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Salty Sea Behind My Eyes

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"You got yourself a boy." Kenny announced, the grin on his face growing even wider as he readjusted the blanket wrapped around the baby in his arms.

Rebecca covered her mouth with one of her hands and let out a teary laugh. "I knew it… That man had a sense about these things."

Bonnie smiled and kneeled down besides Rebecca, placing a gentle hand on her shoulder. "Come on, Rebecca, ya should rest. Lord knows we all could use some…"

With some help from Bonnie, Rebecca ended up with her back propped up against one of the walls of the observation deck and the coat Bonnie, Mike, and Clementine had found in the museum strewn over her shoulders. The others - Mike, Clementine, Luke - settled around her, huddling together for any scraps of warmth. Jane leaned against the wall across from them all, her arms crossed and her eyes gazing out towards the sky.

Kenny looked down at the baby again, as if unable to believe he was holding such a thing. "Kenny-" Rebecca began, holding out her arms as a cue for him to hand over the baby.

He didn't answer, didn't even look up as he held the baby closer to his chest.

Luke glanced at Clementine before clearing his throat. "Kenny." 

Kenny finally looked up, catching sight of everyone's confused gazes and Rebecca's raised arms too late. "Oh," he stuttered, embarrassed. "I-uh-here. Sorry." He handed her the baby, rubbing the back of his neck awkwardly before shoving his hands into his coat pockets.

They all pretended to ignore what just happened and instead focused on Rebecca as she held her son for the first time. The baby gargled and Rebecca cooed, brushing a finger against his cheek. Bonnie rested her arm over Clementine's shoulder and shared a smile with Mike. "At least one good thing came outta all this." Bonnie mused.

They grew silent as they remembered all the losses that had occurred, just over the course of a single day. Bonnie immediately apologized, knowing she had just soured the mood of the entire room. "I'm-I'm sorry, I wasn't thinkin'."

Clementine sighed and shook her head. "It's fine, Bonnie." The woman just lowered her shoulders in further shame, clearly not believing her.

Luke ran a hand through his hair and said, "Maybe now ain't the right time to talk about this."

"Just like how it wasn't the time to be rollin' around with your girlfriend with a baby on the way and walkers all 'round us!" Kenny said, sneering at Luke and Jane. Jane just rolled her eyes and continued to look at the darkening sky, not wanting to get caught up in Kenny's drama.

Luke opened his mouth to retort, looking frustrated and tired of having to explain himself. "You know what, Kenny-"

"No, we should talk about this." Clementine cut in, searching for any excuse to stop this fight from happening. She had had enough arguing for the day, preferably for the rest of her life. But nothing could ever be that easy.

Kenny and Luke stare at her, confused, until Rebecca spoke up. "Clem's right." She coughed and rocked the baby in her arms gently. "We can't just go on and pretend everything is alright."

"That's worked plenty fine for me so far," Jane commented dryly. When the group turned to look at her, she held her hands up in mock-surrender and looked away once more.

"This ain't my place to say," Mike chimed in. "But the last group I was in fell apart because of shit like this."

"What do you mean?" Clementine asked.

"We didn't talk to each other. We went around, tryna survive, but whenever we lost someone, it was like nothin' had happened." He clarified. "It didn't last, and I ended up in the camp of some fuckin' crazy guy after. You all lost three people today. If now ain't the time to talk about it, when will it be?"

They sat in silence, except for Jane, who just crossed her arms back over her chest and muttered something under her breath. Rebecca was the first to speak.

"Sarah was the sweetest girl I'd ever met. We were the only girls in the group for a long time…" She sniffed and didn't bother to wipe at her eyes as they began to tear up. "She was family. They all were."

"Becs…" Luke said, his face sympathetic as he scooted beside her. Clementine realized for the first time that they were the last ones remaining of their old group. Since she had stumbled upon them in that cabin, so many had died: Pete, Alvin, Carlos, Nick, Sarah… Part of her can't help but feel that there's no way it could be a coincidence that they all started dying just as she arrived. More names to add to an already long list. 

"I…I didn't know y'all that well, back at Carver's." Bonnie said shyly, rubbing the underside of her arm. "Well, 'cept for Luke. Nick wasn't the easiest guy to get along with, but once you got to know him, you knew he had a soft heart."

Clementine nodded and smiled bitterly. "That's what Pete said, too." She sighed again and closed her eyes. "I let him down. I promised him… I promised you." She looked at Luke, remembering their conversation back in the forest while they were on the run from Carver.

"I shouldn't'a done that, Clem. I'm sorry." Luke said, wincing as he caught on to what she was talking about. "Nick… Fuck." He cut himself off with a whispered curse, unsure of what to say. Nick had told her that they had been friends for twenty years - she couldn't even imagine losing someone she had known and cared about for so long.

Bonnie spoke again, sparing Luke the trouble of trying to continue. "And Sarah, she was an eager little thing. Always wanted to make friends but could never hold on to 'em for some reason. I dunno why, she was a sweetheart."

Clementine wrapped her arms around her torso tightly, her heart aching in her chest. "I wasn't a good friend to her." She murmured, shutting her eyes.

"Clem, come on. That ain't true." Luke said, his eyes wide.

She shook her head in denial. "Jane knows what I had to do to get her out of that trailer. I didn't even think about how much it probably reminded her of her dad. I don't even know what she thought about me after that. Maybe I should have just…stayed away from her like he wanted me to. Maybe she would have still been here."

Jane met her eyes and didn't say anything, though Clementine knew what she would be saying if they were alone: Some people, you just can't save. But that didn't stop her from trying, from feeling absolutely awful when she failed. Sarah. Sarita. All dead even after she did what she thought was right.

"Shit, you don't think I feel the exact same way, Clem?" Luke replied, running a hand across his face in distress. "I wasn't exactly friend of the year. Not by a damn long shot." He clenched his jaw and looked down into his lap. "I sent Nick out without even thinkin' about it. Some of my last words to Sarah were just…get up. Why the hell aren't ya gettin' up? We're gonna die in here!"

"Come on-" Bonnie started to speak, holding her hands out in an attempt to get them to stop blaming themselves.

The baby began fussing in Rebecca's arms, its cries piercing through their conversation and leaving them quiet.

"You want me to take him?" Kenny asked, already stretching out his arms in her direction.

Rebecca shook her head and shushed her baby, humming a tune Clementine vaguely recognized from - somewhere. Maybe her parents had used it on her when she was little, too.

"Oh," said Kenny, lowering his hands a moment later. Clementine stared at him, a little worried by how attached Kenny already was to this baby, thoughts of Duck swirling through her mind despite herself. Kenny caught her staring and sent her a confused look in return, and she looked away, not wanting to get him angry at her. Again. Kenny had always been scary when he was mad - but he had never been mad at her before. Lilly, always. Lee, sometimes. But never her.

Rebecca coughed again, painful hacks uncontrollably bursting from her throat. Bonnie winced and patted her back in an attempt to force the coughs out completely.

Luke exchanged worried looks with Clementine and then Mike and Kenny. "You okay, Bec?" He asked.

She waved off his concern and, when her coughs finally died down, mumbled her response, "I'm fine, I'm fine. I'm just tired."

"Are you…sure?" Mike asked.

"That's what I said," Rebecca bit out in frustration. Mike nodded but he clearly didn't believe her, just like the rest of them.

"I'll keep a look out." Kenny offered, already heading towards the section of the deck that had not been destroyed. She grimaced upon remembering the girl lost under the rubble - an innocent girl who had never done anyone harm, who had been too young to die, especially in such an awful, awful way.

A friend. Or so Clementine hoped, guilt making her stomach twist and turn. So much for that pinky swear. She can't help but remember when the two of them first met - Clementine had been so desperate for help that she had agreed to become the girl's friend without really thinking about it. She hadn't taken her seriously at all, and part of her had wanted to leave later, to get back on the road to Wellington and find Christa and go back to normal.

But, ironically enough, it was Carlos who had convinced her to take care of Sarah, to teach her how to shoot - though look how useful that turned out to be, she thought bitterly - to help her through the girl's occasional moments of utter, uncontrollable panic.

"I'll take care of her. You can trust me."

And now she was dead, along with her father and the majority of their group. Clementine stared down at her hands and felt more cursed than ever.

"We should all try and get some rest," Luke said, cutting into Clementine's thoughts. He stood up and stretched out his legs, shaking out his shoulders and all thoughts of Nick and Sarah from his mind.

Jane pushed up from off off the wall and rubbed her hands against her pants, looking relieved that all the talk was over. "I'll take watch, too." She walked off towards the other room without another word.

Clementine glanced up at Kenny as he paced along what remained of the deck, his hands still stuffed inside his pockets. She opened her mouth to ask him to come back over here with the rest of them and get some sleep after such a long, stressful day, but she shut it before the words could escape.

After everything with Sarita, he wouldn't be able to bring himself to sleep, no matter how hard he tried. When Katjaa and Duck had…passed, he had been like a walker, a very loud and pissed off one, but lifeless in the way he looked and spoke. Sarita had told her once that when she and Kenny were still mostly strangers to each other, he had only been able to catch some sleep by drinking until he eventually passed out. It had been a hard habit for him to kick, but with Sarita there to help him, he had found the courage to put down the bottle and live again.

But now, Sarita wasn't there.

"Here, Bonnie," Mike said, patting the space beside him. "You can lay down here."

Bonnie grinned and laid down, propping herself up on her elbows. "Wanna cuddle, mister?"

Clementine raised her eyebrows in amusement as Mike ducked his head and his ears grew red. "First the raccoon thing, now this. I need some sleep." Mike grumbled before turning his back on her and shutting his eyes.

"Tell me 'bout it, grumpy pants." Bonnie teased before turning to face Clementine. "You alright, Clem? You really shouldn't go blamin' yourself for things you can't control." She said, concerned.

Clementine blinked and raised her eyebrows even higher. "You blame yourself all the time."

"Well, that's different. I chose to tell Carver where y'all were at. I thought I could help, but…that ain't how it turned out. I wasn't helpin' anybody. But you did all the good you could do-"

"-and that was all anyone could do in that situation." Clementine recited Jane's words from earlier, the words sounding hollow to even her own ears.

Bonnie frowned. "It's hard losin' friends. I've lost a few myself and…it's even harder when you feel you're to blame."

She didn't respond and instead scooted a bit further away, curling up on the wooden floor by herself. Bonnie sighed and turned on her side so was back-to-back with Mike, whispering a good night before shutting her eyes. Clementine tucked her hands under her head and stared at Rebecca as she cradled her newborn against her chest. The woman was growing paler and paler, her hands beginning to tremble from the cold winter chill.

It suddenly occurred to her that it was probably around Christmas time. The ski lodge had been decorated with Christmas trees and lights, but she and the most of the others hadn't really been focused on the holiday, too preoccupied with the looming threat of Carver. And then there was the whole mess with Nick killing Matthew and having to defend him from Walter… There had been no time to really celebrate what used to be her favorite time of the year.

Sarah, however, had been so overjoyed to see the tree, evidence that the world wasn't over just yet. She and Sarita had decorated its branches with beautiful ornaments, singing and chatting all the way. Putting the tree topper on top - an angel, just as Sarah had wanted - had filled Clementine with a sense of warmth and safety she hadn't felt in years…

And then Carver had stormed in and ruined everything, leaving the tree she and Sarah and Sarita had worked on dark and the ski lodge abandoned, aside from Walter's corpse.

Escaping from Carver's place was supposed to be the first step in the right direction. And maybe, in the long run, it was: Rebecca had survived the birth and they had a new addition their group, a really cute one, too. But their losses far outnumbered their gains, and Clementine knew in her gut that something even worse was going to happen soon, just as she knew the sun would rise tomorrow.

Nowadays, there were no Christmas miracles.