For Alamo Girl. I meant this to be a parody, but my muses actually took the topic quite seriously...
Fangirl, 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.
Daryl wasn't alone when he returned to the camp, but Carol could easily tell that he wished he had been.
The girl trailed after him like a shadow, making no move to cover herself with the worn plaid shirt torn open across her flat chest. She carried a bloody machete in one hand and a shotgun in the other, obviously well versed in survival and capable of managing on her own, but the evidence of Daryl having saved her from something was clear.
He stalked past Carol and the rest of the group to his tent, which he ducked into and zipped up quickly behind him. The girl followed, going so far as to grasp the zipper tab on the flap and tug before his voice snapped out a loud, "Go 'way!"
Carol watched the child deflate at his order, but it was only for an instant. She rebounded with the resilience of youth and began to argue with him through the canvas.
"You can't just plunk me down in the middle of all these strangers."
"They're no stranger than I am!"
"How can I trust them not to be some kind of freaks that'll violate my nubile young body?"
"No one wants your body!"
Carol has to bite her cheek to keep from laughing at that unexpected byplay and she has to wonder what exactly had happened on his hunt that morning.
"You don't know that," the girl said, eyes genuinely apprehensive as she turned to look over the group assembling to watch the show.
Before he can reply, the mother in Carol responds to the girl's fear and she steps forward slowly with the blanket she had been folding from the clothesline.
"No one here would think of hurting you," she assures the stranger, draping the cover over the tiny figure.
"And I'm just supposed to take your word for it, grandma?"
Her brow rises sharply at that insult and she abruptly drops the material around the girl.
The child immediately shrugs the blanket off and climbs to her feet. She pokes her head through the strap of her gun to sling the weapon across her back along with the heavily loaded backpack she wore then raises the machete toward them all.
"I'll be keeping an eye on you," she warns them, eyes sweeping each member of the group with the tip of the blade pointing to each of them in a clear threat.
"We get it," Andrea scoffs, expressing the humor they all felt at the posturing, "you're a real hardass."
"When's the last time you ate?" Lori steps forward to ask, paying no attention to the weapon the girl turns on her.
Carol would have fussed in a similar fashion, but 'grandma' figured the little brat really could fend for herself. As their guest was corralled toward the campfire where some of lunch still remained, she bent to pick up the discarded blanket and shake off the dirt and twigs.
The question stops her mid-shake and she lowers the blanket to find Daryl peering from his tent, the zipper opened just enough for her to see him looking out.
"Rough morning?" she can't help but grin as the question begs an answer.
His eye glares at her through the opening and he doesn't answer her as he zips the flap back up and proceeds to have some kind of tantrum in the tent that sets the shelter to rocking.
Somehow, she can imagine him throwing off his boots and kicking around his things in the cramped space to vent whatever feeling he couldn't express otherwise.
She shook her head, folded the blanket and buried her smiling face in the material before turning away.
Over the next few days they slowly learn that the girl's name is Cassandra Davies; Cassie if you didn't want an evil eye of imminent death aimed upon you. She was fifteen and from a town about fifty miles away. Her family; parents, brother, aunt and two uncles, had begun the journey to this point, but only she remained.
"They even ate the dog," Cassie had confessed tearfully that first night, attempting to snuggle under Daryl's arm with the softly spoken words.
The man had frozen, paralyzed with not wanting her snuggling up to him, but also not wanting to be such an asshole as to reject her if she truly needed comforting.
The pair gave the group endless hours of entertainment.
Cassie milked it, using the group's enjoyment of how she made Daryl squirm as an excuse to do it all the more.
Daryl sharpened his buck knife with gritted teeth, a tick in his cheek and a glare in his eyes that warned them that if they kept it up they'd wake up skinned one of these days.
No one took the glare seriously, but Carol found him all the cuter for trying.
She found herself watching him with the child and wondering how he would have handled Sophia had her daughter been found alive.
Would he have shown her how to whittle as he did Cassie around the campfire at night?
Would he have worn that same pained expression that he did when Cassie talked his ear off over something if Sophia had found a topic to discuss with the man?
They had had no real time together, this man and her child, but he had still risked his life to try finding her. She imagined there would have been no end to the things he would have done to see Sophia safe and secure had such a miracle been possible.
Watching him with Cassie hurt. He was so awkward with the child, but forced to try because the girl refused to let him run from her. The only times she allowed him from her sight were when he slept and went off to relieve himself.
Carol knew for a fact that the little imp had refused to give the man privacy for a bath and she'd been tempted to spank the girl for that, because Daryl so rarely wanted to bathe. Since he'd caught the girl spying on him from the riverbank, though, he was clearly afraid to even try getting naked anywhere ever again.
And Carol knew of this because she had followed him, too, that day, hoping for a moment of privacy to talk.
As the days with Cassie among them turned to weeks, the opportunity to be alone with Daryl became even rarer and Carol began to realize that she might have it just as bad as the teenager.
She knew how Cassie watched Daryl because the girl kept getting in her line of sight when she looked to him.
She knew how much time the child spent trailing him because she was there every dang time Carol went looking for his company.
He made every effort to hide from the girl without hurting her feelings, but Carol was certain his gentle attempts only endeared him further to the child. Carol knew it touched her as much as it amused her to see him awkwardly struggle to handle Cassie's devotion.
But it was wearing thin and Carol was ready to step in.
She missed him and the girl simply had to be made to realize that she had no right to monopolize Daryl.
The opportunity for a little girl talk presented itself rather unexpectedly one afternoon and Carol leapt on the chance.
Cassie was sitting by herself on the edge of the camp. She was whittling the ends of sticks into sharp points with vicious cuts of her razor-sharp butterfly knife and every so often, her dark head would rise for her green eyes to glare daggers at something in the woods nearby.
As Carol carefully approached the girl's hunched figure, she squinted in the same direction to see what had earned the child's wrath.
She felt a scowl crimp her own features as she saw it.
Daryl and Andrea were gathering firewood, smiling at one another over an obviously private joke about poison ivy.
"Could she be more obvious?" Cassie groused chopping at another stick as Carol sat down beside her.
Not exactly sure what to say now that she had the chance, Carol remains silent, eyes remaining locked against her will on the pair in the woods.
"Everyone knows she's sleeping with Shane," the girl continued. "Just because she's all smart and pretty and frickin' blonde doesn't mean she has to have every guy left."
"They're just friends," Carol said, mostly sincere as she turns her attention to the girl beside her.
"He doesn't need any more friends," Cassie argues. "Especially a blonde. Blondes are so stupid. Back in school I had one boyfriend and I only wanted him. Eddie Thomas. He sat in front of me in Mrs. Miller's science class and he was soooooooo cute and he would always turn around and flirt with me. We'd just started hanging out at the mall together and I know he was going to ask me to the Sweetheart's Dance when stupid Suzy Allen threw herself at him. Flipped her lil blonde ponytail and shook her ass-"
"Language!" Carol interrupts eyes wide at hearing anything profane from a young lady.
Cassie stops sharpening the twig in her hands and tilts her head to the side to stare at Carol in disbelief.
"Seriously? The world's gone tits up like a drowned stripper and you object to my saying ass?"
"You are spending far too much time with Mr. Dixon," Carol shook her head to hide her grin, hearing the man's snark channelled through the girl's comment.
"Daryl's cool," Cassie defends. "And I was cussing long before he came along. He tries to keep what he says around Carl and I all mild, like we've never heard "shit" or "fuck" before and he says some of the weirdest things trying not to use the 'bad' words. Like I'm some kind of kid or something."
"You are, Cassie," Carol reminds the girl softly. "To him, to us, you're still so young."
"I'll be sixteen before too long," the teenager scowls at her.
"And he'll be forty."
"Forty," Carol gently begins to break the girl's little fantasy with a dose of reality. "He's a grown man, Cassandra."
"No way," the girl gives her the evil eye for the use of her full name. "You, sure. You might be forty. Dale? Probably like eighty. But Daryl? He's like…young."
"Go ask him yourself if you don't believe me," Carol challenged with a wave toward the man under discussion.
The girl turns to stare at the pair making their way to camp with arms full of fallen pieces of wood. For a few minutes they're quiet as they watch the man in motion.
"You like him, too, huh?" Cassie says, her eyes moving suddenly to catch Carol admiring the shift of muscle under skin glistening with sweat as Daryl deposits his bundle near the fire ring.
She doesn't respond to the question, not really knowing how to answer except to say that 'like' didn't really cut it.
"He saved me. I … I was done for," the girl said, her eyes going lost and unseeing of the present as she spoke for the first time about the day Daryl had found her. "We'd been losing people the whole time, but dad and I had been holding on pretty good. You could almost forget how bad things are as long as you have some family left with you, you know? But this stupid body on the ground was one of them and we didn't know. We were just walking over it and it bit him. Got his ankle right above his shoe. Such a stupid way to get it, you know?"
A tear slides down her face and the youth of that profile tears at Carol.
How many other children were out there, left to survive in this land alone?
The idea of this girl ending up like Sophia made her chest ache and she's glad Daryl was able to find at least one alive. Maybe there would be more he could save.
"I killed that fucker," Cassie sniffles and swipes the tear away angrily. "Cut its head to pieces. Too late, though. We got in a car for the night and he stayed with me for most of it. We just stayed up and talked until the fever made him all weird and I couldn't understand him anymore. I fell asleep when he stopped breathing and woke up when I heard him start again. That sound they make…" a shudder goes through the hunched figure as they both easily imagine that rasping wheeze the Walker's do with their useless lungs.
"I was trapped with him. He'd been in the backseat and I was upfront and he just lunged toward me and I swear I was a goner. I was kind of ready for it."
The girl said it so shamefully that Carol wanted to confess to how she had been in that same place herself. Instead, she just places a gentle hand on Cassie's back and gives it a gentle rub.
A sob shook through that back and the child spun around to throw herself against Carol's chest and cry.
Tears gathered in her own eyes and began to flow quietly down her cheeks as she held and rocked the girl. She sees Daryl watching them now, his expression questioning, his body tense as he stood helpless on the sideline of their grief.
"He saved me," Cassie kept saying, needlessly justifying the way she had clung to Daryl since the day he had entered her life.
"I know," Carol, strokes the girl's hair and places a kiss on her temple. "He saved me, too."
They fell quiet after that, until Carol began to wonder if she had put the girl to sleep with her rocking. When she pulled back to check, though, Cassie drew herself upright and gave a decisively final sniffle as she wiped at the evidence of her tears.
With the tears drying between them, the silence grew awkward and Cassie scooted away to look around the camp. She once more demonstrated the resilience of her youth by shaking off the emotion of the past few moments like the memories of such loss had never touched her.
"So," she said, focusing on something near the RV, "Glenn's pretty young, right?"