Title: Somewhere In Between
Pairing: Carol & Daryl
Summary: Nothing at all. The things she gave of herself were more than enough, and now she knew it, too. Too little, too late. She bit the inside of her cheek when she felt the tears pool in her eyes. She refused to let them fall. Rated for language.
A/N: This was written for the Nine Lives Challenge #2 in the Summer Survival Series.
Daryl growled, "Fuck." He didn't often talk that way in front of Carol, but the situation warranted it. They'd taken one too many turns trying to avoid the horde of walkers that had somehow managed to get in between Carol and himself and Rick, Glenn, and Michonne. So now they were stuck looking for another route back to the prison. He glanced over his shoulder. "Might be stoppin'. Try an' wait 'em out. Too many to chance they follow us back."
Carol knew for a fact that they couldn't have a herd this size bunched up along the fences at the prison. They'd for sure collapse it, and then the prison would be overrun. "Whatever you think is best." Truth was, this was only her second run, and Daryl hadn't wanted her to come along. She had insisted. Now all she wanted was to be back home with the others. She gripped the sides of his leather vest tight as he dipped sharply to the left to avoid a couple of walkers in their way.
Carol's breathing was labored as Daryl managed to get the door shut quietly to the small manager's office at the local feed and grain store. Her heart was damn near pounding out of her chest. She could hear them shambling around, bumping into sacks of rotted grain.
They hadn't seen them escape into their little sanctuary, but any sound would draw the walkers right to them. She reached for Daryl's hand, managing to tangle her fingers with his. Her lips quivered. Small spaces were never her thing.
He turned to her then, cupping her cheek and bringing her forehead to rest against his chest. He was barely out of breath. His lips pressed gently to the top of her head, willing his own sense of calm into her body. She'd had nightmares ever since he'd found her in the tombs. He'd often woken her and just held her hand until she had fallen back to sleep.
And now they were stuck. The walkers on the other side of the door were far too many to try and sneak passed. So waiting became their only hope. And they were somewhere in between the prison and Woodbury. He had gotten them turned around, and it was likely to cost him something.
But he refused for it to be her. Not Carol. Not today. Not any day.
Her arms went slowly around his waist and her arms moved up his back. She clung to him like a lifeline. Her body trembled almost violently. He had been right. This run had been no place for her. She had nothing to prove.
Nothing at all. The things she gave of herself were more than enough, and now she knew it, too. Too little, too late. She bit the inside of her cheek when she felt the tears pool in her eyes. She refused to let them fall.
His hand was on her neck now, pushing her back so he could look into her eyes. He lifted his hand and brushed at her cheeks as the tears managed to escape. He lowered his mouth to her ear. "Please don't..." It was barely a breath, but he was certain she had understood him.
Her shoulders squared, and her lips drew into a straight line. A nod of her head, and she was okay again. The fear she had seen in his eyes were enough to make even the weak become strong. She could not disappoint him. She wouldn't. She would be just as strong as he always told her she was. She would do whatever it took to make herself believe it, too.
Because now it mattered too much to let any insecurity be their downfall, her downfall. She placed both hands gently to his chest and whispered, "I got your back no matter what."
He gave her a nod and took her face gently in his palms. His lips fell softly on hers. This was only the second kiss they'd ever shared. The first had been back on Hershel's farm when he'd damn near gotten himself killed while looking for her girl.
And this time no one flinched. His lips fell against hers over and over. Chaste kisses as if he was testing the waters. And before either of them knew it, her fingers curled into his shirt, holding him close, as her lips parted.
The kiss then became desperate. His hands moved down to her shoulders, pushing her back to stare into her eyes. "Ain't right." And he knew instantly she misunderstood.
Her eyes fell to the floor between their feet and her hands slackened. "Yeah. Suppose not." She tried to pull away just as his mouth found her ear.
"Meant like this. In a damned feed store." He pulled her into a hug. "Weren't how I pictured it."
She felt her eyes welling with tears. "You thought about kissing me?"
She couldn't breathe, let alone think. Her lips quivered again. "Me too." Her face turned slightly, nose nuzzled against his neck. "To me it was perfect." Absolutely so.
The sound of the motorcycle was loud in Rick's ears as he ran to unlock the gate and let them pass. It had been half the night, and he had tried not to let the others know just how scared he had been for their safe return. His hand rubbed along his stubbled face. The motorcycle slowed just inside the gate.
Daryl cut the engine and threw down the kickstand. He glanced over his shoulder at Carol. Neither made a move to climb off. They leaned into one another, and he felt her arms go around him a bit more. He let out a sigh. "Bout damned time."
Rick clapped them both on the back. "Couldn't have said it better." Something had changed on their run. And it lay somewhere in between the pair before him, and he was certain that they'd all know exactly what that was.