Another self-imposed 500 word challenge. Man, Daryl takes this whole flawed hero thing of mine to a new level...


He wakes up to her soft, mewling sobs.

The day had somehow become night and he'd found himself in his customary spot, sleeping on the floor of the motorhome. He doesn't really remember what happened after the moment when her body dropped down onto the ground, but he vaguely recalls the smell of acrid flesh burning and the sight of dirty smoke rising into the air. All he can remember clearly now is the feel of the sun on his shoulders as he knelt in the dirt, still numb to the thought that somehow everything had gone wrong.

He's not numb anymore.

He can hear her crying from the bed, and it strikes a chord in his heart, tugging on those goddamned heartstrings he thought he'd buried when his kitten had been run over by his father's tractor. He was only four, maybe five, but his father had slapped him so hard over his sobs and his tears that he'd sworn to never feel that way he had that day, ever again. How could he be hurt if he never let himself feel in the first place?,

He blinks, staring up at the roof of the camper, looking up at the dark lightbulb above him, trying to ignore the fact that he can hear her cries of pain.

He knows why this is different. He knows why that little girl wormed her way into his heart. When she disappeared in the woods all he could think about was the nine days he'd spent lost to the world, hiding from shadows and running from the dark. No one had come to look for him then. But he could go and look for her now.

Apparently, he just hadn't looked hard enough.

He rubs his eyes in frustration, and is honestly surprised when he pulls them back and feels the dampness on his skin. What the hell? he thinks to himself, angrily brushing away the remnants of his unsolicited tears. And suddenly all he can feel is the anger – at himself, at Carol, at the group, at Herschel, and even at Sophia (why'd you have to go?), and it takes everything he has not to scream in frustration and bang his head against the wall.

So he throws off his blanket and stands up abruptly, and before he can even understand exactly what he's doing, he's made his way over to the bed in the back and he's lying down beside her. She turns to him, confused beyond belief, but even in the dim light of a half-moon he can see the swelling of her eyes, the streaks on her cheeks, and suddenly all that anger he's feeling turns to pain, awful pain.

She doesn't say anything, just gives him a grim half-smile and squeezes his hand lightly.

He holds her against him like he did in the daylight until they fall asleep, two lost souls in a desolate world.