This might just become one of those "five fics in five days" things... here we go! Carol with some Daryl, just so y'all are apprised. PS: you can consider "Gone" and "Feel" as lead-ins, but this can stand alone.
She's gotten used to him sleeping in her bed.
For the fourteenth night in a row, he's come to her bed in the middle of the night, a stealthy and silent visitor. He never comes at the same time; on some nights, it's a few minutes past lights out; on another, closer to the burgeoning light of dawn. It doesn't matter. His presence, whether for a few minutes or a few hours, helps her to keep her eyes closed without seeing the shambling form of her baby limping towards her, hands dangling at her sides.
With him here, she can sleep, she can be at peace.
She loves to dream. Dreaming is the best part of her days now, a time when reality is suspended and she relives (or re-imagines) the best moments of her life. One night she lived the moment of her daughter's first birthday, candles lit up on the cake while she sang happy birthday to her one true love. On another night, she went for a walk with her adolescent daughter, chatting happily about life and boys and school, without the threat of walkers and death and pain looming over them.
Usually, her dreams are what keep her alive.
But tonight, she finds herself waking up in a cold sweat, breathing hard, with her voice frozen, unable to scream. She bolts upright, pushing her arms out in an instinctual movement, attempting to strike out against some nameless fear that had come to conquer her in her sleep.
Something brushes against her arm, and she goes to slap it away, but remembers in the nick of time that it's him, trying to ground her with his touch. As she brings herself back to reality, some part of her can't help but recognize how much better he's gotten at this whole comfort thing, how it humanizes him to a point that she hadn't quite imagined or fathomed.
"You okay?" he mumbles, half asleep himself, and she nods, still unable to put her thoughts into verbal form. She breathes in and out for several moments, reassuring herself that it's fine, everything's fine.
But it's not, not really, is it? Sophia's gone, stolen from her by some poor soul transformed into a demon, a demon that feasts on flesh and who cannot remember love or hope or dreams. She stifles back a sob, raw emotion flowing through her, and she lets herself fall back against the pillows, eyes clenched shut against the pain.
"Hey," she hears, the voice a whisper against her cheek. She opens her eyes in the dim light to see his face looking down at hers, concern etched into his eyes.
"I'm here. I'm okay," she says, half-believing it herself.
He says nothing in reply, simply pulling her against his body even closer than before, and as she shuts her eyes, she wonders what he dreams of.