I would like to dedicate this to Jenrussell131. She requested that I write a little something about Carol and Daryl going back to the farm and visiting Sophia's grave. I will admit I had trouble coming up with something worthy of such a special moment. But this idea struck me last night and I was excited to write it. So Jen, this one's for you! I hope you're happy with it! Hugs!
I am also submitting this for the USS Caryl challenge to fulfil the prompt of "Spring".
Heaven lent you a soul, Earth will lend a grave. - Christian Nestell Bovee
Carol was wandering around the prison yard early one morning. It was the first day that finally felt like Spring had fully arrived. The sun was shining, birds were chirping, and she could smell the sweet scent of wildflowers in the air.
Michonne started walking towards Carol so she changed course to meet her. "Beautiful morning isn't it?" Carol said with a bright smile. The weather had her in a great mood. Though they'd had a mild fall it had been a terrible winter that brought cold rains early on, freezing rain a few times and even a blanket of snow. That kind of winter was rare for Georgia but it had made her appreciate Spring even more.
"I wish I could enjoy it," Michonne said quietly, wincing as she spoke.
"Oh no, what's wrong?" Carol asked with concern. She knew how tough Michonne was, there wasn't much that would get her down.
"Damn migraine," she replied, rubbing her left temple. "I get them every Spring." Michonne rolled her eyes, "while everyone else gets to enjoy the weather I get at least 2 or 3 of these things before they finally go away."
Carol had heard of seasonal migraines before, though she had been lucky enough never to experience one herself. "I'm so sorry. Is there anything I can do?" Carol brushed her arm soothingly as she spoke.
"Actually, that's why I'm here," Michonne replied. "I was supposed to go with Daryl on a run today. Hershel told him about a neighbor, not far from his farm, that he suspected might have bolts. Daryl's thinks he needs more," Michonne smiled. "But I think it's just an excuse to finally get his bike out again." Carol returned the smile. She figured Michonne was right. With the terrible weather he had to put his bike away and travel by car for runs all winter. She had seen him out cleaning and tuning it up all week. Michonne continued, "the roar of the engine will make my head explode for sure. Will you go with him today?"
Carol nodded, "sure." Truth be told, she had always wanted to see what was left of the farm. Even though it held horrible memories for all those who had been there, it held special ones too. Carol knew it had been devastated by fire and was likely unrecognizable yet she was still curious. "You go get some rest, I'll find him and let him know," Carol offered.
Michonne thanked her and left. Carol wandered around to where she knew she would find Daryl, polishing the already sparkling chrome over and over again. Well at least I know he's capable of loving something, she thought, hiding her smile as she watched him tenderly clean the bike. "Hey," she said, starling him. "Sorry," Carol muttered as Daryl stood, banging his back on the handlebar.
"It's alright," Daryl replied, rubbing the spot he hit.
Carol hoped he would take the change in plans well. She knew she was far more of a liability on runs than Michonne was, even though she had grown so much stronger and more capable the last few months. "I'm going with you today. Michonne isn't feeling well. Besides, I wanna see what's left of the farm," she added, feeling the need to offer an excuse as to why it should be her specifically that replaced Michonne.
"Oh," he said simply. She wasn't quite sure if it was a good oh or a bad oh. But he didn't protest which meant he would let her come. "Are you ready now?" Daryl asked. "I wanna get going."
"Yup," Carol said, glad she had opted for long sleeves, not knowing how warm it would be outside. It was always cooler on the bike and the material would protect her skin from bugs and debris.
Daryl tossed aside the rag and took the bike off its kick stand. "Good, hop on." Carol got into position. She had rode with him a few times before, though not lately. Daryl climbed on in front of her and started the engine. They drove slowly down the path, towards the gate, watching as Carl and Bob opened it to let them out. With a wave they were off.
It was a fairly long ride to the farm but Carol didn't mind. She loved the wind in her face and the carefree easy feeling she felt holding Daryl and riding. With her arms around his waist she could tell how relaxed and comfortable he was, despite the fact that there was a women clinging intimately to him. Other than the times she was on the bike she had never hugged him before. And other than once when he circled her body to restrain her, Daryl had never hugged her either. It was a level of contact he didn't seem ready for yet, despite how close they had become, and Carol respected that.
The scenery became a bit more familiar as they approached the farm. She had never wandered too far when they had lived there, but she recognized a few things that told her they were getting close. Carol felt a sadness inside when she saw the charred remains of the buildings that used to be barns and it was even more intense when she saw the wreckage of the house. It hadn't been her house, but it was her home for a while and it once belonged to three people she now considered family. Carol couldn't imagine how hard it would be for Hershel, Beth or Maggie to see this place, being that it was affecting her so deeply.
Daryl pulled up the driveway and killed the engine. They slipped off the bike and he let it rest on the stand. Carol knew he had been there before, he had mentioned it, so he obviously wasn't as shocked by what they were seeing. She started to wander around when something caught her eye. Everything had burned… yet there were still wooden crosses marking the graves of those who had died, including Sophia. She looked at Daryl and walked over to the graves.
Carol felt a sense of uneasiness. She had never visited Sophia's grave. Not once. She hadn't even attended the service they had for Hershel's family and her daughter. Carol was angry, devastated, in shock, but the one thing she always maintained was that the "thing" they buried was not her baby. It was a gruesome creature and she believed Sophia was in heaven the second those other evil beings killed her. She had felt no connection to what came out of the barn. But standing there looking at a cross with the name Sophia Peletier painted on it, she felt something inside… an ache.
"How?" Carol whispered. She looked down and saw the withered remains of two Cherokee roses on the ground and she knew. "You did this," she said turning to face Daryl. He didn't speak, just gave a tiny nod of the head. Carol's eyes filled with tears. She couldn't believe that he had taken the time to fix all the graves, and actually put Sophia's name on hers. The others were unmarked, even Dale's. It was only Sophia's that had a name.
"I brought Michonne here in the fall," Daryl said, cutting the silence. "We stayed a while, almost the whole day. I told her everything that happened… searching for Sophia, Andrea shooting me," he chuckled. "The walkers in the barn," his voice became serious again. "Dale, Shane, Sophia… And about the herd attacking." Daryl took a breath. "When I saw that the grave markers had burned I just had to fix them."
Michonne knew, she knew all along. Carol had a sneaky suspicion that there was no migraine. And she also realized that Michonne knew her better than she expected. Michonne gambled on the fact that Carol would want to stop at the farm. She must have been pleased with herself when she had asked her to go and Carol admitted that right from the start.
"Do you think there are any blooming right now?" Carol asked, pointing at the dead flowers.
Daryl shrugged, "It's the right time of year, let's go look." Carol couldn't believe it when he offered his hand. She was seeing a side of Daryl she had first caught a glimpse of the first time they were on that very farm. He was soft and sentimental, though he did well to hide it most of the time. She placed her hand in his and they went off in search of a Cherokee rose bush. "There," Daryl said pointing. "It's the same bush I picked them from in the fall. They rarely bloom in the fall though, I got lucky. Spring is the time of year they normally bloom." Carol didn't know she could love Spring any more than she already did. They each picked a rose and headed back to the grave.
They bent down at the same time and laid the flowers on Sophia's grave, then stood up. "I need a minute," Carol said softly. Daryl started to leave, to give her privacy. "No, please stay with me?" she asked. Daryl returned, coming up behind her and wrapping her in a comforting hug. It was perfect timing for their first real hug. Carol needed him more in that moment than she was willing to admit but Daryl already knew that.
They stood there and Carol stared at the name on the grave, thinking about when she had chosen it. She had 3 names picked out but the second Sophia was placed in her arms she knew what name she was picking. The little eyes that looked back at her were so bright and full of knowledge only second after she was born. Sophia translates to Wisdom and Carol could tell already that her baby girl was wise. It was the perfect name for her.
Carol missed her little girl so much she ached. Even though so much time had passed her grief was still fresh and she felt tears welling up in her eyes again. Carol realized how much she needed this moment. She hadn't let herself just let go and truly grieve. She felt sobs begin to wrack her body but Daryl held her steady. He was the rock she needed to make it through this moment and even in her grief she took a moment to silently thank the Lord for bringing her the amazing man who held her.
When she was finally able to gather herself there was something she needed to know. "Why did you only put the name on Sophia's grave?" Carol asked, leaning back against him, feeling the steady up and down of his chest against her.
Daryl gave her a tiny smile, "So I always remember which grave is hers when I come to talk to her."
"You've talked to her?" Carol asked in surprise, turning slightly in his embrace to make eye contact. "What do you talk about?"
Daryl hugged her tighter and spoke gently, "her Mama." With his words echoing in her ear, standing in front of a grave he had taken the time to fix not just for himself but to preserve the memory of someone special to her, Carol felt a sense of pride. Daryl was a man of honor. And she knew in her heart that one day he would be her man of honor... If he wasn't already.