A Body Knows, by MissMishka
DISCLAIMER: The usual warnings, I claim no ownership of these characters, they are simply borrowed with love and adoration from the original creators to have their stories embellished on a little more than the show may do. Not for any profit.
Finally released from Daryl's restraining hold as the man reluctantly left her to help Rick as the group began to disintegrate after the shock passed, Carol continued to lay there in the dirt for a little while. Her tears continued to roll unchecked into the dirt as the others argued around her.
Caught up as they were in the drama of what had just happened, no one seemed to notice or care when she finally raised her head and began to move. At little more than a crawl, she dragged her weary body across the short space of ground that was all the closer she'd gotten to her staggering child.
The blood that soaked the ground beneath Sophia's head was all wrong. Too dark and thick, but that was common with the Walkers as their blood was as dead as the rest of them. No matter how she fussed with it, she couldn't manage to get the knotted mess of her daughter's blonde hair to cover the hole blown out the back of her tiny head, so Carol stopped after a few tries. She raised herself to sit up and carefully turned the corpse of her little girl over, biting her lip to keep in a sob as her fingers skated over the hole blown dead center in Sophia's forehead.
With a mother's tender loving care, she closed the clouded over eyes of her baby girl then took the bottom of her shirt to begin wiping some of the blood off that beloved face. Once that was done, she found her fingers going to the ragged edges of flesh at the base of Sophia's neck.
She didn't know and couldn't guess if death had been quick after the bite. She prayed for whatever mercy there may be in God that it had been quick. Somehow, she doubted it, though, and the idea of her girl so scared and hurt and suffering alone was enough to shatter the grieving mother.
Her hands went under the stiff back of Sophia's corpse and she pulled the decaying body into her lap. Carol didn't smell the stench of death and rot, though, as she pressed her forehead to the same shoulder that had been torn open.
She smelled the bubble gum bubble bath that was her little girl's favorite.
Smelled the gentle "no tears" shampoo she had used to cleanse the child's hair years ago.
Smelled the overpowering amount of perfume Sophia had sprayed herself with when getting into Carol's few cosmetics to play dress-up at age four.
Smell was the strongest sense tied to memory and she clung tightly to the old memories to block out the stench of this new horror.
The argument was loud and painful and right there next to her, but Carol wasn't disturbed by it. Her mind did catch on to the topic, though, and part of her wanted to speak up, but it didn't matter to her what Hershel's group had known.
Carol had known when her child died, but she hadn't stopped the search.
Wouldn't Shane just love to know that?
He'd probably put a bullet in her head and the idea wasn't lacking in its appeal, but she didn't speak up as she rocked her baby as if to sleep.
It may have been an old wives' tale, but something like that a mother really did just know.
Just as her mother had known, years ago when that call had come.
Carol had been just eight and she had wondered where her fifteen year old brother was, but hadn't asked because her mom had been acting funny the whole day. Pacing and looking constantly out from the windows.
It'd been just the two of them to sit down to dinner that night, but her father's absence from the table wasn't so unusual with how hard he worked. It had been a Saturday, though, and she had some vague memory of a fishing trip being talked about at dinner the night before.
The ringing of the phone had been shrill in the eerily quiet house and her mother had dropped her fork with a clatter at the sound. The woman's eyes and hand had both raised at the ringing, eyes locking on the phone like it were a poisonous snake, hand going to her chest as if her heart were trying to get out.
"I got it," the young Carol had jumped up helpfully as her mom had seemed frozen in her chair.
A very somber voice had asked to speak to Mrs. Arthur Moore as soon as Carol answered the phone.
"Mommy, it's for you."
The memory of how slowly her mother had risen to take the call had seared itself into Carol's mind, as had the image of the woman collapsing to the floor when that somber voice told her of the accident that had killed her husband and son.
The only reason Carol had really relented to the idea of the group leaving the highway and coming to set up a base on this farm was because she had woken with the sickening lurch of knowledge that morning they made the move.
She had felt the tear of teeth as if on her own flesh and startled Daryl awake in the RV with her scream at what she knew now to have been no nightmare. Her hand had gone to her heart as he had leapt from the floor to take out the threat before he had realized there wasn't one and turned to assure her that it had just been a bad dream. As had already become her habit at that point, she just accepted his words in hope that they were truer than her own thoughts and senses. Under her palm, though, her heart had thumped unsteadily, heavy with the weight of knowing that its reason to beat was no longer among the living.
After he'd been hurt, she'd tried in her best way to tell Daryl, not wanting him to take any more risks when this was the only outcome she could see. In that moment, though, in the clearing he had taken her to, the conviction with which he had spoken had fooled her into hoping that maybe he knew more than she did.
His tears were mixed with hers in the dirt nearby and, knowing that, she wept harder against the lost hope of her child.
Lost in her grief, she knew nothing of when the group moved off toward the house, arguing with Hershel for a right to stay after the horror that lay on the ground all around her because of them. She knew, though, that he hadn't gone with them even before she felt him kneel next to her. Her head didn't lift as she felt his arms come around them both, taking both her and the corpse unquestioningly against his own chest.
His head pressed again to her back as it had earlier as he'd restrained her and his sorrow was a palpable as her own. For that reason, she took a hand from around Sophia's body and wound it around his arm to further pull him into the morbid embrace. Not knowing how to offer comfort when it'd never been received, he was almost as stiff and unyielding as the corpse, but after a moment, he instinctively picked up her rocking motion.
The sun was beginning to set when they broke apart. She laid her child back down on the ground once Daryl quietly rose to his feet to indicate that they had to stop. Despite the mother's instinct to do so, she refrained from bending to kiss her baby's forehead as she had done countless times after settling the child down to sleep. Blood had oozed once more from the hole in that forehead and Carol could take no chance of getting the infection in her, so she settled for pressing a kiss to fingers that had had no direct contact with the body and then lying those fingertips to her daughter's face one last time.
He helped her up and she wasn't surprised to find she needed it. Her body felt numb and boneless, so she leant on him without a word as he led her away.
While the loss of a child was something that a mother just knew, there were some things that any body simply knows. Even in its exhaustion and distress, hers knew it could lean on his.
And that it would have to if, she had any intention of getting past this day.