Title: Whatever It Takes
Pairing: Carol & Daryl
Spoilers: Anything up to Judge, Jury, Executioner
Summary: His hard exterior kept everyone at a distance for the most part. No one bothered to get close enough to look passed the explosive anger he often wore in his eyes as a shield to keep anyone that dared take a second glance from taking a third.
A/N: This is my first attempt at a multi-chaptered The Walking Dead fanfiction. Please be gentle.
Carol lay with her back to her tent door. She couldn't close her eyes for fear of what she would see. Every time she closed her eyes, she saw Daryl's bloodied knuckles. And how he had avoided her eyes after she asked what he had done.
He had done what he had to do for the good of the group. She knew that, but it made her ache inside that he'd had to do it in the first place. That he'd been asked to do it because of his past behavior. He wasn't that man anymore. Why couldn't they all see it?
When they'd first met in camp, she thought he was like Ed. He had a temper, but he only used violence when his back was to the wall. Ed used it whenever he needed to feel big, whenever she needed put in her place. And that was often enough that she tried to avoid it best she could.
She sat up quickly, shaking her head. No. No. No. Daryl wasn't anything like Ed. She had stared into his eyes enough the last few weeks to know that there was so much more just beneath his surface.
Daryl's eyes told the story of a life of violence. As well as the scars on his back. The scars he hadn't wanted her to see as he pulled the sheet up to cover himself that night after he'd been out looking for Sophia and took an arrow to the side and Andrea's shot grazed his temple.
He'd flinched when she'd gone to kiss him that night. He flinched anytime they'd touched; whether it was planned or accidental. She knew that fear. She understood it. She watched him as he avoided human contact as much as possible in their camp. Touching was almost impossible, but yet, he made it look easy. His hard exterior kept everyone at a distance for the most part. No one bothered to get close enough to look passed the explosive anger he often wore in his eyes as a shield to keep anyone that dared take a second glance from taking a third.
That day that everything went down at the barn was the exception. When Sophia emerged from the barn and began to stumble blindly toward what she knew to be food, his arm had gone out to catch her. His weapon had been forgotten in the Georgia dust as he clung to her. As he protected her in the only way he could.
She remembered how strong his arms were as he held her against his chest. He was the only one to even try. She hadn't forgot that. She never would. So long as she lived, she never, never would.
She turned onto her back to stare at the tent roof. The look in his eyes swam in front of her eyes before shifting to his knuckles. His bloodied and cut up knuckles.
She felt the bile rise up in her throat. She pushed herself over onto her side then onto all fours. She then pushed herself up and undid the tent zipper hurriedly. She felt the cold night air biting at her face as she moved blindly to the edge of the camp with no thought of running into a Walker.
She hit her knees as she dry heaved into the long-stemmed grass and underbrush. She barely heard the approaching footsteps. She put her hand up, not even knowing which of them that it was. "I'm okay," she reassured them, glancing over as the figure crouched down. She'd recognize his boots anywhere. Her face flushed, and she kept her eyes lowered. She was humiliated that he'd seen her this way.
"Here." He held out a handkerchief for her to wipe her mouth with. When she took it, he touched her forehead hesitantly. "No fever."
She wiped her mouth and whispered, "No. I was just thinking…" She tried to get a good look at his knuckles as she took the handkerchief from him, but it was just too dark out. She shrugged and spoke with more certainty that she felt, "I'm fine. I swear."
"Can you walk?" he asked gruffly, pulling at her elbow as he helped her stand. His grip was rougher than he intended.
She pulled away once she was steady on her feet. She looked down. She was in her sock feet. She'd forgotten her shoes in her haste to get somewhere to throw up without it being inside her tent or right outside it. "Yeah…" Her teeth chattered.
"'Get your ass back inside before you catch your death, woman." He started making his way to his own camp. He could see from here that his fire was dying.
She rushed after him. "Hey, Daryl. Please wait…" Her feet were being tugged and torn through her socks from the rocks and brush as she waded through it to get to him.
He turned, snorting, "Woman, don't you need to be getting your beauty rest?"
She laughed then. Not a long laugh or a full-bellied laugh, but a relaxed laugh. "I'd have to sleep for an eternity for that."
He frowned, fidgeting on his feet. "Look. I'm 'bout to turn in and get some shut eye. Fuck, woman. It's not safe out here at night. Haven't you learned anything yet?" He hitched his crossbow onto his back and looked around as a twig snapped. He instantly reached out and pulled her closer. His tent was closer. "C'mon." He couldn't take any chances.
She let him push her toward his camp. "Your fire's about out," she stated softly as she reached for a log to toss onto it. When he put his hand over her arm to stop her, she looked up. "You'll freeze."
"Hell, Carol. I've been through worse," he said as he moved around his camp, making sure it was secure. He glanced at her from across the campsite. This was the first time he'd spoken her name out loud. No doubt the same thought wasn't crossing her mind.
She relaxed visibly at his use of her name. She sat down on a log close to the fire and discretely tried to push her damp socks toward the still hot embers to dry them. She tucked her hands into her cardigan and tried to warm her fingers. She was about to speak when she heard him snort and push his tent door flap open.
He didn't speak as he thrust his jacket at her. "You'd think you'd have more sense than to come out half dressed…"
She stood up, pushing the jacket back toward his chest. "It's not like I planned to be out of my tent throwing up at his ungodly hour, so save it, Daryl Dixon." She stamped her foot and hissed, "And another thing. I didn't ask you to be my white night so…so…" She was upset with him for that afternoon that she just wanted to pick a fight about anything else to keep from discussing it.
"Tell me how you really feel, woman." He tossed the jacket back into his still open tent and snorted when she didn't start to talk again. "S'matter? Cat got your tongue?" He advanced on her, looming over her. He gestured wildly in her direction.
She flinched and took a step back, eyes wide. She'd been on the other end of anger for so long that her instincts told her to cool it. She stood rooted to that spot now as he took another step forward.
"Run on back to your camp. Climb into your nice warm tent and just leave me the hell be!" he growled at her through clenched teeth.