Pairing: Carol & Daryl
Spoilers: Anything up to Judge, Jury, Executioner
Summary: His hard exterior kept everyone at a distance for the most part. No one bothered to get close enough to look passed the explosive anger he often wore in his eyes as a shield to keep anyone that dared take a second glance from taking a third.
A/N: This is my first attempt at a multi-chaptered The Walking Dead fanfiction. Please be gentle.
Carol lay with her back to her tent door. She couldn’t close her eyes for fear of what she would see. Every time she closed her eyes, she saw Daryl's bloodied knuckles. And how he had avoided her eyes after she asked what he had done.
He had done what he had to do for the good of the group. She knew that, but it made her ache inside that he'd had to do it in the first place. That he'd been asked to do it because of his past behavior. He wasn't that man anymore. Why couldn’t they all see it?
When they'd first met in camp, she thought he was like Ed. He had a temper, but he only used violence when his back was to the wall. Ed used it whenever he needed to feel big, whenever she needed put in her place. And that was often enough that she tried to avoid it best she could.
She sat up quickly, shaking her head. No. No. No. Daryl wasn't anything like Ed. She had stared into his eyes enough the last few weeks to know that there was so much more just beneath his surface.
Daryl's eyes told the story of a life of violence. As well as the scars on his back. The scars he hadn't wanted her to see as he pulled the sheet up to cover himself that night after he'd been out looking for Sophia and took an arrow to the side and Andrea's shot grazed his temple.
He'd flinched when she'd gone to kiss him that night. He flinched anytime they'd touched; whether it was planned or accidental. She knew that fear. She understood it. She watched him as he avoided human contact as much as possible in their camp. Touching was almost impossible, but yet, he made it look easy. His hard exterior kept everyone at a distance for the most part. No one bothered to get close enough to look passed the explosive anger he often wore in his eyes as a shield to keep anyone that dared take a second glance from taking a third.
That day that everything went down at the barn was the exception. When Sophia emerged from the barn and began to stumble blindly toward what she knew to be food, his arm had gone out to catch her. His weapon had been forgotten in the Georgia dust as he clung to her. As he protected her in the only way he could.
She remembered how strong his arms were as he held her against his chest. He was the only one to even try. She hadn't forgot that. She never would. So long as she lived, she never, never would.
She turned onto her back to stare at the tent roof. The look in his eyes swam in front of her eyes before shifting to his knuckles. His bloodied and cut up knuckles.
She felt the bile rise up in her throat. She pushed herself over onto her side then onto all fours. She then pushed herself up and undid the tent zipper hurriedly. She felt the cold night air biting at her face as she moved blindly to the edge of the camp with no thought of running into a Walker.
She hit her knees as she dry heaved into the long-stemmed grass and underbrush. She barely heard the approaching footsteps. She put her hand up, not even knowing which of them that it was. “I’m okay,” she reassured them, glancing over as the figure crouched down. She’d recognize his boots anywhere. Her face flushed, and she kept her eyes lowered. She was humiliated that he’d seen her this way.
“Here.” He held out a handkerchief for her to wipe her mouth with. When she took it, he touched her forehead hesitantly. “No fever.”
She wiped her mouth and whispered, “No. I was just thinking…” She tried to get a good look at his knuckles as she took the handkerchief from him, but it was just too dark out. She shrugged and spoke with more certainty that she felt, “I’m fine. I swear.”
“Can you walk?” he asked gruffly, pulling at her elbow as he helped her stand. His grip was rougher than he intended.
She pulled away once she was steady on her feet. She looked down. She was in her sock feet. She’d forgotten her shoes in her haste to get somewhere to throw-up without it being inside her tent or right outside it. “Yeah…” Her teeth chattered.
“Get your ass back inside before you catch your death, woman.” He started making his way to his own camp. He could see from here that his fire was dying.
She rushed after him. “Hey, Daryl. Please wait…” Her feet were being tugged and torn through her socks from the rocks and brush as she waded through it to get to him.
He turned, snorting, “Woman, don’t you need to be getting your beauty rest?”
She laughed then. Not a long laugh or a full-bellied laugh, but a relaxed laugh. “I’d have to sleep for an eternity for that.”
He frowned, fidgeting on his feet. “Look. I’m ‘bout to turn in and get some shut eye. Fuck, woman. It’s not safe out here at night. Haven’t you learned anything yet?” He hitched his crossbow onto his back and looked around as a twig snapped. He instantly reached out and pulled her closer. His tent was closer. “C’mon.” He couldn’t take any chances.
She lead him push her toward his camp. “Your fire’s about out,” she stated softly as she reached for a log to toss onto it. When he put his hand over her arm to stop her, she looked up. “You’ll freeze.”
“Hell, Carol. I’ve been through worse,” he said as he moved around his camp, making sure it was secure. He glanced at her from across the campsite. This was the first time he’d spoken her name out loud. No doubt the same thought wasn’t crossing her mind.
She relaxed visibly at his use of her name. She sat down on a log close to the fire and discretely tried to push her damp socks toward the still hot embers to dry them. She tucked her hands into her cardigan and tried to warm her fingers. She was about to speak when she heard him snort and push his tent door flap open.
He didn’t speak as he thrust his jacket at her. “You’d think you’d have more sense than to come out half dressed…”
She stood up, pushing the jacket back toward his chest. “It’s not like I planned to be out of my tent throwing up at his ungodly hour, so save it, Daryl Dixon.” She stamped her foot and hissed, “And another thing. I didn’t ask you to be my white night so…so…” She was upset with him for that afternoon that she just wanted to pick a fight about anything else to keep from discussing it.
“Tell me how you really feel, woman.” He tossed the jacket back into his still open tent and snorted when she didn’t start to talk again. “S’matter? Cat got your tongue?” He advanced on her, looming over her. He gestured wildly in her direction.
She flinched and took a step back, eyes wide. She’d been on the other end of anger for so long that her instincts told her to cool it. She stood rooted to that spot now as he took another step forward.
“Run on back to your camp. Climb into your nice warm tent and just leave me the hell be!” he growled at her through clenched teeth.
"No," she spoke softly. Her eyes had softened as her hand moved up. She laid her palm against his chest. She could feel his wildly beating heart beneath the thin material of his shirt. She met his eyes.
It was Daryl that took a step back this time. His eyes wild at having her actually make physical contact with him. He realized that he'd been slow in reacting and that terrified him. He snorted and began to pace in front of her. His hands balling and unballing into fists. "Just leave me be!" he repeated, louder with a sneer. "I don't want you here. Don't you get it? Or are you just a stupid bitch?"
Carol tried so hard to keep the hurt from her eyes as his words reached her ears then her heart. She finally looked down. The cold no longer bothering her. She nodded and stepped around him to make her way back to the main camp. She knew her place.
He beat his fists against his outer thighs and growled, "Carol, wait." He watched her shake her head and continue putting distance between them. He moved after her, touching her elbow gently then grasping it to stop her. "Are you deaf? I said wait..." he snarled.
She jerked herself free. Before she knew what overcome her, she had raised her hand and slapped him across the face. "Don't you ever grab me again!" Her hand then instantly went to her own mouth. Shock radiated from her eyes. In all her years with Ed, she had never once stood up to him.
He put his hands up, but he remained in the same spot. The distance between them was less than half a foot. "Deserved that," he spoke gruffly but with not quite as much edge to his voice. "Woman, you...you ain't gonna come here and try to shrink my head."
"I wasn't..." she started.
He shook his head. "I ain't done. You said what you came to say. Floor's mine." He kept balling and unballing his fists as he dropped them to his side. "This ain't easy for me. This...this talking and being with people. Sets my teeth on edge the way everyone's always in my face..."
She took a step back then but he only stepped closer. She sighed in frustration, crossing her arms across chest. "What is it that you want?"
"Don't know, but it ain't easy for me. Just...just slow down." He tilted his head a little, eyes growing narrow as he tried to read her. He raised his hand and gently touched her arm. "Did I hurt you?" When she shook her head, he let his fingertips rest against her cold skin. "Sit by the fire? I'll put 'nother log on."
She looked back toward the main camp, then back to his smaller one. She had never felt completely at home with the others, but when he'd been close by, she felt safe. She knew he'd protect them. Protect her. Now she was terrified of him being so far away. She whispered, "Okay."
He relaxed a little, dropping his hand to his side. He waited for her to start the trek back to his dwindling fire and followed behind her. He was quiet as she settled back onto the log beside the burning embers. He reached inside his tent, drawing out the relatively clean blanket that covered his bed. He shook it out and placed it around her shoulders gently.
She moved her hand up to cover his as it gently lingered at her shoulder. She looked up at him and whispered, "Thanks..." She wasn't surprised at how fast he'd pulled away, but she was surprised that it wasn't followed by some smart ass retort.
His muscles rippled as he reached down and pulled up a log and placed it onto the fire. He squatted down to poke at it with a longer stick. He then glanced at her through the flame. She wasn't a typically beautiful woman with long blonde hair or flowing legs, but he found her attractive. Her beauty radiated from deep within her soul, and it shined through in moments when she wasn't trying to hide it from those around her. "You warm 'nough?"
She gave him a soft smile and then nodded. "Yeah. Thanks. It's quiet here..." she said softly as her eyes moved around his camp. It felt like home to her, but she quickly pushed the thought away. "I can actually hear myself think."
He poked and prodded at the wood as she spoke. He liked his solitude, but somehow having her near felt good too. He looked up again. "Yeah..." He noticed how her eyes were now watching the flame as it licked higher and higher. He could see the lone tear as it slipped down her cheek. "S'not always a good thang," he added just soft enough for her to hear.
She nodded slowly then lowered her head again to look at her clasped hands as they now lay in her lap. "Sophia hadn't ever been camping before...before all this. Hell, neither had I." She swallowed the lump forming in her throat. "She...she always loved the outdoors though. The park..." She smiled then at the memory. "We went there as often as we could. It was the only place..." Her voice cracked, and she had to look away and bit her cheek to keep from choking out a sob.
She had learned to control her crying over the years. It only made Ed's anger worse, and if he was drunk, he'd only beat her again if her heard her. She avoided his eyes even as he shifted so that he was directly in front of her. She shook her head. "I'm sorry. I don't know why..."
He moved to sit next to her. "You miss your little girl. If it helps...talk," he said as he gestured for her to continue to do so. He glanced at her before focusing back on the fire as it crackled and snap with heat and life.
She felt the heat radiate from his body as their legs touched. She licked her lips and laid her head on her own shoulder and watched him. She whispered, "Okay." But she didn't want to risk crying now. He was letting her in, and she wouldn't screw this up. She saw his knuckles now in the firelight. She sighed softly and before she could think about it, she reached out to take his hand and run her fingers ever so gently along his scabbed knuckles. "Does it hurt?"
His first instinct was to pull away and to rant at her about touching him, but he kept his hand where it lay and let her touch soothe him. "Not 'nough to complain about." He looked over at her, and their eyes locked. His mouth twitched as he tried to figure out what was going on in her head. "Hell, we'd better get some sleep."
He pushed himself up and then looked down at her. "You can take the tent. Just let me grab the other sleeping bag."
She stood then, loosing her balance a little from having thrown up everything she'd eaten that night which hadn't been much to begin with. She felt his hand at her waist, steadying her. Her head spun, but not from hunger. It was from the heat of his gentle hand at her waist. "That's just silly. It's big enough for us both..."
Daryl studied her in his own quiet way and nodded. He let his hand fall from her waist and reached for the blanket. "Sleep on this side so you'll stay warm." He gestured to the side closest to the fire. He noticed that she wasn't moving and he started to reach out and touch her cheek to get her attention, but he let his fingers flex then fall back to his side. "What's wrong?"
She shook herself gently then gave his arm a reassuring soft squeeze before slipping into the tent quickly. She moved to the side he had suggested and curled herself into a ball. She was facing him, watching him in the eerily moonlit darkness. She didn't realize she was holding her breath.
He slipped into the tent quickly, quietly. He sat down, unlacing his boots and slipping them off. He kept them within reach and laid back on his back to stare at the tent roof. He could feel her staring at him and glanced her way. "You got something to say, spit it out." His voice wasn't quite as gruff as he had hoped it would be.
She finally breathed out a soft, "Good night, Daryl." She made herself close her eyes and settle into the covers and the pillow that smelled of him. It invaded her senses, and she knew it would be damn near impossible to sleep that night. He aroused and awakened parts of her she'd long since thought dead. She tried to shift quietly so as not to disturb him.
He kept his eyes on her in the darkness. He often had a hard time sleeping in strange places. He fought with himself on whether to try and ease her mind or just keep on feigning sleep.
When she grew quieter, his choice was made for him. He finally heard her breathing even out, indicating that she was indeed asleep. He noticed that the sleeping bag had shifted, uncovering her torso. He reached over gently and covered her. He laid his hand gently on what he knew to be her arm.
They had more in common than any of the others in camp. She had an abusive marriage, and he'd grown up being abused by first his mother and then his older brother. Merle was a bit older than him, and he'd been around to catch their Daddy's temper on more than one ocassion. After the son of a bitch had died, Merle had shown him the only thing their Daddy ever left them; physical and verbal abuse.
He shuddered and withdrew his hand like she'd burned him. He laid back down, muttering curses and insults directed at her for his slip up. He had his fists clenched at his sides, berating the woman for actions she wasn't even aware that he'd committed. He glanced at her and let out a ragged breath. "Son of a bitch..." he muttered in a low growl.
She shifted in her sleep as the beginnings of a nightmare plagued her much needed slumber. She was losing her daughter all over again. She clawed at the sleeping bag, kicking and squirming. "Please," she whispered with tears on her cheeks. "Not my baby. Please?"
He let out a frustrated sigh. He didn't know how to take care of people. He did good to take care of himself after all this started, but she looked to him to protect her. Hell, what did she expect? Really? He hadn't ever been up for relationships other than the ones his own birth had given him. His family was about all he knew how to handle, and even then, he did a piss poor job of it.
Carol's body writhed in an unseen agony. "Please?!" she shrieked, sitting bolt up right. Her breath came in quivering gasps, and for a moment, she didn't know where she was. "Oh God! Sophia?!" she screamed.
Daryl's touch to her shoulder was tender enough that she hadn't shied away from him. She turned, meeting his eyes, and he knew that she didn't have to be told that her daughter was gone. That her precious little girl was dead. "Need a drink?" He grabbed for a bottle of whiskey that he had stashed away from the rest of the camp. He unscrewed the lid and passed it to her after wiping the mouth of the bottle on his sleeve.
She took it with shaking fingers. She wasn't a drinker, but she took the bottle anyway and put it to her lips before the smell could turn her stomach sour and she'd refuse. She turned the bottle up, taking two large gulps before lowering it and sputtering with coughs as the amber liquid burned her tongue and throat and settled hot in her stomach.
He rubbed her back as gently as he could. "Easy..." he said softly. He was closer to her now that he'd allowed himself to get since the day she'd refused to go to Sophia's funeral. He met her eyes in the darkness as he saw the dampness still on her cheeks. He whispered, "I can't imagine what you're going through."
"But can't you?" she whispered. "You lost her too. After everything..."
"I was too late, Carol. I couldn't..." He shook his head, refusing to do this with her now. He wouldn't talk about this. Not ever. He grabbed his boots. "I need some air," he growled as he pushed open the tent flap and stalked from the tent in his sock feet.
She wouldn't push him. Not on this. This was something they would do together when they were both ready. And this just wasn't the time. And this just wasn't the time. She laid back against the sleeping back, which was damp from her nightmare. She could feel the liqour twisting and turning in her gut but she refused to give in and purge it from her. She closed her eyes and rolled onto her side where her quiet sobs shook her body.
He had shoved his feet into his boots and laced them up. He paced the farside of the fire and glanced at the tent from time to time as he let his emotions and his anger well inside him. He then picked up his crossbow and slung it over his shoulder. He couldn't sleep, and he'd be damned if he let her try and shrink his head anymore. He stalked off into the woods to do the only thing he was sure he knew how. And that was to hunt and to provide.
A/N: I know this is another short chapter. I should have combined Chapter 3 and 4 together, but at the time it just didn't feel right so.. But I hope to make Chapter 5 a longer chapter and every chapter there after. So please Read & Review.