Title: Hell's Angel
Rated: M for Violence & Language, and a little Drug Use
Disclaimer: I don't own ANYTHING :(
Summary: Daryl gets sick. But he's not going to let a thing like that stop him from finding a lost, little girl. Takes place between "Cherokee Rose" and "Chupacabra".
A/N: First TWD fanfic! Reviews are gold :) If you guys like what you've read, then I will do my best to update asap . . . if you don't like it, don't be afraid to let me know, I like to improve.
Oh, and I got the title idea from Daryl's awesome vest. It's kind of corny, but fits him, I think.
Carol looked up at the sound of a ragged cough that interrupted the silence, her maternal instincts already crying out to the person, despite the fact that she didn't even know who it was; when her eyes fell on Daryl, doubled over next to a tree, her heart constricted in her chest so much it was nearly painful. Without thinking, she rose from her spot near the fire and hurried over to him, unsurprised when he jerked away from her touch.
"Are you okay?" she asked, softly.
"Fine," he muttered, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand as he stood up straight. "Quit your fussin' and go on back." He jerked his head toward the fire, and the rest of the crew.
"You should come, too," Carol said, "it's cold tonight." And she was telling the truth; a breeze, gentle but cold, swept over the land and brought goosebumps to the bare flesh on her arms. She rubbed them briskly. "Sounds like you might be comin' down with something."
Daryl shook his head. "Naw, just a cough." He cleared his throat and walked away, just barely brushing her shoulder with his as he passed; she watched him make his way back to his tent, but he seemed steady enough, so maybe he was right. Maybe she was worrying over nothing. Trying to content herself with that thought, she walked back to the group, who sat in silence, watching her as she sat down again, warming herself at the fire.
"What?" she asked, finally, her voice neutral.
"What was that about?"
It was Dale who asked, of course it was Dale.
"I was worried," Carol answered, honestly, "sounds like he's comin' down with something. I would've checked on any one of y'all, too."
Andrea smiled. "Of course," she said, leaning over to pat the older woman's knee fondly. "But you know, it's okay to admit you like him." She winked playfully. "Even under all that dirt, he is an eyeful."
Carol blushed. "Well, of course I like him," she said, standing up again. "I like all of you. And Daryl's done so much . . . " she cut off abruptly, a familiar lump forming in her throat. "For Sophia," she finished, forcing her voice to remain steady. "He's gonna be the one to find her."
They looked at her with sad eyes, grim faces, and she fought down the tears that threatened to fill her eyes; Lori was the only one who found her voice, and bless her, she even sounded like she meant it. "I'm sure he will be," she said, a fake smile on her face. "Maybe even tomorrow."
Carol nodded, blinking quickly. "I'm goin' to bed now . . . g'night."
"Goodnight, Carol" echoed around the group as she walked toward the RV, finally allowing a solitary tear to escape from her eye and roll down her cheek. She went by Daryl's tent, determined to keep going without a second thought, until she heard the softest of moans from inside, and found her feet no longer moving. She weighed her options in her head, trying to think of his reaction if she actually poked into his tent, and knowing full well he wouldn't be pleased. But he sounded horrible in there, all alone, coughing again and then groaning in pain once the fit ended.
Inside the tent, Daryl was on his hands and knees, coughing so hard he thought he might hack up a lung; he collapsed backward once the fit finally ended, allowing a low grown to escape his lips. When he heard the footsteps outside the tent, soft against the grass but there nonetheless; he tried to stifle another bout of coughing, but failed. As he spat into the dirt, he hoped Carol wouldn't come inside, as he was sure it was her that hovered outside his tent . . . he could see her face in his mind, pinched with worry, blue eyes wide, voice gentle and comforting.
Not that he needed any comforting.
He listened intently as the footsteps began again, and Carol passed by without coming inside, to his relief. He took in a deep breath, wheezing uncomfortably, and lay down on the ground, pulling a thin blanket up to his shoulders and trying to still the shivers that were wracking his body. Christ, it was freezing. It shouldn't be so cold in Georgia this time of year, it wasn't even October yet.
If he could just get some sleep. That would fix it. He'd be well in the morning, Daryl was never sick for very long, and then he could get back out there, find Sophia, and they'd leave the farm. Herschel and his family gave him the creeps, and he wasn't so sure they were as safe as everyone else seemed to believe anyway; no, they needed to move on, if they were going to settle down they'd do it on their own, not on Herschel's terms.
But not until he found the little girl.
He clenched his fists around the blanket, squeezing his eyes shut and trying to force sleep to take him; his throat began to tickle then, and soon enough he was rolling over, gasping painfully. He gagged, but not much came up from his empty stomach, and the action just made his head throb even more. Exhausted, he fell onto his back with a sigh, feeling every bit as miserable as he looked, all covered in sweat and dirt, a little spit on the corner of his mouth. He reached out blindly above his head 'til his found found the ziploc bag containing Merle's remaining stash, and the few joints that were still rolled and tucked safely inside; he grabbed one, lit up, and inhaled deeply.
He coughed again, but just once, and soon his mind grew foggy and his eyes began to droop; he smiled a little, taking a few more drags before putting out the joint, and finally going to sleep.
Carol hummed to herself as she folded the laundry, trying to find some kind of simple pleasure in the act; it was a bright day, though cold, so she had shouldered on her heavy cardigan before leaving the RV after a night of little sleep. She swatted absently as a fly buzzed around her face, landing briefly in her buzzed hair before flying away; she wished for a hot shower, some good soap, something to wipe away all the grime and sweat.
Movement caught her eye and she snapped her attention to Daryl's tent as the flap was swung open. He climbed out, slower than usual, his hair seemed wet and stuck to his forehead, his skin was unnaturally pale; Carol gave him what she hoped was a sincere smile, gesturing to the lawn chair set up just a couple feet away. "Get some breakfast," she urged.
Daryl nodded as he swung his crossbow onto his back, grunting when it hit him a little too hard; he strode over and Carol began to fill a plate with what little breakfast she'd managed to cook up. Some squirrel from the day before, mashed potatoes, a little juice. Better than nothing.
"I think there are some rolls inside," she said, handing the plate to Daryl as he sat down. "I could go in and take a look."
"Don't bother," Daryl replied, the words harsher than the soft voice he spoke them with. "Not that hungry." He rubbed his eyes quickly, blinked, then began to pick at the food.
Carol hesitated, then returned to her laundry, still watching even as she folded one of Carl's shirts. "Where are you gonna look today?" she asked.
"Haven't finished searchin' the creekbed," Daryl mumbled, still chewing. "Couple miles left to cover, at least."
"You think she's by the water?" Carol tossed Carl's shirt aside, picking up another.
"Gotta drink." Daryl swallowed, grimacing. "Then I thought I'd drop in on that old house again, maybe she's gone back there." He looked up, his eyes catching hers. "Someone her size was stayin' there, wasn't no grown man."
Carol pressed her lips together and nodded, clenching her hands into fists around the soft cotton of Rick's shirts. "You know," she said, her voice quiet, "I just can't thank you enough for this."
Daryl flushed, set his plate down, and rose from the chair. "Ain't no big deal," he said, wiping his hands on the front of his pants. "Rick's too busy with Carl and Shane's laid up with that ankle, someone's gotta be out there lookin'." He tried to cover a sudden yawn by sweeping his hand across his face, then grunted and coughed, his other hand coming up to massage his chest.
"Maybe you should take the day off," Carol suggested, mildly. "Get some rest."
Daryl looked at her like she had two heads, his blue eyes stark against the dirty, tanned skin surrounding them. "Everyday she's out there the less chance we got to find her." He shook his head. "Ain't got that kind of time to waste. 'Sides, I'm fine anyway."
"At least take someone with you," Carol said, "maybe Glenn?"
Daryl scoffed. "Anyone else'll just slow me down," he insisted, "I'll be back 'fore it's dark. Probably bring Sophia with me, too." He took a long swig of his canteen, smacking his lips when he finished. "Now quit your worryin'." With that, he gave the smallest of smirks, then took off toward to the woods, his long legs carrying him swiftly and steadily across the field.
She finished the rest of the laundry and tried to convince herself that she was worrying over nothing, that a cough wasn't the end of the world; still, any sickness could turn into something serious given their situation. And that wasn't just her maternal instincts crying out, that was just common sense.
Daryl's been taking care of himself for a long time . . . he didn't have you to look after him before, he doesn't need you now.
Despite its best efforts, Carol's internal voice did little to ease her fears as she again looked toward the trees; Daryl was nowhere to be seen though, so she lowered her head and went about finishing the laundry.