Dust and Grief

Daryl held the woman tightly as they watched the little child's body crumple to the ground. Her corpse kicked up a little dust as it settled into the dooryard of the barn. The thick, viscous stuff that was pouring from her head wasn't blood, exactly. The boneless thud that the body made as it hit the ground wasn't as bad as hearing an axe cleave a skull in tow. And it wasn't like he hadn't seen Walkers fall before; in much worse ways that this…but…

Sophia…

The bile rose into his throat as he looked at her small, misshapen form. Grimly, he swallowed it back down and turned his head away from the carnage. He wasn't going to sick up something here in front of the group. He wasn't. Not with Carol making those broken sounds. She wasn't screaming or wailing or anything; just making these awful, low, harsh noises in her throat. They made his heart hurt.

Ain't no mama should have to see her kid go like that, he thought. He held her tighter, feeling the tension in her body grow suddenly, as though someone had scraped their fingers across a chalkboard. He looked back over to where Sophia lay in the dirt.

"Hey!" He yelled.

Andrea and T-Dog jerked their heads in his direction, startled. They were bent over Sophia, discussing something in quiet, urgent tones.

"We just…" Andrea started, looking uneasily at T-Dog and then back to Daryl. "We're going to take her out of this heat. Out of the dust. We didn't…"

She stopped, not sure how to continue. She looked at T-Dog again. He shook his head slightly, eyes scanning the area for the rest of the group, which seemed to have disappeared.

Daryl dropped his head so that his lips were brushing the shell of Carol's ear. "Stay here," he murmured. Not waiting for a response, he released Carol from his grasp and pushed himself up out of the dirt.

The horror and revulsion he had felt when he had seen Sophia shamble from the dark barn now morphed into anger and hatred of the people still crouched by her ruined flesh. They quickly stood and tried to move away from his stalking advance.

"Y'all need to step away from the girl!" he bellowed, his brows furrowing. "Ain't you done enough? Just git!"

Andrea backed away, her hands out in front of her. T-Dog followed, made ill at ease by the murderous glint in Daryl's eyes.

Daryl stared darkly at both of them until they were well clear of Sofia. Then he looked down at the shell of what had once been a quiet, sweet little girl. The rage inside of him dissolved into pity and grief. She had been so small. So young.

He felt a hand touch his arm gently. He turned his head and saw Carol standing next to him, her face full of sorrow. She didn't look his way, though. Her red, swollen eyes were focused on the body in the dust.

"Will you help me?" she rasped, the tears spilling down her cheeks.

Daryl nodded, grasping her soft hand with his calloused one. "Yeah," he said, thickly. "I can do that."

He wrenched his gaze away from her face as he felt his own tears gathering. He tightened his grip on her hand and hitched in a deep breath. He felt her squeeze back as the two of them stood quietly in the dusty, golden light of early evening. Tears cut clean tracks down their grieving faces, falling, finally, onto the upturned face of a Walker…who used to be a little girl.