Chapter 20

Carol's legs were still trembling. Only now she had no idea if it was from the sex or from their very lives being put on the line. She slowly lifted her head, meeting his eyes. "You know I can't promise you that. Not now, not anymore..." She shook her head. She refused to be that weak little mouse that cowered in the corners and waited for everyone else to save her skin. It had taken the world going straight to hell and losing the most precious gift she'd ever been given to wake her up to what it took to survive. She wasn't ever going to be that person again.

His eyes narrowed, intent on arguing with her. Intent on showing her that he could protect her, but then he knew the truth. No one was promised their next moment. And she had to do what it took in order to survive. And if that meant saving his ass once in awhile, then so be it. He wasn't going to get hung up on specifics.

They were alive. Nothing else mattered.

He gave her a nod, promising her that he understood. He lifted his hand to her cheek, stroking it gently before leaning in to kiss her lips. "Best get on back to camp. They'll all need to know there was a few of them out here. Ain't seen that many this close to the farm. Best be prepared in case we get a few more stragglers."

She pulled away slowly, tucking the bottle of nail polish into her pants pocket and patting it to know it was there against her hip. She took a shaky breath and started to pick her way around the bodies of the walkers and back toward the farm. It didn't take but a few minute to clear the trees. She glanced back, catching him as he watched her. She smirked a bit before returning her attention back to the path ahead of her.

It wasn't but a few seconds when he caught up to her. They were side by side, taking each stride together in tandem. He cleared his throat as he shrugged his shoulder a bit. "If you're serious 'bout protectin' yourself, I'd be glad to teach you some things. I mean, you did a'right back there, but you could stand to improve so that doesn't happen when you're alone. Falling over, I mean..."

She nodded quickly at the mention of teaching her survival skills. "I'd be happy to learn. I'm the first to admit that I know next to nothing on how to make it out here. If I ever got separated from you and the others..." she let her voice trail off, not wanting to think of the possibilities that could happen, but even less wanting to voice them out loud and make them real.

"Well, we'll just have to make sure that ain't an option... But in the meantime, you'll be best prepared if you got weapons with you at all times. Even takin' a piss. Never know when one o' them geeks are gonna turn up." He chewed at his thumbnail, spitting a piece off to his right. "That knife of mine is okay for me, but I think you need something a bit smaller. Easier for you to hold. Pretty sure we can find somethin'"

She listened to him intently. "I guess I need to go with the others when they learn to shoot, too, huh?" When he nodded, she gave him a soft smile and then nudged him with her elbow. "Or you could give me a few private lessons with that crossbow of yours," she half teased, but she was half serious, too. "Not that I could even draw that string back, but hey! Couldn't hurt to learn, right?"

"Right." He stopped in his tracks. "First lesson might as well take place now." He grabbed her by the elbow gently, pulling her to stand right in front of him and placing it in front of her. "See that pile of cow shit?"

She'd been caught off guard when he'd wanted to start immediately, but as his chest pressed against her back, she relaxed. "Yeah. You want me to aim out cow patties?" She turned her head, looking at him in confusion.

"No. No, I ain't wantin' to clean that off my bolts. Hit that, and you'll get a lesson in keepin' a crossbow and bolts in fine working order. But see that hollowed out log just to the left of it?" When she nodded, he turned his mouth close to her ear. "That's what you gonna aim for. Think you can hit it?"

"Sure." She spoke with more confidence than she really had, but there was no need in letting him know it. She let him place her hands exactly where they needed to be on the crossbow, and when he lowered his hands, she took in the weight of it. Her aim shifted a bit as she struggled to raise it up and look down the sight like he was explaining.

"And when you're ready, pull that trigger and let 'er fly." Daryl had his hand on her hip, remaining close to her in case she needed his help for any reason. He held his own breath as she steadied her hands and squinted one eye closed and then he saw her close the eye which she was aiming with and the bolt landed square in the center of the cow patty. He couldn't help but chuckle. "I weren't joking, Carol. You're gonna clean that shit off, not me."

She screwed up her face, biting her tongue and lowered the crossbow. "Damn it."

"Helps if you keep your eye open," he teased softly as he took the crossbow back from her and went to retrieve the bolt. "It's a fresh one, too..." He wrinkled his nose.

"Daryl," she planted her hands on her hips.

He glanced back at her, pulling it free and showing it to her. "Nice and fresh and green..."

She shook her head, smiling at him. "I guess I got a lot more learning to do." When he nodded, she stepped toward him and took the bolt and held it out away from her side, not wanting to get any of the cow poop on her clothes or skin. "Whatever it takes to survive, right? A little shit never hurt anybody." She would go out into the world fighting. And with him by her side.

"Whatever it takes," he promised her.