I apparently can't get enough of this. Maybe I'm a glutton for self-torment, or maybe I'm just starting to ship these two like crazy. I hope you all like this. ^.^
Remember that I don't own anything and please let me know how yall' feel!
Maybe it'd been the stress of the day…. giving his ridiculous assurances only to see them destroyed the instant that girl trudged out of the barn with glazed eyes and a hole in her shoulder.
Maybe it'd been the aftermath, of burying bodies and watching the emotions of the group spiral into a god awful mess around them.
Maybe it had been her tears, specifically, hopeless and full of an agony that he probably could not imagine even if he tried.
Whatever the reason, he had practically passed out that night, exhausted in every sense of the word.
His tent was closed to the world and he didn't give a rat's ass about the danger of not keeping an eye out for himself.
He slept, dreamless and hard.
The group would leave in the morning, and he for one was glad. He'd had about enough of Hershel and his damned pacifist beliefs; the man would have put enough Walkers in the barn to eventually overcrowd it and break out, and all the praying in the world wouldn't have been able to save any of them.
The morning would bring an end to the 'farm life' bullshit.
Maybe they'd actually get to the military base this time….
His internal clock had always been precise; his eyes snapped open when it was still mostly dark, and not a sound could be heard outside the tent aside from the chirping of birds greeting the morning like it was something to look forward to.
Daryl gritted his teeth and felt his jaw lock.
No morning in this world was worth much singing.
His hair was sticky to his threading fingers and for just a moment, he wondered if they'd be allowed showers before leaving.
And then he cursed himself.
He'd rather stink to hell and back than use anything that fool of a farmer had to offer.
The zipper on his tent was half-pulled down when he went to exit.
He froze, considering it with sudden alarm.
And then he noticed the still body sitting just outside the opening.
In the faint pink light of dawn, he could make out the thin form and short hair.
Daryl ignored the fact that his stomach suddenly twisted and his heartbeat met his ears.
He chewed his tongue and pulled the flap open completely, removing the barrier between them.
Carol whipped her head around to peer at him the moment he moved.
He could see the darkness under her eyes, the remains of pink in what should be white, and he knew she had been awake the entire night, crying in the RV over the greatest loss a mother could suffer.
His right eye suddenly twitched.
His lips tightened when she looked at him squarely, and nothing about her expression offered him anything resembling a smile.
And how the hell could he expect one? Or hope for one?
For a few moments neither of them moved or spoke and he did not really care about the silence. He didn't mind silence because it was more comfortable to him than talking. Especially this morning. Especially with this woman on this morning….
"I don't know if I can do it, Daryl."
The comfort shattered with her whisper, and he flinched a bit.
He felt his head tilt, his eyes narrow, his brow crease and he knew he'd given her this look before. More than once. It was the one he used when she said or did something that confused the fuck out of him.
He shifted, watching her eyes hover over his with a lifelessness that seemed almost Walker-like. He didn't like it. Something about the way she was looking at him seemed….wrong.
His muscles suddenly tightened and he felt a familiar sense of apprehension.
And why the hell was it always her that made him feel like that?
She opened her mouth, and he strained to hear the whispered one-word answer:
The hammering in his ears got louder.
The coiling of his muscles got tighter and began to burn.
His brow furrowed to the point of a headache.
Something hit him then, watching her look at him with that lost (and yet, strangely determined) stare.
He felt his teeth grinding again.
She did not respond to him and he struggled to remain calm.
The woman had come to sit in front of his tent at God only knew what hour of the night, and waited frozen like a statue for him to wake up, so she could tell him she wanted to die?
He blinked, slowly, hoping like a fool that maybe his dreamless night hadn't been so dreamless after all.
His body moved and he couldn't control it.
He lashed out to grab her arm, barely having to move forward from his position in the tent, because she had literally sat just outside it.
Daryl watched her eyes widen with a flash of fear that he recognized. He'd seen it on her face before, in the presence of her piece-of-shit husband.
He scared her.
He didn't care.
He pulled, ushering her into the tent with him.
The moment her feet crossed the threshold of the tent he sealed it up, turning to glare at her in the shadowed privacy.
"What the fuck do you mean, you don't want to live?"
Her breathing had quickened and he knew he'd shocked her, but Jesus Christ, it was better than seeing her so still and hopeless like she was….
He was growling his words now, his anger legitimate and yet undeserved. Maybe he was more angry with himself than her, but he could not deny that her confession pissed him the fuck off.
Didn't she say she couldn't lose him too? And….did she not fucking think that maybe, maybe, he kind of felt the same way?
Two words echoed in his mind but he chose not to voice them:
She was tearing up on him now, and damn it all, he hated it when she did that back in the stables….
"Look at me, Daryl. I've lost my husband, my daughter….and I have nothing at all to offer anyone. When I really think about it, my….my only purpose was to be a mother; to raise Sophia and keep her safe in this world. She's gone….." her voice cracked and the tears fell, and he felt his fingers twitch at his sides and he knew what they wanted to do….
She looked at him and smiled pitifully.
"What good am I now? I have nothing left to bother living for."
He fought to calm himself down, a strange feeling of desperation gripping him in a way he found unfamiliar and uncomfortable and just plain fucking scary.
He reached out again without thinking, but froze when she jerked back slightly.
Damn it to hell. Shouldn't even bother.
But he had brought her into his space, confronted her outright and he couldn't just kick her out and forget about it at this point.
Daryl breathed and felt the wound in his side twinge a bit. He welcomed the pain.
Forcing reason, he sat back and gave her a once-over.
"You think you're the only one dealin' with this shit-world alone? There's people out there who ain't got anyone, but keep going. Maybe it doesn't make much sense, but they do it."
And maybe sometimes their reasons for doing it change….
Carol blinked at him with wet eyes and he saw her confusion.
His eye twitched again and he really wanted to go kill something in that moment.
"Merle was all I had. Don't know if he's alive or dead, but he's gone. Not here. But I still get up every day and survive."
He saw her tears falling more and more, and he knew, somehow, that she wasn't just crying for herself. He really wished she wouldn't do that shit….
"Why? When you've got no one, and nothing….why do you want to even try?"
And maybe it was something in her voice; that need for something to hold onto, or that quiet half-sob in the middle of her question, that made him say it.
Or maybe he was just fucking tired of avoiding the harder things in life.
"Cause' I figure….I keep living, and maybe I'll find somethin' worth living for."
His pulse was throbbing in his veins now and the heat on his face was really starting to tick him off. Why the hell did this sincerity shit have to be so hard?
She stared at him, a few new fresh trails of tears streaming down her face. But she was quiet, and something in her face had changed.
Those eyes didn't look quite so lifeless.
Another weak smile, and he felt the truth in it.
He started slightly when she moved, pressing forward against him slowly, head ducked and hands clasped together at her chest, uncertain and still putting off that hint of fear.
And God damn everything in this world if she thought for a second that he'd ever hurt her….
He let her lean into him, and his hands kept doing that fucking annoying twitching to the point where he let them move, and he remembered then what it felt like to hold her, how he felt like protecting her was something he should have been doing from the moment he and Merle joined the fucking group….
She cried quietly into his sweat-stinking shirt and he let them sink down against his pallet, the awkward sensation of holding a woman not lost on him but his lingering desperation (and yeah, the anger too) overruling it.
A few minutes saw the sun rising halfway and lighting the inside of tent enough for him to see her clearly, hands clenched under her chin and her head bent away from his face.
"Hey." His voice was more gruff than he meant, but then, he never really paid attention to how he sounded before. Maybe he was always this scratchy?
Her head turned up to look at him.
"I can't go telling you what to do….but….just think about it before you go and do somethin' stupid."
Maybe he could have put that differently, but….
She nodded a bit at him and looked away, hands separating and coming to rest on his chest.
A palm moved over his heart and he came close to jumping out of the goddamn tent altogether.
He didn't know if she'd listen to his words. He only knew that she'd heard them.
Daryl swallowed hard and tightened his hold on her.
He hoped she'd decide that maybe there was something left to live for after all.