New chapter! Bit too long this time but I didn't want to cut it in two. So whatever.
I should rename the fic and call it "50 ways to torture Connor MacManus"
LOL. I'm so sorry :D So this is more like a Daryl POV at first. I tell you, this friendship is growing on me!

setting: episode 9 "Triggerfinger"


Salvation

Chapter 23 - Realization


It was dark outside. Connor hadn't come back since he'd told him to go to hell. The truth was that he was worried. Connor had left hours ago. Rick and Glenn hadn't come back either. Daryl was sitting by his own campfire and watched the flames. He still wasn't over the fact that he hadn't been able to find Sophia. And now she was dead. Suddenly he heard someone come running towards him. When he looked up he saw that it was Carol. He sighed. He didn't want to see her. He couldn't look her in the eye because he felt so ashamed of his failure. Her daughter was dead because he hadn't been able to find her.

"We can't find Connor. And the others aren't back yet either" Carol said and came to a halt right in front of him.

He shrugged and threw another stick at the campfire.

"Yeah that dumb Irish fuck must' ve gone looking for them."

„What?" she asked and looked at him in surprise.

"Yeah, he asked me to come with him. But I'm done playing the dead brother. He ain't my problem."

Carol eyed him for a moment. Then she frowned.

"And you didn't say anything?"

Why should he? It wasn't like any of those people had cared about Connor that much. They'd only ever cared when he had managed to hurt him.
He had been the one that had cared and talked to Connor most of the time. So why was she asking him something like that now?

He didn't answer and concentrated on the fire. Daryl still wouldn't look at her, so she turned around to leave.
He was already giving in to his thoughts again when she came back.

"Don't do this. Please. I already lost my girl."

So now she was bringing up Sophia. It was too much for him. He got up and glared at her. He was getting angry all over again.

"You know what's my problem? Neither."

With that he left because he could feel how his fists clenched and because he didn't want to hurt her.
He just wanted to be alone, why wouldn't Carol and Connor get that?


About an hour later Carol came back.
He saw her standing by the geek ear necklace and the way she just kept coming and wouldn't leave him alone made him angry all over again.

"What are you doing?" he snapped and she turned around in surprise.

Carol looked at him for a while.

"Keeping an eye on you" she answered and he snorted.

"Aren't you a peach."

He kept walking around because he could hardly control his annoyance.

"I'm not gonna let you pull away. You've earned your place" she went on and he rolled his eyes.

Now she was doing it again. It annoyed the crap out of him how she kept playing psychologist. How she kept treating him like he was someone special.

"If you spent half of your time minding your daughter's business instead of sticking your nose into everybody elses, she'd still be alive!" he snapped and she looked hurt.

She swallowed and then nodded.

"Go ahead."

This made Daryl frown.

"Go ahead and what? You know what...just go! I don't want you here!"

He expected her to leave because something like that had always worked on others. Because it had made Connor leave. She just stood there so he went on.

"You're a real piece of work lady! What are you gonna do, make this stuff about my daddy or some crap?"

Oh crap, now he had mentioned his father in front of her. There was no way he'd talk to her about that. He didn't even know why he'd told the stupid Irishman.
He tried to change the subject and get her into leaving, so he did the same he'd always done with Connor. Hit her right where it hurt. Her dead family.

"You're afraid. You're afraid cos you're all alone. You've got no husband, no daughter, you don't know what to do with yourself."

Carol wouldn't give in. She wouldn't give him the fight he wanted. She wouldn't break the way he wanted her to break.
And because she was so strong it made Daryl snap even more.

"And you ain't my problem! Neither is that stupid leprechaun! " he snapped and she startled when he started yelling.

"Connor's not my brother!"

And he knew why that made him angry. Because he's the brother I've always wanted to have instead of Merle. Because I want to be his brother.

"Sophia wasn't mine!"

For the first time he realized why it hurt so much. Because Sophia wasn't mine. Because I've got no family and wanted the two of you to be my family.

"All you had to do was keeping an eye on her!"

And he got so furious that he clenched his fist and was just about to punch her in the face. Because that's what he'd always done when Connor was around. He heard her gasp in surprise and then she turned her head away. But Carol didn't look scared. She was expecting him to beat her. She was ready for it. She didn't fear it. She winced just the way he'd always done when his father was about to beat him. Daryl was so surprised and so shocked because of this that he stopped and looked at her. He had always expected her to be a weak housewife. A woman who couldn't defend herself. But Christ. The way she stood there in front of him. Expecting, fearless...it made him realize how strong Carol really was. How brave she was. "Yeah" she whispered and swallowed. Carol stayed strong and did not cry. It made Daryl realize something else.

All you had to do was keeping an eye on her...and she'd still be alive! All you have to do is keeping an eye on him so he stays alive.

Connor. He'd gone all on his own. He'd asked him to come with him.

"It's a fuckin town. There must be hundreds of them things."

And there he was, sitting all by himself, without Connor, without anyone and it was so dark and dangerous outside that he wanted to mentally slap himself for not going with his friend.

"Don't kill yahself you stupid freak."

"Try ta stop me."

"I will. Cos you ain't dying as long as I'm around."

You ain't dying as long as I'm around.

He knew what he had to do. Without saying another word to Carol he turned around to get his crossbow.


Soon after Daryl had left the farm he had to realize that Connor hadn't even made it to town. Because after about 15 minutes of driving down the road he saw the car. Crashed. Lying on the side. It made his heart miss a beat. Because he didn't know what had happened. Had Connor done it himself? Was this another one of his suicide attempts? He imagined him driving down the road at full speed and then hitting a tree. He imagined how his neck snapped. Oh Christ Connor was dead and it was all his fault. He parked the car a few meters away from Connor's when he saw walkers by the wreck. What if walkers had bitten him to death? What if they'd chewed on his guts and he hadn't been able to run away? What if Connor was a walker himself?

He didn't know if he could shoot him. For the first time in his life, after all the walkers he'd killed, he wasn't sure whether he could shoot Connor in the head. He didn't have to think the scenario through when he heard gunshots coming from the car. He got out of his car and grabbed his crossbow. So Connor was still alive. Inside that car. With walkers surrounding it. He saw three of them. When Daryl approached the car he could hear a loud bang and glass shattering. After a second Connor was screaming inside the car and he heard another gunshot.

Oh god no. Now a walker must've got him.

Daryl ran for the car and shot the two remaining walkers in the head. He thanked god he'd already made a couple of new arrows. He turned around to check whether there were any other walkers. They were alone. Daryl took a deep breath and walked around the car. He wasn't sure what was waiting inside. He saw Connor lying in there with a walker on top of him. He had a laceration on his head and aimed the gun at Daryl who frowned.

"How the fuck did yah manage t' crash a car in the middle of fuckin nowhere?" he asked and heard Connor sigh.

"Daryl?"

The hunter nodded and grabbed the dead walker by his shoulders to get him off Connor.

"Stupid walker ran right inta my car" he murmured and grunted when the dead weight was lifted off him.

"Jesus fuckin Christ, I've never been more relieved ta see yer stupid ugly face."

Daryl snorted.

"Yah want me t' shoot yah right here an now?"

"I was just about ta do it myself."

And the way Connor looked at Daryl he knew he meant it. The hunter shook his head and offered Connor a hand.

"Told yah yer ain't dying as long as I'm around."

Connor grabbed his hand with a happy grin but when Daryl pulled he groaned in pain.

"Ah fuck, right, I forgot ta tell ye. I'm fuckin stuck."

"You're what?"

Daryl looked at him in surprise and when he looked down on Connor he saw his bloody leg and the piece of glass in his thigh.

"Christ, not only are yah t'stupid to drive a car but you also manage to get yer stupid leg stuck like that?"

Connor snorted.

"Aye. I tried ta pull it out but it's fuckin stuck. I need help."

They heard moans behind them and Daryl turned around in surprise. There was another pair of walkers heading towards them. Connor's breathing sped up again.

"I'm outta bullets Daryl."

The hunter looked at Connor and was surprised when he saw that the Irishman looked scared.

"So fuckin please tell me ye care if I'm there or not. I don' wanna get eaten."

Daryl snorted and grabbed his crossbow.

"I'm here now, aren't I?"

And when Daryl grabbed another arrow and aimed at the walkers he realized another thing. He might have lost Sophia and Merle. Maybe those tasks were over. Because he knew he wouldn't find them any more. But there was one thing he was absolutely sure of. He had a new task. A new purpose in life. And that was making sure that this whiny leprechaun was save. He shot the two walkers in the head and turned around again but couldn't see any new ones.

"We need t' get yah outta here. It's not safe. Not with all the blood."

Daryl tried to get Connor out of the car again. No matter how hard he tried, his stupid leg wouldn't move. Although the Irishman tried his best not to make any noise, the more Daryl pulled the more it hurt because the piece of glass kept cutting him. After a minute of trying he ended up screaming in pain and Daryl stopped immediately.

"It's no fuckin use. That's te stuff ye need the fuckin firefighters for" Connor panted.

"How the fuck am I supposed to get some stupid firefighters now? Dial their number? It's the freakin apocalypse dumbass!"

"I fuckin know it's the fuckin apocalypse, I got te memo!"

Daryl pulled again and Connor yelped in pain. Both of them were out of breath already. The hunter eyed his friend angrily and wiped the sweat off his face.

"Fuckin typical! What is it with yah and all the stupid accidents and injuries? Aren't yah Irish freaks supposed t' be lucky?"

"Fuck you! I was til I met ye stupid ass! It's yer fuckin fault after all! If ye hadn't been tha fuckin princess and come with me when I asked ye ta,
I wouldn' have crashed te car in te first place!"

Daryl stared at Connor in surprise. He knew Connor was saying those things because he was in pain but in the end he knew that he was right.

"Shut up. I'm gonna get yah outta here" he said and tried to move the steering wheel.

Connor took a deep breath and grabbed his friend by the shoulder.

"Okay, that's it. I see two options here."

"We're going to get yah out and we're going t'get yah out!"

"Don' be stupid. Either ye take my gun and shoot me in the head.."

"No fuckin way!"

"Or you gimme something ta bite and pull me out. With all the strength ye can gather."

"Are you mental? It could cut yer fuckin leg off!"

"Aye."

Daryl looked at him in surprise and shook his head.

"How are yah supposed t' survive with one fuckin leg? I ain't gonna babysit a cripple!"

"There's no other way an ye fuckin know it! Now fuckin pull yerself tagether!"

Both men stared at each other for a moment and then Daryl turned around. He was going to hurt Connor. Again. It was all his fault he was stuck.

"It's alright. I'm going ta live. I've had somuch worse Daryl."

Daryl searched for a stick and snorted.

"Like what?"

He heard Connor sigh.

"Got tortured once. By some mobsters. Murph and I wanted ta kill Yakavetta. The guy we shot in te courtroom later. He got us before. Tortured us in his cellar fer hours.
Shot our friend before our eyes. An te worst kind a pain af all. I saw Murphy die. Twice. So ain't no stupid leg gonna hurt me."

Daryl turned around and eyed Connor. After a moment they came to a silent agreement. He was going to pull him out.

He found a thick stick in the bushes and walked back to Connor. They both took a deep breath and when Connor nodded Daryl put the stick in his mouth. It was kind of hard finding the right position to pull but in the end he placed himself somewhat behind Connor, inside the car. He wrapped his arms around his waist and could feel how the Irishman grabbed his hair."Ready?" Daryl asked and after a moment Connor nodded. When he started to pull, Connor's screams where muffled by the stick. It was like a flashback for Connor. 10 years ago. After their father had shot them. The bullet in his leg. Murphy behind him, pulling the piece of cloth he buried his teeth in. Rocco with the iron in his hand. He'd been scared of the iron. The heat. The pain. But Murphy was behind him. He was holding on to him. And when the iron touched his flesh, he felt the incredible pain and smelt the burnt flesh as he buried his fingers in Murphy's hair. The pain. And they were going through it together. Halving it. Making it better. This was just like that. The more Daryl pulled the more Connor buried his fingers in his hair. He could hear his jeans tearing and the glass ripping and cutting through his flesh.

After a moment everything was over. Both he and Daryl fell back as he was released. Connor groaned in pain and when he moved he yelped. He felt the tears coming because it hurt. When he saw all the blood he felt like he could pass out any minute. The Irishman coughed and groaned, then he could feel how Daryl pulled him out of the car. For a moment he just stared at the night sky. He couldn't remember the last time he'd looked up at the sky like that. The stars were so beautiful. They were there all the time and they hardly ever saw them. Because their eyes were indifferent to beauty now. Because all there was left was blood and pain and misery.

Daryl hit his cheek then and Connor blinked.

"Don't yah dare dying now."

Connor snickered tiredly and shook his head.

"Ain't gonna make it that easy fer ye."

"Can yah sit up?"

Connor squeezed his eyes shut for a moment because his leg hurt so much, but then he nodded and tried to sit up.

"Thank you fer getting me out"he gasped and Daryl snorted.

He wrapped an arm around Connor's waist and lifted him up. The Irishman leaned against him for a moment when he felt dizzy because of the blood loss.

"Heya, there's no closin yer eyes now. Yah can sleep all yah want when we're back home."

Connor smirked.

"Just fuckin exhausted."

"I know."

Daryl led Connor to his car.

"Ye need t'get my bag. My guns an ammo's in there. And te pic af me an Murph" the Irishman mur-mured and his friend looked at him.

"I'll get your stupid bag. Just let me get yer whiny ass inside the car first."

Daryl placed Connor on the passenger seat and then walked back to the crashed car. He found Connor's bag somewhere on the back seat and made sure no walkers were anywhere close to them. When he got back inside the car and turned it around he eyed Connor for a moment. He was leaning his head against
the window and looked down on himself and all the blood. The Irishman was in shock by the looks of it. Daryl placed a hand on his shoulder and shook him.

"I said no sleepin."

Connor just smirked and nodded. Daryl couldn't drive away fast enough. He'd done it. He'd saved Connor's life. Again.
He knew that if Carol hadn't changed his mind, Connor would've been dead by now. He owed the woman one hell of an apology.