Carol moved slowly around the clearing, gathering arrows and savoring the sideways glances Daryl kept giving her as he did the same.
With the chore done, she moved to collect her bow and slung it over her shoulder in a move that she could imagine becoming as natural as the way Daryl swept up his own weapon and shrugged on its sling. She smiled at him in that moment when they had both settled their respective straps across their torsos, liking their symmetry in the instant.
He returned the gesture with one of those wry twists of his lips that made her want to kiss him, but she knew that even the most casual caress would likely lead to them rolling in the grass despite it all. She'd never really believed it was possible for a man to go more than once in a whole day, let alone three times in just a few hours. It was a novelty, she was sure, that would wear off, but she was going to allow herself to enjoy it however long it took their bodies to catch up on the fast that had been forced upon them.
His fingers deliberately brushed her bare arm as he moved past her to collect their dirty clothes from where she had piled them along with her supplies and she huffed out a soft laugh at the contact in light of her own thoughts against such things. He gave her a curious glance over his shoulder at the sound, but she didn't try to explain her amusement since it was clear he wasn't going to follow the contact with anything more heated.
They split the accumulation of items between themselves, him taking more of the burden than she liked given that he still wasn't healed from his injuries. She made no effort to argue or take anything from him, learning slowly to accept that he was the kind of man that simply had a compulsion to carry more than his own weight.
Without a word, they shifted toward one another to begin the return journey to the camp. Had he been anyone else and their hands not been full, she imagined they would have strolled along hand in hand. Daryl Dixon wasn't the type to hold hands, though, and she knew that the occasional brush of his shoulder against her own was as close as she was likely to get to sentimental contact.
Somehow, it was enough for her, too.
The atmosphere at camp was a little tenser when they returned to it, the sun having sunk below the horizon before they completed the trek. Their arrival back among the group didn't alleviate all of the stress, though, but she wasn't of a notion to worry about the drama they may have missed in their idyll.
Feeling an actual want for food for the first time since that fateful fish fry, she deposited her share of arrows in Daryl's tent, noticing the others and the roughly made quiver among the items in his shelter when she poked her head in this time. The evidence of all the time and thought he had devoted to her without her having any awareness of a thing but her grief sent a pang of regret through her. He deserved better, no matter what he may think, and she promised herself she would really try now.
Set in that resolve, she pulled back to allow him to toss in his arrows before they moved quietly to the RV so she could put the supplies back in their place in the camper. He handed the items he carried up to her and stayed outside the shelter while she straightened up a bit, knowing it would be the last time she treated this space as her home. With that done, she took the dirty clothes he held as well as the few articles that he had let her bring back and put them on the tarp the women used as an odd kind of hamper for the unwashed garments of the group.
The domestic harmony with which they moved continued and conveyed itself to the group, bringing a surprised yet pleased grin to Dale's otherwise worried face. There was no doubt what Daryl and she had been doing off alone for the whole of the day, but Daryl didn't show any upset or temper over that this time. He, like she, was probably too satiated physically and hungry for some food to recover some of the energy they'd spent.
Dinner hadn't been held for them and Lori gave her a regretful shrug at that, but Carol didn't mind. She found a pair of clean plates and some silverware and went to the picnic table where the remains of the meal still sat.
There were three pieces of fried chicken left and she wondered if Hershel had sanctioned the menu or if the others had simply taken from the farmer whatever they felt the need or want to eat. Given the last events she remembered clearly from the interactions with their host, she somehow sensed that they, meaning Shane, were little more than squatters now, draining the land even further of the magic that had so appealed to them all before the day outside the barn.
Daryl's frown in the faint light cast from the low burning fire brought her from those thoughts and she pushed the gladly from her mind. The disintegration of the group was a disappointment and concern, but there were enough individual triumphs, such as Maggie for Glenn and Daryl for herself, that Carol forced that brighter thought to the forefront.
Once the plates were set down on the table, she moved, out of habit, to begin filling his first, but he stopped that with a speaking glance. She shrugged in quiet apology, another habit he frowned upon, then selected the smallest piece of chicken from the trio for herself.
A scoop of canned corn and fried greens likely picked from the fields completed her meal. It was simple and more than enough for her, but he still tried to force the chicken breast on to her plate. She put it right back on his plate and challenged him to just eat the damned food already.
He wasn't cowed by the glare she gave him, but he was hungry and sensible enough to accept her choice after having at least tried to get her to eat more, so he began to consume his rations quickly. Her pace was slower, but the hunger also evident in the attention she paid to the food as they sat there alone together. None of the others approached them, but Carol often felt the gazes directed toward the table.
Daryl cleaned his plate, sat with her for a moment while she finished her portions then rose. Their eyes met, his questioning and hers answering without hesitation, and he gave her a quick nod of understanding before turning to go to his tent.
The leftovers were few, but she still went into the RV for containers to put the vegetables in. She wasn't in the mood to take the time to wash up completely after the meal, but she felt up to contributing some to the camp again and did gather the dirty dishes to take inside and place in the empty sink of the Winnebago.
Her belongings were few and all fit in her shoulder bag with just an armful of leftovers to carry across the camp. She gazed sorrowfully for a moment at Sophia's things in the bottom dresser drawer before she deliberately closed it and left the items behind.
Later, sometime much later, she would empty the space of those now useless articles.
Without a word to the group still gathered tensely around the fire, she crossed the camp with her possession in hand and approached his tent slowly. Seeing the flap lowered and a light on in welcome inside the shelter, she knew that she had been right about the meaning of their last exchange.
He was straightening up when she ducked inside, moving his things around the bedding he had spread out to cover more of the canvas floor. She would set herself to making it homier for them tomorrow, but for the night it looked like a five-star hotel room just as it was.
She found a corner to put her things in, toed off her shoes and knelt down beside him. He stopped fussing then, settling back on his own heels for a moment before moving around her to close the tent flap. Neither of them undressed before shuffling to lie down. He pulled a light blanket up over them once she'd turned off the little battery operated lantern.
As she had most often seen him do, Daryl settled on to his back to sleep, tucking both his hands beneath his head as an additional pillow to the pile of clothing he'd arranged to cushion their heads.
As she had wanted to do since the first night he had lain down on the floor of the Winnebago, so close but so far from her, Carol turned into his body.
Her head scooted around his chest until her ear heard the beat of his heart beneath it and she nuzzled in there, claiming the spot as her own customized pillow. She tucked a leg carefully between his, enjoying the simple yet intimate brush of their bare feet connecting. Her arm she draped over his waist, finger hooking in a belt loop on his pants to secure her hold.
While her body was relaxing in to his in preparation to sleep, his held a tension she hoped was only due to a foreignness of him actually just sleeping with a woman.
After a few minutes, he removed an arm from under his head and lowered it to lay over her own and minutes after that, they both fell into an actual sleep.
That's it. I'm calling it. My muses are ready to refocus on other incompletes.
May 2012 bring us all lots of Caryl.
And is it too much to ask of the series to give me a scene in Dary's tent? For some reason that setting is like a magnet to my muses right now.