The first interaction Carol remembered having with Daryl Dixon was pretty simple. It was hot, crazy hot, and she was watching Sophia play soccer with Carl and a few other kids as she hung wet laundry on the line.
Carl kicked the ball hard and scored a goal, but the ball landed against Daryl and Merle's trailer with a thud. Carol watched the kids whisper amongst each other and finally Sophia walked over to her. "Mama, will you go get the ball?"
Carol smiled, she could see why the kids were scared of the Dixon brothers. Merle was loud, obnoxious, and a southern redneck to the core. Daryl was quieter, particularly when he was with his brother, but he stood up for his beliefs, and always seemed to go along with whatever crazy scheme Merle cooked up. "Sure sweetie," Carol replied.
She didn't see Merle or Daryl around. They were likely out hunting. Sometimes they shared their game with the camp, other times they feasted alone. Carol suspected that if Daryl had his way they would always share. It was just a gut instinct though.
The ball was laying near the far end of the trailer and Carol headed for it. She was only a foot away when a figure appeared from around the corner and bent to pick up the ball. Carol found herself staring straight into Daryl's blue eyes. He reached out to pass her the ball and she moved for it, without breaking eye contact. It was a bit strange for her to look at a man the way she was. She hadn't met Ed's eyes, other than with an angry glare, for years. And those glares just ended up getting her beat all the worse.
When she grabbed the ball their hands brushed and Carol swore she saw something change in his eyes. Like a softening perhaps. She felt goosebumps rise on her skin, but she wasn't sure exactly what caused them.
Carol said a polite 'thank you' and he grunted something she couldn't make out in response. And it was over. Their first interaction was barely more than a word, but for some reason she just couldn't put it out of her mind.
A lot of things had happened between that interaction and the next time she actually spoke to Daryl. Lori's husband Rick had shown up and Daryl found out he had handcuffed his brother Merle to a rooftop in Atlanta. They went back to get Merle and found nothing but his hand which he had cut off to escape.
Daryl took it hard and kept to himself most of the time. Carol was surprised he stuck around. She figured he would go looking for Merle. It had to be that Daryl figured Merle would come find him at the camp eventually, or he assumed he was dead.
Ed often said mean things about Daryl, but Ed said mean things about everyone, so she just ignored him. It was when others talked about him, like Dale or Lori, that she actually paid attention. Dale never said anything mean. He wanted everyone to give Daryl a chance. Lori was a little hesitant, she thought he might be unstable and worried about Carl's safety.
Carol decided she would make up her own mind. But she had only spoke with him once and didn't feel it was enough to justify judging his character. She had a feeling that Lori was wrong though. Daryl looked lost, he looked like he needed friends, people to talk to. Carol swore if she ever got the chance she would talk to him. But with Ed always keeping an eye on her every movement, the chances were unlikely. Or so she thought.
Carol crept out of her tent to relieve herself one night and there he was, sitting alone staring at the camp fire. When she left Ed was snoring loudly and Sophia was fast asleep. She went pee quickly, and decided this was her chance to talk to him alone, finally.
Carol sat down beside him. Daryl looked at her curiously. "Hi," she said simply.
"Hey. Shouldn't you get back to bed? If your crazy husband wakes up..." His voice trailed off.
"If you want to be alone, I can go," she stood up. "But Ed won't wake up until the birds start chirping at sunrise." Daryl motioned for her to sit back down and she smiled. "What are you doing up at this hour?"
He poked at the fire with a stick. "Don't sleep well. Guess I never really have." He turned his head to look at her, "you sure you ain't tired?"
"There's plenty of time for sleeping," Carol said, thinking of the lazy afternoons when it was just too hot to do much of anything. She studied his face, his eyes, and saw something that made her feel at ease. It was that same softness she had seen the first time they talked. Carol knew with certainty that he wasn't dangerous if he was on your side. She also knew he had that rebel wildness, a bit reckless, but he meant well. She had seen that, long before she talked to him.
He would go off hunting, disappear for days. Just when everyone assumed he was dead he would return, with food. Carol had been right before, since Merle left there wasn't one time Daryl didn't offer to share his kill.
"I wanted to thank you for the venison you shared with everyone," she said, making conversation.
Daryl shrugged, "was nothin," he said. "Couldn't eat the whole thing myself anyway."
Carol found a smile on her face once again. He was pretending like it wasn't a big deal, obviously uncomfortable with the attention.
They stared into the fire, in silence for a few minutes before Daryl spoke. "Your little girl, she's very kind," he said. "Must get that from her mama." Daryl said the last part softly and Carol saw a hint of a smile on his lips. Her heart did a crazy little flutter and she wasn't sure what to make of it. She wasn't used to getting compliments so she attributed the flutter to that.
Carol spoke just as softly as he had, "Thank you, that means a lot."
She had so many things she wanted to say, so many questions she wanted to ask him. But Carol didn't want to take the chance that he would clam up or avoid talking to her altogether. She didn't know him well enough yet to go beyond small talk.
The fire had burned down low and a chill filled the air. Carol shivered and he noticed immediately. Daryl stood and wrapped his poncho around her shoulders. "Gets chilly at night," he commented.
Carol pulled the warm material around her. It was comforting and the fact that he had offered it in the first place told her he wanted her to stay.
It wasn't until she heard the first birds of the morning start chirping that Carol realized how long they had been talking. The sun was just starting to show itself.
Carol jumped up and handed back the poncho. She suddenly felt like Cinderella at the stroke of midnight, running from her prince. "I better go," she said.
"Yeah," he replied. "Best get going."
"Bye," she said with a little wave. Carol headed back to her tent to climb into bed beside Ed but it was Daryl who was on her mind.