Fandom: Justified, The Walking Dead (crossover)
Summary: A man in a hat meets a boy in a hat, following the zombie apocalypse.
"Can’t just leave him here,” Loretta says.
“Yes, we can,” Raylan counters. “Our camp has a full count of crazy hillbillies with crossbows.”
Word Count: ~ 11,000
Character(s): Raylan, Boyd, Carl, Daryl, Loretta,
Spoilers/Warnings: set nebulously post-Season 4 of both shows, spoilers for TWD. Canon-typical violence.
Author's Note: Familiarity with either (but not necessarily both) show(s) suggested. Title from here.
Raylan finds the boy face down at the base of a creek bank. The sun glints off something shiny on the kid’s head – gold trim of a sheriff’s hat – and that’s the only reason Raylan sees him at all. He goes over there to give the boy a stay-proper-dead jab, not, as Boyd will later accuse him, to steal the hat.
He doesn’t really wonder why the kid – most obviously not a Sherriff’s deputy – has it. Ava likes to wear designer clothes Boyd scavenges for her, as if the brand names mean anything now. The stilettos have proven useful for skull smashing, on occasion, and giving her shit about the ridiculous habit passes the time.
The kid has a gun to go with the hat, lying loosely by his limp hand. That, Raylan does steal. Then he pulls out an icepick and prepares to drive it into the boy’s brain. He removes the hat, first.
As he lifts it away, the kid moans a little and rolls his head to the left. His face, now exposed, is oddly clean and healthy.
“Raylan,” Rachel calls. “The little ones bite, too.”
He waves her off, but she’s already stalked over like he needs her help.
“You have a hat,” she says, when she sees it in his hand. “And just the one head.” Then she notices the boy and the fact that he doesn’t look all that dead. “Is he fresh?” she asks, one hand on her own knife. “I hate the fresh ones.”
“I got it,” Raylan says, waving his icepick.
Rachel gives the kid a poke in the stomach with her shoe. He is breathing, but a lot of them do that. They don’t, however, roll over in pain and try to get away.
“Hey,” Rachel says. “He’s alive.”
“I hate those,” Raylan says, because more often than not, he does.
“C’mon,” Rachel says, leaning over. “Let’s take him back.”
“He might have a bite,” Raylan says.
“We’ll check,” Rachel says. “Pick him up.”
Raylan looks at her for a second just so she can grasp that this is a dumb idea and that in a few hours when the baby biter is chasing them around the camp, he’s going to tell her so. Then he stoops over and grabs the kid, lifting him up off the sodden ground.
“Okay,” he says, unenthusiastically.
“Maybe don’t carry him with his mouth so close to your neck,” Rachel warns. She takes the hat out of Raylan’s hand and sets it back on the boy's head.
The boy doesn’t have any bites, or any scratches. All that’s wrong with him under his filthy clothes are a few bruises from his ride down the hillside, and a goose egg on the back of his head where he landed. All the same, they handcuff him to a cot. He doesn’t have a fever or any of the other tell-tale signs of transformation. And he certainly looks fragile and young, all banged up. Tim did a good job wrapping him up with their first aid supplies. But they all knew dangerous teenagers, before and after, and dangerous ones have proven way more likely to survive than the nicer ones.
“He called me a pervert,” Tim announces, when the boy wakes up. “Wants his clothes and his gun back.”
“Ava’s washing his clothes,” Raylan says, reasonably. “We don’t have anything to fit a kid.”
“What I told him,” Tim agrees. “I offered him one of Rachel’s dresses.”
“Don’t touch my stuff,” Rachel says, from her chair.
“Explains the pervert comment,” Raylan mutters. “He tell you where he came from?”
“That is none of my business,” Tim recites. “I am an asshole and he’s going to turn me into a biter and then kill it.”
“What a sweetheart,” Raylan says, looking at Rachel.
“Let’s get him some lunch,” Rachel says. “See how he feels with a full belly. If he’s still an asshole, we’ll take him out to the road and let him find his own people.”
“Or become a roadside snack,” Tim says.
Rachel shrugs. “Then Raylan can have his hat.”
The kid eats ravenously with his uncuffed hand, but he’s still incredibly tightlipped about where he came from. Ava returns his clothes, washed but still a little damp, under the reasonable belief that he’ll be more cooperative when he’s dressed.
They don’t expect him to snatch Ava’s knife off her belt and try to take her hostage, which is what he does when she releases the cuffs so he can put his arm through the sleeve. Ava gasps and grabs at his arm, now wrapped around her neck.
Tim immediately draws. “You think I’m bad at headshots?” he asks the kid, who to his credit is trying to hid his head behind Ava.
“Oh for fuck’s sake,” Ava says, a little garbled.
She reaches down with the hand not pulling at the arm around her neck, and Raylan can’t see what she does, but it’s between the boy’s legs and makes him shriek and immediately release her. Raylan grabs the boys’ hands and cuffs him back to the cot, trapping both arms this time.
Ava rolls away and rises, taking her knife back.
“You don’t get to bitch about my strays,” she says to Rachel, “bringing him home.” Rachel scowls at her as Ava mimes wiping her hands clean. “Feel like a child molester,” she says. “And after I washed his drawers.”
“That wasn’t nice,” Tim says to the boy, as Ava leaves. He holsters his weapon.
“Let me go,” the kid says, still fetal from pain.
“I don’t think that’s in question,” Rachel says. “We saved you, cleaned you up, and fed you. Remember that? It was five minutes ago.”
“If Boyd was here to see what you did,” Raylan says, “He’d feed you to his pets.” He snaps his teeth at the kid.
“We’re not going to feed you to them,” Rachel says. “It’s really unattractive how he’s rubbed off on you,” she says to Raylan.
Raylan squints at her, since that’s completely untrue. She snaps her teeth at him in return.
“Look,” Rachel says, settling herself on the edge of the boy’s cot. “We’re US Marshals.”
“Most of us,” Raylan says, since that’s pretty misleading for a group that includes Crowders.
“We haven’t seen any settlements in this area,” Rachel continues. “And you’re awful young to be on your own.”
“We only want to know where your people are,” Tim says. “To give you back.”
“I’m on my own, like she said,” the kid says, lifting his chin. Raylan thinks he’s lying. The kid has a sharp edge, but Raylan bets a boy on his lonesome would be less hostile. He’s acting feral because he’s used to back up.
“What happened to your people?” Rachel asks.
“They turned,” the kid says, levelly.
“What’s your name?” Tim prompts, maybe as tired as Raylan is of thinking of him as ‘kid’.
“Carl,” the boy says.
“Okay, Carl,” Rachel says. “I’m Rachel. That’s Tim and the man in the hat is Raylan.”
Raylan traces his brim with one finger, inclining his head.
“And the woman I hit is Ava,” Carl says.
“Good memory,” Raylan says.
“Now that we’ve been introduced,” Carl says. “Can I go?”
“Single-minded, isn’t he?” Tim asks, dryly.
“It’s after dark,” Rachel tells him. “You still want to go?”
Carl’s face freezes for a second, then he forces himself to nod.
“Maybe he has a life-long goal of being a midnight snack,” Tim says.
“In the morning,” Raylan says. “We’ll put you back where we found you.”
“Okay,” Carl says. “Good.”
Rachel pats him on the shoulder, which makes the boy tense. “I won’t let Raylan keep your hat, either.”
But in the morning, it’s storming out. The sky’s barely light and it won’t stop raining. Raylan doesn’t want to leave his bed in this weather, let alone the tent, and drive the asshole kid back to a muddy creek bank where his vehicle will get stuck.
“I get bitten putting his ass back,” Raylan tell Rachel, “I’m retaining just enough of my consciousness to come back here and bite you.”
Rachel rolls her eyes at him, but together with Tim and Ava, they reach the executive decision that it’s not worth it in this weather. They’ve all tried to push stuck vehicles out while trying not to get bitten, and it’s not fun. Boyd’s also not back yet, and they’ve discovered that what some people – Boyd – might call ingenuity and what others – Raylan - have been known to call psychotic intuition coupled with life-long criminality is often quite useful in this new world.
But mostly it’s gross out, and they’re not going anywhere.
Their rescued patient/hostage is very unhappy about this, but he’s not in Raylan’s tent, so Raylan doesn’t have to care. They give the kid a hot breakfast, anyway, and Rachel and Ava sit with him while he eats.
Apparently the whining gets to Ava, because eventually Raylan sees her marching Carl out of his tent, Rachel following with one hand on her gun. The pouring rain soaks them all, almost instantly, and Raylan peers out to see Ava standing at the barbed-wire perimeter, one hand on Carl’s neck. She seems to be inviting him to take a hike.
Raylan half expects him to take her up on it, but then he sees them walking back to the boy’s tent.
“Kid staying with us?” he calls out.
Rachel stops outside the entrance. “Until the rain stops, and it is daytime,” she says. “That seems to be the agreement.”
“He will stop complaining, no one will hit anyone, and he will get to eat at least six Oreos and play Gameboy for no more than 1/3 of the battery,” Rachel ticks off. “And maybe pet one Ava’s cats.”
“Boyd’s going to kill him,” Raylan whistles. “Slowly.”
“The plan is to let him go before Boyd comes back,” Rachel agrees.
Even after the apocalypse, the path to a young boy’s heart is still candy and video games. Raylan goes to check on him after finding Tim and Ava working in the kitchen and Rachel taking perimeter guard duty. Meaning no one is watching their guest.
He half expects the kid to be gone, and also some of their shit stolen, so he’s kind of preemptively pissed off about it.
But Carl is still there, uncuffed, yet curled up in the blankets with a decimated package of cookies and Boyd’s precious video game in hand. And a bottle of coke that Raylan doesn’t remember being part of negotiations. Carl has more color in his face, which Raylan doesn’t know whether to attribute to medical care and rest, or the clear case of a sugar high.
“Fattening you up to feed you to the biters,” Raylan says, entering.
The kid looks up for a second, then back down at his video game.
“Where’d you get this?” Carl asks, still mashing buttons.
“Creek bed,” Raylan says. “Unconscious. Kind of jerk, later.”
“All this stuff. Ava said Santa Claus, and Rachel and Tim rolled their eyes and wouldn’t tell me,” Carl says. “I haven’t seen cookies or electricity since…” he trails off.
“We’re a resourceful group,” Raylan says, taking a seat next to the boy’s cot. He reaches out to steal a cookie he will not mention to Boyd.
“You got all this stuff?” Carl asks, temporarily taking his eyes off the game.
“Not me, personally,” Raylan admits. “Another member of our group, he’s kind of uniquely skilled at…” he pauses. “Let’s say acquiring things.”
“Boyd,” Carl says.
“Yes, and he’s also somewhat selfish and psychotic,” Raylan says. “So you will want to be gone before he finds out you touched his stuff, hit Ava, and ate his Oreos.”
“You’re eating Oreos,” Carl points out.
“Yes, but I’m going to tell him it was all you.”
It does stop raining, but Carl stays. He’s still tight-lipped about where he came from. He does have people, or at least he did a few days ago. They were separated on a hunting trip and Carl’s really not sure where they are now. He did a lot of frantic running in the dark, which must have culminated in a swan dive where Raylan found him.
Rachel takes him for a drive to see if he can even pick a direction to look in, and he really can’t. There are more biters in the area and Carl chooses to come back to camp. Raylan understands. He’d choose soda and junk food over certain death, too.
“If you’re going to stay here, you have to do more than eat all our Cheetos,” Raylan says, when Rachel pulls back into camp with Carl still in the passenger seat.
Carl gets out of the car and looks Raylan in the eye, face serious. “Okay,” he says. “What do you need me to do?”
“I expected more arguing,” Raylan says. “Get back to me later.”
“Dishes,” Rachel says. “You can do dishes.”
Raylan hates that chore. Even Boyd, with all his talent, hasn’t managed to get them a dishwasher or the water infrastructure to support one. So he’s fine with the kid walking off with Rachel towards the kitchen. Until later, when he realizes that’s where they keep the knives.
He goes to check on the kid, planning on a thorough frisking. He finds Carl systematically drying the silverware, and there’s a full count of everything.
“I didn’t take a knife,” Carl says, evidently a mind reader.
“But you thought about it,” Raylan says, taking a seat next to him.
“I’m better with a gun,” Carl says, with the same weird intensity he’s had about everything. “But sometimes you need a knife, like if you’re close.”
“And it’s quieter,” Raylan says. “I prefer guns,” he tells Carl. “But I get bitched out about the noise.”
“Can I have my gun back?” Carl asks.
“I don’t know,” Raylan says, “it’s only been a couple of days since you attacked Ava.”
“I apologized to her for that,” Carl says. “And we agreed not to tell Boyd.”
“Well, it’s nice that she wants you to live.”
“I didn’t know what type of people you were,” Carl says. “We – I met a lot of bad ones.”
“Yeah?” Raylan asks. “You shoot any of them?”
Carl nods, holding eye contact. “Yeah.”
“How old are you?” Is Raylan’s next question.
“Sixteen,” Carl says, which is a bad lie.
“The bad people didn’t care how old I was,” Carl says, which Raylan finds he can’t argue with.
Carl continues drying dinnerware while Raylan watches. One of Ava’s cats comes winding inside the kitchen tent, butting its head against Raylan’s knee. Carl dries his hands on the towel, then stoops down to pet the cat.
“What’s its name?” he asks Raylan, scratching the cat’s chin.
“Kitty,” Raylan says. “They’re all named kitty. I think this is Kitty the three hundred and fourth. They don’t last so long.”
Carl nods without emotion, still gently stroking the animal.
“Not for eating?” he asks, confused.
“We’re well provisioned,” Raylan says, which just makes the kid’s expression deepen.
Kitty 304 accepts the touch for a few more minutes before ducking and wandering away. Carl doesn’t pursue it.
Raylan reaches into his jacket and pulls out his ice pick. “Here,” he says, handing it to Carl. “In case one gets close, and you need it.”
Carl frowns a little, but he reaches out to take it. “I’m better with a gun,” he repeats.
“We’ve met bad people, too,” Raylan tells Carl. “And they’re better with knives.”
And that’s how Carl is still in the camp when Boyd returns. Raylan has a lot of thoughts about how it’s probably a poor plan to introduce this weird and clearly traumatized as fuck teenager to the influences of Boyd Crowder. He’s already seen what Boyd’s psychotic and yet quasi-paternal efforts have done to Loretta. And she probably started a little better off in the head than this kid.
“Who’s that?” Carl asks, as Rachel allows Boyd’s car through the fence around their camp. He can already see Loretta in the passenger seat.
“Loretta,” Raylan says.
“You do not touch her,” Tim follows up, deadly serious. Carl just blinks at him.
“You didn’t mention her,” he says.
“Video games, snacks, and a girl?” Ava says. “We wanted you to leave.”
“She yours?” Carl asks. He looks at Raylan then at Tim.
“Uh,” Raylan says. “She lives here, in our camp. “
“She’s ours,” Rachel says, rolling her eyes. “Be nice and polite to her or we’ll be angry with you, hear?”
Carl nods, though Raylan judges he might still think girls have cooties. That’d be preferable, anyway.
Boyd parks the car in the formation with the other vehicles – half barricade, half ready-to-flee position – and Loretta gets out. She goes to hug Rachel without noticing their guest. Carl shrinks back a little, perhaps because of how often they’ve suggested Boyd will kill him.
“Who’s that?” Boyd asks, out of the car and hand on his gun. He’s noticed Carl immediately.
“Rachel’s collecting strays now, too,” Tim says. He greets Loretta with a squeeze around the shoulder, as she stops and looks at Carl.
“This one has two legs,” Boyd observes. “Thought those weren’t allowed.”
“He followed us home,” Raylan lies. “Seems well-behaved enough. Doesn’t scratch the furniture and he does dishes. “That’s true, at least.
Boyd frowns, approaching Carl. Carl stands up straighter, his hands admirably distant from the ice pick Raylan knows is on his person.
“I’m Carl,” he says to Boyd, and sticks out his hand.
Boyd glances down at it, then slowly extends his own, for what Raylan assumes is an viciously intimidating handshake.
“You want a baby brother?” he asks Loretta.
“No,” Loretta says. “But I could do with a dishwasher.”
Boyd is pissed off about the kid, before he even discovers the dent Carl put in his goodies. But he limits his displeasure to some gratuitous snarling, since he understands that arguing with and publically losing to Rachel will be bad for his image.
He waits until the kid is out of sight, marched off by Loretta to help unload their cargo. So, he’s not opposed to using him as a pack horse.
“Ain’t you gonna show some concern for our girl’s virtue?” he asks, as a starting point.
Loretta and Carl are still within earshot, causing Loretta to whip around and snort, audibly. Carl just grabs a box and starts moving.
“Her virtue has a shotgun,” Rachel says.
“He’s a toddler,” Loretta yells.
“Her ability to estimate age is still terrible,” Raylan says.
Raylan’s not sure he cares what happens to the boy. He’s going to agree with Rachel, because he refuses on principle to side with Boyd about anything.
Boyd ticks off all the reasons letting a stranger into their camp is dumb. And they’re good reasons, ones Raylan already gave Rachel as they drove the unconscious kid back. He’s a stranger, another mouth to feed, and all the rest. Kid’s a weirdo, though Boyd doesn’t know that yet. Boyd appears angriest that they didn’t ask his permission, of course.
“Boy says he can shoot,” Raylan offers. They haven’t actually let him have a gun, though.
“He’s alone,” Rachel adds. “And he’s a child.”
“He’s too alive to be alone,” Boyd says, suspiciously.
Raylan looks to Rachel, since the kid was her idea.
“We’re looking for his people,” she offers. “We might find them.”
“More likely they’ll find us,” Boyd says. “There’s a fuckton of wanderers out there, I had to scrape them off the windshield.”
He’s changed the subject off the boy, which might mean he just wants to argue more, later.
“Raylan!” Loretta shrieks, interrupting whatever Boyd was about to say.
“Told you so,” Boyd says, as they race towards Loretta’s screams.
It’s not Carl – it’s a damn creeper. The rear fence is half down and there’s three walkers coming through.
Loretta’s weapon lies on the ground next to her dropped cargo. The ghoul is on top of Loretta. The sight of that makes Raylan’s heart shoot straight to his throat, ‘til he realizes there’s something shiny protruding from the walker’s skull. It’s his icepick – earlier gifted to Carl – and the kid is grabbing at it, trying to get it out so he can fight off the other two.
“Shit,” Boyd says, shooting the walker bearing down on the two teenagers.
His aim is reliably true and the monster staggers backwards. Another shot rings out – taking down the walker almost through the fence. Raylan glances back, sees Tim preparing to pick off any more intruders.
Raylan hauls the dead thing off Loretta, throws it in the general direction of the fence.
“I’m okay,” Loretta says, gasping a little.
Raylan looks her over, thankful to see no obvious wounds. He pulls her off the ground, lets her cling to him for a second. Then, Rachel is there and he lets her take over the comforting.
Carl, for his part, has knelt so he can carefully pull the ice pick out of the downed walker’s skull.
“Nice job,” Raylan says, genuinely.
Boyd doesn’t say anything, scowling as he checks Loretta over a second time.
“I’m better with a gun,” Carl says.
“You don’t get a gun,” Boyd retorts.
“Then you need a better fence,” Carl tells him.
This makes Loretta laugh, even though she’s still panting with terror. That might be the moment Carl earned Raylan’s welcome mat, because he saved Loretta, then made her laugh and pissed off Boyd in the same sentence.
Loretta learns more about Carl in a few hours than Raylan and the rest have in the days he’s been here. She immediately passes it on.
Raylan’s cleaning and organizing his guns when she comes to find him. It’s one of his favorite pastimes, since it’s good to have everything in working order and know exactly how much ammo he has for each gun. It is not, as Boyd likes to call it, “firearm masturbation”. And if it is, Tim does it just as often.
Loretta knocks on the stolen stop sign hung on his tent flap, then slips inside before he can reply. Good thing he wasn’t actually masturbating.
“Hey,” she says.
“What’s up?” he asks.
“Carl killed his mom,” she announces, bluntly. “That’s why he’s so fucked up.”
Raylan raises his eyebrows. “My,” he says, finally. “Yeah, that’d do it.”
“She died and was gonna turn,” Loretta says.
“Seems called for,” Raylan says. Loretta looks at him funny, and he shrugs.
Loretta drops to a seat next to him on the cot, shoving ammo out of her way.
“She died giving birth to his sister,” she continues, “so it’d be great if you could stop referring to me as that.”
“How’s he feel about his sister?” Raylan asks, wiping gun oil off his hands.
“Fonder than I think I’d be,” Loretta says. “But still.”
“Noted,” Raylan says. “But if he’s not your brother, he’s gonna be a priest.”
“I don’t think he’s gay,” Loretta cracks, rudely. “Boyd already threatened to cut his nuts off like five times.”
“Once per hour?” Raylan asks.
“Pretty much.” Raylan hides his grin, but Loretta sees it, anyway. “It’s not cute,” Loretta says. “I can take care of myself.”
“Boyd doesn’t get to threaten people much anymore,” Raylan says. “I’m sure he misses it.” Loretta continues to frown. “That all?” he asks, since he’s not going to tell Boyd to go be nicer.
“Mostly,” she says, then takes a deep breath. “If I needed it, would you get me the birth control out of Boyd’s stash?”
Now, Raylan stares at her. “You just met him,” he says. “And you said he was a toddler.”
Loretta swats him on the leg, “Shut up,” she says. “Not him, Raylan. His mom died having a baby,” she reminds him. “I didn’t even think of that.”
“You can ask Boyd for it directly,” Raylan says. “He’ll go kill whoever you want to sex up, and you won’t be in any danger from any baby.”
“That’s why I am asking you,” Loretta retorts.
“I might kill him, too,” Raylan mutters, lowly. Loretta punches him in the leg again, gently. “Yes, fine,” he says. “You meet Prince Charming of the apocalypse and I will get you your pills.”
“Okay,” Loretta says. “See how we talked about this like adults and didn’t go shoot Carl in the head?”
“Yes,” Raylan says. “Good call not talking to Boyd.”
Loretta nods. “Now get off my bed, with your filthy safe sex thoughts,” Raylan says. “Scram.” He might not murder Loretta’s imaginary beau, but he doesn’t have to enjoy the thought.
“Okay, then,” Loretta says, rising. “Thanks.”
“Not welcome,” he says.
She heads towards the door flap, but he calls her to a stop.
“You think we should keep the kid around?” he asks her, keeping his voice soft since he doesn’t know where Carl is right now. “Or he too fucked up?”
Loretta pauses and turns around. She shrugs. “No more than Boyd,” she says, then smiles. “And you let him stay.”
“That’s a helpful opinion,” Raylan says, sarcastically. “Get out of my tent.”
They make the decision to lift camp, shortly after that. The latest incursion is only part of the reason – though definitely a more motivating one. The biter population seems to be on the rise. Raylan doesn’t know if there are a lot more recently dead of if they’ve just stayed here so long that their living stink is attracting every one of the fuckers in the area.
Boyd also thinks the kid will stay behind, hoping to find his people.
But Carl just helps them dismantle the camp. Doing so packs everything up and away, hiding the evidence of the little party Carl had with Boyd’s stuff. Probably for the better.
“Hey kid,” Raylan says, “You wanted a gun?”
Carl nods. Raylan takes out the weapon he took off of Carl on the day they found him.
“That’s mine,” Carl says, instantly.
“Finder’s keepers,” Raylan tells him. “It’s got one cartridge in it.” Carl tilts his head. “I want you to go to the pen behind Boyd’s tent and kill the walkers in it. We aren’t taking them with us.”
Carl’s hand, extended to take the gun, hovers in the air. His face is suspicious.
“You think this a trick,” Raylan realizes. “Kill Boyd’s pets and he’ll kill you?”
“I don’t know.” Carl shrugs. “You’ve made that sound like the only thing he does.”
“It kind of is,” Raylan says. “But it’s not a trick. It’s a test. I want to see you with a gun.”
Carl takes his weapon and they walk together to the pen. Boyd stops dismantling his tent and stalks over.
“Raylan,” he says, “Did we not talk about arming Grimey?” He’s renamed the kid based on his last name, Grimes.
Before anyone can take it away from him, Carl raises the gun. They’re still at some distance, but he brains the first one.
“Least let me take down the fence so they can get at him,” Boyd says. Carl walks closer, systematically shooting each of the walkers in the head. The kid wasn’t lying: he is good with a gun.
“Not bad,” Raylan admits.
Boyd looks grudgingly impressed. He walks to Carl, reaches over, and takes the emptied gun back.
“Why?” Carl asks, confused.
“Well, now you definitely don’t get a gun,” Boyd tells him.
They decide to drive south. Boyd scoped out some campsites on his trip and found a tiny airfield. Some structures, concrete, standing fences. It’s a good starting point.
Rachel takes off alone, in the SUV. Possibly she’s sick of their shit and wants some quiet time. Ava and Loretta take the truck, which is too loaded with her cats and other crap to fit anyone else. That leaves Boyd, Tim, Raylan, and Carl in the RV. It’s the shittiest to drive, takes the most gas, and has Boyd in it. The ladies got the better deal.
Tim takes the longest loading up his rifles, and in retaliation they make him drive. Boyd, slides in to a seat near the kid, seizing the ride as an opportunity to interrogate Carl.
“So, Grimey, where’d you learn to shoot?” he ask. “Bloods? Crips?”
“My dad taught me,” Carl says, then halts weirdly and corrects himself. “My dad and some others.”
“What others?” Boyd probes, catching the strangled pause. He holds eye contact with Carl.
Carl matches Boyd’s gaze. “My dad was a sheriff,” he says, finally. That explains the hat, but he sounds like he’s leaving a lot out. “Cops taught me,” he summarizes.
“Yeah, what happened to them?” Boyd continues.
“What do you think?” Tim interrupts. “Christ, leave him alone.”
“He’s gonna stay, I want to know every damn thing about Grimey,” Boyd says. “You got nothing to hide, right?”
“My dad’s alive,” Carl says. “Least he was. The other…cop…turned. And I killed him.”
“Hmm,” Boyd says.
Raylan’s not sure what the kid isn’t saying, but he marks it down as a second person – after mom – that this kid knew, and had to kill. He wonders where Dad was during all of this.
“There’s walkers in the road,” Tim says, abruptly. “Someone hold the wheel.”
“I can get them,” Carl volunteers, either because he wants to shoot them, or he just wants to get away from Boyd.
“Let the sniper do it,” Raylan says, moving over to steer while Tim shoots out the driver’s side window.
“You’re a sniper?” Carl asks.
“Yep,” Tim says, between shots. “Was,” he pauses. “Am.” Raylan looks at him. “What I do the most of now,” he points out.
“Are you a sniper, too?” Carl asks Raylan.
“No,” Tim says, before Raylan can answer.
“Our Raylan was just a civilian gunman,” Boyd says, throwing an unwelcome arm around Carl and squeezing him close. “A recreational shooter, if you will.”
“U.S. Marshal,” Raylan corrects, peevishly. “Like Tim and Rachel.”
“Uh-huh,” Boyd says. “Ask your daddy. Back then, you needed a badge to shoot people for fun.”
“For fun?” Carl echoes.
“Keep your hands on the wheel,” Tim orders, correctly anticipating that Raylan wants to go punch Boyd.
“For federal crimes,” Raylan says.
“But it is fun,” Boyd says, arm still draped over Carl. “Ain’t it?”
“No,” Carl answers, trying to inch away from Boyd but having no place to go. “But you have to, now.”
Boyd shrugs. “Now, that is true.”
“Shoot walkers,” Tim corrects. “They’re not people.”
“Sometimes I can’t tell the difference,” Boyd says, his grin showing teeth as he looks down at Carl.
The trip with Boyd breathing down his neck should have sent Carl into the wind, but it doesn’t. Raylan marks it down as further evidence that the kid is fucked in the head. But that describes so many of their little group, it’s hardly reason to kick him out.
They give him his own tent, the same one they put him in that first night. Still full of supplies, because it’s not like he has any belongings. He’s not a thief, that much seem clear. For now, his tent is inside the airport fence. The rest of them move inside the airport. Carl doesn’t comment on his special treatment.
“I can get any walkers that make it through the fence,” he says.
“If you had a gun,” Raylan agrees. “You could.”
Eventually, he does get a gun. Raylan returns the one that actually belongs to him. Before that, he’s pretty sure that Ava gives him one. Ava and Rachel are fond of him, in the same way they like Loretta. Ava keeps sneaking him Boyd’s toys, and has almost certainly softened Boyd up toward him. Loretta claims disinterest, but Raylan thinks she likes having someone closer to her own age around.
If Carl’s people – any of them – survived, the kid is now almost fifty miles south. They’re not going to find him, or him them. Carl does chores without complaint – something his sister (they continue to call Loretta that) could learn from. He’s handy with a gun, once they allow him to carry. Growing boy does eat a lot, but that can’t be helped. Boyd bitches about it, a sign that he’s otherwise accepted Carl’s permanent presence.
After another month, they move him inside the airport. In the basement with them all. Raylan assigns him floor space adjacent to his own, for paranoid reasons. Farthest from Loretta, for totally reasonable horny teenage boy reasons.
Raylan still thinks Carl’s pretty fucking weird. He doesn’t really expect the kid to get better, either. Shooting his undead mother, and whatever else has happened to him, definitely did a number on him. But he’s not getting worse, it seems. In the months he’s lived with them, anyway. He and Loretta are good for each other. They conspire together to steal snacks and whatnot from Boyd – under the assumption that Boyd’s not going to kill Loretta and she will protect Carl. That’s probably true. They get up to sort of typical –for after the apocalypse, anyway - teenage antics. Loretta shares her pot. Raylan and Rachel have an incredibly eerie conversation about whether or not they should yell at them for that.
They decide against it. Raylan does tell Loretta she can’t use their limited ag space and supplies for a pot farm.
“What about a pot garden?” Loretta asks, in the usual way where she thinks asking means he has to say yes. “I don’t need a lot. I’m good at this.”
“Boyd says he can sell it,” she continues. “For other stuff.”
“You already asked him,” Raylan says.
“Other daddy said it was okay,” she says, trying for charming. Mostly it pisses him off.
“Never, ever say that again,” he orders.
“Yes, sir,” she says. “So, I can be a reefer farmer again?”
“Garden,” he corrects. “Reefer gardener.”
He’s still shaking his head over the exchange, watching Loretta teach Carl the fine art of pot farming in a small stretch of the lawn. Tim joins him, looking amused.
“Least you’re not mommy,” Tim offers, having heard the exchange.
“Rachel said she was gonna feed the next person who called her that to the walkers,” Raylan warns him.
“Ava’s kind of into it, though.” Tim says, which is true. Ava doesn’t spend much time with the kids, but she likes giving them stuff collected by Boyd.
“Yeah, that’s weird,” Raylan says.
“I think pot might just be exactly what Grimey needs,” Tim continues.
“You think walkers can get stoned?” Raylan asks.
“Maybe if they eat a stoner,” Tim says. He pauses. “You gotta make rules about where and when they can get stoned. Daddy.”
Raylan glares at him, ponders how difficult their life would become if he shot their sniper.
The airfield proves to be a good home. It’s a defensible space, but large enough that they aren’t living in each other’s pockets. They have to keep the fence secure – check it weekly – but the airport is biter-free. Boyd and Tim cleared it out. They burned the bodies on the tarmac.
All the same, they stay in the basement, mostly. Just seems safer. They use the Departures area for storage. And then generally stay away from the Arrivals wing, which is clear glass. It makes Raylan feel exposed. Glass breaks real easy, too.
The vehicles get parked on the tarmac. Hidden between planes. Positioned for easy egress, but inconspicuous to any greedy outsiders. Raylan wants the place to look deserted, but he’s overruled. Boyd collects some walkers and confines them to a pen just outside. They should help scare off scavengers.
Loretta has a pot garden going, and Rachel and Ava have an actual garden. Not much, but it’s nice to get a few fresh veggies.
Tim sets up a sniper’s nest in the air traffic control tower. But, he sleeps in the basement with the rest of them.
Raylan gets used to having Carl around. He’s helpful and quiet. In love with Loretta a little, maybe, but she’s not having it. Boyd hasn’t killed him, despite repeatedly threatening to do so and saying it’ll look like an accident. He’s been with them for months, now, and it seems pretty permanent.
About once a week, they clear the area surrounding their airfield. There’s a lot of open space, so mostly that amounts to Tim taking shots at walkers in the fields from the air traffic controller’s tower. But there is some grown-over forest on the edges that needs to be cleared on the ground. Sometimes they get deer and squirrel, too.
Loretta insists on coming with Raylan, when he takes his turn. He doesn’t like it, preferring that she stay behind the airfield fence. They’ve all taught her to be good with a gun, but he’d much rather take Boyd along on walker-clearing trips. He wouldn’t care if Boyd got bit.
He tells her that, but she comes along, anyway. And oddly enough, she’s wearing Carl’s Sheriff hat. Raylan frowns at her, but refrains from commenting.
“Let’s go kill some ghouls,” he says, and she follows him out of the gate.
They don’t actually find very many. Raylan takes two shots and Loretta three, but one of hers hits a branch and cracks it off.
“Watch it,” he warns, because they just made a lot of noise. He reaches out and tilts her brim back. “Hat in your way?”
The sound does attract more walkers, a couple dozen staggering through the branches.
“Oops,” Loretta says.
Raylan just starts shooting. He prefers they come to him, honestly.
The woods fall silent after the last walker drops. Raylan listens and hears nothing. They should head back, hope the stragglers come out where Tim can drop them.
“There’s a raspberry bush in here,” Loretta tells him, handing over her gun. “I’m a get some.” She shakes out a cloth bag to fill.
“Quick,” Raylan orders.
Raylan shoulders her gun, wanders over to make sure are the walkers are permanently down. One of them needs an extra stabbing. As he crouches down, he sees something sticking out of the biter’s face. There’s an arrow right through the thing’s chin. Raylan stabs it in the head, then pulls out the arrow. Boyd has a crossbow or two, but he doesn’t use them often.
“Hey, Sherriff of Rottingham,” he calls, turning back to Loretta. “You invite Robin Hood?”
Loretta is gone. For a second, Raylan stares, then stands and aims his gun at the tree where she’d just been.
“Loretta?” he calls, keeping his voice low.
From the other side of the tree, he hears her voice, a muffled cry. Immediately, he races toward the sound.
It’s not a walker. It’s a man, a dirty, skinny blond man with a crossbow aimed at Raylan and a knife at Loretta’s throat.
“Let her go,” Raylan orders, aiming his gun at the guy’s head. He doesn’t have a clear shot because he has Loretta in the way.
“Not until you tell me,” the guy growls, “where the hell you got this hat.”
“Hat store,” Loretta grinds out.
Then she tries to back kick the guy in the groin. It almost works. He temporarily loses hold of her – at the same time he releases an arrow that slams in to Raylan’s hat. The impact trips him backwards. Raylan has to check it’s not in his head, too, because it’s that close. He scrambles up, pissed.
Raylan wants to opens fire, but Loretta and the guy are too tangled so he only hits the bark of the tree behind them.
Blond guy drops the unloaded cross bow, but he gets hold of Loretta again, The knife is back at her throat. Raylan takes aim again.
“I asked you a question,” Loretta’s captor repeats. “Where’d you get the damn hat?” But he must be asking Raylan, because his hand is over Loretta’s mouth. “And if you scream to bring the biters, I’ll kill you first.”
Loretta says something muffled into his palm. Raylan doesn’t hear it, but he knows what she said.
“She said she’ll bite you first if she turns,” Raylan tells him. “Let her go.”
“Hat,” the guy repeats, glaring. “Where.”
“Grimey,” Raylan says, then corrects himself. “Kid named Carl gave it to her. I think he might be courting her.”
Loretta makes an outraged noise, behind the hand over face.
“Where is he?”
“His bed, last I checked,” Raylan says, keeping his gun as level as he can with Loretta in the way.
“Airfield,” Loretta’s captor says.
“Maybe,” Raylan says. Even though it’s fairly obvious that’s the only place to live around here. “Let her go,” Raylan repeats.
The guy shakes his head, even though Loretta is wiggling a lot.
“Trade you,” he says. “Bring Carl out.”
“If you think I’m leaving you alone with her, you are stupider than you look,” Raylan says. “And I wasn’t sure that was possible.”
Loretta says something into the man’s palm, and then she must have bit him, because he drops his hand from her face, wincing. He doesn’t let her go.
“You must be Daryl,” she says. “Carl said you were smarter.” Raylan raises his eyebrows. Daryl, if that is his name, looks a little confused. “Don’t shoot,” she tells Raylan. “Carl likes him.”
“So?” Raylan doesn’t lower his gun. There’s still a hole in his hat and a knife near Loretta.
“I’ll go get him,” Loretta volunteers. “But you have to let me go.”
“You’ll shoot,” Daryl says to Raylan.
“Shouldn’t have dropped your bow,” Raylan agrees.
“Raylan,” Loretta says, exasperated. “You’re not helping.” To her captor, “I got a gun in my waistband. You can take it and play stand-off until I get back with Carl.”
Daryl immediately fishes it out of her clothing, while Raylan shakes his head and glares at Loretta. But he’s relieved when Daryl abruptly releases her, holding her gun aimed at Raylan.
Loretta shakes herself free.
“Don’t shoot him,” she says, but it’s unclear who she’s talking to.
Loretta makes as if to walk towards the airfield. Instead, she suddenly stoops, grabs the dropped crossbow and swings it viciously backwards into the side of Daryl’s head.
Daryl goes down, knocked cold.
Raylan stalks over, kicks the gun away from the downed man’s hand. Loretta collects it, puts it back in her waistband.
“I have a gun,” Raylan says, making his voice high-pitched and squeaky. “Take it and shoot me.” He glares at Loretta. “The hell is wrong with you.”
“Worked, didn’t it?” Loretta says. She hefts the crossbow.
“Who do you think this is?” Raylans asks.
“Daryl,” Loretta says. “Carl says he’s a friend.”
“How do you know that?” Their attacker never confirmed anything but an interest in Loretta’s hat.
“Carl said he’s a crazy hillbilly with a crossbow,” Loretta says, reasonably.
“Hmm,” Raylan says.
Twigs snap behind them; all the fighting is attracting unwanted attention. Loretta raises the crossbow, carefully loads it, then opens fire. She hits the biter lurching towards them, square in the head. Boyd must have given her lessons.
“We gotta go,” Raylan declares.
“What about him?” Loretta says.
Raylan looks at her. She blinks back at him. “Carl said he was a good guy.”
“Oh?” Raylan shows her the arrow still stuck in his hat.
“Can’t just leave him here,” Loretta says.
“Yes, we can,” Raylan counters. “Our camp has a full count of crazy hillbillies with crossbows.”
Loretta stares at him, not quite pouting but dangerously close.
“We can put him in Arrivals,” Loretta tries. “He won’t see our shit. Let him see Carl and then…”
“Boyd will shoot him on sight,” Raylan says, since this one isn’t a mostly innocent-looking kid.
“Maybe Boyd won’t see him,” Loretta tries.
Raylan is officially done with carrying unconscious strays back to the home base. At least Loretta got a nice weapon off this one.
They sneak him through the fence; go straight to the part of the airport where Boyd won’t be. The Arrivals area is clear glass, so they stash their guest behind the desk. Boyd won’t see him unless he moves out into the open.
Raylan handcuffs him, and then adds a shackle hooked to the cuffs just to be sure.
“He’s wearing a necklace of ears,” Loretta announces, as she’s frisking him for more weapons. She yanks it off, shows it to Raylan.
“Should have told me that before we brought him back,” Raylan mutters. He grabs the string of ears from her, tosses it away.
“I’ll get Carl,” Loretta says, rising.
Raylan grabs her arm, hauls her back down.
“Not ‘til he’s awake,” he says. “And it’s daylight. And they can leave, immediately.” He regards their prisoner. “Find a gag.”
They take turns watching their unconscious guest. If both of them are absent from the others, it’ll be too suspicious and someone will come looking for them. Raylan trusts Loretta to shoot the guy if he’s dead from a concussion.
“Don’t untie him,” he orders.
He joins the rest for dinner, leaving Loretta on guard duty.
Dinner is from Boyd’s collection of canned goods and dried pastas. Hardly gourmet, but Carl tells them emphatically every night how much better it is than squirrel. Raylan thinks fresh squirrel has its benefits, and besides, it pisses Boyd off when he’s more enthusiastic about roadkill than Boyd’s groceries. That’s always fun.
“Squirrel doesn’t have an expiration date,” Rachel says, eyeing the dates stamped on the can.
“I’d rather die of food poisoning,” Tim says, “given the options.”
“Where’s Loretta?” Boyd asks, ignoring the typical food-related chatter since he’s not being praised.
“Washing up,” Raylan lies. “I’ll take her a plate.”
“What happened to your hat?” Carl asks, even though Raylan already yanked the arrow out. The hole must be more noticeable than he’d thought.
“Misfire,” Raylan lies again. He prefers to do that only to Boyd.
“Oh?” Ava says, “Thought you didn’t do that.”
“I don’t,” Raylan defends himself.
“He does,” Rachel says, unkindly.
“Loretta needs some more practice with a crossbow,” Raylan says.
“Crossbow,” Tim and Carl say simultaneously.
“Girl doesn’t stay out of my stuff,” Boyd mutters, “I’m gonna…” he trails off, pondering what threat he can make. “Take 100% of her reefer,” he decides on. That actually sounds credible.
“She ain’t here to threaten,” Ava says. “But good one.”
“It’s not yours,” Raylan says, eyeing Carl. “She found it in the woods. Walker must have dropped it.”
Carl reacts to that, but just for a moment. He goes back to eating, eyes down.
Raylan sets his hat on the table, pokes his finger through the hole, sadly.
“He’s gonna cry,” Rachel says.
Carl looks like he can’t decide whether or not he’s allowed to laugh at Raylan. Least he’s almost smiling.
Raylan grabs the wounded hat, shoves it back on his head.
“I don’t like you people,” he says, since that’s a good excuse as any to go keep an eye on Loretta and Billy Bobbin-Hood. “I’m leaving.”
“He just wants to be alone with it,” Ava says, knowingly. “Say goodbye.”
“Is Loretta not here because you killed her for harming the hat?” Tim joins in.
Rachel starts laughing, and chokes on her soup.
He takes his bowl, makes one for Loretta, and excuses himself. “Fuck you all.”
“He’s stirring,” Loretta says, when Raylan gets back to their hideout. “Want me to hit him again?”
Raylan hands over her dinner. “Not after I pulled something in my back dragging his alive ass here, no.”
“What’d you tell the others?” Loretta asks, sitting down to eat.
“That you shot my hat,” Raylan says. “And then they were assholes so I left.”
Loretta snickers around her soup. “Sorry,” she apologizes. “Boyd can probably find you a new one.”
“Shut up and eat,” Raylan orders.
The scent of their dinner, more than anything else, is probably what revives their prisoner. He and Loretta are eating only a couple feet from him; staying out of sight behind the check-in desk. Raylan hears his restraints clinking against the floor as he wakes.
Raylan preemptively draws his gun. Loretta glances at it, frowning.
“Just gonna wave it around,” he reassures her.
With a grunt, Daryl manages to sit up. He’s wiggled the gag down around his chin.
“Good morning, sunshine,” Raylan says.
“Hi,” Loretta says. “My name is Daryl. I’m looking for my friend Carl. You seem to have his hat. Have you seen him?” He blinks at her. “You could have just said that,” she says.
“I don’t think he’s a big fan of using his words.” Raylan purposefully rests his gun on his knee.
Daryl audibly sniffs. “Gimme some of that food,” he says.
Loretta turns to look at Raylan, not expecting that reaction.
“You were gonna kill me, you’d a done it already,” Daryl says. “And I’m hungry.”
“Not hungry enough to say please,” Loretta points out.
“That’s yours,” Raylan tells her, since he’s not sneaking food to the asshole who shot his hat. “You’ll get food later, if you’re good.”
“Good?” Daryl snarls. He’s squirming in the cuffs, but has no hope of getting free.
“Quiet,” Raylan says. “Til the morning.”
“There are folk here who will kill you,” Loretta says. “They don’t know about you. So hush.”
“Where’s Carl?” Daryl demands.
“Having dinner with them,” Loretta answers.
“You can see him in the morning,” Raylan says. “If he wants to leave with you, you’ll go.”
“And if not?”
Raylan shrugs. “I dunno. Probably smack you over the head and dump you back in the woods.”
“The road,” Loretta corrects. “Or wherever you came from. Awake.” She shrugs. “You can even have your crossbow back. We’re not bad people. We don’t attack people for no reason.”
“I had a reason,” Daryl says. “Crossbow’s mine.”
“Then you shouldn’t have dropped it.” Loretta has a point.
“Next time I won’t,” Daryl snarls. “Bet on it.”
Raylan grows tired of the posturing. “So Carl’s people alive? Or you all that’s left?”
“None of your concern,” Daryl says. “I’ll tell him when I see him.”
Silence – other than the sounds of Daryl trying futilely to get out of the cuffs – settles over the room. Loretta finishes her meal. After a few minutes of boredom, she dips into her packs and pulls out rolling papers.
Daryl watches her with interest, confusion taking over for rage. “You got pot?” he says, when she lights up.
Loretta nods. Raylan just rolls his eyes.
Their prisoner sits up more fully. He leans towards her. Raylan is about to kick him down flat, just because.
Daryl licks his lips. “I can say please,” he says.
Loretta glances at Raylan for permission. She’s typically generous with the weed, but she might be thinking it’s a good idea to drug the angry, tied-up redneck.
“I don’t give a shit,” he says, “it’s not food.”
“Better than food,” Loretta says, offering the joint to their prisoner.
Getting high only improves Daryl’s personality a little bit. Raylan figures a stoned prisoner is probably quieter and sleepier than otherwise. He’s easier to manage when he needs to piss, and Raylan has to take him to the bathroom.
He sends Loretta back to the basement. The others will come looking for her if she’s not back for bedtime.
“Tell them I’m still pissed and drinking it off,” he instructs her.
“You got booze, too?” Daryl asks.
Raylan shouldn’t be advertising all of Boyd’s luxuries. That’s caused them almost as much trouble as the walkers.
“I’ll give you a beer if you promise to shut the fuck up and sleep through the night without trying anything,” Raylan offers.
Daryl makes intent eye contact. “Add some fucking food, you got a deal.”
“Okay then,” Raylan says.
But in the morning, Tim and Rachel have done a sweep of the woods. And they found Daryl’s motorcycle.
They haul it back to camp, of course. It’s a good find. They don’t have a small, maneuverable vehicle that can get around and through the blocked highways that fast.
Raylan curses to himself when he realizes what’s happened. Getting their guest out of here –with or without Carl – just got a lot harder.
Tim’s personally super excited about it, too. He’s riding it up and down the runway.
“Wasting gas,” Boyd says, with a scowl.
“You’re just jealous you didn’t find it,” Rachel returns.
The revving engine wakes Carl and Loretta, both late sleepers. They come out to see what it is.
“That’ll wake the dead, too,” Ava says, warningly.
Tim finally stops, wheeling it back towards where everyone is standing.
“Found it in the woods,” he tells Loretta and Carl.
Loretta figures out what that means, and she starts frowning. Carl, however, looks devastated. He’s looking down, trying to hide his face. He puts his hat on, and ducks the brim. Raylan peers at him, realizes tears are streaming down his face. He recognizes the bike. Together with the crossbow Loretta ‘found’ in the woods, too, Carl thinks his friend is dead.
“Hey, kids,” Raylan says. “Now that you’re up, I got a job for you.” He coughs, trying to come up with something. “Gotta go through the Lost and Found box in Arrivals,” he decides. “See if there’s anything there we want.”
“That can wait ‘til after breakfast,” Rachel says. She looks at Carl with concern, but he continues to hide his face.
“I’m not hungry,” Carl says. He sounds relieved to be asked to go.
“C’mon,” Loretta says, putting an arm around him and leading the way.
“I’ll get ‘em started,” Raylan says. He’s reluctant to lie to Tim and Rachel, but Boyd is standing right there.
“What the hell’s up with Grimey?” he hears Tim ask, watching them go.
“Mental disease,” Boyd declares. “Tell me again why we let him stay.”
“Birds of a feather,” Rachel replies.
“The bike’s not the only thing we found in the woods,” Raylan says, as he ushers Carl and Loretta into the Arrivals building. Loretta glances back, but Boyd and the rest are preoccupied with the bike and not looking at them.
Raylan leads Carl around the front desk where Daryl is tied up on the floor. Getting him stoned and giving him a beer worked; he’s still there.
“Daryl,” Carl says, his mouth falling open. He starts crying again, if he ever stopped. Carl drops to his knees and wraps his arms around the prisoner.
Daryl is propped awkwardly against the desk back, and he’s tied up. He physically can’t return the embrace, but he dips his face and rests his forehead against the boy’s shoulder.
“Hey now,” he says, softly. “Stop blubbering.” He looks up, frowns at their audience. “Make these dumb fucks untie me.”
After a second, Carl pulls back. He glances up at Raylan, pleadingly.
“Not right now,” Raylan says. He’s not sure what’s happening yet.
“Is my dad-?” Carl asks. “Is everyone?”
“Yeah,” Daryl says. “They’re all okay.”
Carl nods, relieved. But he’s not crying anymore, which is nice.
“Where?” he asks.
Daryl looks suspiciously over Carl’s head at Raylan. “Moving camp,” he says. “Nowhere specific. The herds drove us south. About twenty miles from here, now.”
“We moved south ‘cause of them, too,” Carl says. “They did, I mean.”
“I tracked you,” Daryl says. “But your footprints just stopped.”
“We put him in a car,” Raylan volunteers.
“Our people found your bike,” Loretta says.
“Stop taking my shit,” Daryl orders.
“Hey,” Raylan says. “This is simplified now.”
“It is?” asks Loretta.
“You’re taking Carl back, right?”
“Hell yeah,” Daryl says, while Carl nods. He glances at Loretta and looks a little torn.
“Twenty miles away,” Raylan continues. “And you ain’t interested in fighting over our food or our land.”
“Never was,” Daryl retorts.
“We just gotta get Tim to give up the bike,” Raylan says.
They set Daryl free, but they don’t arm him. Raylan’s going to hold off on that ‘til he’s riding away.
Carl clings to Daryl as soon as he’s uncuffed.
“Okay,” Raylan says. “The story’s gonna be that we found you at the fence right behind this building. Looking for your bike.”
“You want to lie to your people,” Daryl says, with disdain.
“Other option is we tell Boyd you know we’ve got booze and pot and food,” Loretta says. “And see how that works out for you.”
“Listen to them,” Carl says. “Please.”
Daryl glances at him, shrugs. “Fine by me.”
They hustle Daryl out of the building at gun point. Carl still hasn’t let go of him. If Boyd does want to shoot him on sight, that might be problematic.
The others see them coming, reacting with confusion. Tim’s still sitting on the bike. Boyd pulls immediately. Ava moves to stand behind him. Rachel pats her waist, frowns when she realizes her gun is still inside.
“What the hell?” Boyd yells.
Tim shrugs his rifle off his shoulder and palms it, staying seated on the bike.
Raylan propels Daryl and Carl forward, Loretta following at their heels.
“Stop pushin’ me,” Daryl complains.
“We found him at the fence behind Arrivals,” Loretta says, when they’re close enough.
“Get off my bike,” Daryl tells Tim.
Tim tilts his head. “Shouldn’t have left the keys in it. I thought it was up for grabs.”
“Carl, get away from him,” Rachel orders, since the kid is pretty much hugging the man’s arm.
“I know him,” Carl says. “Don’t shoot him.”
“This is Daryl,” Raylan announces. “That’s his bike. This is his Carl.”
“We discussed it,” Loretta jumps in. “And they’re gonna leave, right now.”
“The fence was secure,” Boyd says. “He cut a hole?”
“We fixed it,” Loretta lies.
Ava crosses her arms. “We’re just letting him take Grimey? He looks like a lunatic.”
“Yeah?” Daryl spits. “You look –“
Carl wraps one arm around his face. “Shut up.”
“How’d you find him?” Boyd asks, gun still up.
“Tracked him,” Daryl says, when Carl hesitantly removes his hand.
“Fifty miles south through biter territory?” Ava asks, doubtful.
“Only one clear road,” Daryl says.
“We cleared it,” Tim says.
“Ain’t that sweet,” Boyd says. “Why?”
“Figured bringing him back would make his dad chill the fuck out,” Daryl says, half to Carl. “Gimme back the bike, and we’re gone.”
“You didn’t even want Carl here,” Loretta says to Boyd.
“Yes, well, I’ve gotten attached,” Boyd says. “And I like the bike.”
“Boyd,” Raylan says, authoritatively. “Stop-”
“Walkers,” Rachel cries out, pointing down the tarmac. There’s six of them, staggering closer.
“Thought you fixed the fence,” Boyd snarls at Loretta, who is genuinely confused.
“I’m going to get my gun,” Rachel says, hurrying towards the building.
“I got this,” Boyd says. “Not finished with you,” he adds to Daryl.
He jumps on the back of the bike with Tim, and they race towards the biters.
“Shit,” Ava says. “Where’s the hole in the fence?”
“I have no idea,” Loretta says.
“Let’s go find it,” Ava orders.
Loretta takes a halting step forward, glancing sideways. “There’s no hole,” she says.
“There is now,” Raylan says. “Go.”
Before she moves too far, Daryl reaches out and snatches his crossbow back. Which isn’t ideal, but what the hell.
“Don’t shoot the cats,” Carl says, which is wise but totally confusing to Daryl.
Boyd and Tim have killed the walkers, but Raylan can see more movement now. There are more walkers, a bunch more. There’s definitely a hole in the fence.
Rachel returns from the inside, now armed.
“They got ‘em,” Raylan says. “Ava and Loretta are looking for the hole.”
“You don’t know where it is because he came in through the gate with you,” Rachel says. “Jig is up.”
“You saw that?” Raylan asks. “Why didn’t you say anything?”
“Because I didn’t care,” Rachel says. “I do, now.”
She frowns at Daryl, eyeing his crossbow.
“You alone?” she asks.
He blinks at her. “Alone,” Rachel repeats. She raises her gun, points it towards the building wall. Raylan can’t see what she’s aiming at. But he follows her lead, aiming at the shadows.
“Or you got a friend?”
“I was alone,” Daryl says.
“You don’t got a friend?” Rachel asks. She raises her voice. “An angry-looking sister with a sword?”
“Michonne?” Carl says.
“Wouldn’t call her a friend,” Daryl says, shrugging.
“Who’s Michonne?” Raylan asks.
As if answering his question, a dark figure emerges from the shadow of the building.
“Angry-looking sister with a sword,” Rachel repeats.
It’s a tall black woman, and yes, she has a sword. Shit.
“You could have mentioned her,” he tells Daryl.
Daryl scowls. “Didn’t know she was here. We got into it, I called her a bitch, and she walked off two days ago.”
“Don’t shoot,” Carl says. He lets go of Daryl’s arm and walks so he’s between Rachel’s gun and Michonne.
“You might have got the wrong impression about what’s going on here,” Raylan tells the newcomer. He shakes his head. “This is a problem.”
“Not unless she’s bulletproof,” Rachel says.
“No,” Raylan says. “All three of them aren’t gonna fit on the bike.”
Miraculously, everyone survives the confrontation. And everyone keeps their weapons, which makes for a very short-term truce. They gather in Arrivals, where Daryl and Michonne won’t get an eyeful of their supplies. Tim heads out to the control tower to clear stragglers.
The fence has been patched up. Carl’s newest friend, Michonne, cut several holes and lured a pack of biters inside. She is a peach.
“Thought you took the boy,” she says, by way of apology. “Saw you take Daryl.”
“What?” Ava asks, but Boyd thankfully interrupts. Hopefully they won’t need to revisit that particular interpretation of events.
“The boy took to us,” he says. “I tried to kick him out on the first day we met.” Raylan nods in agreement. “I have tried to lose him on multiple occasions since,” Boyd continues, which makes everyone else frown. “No one is holding Grimey hostage.”
Michonne shrugs. “My mistake,” she says.
“Send walkers after your ass,” Rachel mutters. “See if you call it a mistake.”
Boyd isn’t done talking. Unsurprisingly, he doesn’t seem to care that Michonne and Daryl do, in fact, still have their weapons. Possibly – probably – he just wants to provoke them so he has an excuse to shoot. Raylan begins pondering how he can grab Grimey and keep him out of the crossfire.
“Now, Grimey is here of his own freeloading will,” Boyd continues. “But I am unconvinced that I should just give this poor, vulnerable child to two warmongering miscreants such as yourselves.”
“Warmongering?” Raylan echoes, shaking his head. Daryl’s eyebrows are somewhere near his hairline. Michonne, thankfully, mostly looks bored by the theatrics. He wishes there was a polite, direct, and discreet way of letting them know that he might share Boyd’s camp, but not the man’s brain damage.
“I don’t imagine CPS would look kindly upon guardians who lose their charge and can’t find him for months,” Boyd says.
“Ain’t no CPS no more,” Daryl says. “And I woulda found him. I did find him.”
“Our little family,” Boyd begins.
“Do not call us that,” Rachel interrupts. Raylan smiles appreciatively.
“Has never once lost our dear Loretta,” Boyd continues. “I believe a court of law would find our happy home the safest place for little Grimey.”
“You lost Loretta yesterday,” Daryl snaps. “Dumbass.”
Boyd tilts his head. “Pardon?” He looks at Loretta and Raylan.
“Very briefly,” Raylan says, choosing his words carefully. “In the woods.” He shakes his head, glares at Daryl. “Not important.”
“I think a court of law,” Daryl says, “would take your kid away on account of her being a pothead.”
Rachel coughs, but it sounds more like a laugh.
“Never did,” Loretta says. “When there was a CPS.”
“Her birth family taught her that,” Ava announces, and Loretta nods. “There’s nature and nurture, you know.”
Raylan puts his head in his hands. He’s not sure this is preferable to a shootout. Carl looks like he might agree.
Michonne squints at Boyd. “He’s worse than you,” she says, softly to Daryl.
“You shut up,” Daryl snaps at her.
“They're my people,” Carl says, cutting short Boyd’s psychotic monologue. “And I want to go home.” He looks at Boyd, face sincere. “Please don’t fight each other.”
“Fine,” Boyd says, addressing the kid. “Little ingrate, you can leave. But you’re not taking any pot or any porn with you.”
“Wait a sec,” Daryl demands. “You got porn?”
The solution is to throw Daryl’s bike in the back of the truck and drive the three lost lambs back towards their own camp. Raylan volunteers to drive. He’d like to think Boyd could be trusted not to try to wipe out Carl’s people and take their stuff, but he can’t be sure. If Boyd doesn’t go, he can’t start a war.
Loretta stays behind with Boyd, Ava, and Rachel. Daryl might have a point about their kid being a pothead, but they do keep close tabs on her. Raylan needs Tim to clear the road for him, and it’s probably a good call to have a sniper on hand if Carl’s people have any odd hard feelings about them rescuing the kid.
Despite Boyd’s threats, they do provision the kid well. His pack is full of food, including some of Boyd’s treats, and Loretta gifts him with bud that Raylan is damn sure Daryl is just going to steal. He doesn’t inquire about the porn situation.
Carl takes two more things, acquired from Ava and Boyd’s possessions with Loretta’s help.
“Why do you need a frilly white dress?” Raylan asks, since he has been tasked with making sure the kid doesn’t take anything that will give Boyd an excuse to go get it back. Ava, for one, believes Daryl wants to eat her cats. “And a year’s birth control?”
He looks hard at Loretta, who raises her hands innocently. “Souvenirs,” she says. “For his friends. Get off my ass.”
“Glen and Maggie,” Carl says, “My friends are getting married. Daryl said they didn’t do it yet on account I was missing.”
“Wedding presents,” Raylan says. “You’re a sweet kid, Grimey. Little bit of a pervert-”
“Birth control was my idea,” Loretta interrupts. “It’s what’d I want.”
“Thought so,” Raylan says. “Ava going to miss that dress?”
“She has dozens,” Loretta says. “I took it from the bottom.”
Raylan nods approvingly, then lets the kids finish packing Carl up. Loretta steps outside to start loading the truck.
“Thanks for the stuff, Raylan,” Carl says, genuinely.
“Welcome,” Raylan says. “Just don’t think of us as a grocery or a pharmacy.”
Carl nods, understanding. “I liked it here,” he says. “I’d stay if my family wasn’t out there.”
Raylan gets the feeling he’s including the odd couple Daryl and Michonne, as well as his father and baby sister, wherever they are. “Understood,” he says.
“We’d be really strong together,” Carl says, after a moment. “And I’m not just saying that ‘cause you have a lot of stuff.”
“Boyd doesn’t play well with others,” Raylan says. “I give it a couple more minutes before your friend Michonne tries to take his head off.”
Carl nods, like he was expecting that answer. “It could work,” he says. “My dad takes everyone.” He tilts his head out towards where Daryl and Michonne are standing.
“I see that,” Raylan says. “I’ll keep it in mind.”
He means it. Boyd’s lone wolf pack act may not work forever. Carl’s group has to be doing something right.
Loretta and Carl shake hands goodbye. Boyd stands menacingly nearby, like he expects Carl to try to take Loretta with him. He gets full bodied hugs from both Rachel and Ava. They tell him he can come back, anytime, and bring his family.
“No,” Boyd says, when they release him. “Get out,” he orders, pointing at the truck. “Waste of gas,” he mutters. “You can keep Raylan,” he says, when everyone who’s going is loaded up. “But I’d like the sniper back, please.”
Daryl gives them a direction to drive in. He and Michonne are crammed in the extended cab with Carl between them.
The ride isn’t that long. And remarkably uneventful. Few biters in the road, and everyone in the truck is very well-behaved. Raylan thanks his lucky stars Boyd didn’t try to come. And Loretta for getting Daryl stoned again before departure.
Carl’s people are actually within 20 miles, taking shelter in a row of warehouses. Raylan’s surprised Daryl tells them precisely where, given his previous paranoia.
“We know where you are,” Daryl says. “Now you know where we are.”
Oddly enough, that doesn’t sound like a threat. More like a vague invitation.
“Yeah?” Tim asks, seeking clarification.
“We can set up a playdate for the kids,” Daryl says, sliding out of the truck. Michonne follows. Carl stays behind a moment, reaching up front with his hands.
“Thanks,” he says, when Raylan and Tim give awkward backwards handshakes. “Again.”
Raylan nods at him, jerks his head towards the door. The kid withdraws his hands and follows his friends out of the truck. He slams the door shut.
Michonne and Daryl rapidly unload the cargo, including Daryl’s motorcycle.
“I loved that bike,” Tim says, sighing.
“Kid was okay, too,” Raylan says.
There’s a crowd coming out of the nearest warehouse. A tall man strides ahead of the group, racing towards the fence gate.
“That must be dad,” Tim says.
Raylan hits the horn several times.
“That’ll bring the biters,” Tim reproaches.
“She cut a hole in our fence,” Raylan retorts. “They can run.”
He puts the truck in reverse. The next time he glances over, Carl is in the embrace of his father. The sheriff’s hat is off his head, held in the man’s hand as he hugs him.
Raylan makes eye contact with Carl’s dad, tipping his hat brim. He gets a return nod, though he can only see the man’s shining eyes. Then Tim has to roll down the window and start shooting biters, and Raylan doesn’t look again.
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