He was in the cage, like Gareth had told him he would be. It was cramped, no room to stretch his legs which were beginning to seize up. Carl had tried to find the most comfortable position he could, but none of them allowed his legs to fully extend. His hands, still bound by the zip tie, were going numb too. He didn't know how long he'd been there, it felt like days had passed; if he had to guess it was probably no more than a couple of hours, in reality. His shoulder and neck both stung and ached terribly, putting his leg cramps, and the mild throbbing of his head, in last place on the list of his pains. He brought a hand up to gingerly touch the places he'd been bitten, but quickly removed them as he aggravated the wounds further. They had stopped bleeding a while before, but he felt tears well up in his eyes at the memory of how he'd gotten them. Carl had been shot and that had been the absolute worst agony of his life. The bites didn't compare to that, but that had been different. It had been an accident, one that he had survived and healed from. He had moved on from that memory shortly after he had been back on his feet.
Carl felt violated in a way he couldn't explain. The closest he'd ever felt to it was the night they'd reunited with Daryl. He still remembered the fear of that night, the confusion. When it had happened he had been half asleep, still groggy as he was wrestled to the ground. He hadn't understood that something was even more off than what he had originally thought until he'd felt something hard pressing into his backside. Then had come the sound of a belt buckle being undone. After it was over, when he was safe and back inside the vehicle with Michonne, he'd asked her about it. Michonne had stopped stroking his long hair for a beat before returning to running her fingers through it again. Her voice was soothing as she spoke, "Have you heard about the birds and the bees?" Carl had looked up at her, grimacing, "Yeah, Dad talked to me about it back at the prison, why?" Michonne couldn't seem to look him in the eyes as she went on, "Well, when a girl doesn't want to, a man can still force her if he's strong enough." Carl's frown had grown deeper, "That's not right."
Michone had nodded in agreement, "It isn't, but it still happens. There are bad people out there Carl and some of them also like to...to do that, kind of thing to boys as well." Carl thought about her words, thought long about it. He thought about how he had been pushed down onto his stomach, had felt that hard thing pressing into him in what his dad had called an 'intimate' place. He heard, again, the sound of the, now dead, man's buckle coming undone. He thought of what that had meant and put it together. It had grown quiet in the car and Michonne had thought Carl had already fallen asleep. It startled her when his soft voice asked another question in an almost whisper, "Was...was that man going to do that to me?" It had pained her to answer, but Michonne knew that Carl needed to know the real dangers of the world now that they were beyond the safe gates of their prison home. She nodded; knowing he couldn't see her she said out loud a soft, simple, "Yes." Outside Rick had been listening. It had been hard to eavesdrop on their conversation, but, in a way, Rick was grateful that Michonne had been able to explain to his son what he could not bring himself to.
Carl woke, jumping at the sudden harsh sound of a door banging shut. Fear gripped his heart as Gareth's form came into the faintly lit room where his prisoners were held. It was darker than before Carl had fallen asleep, he wondered how long he'd been out. Gareth stopped in front of Carl's kennel, stooping down to peer in at him. Carl tried not to show his fear, willed his heart to slow down its fast paced rhythmic pumping. Gareth held a water bottle in his hand, shaking it in front of him, "Thirsty?" Carl was, he noted, very thirsty. He nodded. Gareth grinned, it was the same friendly smile that had greeted Carl, his dad, Daryl, and Michonne when they'd snuck up on the Terminus group. Carl didn't trust that grin for a second.
Gareth clasped the water bottle in both hands as he laid out the rules, "This is how it's going to work, kid; I'm going to open the kennel door and you're going to come out slowly. You try any one of your little stunts from before and," he paused, smile growing malicious, "I think you can guess what will happen." It was almost funny how, as much as Carl didn't want to be trapped in a dog cage, he also didn't want to come out. He almost didn't, but he was afraid of making Gareth mad. Carl was brave, but he wasn't stupid. Well, not all of the time. Just as he was supposed to, Carl made his way out of the kennel slowly, awkwardly. It was difficult to maneuver in the small space with his numb hands still tied together and his right leg had also fallen asleep. He was halfway out when Gareth gripped him underneath of his arms and hauled him to a standing position. Carl's leg buckled and he dipped down, held up only by Gareth's hold on him.
The water bottle was on the ground, Carl eyed it thirstily. Gareth noticed where his gaze was, "You'll get it. But, before that, I want you to get to know your roommates." Carl turned his blue eyes towards Gareth, the question in them obvious. Gareth jerked his head towards the other two occupied kennels. Carl had actually forgotten that he wasn't alone. He'd tuned out the Walker's constant guttural growls and the other girl was still curled up in a ball, silent. Gareth dragged Carl over to the Walker's cage. Out of pure instinct, Carl tried to resist, stalling his feet. A harsh pinch to his side reminded him not to fight, not yet, anyway. He was pushed down in front of the Walker's cage, Gareth fumbled with his pocket, keeping Carl where he was by fisting his hair. A light illuminated the Walker's kennel and Carl realized that Gareth had pulled out a flashlight. Carl blinked rapidly trying to adjust his eyes to the new light source. Gareth pushed him closer to the cage so that Carl was a mere couple inches away from the metal. Decayed fingers reached out through the holes, trying to get to him. Carl flinched, pushing back on the hand that was wound tightly in his hair. In retaliation, Gareth pushed him closer, bringing him dangerously close to ragged fingernails. Carl was terrified; terrified of what was in front of him and of what was behind him. Any closer and he would be scratched, infected. He held himself perfectly still.
"Look at her," Gareth's voice held adoration, "Isn't she gorgeous?" Carl didn't understand. Was he talking about the Walker? He didn't know how to answer so he didn't. It was apparently not the correct choice as Gareth yanked on his hair and yelled, "I said look at her!" Carl did; he well and truly looked. The Walker had probably been no more than a year or two older than he was. Her blonde hair was matted, clumped together in dirty knots. Her eyes had the same dead stare as all the other walkers, but what Carl really noticed was the bite marks all over her exposed skin. Some were faded; other's more raw in her dead skin. They were odd, out of place. Walker's didn't leave those kinds of marks; they ripped through flesh and muscle, ate what they could sink their teeth into. These were- Carl gasped in understanding. "You bit her too." It wasn't a question, but a statement. Gareth didn't deny it, "She was quite the feisty one, like you. Didn't know what to do with her mouth, also, like you. Her screams though, they were the best." Carl felt sick. He didn't want to hear this, didn't want to see this. "Why?" he asked, in an almost wail. Gareth sounded strange when he answered, as if he were far away, "The first time I saw the dead bite into someone - a friend of mine, actually – you know what I felt?" Gareth didn't wait for a reply, "Excitement. Everyone around me was screaming, crying, and running away. I just stood there, mesmerized. I had never seen anything like it and it was," he paused, "...beautiful."
Carl was openly sobbing now. He finally understood; finally knew why this was happening to him. The guy was sick; he was messed up in the head. The word that came into Carl's mind: evil. The Walker's, they were horrible, but they weren't outright evil. They didn't choose to do these things, they didn't have a choice. Between the Walker in front of him and the man behind him, Carl knew which one he both hated and feared the most. It wasn't the mindless creature that reached out for him; it was the one that already had a hold of him. He cried harder wishing for all that he was worth, to be back in the crate, back with his dad and the others. Anywhere but where he was.
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Bitter & Sweet (A Carl Grimes Fanfiction)Fanfiction
Being alive. That's all that matters now. Everyone has their own way of doing it, some aren't the best ways. Yes, evil exists, more than ever before. But we can survive this somehow.