carl grimes' initial reaction to the freaking zombie apocalypse comes in two stages.
fear. like everyone else on the planet. his dad is still in the hospital, and it's not like carl and his mother can stay in their suburban house anymore. they run.
relief. this whole situation gives carl an excuse not to wear skirts or makeup, and to have his mother chop off his hair- only because it's harder for walkers to grab short hair.
he feels terrible, and he still flinches every time his mother calls him her daughter, but it's something.
after nearly a week of wandering, they find another family, a mother and father and their son, who looks to be about carl's age. they were more prepared, with basic medical supplies and more food than carl and lori had brought, and both groups realize that there's safety in numbers. they set up a little camp by the highway, and for a little while, carl can almost pretend everything is normal.
on the fifth day, carl nicks a roll of bandages from the first aid kit in the other family's tent. he tells his mother he's looking for water and as soon as he's sure no one's watching he wraps them as tightly as he can around his chest. he smiles half-heartedly at his reflection in a piece of broken glass on the side of the road.
later that day carl rips the bandages off because he can't breathe and he feels like his ribs are cracking. he sighs and decides that he'd rather deal with wearing layers and pulling at his shirts than explaining why his sides are so bruised. besides, it's probably just a phase. (carl knows this isn't true.)
three weeks later he snaps.
he and his mother are on their own, the other family having decided that there weren't enough resources to support five. carl has another roll of bandages tucked into his coat, although it`s unlikely he'll ever use them (it's mostly out of spite).
carl swears as he trips on something. (he has a sickening feeling that it's a someone.)
"thats not very ladylike," lori says, and it's mostly meant as a joke, something to lighten the mood, but for some reason it sets carl over the edge.
"i'm not a lady," carl says. he barely mutters it, but of course lori hears.
"yes you are," lori says, laughing a little. "just because you're fighting the undead doesn't mean you can't still be a girl."
"i'm not a girl," carl repeats, his voice harsher than he wanted.. he finds himself wishing he had better words to explain. he can't find any.
"i'm a boy," he says, stumbling over his words, and he winces because that doesn't sound quite right, like he should've said it better. he realizes he can't do anything about it now.
they both fall silent. for a while, the only sound is their footsteps and carl’s pulse in his ears. after a while he finds himself wishing he’d never said anything at all. just when he’s about to say it was a joke, please don’t bring it up again, lori opens her mouth.
"are you sure?" his mother asks. she’s hesitant, almost afraid.. "i guess i could try to get used to it eventually, but this is a big decision, judith-"
"that's a girl's name," carl says (breathe in breathe out keepyourvoiceeven.) "my name is carl."
"carl." lori says, testing the name in her mouth. it’s strange (carl has never told anyone his real name before) but it feels good.
she still rarely gets it on the first try, but it’s something. they carve out a little home in this new world and they try to stay afloat. it works.
carl grimes' initial reaction to finding his father comes in two stages.
relief. overwhelming joy because they're a family again and everyone is alive and for the moment, safe.
fear. carl asked his mother to do all the talking for him, and she had agreed. now carl stands outside their little tent, wringing his hands, his stomach flipping.
his parents talk for a while and he wanders away, leaning against a tree at the edge of their makeshift camp.
he's shaking when his father approaches him and he wonders why he's so scared.
"hey dad," carl says simply.
"carl," his father says, and that's enough.
three years later his little sister is born. they don’t name her for an hour, a day, a week. they don’t have to. it’s not like there are any other children to mistake her for.
“judith,” carl says suddenly. “i want to name her judith.”
carl doesn’t say: i want to name her after the daughter mom never got to have. i want you to have something to remember mom by. i want you to pretend like i didn’t mess everything up.
rick’s eyes are heavy. “judith. that’s a nice name.”
little baby judith has no idea what she has to live up to. it occurs to carl that she might not live long enough to find out, and he laughs bitterly despite himself.
they keep going in the face of everything. judith grows up. they meet new people, and they lose others. carl doesn’t cry anymore. (well, he doesn’t cry when they lose people. sometimes when he’s stripped down and he’s supposed to be bathing but he can’t even look at himself he lets his guard down. that’s when he cries. no one knows, not even rick.}
they arrive at alexandria and it’s promising. there’s a community and no one knows he isn’t really a boy and he might have friends, if he’s lucky. there are clean clothes and good food and beds, plush and soft and real blankets, too. it’s the small things that make carl remember. he’s gotten so used to living like … whatever this is that he’s forgotten what it’s like to live even a little normally.
carl comes home and tells rick about his day; in another world it’d be routine. he talks about new people and new things and chocolate. he smiles for what feels like the first time in decades.
“your mother would’ve been proud of you,” he almost whispers. carl doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
“i know,” carl says. he hopes it doesn’t come off rude, but he knows rick will know what he meant.
carl grimes is sixteen years old. he is okay.