The Cost Of War
Forty-eight hours after Siddiq administered the first round of medication, Carl Grimes was back on his feet and deemed healthy by both Siddiq and Doctor Dana.
During his brief period of recovery, Rick and Enid never left his bed side and members of "team family" had been constant visitors.
But now that he was healed, they'd all gone back to hunting Negan and preparing for battle.
It's like everything he'd said, everything he had told his dad, Michonne and the others about the future he saw, about peace. It's like it went in one ear and right out of the other.
His Dad and Maggie had both told him that in order to get to that wonderful future he had told them about, they first needed to kill Negan and win the war.
Carl thought that was a load of crap. They could put away their guns and try to reason with Negan and the Saviours, but members of their family had been killed by the saviours and people like Tara, Daryl, Maggie and his father were out for vengeance.
Enid's perspective was similar to his and he grateful for that, like him she wanted this war over with as quick as possible, and she wanted it done with as little blood shed as possible. He was thankful that she shared his views.
Besides Enid the only other person who seemed to completely understand his words was Michonne, he was grateful that both his girlfriend and his best friend understood his words, he just wished the rest of the group would understand.
Spending times with Judith wasn't something Carl ever took for granted, especially after nearly dying from a walker bite.
Currently Carl was reading a book to Judith, who babbled to him as her little fingers pointed at things on the page. It was a really precious moment and after everything that happened in the last few days, Carl was savouring every minute of it.
It was just him and Judith at the moment. His father along with Daryl, Tara, Morgan and several others were out scouting for Negan. Carol and Ezekiel were organizing the defenses at Hilltop.
Rosita had discovered a mystery letter that had been left just outside the gates, offering a "key" to the future.
Michonne, Maggie, Rosita and Enid had gone off in search of the author of said letter. He hoped that whatever the "key" was, it could help bring this war to an end.
Carl had just put Judith down for a nap when Michonne found him, "Hey I've been looking for you."
"I was putting Judy down for a nap. How'd it go? Did you find anything?"
She nodded, "We did."
"…And her name is Georgie, she and two other women are part of a community that trades knowledge in exchange for records."
"Like musical records?" Carl asked.
Michonne nodded, "Yes, they've offered us a deal, in exchange for some of our records they will trade us what Georgie says is "A key to the future."
A hopeful look appeared on Carl's face, maybe this "key" could help them to create the future he saw, "Well that's great."
He noticed the look on Michonne's face, "Something's wrong isn't it?"
She nodded and sighed, "When we searched their van, we found they had a large quantity of food…we're very low on food Carl. Maggie plans to take their food and send them on the way. She thinks the deal is a waste of time and resources."
Carl's face flushed with anger and before Michonne could say anything, Carl was storming off to the office.
"I nearly die and they still don't listen…they still don't get it." Carl muttered under his breath.
Maggie was looking out the window, watching Georgie and her travelling companions with a close eye, she didn't trust them and right now she didn't have time to waste.
The doors burst open and Carl stormed in, Michonne behind him with a somewhat apologetic look on her face.
"Are you out of your mind?" Carl demanded.
Maggie raised an eyebrow at him.
"Did you don't hear a word that I said, we have to start looking at the future beyond this war. This deal… this could help us to do that."
Maggie placed her hands on the desk, leaned forward and gave Carl a hard stare, "Carl we are low on food, and we need what they have in their van. We aren't going to harm them, we'll take their food and send them on their way."
"But it's not ours to take."
"Maggie's right, we should take their food and send them away." Enid said as she joined them in the office.
Carl looked at her with questionable look, did she too not understand what was wrong, and did she actually not get what he had been saying?
Enid noticed the look, "Look they're strangers and they have no right to be out there doing what they've been doing. We need this food, if we don't take it someone else will. Right now the saviours are on their way and people are going to die. So why should we give a shit about strangers? They're dangerous."
"I rescued Siddiq and now we have a doctor and a friend." Carl argued.
Enid stepped closer to him and he saw the emotion on her face and the tears in her eyes, "And you almost died." She turned and stormed off, ignoring Carl calling after her.
"Enid wait." He called running after her.
Michonne and Maggie watched the pair leave. Michonne turned and looked at Maggie.
"I know you want to do what's best for all of us and you have Maggie, but right now this deal it might be what's best for us…it might be what we need to keep going after this."
Maggie pondered her friend's words, she knew she was right. The least she could do was talk to Georgie, maybe she could alter the terms of the deal. Maybe she could please everyone.
Carl found Enid standing out on part of the wall. He started climbing the ladder and she turned at the noise, but didn't say anything when he came to stand beside her.
They stood in silence for minutes, both of them staring out at the horizon.
Finally Carl spoke, "I'm sorry," he whispered and she look at him, confusion on her face, "I'm sorry I got bit…I'm sorry I almost died...I'm sorry that I-"
Enid pushed her lips against his, effectively silencing him as his lips opened, allowing her tongue to enter his mouth and collide with hers.
The taste of his lips, a combination of pine and spearmint was intoxicating. At the same time he found the taste of her lips, a mixture of cinnamon and earth as equally intoxicating.
They stayed lipped locked for nearly a minute before lack of oxygen forced them to pull away.
"You survived and that's all that matters," Enid whispered as she rested her forehead against his.
"Then what's going on Enid? Somethings going on in that crazy, beautiful mind of yours," his voice was filled with affection and concern.
She sighed and look at him with her pale blue eyes, "I had to kill Natania…she had a gun to Aarons head, she was just out there trying to kill anybody she came across and we came across her and… I shot her."
Carl placed a hand on her shoulder and she turned to face him, a conflicted look on her face, "I don't get it, you save someone and nearly die and I shoot someone and walk away perfectly fine. Carl how are we supposed to do this? How are we just supposed to just stop fighting?"
"Enid I'm not saying we stop fighting right now, in fact I think we need to fight a little while longer," He inhaled deeply, "What I'm saying is that we need to be thinking about what happens after, we need to be thinking about the future and how we are going to get there…There has to be more to building a future that just fighting and killing. There's a big difference between fighting for what comes after and fighting for vengeance. That's what Maggie and my dad are fighting for, vengeance…despite what they say, all they're focused on is killing Negan and the Saviours."
Enid slowly nodded as she absorbed what Carl was saying, "What about killing to protect the ones you love?" she asked in a soft voice, "Because I killed to protect Aaron, I'd kill to protect Maggie and I-I'd…kill to protect you," she looked at him intently, "I love you Carl, I really do and I want you to know in case-"
It's his turn to cut her off with a kiss.
When they pulled away, Carl was beaming at her with an adoring look on his face, "I love you too Enid and nothing is going to happen okay? I'm alive and you're alive and that's all that matters."
Enid let out a laugh with a sobbing tinge and wrapped her arms around Carl, "The Saviours are coming," she whispered.
"And we're going to fight them and win and then you and I can finally go on a date and then we'll…start making a future for everyone and for us."
She smiled, "Yeah we will and it'll be good," her voice is soft and Carl smiled before pulling her into another hug.
As he holds Enid tight and nuzzled his face in her hair, he see's something that gives him hope for the future. Maggie is talking with Georgie and based on their body language and the fact that Georgie has just handed Maggie something, Carl guessed that the conversation was a good one.
Maybe Maggie was starting to come around.
It turned out that the book Georgie gave Maggie was a compilation of photocopies schematics of several different designs, very detailed designs for various structures. Watermills, windmills, silos, aqueducts and various other useful structures. Other pages held very detailed step by step instructions for refining grain, creating lumber, creating medicine from simple herbs and plants and instructions for many other processes.
When Carl first saw the book, his face lit up like a young child on Christmas morning.
These plans are exactly what they need. It a step towards getting to the future Carl saw. Friday night pizza and birthdays and school, these plans could help them get back to that. The communities could use these plans to rebuild and make themselves more self-sufficient, they could make Alexandria and Hilltop and The Kingdom into the future.
Part of Carl believed that maybe if he could show these plans to his dad, he could get his father to agree to peace, maybe he could show them to Negan and the Saviours and convince them to stop fighting, maybe together all four communities could build something real, they could build the new world.
Carl wished he could have met this Georgie so he could thank her for giving this to them. She had indeed given them a key to the future.
Carl and Enid stayed up into the early morning hours, side by side on the couch in Maggie's office going over the plans. Enid using her notebook copy certain things and to note her and Carl's own ideas.
"This could work, if we have each community build different buildings then we could trade between the communities," Carl said.
"Exactly and then in future generations those communities will be able to rely on the trade agreements to prevent a breakdown," Enid added as she jotted down notes in tiny scroll, "There's even a design in here about a fishing boat, we could us this, we could create team to travel by sea to collect fish and other resources," she said and Carl smiled when he heard the excitement in her voice.
"I think we're one step closer to putting this war behind us," Carl said, his eyes started drooped from exhaustion.
At the same time Enid was interrupted mid nod by a loud yawn.
"Tired?" Carl asked and she nodded.
He reached behind him and pulled a wool blanket down from the top of the couch. He unfolded it and spread it out over them.
Enid let out a sigh of content as she nestled her head into the crook of Carl's neck and slowly the two teen's drifted off to sleep. All the while dreaming of pizza Fridays, birthday parties, long walks and even school and homework. They dreamed of the future.
It was the following evening when the noise that everyone dreaded was finally heard.
It had started as the sound of several different car horns going off and had culminated in the sound of an air horn, like the one Shane had given Carl on his eighth birthday, much to Rick and Lori's annoyance.
Carl was in the middle of playing a game of 'stack and knock down' with Judith. Basically he would build up the tower and the three year old would knock them down and they cycle would repeat itself until Judith got bored and moved onto something else.
Enid had been sitting of the floor beside them, feeding Gracie a bottle when the loud noise startled all of them, Gracie started to cry and Judith covered her ears, clearly not enjoying the loud noise.
Leaving the girls with Barbara, Carl and Enid ran outside.
Maggie and Ezekiel were yelling out orders. Miltia member were running around. Carl noticed how small their numbers were.
Over a week ago, their numbers had been at one hundred fifty, but now they were down to just sixty five, and the rest of the people at hilltop were either injured or too young or old to fight. A week ago the communities had a combined population of two hundred and now they were down to ninety. The cost of war had taken its toll and Carl knew it had to stop.
He and Enid watched as their friends and family prepared for the pending incursion.
Jerry, Eduardo, Wesley, Kal and Tobin were reinforcing the top of the wall. Bertie and Crystal were handing out weapons to every able-bodied member of the militia. Pretty soon every assault rifle, carbine, smg and shotgun had been distributed.
Carl watched as Michonne and Rosita pushed barricades into place throughout the interior on the colony. Tara and Carol were herding some of the elderly and injured into the house.
"Enid, Carl," Maggie called as she walked over to the two teens, carrying a M4 in one hand and a Norinco 56-S1 in the other.
When she got to the two teens her eyes focused on the pair, "We need more shooters up on the wall tonight, with you dad and Jesus out with some of the others, we have barely fifty people out here," she turned and looked at Carl, "Carl can you show Enid how to handle one of these before the battle tonight?"
Carl looked up at her, "I can't Maggie."
She gave him a stern look, raising one eyebrow, "You can't or you won't?" She asked.
"Look I'm not going to be fighting tonight-," Carl explained.
"And neither am I," Enid added, giving Maggie a somewhat apologetic look.
"I see," Maggie said.
"Look I'm not saying we won't help defend this place," Carl elaborated, "We'll keep our side arms and guard the door…that way if something goes wrong, we can be the last line of defense for Judith, Gracie and the others."
"We'll fight if it comes to it, but neither of us can fight out here tonight," Enid added.
Maggie nodded, her lips pursed, "Well I guess that's better than nothing," she said and walked off.
Once she was out of hearing distance, Carl turned towards Enid, "You know if you want to be out there tonight, you can…don't let me stopped you."
Enid shook her head and took his hand in hers, "That's not it…I can't kill another person right now…it just…doesn't feel right…I think about her." she said in a low and sad voice.
Carl traced circles with his thumb along the top of her soft hand, "I get in…I think about them too," He said.
She leaned her head on his shoulder and together they watched as the people around them prepared for a battle, a battle that neither of them agreed with and a battle that neither of them would fight in.
"I want to fight, you two need to let me have a gun so I can fight them tonight," Henry said to Carl and Enid for the seventh time tonight.
The sun was beginning to set and everyone was outside, leaving Carl and Enid inside with the children, injured and elderly. Henry had been bugging them for the last hour, asking for a gun and demanding that they let him go outside.
"Henry," Enid said sternly, "You are not having a gun and you are definitely not going out there right now, you're two young."
"You guys are only four years older than me," Henry argued, giving the teens a dirty look.
"Yes and we also have a lot more experience, than you," Carl said.
"But I need to fight they killed my family and I need to avenge them…I need to avenge by brother."
Carl placed a hand on Henry's shoulder, "Negan's people killed a lot of my friends, people who were like family to me and for the longest time I wanted revenge, I wanted to kill him," he stared at Henry as he spoke, "But I realized that focusing on killing him was making us just as bad as he was."
"You're stupid, he deserves to die."
"Henry, revenge is going to get us nowhere," Enid said, backing Carl up, "We need to focus on the future, we need to focus on what comes after this war, that's what's going to separate use from the Saviours, because we are working towards a better picture."
Carl was extremely proud of his girlfriend and smiled at her. She blushed a bit and shrugged.
Henry rolled his eyes and wandered away, sulking and mumbling.
It was around midnight that the Saviours arrived and it was about two minutes past that all hell broke loose.
Carl and Enid watched the scene unfold from the office.
First Daryl drove through the gate of his bike, the machine gun attached to the handle bars still smoking at the barrel. Then Bruce drove the bus forward. The reinforced left side connected with the Saviours lead vehicle, forcing the whole convoy to a halt.
"Now," they could hear Maggie scream from above and gunfire erupted outside.
Tobin, Jerry, Eduardo, Kal, Crystal, Dani and Wesley were among the militia who opened fire from atop the wall.
On the ground, Michonne, Carol, Ezekiel, Daryl, Rosita, Tara, Bruce and Jake fired at the saviours from various positions on the ground.
Carl and Enid watched anxiously as their friends fought head to head with the enemy. The tensions was so thick that a pair of safety scissors could have cut through it.
It was about five minutes into the firefight when the arrows came.
"Why are they using arrows?" Enid asked.
Carl shrugged, "I don't know, I guess they're low on ammo."
They watched as the combat started to become hand to hand. They saw Bruce get slashed in the arm with a knife and a saviors arrow grazed Wesley's side.
"Shit," Enid whispered, "Look," she pointed outside and together they watched in horror as the saviour named Dwight, who claimed to be on their side fired an arrow into Tara's back.
"Come on," Enid said and before Carl knew it she was out of the door and running towards Tara.
"Dammit Enid, Wait up," Carl called as he took off after her, withdrawing his Beretta 92 as he did.
Avoiding the odd arrow or bullet, Carl followed Enid towards the wounded Tara. While Enid bent down to help Tara up, Carl scanned the area for Saviours.
Just as Enid started to turn, supporting Tara with one arm, a saviour stepped out from behind a vehicle and raised his rifle at them.
Carl didn't even hesitate. He fired a shot at the saviour but he purposely missed any vital organs and instead fired at the Saviours shoulder.
The man let out a yelp of pain and fell to the ground. Carl looked to his left and saw the look on Enid's face, a mix of pride and shocked on her face. She nodded at him and he nodded back before covering Enid and Tara as the trio retreated into the house.
The next several minutes were a blur. While Enid attended to Tara, Carl joined Michonne, Rosita, Maggie, Ezekiel, Carol and Daryl along with several other at the windows of Barrington House.
When Maggie gave the signal, Carl flicked on the lights and outside the saviours led by Simon were temporally blinded by the powerful lights. At that moment the militia opened fire, gunning several Saviours down while the rest scrambled in retreat.
Soon Rick arrived with his group and before long, Maggie and Rick were firing at the retreating Saviours as they sped away in full retreat.
From inside the house, Carl sighed in relief, the battle was over, however he also knew that the war was far from over.
The whole point of tonight's attack had been to kill Negan, but the man had never shown up and Carl suspected that his father must have had something to do with Negan's lack of appearance.
It wasn't until the following night that everyone including Carl would learn just how costly the battle had been.
Carl watched his sister sleep in the playpen which was kept in one of the rooms at Barrington House. Tara was asleep in the bed and Enid was curled up next to him, her head rested on his shoulder and she slept peacefully, her soft breathing was soothing and he gently kissed the top of her head.
His girlfriend hadn't slept much since he nearly died and Carl was glad that she was finally getting some sleep. He wanted to sleep as well but something was bothering him. He had this feeling in the pit of his stomach. He had this feeling that something horrible was about to happen.
All day he had been thinking about the weapons the saviours had used last night. Sure they had injured a few and killed two, but they hadn't really a massive amount of damage. It didn't make any sense. Why had they switched from guns to medieval type weapons? If anything it had put them at a major disadvantage. There had to have been a reason for it. Carl didn't know what the reason was but he knew it must have been a sinister one.
At that moment a blood curdling scream erupted throughput the house, waking the girls from sleep.
"What was that?" Enid asked, she was suddenly wide awake, her eyes scanned the room and her right hand went to her holster.
"I don't know," Carl said. He rose from the seat on the window and went for the door only for it to be opened.
Rosita poked her head in, "Carl stay here"
"Rosita what's going on?" Tara asked, her voice was tired and she let out a moan of pain.
"There's walkers in the house," she gave Carl and Enid a stern look, "Keep this door locked and don't open it unless it's one of us."
They nodded and watched as the door closed. Carl quickly locked it.
He turned and found a slight smile forming on his lips as he watched Enid sooth a crying Judith. He knew that if something ever happened to him, Enid would keep his sister safe.
"I told you guys that we had to stop fighting and beside Michonne and Enid, you all chose to ignore what I said and now looked, we have twenty one people dead, eleven dead because three of our own turned and killed their own people," Carl's voice was raised and he looked around at the ten people gathered In the office with him, "The saviors turned our own people against and not only did we used up most of our ammunition, but we lost twenty one members of the militia."
"We know that, you don't need to give us a play by play of what happened," Carol said.
"Well clearly I do because none of you seem to recognize what happened here and how it could have been avoided."
"They fooled us, but we killed at least fifty of 'em," Daryl said, a toothpick between his teeth.
"Yes but at what cost?" Enid asked as she stepped up beside Carl, "Tobin, Bruce, Wesley, Dr. Dana and so many others are dead."
"It's the cost of war," Maggie said calmly.
Carl's face turned as red as a tomato, "Are you kidding me Maggie? That's all you have to say?" His voice was full of disbelief, he couldn't believe how come she was. Didn't she care about what just happened?"
"What do you want to say Carl?" I can't bring them back," Maggie snapped.
"This was your plan, and they followed you, you led them to their death." Carl shot back.
"Carl enough," Rick said.
Carl glared at his father, "No dad, it was her plan and everything that happened is on her, it her bill to pay."
"I thought Negan would be here, I thought we could end it…I thought I could kill him," Maggie's voice was laced with guilt.
"Killing him won't bring Glenn back," Carl said and the room went silent, "It won't and you know it and if Glenn was here I can guarantee you he wouldn't have gone along with your plan, it was risky and it did more harm than good."
"Negan needs to pay for what happened," Maggie growled.
"Why so you can feel better, so you can move on with it. You've changed and not in a good way," Carl said.
"Carl-," Enid tried to stop him but he ignored her.
"You are acting like a vengeful widow," Carl said, "If Glenn was still here I guarantee you he would listen to what I've been saying, and he'd see it to. You think Glenn would have been proud of this, of what we've been doing," he looked directly at Maggie, "He'd be really freaking disappointed in us, he'd be ashamed and for the record so would Hershel, Beth, Dale, Andrea, Tyreese, Bob, Noah, Sasha and Abraham. We've become no better than the Saviours, we're fighting for vengeance and for power, not for the future and not for humanity and until you all get that through your heads, there is no hope for us."
He turned and started to walk away.
"Carl-" Maggie started but he ignored her. He just stormed out of the office and a few second later the front door slammed shut.
"You didn't come in last night," Enid said as she came to stand beside Carl, who was sticking crosses in the ground in front of the spots were the causalities were buried. On each one, he wrote the name on black sharpie and then wrote "The Cost Of War," under the name,
"No I didn't," he said, keeping his attention on the graves until they were all finished. He stood up, "So what did I miss last night?"
Enid chuckled, "After your rant, it was mostly you dad, Ezekiel and Maggie making plans. I think your words got through to some of them…but I think you're right. Maggie is on a path of vengeance and I don't know how to help her."
"I'm feeling the same way about my dad," Carl sighed, "I want this war over with so we can start building, start planning the future," he laced his fingers through hers, "Start focusing on us."
Enid blushed, "I never thought I would fall in love with a cowboy," she smiled at him adorably, "But I'm really glad I did."
"I'm glad I fell in love with a girl who enjoys turtles for a snack," Carl teased.
Enid smiled and slowly embraced him. One of his hands rested on the small of her back.
"Why did you write that on all of the graves?" she asked him.
He sighed, "So if future generation ever find themselves in a conflict, they'll have a reminder of what the cost of war is."