Title: Calm the Shifting Tides
Author: untapdtreasure
Rating: K+
Summary: She reached out toward him and took his hand in hers and held it as gently as she dared, interlocking their fingers together like they'd always been made to fit together. Or the two times Carol comforted Daryl and the one time she didn't.
A/N: I hope you like this.

I.

Carol approached the fire slowly, keeping her steps as light as possible. She knew the man standing beside it was in a dark place, and she had to let him know she was there, that she wasn't going anywhere. Her hand shook as she gently laid it on his shoulder, giving it a gentle squeeze. "Daryl, you need to eat. You're no good to any of us if you don't keep up your strength." She held out a small bowl of the cooked squirrel meat that they'd prepared for their evening meal. It wasn't much, but it would keep their stomachs from being empty. "Don't you make me force feed you. You know I'll do it."

He turned his head then, a smirk playing across his lips. "You wouldn't dare." But he knew she would do just as she threatened. He stretched his arm to the side and took the bowl she'd offered him. He tossed the stick that he'd been stirring the fire with into the flames and gave all his attention to shoving as much of the meat into his mouth at once as he could. If his mouth was full, she wouldn't expect him to do much talking.

Satisfied that he seemed to take her threat seriously, she relaxed a little as she moved to stand beside him. Her gaze got lost in the flames as she thought about all they'd lost since the dead had started to rise from their graves. She reached out toward him and took his hand in hers and held it as gently as she dared, interlocking their fingers together like they'd always been made to fit together.

He tightened his hold on her hand as she held his. He wanted to hold onto her forever, and he knew she'd let him for however long it was he needed her. The comfort she gave him just by being there that was all he needed.

II.

Her eyes raked over him as he approached her porch. She passed him the cigarette she'd lit only a moment before. She'd only taken a puff or two, but he looked like he could use it more than her. She scooted over a bit to give him room to sit beside her. "Rough night?"

He shrugged as he put the butt to his lip and pulled in a long drawl. He'd never cared much for menthols, but at the end of the world, who could be picky? He offered her the cigarette back and watched as she took a short puff from it. He let out a frustrated sigh. "I'm startin' to go crazy inside these walls."

She handed him the cigarette back and nudged him a bit with her shoulder before she placed her hand gently on his knee. She gave it a squeeze before she spoke softly, "Why don't we go out and hunt tomorrow? You still have to show me how to set the snares."

He didn't shy away from her touch. In truth, hers was the only touch that didn't set his teeth on edge. Instead, she gave him an ease and comfort no one else could. "Alright. First light?"

"It's a date."

III.

Daryl had been passing by her room to go down the hall to his own room when he heard her stirring. The door was slightly ajar so he peeked inside to find her tossing and turning, fighting her sheets and comforter as she struggled to escape the nightmare she was having. He quietly entered, pushing the door to behind him. He moved to the edge of her bed and placed his hand on her shoulder gently.

As he shook her, he spoke in a quiet voice, "Carol, hey. Hey, wake up. You're havin' a bad dream." The room was dark except for a nightlight that had been plugged into the wall near the closet. He sat on the edge of the bed as she started to come around.

Her eyes opened. Her pupils were blown wide as they darted every which way but on him trying to ground herself. Once she realized that she was safe, that he trying to wake her, she sat up quickly, pulling the sheet up around her as a way to shield her from whatever remained of her nightmare. Her throat was dry, causing her voice to sound raspy and cracked. "Daryl, I'm sorry. Did I wake you?"

His hands moved to take her cheeks gently between then as he managed to meet her eyes and gave her a soft smile. He shook his head. "No. I heard you tossin' around in here and came to check on you." He leaned close to her, trying to calm her even further. "I've got you, Carol. Ain't nothin' bad gonna get you here."

She closed her eyes as her hands released the sheet, letting it fall between them. Her hands then moved to lay on his forearms. "Will you-will you hold me?" It was so rare that she ever asked for anything for herself, but tonight, she wouldn't be okay alone.

His heart skipped a beat, but his answer came out quick and to the point. "I will." He bent to untie his laces and slipped out of his shoes as he slipped beneath the blankets with her. "Come here." As she slid into his arms, he wrapped his arms around her and held her as gently as he dared. His lips caressed the top of her head, placing a feather light kiss to her hair. "Try to sleep. I've got you."