December 26th, 2017

She sighs at the grim sky, almost, a reflection of her mood. Of what she's got to-do today, getting her daughter to spend time with her family. The one that will look after her, when she's gone. She feels incredibly selfish, she is incredibly selfish, but she doesn't know what to-do. She's too proud to ask for help, even if it would save her life. But she knows that Thea will be okay, she has family that love her. Scrap that, they adore her. Not that she's surprised, she is a "cracking" kid, a firework. If she did die, she is the best thing she's ever done.

She's tried to protect her; she's managed to schedule her appointments around her schooling, so she is blissfully unaware that she was sick.

She'd upset her when she got with Nick, they'd met in Devon, but it hadn't worked out. She'd sold a share of her business to the Connors, word got out, even from hundreds of miles away, and Rob decided to blow her life apart, just once more.

But she'd rebuilt it, with Johnny, Aidan, Kate and Jenny. Undeniably it had been a struggle, but, they'd become, somewhat, part of a family. Something she never thought she'd have, a dad that actually liked her, a brother and sister that wasn't out to get her. Most importantly, however, she had a three-year-old. Her daughter, the one that she would leave when she died. And that hurt, all she wanted to-do was make some happy memories with her before she died.

She thought about appealing to her family, but she didn't want it not to work, or get her hopes up and then die. She wanted to give Thea some happy memories, pictures she can look back on and think well my mum, may have, died, but I have a few memories of us. She knew Chelle would tell her about her mum and how much she loved her. She'd rather that than her memories to be tainted with hospital visits. Roy had appealed to her, but she was adamant. She believed that it would be unlikely that they'd be matches, they were all half-siblings. It's not like Rob would be tested, either. He hated her guts, he'd do everything to make sure that she didn't have her transplant, the one she desperately needed.

Maybe that's why she brought into underworld, so her daughter would have something. Or something besides the private schooling, she'd tied up funds for her to start school, enough to make sure she'd get through it okay. That way, none of her family would need to worry about that. She'd have paid for her. Maybe it was selfish, that she hadn't warned her family that they may have custody of a small child. She was still hoping that there would be a mysterious donor, a transplant from a dead person.

She'd be lying if she said she didn't think it was slightly weird having a dead person's kidney in her, but still, she'd get over it. She muses, helping her child out of the car, making her way down the all too familiar street.

'Hi.' A voice suddenly stops her, as she grips her daughters' hand, panicking about what to say. She should have been prepared for this, she knew she didn't have a choice, if she came back. She would see him; she would see them. It would be inevitable, she'd already seen Tracy, but it was like two ships at night, she'd been carrying the sleeping child to the car, she'd seen her briefly, not exchanging pleasantries.

This is the last thing she wanted, but she needed to know, if she was going to die, that her daughter was being looked after. She wanted everyone to know that she wanted her family to look after the child, if it happened, because she trusted them. But her conscience got the better of her, maybe she should know Peter, she hadn't made up her mind, not just yet. She trusted them to give her a better life than her ex-husband. And that's what the child deserved. 'Carla? So, Tracy was right?'

'Hi Si.' She eventually gets out, feeling the child stare at her, clearly wondering who this person is, 'how are you?'

'Okay.' He tells her, studying the little girl by her side. She was different in real life, smaller than he expected. One might call her tiny or dainty. He wasn't sure what he was expecting, Carla had made it crystal clear that she wanted nothing to-do with the Barlow's, but suddenly she was here. Carla was here with the little sister he knew nothing about, other than a few tatty pictures Peter had shown him. He'd sworn that he was fine, her being away from him, but he knew he kept the picture of her as a baby in his wallet, behind his picture. He was also sure that Toyah didn't know about that, almost like the child was a taboo subject. The child he had no contact with, much like him at that age. Except, she wasn't in Australia like he was, she was in the same country. But he'd messed up again, big time. He swore that it was third time lucky. He'd be a brilliant dad to this new baby; he would be there. Toyah brought all this, but his son wasn't so hopeful. Two "fowls" weren't the most reassuring actions of a good father. Granted, he only had custody of him because his mum had died, not because he wanted him. Not really. And because of that, he had respected Carla's decision not to pester Peter about meeting his little sister.

Then, she appeared out of thin air. The child was suddenly here suddenly real. She wasn't just a face in a photograph, he was looking at her. And she was smiling back at him.

She was, mostly, Carla but there was somethings of his, their, dad. He just wasn't expecting it, gathering his thoughts, he managed to stutter 'who is this?'

'Thea.' The little girl tells him, smiling, he can see Carla written all over her face. 'I'm three.' She proudly tells her brother, his identity unbeknownst to her, he presumes, 'this is my mummy.'

'You're three? Wow, such a big girl. And who is this?' He tries, motioning to the stuffed animal clutched to her chest, trying to make conversation, basing it off what he'd say to Oliver, although she is significantly older. It's much of the same thing, right?

'Bunny.' She tells him, kissing its head.

'Does dad-' She shakes her head; he gets the hint that she doesn't want him to finish the sentence. He doesn't blame her, but he's got to know at some point, but it wasn't his place to make that decision.

'No. I'm only here to see my family, at the moment. But I will tell him though.' She promises, as the door opens, a familiar face appearing as the child runs up to the man. He can't help but feel a pang of jealousy, he's her brother, all little sister idolise their big brothers, right? Except he wasn't, not really. Biologically, yes, but nothing else. And that was his dad's fault. It had never bothered him before, but suddenly it hit him like a ton of bricks. Her being here, it made her real. 'Please don't say anything, it should come from me. I'll tell him in my own time.'

'Of course, I won't. Tracy said she saw you, but we all just thought she was drunk.'

'Thank you, hi Aidan.'

'Bye, bye Thea.' He smiles, walking off, as the pair are welcomed by Aidan, pulling his big sister closer, with the child squished in the middle.

'Hello again, my little troublemaker.' Carla laughs, kissing her brother's cheek. 'I don't get why you didn't just sleep here? There is plenty of room.'

'We had stuff at the hotel. She wouldn't have slept without her rabbit.'

'Look, come and stay here for a bit longer. There is plenty of room, we can go to the hotel, dad and Kate can look after Thea. C'mon, we want to spend time with the pair of you. We miss you so much.'

'Me or her?' She teases, 'I had a nightmare getting her to bed last night, don't think I don't notice the way you feed her treats, even when I say no. I'm not stupid.'

'She's just so cute. Anyway, please think about it. There's room here.'

'I'm not sure.' She looks at the child, 'why don't you go and play with your new toy, the one we left here last night.' The child nods, wandering off, apprehensively following the voice coming from the kitchen.

'I've yet to see Peter.' She confesses, taking her coat off, 'I am dreading it.'

'I saw you talking to Simon.'

'I bumped into him, he promised not to say anything to her, but I always knew they'd have to meet her at some point, she is one of them. No matter how much I want to deny it. She is a Barlow, too.' She whispers the word Barlow, like it's a big deal. Although it is, it has the potential to rip her daughter's world apart, but she didn't have a lot of choice. All her family lived her, if she died, she couldn't leave her daughter down South.

'Why are you here?'

'Don't you love me, my little brother?'

'You know I do. You wouldn't come here, if you didn't have an agenda.'

'You called me. I came up to spread a bit of Christmas cheer.'

'Yes, but you wouldn't have come all the way up. Facetime would have been fine; I know you have commitments.' She worries that she hasn't kept a poker face, that something is wrong, that he knows something. But he doesn't, she knows he doesn't. She could make up some excuse, telling him that, but it could cause huge ructions. In an ideal world, she wanted Aidan to have her, but that was a big ask. Failing that, she wanted Chelle. She knew she'd do it without a second thought, the only one she was apprehensive about was her dad. He was ill and they were moving to Spain. As cool as it would be to live in a Spanish villa, she wondered how suitable it would be for a child to grow up there.

'I'll speak to you all tonight. It's complicated.' She promises, not quite sure what she's going to tell her brother, to throw him off her scent, tiredness maybe? Being a single mum is hard, maybe she could say she wanted some free babysitting? It might work. 'but let's spend the day together, doing something fun.' Aiden just rolls his eyes. 'Now, where is my little sister? Kate?'

In 'ere.' As she makes her way to the kitchen, she hears laughing. 'Why'd you not stay last night?'

'What are you two laughing at?' She ignores the comment, wondering how long she can avoid giving another answer. She didn't want to stay because it gave her an excuse of not drinking. Oh, how times had changed. She'd have always been the first one to have a drink in her hand. Then Athena happened. Then her kidneys decided to pack up.

'Aun'ie Kate is silly.' Carla just smiles. 'She said we can make a cake. A chocolate one. Special recipe.'

'Did she?'

'Yeah.'

'Have you ever cooked with a small child?'

'No.'

'Well that's my cue to go, I'll leave you to it, I'm sure you'll have, so much, fun. I've got things to-do. Give mummy a kiss.' She tells the child, bending down and giving her a kiss. 'Love you. Be good. And don't make too much mess, this is grandad Johnny's house and he's old. He'll get grumpy if you make too much of a mess.'

'Love you to mumma.' She didn't think those words ever make her feel anything, but every time her daughter tells her, it makes her heart swell. Maybe it was the way she said them so innocently, or maybe it's because she knew she loved her unconditionally, the first time anyone had. Or at least did, properly.

'I'll have my phone on, call me with any problems. She's not allergic to anything and please don't give her too much sugar. I have to get her to bed tonight. I know it's the morning, but you've never had to look after a hyperactive small child, and I don't have the energy.'

'Will do. We'll have fun. Dad's just popped out, but he's be back. You are coming back this morning?'

'Yeah, I have a few things to-do, then I'm all yours. See you.'

A/N Thoughts?

So, I want to clear a few things up, Carla didn't miscarry in June 2014 and she had the baby, but she moved down to Devon after Robs confession, so Peter got released but she'd gone before he was let out, so, he's never seen her.

Carla and Nick happened whilst she was in Devon, but Rob still uncovered the truth about her paternity and blackmailed her and Johnny. This led to them splitting up and Nick moving away. Also, if you didn't know, Simon lived in Australia with his mum, Lucy, until she died of breast cancer. They'd moved there because Peter had been cheating on her, but as she was dying, she said she wanted Simon to live with Peter.

Anyway- let me know what you think of it, it's pretty different to frozen in time, but I hope you enjoy it.