Title: Walk This Road Together
Spoilers: 7x10 New Best Friends
Summary: She needed to heal the broken parts of herself, and there was no need to make them shatter further.
A/N: This was written for a Valentine's Day ficathon for thecaryldaily about what I want to happen during episode ten of season seven. This was written before new spoilers dropped on February 13th.
Daryl had no way of knowing if Carol would be accepting of him or not. After his altercation with Richard, he had immediately gone to find Morgan, demanding that he tell him everything since they'd arrived in the kingdom. And so with bloodied knuckles and only a knife and handgun that Morgan had procured for him, he had set out to visit Carol, despite the warning from Morgan that all she wanted was to be left alone.
He spotted her standing on the small front porch, and his heart skipped a beat. He was seeing with his own two eyes that she was alive, that she was breathing, and a part of him that had been holding his breath since he'd found out that she'd packed up and left Alexandria slowly let it out. And yet, his feet refused to move.
It wasn't until she turned and let herself back inside her little fortress of solitude that he felt his legs carrying him towards the house. He took the steps in one stride and just as he'd been about to knock the door swung open.
He reached for her, not caring that she hadn't wanted him (or anyone else) around, and pulled her into a tight embrace that seemed to crush the very breath from his lungs. "You ain't gonna get rid of me that easily, Carol. I don't care if you go half-way to Mexico. I ain't letting you pull away. You earned your place."
Carol saw a flash of a faint memory from back at the farm flash before her eyes. She'd said almost the same thing to him back when he'd tried to distance himself after Sophia had emerged as a walker from Hershel's barn. She had meant it then, and she knew he meant it now.
Her arms came up, reminiscent of when they'd shared their first hug just outside Terminus, and held him tightly pressed against her chest. Tears stung her eyes as she relaxed into his embrace. "Daryl, it's not that simple." She swallowed back the lump that formed in her throat as she pulled out of his embrace.
She stepped back, inviting him inside without saying anything more. She moved to place another log on the fire before she turned to face him with her arms crossed in front of her chest almost as if to protect herself from the conversation to come.
"The hell it ain't." He snorted softly as he strode into the room and deposited himself onto the couch. He picked up a book that lay spine up and splayed on the arm of the chair. He tossed it onto the coffee table and met her eyes. "You can just walk away after everything we been through? Like we was nothin'? Like I was nothin'?"
Her eyes snapped to his as anger, and shame, bubbled in her stomach almost making her lash out. "That's not fair." She was surprised at herself with how calm her voice had ebbed forth, without a hint of that anger. And absolutely no shame. She'd perfected the art of acting all these years thanks to Ed and his abuse. And then fine-tuned it with her display in Alexandria until the mask has slipped and cracked, revealing who she truly had become.
He leaned forward, rubbing both hands tired my over his face to calm himself and give him a moment to think. "Life ain't never been fair. We know that better than anybody." He watched her, narrowing his eyes. "You wanted him to tell us you died, Carol. Only he couldn't do it." He snorted and pushed himself up to stand.
"It was what I wanted, and he should have respected my wishes. I needed to be left alone." She gestured to the walls around her. "I needed to sort myself out, Daryl. You of all people should get that." Her face fell into a deeper frown. "You escape to the woods when you can't handle reality. What's the difference?"
He advanced on her, making her take a couple steps back until her back hit the wall behind her. "Difference is I always come back. Didn't leave no damn Dear John letter for the man I was shaggin' to give to my goddamn family." The jealousy over Tobin was clear in his voice, forcing him to look away before he continued.
He shook his head. "No, I ain't done. Damnit, Carol." His hand shook as he raised it to place against her cheek. "I get it. I do, but I don't, too." Tears pricked his eyes as he placed his other hand on her hip just as her hands were placed on his chest to keep a bit of distance between them. "I need you. Can you just leave me behind like I'm nothin'?"
Her eyes flooded with tears. "Why do you think I'm here? Why do you think I haven't moved on?" Her voice wavered as she closed her eyes and tears spilled on her cheeks. "I just need to be here. I have to sort things out..."
It was then that the hand that laid against her cheek moved to the back of her neck and pulled her head forward and his lips brushed against her forehead right along her hairline. "You have to let yourself feel it. Carol, it's the only way."
She smiled then as her own words were echoed back to her. She lifted her head, meeting his eyes. "Stay for supper? I was about to put on some squirrel stew."
He nodded, knowing that he had all the answers in which he needed. The rest of which he came to tell her could wait. She needed to heal the broken parts of herself, and there was no need to make them shatter further. The timing was wrong, but he'd be sure to help her understand when it became necessary.
"Good. You can wash up in the bathroom. Water's from a spring, and I can lite the stove if you'd like to take a hot bath." When he shook his head, she smiled again before she ducked from beneath his arm and moved toward the kitchen. "Just make yourself at home." God only knew she had been trying to do just that, but it had taken an angry redneck showing up uninvited to make this place resemble anything like her home.
He watched as she walked away. A relief washed over him as he let out a tired sigh. "Don't mind if I do." He'd have to be getting back to the Kingdom soon but a couple of hours wouldn't hurt. Especially, if that time was spent with his best friend.
The rest of the world could wait until they were both ready to say goodbye and go their separate ways knowing they'd meet again someday when the time was right for her. That's all that mattered to him. She hadn't turned him away. She was still there.