AN: Well, I'm not sure how to explain how this began. It's a prompt from an amazing lady who has always been so very kind and supportive of not only my writing, but of me personally. I can't take any credit for the idea because it was all hers. Basically it's based on the premise of an old book that was later made into a movie (which isn't in english so I haven't seen it, LOL). I just want it to be clear that I don't deserve the credit for the idea and I also want to express my gratitude that I was offered and trusted with this prompt. I hope you guys enjoy this and are ready for some super squishy Caryl feels throughout. I'm excited :)
Carol felt the tears returning the moment she took a seat in the corner of the train depot. It was a tiny room, but it was late and the place was mostly deserted. Still, she didn't want to cry in public - all she wanted was to run - to get away from the small town she'd called home her entire life.
Thankfully the news hadn't spread yet, but it would soon. It never took long in a town like hers. "Aren't you getting married in a few days?" That's what Mr. Thompson had asked when she purchased the train ticket. "Just meeting some friends for a last minute bachelorette party in the city." It was a full out lie and chances were he didn't buy it, but he'd left her alone and didn't push.
Carol jumped when the clock on the wall made a loud gong sound, followed by 11 more. Midnight. Of course a small town train station would have a huge old fashioned clock on the wall. That's the kind of town she lived in. And that was the kind of town she needed to get away from before the gossip mill picked up her story first thing in the morning.
Atlanta - that was her destination. It wasn't far geographically, only a couple hours train ride, just over 300 miles - but it was a whole different world and it was somewhere she didn't have to be Carol - the girl who was pretty much stood up at the altar. Just the thought made her eyes sting with tears and she struggled to control them. She'd already been crying for 4 hours since he told her he couldn't marry her. Carol couldn't believe there were tears left to come out.
She sighed and looked at the clock again. 12:02. Only two minutes had passed in what felt like an hour. The boarding time on her ticket said 12:35 - a lifetime away at this rate. Carol felt the rumbling and knew a train was coming into the station. She prayed no one was actually getting off there so she wouldn't have to risk running into anyone who knew her. Just to be safe Carol decided to head into the restroom.
When she looked in the mirror she gasped. Her face was puffy. Not just her eyes, like the whole thing, red and puffy. Her dark brown curls were wild and wouldn't tame no matter how hard she tried. But the worst part was the look in her eyes. Carol could take one glance in the mirror and see absolutely everything she was feeling reflecting back in those clear blue eyes: sadness, anger, confusion, fear and the reason she was running - embarrassment. The one thing she kept coming back to was how she couldn't have seen it before. She wondered how she could be so stupid. Had everyone known but her? Carol didn't want to know the answer to that question.
She killed some by going pee, although she really didn't need to go. Then she washed her hands twice and splashed water on her face. She added some water to her hair hoping it might help, but soon gave up - it was pointless. When Carol was satisfied she had given people enough time to get off the train and leave she exited the restroom and headed towards the corner she'd occupied earlier. Just before she turned to take a seat she heard a voice, "Carol? That you?"
Carol froze, her heart pounding. It was a voice she hadn't heard in years, but she knew exactly who it was. She knew she should turn around, he was probably already walking up behind her, but she couldn't move. On a list of the last people she ever hoped to run into he was way near the top. "Carol?" he said again. Finally she turned.
"Hi Daryl," she said softly, trying to smile. Did he know? He must have talked to Rick, right?
"What the fuck is going on?" he asked, eying her suspiciously. Nope, clearly he had no idea.
"I… um… I… I'm leaving," she stammered, unsure of where to even begin.
"Leaving," he repeated. "But the wedding is this weekend…" His voice trailed off and the confusion on his face deepened. "What… why?"
"Just go ask Rick," Carol snapped. "He can explain everything. And if you'll excuse me, I'm going out to the platform." She went to move around him but Daryl blocked her way. "Move," she hissed.
Daryl shook his head. "Not until you tell me what's going on."
Carol didn't want to tell him anything. She just wanted him to go away. But it was clear that wasn't going to happen and she knew Daryl was a stubborn guy. "Fine. Rick loves Michonne. Wedding cancelled. I'm leaving. Now move."
"What?" Daryl gasped. "You ain't serious… The wedding is in 3 days…"
"Was," Carol corrected him. "It was." Those were the last words she got out before she broke down. Was - past tense. It was over. Her plans, the life she'd been imagining for years - gone. The tears reappeared and were streaming down her face in no time.
"I don't know what the fuck happened, but I do know one thing - you ain't leaving," Daryl said. "Come on," he wrapped an arm around her and made an attempt to guide her towards the door.
Carol stopped him. "What are you doing?" she sniffed. "My train will be here any minute…"
"You ain't leaving," he repeated.
"I am," Carol insisted stubbornly. She had yet to break away from him because despite everything, having another person's arm around her was comforting.
"Listen," Daryl said, turning to face her. He removed his arm but he put a hand on her shoulder. "We're gonna go somewhere and talk. If you still wanna run when we're done I'll buy you a ticket to wherever you want to go." He touched her chin and forced her to look at him. For the first time in many, many years she allowed herself to really look at him. Daryl. The bad boy in high school. The one they all knew would leave their little town as soon as he could. The guy all the girls swooned over, yet he never had a clue. Daryl - Rick's best friend until the end of time. Even miles apart they were connected, always had been, always would be. But he had no idea what had happened. Rick hadn't told him - that was very clear. "Deal?" he said, his voice low and husky.
Finally Carol nodded. She hadn't realized until that very moment that the last thing she wanted was to be alone. If she got on that train there was no one but her. Maybe once they were done talking she would be ready, but Carol recognized that with the way she was feeling right then - leaving, putting herself in solitude - was only going to make it worse.
"Good, let's go," Daryl said.
"Wh-where are we going?" Carol asked. "Do you have a car?"
"Nope," he replied, slinging an arm around her again. "You know where we're going," he added, shooting her a little smile. Not far from the train station there was this little flat area on the side of a hill that overlooked the tracks. When the trains went by you could feel the breeze and the rumble. Back in high school kids often jumped onto the top of trains slowing as they made their way into the station. It was dangerous, but thankfully there had never been a serious injury. Though many jumpers had been grounded for a week or even thrown in the town jail for the night.
"As long as you promise you're not going to be an idiot," Carol warned him. Now that they were adults she knew how dangerous and stupid the little trick was. She'd witnessed Daryl jump many times when they were kids - he was good at it. But no matter who was making that leap Carol always felt like she was going to vomit until she saw they were safe.
"Nah, I'm too old for that now," Daryl joked. 29 - was that old? It hadn't felt like it a few hours ago, but now with no certain future Carol was terrified that 30 was only a few months away. He led the way up the hill and along the familiar path. On the weekend there would be kids there - for sure. But in the middle of the week at midnight - chances were slim. Daryl reached out a hand to help her make the last step up onto the plateau.
Just as they sat she could feel the rumbling starting already. It was the train she was going to take coming into the station. Carol closed her eyes and let the reminder of her youth take over her body. How many times had she been there before? With Rick… Daryl… Michonne… Abe and Sasha… Morgan… But that was a lifetime ago. The rumbling got stronger and still she kept her eyes closed. As the train passed she felt the air rush up into her face and swirl through her hair. But even with her eyes squeezed shut the tears found a way out and by the time the train was fully by them she was crying again.
"Hey," Daryl said, nudging her. "You know I hate it when chicks cry right?"
"Fuck you," Carol hissed, glaring at him. Somehow in her anger at his insensitivity the tears paused momentarily.
"That's better," Daryl said with a little grin. "You knew I was joking though, hmm?" Carol sighed and glared at him again, but the fire she'd felt moments before was gone. "I don't care if ya cry, but we ain't gonna get any talking done if you don't stop." She knew he was right and brushed the remaining tears off her cheek with the back of her hand.
"Look, you don't have to do this," Carol started. "It's late - you must have somewhere you need to be."
"Well, there was a wedding I had to get ready for but…" Daryl joked. "Too soon?"
Despite everything bad she was feeling Carol surprised herself and she laughed. "I hate you," she sighed, unable to hide the smile.
"Yep. You always did," he replied, grinning back at her.
"I did not," she countered.
"Coulda fooled me," Daryl snorted. "Look, I was a little shit - I know it. Don't feel bad. You were the good girl, smart, proper - and I was a loose cannon." He bumped her shoulder. "I'm still a loose cannon, but I did grow up a bit - promise."
Carol eyed him. He looked sincere and so far he'd given her no reason to doubt him in any way. Who would have thought that on the worst night of her life it would be Daryl Dixon who made her laugh? But here they were. Her heart was torn to shreds yet somehow he'd made her smile. It wouldn't last. Daryl always screwed things up - always. Yet he was all she had right then and Carol was thankful she wasn't alone. "You really don't know anything?" she asked, still finding it hard to believe that Rick hadn't given Daryl a clue at all. They may not have seen each other much but Carol knew they talked.
Daryl shook his head. "I came here to be best man in my best friend's wedding. That's all I know."
"Well maybe you'll still get to be best man… but the groom wants to marry the maid of honor, not the bride," Carol said bitterly. She went back and forth between sadness and anger. And she was never sure if she was more angry with Rick or Michonne. "How could I be so stupid?" she asked, feeling tears well up for the millionth time.
"Hey," Daryl said sharply. "You ain't stupid. Don't want to hear that again," he warned. "Start at the beginning and don't leave anything out - I got all night."
Carol nodded and started to tell him about the moment, only hours before, that her life changed completely…