Title: Dream Catcher - this was written for a LiveJournal Challenge. The prompt I chose to use was a photo of a Dream Catcher.
Series: The Walking Dead
Characters: Daryl Dixon, Carol Peletier
Word Count: 717

A/N: Takes place within days of Triggerfinger S2E9

From the corner of his eye, Daryl watched Carol's fingers gently caress the feathers dangling from the elaborate dream catcher hanging in the barn. Some lame fool must have left it there during another lifetime. He was pretty sure horses didn't have nightmares.

Caress. There was a word Merle would know nothing about. Just one of the differences between the brothers, a difference he celebrated and was ashamed of at the same time. He continued grooming the horse. Brush, stroke, brush, stroke.

"What are you doin'?" He regretted the hostility in his voice as soon as he spoke the words. He just couldn't seem to stop himself. Whenever she was close he became a confused mess and he hated that, so he tightened the noose on his feelings and spoke with a ring of contempt edging each sentence.

But the great thing about asking was that he always got an answer. And she stayed a little longer each time.

"Keepin' an eye on you." Carol was becoming so used to their unique greeting that today she was amused as she spoke the words. Amusement. How could that be? The spark that briefly flickered across her face was quickly quenched. There was nothing in this life to be amused about.

There was no purpose for this visit. She was just here to torture him. Daryl bit his tongue before suggesting she go scrub some clothes. He had noticed the lightening in her voice, but by the time he looked over to her, he wondered if he'd imagined it.

He was getting used to her sudden silent appearances. She was quieter than most of the game he tracked. He sometimes wondered if she breathed.

But he knew she breathed. He had held her body as she strained towards her dead Sophia. He had enveloped her small heaving frame as it was wracked with sobs and cries for her cherished girl. Nellie twitched, signaling her annoyance in the interruption of her grooming. He picked up his rhythm again. Brush, stroke, brush, stroke.

"Have you and Nellie come to an agreement?" Carol didn't expect he would reply even though, day by day, the tone in his voice was easing, the fiery glare in his eyes dimming. She continued absently playing with the dream catcher.

"What? That she won't kill me? Yeah. We've come to an understanding, haven't we girl?" He gave Nellie a final pat on the rump and tossed the brush into a bucket.

"You'd think someone would have had enough brains to add 'Nervous'", as he smacked the Nellie sign on her stall door. Nellie whickered her disagreement.

Carol stopped her absent fingering of the feathers as she listened to him. This was the most Daryl had spoken to her since he had raged at her in his camp across the field. Tears burned behind her eyes. She had not cried that night and she would not cry now. She had cried enough for one lifetime in those numbing days when Sophia had been lost.

Carol's fingers once again began teasing the feathers on the dream catcher.

"What do you dream about, Daryl?" Now she looked directly at him. It was not a challenge, it was just a question, something to engage him in conversation. But, it was like watching a wall rise up as the light in his eyes changed, his jaw tightened. He paused before he looked away and spoke.

"Nothin'." He spat the word out and slammed the stall door. Nellie kicked the wall in protest.

He wasn't about to admit to her that his nights were filled with haunting images. Not images of the horrific walking dead, but impressions of Carol and her pain, of Sophia's blind eyes emerging from the barn, of the little girl collapsing in the dirt as the boom of the bullet from Rick's revolver pounded the stifling silence. He inevitably awoke soaked in a heart-racing sweat because he could change none of it. And he hated himself - and Carol for his inadequacy. He hated the weakness in him that was glad he had been holding Carol and had not needed to deliver the final killing blow to what had been a sweet, bright little flower of a girl.

Stupid dream catcher. He needed to get one for his tent.