Finding my Carol voice again...

Not To Know, 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.

The drugs Andrea had essentially forced her to take to make Carol sleep had worn off enough for the woman to awaken. Her eyes were swollen and gritty from the tears she'd cried even while she slept. Her mouth was dry and cottony from the pills, but she didn't want to get up for a drink of water.

The RV was quiet and dark and she lay there, staring up at the ceiling.

A quiet shuffle on the roof told her that someone was up there, watchful as ever even in the darkness. Given the lack of snoring from the makeshift bed in the kitchenette, she knew it was Dale, sleepless as usual.

She was alone in the camper and hated it. He had been sleeping in his tent since they arrived at the farm and she missed the quiet solace of his presence on the floor nearby.

Little had the blonde known when Andrea urged her to swallow down the Ambien's, all Carol would have needed to quiet her grief was Daryl, but she hadn't had the courage or strength to ask him to stay after he'd deposited her on this bed hours earlier. Andrea and Lori had been so quick to push him aside, assuming that, as women, they knew best how to handle the grieving mother, and no one had protested.

Knowing sleep would not return to her for what may remain of the night, Carol inched slowly from the bed and moved from the trailer at little more than a shuffle. She sensed Dale's eyes upon her as she crossed the distance to Daryl's tent, but didn't acknowledge him as the slightest distraction could steal her fragile nerve. She had a goal and needed to see it reached.

The rasp of the zipper seemed overly loud in the dark as Carol began to open the flap to gain entrance to the shelter. It was no surprise to quickly find herself staring down the shaft of an arrow loaded in the crossbow pointed right at her before she'd succeed in unzipping it even half way.

She often wondered if he ever really slept.

When he saw it was her trying to gain entrance to his privacy, the bow wavered for a moment and then lowered slowly to be set aside within the shelter. Without a word, he took over the opening of the flap and lowered it in silent invitation for her to enter. Once she had, he stuck his head out for a moment to wave off Dale's watchful gaze then he ducked back inside and re-closed the barrier.

Carol sat to the left, drawing her knees up under her chin and hugging them as he returned to his sleeping bag. He gave her a questioning, sideways glance in the dim interior, but when she said nothing he picked up the knife he had apparently been sharpening when she disturbed him.

The rhythmic scrape of metal on stone was something she'd heard often in his presence at camp and it had become oddly soothing. She turned her cheek to rest against her knee and breathed evenly for the first time since Sophia had appeared in the gaping doors of the barn. He had grounded her then, too, holding her back when she would have embraced the nightmare her child had become. There had been and still was too much chaos in her head for her to know just how she felt about his saving her.

She wondered if he had even had time to consider the consequence of his actions in that moment. According to lore, her life was indebted to him now and, having lived it to this point, she knew what a burden that could be.

The scraping stopped and the tent fell silent. She didn't move, though, as he put the weapon and whetstone away then shifted to lie down atop his bedding.

He had had no light on, so she couldn't see too clearly that that was what he did, but she just had a sense about him that would have disturbed her before all of this. As it were, the instinctive knowledge of his motions was just another comfort to her weary mind.

His breathing was calm and even, but she wasn't fooled into believing he slept. He was too tense in the stillness, clearly not knowing why she was there or what, if anything, he needed to be doing.

She didn't know either, but felt no need to come up with any answers.

"I can't decide which is better."

Her voice was little more than a croak from the misuses of screaming and wailing so much during the past hours and the sound of it surprised her as much as the fact that she had spoken at all. No thought had even seemed to form in her head and yet the words came out.

From the rustling across the tent, she knew he had shifted on to his side to look at her and she propped her chin back on her updrawn knees again and found his eyes in the darkness. His confusion was plain and she tried to sort the thought out in her head before speaking again.

"Knowing," she began, finding it easier to just talk than think. "I thought, that first day we all went looking, that it was horrible to be left wondering and to not know, but now…Is it better to know what happened?"

She knew the instant he got it and also that only he could really understand such a question.

"No," he rasped into the darkness and she knew he was wondering at the fate of his brother. "Some things it's best not to see."

It surprised her to hear him say that, considering how he had looked for Merle and then Sophia.

"I know he's dead," he continued quietly, sensing her confusion. "Can't be anything else no matter how good he was at getting out of the jams his fool mouth got him in to. Thought I could handle it if I saw him as one of them and did him the kindness of ending it, but after today…it's better not to know."

Images of the day flipped through her head like snapshots on the rapidly turning pages of a scrapbook.

Sophia framed in the barn doors, clothes filthy, shoulder torn open and flesh rotting.

Her daughter's feet picking their way through the tangle of fallen corpses as it sought the living to feed upon.

The barrel of Rick's gun pointed to her child's unprotected forehead.

The splatter as the bullet tore through Sophia's brain.

Her little girl lying facedown in the dirt, dead in every way imaginable.

So vivid, gruesome and … final.

Yes, it was better not to know, she thought, wishing they had both been spared the carnage of the day

Drained by the realization, she unfolded herself from her sitting position and scooted closer to his bedding before lying down. He didn't roll over as she settled on her left side on the unforgiving ground beneath the thin canvas floor of the tent, nor did he make any chivalrous gestures to invite her to join him on the softer sleeping bag.

The discomfort was welcomed, though.

To feel anything had to be a good sign. Right?

Her eyes closed, but she knew his remained open and focused on her even after she fell asleep.