s not a toy, Duck.” Clem’s sternness dissuaded the boy. He only looked upset a second before something else grabbed his attention.

“Hey, what’s that on your arm?”

“The scar…?”

“No, the other thing.”

Clementine looked down. He must have meant the brand on her bicep. Even though it was faded it was still so clearly visible. It was awful.

“Remember how I said I can see the future?” She noticed Kat’s watchful gaze never left them.

“Yeah? Oh! Is it your super symbol? Like the thing on Superman’s chest?”

“No. It’s kind of the opposite. It’s a symbol of a bad group called the New Frontier.”

“Why do you have their symbol if they’re bad and you’re good?”

“Well… ‘Cause... They… kidnapped me and forced me to join them.” Once again, it wasn’t a complete lie.

“Why?”

“Ducky.” Katjaa approached them. Motherly worry was written on her face. “Let me talk to Clementine. Go back to your pictures.”

“Okay…” He slid out of the couch only for his mother to take his place. She put a hand on Clem’s head and ran her thumb over a loose piece of hair. The younger one drank up the attention. She missed having a mother.

“Clementine.” Kat started. “Lee told us not to ask but it worries me. I heard what you told Duck. What was your dream?”

“It was just a dream.” Clem tried to brush it off. “It’s no big deal.”

“You don’t believe that. Talk to me, dear. I won’t judge you for anything you tell me.”

Clementine searched Kat’s face for any kind of ill intent. She found none. With a deep breath, she made the choice to confide in the woman.

“I saw everyone die. Everyone here, everyone in the next group. Bad things happened everywhere.”

“I see…” Kat trailed off. She wrapped her arms around the little girl gently. Clementine grabbed onto the arms around her, finally feeling like the child she was.

“You believe me?” She whispered, leaning against the woman completely.

“I believe you believe it. So if it’s real to you, then it must be real.”

Those words brought such comfort to Clementine. Someone knew. Someone believed her. It felt good. A weight had been lifted and she could breathe. As Kat let her go, she looked at her with only the love of a mother.

“May I ask more questions? I want to know as much as possible so I can understand.”

“Yeah, fire away.”

“What is this ‘New Frontier’?”

“They claimed to be a group that could help me.” Clem covered her brand with her hand partially in shame, partially out of hatred for it. “They had medicine. They let me in, branded me as one of them. Then they refused to help him. They separated us. They told me he died.”

“Who did they take you from?”

“A little boy… His name is AJ.”

“I’m so sorry, Clementine.”

“It’s okay. I met a group and we took care of them. Javi took over and the New Frontier was disbanded.”

“Javi sounds like a nice man.”

“He is. Was.” Clementine wasn’t sure if he made it. After all, Richmond was smack in the middle of Lilly’s ‘war’. Richmond might have been the ones Lilly was at war with. The thought made her visibly upset.

 

“When you yelled at Lilly… Clementine, what happened?” Katjaa sounded sincerely worried.

“I was with a new group. Her group was taking members of mine to fight this stupid war. They already took two before we showed up. Their names were Minerva and Sophie. They raided us because I wouldn’t give anyone up.” Clementine lowered her voice and focused on the chalk drawings of flowers. “They took Louis. They cut his tongue out because he talked too much. Lilly did it. When I found him, he was so broken. It felt like a piece of me broke too.”

“Did you get him out?”

“Yeah. We got everyone out. Everyone off the boat, at least.” She sighed. Not everyone made it out. Violet was killed on that bridge thanks to Minerva’s mind games.

“Good.” Kat sighed too. Clem couldn’t tell if she was just humoring her or she actually believed it. “What about AJ?”

“What about him?” She didn’t mean to sound as defensive as she did.

“Who was he?”

“Well, his father was beaten to death and his mother died of blood loss. I pretty much raised him. Kenny helped a lot for the first few years. I did the rest of the work.”

“Clementine, how old were you?”

“I… Don’t really know. I stopped keeping track once AJ came along.”

Katjaa looked to the side and frowned. She was thinking. Clementine hugged her legs. Of course she wanted someone to know but maybe she said too much. She felt like she was overbearing with it. It sounded crazy. Maybe Kat believe was really was losing it.

The sound of the gate opening got their attention. Kat stood and Clem followed her around the corner, gun drawn. She did promise to protect them after all. It was only Carley and Ben with a basket. It had a freshly-baked scent to it. Biscuits, Clementine guessed. The two were swarmed by the hungry group in seconds. Everyone was grabbing at the food but Clementine. When Duck offered her one she only shook her head. No way was she eating anything the St. John’s cooked.

“So what do you think? Are they good for the deal?” Mark asked as he stuffed the bread in his mouth.

“We think so,” Carley responded. “And the place is pretty secure. Kenny and Lee both like it okay.”

“I don’t know.” Lilly spoke up, assuming the ‘leader’ position yet again. “Something’s not right.”

“They have food. Maybe if we all go to prove our worth we could get more.” Mark said hopefully.

“And leave the inn alone?” Lilly scoffed.

“Since Ben and I ate on the way, we’ll stay. Just bring us back some food.” Carley smiled and took up a rifle from the back of the truck. Lilly looked like she wanted to argue. Just as she was about to, Clem interrupted her.

“Let’s go then.” Clementine walked out the gate. The eight-year-old persona seemed to be dropped. “Kenny and Lee are alone with them. I don’t like that.”

While Katjaa’s gaze held a knowing look, everyone else was shocked. With a nudge to her son, she and Duck followed Clem. Lilly and the others saw no choice but to follow at this point. It didn’t take good hearing to know that Larry was fussing about Clementine taking charge and Lilly talking down on Kenny and Lee. Clementine chose to ignore these remarks.

“Oh boy, a dairy!! You think there’s gonna be cows?” Duck was practically bouncing.

“A cow,” Clementine nodded.

“Clementine.” Kat lowered her voice so nobody to hear. She seemed serious. “What happens here?”

“Two deaths,” Clem responded with an equally low voice. She hated how squeaky whispering made it. “Larry and Mark. Larry gets killed in a meat locker and Mark… Well, they cannibalize him. Don’t eat the meat and don’t let them get anyone alone.”

Kat looked like she would be sick and Clementine felt for her. She needed to know, though. She could help stop it. Clem looked up at her with a grateful smile. “Thank you for believing me.”

“Of course, my dear. I don’t see why you would lie about it.”

“I think it’s super cool. I mean, you can do anything you want.” Duck was sent on a ramble that Clementine didn’t stop but didn’t really listen to either. She looked around and saw Lilly and Mark both looking at her. They held different emotions. Lilly looked annoyed, probably from the younger girl taking charge. Mark, however, looked worried and almost afraid. He must have heard. He heard and she looked crazy. Then again she couldn’t prove this.

The dairy was in sight. They could see the cornfields and the barn. The house sat proudly on top of the hill. It all looked untouched. It seemed like a happy, peaceful place. You could almost pretend people weren’t eating each other, both outside and in.

“Well, it’s about time,” Larry mumbled. As they went up the driveway, Clementine started walking a bit faster. She could see Lee, which was good. He was unharmed but he looked angry. He was shielding Kenny. Kenny himself was hunched over. There was an arrow lodged into his shoulder. Clementine’s eyes went wide.

Kenny was going to die. It would be Kenny. Duck and Katjaa would eat Kenny.

Her legs couldn’t move fast enough as she turned to a full-on sprint, hoping to stop anything before it happened.

Chapter Text

“Get your damn hands off ‘me!” Kenny struggled against her but the arrow protruding from his shoulder made it hard.

“Come on, Ken, let them get the arrow out.” Lee used his ‘leader’ tone on his friend. Kenny sighed as he gave up. Lee was usually right about most things anyway. Just as they went to walk the stairs up to the pretty white house, Clementine ran up to them. She was panting from the full-on sprint she had taken. It wasn’t a very long one but damn her child lungs and stubby legs.

“Oh, hello dear.” Brenda St. John smiled down at her.

“Clementine, what are you doing here?” Lee asked. She motioned to the driveway where everyone else was coming up. Katjaa and Duck were on Kenny in seconds at seeing his injury.

“Kenny, what happened?” Kat asked with deep concern.

“Dad, you have an arrow in your shoulder!” Duck shouted. Any excitement he held on the way there was replaced with genuine fear.

“Sit down, honey, let me take it out.”

“Now now, hun, you’re our guests. Let ol’ Brenda take care of your husband. Why don’t the rest of ya’ll rest up until dinner? You must be tired from that long walk.” Brenda coaxed. While Kenny very clearly protested this idea, Katjaa backed off.

“I’m not being left alone with strangers, no matter how nice they wanna be,” Kenny stated.

“I’ll go with you.” Clementine stepped up next to him, finally having regained her breathe.

“Now that I’m okay with.” Kenny agreed.

“We put up that swing, darling. Why don’t you go play with your friend?” Andy tried to sound gentle but to Clementine, it was pure deceit. They were just trying to get Kenny alone.

“I’m not your ‘darling.’ I’m going with Kenny. Or are you trying to keep me out here for a reason?” Clementine’s voice was challenging. Even her body language spoke volumes, her hand on her hip and her eyebrow raised in defiant question. Katjaa and Lee watched her with surprise and worry. Kenny was focused on Andy, scanning him for an answer. He and Clementine both saw the man tense. They saw his jaw clench. Then he smiled and everything seemed to wash away.

“Well there’s gonna be blood and we’d hate for a little thing like you to see something like this.”

“I’ve seen worse.” She didn’t break eye contact.

“Just let her come with, Andy.” Brenda glared at her son quickly. Then she was all smiles again, leading Kenny up to the house. Clementine was only a step behind. She resisted the urge to grab his hand.

“Sorry about Andy, sweetheart.” She tried to keep a motherly tone. It sounded sickeningly sweet to Clem. “He just wants you to be able to at your age. Must be hard being a little girl in all this.”

“I’m fine,” Clementine replied.

“Yeah, we’ll take care of our kids.” Kenny winced as he spoke. Nothing else was said as they were lead to the upstairs bedroom. Brenda sat Kenny down and brought in supplies. A scalpel, a needle, thread, disinfectants, a towel, bandages, and scissors.

“Let me go wash my hands and grab something for your pain. I’ll make sure you won’t even feel it.” Brenda’s words sounded ominous and even Kenny felt it.

“Good idea. I’ll stay here.” Clementine gave her an innocent smile. It was better to play along and Brenda seemed to actually fall for it. She felt and Clementine locked the door the moment she could.

“I got a bad feelin’, Clem.” Kenny winced and reached for the arrow. No doubt he was trying to take it out himself.

“Stop. If you pull it out, it’ll rip your shoulder.” She swatted his hand and picked up the scissors, giving them a test snip. “Turn around.”

“You know what you’re doing?” Kenny questioned but obeyed. She had to climb onto the bed to reach. Carefully, she cut around the arrow until his shirt was cut off.

She wanted to question why he wasn’t stopping her. She wanted to know why he trusted her so blindly. She wasn’t going to, though. Maybe if she did he would stop and be left in the hands on the St. John’s. It was better to accept his trust.

“Yes,” she replied simply.

“You know that was my favorite shirt, right?”

“We’ll get you another one. Stay still.” She put the scissors down and held up the scalpel. It looked clean enough. She’s definitely worked with worse. “This is gonna suck.”

“You sure you know what you’re doing?”

“Do you trust me?”

“‘Course I do, Clem. I trust you more than most anyone else. You’re just a little girl, though. How do you know all this?”

“I’ll explain later. Here.” She handed him the torn shirt.

“The hell’s this for?”

“Bite it.”

He understood. When it balled it up and put the fabric loosely in between his teeth, she started cutting. Kenny didn’t scream often and he wasn’t right now. He tense and grunted. She was shocked he wasn’t making more noise but then he seldom did when he was in pain. Even in death he only screamed to get the walkers attention.

Clem cut enough room to get the arrow out. She had to cut more than she wanted but it couldn’t be helped. It left a diamond shape almost. After a little wiggling, the arrow came out. Kenny took the shirt out his mouth and grinned a bit as he was breathing heavily.

“Didn’t even need it,” he said between breaths.

“That was the easy part.” Clementine opened the peroxide and damped the towel. “This is going to hurt like hell.”

“You could’ve at least lied a little.” He took a glance at what she was doing and prepared. The stairs creaking got their attention.

“Whatever you’re gonna do, do it now,” he said. He barely got to finish speaking before she very thoroughly cleaned his wound. Kenny yelped and tried to keep a low volume but failed. He needed the shirt.

The door rattled.

“What’s going on in there?!” Brenda shouted from the other side. “Open this door!”

“Give me a minute!” Clem shouted back. Kenny took this time to catch his breath. She felt terrible he was in so much pain but this was necessary.

“Clementine, open the door!”

“I said give me a minute!”

The rattling stopped and they heard heavy footsteps leading away from the door.

“Don’t think we got much more time…” Kenny glanced back. Clementine nodded and fixed up the needle. She shivered at the memory of sewing her own arm.

“I’m sorry it hurts so much.”

“I’d rather be in pain with you than drugged up with her. You’re doing fine, darling.” Kenny gave her a pained smile. Clem loved when he treated her like this. Like a child yet she could take anything. Even despite her experiences, Kenny always regarded her opinions higher than everyone else's. She mattered as a child and as his companion. It felt nice that he still trusted her.

“Okay, now you really have to stay still.” She gave him a second to prepare. When she felt he was ready, she started sewing. That’s when he put the shirt in his mouth and screamed. Clementine grimaced, trying to get it over with as quickly as possible. “I-I’m sorry! I’m so sorry!”

After what felt like forever, she finished. It wasn’t her finest work but it would hold. It was enough. She carefully bandaged it while he regained his breathing. Once it was completely taken care of, she slid off the bed and looked for a new shirt for him. Silence went over them and hung there until Kenny could speak again.

“Thanks,” He spoke lowly. His voice was waving with pain but it was clear he was trying to push through it and not let it show. “Why didn’t you stay outside anyway?”

“Something’s not right. I couldn’t leave you alone with them.” She found a thicker, long-sleeved shirt a little big on him. It would work, though.

“I agree.” Kenny took it as she held it out. “Something’s wrong. Just stay close and keep an eye out.”

The door rattled again but this time it opened. Brenda had a key in her hands and a scowl on her face. She looked livid.

“Why would you lock the door, girl? I have to fix him up and get him straight and you-…” Noticing Kenny’s decent stitches made her pause. She also noticed Clementine holding a gun and it was pointed at her.

“I took care of him,” Clementine said slowly, lowering the gun only slightly. “We’re going outside with everyone else now.”

“Now sugar, calm down.” Brenda’s use of the nickname made Clem cringe. “Put the gun down and let the man rest.”

“Actually I feel fine now. Come on, Clem.” Kenny checked the shirt for any problems before sliding it on. Clementine lowered the gun completely but didn’t put it away as she moved right next to him. The two made their way to the door and Brenda was frozen. She didn’t see to know how to handle the situation. Clementine figured every other group they came across fell for the sweet mother act. She wouldn’t. It was just an act after all.

They went downstairs and out the door. Brenda only watched from the top of the stairs, scared to really do anything.

“I think you scared her.” Kenny put a hand on Clem’s back. She could feel pride radiating from him.

“Good.” She overlooked the cheerful dairy suspiciously. “They’re not right, Kenny. I know we need food and all but this is not a good place.”

Clementine glanced back and saw Brenda coming out of the house. She was shaking. Andy met her on the porch and they started talking. Then their gazes turn to herself and Kenny. Lilly and Larry kept glaring in their direction too. Lee, Mark, and Danny were nowhere to be found. She could see Duck in the barn. That’s where they went. Duck was petting the cow laying on the ground. Katjaa was staring at it, clearly in thought.

“Where’s Lee and Mark?” Clementine demanded. She didn’t bother sitting down as she would have at eight-years-old. She had more pressing matters to attend to than her comfort.

“They went scouting with Daniel,” Katjaa responded with a small glance. “Ken, dear, are you alright? They told me it was bad. Should you be moving?”

“I’m alright, Kat. They barely did anything. Clementine’s one hell of a nurse.” Kenny smiled at her with the sort of prideful look he used to give her when she did something- anything really- right. It was usually reserved for cooking or making AJ laugh. Right now, that look was comforting. Katjaa’s gaze was full of worry and general concern. Maybe she wondered how Clementine knew how to do anything medical. Subconsciously, Clem picked at her scar from the dog bite. Kat noticed that.

“They’re back!” Duck announced. Clementine clearly saw Lee and Danny but a couple of things stood out about them. Mark was missing and they had blood on them. It was fresh. Her heart dropped. Had she already failed?

She wanted Andy approach Lee. They were talking but she couldn’t tell what of. Andy looked angry and Lee looked surprised. Then Andy looked pitiful and Lee looked sorrowful. They exchanged a few more words before Lee headed towards the barn alone. The closer he got the more she could see the fresh blood. There was a lot. When he entered she pretended to be more interested in the cow. Kenny’s steady hand on her shoulder felt forever reassuring and it gave her the strength to force a smile. She could tell he knew something was wrong too.

“Ken? Kat? Mind if I talk to you two for a second?” Lee almost hung his head.

“Kids, stay here.” Katjaa stood and went with the other two to the back of the barn. Clementine and Duck looked at each other. They were both curious. She sat close enough to hear the adults and Duck sat next to her. He seemed to be struggling to make out what they were saying so he lost interested. The cow quickly took his focus.

“Where’s Mark?” Katjaa sounded so worried it almost hurt.

“There was a woman out in the woods. She had been through some rough shit. Drive her crazy. Mark tried to calm her down but she shot.” Lee looked to the side. Kenny muttered what was guaranteed to be a swear of some sorts.

“Danny shot her.” Lee continued. “But she seemed upset that she killed Mark. She sounded like she just wanted to leave.”

“Oh my god…” Kat shook her head.

“What’s going on?” Duck leaned closer to Clem in an attempt to whisper.

“Mark was shot,” she whispered back. The inevitable truth of the situation was dawning on her. They could still die in other ways. She might have saved Kenny from being eaten but Mark still died. She couldn’t save them all.

Duck’s hand on hers brought her back. He had a smile forced onto his face. The sadness in his eyes was obvious but he didn’t seem to want to focus on that. He didn’t even acknowledge it. It was her he was worried about.

“I’m okay,” she said. With interlocked hands, they both leaned back to listen to the adults. Duck once again focused on the cow instead.

“When you tell Clementine, be gentle,” Katjaa was saying. “That little girl is going through too much.”

“I understand.” Lee’s voice was low and husky.

“No, Lee. I don’t think you do.” Kat took a deep breath and sighed. “She’s going through a form of psychosis. She’s making memories that never happened. To her, she’s a woman who’s been through an unnumbered amount of trauma stuck in the body of a child. She feels as if she’s traveled back in time.”

“That would explain a lot,” Lee concluded.

“It does. To her, everything she saw and felt was as real as us right now.”

“And she told you all this?”

“Yes. Lee, she told me these people are cannibals. They were going to kill Mark.”

“That’s fucked up.” Lee shook his head.

“But it’s what her mind is capable of. It’s what she believes. If she believes it, it is real to her. Watch her closely. Be very careful and gentle with her.”

“What if she’s not crazy?” Kenny inserted.

“Crazy isn’t a good word.” Katjaa glared. “I never said crazy.”

“Well, what if she’s really been through it all? Think about it. One day an innocent eight-year-old girl threatens to kill Lilly in front of her dad? She knows how both of them are.”

“That’s just how disconnected she is.” Kat tried to explain it away. “In her mind, Lilly is evil. I would guess from the constant fighting.”

“How does an innocent little girl know how to disinfect and sew a wound?”

“The fuck?” Lee sounded confused. He probably was. It’s not something you hear every day, after all.

“She locked the door and took the arrow out before anyone else could even look at it,” Kenny explained. “It was like she had done it before. Little girls don’t know that stuff.”

“Maybe she picked up it from watching me?” Katjaa suggested.

“She’s squeamish.” Lee shakes his head.

“She was also with Duck every time,” Kenny added. “Look, the dead are walking. Is this really the craziest thing to have happened? She went from being a little girl to what she is now overnight.”

“Her mental state could have finally broken.” Katjaa tried to explain it away.

“Alright, I know how we’ll tell.” Lee interrupted the argument. “We see if they’re cannibals.”

“How the fuck you gonna do that?” Kenny crossed his arms but wasn’t opposed to the idea.

“However we can.”

“I’ll watch Duck and Clementine.” Katjaa sighed. “But before you do anything, Lee, maybe you should talk to her about Mark. Just keep in mind her mental state. She could be fragile.”

Lee nodded and went towards the kids. Katjaa followed and took her place on the stool. They both looked worried and Clementine knew why. She had heard them talking. To her surprise, Duck looked worried too. It was directed at her. She knew he heard them but she didn’t think he understood any of it. Evidently, he did.

“Clem?” Lee looked down at her, a soft look on his face. “Can I talk to you? You’re not in any trouble.”

Instead of answering she stood. Duck let her go, assured she was in good hands. The duo went to the back of the barn where Kenny stood near. He was close enough to listen in but didn’t seem to actually want to participate in the conversation. Perhaps he felt like it wasn’t his place. Clem guessed going outside was too risky. The family of human-eaters could be seen coming from here, though.

“Now Clem,” Lee stated as he knelt to her level. “I want you to be honest with me. Like I said, you’re not in any trouble.”

She nodded.

“Katjaa told me you saw the future. Is that true?”

“Yes.” She couldn’t lie, couldn’t she?

“Is that why you talked to Lilly the way you did?”

“Yes.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Because it sounds crazy.” Clementine’s voice dropped as she said this. She knew well it sounded crazy but she couldn’t take back telling katjaa now. She couldn’t take back Lee knowing. She may as well confess to it.

“It does sound a little crazy, yeah.” Lee gave her a sympathetic look. “But so does the walking dead.”

Clementine said nothing but was very grateful he didn’t write her off as easily as Katjaa seemed to have.

“Andy said you pulled a gun on his mom.” Lee looked at her expectantly.

“She was going to drug Kenny,” Clementine said bluntly. The comment seemed to make the man in question turn to look at them but only for a second. She could tell he was eavesdropping. Now she realized where she got it from.

“You really think these people are cannibals?”

“I saw them eat Mark. They tried to feed him to us.” She looked to the side. “You stopped me.”

“You mean in your uh… Dream?”

“Yes…” She wanted to scream that it wasn’t a dream. There was more to it than that. It was real and it really would have happened had she not cut Kenny’s hand open.

Mentioning Mark’s death seemed to make Lee’s mood drop even more than it was. He looked upset and she knew why. He felt guilty she could tell.

“Clementine, honey… Mark was shot in the woods.” Lee reached out to her as he spoke, expecting some sort of reaction of sorrow. He only received a sad stare.

“Who shot him?”

“Some crazy lady in the woods. It’s okay, we took care of her.” Lee meant it to be reassuring.

“You mean you killed her.” Clem’s eyes never left him and her voice was so matter-of-factly. He didn’t see the little girl he was taking care of in them. Those ember eyes burned with pain and understanding. She knew what happened, at least to a degree and she seemed to understand why without a reason even being given. Lee started to see her, really truly see her. She wasn’t hunched over and looking around in paranoia like she did when she was scared. She wasn’t playing around or getting lost in herself as a child would. Instead of all that, she stood tall and held her head high. She carried herself with pride and confidence. There wasn’t a little girl anymore.

“It’s okay.” Clementine broke his train of thought. “He would’ve died anyway. Besides, I’ve done it before.”

“Shot someone?” Lee knew she meant her ‘vision’ but he couldn’t believe his girl could hurt anyone, let alone kill them.

“And let them be killed, yeah.” She put her hand on her hip and lowered her gaze for a second. Only for a second.

“Who did you shoot?” He didn’t know if he should be interested or worried. “If you don’t want to talk about it, it’s okay.”

“Well, there’s no reason not to talk about it now. Katjaa told you my ‘vision.’” She held up her hands to do air quotations then crossed them with a sigh. “A lot of people. A lot of them I didn’t know. People in Richmond, the Delta, Howe’s…”

“So you knew some of them?” Worry only increased in his voice.

“Yeah. Well, not necessarily shot but a lot of blood from a lot of people I knew is on my hands.” She paused and sighed. She was grateful Lee was a patient man. “I shot you, Lee.”

“What?” He couldn’t believe what he was hearing.

“I shot you. Right in the head.” The pain in her voice was obvious but she tried to mask it.

“Clementine…” Lee’s eyes were wide with shock. “Why?”

“You got bit and didn’t want to turn, okay?” She was getting defensive and didn’t even want to tell him it was her fault he was bit to begin with. “I couldn’t let you. Why do you think you have that scar on your wrist? A-and another one on your head?”

He glanced down at his hand and sure enough, there was a bite-shaped scare. A million and one thoughts went through his head and almost all of them involved Clementine being right. If she was right and these people were cannibals, why were they still there? If she were right and she had killed them, what all had she endured? How did she feel about this situation? How powerless did she feel and how could he help her?

“I have one too.” She shrugged. The pain in her eyes never left. “Nobody lasts forever.”

Except she lived. AJ made sure of that. Lee wasn’t given a second chance, though, and it was all her fault.

“Did you die?” He asked slowly.

“Almost.”

“Can I see your bite?”

Clementine nodded and rolled up her leggings. She swore to get new pants, something sturdier and more bite-resistant.

A huge gash went up her leg and next to it, a bite. They looked old. It seemed impossible.

“What’s the other scar?”

“Just some crazy girl with an ax. Don’t worry about that part.”

“Clementine,” Lee shook his head. The ginormous bite seemed to have his attention again. “If you were bit, how did you live?”

“He didn’t want to let me go.” She was looking at the scars on her legs with a bittersweet smile. “I wanted him to just go so he would be safe but he wouldn’t leave. Instead, he chopped my leg off.”

She knew it was a weird thing to smile about but she loved AJ. She missed her goofball.

“Who are you talking about? Who’s ‘he?’”

When she looked at him, he almost felt her pain. She hugged herself and looked out the door. Words no longer left her. Her thoughts were bouncing but she couldn’t keep up. Then, she tensed. Lee turned to see Andy St. John coming into the barn. The once sweet little girl now radiated hate and it appeared Andy felt it. He gave Lee an uncomfortable look.

“Ma said to let you folk know dinner will be later than expected,” he said. Duck deflated.

“Why?” Clementine looked into his eyes and crossed her arms. The only thing making her seem like a child was her size.

“Well, we just found out the meat we were gonna start cookin’ is spoilt so we’re looking in the freezer for something fresher. Then it’s gotta defrost and all.” Andy excuse was solid. Too bad Clem knew it was a lie.

“What kind of meat was it?” Kenny had his own arms crossed, making Clementine look like a little copy of him.

“Deer meat.” Andy had a suspicious look in his eyes. He knew they knew something. “Look, I know you folk are hungry but we’ll take care of you. Just relax and let us worry ‘bout this.”

Everyone stood tense, even Andy. Nobody said anything and it only made them tenser. Finally, Andy seemed to get the message that he wasn’t wanted and left. Clementine let out a held breath.

From here, she saw Larry and Brenda chatting away happily. She didn’t want to look for Lilly and honestly didn’t care much what happened to her. She sighed and turned to face Lee. She had a determination in her eyes he had just noticed today- or had it just never been there before?

Kenny walked over to them, watching the doors to the barn every few seconds.

“So what’s the plan?” He asked.

“Haven’t come up with one yet.” Lee sighed in defeat.

“Okay, look,” She looked between them to make sure she had their attention. “The idea of food is awesome but we already lost Mark. We can’t afford to lose anyone else.”

“Who else do we lose?” Lee asked gently. She noticed he was starting to acknowledge her like he did the other adults. Her opinion mattered now. He was starting to believe her.

“Larry,” she said simply.

“That ain’t so bad.” Kenny snickered but there was something about him that showed he wasn’t joking.

“Ken,” Katjaa warned.

“Look, I know. Believe me, I hate him too.” Clementine put her hand on her hip and shifted her weight. “But losing Larry will break Lilly. I’m doing everything I can to stop that.”

“What do you mean?” Lee looked like she wanted to reach out to her. She ignored to let him.

“A long time form now, Lilly starts another group. She started a war over supplies. She destroyed Richmond. There were good people there. She killed Mitch. She took Omar, Aasim, and Louis. They were good boys. She was going to take them and turn them into soldiers, AJ too.” Clementine paused to recollect herself before she even fell apart. “Louis begged and begged to just take them home and leave them alone, he tried to reason with her. She didn’t care and cut his tongue out.”

Memories of Louis flooded into her brain. Vivid memories of his sobs as he cried himself to sleep came flooded her. She remembered the nights he woke almost screaming from his nightmares. She remembered him trying to talk and breaking down and crying because he couldn’t anymore. He lost more than his tongue. It was like a piece of his soul was ripped away. He couldn’t make jokes, couldn’t sing. She left him a shell and it took Clementine a very long time to fix him. She never fully did.

“Oh my god.” Lee was rightfully shocked. Kenny’s eyes were wide and he looked horrified.

“I can’t let her turn into that. Believe me or don’t but I’m not going through it all again.” Clementine shook her head. She refused.

“So what should we do?” Lee looked to her like he was the child and not her. It was odd being asked for an opinion. She saw a fear in him she hadn’t seen. It wasn’t the ‘afraid for your life’ fear she saw all the time in everyone. This was a special fear. Fear of the monsters in the darkness you knew were there but couldn’t see. It was a fear like going outside at night with no light and knowing there were wolves in the forest. Fear of the unknown but you know there’s something to be afraid of. Because Lee always had the answers. Except he didn’t and he was making it up.

This was a scary thing to make up an answer for. Clementine didn’t have the answer either but at least she knew what the consequences of staying could be.

“We leave,” she said simply.

“But the food..” Duck sounded like AJ when he was hungry. It hurt her.

“I know where to get more. We have to leave, though. Let’s go back to the inn and get the RV going.”

“Now that’s a plan I can get behind.” Kenny grinned. “Get to the coast.”

“No.” Clementine sighed. “No boats. But… Scavenging Savannah isn’t a bad idea.”

She didn’t want to admit she was lost with no clue how to get to Howe’s or Ericson’s. She needed Christa. Christa found the river. The river led her to Luke. She needed to save them first.

“Clem, honey.” Lee put a hand on her arm in a fatherly manner. “Are you sure about this?”

“Yes.” She nodded. “Worst case, I’m wrong and we missed some food.”

“Or your right and we dodged a bullet.” Kenny put a hand on her head with a smile. There was a pride in his eyes she had missed seeing. As much as her Kenny had been through and all the pain and sorrow he held, this was him. Their bond they built through loss and hardship and AJ’s joy was still there. She loved her parents and she loved Lee but nobody came close to Kenny. She had been with him for so long it was hard not to love him completely.

“Are you sure this is the best thing?” Katjaa looked as worried as she sounded. Of course, she was, they needed to eat after all. Not to mention she didn’t believe Clementine, she saw she was crazy.

“Only one way to find out.” Lee gave her a half-smile. He wasn’t sure but Clementine felt good that be trusted her.

“Then let’s go.” Clem followed Lee out the barn. She fell in steps with Duck and gave him a reassuring smile. He smiled back and took her hand. There was a lot of things about Duck she missed but she hadn’t realized she missed how sweet he really was. He was a baby and he was loud but he was sweet.

I’m not sure about this, Lee,” Katjaa whispered, though Clementine heard. “She’s a child going through God knows what. I don’t think she should be making these kinds of decisions.”

“Me either but she has a point. I don’t like these people. We’ll talk about her… vision thing once we get back to the inn.” Lee looked back at the little girl in question with concern.

“For the record, I believe her.” Kenny had to add his opinion. He smiled at Clementine and she smiled back. She didn’t blame anyone for not believing her but she was ready to open up. As long as she had then, she didn’t care if they believed her. It didn’t matter. She would answer any questions she had to. All they had to do was get Lilly and Larry and go home. Easy enough.

Hopefully.

Chapter Text

“Lilly, we can’t stay here,” Lee was saying. He was trying to gently coax the woman. She looked caught in between their options. Staying meant food. Leaving felt safer but it also left them with nothing to show. Well, Clementine couldn’t care less about how their ‘leader’ felt.

“I don’t like this place either, Lee,” Lilly responded. She looked around to make sure nobody else could hear them. It was just Clem anywhere near them. “Trust me, I want to just pick up and go back but they have food. We don’t. We need it.”

“What if it’s too good to be true and there’s a catch?”

“That’s why we’re leaving their things alone and taking dinner in a to-go box. Really, lee, you’re starting to sound like Kenny.” Lilly scoffed.

“I don’t think these people are worth the little bit of food they’ll give. They already said the meat they were going to use went bad. What if there’s no more?”

“A little is better than nothing.”

“What’s all this fussing about?” Andy St. John approached. Nobody noticed him coming up. Clementine took this as a sign her guard was dropping. She had to stay on top of things better.

“We’re just worried we won’t have food.” Lee hesitantly confessed.

“Well stop you’re worrying.” Andy chuckled like their concerns were childish. “Why don’t ya’ll come inside and rest ‘fore that storm rolls up?”

The clouds were turning grey. Soon, it would be a storm. The fence would short circuit. Walkers would get in. They needed to get out before any of that happens.

“You could each even get your own place to sleep,” Andy persuaded. “Doesn’t that sound nice?”

“No,” Clementine answered for the adults and received a look of surprise from Lilly.

”Come on, sweetheart, don’t you want some sleep? You’re safe here.” Andy smiled at her. She wouldn’t fall for it, not again.

“Look it sounds really nice-” Lilly tried to be nice about it- food was on the line after all- but was cut off by Clementine’s snarky response.

“Stop giving me pet names. I don’t trust you. I don’t like you. I don’t want your food. We’re leaving.”

“Lee you really need to control your girl before she says the wrong thing to the wrong man.” Andy looked angry. Good.

“Was that a threat?” Lee also glared. Nobody was taking kindly to the St. John’s new attitude.

“Fuck you, Andy!” Clementine couldn’t help but get angry. She had said the wrong thing to the wrong man and had paid the price by seeing her friend get beaten almost to death. He didn’t have to remind her.

“I know what you do!” She continued, trying not to think about Howe’s. “I know what you had planned for Kenny.”

“Clementine!” Lee raised his voice but it was more in shock than anything else. He was never going to get used to her cursing.

“Lee, I mean it. Get her.” Andy warned. Lee went to grab her but she stepped aside. Words just rolled off her tongue.

“Your mom was going to sedate him.” she reveled in the anger Andy was building up. “Then you and Danny would cut off his legs and cook him. You were going to make us eat him.”

“What the fuck?!” Lilly looked to Lee for an answer to this accusation. “Lee, what the fuck have you and Kenny been telling her?!”

“Nothing! Clementine, that’s enough!” Lee firmly placed his hands on the girl’s shoulders to hold her back. “That’s enough.”

She had so much more she wanted to say, so many insults. Instead, she glared. Andy looked like a deer caught in headlights. It was only for a few seconds. The expression he wore melted into one of humor. He laughed. It felt like it was out of spite to her. Clementine had to resist the urge to shoot him then and there.

“Kids and their imagination, right?” He said, still chuckling. “Alright, if you folks insist about leaving, I’ll let Mama know. She’ll make you something for the road.”

“Thank you.” Lilly couldn’t help but glare at Lee. Andy left them in tense silence. Clementine didn’t care how angry Lilly was, at least they were leaving. She would thank her later. Hopefully.

“Clementine.” Lilly looked down at her with a stern yet somehow soft look. “Who told you all that?”

“Doesn’t take a genius to figure it out.” Clementine never broke eye contact.

“Lilly.” Lee stopped the glaring match from the girls. “Clementine’s been through a lot lately. She’s tired and just wants to go home.”

He wasn’t wrong. He was just clueless about where exactly home was, why exactly she was tired. What exactly she had been through.

“We’re all tired but fucking up our chance of getting food isn’t helping.” The comment wasn’t directed at anything Clementine had done.

“Neither is yelling.” Lee sighed heavily. “Kenny is waiting by the gate. Get your dad and let’s go.”

“Alright, fine. But I’m taking the food.”

“Alright then.”

The two adults exchanges hardened looks before Lilly went to the house. Lee let out another heavy sigh, this one filled with exhaustion. Lilly was a handful and a half, after all.

He went to speak but Clementine beat him to it.

“I know I shouldn’t have done that.” She knew what the lecture would be. “But I know it’s true. They were going to keep him alive and eat him.”

Lee didn’t respond to it. He rubbed her shoulders gently with a sympathetic look. Of course he felt for her. He knew this was something she believed, real or not. He was also starting to get suspicious of the family. He just wanted to take his make-shift family and leave.

“Come on. Kenny’s waiting for us.” He said softly. She nodded and they went to the others.

Kenny had his arms crossed, eyes darting around suspiciously. Katjaa was distracting Duck, listening to his rambling. She didn’t seem to understand what he was saying but she listened anyway. When they got to the small family, Katjaa turned her attention to Clementine. She gave her a forced smile.

“Hello, Clementine. How are you doing?” She asked with all the kindness of a mother.

“Okay.” She responded. “I’m ready to go.”

It wasn’t a lie but it wasn’t the whole truth. She was hungry and getting anxious. The longer they stayed, the more danger they were in.

“Me too,” Kenny added. “Where the fuck did Lilly go?”

“She went to get her dad.” Lee looked at the house. Clementine was getting a very bad feeling she couldn’t shake. Something was very wrong. She should’ve been able to see Larry through a window or hear him. He was naturally loud. The windows were sill though. It was silent. It was eerie.

“Hey, Clementine!” Duck tugged at her hand to get her attention. “Let’s play a game!”

“Uh… Okay.” She would humor him but wouldn’t drop her guard. She couldn’t allow it. “What do we play?”

“I spy! You know how to play, right?”

“Well duh.” She remembered playing with Kenny on longs walks, then with AJ on long drives. It would always be the same things: A broken down car, trees, bridges, walkers. Something common.

“I’ll go first!” Duck looked around excitedly. “Okay. I spy something tall and white.”

“The house?”

“Dang it… Your turn.”

“Um… I spy with my little eye… Something tall and brown with green?” She never admitted to being the best at the game.

“A tree. Come on, Clem.” He looked a little disappointed by her pick. “Do a harder one.”

She tried. She looked around trying to find anything interesting to use. When she came up with nothing, Kenny took over the game.

“I got one,” said with a wide grin. “I spy something tall, skinny, and a bitch.”

“Lilly,” Clementine answered immediately. The joke put a grin on her face too. Lee was smirking and Katjaa was giving them a disapproving look. It was a cruel joke but Clem didn’t care. It was only Lilly, after all.

“What’s so funny?” Lilly asked as she approached. Duck opened his mouth to say something but Clem nudged him and shook her head. Couldn’t have him ratting them out.

“Oh nothing,” Kenny responded. He received a grumpy look from the woman.

“Dad’s resting.” She turned to Lee. “He needs it.”

“And he can have plenty of rest when we get back.” Kenny crossed his arms.

“His heart is weak. He’s tired from building that way to keep you and your family safe. Give him a break.”

“So when he gets eaten by these sick fucks, it’s his own fault.”

“Fuck you, Kenny! Nothing is going to happen to him!”

“If you two want to stay here and be friends with the Hannibal Lector family, be my guest. We’re leaving.”

“Wait,” Clementine spoke up. She looked tensed, almost afraid. “Did you see your dad?”

“No, he was asleep in the guest room.” Lilly looked at her with worry. It wasn’t worry for her father but worry for Clementine. She had been noticing the attitude change. She had been concerned for her. It was so very easy to forget Lilly was a good person once, that she cared in her own way.

“Lilly,” Clementine said slowly like she was explaining something to AJ. “How do you know he was sleeping?”

“Brenda told me. Clem-”

“And did you check the room?”

“No, she said he was sleeping. I didn’t want to wake him up.”

This wasn’t good. Clementine felt her stomach drop. He was alone. As big as Larry was, sleeping makes you vulnerable. It makes you unaware, open to anything. Being unaware makes it easier to drug you, to cut off your legs.

“Now I know ya’ll are leavin’,” Brenda walked up to them with a smile plaster on her face. It made Clem nervous. “But we found some meat and we’ll start cooking soon. There’s plenty if you change your mind.”

The horror of the situation started sinking in. They found meat. Larry was locked in the guest room. The brothers were nowhere to be seen.

“We’ll pass.” Kenny urged. “Come on, let’s go.”

“I-I forgot something!” Clementine made a random excuse. She had to get into that room. She had to.

“I’ll go get it for you, dear,” Brenda offered. Her sickeningly sweet smile never left her face.

“No, I can get it.”

“I’ll go too. I need to get my dad anyway.” Lilly added. Brenda’s smile finally wavered.

“Alright, then. I’ll get a basket for ya’ll to take home some food.” She immediately turned tail and left for the house.

“What are you thinking?” Kenny looked at the little girl curiously.

“We have to get Larry and leave.”

“I’ll go with you two, just in case.” Lee seemed to like the plan. “Kenny, stay here and be ready.”

“Always am, pal.”

Lee smiled a bit and gave Kenny his gun. As long as Lilly and Clem were armed, he wouldn’t need it. The small group headed for the house.

“Lee, wouldn’t you feel better if you had the gun?” Lilly glanced at the armed child slightly behind them.

“She proved she can handle it.” Lee smiled at the girl in question. “Besides, she feels safe with it.”

“I guess. Do you really think these people are cannibals?”

“Clem and Kenny sure as hell think so and I don’t think we should rule anything out.”

There were a few beats of silence. Lilly looked to the side in thought. Or maybe she was praying. After all, if these people were cannibals her father was in major trouble. She decided to stop thinking.

“Hey, Clementine,” Lilly said in a soft, gentle voice. There was only good intent and care behind it. “How are you?”

“Worried.” Though Clementine wasn’t sure exactly why she was. She didn’t care for Larry and was only just starting to even consider liking Lilly again. Maybe that’s why she was worried. She didn’t want Lilly to become the monster she knew. Or maybe she was just worried about Kenny and his family.

“It’ll be okay.” Lilly sounded genuinely caring. “He’ll be fine.”

Clementine didn’t respond. Instead, she chose to look up at the woman. This was someone who was worse than walkers, worse than Joan and David. She was like Carver, she was evil. But here she was, though, fear written on her face no matter how hard she tried to hide it. Concern dripped from her voice. She was soft and as gentle as Lilly could be. Real care shone in her eyes. She wasn’t the Lilly Clem had come to hate. This was before and this was a good woman just doing things wrong. Clementine could only hope to save her.

The silence was the first thing in the house they noticed. The only thing daring to break it was Brenda’s almost eerie humming from the kitchen. Clementine took the lead and headed upstairs to the familiar bedroom. Pictures hung on the walls of the halls as a mockery. This was once upon a time a happy family. Now they were just as bad -if not worse- than the monsters outside their fence.

The door being locked was the second thing they discovered. Clem twisted the knob but it wouldn’t budge. This wasn’t good. Lilly raised her arm to bang on it but the little girl stopped her. Knocking would be pointless and give them a warning to their presence.

“If we’re going to break the door and make noise let’s just break it down completely,” she said, drawing her gun.

“I don’t think we want these people angry with us. If you’re right and they’re cannibals especially.” Lilly shook her head.

“Then let your dad be eaten.” Clementine’s Kenny-life retort made Lilly pause. She weighed her options and groaned.

“Alright, fine. If this goes south, it’s your and Kenny’s fault, Lee.” Lilly glared.

“Why are you blaming us again?” Lee drew his gun, ready for whatever was behind this door.

“Because you two put it in her head.” Lilly mirrored his motion. When all three had their sights lined aligned with the door and were ready, Lilly kicked it in. Brenda yelled from downstairs, confused about what the thud was. With her knowledge of what they were doing, they had to act quick.

The door swung down with a boot-sized hole from the kick. The bedroom was a mess and there was a clear sign of a struggle. Everything was tossed around like a tornado came through. Larry was nowhere to be found. Clementine’s stomach dropped. One look at Lilly was all she needed to see the pure terror in her eyes.

“Oh shit.” Lee didn’t bother to censor himself.

“Dad?!” Lilly called out. A groan from the next room answered her. She ran out of the room quickly but found no door.

“Dad where are you?!” Lilly ran back to the bedroom in a blind panic.

“That’s strange,” Lee mumbled to himself. He noticed a wire going into the closet and followed it. The closet practically swallowed the cord. Curiosity set in and he opened it. Medicine bottles and bandages littered the selves of the closet. Hidden behind a bottle of pills was a switch. He flipped it. Light poured from under the shelf.

“You’re fucking kidding me.” He stared for a second before yelling at his friend. “Lilly! There’s a hidden room! Try to find it!”

“Don’t!” Brenda rose from the stairs in a panic. “Don’t open it!”

Clementine had her gun trained on the woman in less than a second. The action made the woman go silent. Lee glared and went into the room with Lilly. Clementine was a beat behind, never lowering her gun.

“Now, sweetie-” Brenda started.

“She’s not your sweetie.” Lee glared even harder. While she made sure Brenda never went anywhere, he and Lilly overturned the bookshelf, revealing a door. It was the only thing that made sense.

“You don’t want to do this!” Brenda pleaded.

“Is my dad back there?!” Lilly yelled. When the St. John couldn’t even meet her eyes, she growled in pure anger. With that sheer rage, she swung the door open so hard it cracked against the wall.

“Oh my god.” Lee’s eyes couldn’t get wider.

“Holy shit... Dad!” Lilly shouted, though no one could tell if it was rage or sorrow.

In the hidden room, laying on the floor in a pool of his own blood was Larry. He was barely conscious but still alive. He was also missing a leg.

Chapter Text

“Dad!? Dad!” Lilly held on to her father like both their lives depended on it. She cradled him as best she could. “Please stay awake.”

“Fucking...A-Assholes…” He gasped out in either pain or an attempt to stay awake.

“What the fuck did you do?!” Lilly glared Brenda. Fear caused the woman to stay silent.

“She cut off his leg,” Clementine asked for her. The gun was never lowered, always pointed at the chubby woman. “She cooked it. She was going to send it with us and keep the rest. She was going to keep him and eat him.”

“Lee, help me get him.” Lilly kept shaking her dad, half listening to the little girl’s words. She didn’t want to hear it. She couldn’t bear it.

“He… H-He wasn’t feelin’ well, honey, he was going to die anyway-” Brenda tried to soothe her but Clementine refused to let her.

“Shut up! You lost your rights to speak when you started eating people!”

“It’s the only way to survive anymore-”

“Bullshit!”

“Clementine.” Lee’s stern voice make her glance back. Only a glance, though. He and Lilly had Larry standing but he was very heavily leaning on his daughter.

Lee had a look on his face that made Clementine feel much more valued. A trusting look was in his eyes. She had turned out to be right and he fully believed her.

“There’s a wheelbarrow in the barn.” Clementine focused back on Brenda. “Dump it and use it. It’ll make carrying him back easier. Grab morphine out the closet too. He’ll need it.”

Lilly only looked at her in response but Lee nodded. The three made it out of the room. Brenda moved towards them and received a growl from the little girl.

“I didn’t say you could move! Test me and I will shoot!”

“A-Alright, I-I’m sorry!” Brenda was on the verge of tears yet the girl didn’t care. She waved the gun to the door quickly, not keeping her aim focused off her target for too long.

“Walk,” she demanded. Brenda complied. With Larry and the medicine, they went downstairs and out the out. It took them a while with Larry almost passed out and with one leg but they managed. He was compliant in his pain, if only for Lilly. Lee was very clearly grateful for it.

They felt safe once outside. At least until they saw what was happening. At the gate was Kenny, Katjaa and Duck. Things weren’t looking good for them, to say the least. Danny St. John had a gun pressed hard against Duck’s head. Kenny- unarmed- looked absolutely livid. Katjaa was crying and begging for her baby back, for the man to not hurt her son. Duck was understandably tense. Even from behind and from here, Clementine seldom saw him this scared. Something snapped inside her because of it. It was like when David took AJ from her because she ‘couldn’t handle it’ or when Abel had AJ’s arm twisted behind him. It was the same rage she felt when Carver made Carlos slap Sarah so hard she bruised and shaking. The same fury present when Lilly stabbed Mitch in the throat for protecting Tenn. It was a silent, terrifying rage few had seen and none had lived to tell the tale.

With one swift motion, she turned the gun to Danny and shot. Brenda shrieked and when she turned to look at the little girl, she was met with the end of the same gun.

“Nobody messes with Duck,” she said simply. Katjaa scooped up her son in her arms and Kenny checked him over. No injuries. The little boy was fine.

Brenda collapsed into a sobbing mess. She grieved the loss of her son with no remorse from Clementine. Everyone but Kenny looked at least a little disturbed by her actions. Nobody but Kenny said anything.

“Thank you, Clem. Thank you for saving Duck.”

Clementine nodded. A few beats of silence passed but it only lasted a few seconds. After all, Larry wasn’t in the best state.

“Lee,” Lilly demanded. The anger behind it wasn’t directed at him but the sobbing woman she was glaring at. “Take my gun. Go get the wheelbarrow.”

“Alright.” He reached around her waist and took her weapon out the back of her pants, careful not to shoot it. “Stay safe.”

“You too.”

“Don’t fucking move!” Kenny shouted. He had his own gun pointed at Andy. The St. John probably heard the shot and came to see what happened. He was staring at his brother’s corpse. Tears built in his eyes.

“D..Dan…?” He whimpered out as he collapsed beside his mother and dead brother. They left the two be but Clementine and Kenny’s guards were up completely.

“Lee, go.” Lilly gave Lee a look of almost defeat. She was exhausted. Lee responded with a nod and switched out with katjaa, letting her help support the larger man while he ran off.

“What happened?” She asked gently.

“Those bastards were trying to eat him,” Lilly said the words with venom.

“Oh my god…”

“I fucking knew it.” Kenny grinned with pride. “Good job, Clem.”

She smiled back. Then she looked at Duck. He was on his feet, shaking, and gripping onto Kenny’s pants. Poor kid was probably going to be traumatized.

“Hey, Duck.” She couldn’t afford to look at him long. The St. John’s were important. “How are you doing?”

Duck slowly glanced at her. He didn’t answer and looked down. It was easy to forget how he got when he was scared. Closed in, trying to disappear behind his parents. He was practically clinging to Kenny but there was little she could do in her current position.

Rain started pouring down. That wasn’t good. The generator would give out soon. The fence would shut down and walkers would get in. They had to leave before then.

Lee was back as quickly as possible with the now empty wheelbarrow. Larry was carefully loaded into it. It brought up memories of AJ doing the same to her. The situation was very similar, to say the least.

“Alright. Let’s go.” Lee starting pushing it out with the heavy man safely placed inside. Kenny, his family, and Clementine were soon to follow but Lilly wasn’t. She stood over the St. John’s. There was a look of pure rage on her face. No guns were pointed at the pair but Brenda refused to move. She cradled the corpse of her son. Andy stood and glared at Lilly. His eyes were red but he suppressed his cries. He looked like he wanted to insult them, throw the foulest things towards them he could. But he didn’t. He looked like he was going to break if he said a single word.

“Lilly?” Clementine turned to look at her. She wasn’t right.

“All I need is a minute with them. Clementine, give me your gun.” Lilly held a hand out for the weapon as her voice trembled with rage. She never broke eye contact with the man across from her.

“No.”

“Fine. Lee?”

“I’m sorry, Lilly, but we can’t do this.” He stopped pushing the wheelbarrow to look back at her too. They all did. “Kat can’t do anything for your father here.”

“Or you can let him die and it’s going to be on your hands. It’s your choice.” Clementine crossed her arms.

Lilly’s glare in intensified but she tensed. She must have decided they were right and she turned to join them. After a few feet, Andy broke into sobs alongside his mother. They kept walking.

Once they were at a safe distance, Clementine turned back. The generator was giving off sparks. The fence was shutting down. They kept walking.

 

“Fucking great,” Lilly mumbled. “We’re out of food and everything is fucked.”

“I know where we can get more food,” Clementine said slowly.

“Oh yeah?” Lee glanced back with a hopeful smile. Lilly had taken over pushing her father, rightfully so. She appreciated his efforts, though.

“Yeah. There’s a truck not far from here. It’s abandoned. It’s got all kind of supplies.”

“That sounds like our best bet,” Kenny added.

“I need to get to Larry quickly,” Katjaa interrupted. She was right. He didn’t have long.

“Then we split up. “Lilly’s tone was flat. The anger had passed and was replaced with exhaustion. “Me, Katjaa, and Lee take my dad home. The rest of you go get supplies.”

“Now hold on-” Kenny’s vocalized disagreement was cut short by his wife.

“Kenny, Larry doesn’t have time. He needs help now.”

“Look, Ken, if you’re worried about her, don’t be. I’ll take good care of Kat.” Lee reassured. “She’s always safe with me.”

Kenny searched his face for any reason to distrust him. He found nothing. A sigh of defeat left his lips.

“Fine. I’m holding you to those words, Lee.”

“Fine by me. Take care of Clementine. Clem, take care of both of those two.” Lee motioned to Duck and Kenny. She nodded in response.

“If we’re done, my dad is bleeding to death.” Lilly spite out bitterly. She continued pushing the wheelbarrow towards the inn. Katjaa took another worried look at the children and followed. Lee was right behind, gun drawn.

“I don’t think mom likes this,” Duck said when they were out of sight.

“She’s just worried about us,” Clementine reassured him.

“Your mom worries too much about everything. She’ll be fine,” Kenny added. “Clementine, where are those supplies?”

“Over here.” She took them into the woods at an angle compared to the other group. Duck fell silent again. He looked around but stayed extremely close to Kenny. He was better though, finally speaking since the gun was pulled on him.

“Hey, Clem,” Kenny’s voice was unusually soft. “Thank you for saving Duck.”

“Of course.” She would never let anything happen to him, not if she could help it.

“This is gonna sound off the fucking walls crazy but I feel like I can trust you. More than Lilly or Carley. Hell, maybe even more than Lee. Can’t explain it but I can feel it.”

“I’m glad.” She smiled. Truly she was. Kenny lasted the longest with her. He was unhinged at times but she handled him. Over time, she saw him as a father. He was her second chance at a family.

“What all did we go through before?” He looked to her with a familiar look. It was a look he gave her when she had to make a grown-up decision, mostly on his behalf.

“A lot. We went through a lot. You taught me a lot.” She smiled fondly yet it turned bitter quick. “I thought you were dead. When I found you again, a man caught us and another group. We tried to escape but I did something stupid.”

“Did he hurt you?”

“No, but maybe he should’ve.” She couldn’t look at him anymore. “You took the blame and I watched him try to bash your face in.”

“Jesus Christ.” Kenny touched the scar on his face. He had always noticed she could never quite look at it. Now he understood. It was no wonder why Clementine seemed so hardened.

“I’m glad he did it to me instead,” Kenny stated. He didn’t remember it and was glad of it. He didn’t want to remember the look she must have had on her face.

“He almost killed you.”

“And if he would’ve hurt you, he would’ve wished he did.”

Clementine shook her head but smiled a little bit. Kenny could be a complete, stubborn ass but, god, did she love him.

“How about Duck? Was Duck okay?” His question wiped the smile off her face completely. She was torn between telling him the truth or lying. The silence she left made him assume Carver did the worst to his son.

“I’ll kill the bastard.”

“You did.” She nodded. After another pause, she decided to tell him the truth. “Kenny, he didn’t kill Duck.”

“Then what happened? Was Duck okay?”

“No. He was bitten. He didn’t make it that far.”

Kenny seemed to have problems processing the information. He paused and stared down at his feet for a second. Then he looked at Duck. The boy in question wasn’t listening. At some point, he had intertwined his hand with Clem’s. They seemed as if they were born siblings rather than having just met.

“When?” Is all Kenny could say.

“A few months from now. I won’t let it happen though.”

“You better not.” It sounded more like a plea than a demand.

“What’s that sound?” Duck suddenly asked. He looked around as if to find the sourced of his annoyance. Kenny also stopped to listen. The faint beeping of a car sounded very softly. It was close.

“That’s for us.” Clementine headed straight for it. The car was left as it was supposed to be: doors opened, still running but out of gas, boxes upon boxes stacked in the trunk. It was quite a hopeful sight.

“Well, I’ll be damned.” Kenny grinned. He ran for it and immediately opened the trunk of the car. “There’s enough stuff in here to last us a long ass time!”

Bushes rustled and the hopeful atmosphere turned to one of caution. Clementine grabbed her gun from her waist belt and aimed like a well-trained soldier. Kenny mimicked her, stepping as close to them as possible. They both shared the goal of protecting Duck, the little boy looking around almost spastically.

The bushes rustled again. They parted to reveal Carley and Ben.

“Holy shit,” Clem breathed a sigh of relief.

“Why the fuck are you two sneaking around? We almost shot you,” Kenny scolded. He lowered his gun.

“But you didn’t,” Carley smirked.

“We almost did.” Clementine crossed her arms, gun in hand.

“Look, Lee sent us to help. He said you found supplies.”

“How did you find us?” Kenny went back to the trunk with Duck.

“Easy. We heard the car.” Carley followed him. “Woah. That’s a lot of stuff.”

“And it’s all ours. Let’s grab as much as we can. Hey, Clem, there’s a jacket in here that looks about your size.” Kenny pulled the little red hoodie out the back of the car and tossed it at her. She easily caught it and looked it over. It wasn’t perfect, too thin to protect against a walker bite but thick enough to be warm. She slipped it on and tucked her gun in the pocket. It would be safer too. The gun would be easier to reach and pocketed in a better way.

“Everybody grab as much as you can. Except for Clem. I want her with a gun, keeping an eye on.” Kenny smiled as he handed out boxes. He looked hopeful and it felt nice.

They got every last bit with some struggle. Kenny and Ben had the heaviest boxes while Duck and Carley had more of the lighter ones. Their hands were all full. With newfound hope for her second chance, Clementine led them to the inn.

“Holy shit,” was Lee’s reaction to the supplies. “When you said you knew where supplies were, you weren’t kidding around.”

“Well, yeah.” Clementine smiled. She was happy to help. Eagerly, the new group put away the supplies into one of the rooms they had used for a stock. For the first time in a while, they felt hopeful. Even Clementine did. Then she noticed Lilly and Katjaa’s absence.

“How’s Larry?” She looked up at Lee with all the innocence of a child.

“I’ll be honest, Clem,” he said with a frown. “It’s not looking good.”

She nodded. She understood how impossible the situation was. It was survivable, though. She had made it. Larry could too. If they were lucky, at least. The heart condition made things harder.

“Why don’t you go play with Duck while we still have sunlight” Lee urged.

“Okay.” She had no intent to play but would humor the boy. Then she paused. With uncertainty, she turned to Lee.

“You believe me, right?” She asked it slowly as if talking too fast would scare him.

“I do.” He nodded with no hesitation. “You’ve proven yourself right. There’s no reason not to.”

She smiled the biggest smile she had since waking up that morning. She turned and went to Duck, who was coloring in his usual spot. Carley and Kenny started chatting with Lee. Ben kept watch. The new supplies had everyone in a good mood. They almost forgot about Larry. Almost.

The situation still loomed in the back of her head. Who knows how Lilly would react if he died. She could still lose it. She could still turn into the bitch she knew too well. All Clem could do was wait and see.

She forced herself to stop thinking about it.

“Hey Duck.” She sat next to the little boy. He was coloring very slowly, half paying attention to the gravel and chalk.

“Hey, Clem.” He wasn’t as chipper as usual. It was to be expected, though. He was almost shot after all.

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah.”

“Liar.” She looked at him and saw through his guise. AJ did this too. “You can talk to me. I won’t tell anyone.”

“Promise?”

“Pinky promise.”

“Okay.” He sighed and looked around to reassure they couldn’t be heard. “I got grabbed. He was going to kill me and dad couldn’t do anything. I wasn’t helping. I was just in the way and they were using me. Dad probably thinks I’m weak.”

“What? No. Why would he think that?”

“Because nothing’s supposed to bother me. I’m always supposed to be happy. If I’m happy, Mom’s happy. If Mom’s happy, Dad’s happy.”

“Duck, you’re not weak for being scared, that’s normal. Everyone gets scared.”

“You don’t get scared anymore.:”

“Yeah, I do. A lot.”

“When?”

“Remember I told you about AJ and Luke and everyone else?”

“Mostly on the way back from the farm. Yeah…?”

“AJ got into trouble a lot. Every time, I was scared. Luke fell through the ice and I did too. I was scared then too. When we were overthrowing Richmond, when I had to confront Carver, even when I was trying to sleep in Ericson’s for my first few nights, I was scared. I was scared of all of it.”

“How did you get through it?”

“You take a deep breath and tell your fear to fuck off.”

“Swear.”

“Sorry.”

“You’re right, though. I just gotta tell fear to… uh…”

“Flip. Flip off.”

“Yeah.”

Duck finally smiled. It wasn’t his usual big, goofy smile but a soft sweet one. She couldn’t help but smile back. His hand went to her’s and when she squeezed it, he relaxed. The poor kid was tense and scared but was refusing to show it.

The door to Larry’s room opened. Lilly was in tears when she emerged and Katjaa was slowly following. Something was odd, though. While Lilly went straight to Lee, seemingly in need of comfort, Katjaa’s eyes went to Clementine. She looked confused yet horrified. Something had happened. Something bad.

Katjaa went over to Kenny and started talking softly. He nodded to show he was listening.

“I don’t think Larry lived,” Clementine whispered to Duck. He nodded slowly. He was starting to understand. That was good. It meant he would be easier to protect.

Everyone was talking. Lilly was literally crying on Lee’s shoulder. Clearly, she wasn’t mad at him. Things would be better it seemed, even if her dad didn’t make it. Carley and Ben watched them from the RV. The once happy atmosphere was replaced with heavy grief and dread. It was someone hopeful for Clementine, though. Sure, everything was sad, but Lilly wasn’t angry with Lee or Kenny. She wouldn’t take the warpath. Hopefully.

In their own emotions, nobody saw Larry’s door open. Nobody heard the groans and dragging sound. It got closer and closer. By the time anyone noticed, it was too late, too close.

Clementine was grabbed. She screamed and fought against him but he was much bigger and stronger. She fell and twisted around to see how close his mouth was. The 300 lb, pissed off dead guy was trying to bite into her leg and was mere inches from doing so. She kicked. Her gun was on the ground near her but not close enough. It fell from the pocket. Lee screamed her name but she couldn’t see anything but the hulking walker in front of her.

Duck scrambled for the gun. Someone else beat him to the draw. A gunshot rang out loudly in the dusk. Larry dropped to the ground with a bullet in the side of his head. Clementine’s head jerked up to see who her savior was.

Lilly was holding the smoking gun with tears flowing down her cheeks.

Chapter Text

Clementine sat on her bed alone in her room. Sunlight poured in the dark space between the boards on the inside and out of the window. Her head went a million miles an hour to the past. Four months ago, Lilly shot her father. He was a walker, sure, but it hardly made it easier. It was never easy shooting anyone you loved, even if they had turned.

The night it happened, they buried him in the woods behind the motel. Lilly cried for days. It almost relieved Clementine that the woman was properly mourning.

A knock at the door broke her out of her seemingly endless thoughts.

“Come in,” she called. It opened and Lee stood in the doorway. A worried look was written on his face.

“Hey, Clem.” He forced a smile as he approached and sat next to her. “You haven’t come out of your room all morning. We’re getting a little worried.”

“I’m okay. I’m just thinking.”

“What about?”

“Lilly.” She had to be honest.

“You’re still worried about her.”

“It’s hard not to be. I’ve seen what she’s done, what she’s capable of unchecked. It’s hard not to worry she’ll turn into it again.”

“We’ll keep a close eye on her.”

“Yeah.”

There was a pause. She could tell he wanted to speak, he kept looking at her with flickering eyes. AJ did the same thing. They went silent while their minds roared with thoughts both good and bad.

“Clem,” Lee finally said. “About your ‘future vision…’”

“Go ahead. Ask whatever you want.”

“What happens next?”

She actually had to pause and think. What would happen? Before, they took from the car, went back to the inn and about this time the bandits attacked. The bandits hadn’t been bothering them, though. More likely than not, Andy and Brenda St. John were still alive and kept them occupied.

“Well,” she started. “Bandits overran the inn. Duck got bit and we had to leave. But they had been attacking for a while then. They're ignoring us now.”

“So what do you want to do?”

“My plan is the same. We find Christa and she’ll lead us to Luke. From there, we go to Ericson.”

Lee nodded despite not knowing who these people are. He just had to trust her and he did.

“Hey, Clementine.” Carley stepped inside the open doorway quietly.

“Hey, Carley. Is something wrong?” Clem couldn’t help but notice a slight bit of stress in her voice. She was thinking about something.

“Nothing, kiddo. I need to talk to Lee for a second. Why don’t you go play with Duck?”

Clementine responded with a shrug and left the room. She glanced back as she was leaving. A look of sternness was written on the woman’s face while Lee had a bashful look. It wasn’t any of her business though.

Everyone else was doing their usual routines. Katjaa and Ben were working on the wall, slower than Larry and Mark usually would have. It was getting done, though. Lilly was keeping watch. A lost look was on her face. There was a thick sadness in the air. It was hard to tell if Lilly was the source or everyone else was grieving too.

“Hey, Clementine,” Lilly spoke softly.

“Hey, Lilly. Where’s Kenny?” The little girl leaned against the RV and looked up at the woman she was talking to.

“Hunting. With any luck, we’ll have extra food tonight.” Her voice was flat.

“Oh.”

“Clem…” Lilly let out a heavy sigh before forcing a smile. “I’m sorry. How are you?”

“I’m okay. What about you?”

“I’m okay too.”

“Are you sure?”

Lilly paused. Clementine couldn’t help but be concerned. The woman had emotions scribbled all over her face that she herself had experienced at some point: the pain, the sorrow, the regret.

“I miss my dad,” Lilly finally said, though it was barely above a whisper. Clem heard and understood.

“My parents are dead too.” She averted her gaze to the tops of the trees outside the walls. “I get it.”

“I’m… Sorry, Clem.” Lilly looked at her with sympathy yet jealousy. She continued. “I mean, at least you got to keep mostly good memories of them. At least you didn't have to watch them die or say something insane before they did.”

There was a lot of things Clementine wanted to say here. She couldn’t help how her parents died or when they did yet somehow Lilly tried to make her feel guilty. As messed up as it sounded, though, she wouldn’t change anything that happened. She missed her own parents, sure. And sure, she wanted them back. If given the option for things to be normal again and go back to them or keep the walkers, she’d choose her current situation. Everything was dangerous and pain was common but she loved her makeshift family. She loved her next group and she loved the kids that became her family.

Then Clem realized what Lilly had said. She said Larry had said something insane before he died.

“I’m sorry, Clem.” Lilly’s voice was soft again. “None of this is your fault, okay?”

“What did he say?”

“What?”

“Your dad. What was the crazy thing he said.”

“Oh. You really shouldn’t worry about-”

“I want to know. I can handle it, Lilly.” She held her head high with confidence. She knew she could. She had dealt with worse.

With a deep sigh and a long look at the girl, Lilly told her.

“He said… He said Kenny killed him. He remembered Kenny killing him and Lee helping.”

She didn’t expect that. She stumbled back and had to think. Larry remembered. He remembered and she had no idea why. Her only guess was that he was dying. Maybe they would all remember before they die? If they died.

“That was impossible, though. Kenny was with you and I was with my dad.” Lilly looked to her as if she needed confirmation. Clementine nodded.

“Right.”

The air around them was tense and uncomfortable. It was heavy with dread, disdain, and shock. Lilly was going over a million things in her head. So was Clem. The latter decided enough was enough and she walked away before anything else could be said.

If Larry remembered, that was good. That meant she wasn’t crazy. But her theory could be wrong. It was possible everyone would remember, near death or not. The thought of Duck remembering seeing his mother shoot herself before Lee shot him scared her. Kenny would remember the distrust between everyone and himself, the pain Carver put him in. Lilly would remember… everything.

A part of her regretted telling AJ to shoot.

“Clementine? Is something wrong?” Katjaa’s sweet, accented voice called from a chair near the RV. She was watching Duck color and Ben… Well, be Ben. He was thinking, more than likely about something not good. Lem decided to go over and sit next to the woman’s feet.

“I’m okay,” she answered softly. Katjaa still didn’t believe her but that was okay. She loved her anyway.

“Have you been sleeping better?” Kat ran her fingers through the girl’s hair, at least what was poking out from the hat.

“Yeah.”

“Good.” She paused, then spoke slowly. “How are you handling the changes?”

“You mean being able to help make ‘adult’ decisions?”

“Yes. You’re just so young. Too young to think about these things.”

Katjaa must be nervous about her going out on town runs with Kenny and Lee. Teaching Duck how to shoot must be doing wonders on her nerves, then.

“I like it,” Clementine responded simply. “I feel better helping out.”

“You could help in a different way.”

“I like being treated like an adult. I like that my choices matter.”

“It just seems like too much for a little girl.”

“I’m not a little girl.”

“Clem-” Katjaa’s words were stopped by Duck speaking up. Nobody even realized he was listening to the conversation.

“She’s not crazy, mom.”

“I never said she was crazy.” Kat rebutted.

“No, but you act like she’s like me.”

“You mean a child?”

“Yeah. But she’s not. She’s Clementine. She’s not a kid, even if she looks like one. She’s special.” Duck crossed his arms. “Maybe you should believe her too.”

“Ducky, listen to me. She’s been through more than any child should ever go through. This is her way of responding to stress.”

“You’re too smart, that’s why you don’t believe her. You only trust science stuff but you should trust her! She’s not lying or anything and she knew about the cannibals! Mom, please think about it!”

The gate opening ended the conversation. They heard Lilly scoff as boot falls grew closer.

“Again?” Lilly sighed, exhaustion and irritation dripping in her voice.

“Well forgive me for leaving my wagon of food, I didn’t think to share,” Kenny retorted as he approached his family.

“Can you please not fight again?” Ben tried to speak up only to receive glares from the pair.

“Shut up, Ben.” Lilly scowled.

“I-I was just trying to-.” Ben stopped when Lilly’s glare hardened.

“Leave him alone, Lilly.” Carley emerged from Clementine’s room with Lee right behind. The seriousness of the conversation they privately had was still written on their faces.

“Get him to stay out of it, then.”

“He was just trying to stop another fight from breaking out. We’re all tired of it.” Carley crossed her arms and stood between the boy in question and the pair arguing.

“Well maybe if Kenny would stop being such an ass-”

“Don’t put this on me, you’re the spoiled brat!” Kenny mimicked her scowl.

“That’s enough!” Lee sighed. “We still have plenty of food left. And Carley’s right, we’re all sick of it. Both of you need to cool off.”

“Whatever, Lee.” Lilly averted her glare to the man speaking. “You always side with her or Kenny. I’m always the bad guy.”

“You know that’s not true, Lilly.”

“Can you both just shut up?” Clementine took on her leader stance- hand on her hip and leaning to one side. “Lilly, switch out with Ben. you need rest.”

“I’m fine.” Lilly couldn't glare at her. She focused on the gun in her hand.

“You heard the boss, switch with the man-child,” Kenny smirked. He received a glare from both Lilly and Clementine but he didn’t seem to mind.

“I’m fine. Lee?” Lilly looked at Lee for help. She received none.

“I think it’s a good idea,” Lee tried to give her a smile. “Ben needs the practice, Carley will watch him. You need the rest. You’ve been going for a while now.”

A look of defeat went over her. With everyone against her, she had no choice. She climbed down from the RV reluctantly and shoved the weapon into the boy’s hands.

“You never side with me.” She gave Lee an exasperated look and left for her room.

“The fuck is her problem?” Kenny looked to his friend with a somewhat knowing look.

“Really, Ken?” A half-lidded stare laced with disappointment was what he received.

“Go sit down.” Clementine pointed to the couch.

“Alright but only because you asked so nicely.” Kenny obeyed and joined his family next to the RV.

Lee and Clementine watched Ben and Carley climb on top of the RV. She was talking to him and he intently listened.

After everyone was in their new positions comfortably, Lee sat on the curb with a heavy sigh. Clementine sat beside him. They both had matching tired looks about them.

“Adults suck,” Clem finally said.

“Hey.:” He gave her a feigned look of hurt but a smile ruined the illusion.

“Okay, most adults suck. Kids are so much easier.”

“How so?”

“To kids, everything’s pretty black and white. Either your good or bad. Even when things aren’t so easy, they listen. They’re mostly honest and they work things out easier.”

“We’ll work things out, Clem.”

“Yeah. Hopefully.” She didn’t want to tell him how wrong he could be.

 

“So if you really traveled back in time, you’re much older than eight, huh?”

“Yeah. I think I’m 19 but I can’t remember.”

“That’s… a long time from now.”

“Yeah.”

“Do you miss being a kid?” The tone of his voice almost broke her heart. He sounded worried with all the love of a father.

“Yeah, a lot. But I like making decisions and being in control.”

“No one’s in control of everything all the time, sweet pea.”

“I know.” She looked down. “But making choices makes it easier to help the people I love. Even if I don’t like the choices I’m given.”

She couldn’t help but think about the night Lilly attacked. She didn’t want them to take Louis but she had no choice. She needed a fighter and while she loved him, he just wasn’t. Violet was. Violet could help save everyone who was caught. It was logical but it hurt.

A part of her still wondered what would’ve happened if she saved him instead, though. Would Violet have gotten her tongue cut out? Would she have lived? If she chose to keep Louis out the cart, would AJ have had to choose between Tenn and Louis on the bridge? She wouldn’t know. She wouldn’t let things get that far.

“Clem?” Lee looked at her with concern. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine.” She felt something wet on her face and wiped it away. Ah. She was crying.

“Things couldn’t have been easy.”

“No. They never were.”

They fell into silence. His hand rested on her back and she enjoyed the touch.

“Do you want to be a kid for a while?” He smiled brightly at her. It was genuine and loving just like him.

“What, are you gonna wipe my memory?” She couldn’t help but be skeptical.

“No, I can’t do that. But I can do this.” He started tickling her. She squealed. She squealed and laughed for the first time since before the world ended. Lee laughed right along with her. It was a moment that made her feel like maybe everything was okay.

A few minutes of roughhousing and he stopped. They were both breathless and giggling.

“Thanks, Lee,” she said between giggles. “Thanks for making me feel normal again.”

“Anytime, Sweet Pea.” His arms were wrapped around her almost instantly and she held onto him tight. He was warm and soft yet strong. She loved that. It made her feel safe and loved.

“You keep mentioning other groups,” he said softly. “You want to meet up with them?”

“That’s my plan.”

“I can’t wait. I especially want to meet AJ.” His words made her smile wider. He was going to love the kid.

“Me too.”

“Hang on!” Ben stuttered out to someone on the other side of the wall. He was standing and pointing a gun at whoever it was. His whole body was shaking but Carley stood close.

“Who are you and what do you want?” Carley looked down at the stranger with a look of pure dominance.

“D-Don’t shoot!” Said a voice on the other side of the wall. It brought painful memories to Clem. “I’m looking for a little girl. Curly hair, Dodger’s baseball hat. Her name is Clementine.”

All eyes went to the little girl in question. She felt like she was going to be sick.

“Clem?” Lee whispered as he loosened his hold on her so she could stand.

She took a very deep breath. She could still hear the gunshot. She could still see the truck with every last bit of their supplies driving off. She had trusted them and they took everything. It still hurt.

“Let her in but don’t take your eyes off her.” Clementine nodded slowly.

Kenny and Lee both went to the gate and slowly pushed it open. Carley and Ben had their weapons trained on the woman on the other side.

The familiar stranger stepped inside, hands in the air. A surprised look lingered as she looked between Kenny and Clementine. A long-sleeved shirt clung to her and her jeans and boots looked new. Red hair was pulled into a tight bun that had started to fall. A look of shock was burned into her green eyes.

“Bonnie.” Clementine crossed her arms and glared knives at the woman. “How was the truck?”

Chapter Text

Everyone thought it was a good idea to give Bonnie and Clementine space. They watched the two go on the second floor and stand on the broken balcony. Clem never took her eyes off the woman as she leaned against the rails.

“You look cute,” Bonnie offered with a smile. Clementine only glared at her.

“That’s a nice group. Kenny looks so different,” she kept going in hopes of lighting the mood.

“They are nice. Kenny looks good when his face isn’t bashed in, huh?” She spat the words out and received a scared look from the woman. She knew it was unfair for her to blame Bonnie and she really wasn’t. She was just so angry at her.

“Clem…. I am so sorry. I’m sorry we let him shoot you. I’m sorry we left you. It wasn’t your fault and we shouldn’t have done it.”

“No shit. Why did you take our truck? Our supplies?”

“We just needed to get away from him, Clem. You saw what he did. We couldn’t do it anymore, he was just too much.”

“How did we get the truck back?”

“We drove a little way and stopped. Mike was… We all felt guilty, even Arvo. Jane found us while Kenny was taking care of you. She said she was going to take your and the baby and run. We gave her the truck back. Ya’ll needed it more.”

As Bonnie talked, Clem found herself lacking surprise. She should’ve known Jane would go find them. She should’ve known Jane would try to help her before she betrayed her too.

“What happened after we left, Clem?” Bonnie asked slowly.

“nothing. ..” The girl didn’t want to relive that moment. What Jane did was wrong. What Kenny did was wrong. She couldn’t shoot him, though. She could never bring herself to hurt him.

“Did they make it?”

“No. How did you find me?”

“Oh… Well, I remembered Kenny mentioned the Motor Inn and Macon. You said you were from Georgia so I found a map and followed it.”

“Where’s everyone else? Did they come with you?”

“No. Luke was bein’ stubborn and Carlos hasn’t shown up yet. They don’t remember, Clem.”

“You do. Why?”

“I don’t know. Does anyone down there remember?”

“No.” Clementine shook her head while she thought. “They don’t. They all died before…”

“Maybe only people who lived can remember?”

“That’s what I’m thinking now that you’re here.”

If this was the case, the kids remembered. Louis remembers. She grimaced. It was both good and bad. It was good because he and Tenn and the almost everyone else would welcome her back with open arms. It was bad because they had been through so much. They had lost so much and they were probably confused and scared. Right now, though, this wasn’t important. She couldn’t get to them now.

“Bonnie, could you get us to Luke and everyone else from Savannah?”

“Probably, yeah. Clem, we have to stop Carver from turning into a monster.”

“We have to go to Savannah. We’re missing people.”

“Alright, fine. We’ll go to Savannah first. We have to hurry, though. It didn’t take long before he started… being so bad.”

“We’ll get there in time.”

“When we do, we can’t forget your cool jacket.” Bonnie smiled almost shyly.

To her surprise, Clementine actually smiled back.

“Clem.” The woman reached her hand out with a hopeful look. “I really am sorry. Maybe we could start over?”

The girl paused. Bonnie had come off as naive and gullible. She was so sweet until they found out she was with Carver. Then she helped them and stabbed them in the back. Through everything, though, she was never a bad person. She was just doing what she had to. Surviving was like that sometimes. So what else could Clementine do?

She placed her hand in the other’s and shook it.

“Don’t make me regret it.” It sounded less of a threat and more pleading.

“I won’t.”

Clem nodded. She went downstairs with the other following. By the time they reached her usual spot on the curb, all eyes were on them. Lilly was peering from her doorway and Kenny was giving Bonnie a look of total distrust. She couldn’t meet his gaze.

“This is Bonnie. She’s…” Clementine looked up at the woman in question. All she received was a hopeful smile. “An old friend.”

“So you meet all your friends with that much anger?” Kenny raised an eyebrow. He knew something was off, he could feel it. Clementine knew he could.

“Kenny,” katjaa touched his arm and he went silent. A smug, untrusting look lingered.

“Bonnie, this is Carley, Ben, Lee, Kenny, Duck, Katjaa, and Lilly.” She motioned to each accordingly. When she got to Lilly, Bonnie’s eyes went wide. She ignored it. “Go make friends.”

When Clem sat on the curb, everyone dispersed. Ben and Carley went back onto the RV, Bonnie went over to Lilly and began talking, Kenny and his family went back to their spot beside the vehicle, and Lee sat next to her.

“You okay?” He asked softly. She nodded so he continued. “Who is she?”

“Bonnie was a part of a group that corrupted. Some got free. I was with them and thanks to her, we got caught.” Clem didn’t sound fazed but it knew it was because she was pretty used to it. “Then we got free. A lot of our people died. Things went bad and she pretty much robbed us.”

“Why do you trust her now?”

“She’s not a bad person. She’s just lost. Besides, she’s my ticket to the next group.”

“What about us?” Lee asked with a smile. He was half-joking but the fear of being replaced was still there. Clementine had so many people in her life that he couldn’t help it. Someone could easily replace him.

“You’re coming too, Lee.” She smiled lovingly and put her hand on his arm. “I wouldn’t leave you.”

“Thanks, sweetie.” He wrapped an arm around her and she enjoyed the attention. Then his smile turned sour. “She gave Kenny a strange look. Any reason why?”

“They tried to get me away from him. He lost so much that he became unstable. Everyone saw him at his lowest and they were scared of him. They thought he was too much.”

“I see.” He leaned back and took a breath. He was thinking.

“We have to go to Savannah next.” Clementine nodded to herself. “Christa and Omid.”

“After that?”

“Howe’s. We get everyone, then we go north.”

“That sounds like a good plan. Do you know how to get where ever we’re going?”

“Yeah.” She lied. “Maybe…”

“We’ll find it.” His hopeful look and smile made her smile too. He was good at that.

Bonnie approached them slowly. She had a look of shock on her as she took a seat on the other side of the girl.

“How are you liking it so far?” Lee tried to make conversation but she seemed generally uninterested.

“Good… Can I talk to you, Clem? Alone?” Bonnie glanced at him quickly. Lee did not like this.

“Sure.” She shrugged and looked to her companion. With a grumpy frown, he went over to the RV. He and Carley started talking, Ben listening to them but never giving input.

“What happened to Lilly?” Bonnie almost whispered. Her eyes were still on the woman in question.

“Why?” Clementine shot her a suspicious look.

“Think I’ve met her somewhere before.”

“Where?”

“A group somewhere up north. A woman named Lilly started it. We were called the Delta.”

“We?” This was bad.

“Yeah. Lilly found us kind of desperate. She promised us she had food and shelter. We’d been on the road for so long and just wanted a place to call home.”

Clementine couldn’t believe it. Well, actually she could. Bonnie was always putting her trust in people she shouldn’t, doing everything to survive. She pretended it wasn’t like this but Clem could still tell.

Bonnie had joined forces with Lilly. Clementine was already so mad at Bonnie for leaving them behind in the snow. Hearing this confession was supposed to make her angrier. It didn’t. She let out a deep sigh. It was in the past. Or… Unspoken future. Either way, it wasn’t going to happen because Lilly wouldn’t reach that point.

“It is her, isn’t it?” Bonnie asked but she already knew the answer.

“Yeah.”

“She’s so pretty and young. It’s a shame what happened to her.”

“What?”

“Some other group attacked. We were already in a war and they attacked the boat that had supplies and recruits. This group killed everyone, even Lilly. They took everything and burned the ship.”

So that’s what the rest of the Delta had been told. A capable group attacked their boat unprompted. It was far from the truth and just the kind of lie the Delta would tell it’s ‘family.’

Bonnie must have thought they were doing good, trying to help people. What she probably didn’t understand is all the innocents involved. Javi would never have just handed Richmond over to anyone. He must have lost a lot of good people during their pointless war. Wellington didn’t have to burn down either. If Lilly couldn’t have it, though, nobody could.

If she herself had never shown up at the school, Tenn and Louis and everyone else would be trained as soldiers. She could see everyone being useful in battle except those two. Tenn was too good a kid, Louis wasn’t a fighter. They would have been broken. The tightly-knitted family they had would’ve been ripped apart by Lilly’s hands.

Bonnie would’ve been a part of that.

“Clementine?” The red-head pulled her from her thoughts. “Is something wrong?”

“No,” she responded. She wouldn’t tell her. It didn’t matter and it would’ve only made things worse. “Nothing’s wrong.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah. Come on, let’s plan our next move.” Clementine stood and went to her group.

With pursed lips, Bonnie followed.

Chapter Text

The decision to leave was split. Kenny, Lee, and Carley all agreed to leave for Savannah. Katjaa, Ben, and Lilly didn’t want to. Bonnie’s vote wasn't counted due to everyone’s lack of trust in her. They fought over the decision for what felt like hours but was only about 30 minutes. Lee pointed out that Clementine had a decent plan and even if she’s a kid, there were few other options. Kenny wanted to get to Savannah and find a boat, which surprised no one. It was a start at getting them away from here, though. Carley sided with Lee until the ends of the earth. It wasn’t new and Clem expected it. Ben didn’t put up much of a fight. His only point was he liked the familiarity of their current location. It made him feel safe. He was quickly silenced by the others. Katjaa tried to argue back but ended up falling into her husband’s plan. A boat didn’t sound too bad to her, after all.

Lilly was the only one who kept up the fight. They all knew why. She wanted to stay close to her dad. It was almost heartbreaking hearing her pleas with Lee. They decided to drop the matter for now and give everyone a chance to cool off. They weren’t in a rush, after all. Clem knew she had to time everything perfectly to meet Omid and Christa anyway.

Still, they needed to get them. They needed to get to Howe’s and leave this inn before something bad happened.

As of now, though, the issue could wait. That gave Clementine time to think. She thought about everything that would happen and everything she could avoid. Then she started thinking about people.

She realized she missed Louis. She missed him and his dumb cards. With him, everything was always a game. She missed playing. Not just with him but in general. She was getting bored. Fortunately, her unspoken prayers were answered.

“Look what I found in my last run,” Carley broke the silence that hung over the group. She was sitting in one of the chairs lined in a circle beside the RV. Everyone looked at her expectantly.

“What?” Clementine asked, sitting with her legs crossed. The drawing in front of her- a terrible picture of Rosie- was now abandoned in favor of the woman.

Carley smiled and reached into her pocket. Playing cards.

“Fuck yeah!” Kenny leaned forward with interest.

“Poker, anyone?”

“Not poker,” Katjaa insisted. “Why not blackjack? Something for the kids, too.”

“I don’t like blackjack,” Ben spoke from the top of the RV.

“Well, you’re on watch so you don’t get to play anyway.” Lilly glared at the boy.

“War,” Clem suddenly inserted.

“That sounds interesting.” Carley smiled. “What’s the game?”

“Everyone gets one card. The highest gets to ask the lowest a question.”

“Alright. I’ll bite.” Kenny smiled softly. He didn’t seem too interested in the game but it was enough to make him play.

“This’ll be super fun!” Duck sat up too, his drawing also abandoned. He sat too close to Clementine but she didn’t mind. “I’ll play for Ben!”

“Thanks, Duck.” Ben glanced down at the boy with a grateful look.

“Then I control the deck.” Carley grinned as she handed out the cards. “Played this before, Clem?”

“With one of my groups, yeah.” Clementine couldn’t help but smile at the memories that flooded back. “Louis loved this game. He always had cards, just so we could play.”

“Sounds like a fun guy.”

“He was,” she paused. No, he was still alive. “He is. I can’t wait to meet him again.”

She didn’t realize she had started smiling that big, goofy in-love smile. Carley gave her a knowing look and a half-smirk. Clem didn’t get to respond to it, though.

“Alright, flip ‘em. Who wins?” The woman glanced around.

“Ben!” Duck held up one of the two cards he possessed. Then looked between them with confusion. “Or... did I win...?”

“Ben,” Clem dictated. “Who lost?”

Wordlessly, Lilly showed off her losing card. Ben tensed a bit at seeing who he got to ask a question to. He stuttered out an apology which only made him receive a glare and a snarky demand.

“Just ask already.”

“O-okay! Um... What did you do? Before the walkers?”

“Mechanic for the Airforce.” She actually smiled. She loved her job.

“That sounds exciting,” Clementine added, hoping to hold a conversation with the other. She wanted to get close to her if only to stop her from snapping.

“It was. It was the best when it was just me and some kind of plane and nobody else. I got to focus on it and not the morons involved.”

“I hear that.” Kenny chuckled.

For once, they agreed. There wasn’t an argument. They were talking, albeit wasn’t very much but it was enough. They were getting along for now. It was nice.

Carley passed out the second round of cards.

“looks like it’s my turn.” Lee held up the winning card. “Who’s my victim?”

“I am.” Kat smiled as she neatly stacked her card. “I’m all ears.”

“Alright. What made you decide to become a vet?”

“That’s easy. People can help themselves or each other. Animals can’t. Especially pets who have been abandoned or abused. They need someone, don’t you think?”

“Yeah, I do.”

The exchange made Clementine think of Rosie. She missed that dog.

“Next round?” Carley shuffled the deck as she waited. She was certainly having fun. When Clem looked around, she saw everyone had a smile or a grin. The atmosphere was relaxed and happy. The tension of the past few months had almost vanished.

“Go ahead.” Lee discarded his along with the first.

Another set of cards was passed out.

“I lose,” Lee announced. He wasn’t even a little bit upset.

“And I win.” Bonnie smiled proudly. She was happy to be involved. “Okay, Lee. Clementine talked about you a lot. She set a pretty high standard for you.”

“I did not!” The girl pretended to pout and be embarrassed but her smile gave her away. It was hard to be embarrassed when she was just glad she had him back in the first place.

“Oh yeah?” Lee grinned. “All good things, I hope.”

“Oh yeah. Mostly, at least.” Bonnie looked at Clementine and studied her before looking back to him. “What was she like? When she was really eight and not so… Grown-up. I mean, Jesus, she still acts older than I remember.”

“It’s been years, Bonnie.” Clementine shook her head. “Get a kid and a group to lead, that’ll change you.”

“I don’t doubt it.”

“She is pretty grown-up, huh?” Lee ruffled her head and she let him, clearly enjoying the touch. “She was a handful. She was too smart and too sweet for her own good. Everything scared her. It was hard to protect her. Now, she’s doing great. I’m very proud of her.”

That made her heart hurt but she smiled. Lee had no idea the things she’d done, how she got him killed. She wouldn’t dwell on it, though. She couldn’t. If she did, she would start crying. If she cried, it would be a wreck. She would lose focus and she couldn’t do that right now.

“Sweet, huh?” Bonnie looked down at her with a playful look of doubt. “As I recall, she was sarcastic and pointed a gun at me a majority of the time.”

“Can you blame me?” She only sounded slightly bitter and didn’t mention Howe’s. That would just make her, and probably everyone else, angry.

“No, not really.”

“She’s one hell of a shot, ain’t she?” Kenny grinned proudly.

“Yes, I am.” She mirrored his grin. It was then Bonnie realized how alike she was to both him and Lee. Clem had Kenny’s smartass, sarcastic attitude with all the logic, love and caring of Lee. They both had a part in shaping her.

“One more round?” Carley held the deck excitedly. “I’m hoping to get Clem.”

“Why me?” The girl looked at her curiously.

“So I can ask about Louis.”

“Just pass out the cards, Carley.” Clementine tried to hide her blush. Everyone saw but they continued with the game, giggling and laughing at her reaction.

“I’ll learn one day.”

“One day doesn’t have to be today. Who’s it?”

“I win.” Carley’s grin widened. Her hopes were crushed when Duck raised the losing card almost proudly.

“I lose!” He was far too excited for losing a simple card game. Nobody minded, though. It was refreshing for them to have fun and relax for a while.

“Okay, Duck.” She hummed in thought. “Who do you look up to the most?”

“That’s easy! Clementine!”

“What?” Kenny looked at his son with what could only be labeled as betrayed.

Everyone, even Katjaa, was trying not to laugh at his un-shocking reaction.

“Why me?” Clementine asked as she giggled. She shrugged at Kenny as a way to apologize.

“Cause you’re you. You’re brave and strong and smart! And you have superpowers! Even though you’re younger than me, you’re really cool.”

“That’s sweet. Thanks, Duck.”

Most everybody had their fair share of awes to mutter, except Kenny.

“I can be cool!” He looked at his son with a look of hope, defeat, and determination all at once. “I can be the coolest!”

“Kenny,” Lee said slowly with an amused smile. “Are you jealous of an eight-year-old?”

“I ain’t jealous! I’m just sayin’ I can!” He paused, taking in the amused expressions all around him. “Why are y’all lookin’ at me like that? Why would I be jealous of a little girl?”

Something happened that Clementine had never seen or would ever expect. Lilly, as stone-cold as she was, burst into laughter. It was a deep, loud, truly joyous laugh. Then Lee broke into laughter Then Carley and Ben, Bonnie and Katjaa too. Duck laughed with no clue why. Everyone around her was having fun and enjoying each others company. They were getting along, laughing and getting to know each other. It was the first time she’d ever seen them like this. It was wonderful.

It wouldn’t last, though.

An arrow flew into the parking lot near them. It landed on the ground near the RV. Lilly’s head snapped to the movement. She glared hard at it. When another landed hard and fast next to it, she knew what was happening.

“Get to cover, now!” She yelled.

Everyone scattered out of sheer panic. Lee and Kenny got behind the RV. Ben slid off the top of the RV and cowered with them. Carley moved immediately behind the half wall they kept as cover. Lilly, Clementine, and Bonnie hid around the corner of the building, everyone armed except Bonnie. Katjaa and Duck bolted for a close room and hid inside.

Arrows flew at them from over their open wall. Some came close to hitting yet they were so occupied with scrambling that they didn’t notice.

When they were all hid, the arrows stopped. It was a silent standoff between them and the assailants. The tension was heavy. The seconds of nothing made it worse. They had their guns ready for the attack they knew was coming.

“Lee!” A voice called from the other side of the wall. It was filled with anger, hatred, and an awful familiarity.

“Andy St. John?” Lilly whispered harshly.

“Who?” Bonnie looked between her companions.

“Y’all took everything from me!” Andy continued. He sounded terrible. “My brother! My mother! My home! Now it’s my turn and I ain’t alone!”

Clementine’s eyes widened. The bandits. He was working with the bandits. That’s why they didn’t attack. Andy was still alive, he was planning with them. Duck was going to get bit.

Her eyes went over to the boy and his mother. They looked rightfully terrified. She didn’t blame them. She was too.

“Get to the RV,” she directed. “We have to go. Now.”

“We might be able to fight them.” Lilly glanced at the others. She knew their odds were horrible but she didn’t want to leave.

“Lilly.” Clementine looked at her with sympathy yet sternness. “We can’t stay. They’re going to take over, they’re going to kill people. I know you don’t want to leave but we have to. Please.”

The woman paused. She took another glance around, this time towards the back of the motel. Her father’s grave. The pain that was in her eyes Clementine only felt three times: When she left Lee, when she left Kenny, and when AJ was forcibly ripped from her.

“Lily, please,” she pleaded softly.

It worked.

“Get in the RV!” Lilly shouted out commands like a true leader. “Ben, you have the rifle. Use it or give to someone who will!”

“O-okay…” Ben quickly and shakily aimed into the woods.

“Y’all ain’t goin’ anywhere!” Andy screamed back. Arrows came from between the trees.

Ben took a shot. Carley occasionally popped over her wall to fire into the forest. Lilly, Lee, and Kenny joined them.

“Bonnie, you first!” Clementine nodded towards the vehicle. The woman nodded in response and bolted for it. She made it, no problem.

“Carley!” Lilly shouted. “RV! Now!”

Carley nodded. She stopped shooting. Once the barrage of arrows halting, she made a run for it. Her breathing was heavy and panic was filling her head but she had to get there.

She was almost in the safety of the RV when a sharp pain shot into her leg and caused her to fall over with a yell. She’d been hit.

“Carley!” Clementine tensed. She bolted for the RV and shot blinding into the woods. She refused to lose her.

Another arrow came close to the woman on the ground as she crawled towards safety. She felt the wind off it and heard it impact the pavement. There was a pause in shots. The archers were aiming and she was a sitting duck.

Luckily, Ben came from around the RV just in time to pull her to safety. An arrow grazed the bottom of her boot, where her chest had been seconds before. Clementine let out a shuddering sigh. That was close.

“Katjaa, you and Duck are next, come on!” Lilly took a shot.

“Let’s hurry the fuck up! I see walkers!” Kenny shouted.

Between the bandits outside and the walkers trying to get to the gunshots, the wall was falling. They didn’t have much time.

Kat grabbed her son and tried to coax him into following quickly. He obeyed with a horrified look permanently on his face. He kept close to his mother. A stray arrow whizzed by, causing her to halt. More zoomed, each one closer to hitting her than the last. One grazed her cheek and she felt the sting as blood ran from the new, fairly deep cut. She was having a hard time proceeding. Lilly, Kenny, Clementine, and Lee all shot into the woods and at the walkers but even so, there were little gaps for her to continue.

“Come on, Kat!” Kenny sounded more worried than angry.

She was trying but pulling Duck out of danger’s way and protecting herself from the onslaught of arrows was becoming hard. She wasn’t far, though. Only a little further.

Then she felt it. A bite, deep into her ankle. She looked down and saw a walker with no legs, painfully sawing at her foot with its teeth. It had slipped through. She was infected. She knew what she had to do, though. With a sturdy shove, Duck was pushed into Clementine’s arms. They were safe behind the RV.

“Mom! Mama, no!” Duck screeched. She turned to look at him with a pained smile yanking her foot free from the walker. It grabbed for her but she stepped away.

Then she looked at Clementine, her eyes widening. Everything seemed to slow down, the moment frozen at their hands. She stared at the little girl with understanding and clarity.

“I remember,” Clementine somehow heard her through the bullets being fired.

Then, a bullet went through Katjaa’s head and she collapsed on the ground. She was dead again.

“Katjaa?” Kenny turned to see her fall. His eyes widened and he tried to run over but Lee stopped him.

“Kenny! Get in the damn RV!”

“Lee, let me the fuck go!”

“Duck needs you alive, Ken! We have to go!”

Kenny looked at his son. Tears went down the boy’s cheeks as he openly sobbed for his mother. Clementine was pulling him as best she could but through her grief, kept slipping. Her eyes were flooding with tears too.

And Andy’s familiar shadow was getting closer.

“Kenny, get Duck. Lee, get Clem. We have to move,” Lilly said calmly.

Neither man fought it. They each quickly got the kids and into their getaway car. It broke both their hearts to hear Duck screaming and Clementine softly hiccuping.

Andy rounded the corner. His cold, bitter eyes met Lilly’s.

“I think we’re even,” he growled almost proudly. He was raising his gun to shoot her. She shot first.

“Drive!” She yelled as she climbed into the car. The door wasn’t even shut as Carley slammed on the gas pedal. They broke down the remaining wall as they sped off in a random direction.

Chapter Text

The first hour of driving was screaming. Kenny screamed in grief, trying to make reason for everything. Lee listened and nodded with pity. Ben panicked and cried in the passenger seat while Carley did everything in her power to calm him from the driver's side. Lilly stood by the door, holding herself in place with a hand on the ceiling. Bonnie sat on the couch next to Lee and Kenny. Both women looked shocked, the former looked angry, and they all looked tired. Duck screamed and cried into Clementine’s chest. What else could she do but comfort him? She cried too but his grievance was more important.

The next hour was silent sorrow. Kenny had fallen into quietly crying in the back bedroom of the RV. Lee saw but said nothing, instead moving to switch out with Carley. She stared out the passenger window. Ben had calmed almost completely. At some point, he had moved to the back of the RV at the table and laid his head down. Duck had collapsed against Carley and fallen asleep. Rightfully so. Bonnie and Lilly hadn’t moved. They watched Clementine as she hugged her knees. Bonnie recognized that look on her face. She had that look of grief and shock that you only have when you watch someone die. She looked as if she wanted to scream.

Katjaa died right in front of her. Could she have stopped it? Perhaps.

“Clementine?” Carley whispered. When had she moved to the living room of the RV? “How are you holding up?”

The girl couldn’t even meet her gaze. She was being silly. Of course, she could’ve stopped it. There was no ‘maybe.’ She didn’t act fast enough. Her second chance was wasted and now Katjaa was gone.

The lack of an answer made Carley worry. She looked up at the other two women with them. They looked back with equal worry- and helplessness.

“Clem, I’m sorry,” Bonnie spoke slowly and softly. “I know if you could’ve stopped it, you would’a. Just like everyone else.”

But none of them lived either. Almost everyone she came across died. Now, here she was again, with three people dead already. Maybe there was no hope of saving them. Maybe it was just her. Maybe she would have to watch them die all over again.

“Clementine,” Lilly spoke up now. “Do you want it to be your fault?”

Now that got her attention. Of course not! She would never!

“No,” she said hoarsely as her gaze met Lilly’s. There was a softness in her eyes Clementine had never seen before. It was curious.

“Then stop thinking it is. You did everything you possibly could and it didn’t work. It isn’t your fault, it was Andy’s. He’s the one who caused this and he’s dead now.” As she spoke, she grew softer and softer. As she spoke, the little girl turned to a mess of tears like no one had seen since she was really a little girl.

“B-but I-”

“What happened before?” Lilly had managed to lower herself to the shaking floor of the RV and sat right in front of her.

“Bandits. Duck got bit,” she whimpered softly as she hunched over. It was like her body was giving out.

“So Duck died.”

“And Katjaa. She couldn’t take it and… a-and…”

“Clementine, it’s okay.”

“How? How is any of this okay?!” Clementine didn’t want to be angry, she really didn’t. Truthfully, she wasn’t sure who she was angry with: Lilly for acting like everything was fine or herself for failing to save Katjaa.

“Look. Duck is alive. You didn’t save both of them because you couldn’t.” Lilly placed a gentle hand on the girl’s shoulder.

All of a sudden, the wall Clementine had so carefully built had broken. She collapsed against the woman and openly sobbed into her chest. Lilly didn’t hesitate to hold her, either. She held her tight and surprisingly with care. It was like the world was out to get this single little girl but, dammit, she refused to let it.

She cried and cried until her body couldn’t take anymore. She fell asleep.

“I’ve never seen her like that.” Bonnie didn’t want to look at the scene in front of her yet she couldn’t look away. Clementine was respected and feared despite her age. Seeing her on the floor a crying mess was nothing less of disturbing even despite the girl’s age.

“I never wanted to.” Carley shook her head and looked at the boy in her hold. He looked drained. Even his sleep didn’t look peaceful.

“Everyone breaks eventually.” Lilly lifted the girl snuggly in her arms. It was clear she was speaking from experience.

“Maybe we should all rest up before we get to… wherever we’re goin’.” Bonnie made herself as small as possible so Lilly could sit on the small, shared couch. Lilly didn’t move.

“Where’s that?” Ben spoke up with a glance and a hopeless look. He didn’t look afraid anymore, just very tired.

“Savannah,” Carley verified. “We’re going to Savannah.”

Nobody fought it. The ride was quiet for the rest of the day. When the sky was dark and blanketed with stars, Lee pulled over long enough to switch with Carley. She drove and Kenny slept in the passenger seat. Ben laid and slept against the very uncomfortable chair of the table booth. Lilly had moved to the couch with Bonnie, who was curled up sleeping in the corner. Lilly herself didn’t seem to like the idea of sleeping but rather taking brief naps. Lee was next to her. He slinked against the cushion and slept terribly. They slept in shifts, switching out who drove every so often.
Duck kept tossing and turning until he latched on to Clementine. The touch startled her awake. The warmth of the person next to her and the arms around her sent her back.

“Louis..?” She turned her head. The squeakiness of her voice made her grimace.

It wasn’t him. She knew it wasn’t, of course, she knew the moment she heard her own voice.

Duck’s face contorted. His brow was furrowed. His lips trembled and he whimpered. A nightmare. It had to be.

“Ducky,” she whispered. No response.

“Duck?” She shook him. He reacted abruptly, sitting up and gripping onto her tighter with a small yelp. “Duck! Calm down, it was a dream!”

She tried to coax him but sounded much too startled to be comforting.

“C...C-Clem…?” He turned to her slowly. The fear and pain lingered in his eyes.

“Yeah, it’s okay,” she whispered as he lay back down next to her. “It was just a nightmare.”

She tried to smile reassuringly but it only came across as a cringe. He looked at her and her expression and the room they were in. He felt the rumble of the vehicle moving and the slight snoring of people outside. He remembered.

“No it wasn’t,” was all he said as he twisted onto his side. He stared at the wall yet she could see his eyes. They were glossy and threatening to spill fresh tears. His lip quivered.

“I know.” It was all she could say.

“It was my fault,” he said after a brief silence.

“What? Duck, no.”

“I didn’t move. If I listened to her, she’d still be here.”

“You were scared.”

“She was too! I messed it all up and now she’s gone!” He kept getting louder and louder. Shuffling came from the other room. Duck turned and hid his face when the curtains parted and Carley came in. She looked worried but she seemed to understand.

“Hey guys,” she said quietly as she took a seat on the foot of the bed. It was a small room, a small bed, so she had to hunch a little but she managed.

Clementine tried to smile but it just came off as a grimace.

“Rough time sleeping?” Carley continued.

“Yeah…” Clementine nodded. She was fine though. It was Duck she was worried about.

“You guys did great back there.”

“No, I didn’t,” Duck muttered through his pillow.

“Duck… It wasn’t your fault any more than it was Clem’s.” Carley’s comment made the little girl look away in an attempt to hide the tears she fought.

“I didn’t listen to her,” Duck sat up suddenly and looked at the woman with glossy eyes. “I was too scared and I didn’t listen.”

“What would she say if she was here?” Carley spoke slowly and almost uncertain.

“S-she… She would… hug me… A-and…” He couldn’t finish. He burst into tears and cried openly.

Carley didn’t hesitate to do exactly as Katjaa would do. She hugged him and held him close. Nobody said a word as he cried and cried for what felt like hours. He whispered under his breath but his sobs made them unintelligible. Carley rocked him as he attempted speech. The poor kid.

Clementine squeezed her eyes shut and tried to hold herself together. She mourned her parents. Katjaa wasn’t her mom. She was a nice, loving woman whom she already mourned once. But she couldn’t help but hear his cries and think of AJ. She couldn’t help but think of that night in the barn. Surrounded by walkers, she was dying. He cried and begged and it broke her heart with every sniffle.

He had gone through almost the same pain Duck was feeling now. The difference was she had lived. AJ didn’t watch her die, he prevented her death. She got to hold him and comfort him and tell him she loved him for a few more years.

Katjaa was gone. She had no clue how to help him.

There was something, though. A lullaby, something she had made up with Kenny. AJ always felt better afterward. It was worth a try.

She looked at Duck with uncertainty and started humming. He cried at first, having no effect. She persisted. Eventually, his sniffles died down and he became quiet. He fell asleep.

“That’s a lovely song,” Carley whispered.

“Thanks. It’s a lullaby, kinda.”

“Oh yeah?”

“AJ loved it.” Clementine smiled softly at the memories that flooded back to her. “I remember one night he and Tenn had nightmares. AJ was being stubborn. He wanted to deal with it himself but he was shaking. Tenn came to our room crying and pretty much tackling us. AJ came after him to scold him for waking us up. We weren’t asleep.”

“I’m guessing you sung to them?”

“Yeah. Both boys were hugging me like I’d disappear forever. I guess they were scared I would. I started singing and they both passed out. Even Louis fell asleep.” Her smile turned bittersweet. “I miss them.”

“We’ll meet back up with them. I promise.”

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. Now, our leader-in-training needs rest.”

“I’m fine, Carley.”

Instead of answering, the woman leaned against the head of the bed to get more comfortable. She kept Duck snuggly pressed against her. He looked warm and comfortable. She reached out her arm and motioned Clementine over. The girl had a hard time saying no.

“Why do you have to make it look so appealing?” She said as she crawled over. She got as close as possible, nuzzling into the woman’s free side like a cat.

“Because it is. We could all use the sleep. Especially you two.” Carley wrapped her arm around her.

Clementine was so warm. She felt so warm and safe. Carley would protect her. She’d protect both of them. Her eyelids were already getting heavy.

Then Carley started humming. It was her song, the one she’d sung minutes ago. The familiar sweet tune put her to sleep quickly.

 

By the time they woke up, it was the next day. Few words were spoken and Clementine stayed close to Duck.

A few days of this and she began to worry. They hadn’t come across the train yet. They were supposed to have found it by now. Had they gone a different way? She had to be sure.

She stood from the seat at the table. The other occupants- Carley, Ben, and Duck- paid her no mind. They kept playing their card game in silence. It was a little unsettling.

She continued to the front, passing Bonnie as she went.

“Clem," Bonnie whispered. “We won’t make it in time, this trip is pointless. We have to go to Howe’s. I know how to get there if you’ll just-”

“No. Bonnie, we’re low on supplies and missing two people. We’re going to Savannah.”

“I know your parents are there and all but-”

“They’re both dead. Now shut up before you freak someone out.”

Bonnie obeyed, looking out the window instead of her. She looked angry but Clem didn’t really care. She was still mad at Bonnie anyway.

She went to the front. Lilly was driving and Lee was in the passenger seat giving directions from a map.

“With any luck, we’ll be there tomorrow night,” Lee said with a hopeful smile.

“If there’s no more bad wrecks,” Lilly responded. “I’m just so ready to get out of this damn car.”

“I hear that.” He noticed the little girl standing behind the seats, holding herself up with them and his smile wavered only slightly. “Hey, Clem. Everything okay back there?”

“I guess.” She shrugged. “Where’s Kenny?”

“Stubborn asshole didn’t want to sleep,” Lilly said without censor. “She Lee made him.”

“I had to make a deal with him. She drives, I babysit.”

“Okay.” Clementine didn’t really care about the details but she listened anyway. “Have we come across a train?”

“Is it important…?” Lilly slowed down and glanced at her.

“Kinda.”

“Oh.”

“We uh… It was stopped on the tracks and we found a way around it. There was a map in a car near it,” Lee explained. “You and Duck were asleep.”

“How long ago…?”

“A few days.”

“Oh.”

So no train. Christa and Omid were probably long gone. She couldn’t help but be a little upset. She liked them and was going to miss them. Especially Omid.

“We can go back,” Lilly suggested. “But we’re running low on supplies and we have to get somewhere.”

“No, it’s okay. You’re right.” Clem shook her head. “Let’s just get to Savannah. We need to get the hell out of this car for a while anyway.”

“Someone getting on your nerves?” Lee looked back at her and motioned her closer, not wanting to disturb the peace. She complied and crawled over the seats to sit in his lap. She was still small, after all. This was the only reason she loved it.

“Bonnie is,” she whispered. “She keeps pestering me about going to Howe’s.”

“Where her people are?” Lilly glanced over.

“Yeah.”

“Well, we’re going to Savannah.” Lee looked out the front window. “Christa and Omid, right?”

“Actually we missed them.”

“What?” He sounded shocked and a little upset. That was Lee, though, always wanting to include everyone.

“Before, we took the train. From there we met them. They’re gone by now.”

“That’s why you asked about the train… Clem, I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay. Maybe they’ll make it longer without me.” She hoped they would, at least.

“You said there’s supplies in Savannah?” Lilly broke the conversation.

“Yeah, half a city full.”

“Then all this isn’t for nothing, right?”

Nobody answered. Lilly almost visibly deflated. They were tired and missed Katjaa. She was a peacekeeper, their doctor, and the closest thing to a maternal figure they had in all of this. Her life wasn’t worth whatever was left of Crawford.

“When we get home,” Clementine started. “We’ll make her a grave.”

“That sounds nice, Clem.” Lee smiled. He knew what she meant by home.

She meant that school with those kids, Louis and AJ and Tenn. He knew she was going back no matter what.

“Can we make one for my dad?” Lilly asked almost shyly.

“Yeah, of course. We’ll put him next to the twins.”

She paused. Sophie and Minnie. If everything reset, they weren’t gone. None of them were. She would’ve been glad but she felt dread. Would they need her? Would they want her back? Wille would have mitch. Tenn had his sister. Violet would get her girlfriend back. Louis would get Marlon. Even AJ had his real parents.

She wasn’t needed. She might not even be wanted.

She pushed those thoughts aside. She had to get there. It was safe, anyway. Even if they wouldn’t want her, she had to go. For her group’s safety.

“Clementine?” Lee nudged her softly.

“I’m okay. Let’s just get to Savannah.”