AN: So yeah. The inspiration fairy finally struck. I hope you like it! I'm considering doing a second chapter, we'll see.
Disclaimer: I do not own, write for, or work for AMC or TWD.
There had been no words, when it had happened.
Even now, just thinking about it left him feeling like his heart was going to swell right out of his chest. She had come back, had somehow survived, had saved them.
How was something so wonderful even possible? Good things didn't happen for them, never had.
But even as he thought this, he knew it wasn't true. He had found her once before when he thought she was gone for sure, and here she had found him.
Even now, as they walked side by side, his arm occasionally bumping against hers, they didn't speak. The weight of questions unanswered was too heavy to be lifted among others, too oppressing to try and break with so many watching eyes.
His throat burned as he remembered how her arms had wrapped around him, how her small, deadly hands had felt wrapped up in his hair.
No, he couldn't talk to her here, not when he was barely keeping it together just thinking of her. He'd had enough crying for one day.
His hand brushed hers, and as he glanced up to remind himself for the hundredth, thousandth, millionth time that she was here, her fingers tangled with his. Her eyes stayed glued on the path ahead, but that familiar twinkle was there in the baby blues, and he felt his mouth quirk despite himself, his heart already speeding up again in awe of this woman.
Goddamn if she wouldn't be the end of him.
It was Glenn and Maggie who had woken them for second watch.
The couple's weary eyes betrayed a lack of sleep, for so many different causes other than watch, and a benevolent part of him hoped smally that at least one of them was good.
Glenn's shit-eating grin was something he knew well, well enough to growl out a "Shut up" as Carol grasped his hand and stood. Maggie winked at her as she unbuckled her trusty Glock from her belt to set it down by the sleeping bags.
Carol had the goodness to roll her eyes, but he saw the edge of a grin starting at the corner of her mouth as she tucked her little pistol into her waistband.
Her hair glinted silver in the light of the crescent moon, stars unimaginable above their heads. She swayed as she moved to the tree trunk, and he noticed with a drop of worry that she had lost enough weight to punch a new hole in her belt.
What had she been through out there, alone? She had found Ty and Judith eventually, obviously, but what of before? What had she suffered through before?
He swallowed hard as she leaned a hand against the tree to lower herself down with a muted grunt, breathed deep and rolled her shoulders.
Pfft. I'll go down first.
His hands itched, and he wanted so bad to finish what he had started that night.
And so he plopped down and motioned towards the dirt in front of him.
"C'mon. Don't be stubborn," he muttered, trying in vain to kill the butterflies threatening to bring up his meager dinner.
She sighed in surrender, then crawled over in front of him so he could work his magic.
"'S that damn kickback," she grumbled in what he could only describe as childlike annoyance. He chuckled at her.
"You save our lives on what I'm gonna guess to be less than an hour of sleep, with less than a clip of bullets, and your biggest problem is a sore shoulder. I'd call that a success," he answered lightly, working his knuckles into her shoulders that seemed stripped of any softness that had once been there. She was coiled up like a damn jack-in-the-box, and again he couldn't tamp down that something worse than he had interpreted had happened out there. Something she hadn't shared yet.
She didn't answer him, just breathed deep as he hit a knot at the nape of her neck.
They sat in silence for so long, too long, and before he knew it, he was talking again.
Damn chatterbox tonight.
"I was gonna come for you," he murmured, barely above a breath, and only prayed she could hear him, because he wasn't sure he could repeat it. "When Rick told me, I just-"
"Stop. Just stop it."
He swallowed hard, gulped on his guilt. "No. No, I wanted to. Rick told me, and before I could do anything, the Governor was there..."
She reached a hand up and laid it on his, turned her face to look at him. "I know, Daryl. I know. You don't have anything to apologize for."
But then he was shaking his head again, couldn't get over how wrong she was. He had so much to be sorry for, so much he had to tell her about, so much he couldn't even tell the others.
He had been so mean to Beth, and then she was gone. And he couldn't find her. And then... Those other guys...
He had led them straight to Rick, Michonne. Carl.
Carl's screams as the man held him down, fumbled with his belt. The boy's voice breaking in his soul-crushing terror.
Had he ever seen Carl that scared before?
Just a kid.
"You don't know shit, Carol. You don't what I done," he choked out.
She shook her head, turned to look at him. Grasped his face between her palms. Leaned her forehead against his and whispered fiercely.
"You are good, Daryl Dixon, and not for one second do I believe you did anything bad that you meant to, or did anything that you could have not done. Do you understand me? It doesn't matter. I don't care, and you shouldn't either."
Her voice was strong, iron, but soft and tender at the same time.
He just shook his head again.
Her hands ran through his hair and her breath tickled his nose as she breathed deep.
"Then tell me. Tell me what happened, start to finish."
And so, in a voice just above a whisper, he told her. He told her how he had picked on Beth, how just when things were starting to go okay, she was gone. How he had chased her and chased her, but had lost her, just like he knew he would. Just like he always did.
How he had joined up with men who he could have been, who he almost was. How, in his desperate attempt for freedom, he had endangered his family so monumentally, had forced Rick to do one of the most gruesome things he had seen this side of the turn.
How he had had the Governor in his scope, but hadn't pulled the trigger.
He hadn't pulled the damn trigger. The one thing that had been his job, his and Michonne's, and he had failed.
She listened, nodded, held his scarred palms in hers and had only moved to brush hands and tears from his face.
And when he was done, when he had laid his soul bare as he could only do with her, she gathered him into her again, laid a soft kiss against his ear and had held him in silence.
It was something they were good at. Not talking, when words weren't needed.
"We've all done things. We've all done horrible, terrible things, but we move on, we get stronger, and before you know it we'll be okay again," she murmured to him, so soft and gentle, her hands moving through his hair and bringing him down to her, keeping him here, in this moment. "We'll be okay again," she choked out, her voice breaking. "We'll come back."
We'll come back. We'll.
He pulled her face away from his, waited for her to share, but she didn't. She only sat back, and moved to sit beside him as she wiped her face. Breathed hard, ran a hand through her hair, and pulled her rifle towards her from the ground.
He watched her, wanted nothing more than to ask her. What was half a dozen more words? Surely he had that in him?
But something about the way her hands shook, the way her eyes stayed stuck on the little girl she hadn't so much as touched since her triumphant return... Something told him she needed to talk on her own time. She needed a minute, an hour, a day.
He understood her. She was grieving something, someone, and a dark part of him knew it had something to do with those girls the universe had finally gifted her with.
And so he watched her, and she watched Judith, and they waited as the moon made its slow arc across the sky.
He would be patient.