New Meanings To Old Words: Love

I'm not gonna linger long here, there'll be nice little AN at the end for you to read.

We're moving along, and picking up pretty much exactly where we left off…. Kinda…. =D Note for this chapter (as per the usual for this sort of deal): Flashbacks are in italics, normal text is our present story, bold italics will be the song.

Disclaimer: I own nothing, except my dear Miss Callie and her crew of misfits (Danny, Miles, Ben and Gracie) not to mention those we've lost along the way and those we've yet to meet in the flesh. Note…yet….

As always, read and enjoy and if you've got the time or feel like giving a bit of a comment, go ahead and do that too!

Lost in Paradise

Callie stood shaking her head and blinking rapidly to try and make the nightmare unfolding before her finally end. She shook her head and wished and hoped and prayed that this could be just that. A nightmare.

Not reality.

She couldn't survive it if this was reality.

Beside her Danny, clad only in the pair of pants he'd stolen off of a corpse at the police station they'd just escaped from, bumped his shoulder into her leg. He looked up from the body-Mr. Stewart….it was her next door neighbor Mr. Stewart.

Nice, old, bald-headed bait shop-owning Mr. Stewart.

Mr. Stewart, who had taken a bite out of the back of Suze's shoulder as she was carrying the limp and dying form of Sammy into the house. Mr. Stewart, who had gouged out the flesh of the woman's entire back as he clawed her down to the ground. Mr. Stewart, who Suze had apparently fought off while Hannah screamed from inside the house for her momma. Mr. Stewart, who had been banging against the door when she and Danny had pulled up in their stolen squad car. Mr. Stewart, who had broken the glass of the large front window and made his way inside before Callie and Danny could even register what was happening.

Mr. Stewart, who she and Danny had killed, apparently for the second time that day. Mr. Stewart, who Danny had smashed with a fire extinguisher and Callie had run through with the bolt cutters they'd found in the gear box in the backseat.

Danny's shoulder bumped her hip and he looked up at her with his own bloodshot eyes before shifting them over his shoulder towards Suze.

"I'm gonna get some shit from the car, shove something against the window, and move….this…." Danny shifted towards her, his brow furrowed tight as he looked hard at her. Callie's eyes shifted away from where the bolt cutters were still imbedded deep into the head of Mr. Stewart, and up to Danny's face. "You good?" Her face must have contorted into an answer that she just didn't have the wherewithal to verbalize because Danny's head dropped and shook a second later. He looked up again and caught her arm with his hand-a hand smeared with gore and blood that she wanted nothing more than to get far, far away from. She shook free of him and harshly waved him off. "Right."

With that Danny spared another look over his shoulder and shuddered slightly before continuing to drag Mr. Stewart out of the room. Out of the view of the small girl huddled on the floor near the table next to her dying mother gripping her little bleeding arm, and the small boy staring with glassy eyes from his place upon the table.

Callie blinked hard as Suze's agonized voice rang out again and this time it woke her from her stupor.

"Jesus," Callie's hands rammed hard into her hair, pulling painfully at the strands already hardened by the blood and the horror from the evening at the bar and the terror at the police station.

"You have to do it," Suze said again, tears streaming fast down her face as she struggled to right herself in the chair she'd fallen into at the table upon which her son lay dying. Suze's white-blonde hair gleamed in the early morning sun filtering in through the back patio door, and fell like a veil over Sammy's face as she bent her forehead down to touch it to his. "Please, Callie. You have to-"

"I can't," Callie said, rocking back and forth on the balls of her feet. "We have to-The hospital-"

"No," Suze said firmly, her head snapping up as an angry glare filtered quickly over her face and then fell off as her gaze locked with Callie's. God only knew what Suze saw in Callie's eyes, but it had her head tipping slightly to the side and her voice lowering to a tone that Callie only ever heard the woman use with her children. "No, sweetie," Suze said before she shuddered out a painful gasping sort of breath as her body was no doubt wracked with the pain of her own wounds. Suze sucked in a deep breath and stiffened her shoulders before again locking eyes with Callie, her tone once again changing as the direness of the situation began to take form in her mind. "Now is not the time for your denial bullshit, Caroline. There just ain't time for that, honey. Bobby's told you as much as me. You know what this is. You know what's happening…."

"No," Callie said shaking her head and shifting slightly away. "I can't-"

"I will not have my children become that," Suze yelled back her hand sliding forward on the table. "I will not become that." That's when Callie registered her open gun box on the ground, and the ammo strewn about near the table. "Someone has to-"

Callie's eyes followed Suze's hand as it lifted from the table by Sammy's head. She watched as her hands shook wildly as she got to her feet.

"Suze," Callie tentatively called out, and the woman looked back to her with such pain and desperation in her eyes that it physically hurt to hold her gaze. Suze looked back and roughly shook her head, her hands still shaking wildly on the gun. "Okay. Okay. I -"

The horror of what had happened on the road to Callie's house, of what had happened on her way inside, of everything going on in the world around them had Suze on edge. An edge that caused impulses to take on a new level of extreme, a level that made every sound seem to be extraordinarily loud and extraordinarily dangerous. That's the only explanation Callie had for what happened next. The only reason that the small scuffing of Hannah's little body as she worked to her feet to make her way closer to her distraught momma had Suze's hand shifting so suddenly away from Callie's outstretched one. The only reason that Suze's instinctive reaction was allowed to take total control, and that her arm was able to swing so fluidly and steadily to where that little girl was working towards them. The only reason her finger was able to clench at just the right moment.

The sound of the shot being fired didn't even register in Callie's mind. Her own instincts taking over and causing her to lunge forward and grab for the Suze's hand on the gun. But she was too late, and her hand encircled Suze's just as Hannah's body flew back towards the wall behind her from the impact of the bullet into her tiny body.

"Oh God!" Suze wailed, her body practically collapsing under her grief. Callie fell with her, both of their hands still tight on the gun. "OH GOD! What did I do! What did I do? OH GOD," Suze's head was shaking wildly now and she was fighting against Callie's hand over top of hers on the gun.

Callie stared at the slumped form of five-year-old Hannah lying in a growing puddle of blood on the floor and felt her chest constricting tight with the effort to try and breathe. Her hand was still tight around the gun as Suze continued to wail and convulse with the terrorizing thought of what she'd just done to her baby girl. Suddenly, Callie's arm was moving, her hand being turned with the force of Suze's as she lifted the gun towards her head.

"No!" Callie screamed as Suze lifted her other hand to hold Callie's tight against that small silver pistol. She lifted their hands and put the barrel of that gun under her chin and fired before Callie could get another word out.

The bullet slammed a chunk of brain-matter out the back of Suze's head and splattered it along the wall behind them, leaving the woman's body to fall to the ground in a heap. Callie scrambled backwards, her eyes riveted to the spot where Suze lay, her dead eyes staring up at the ceiling above.

"Jesus Fucking Christ," Danny's voice echoed out and Callie's head snapped to where he stood brandishing what looked like a shot gun in both of his hands. "Jesus Christ," Danny said again, his chest heaving with shaking breaths as his hands let the weapon fall slowly to his side and then left it to clatter to the ground.

Callie watched him for a moment, his eyes lingering on Suze's body and then moving towards the body of Hannah slumped on the ground near the wall. And then he finally moved his gaze to the table where Sammy was.

Sammy.

Callie pushed to her feet and staggered towards the table with nothing but adrenaline to thank for the fact that she didn't fall right back down to the floor and cry.

Sammy lay crying-practically hyperventilating as he struggled to drag in air. Callie's hands shook wildly as she put her fingers to the wrap of towels over his midsection, her own breathing taking on an erratic force as she pulled them away. The mess of Sammy's little stomach, torn and bleeding with a chunk missing from his left flank had her dropping the towel and turning her head away and her body stiffening painfully as she dry-heaved beside the table.

She heard Danny shifting behind her and looked up at him as he stepped up, his eyes stuck on the small form of Sammy upon the table. He seemed lost in his own little world as he put a hand to Sammy's forehead. He looked over to her, his other hand resting at her elbow lightly helping her to stay up on her feet. She stepped back and stared at the table for a moment, watching her fingers slide slightly in the pool of the boy's blood as it spread across the surface.

The smell of blood was so strong, so prevalent that it was all Callie had left.

It burned its way in through her nostrils, and down her throat choking her as she worked to drag in those deep calming breaths. It lingered in her vision as she pushed away from the table and stepped over towards Suze's body. She felt it seep into her skin as she picked up her gun from Suze's limp hand and clenched her own hand tight around it.

Callie took in a breath as she slipped the cylinder out to check her ammo, snapping it back into place at the sight of four remaining bullets settled inside. She took another as she worked her way back to the table, her eyes hitting Danny's for a single moment before he settled his attention back to the boy on the table. He spoke soothingly to Sammy, words she couldn't make out said in a tone she'd never thought to associate with the man, as he gently worked the pillow from beneath the boy's head and placed it over his face.

She took one last breath and held it as she put the gun to the pillow and fired.

She was numb now, her hand still clenched tightly around her gun as she watched the blood drip off of the table and onto her feet. There was no noise except for the blood rushing through her head as she watched that pool of red she stood in grow bigger and bigger.

"Callie," Danny's voice was soft and right in her ear and she lifted her head slightly. She didn't look at him; couldn't seem to pull her eyes away from all the red. "Sweetheart. Sweetheart, c'mon. Let go," Danny said quietly, his hand falling on top of hers where it still sat pressing the gun into the pillow atop the now dead boy's head. Callie's eyes shifted from Sammy's unmoving body and over to the wall where Hannah's body lie slumped in its own pool of blood. "It's-We had to. We…" Danny said and Callie shifted up, pushing him away, her eyes riveted to the small form of Hannah.

Both of them now watching as the dead little girl's arm twitched and lifted slightly from the sticky blood beneath it.


"Callie," Danny's voice echoed low in Callie's ears as she stared at the lower half of Ben's arm lying on the ground at her feet; the blood dripping from the counter where she stood grasping the edge to keep herself from falling to the ground pooling around it. Danny's hand touched her arm and she looked over at him, his face so ashen and eyes bloodshot as he spoke in a voice so calm it just didn't match the rest of him. "We had to. We did. And he's gonna be fine."

"I hestiated," Callie said in return, her eyes searching the bloody tile before her as her head shook lightly. "I -what if we took-"

"He's gonna be fine. You hear me. Fuckin' fine," Danny's voice a bit stronger than the last time, but still just as calm slapped down the sudden fit of fear that threatened to take over her mind and body.

Callie's head bobbed once, then again, and then she dragged in a deep breath and finally pushed herself away from that blood soaked kitchen island. She grabbed onto Danny's arm as he reached out for her as he repeated those same damn words over and over in that out of place calm voice. She couldn't remember how long- she couldn't remember….Callie's eyes shifted at the sound of footsteps and she looked to see Beth staring at her in shock. Beside her Carol was crouched on the floor next to Gracie who was curled tightly into a ball with her back against the wall, her eyes on the blood trail leading in from the door.

"I'll get her," Danny said in a low tone, squeezing Callie's arm once and hobbling his way over towards Carol and the small girl. Callie watched Carol get up and run a soothing hand over Danny's shoulders before lifting her eyes to Callie who after Danny's departure had fallen back to that same hunched position at the kitchen island. Her were knees shaking too hard for her to even think of standing alone right now, and Carol must have seen that as she made her way tentatively closer.

"Callie!" Rick's voice exploded through the house as the back door slammed open. Callie turned, expecting to see the man, but he wasn't figure that burst in.

Instead she came face to face with Daryl, his eyes wide and wild and his chest rising and falling in rapid succession. His steps faltered as he crashed his way through the entryway, his eyes slipping instantly over her form his hands reaching out to her as he moved forward. Rick's figure slipped in right behind him, his eyes scanning over the room settling on Carol, Beth and then Danny, as Daryl's gaze continued to move down her figure.

She knew the moment Daryl saw it, knew it because he flinched. He flinched and stepped backwards as if he'd been hit by an actual physical blow by it. His penetrating blue gaze settled firmly on the lower half of Ben's arm in that pool of blood at Callie's feet and instantly he was stepping back further even as she reached out for him.

A second later his eyes snapped up to hers, and he swatted her hands away. Smacked them from the air and snapped his attention to where Callie was just now starting to register the sounds of Hershel and Maggie's harried voices from that small back bedroom. Callie stepped towards Daryl again, but fell back as the man took off, his feet pounding along the floorboards, slipping only slightly in the blood beneath him as he moved. He strong armed Carol out of the way, the harshly thrown arc of his slightly shaking arm fending off her concern and propelling him towards that room.

"What happened?" Rick's calm but slightly cracking voice pulled her attention from where Daryl had disappeared and she spared him a brief look. His hands reached out to her and pulled her towards him, tightening almost painfully around her upper arms as he let his eyes roam over her and then around the room and back. "Callie," Rick said in a voice thick with emotion, his eyes wet with tears. "Callie-"

"I had to…" Callie practically whispered as she stared up at Rick. Rick's brow furrowed slightly and Callie's eyes slipped down and to the side causing Rick to turn. She felt the moment his eyes came in contact with Ben's severed arm on the floor. Felt him recoil just a little, and his hands tighten around her arms painfully. Rick's eyes snapped back to her and held for a long moment before her eyes slipped back towards the room as the sound of heavy footsteps caught her ears again. "Daryl-"

Daryl's back was visible as he staggered away from that back bedroom, his hands blindly reaching out towards the walls at either side to help him keep his footing. Again, Carol's hand reached out and again he bristled away from it. He smacked at Carol as she reached out again, and turned, one hand lifting towards his mouth as his eyes glared out at Callie and then over towards Danny who was clutching Gracie to him as he slowly stood.

"Daryl," Callie called out again, her body working its way around the kitchen island towards him. His eyes finally settled hard on her and the pain in them had her steps faltering slightly as she reached out towards him yet again. "I had to-"

Daryl snarled at her, his eyes blinking against the pull of the wetness gathering along his lashes. He snarled and shook his head and yanked his arm away from Carol's hand which had finally found a moment of purchase. He let his gaze slip around the kitchen, catching on Miles who had only just slipped back inside and stood with his back against the wall near the entryway, his eyes watching Daryl's movements and actions in a sort of shocked stupor. Daryl ducked his head and pushed roughly past Miles who staggered backwards and watched as Daryl shoved right past the newly arrived Lori, Shane and Carl.

Callie's body caved in at that point and again her hands reached out to the bloody countertop for balance. Before her hands could touch it, Rick was pulling her away. Pulling her out away from the counter. Away from the blood. Away from everything.

Away from Ben.

"No," Callie said turning and smacking at his hands. "No. I have to go... I have to be there. I have to-," She looked back at Rick and then over to Shane who was slowly making his way forward, a hand rubbing wildly at his head as he surveyed the scene with wide almost dazed eyes. "I had to-"

"What happened?" Rick asked calmly, his hands tightening their grip on her arm and dragging her attention away from the blood and back to him.

"We went for a walk," Callie started, her head shaking idly as she tried to pull things together. Tried to move past the sound of Ben's scream echoing in her ears. "We…Dale…we spotted him. He was upset and walking alone. I didn't think he should be alone so we went with him. I tried to tell Ben to go back to the house, but I didn't press it…" Callie lifted her hands and moved to put them to her hair but Rick stopped her. Shane slipped up slowly, his one hand barely reaching out and brushing her back as he handed Rick a towel. "I should have pressed it," Callie said quietly as she briefly caught Shane's gaze before he moved off again. Her eyes slipped to her hands as she watched Rick start to wipe away the mud, gore and blood caked on them. After a moment, Rick dropped the towel and wrapped his hands around hers. His thumbs pressing into her palms briefly to help her regain her focus before he slipped them back up her arms. "There was a Walker. It was in the woods, low…too low to see until…" Callie's eyes skipped back to where Hershel had disappeared with Ben. "He tried to fight it off, but he wasn't strong enough. I wasn't fast enough. I saw it bite him and-" she let out a breath and placed a hand to Rick's chest for support, her fingers curling into the fabric. "Then I was running, Dale was-" Her hand clenched tighter into the fabric of Rick's shirt and her eyes widened in panic as she lifted her gaze to him and pulled him roughly forward. "Oh god. Dale…"

"Callie-"

"He told me to go, but…he wasn't doing well, Rick. There was something wrong. I left him out there….I left him… Is he back?"

"Callie-"

"We should get him in here, have Hershel or Patricia take a look. He wasn't doing well-" Callie was pushing at Rick now, working her way towards the entryway. Shane's hands lifted to hold her off and she caught his gaze briefly before shifting around at the hard pull of Rick's hands on her arm.

"Callie. Stop," Rick said in a sharp pained tone. He yanked her back, practically shaking her as he turned her around to face hm. His hands tightened and he held her gaze, those unshed tears on his lashes threatening to fall now.

"He was right behind me," Callie said quietly watching Rick's face contort. She watched his head tilt to the side, and slipped her gaze to where Lori stood clutching Carl to her, both of them so pale, so stricken. Both of them crying. Her eyes slid to Shane off to the side his eyes on the floor, on the wall, on his wringing hands, and then bouncing up to her and holding.

"Callie," Rick's voice echoed low as he stepped closer. Her gaze fell from Shane's to Rick's hands on her upper arms. The blood covering them as his thumbs slipped back and forth in that soothing motion that was so damned familiar to her now. "He's-"

"No," Callie said shaking her head as Rick's dipped to his chest. "No." Callie smacked a hand out at Rick's chest and he let her hit him; he let her do it twice more before he grabbed her hands and held her still. "No," she said in a pleading tone as her head fell to the side.

"He's gone," Rick said quietly and those two words punctured what was left of any reserves she had holding her up.

Callie's knees buckled and she pulled away from Rick, her body once again turning so that her hands gripped onto the blood-covered kitchen island. Her head fell, the bedraggled strands of her hair falling like a veil around her face. Rick's hand was at the back of her neck again, his fingers trembling slightly as they massaged her shoulder, that thumb of his swiping against the nape of her neck as she worked to drag air into her too tight chest. His other hand was at her arm, slowly working up and down over the garishly stained fabric of her shirt.

"Danny," Lori's broken and worried voice called out and Callie's head turned slightly to where she knew the man had been standing. Lori's hands were stretched out, her arms shaking slightly as she followed Danny's progress as he staggered back a step and hit the wall, his arms still tightly coiled around Gracie as he held her to his chest. Lori was there before his legs could give out and her hands settled on top of his where they clutched to the fabric of Gracie's hooded sweatshirt. "Do you want me to take her?"

Danny's head shook rapidly in answer to Lori's question, but his eyes remained locked on Callie's. They all stayed that way, sharing in a grief so profound that it seemed to lock them all in place for God only knew how long. It was probably only seconds before the shuffling of feet and a low voice called out, but it felt like an eternity.

"Callie," Maggie's voice was ragged, strained; as if she was working very hard to hold back her own tears. Callie's head shifted and Rick's hands tightened around her arms as he moved a step closer to her still hunched over frame. "Daddy needs you."

"Is he…?" Callie couldn't even finish the question as the overwhelming urge to shut down pressed around her. Her vision was darkening around the edges, leaving only Maggie's slowly shaking head and wringing hands to be seen. She blinked a few times and pressed back against that urge to fall and stay fallen. She lifted herself up from the counter; her back coming right up against Rick's chest as he helped hold her on her feet.

"He's unconscious," Maggie said quietly, her eyes shifting away from Callie for a moment to where Danny was still pressed firmly against the wall with Lori holding him up. "Daddy got the bleeding stopped as best he can, but…we need you."

Callie's chin dropped her chest again and she felt Rick's hand slide down her arm and squeeze her hand tight. She shifted her eyes to where Danny stood staring back at her over the top of Gracie's head and then back to Maggie. Her jaw clenched tight as Rick's voice sounded right in her ear, his lips brushing past her hair and the heat of his breath warming her shock-chilled skin.

"Go," Rick said firmly, his hand finally slipping off of her right arm. He pulled her away from the kitchen island with his other hand and they stepped backwards in unison. "Go. You need to be there for your boy," Rick's voice was firm and sure and Callie shifted her eyes over her shoulder to look at him as he pulled back slightly. "You worry about Ben; I'll take care of everything else." Callie's head dipped to the side and he shook his head at her, stopping her from saying anything against him taking everything on. She firmed her lips and then shifted her attention back to Maggie whose eyes were glued to the gory mess in her kitchen.

Callie moved forward, her shoulders and back tight, as she readied herself for what was to come. Those three deep breaths taken in and used as well as they could be. Rick was right. Ben needed her. Her boy needed her. That was all that mattered now. She took one hard step forward and was surprised to feel the resistance of Rick's grasp still on her other arm. She turned slightly to look at him as he moved close again, his right hand finally shifting forward again. The weight of whatever he'd reached behind him to grab crashed into her wrist and had her eyes widening as her gaze caught his when he stepped to her side. Rick tapped her gun- the gun she'd dropped back in that field after she'd smashed that fucking Walker's head into goo- hard against her hand until she turned slightly and put her hand to the weapon over top of his.

"Do you need me?" Rick asked quietly, his body sliding a bit further to the side as if he was trying to hide what he was handing her from the rest of the people gathered around them. Callie blinked at him, and tightened her grip on his hand on her gun.

"Not for this," Callie said her voice as calm as she could get it as her lower lip trembled slightly. She tipped her chin up as he dipped his head down and they held one another's gaze for a moment longer before Rick slipped his fingers out from under hers on her gun and stepped back.

She watched him for a second as he raked his hands through hair and pulled, not caring about what was on them, but just needing to do something to help alleviate the tension of all of the horror running through his mind. She watched him shift his eyes from her to the countertop and then to the floor where Ben's bitten lower arm lay. She watched his chest rise and fall as he dragged in a shaking breath and watched him bristle and shake off whatever he needed to before he turned to where Shane stood over his shoulder watching.

Callie eyes moved to the door, her mind shifting almost unwittingly to Daryl and that stricken look on his face as he staggered away from that back room. That anger edging its way over his features when he'd looked back at her.

She wanted to check on him. Wanted him with her when she went in that room. But she wasn't about to dwell on it.

Not now.

She didn't have time for that sort of thing now.

Callie's eyes shifted back to Maggie waiting for her and then over to where Danny was slowly making his way towards her with Gracie still clinging to his body. She wanted Daryl there, but Daryl couldn't be there. He just couldn't…. and she didn't blame him for that. She didn't blame him, and she wouldn't chase after him. Not now. With one deep breath in she holstered her gun and moved to where she needed to be.

The only place she needed to be.

With her boy.


He couldn't breathe.

He couldn't think.

He couldn't even fuckin' see straight, because all that was starin' back at him was Dale's eyes before he pulled the trigger on Rick's gun and Ben's …

Ben's…

Daryl snarled and thrashed his arms out at the tents settled in the fuckin' camp area near the RV.

The RV.

His steps faltered as he came up to that fuckin' behemoth of a vehicle. It's dirty used-to-be white exterior almost fuckin' glowin' in the damn moonlight. His eyes raked over that fuckin' thing, lingering on the roof where that lone fuckin' lawn chair was still settled under that eye-sore of an umbrella.

Settled up there waiting for the sentry that would never again take his post.

Daryl growled and clenched his hands tight over and over, workin' hard to try and get the feel of that gun out of the palm of his right hand. But he couldn't. It was like the butt of that gun had branded him. An invisible mark left to burn for the rest of his life.

Just like the feel of the strands of Jenna's hairs burning along his fingers at odd hours of the day and night.

Daryl swiped an angry hand across his face and then under his nose, his eyes skipping around haphazardly. They shifted over the RV again and he kicked his foot out hard at the back tire. Once. Twice. Then a third time before he finally lost his footing and staggered towards a very familiar tent.

A tent that he'd slept in not long ago.

A tent that was now back to housing only its original occupants.

Instantly Daryl's mind was dragged back to Ben. His seemingly lifeless body lying on that bed, lookin' so small. The bright red of his blood staining the wrap around what was left of his arm. Staining the sheets. Staining Hershel's hands, and Maggie's.

The pool of it on that kitchen counter. On the floor, where the rest of that little arm had fallen after it'd been hacked off.

Daryl's breath was coming in harsh pants now, his nostrils flaring as he worked to steady his nerves. There was something brewing in him right now. A horrid anger that he just couldn't control. That he couldn't understand.

The image of Callie's eyes, lookin' so bright and green against the shocking smear of red all around her. The way she'd looked at him. Reached out for him.

Like that was gonna fuckin' fix anything.

Snarling again Daryl's arm thrashed out at the side of the tent near him. He thrashed and kicked at that tent until it fell in a slow slump to the ground at his feet. Breathing hard his eyes shifted slightly to the ground, where items had been settled neatly between the RV and this new little camp set up she'd got goin' for her and her kids. His eyes bounced around, his feet kickin' out at the small pile of rocks closest to him sending them flying into the side of the RV not far off.

He heard them pang off the metal of the RV and then watched them scatter about near the big back wheel base. Then he caught sight of something, something he hadn't even realized he'd been lookin' for until the sight of it propelled him forward at such a fast pace that he was shocked by how quickly it was in his hand.

Ben's camera.

That fuckin' old-ass Polaroid that he'd been pullin' out and annoyin' everyone with since Callie's crew had sauntered their asses into the Quarry all those months ago. That fuckin' thing that had taken Goddamn everyone's picture at some point or another, whether they wanted it taken or not.

The fuckin' thing that the now one–handed boy wasn't ever gonna be able to fuckin' use again.

Daryl's hands clenched tight around the camera as he stared down at it. His vision blurred slightly, unshed tears filling his lashes as he worked hard to keep them from fallin' down his face. He sniffed back the odd sensation burning around at the back of his throat and struggled to hold back the scream that he wanted to let fly out into the dark night around him.

He clenched his hands tight around that camera and couldn't help but recall the stricken look on Ben's face as Daryl had railed into him earlier. Railed and swung his arms like the childish fucker he was as that little boy asked him if he wanted to be his 'daddy'. The way that boy had backed away as if Daryl had hit him instead of just lashed out with his words. The way Daryl had continued to push and yell even as the boy turned his back and walked away; tears swelling in his eyes but not fallin' down his cheeks.

Daryl's mouth began to twitch as the disgusting sensation in the back of his throat began to grow too hot. His hands began to shake with the effort to hold on to the camera. Finally it was all just too much.

Dale.

Ben.

All of it. Too fuckin' much.

His arm pulled back quickly and he threw the fuckin' camera at the RV. He threw it and he watched it shatter as it crashed into that glowin' used-to-be-white surface. The pieces bounced off and then along the ground below, mixing in with the rocks Daryl had kicked over earlier. They fell to the ground and Daryl stared at them, his shoulders and chest rising and falling in rapid agitated movements as his hands hung loose at his sides. The shock of what he'd just done hadn't even fully registered before the sound of a voice was echoing out exactly what he was thinking.

"What the fuck, man?" Miles' incredulous and strangled voice rang out and Daryl pivoted around to face him. Miles' eyes were wide, his hands lifted in utter disbelief as he shifted his eyes between Daryl and the broken camera. "What the fuck? Who the fuck do you think you are? What the-" Miles shifted forward, his shoulder ramming hard into Daryl's right before his hands -hands Daryl only now noticed were still half-covered in dried blood- pushed into Daryl's chest sending him back a few steps. "The fuck? That's not okay man. That's-that was his dad's. You ain't got no fuckin' right to do that man."

Daryl for all his body shakin' anger amazingly just stood there and watched as Miles lifted his hands up and shoved him again. He felt the impact of the kid's hands, felt himself shift backwards slightly but didn't move back more than two steps. Not this time.

Because this time there was someone at his back. Someone puttin' a gentle hand to his heavin' shoulder and keepin' him from fallin' back too far. Someone who shifted forward before he could look over his shoulder, and moved towards the distraught Miles before the boy could make to come forward again.

"Miles-" Carol's voice was strong and steady and Daryl couldn't really understand how…how she was constantly able to do that as he shifted his eyes to her. She moved slowly from his back to his side, her gentle hand barely sliding across his back as she went, her eyes intent on the angry form of Miles. Miles' eyes shifted from Daryl over to her and Daryl watched her head shift to the side a little at the sight of the boy-become-man bouncing from foot to foot not far from her. She reached out a hand and Miles' stepped back.

"What, you gonna defend him now?" Miles seethed at Carol and she lowered her hand and frowned at him. "No Carol. No. This shit," Miles shifted his hands around the tattered remains of the small camp area near the Hummer, and then down at the bits of the camera at his feet. "This shit ain't okay. This is-" Miles shook his head and shifted down to pick up the pieces of the camera at his feet. "Fuckin' grown-ass man havin' a Goddamn temper tantrum, that's what this is. Fuckin' childish bullshit. You're out here breakin' shit that ain't yours when you should be in there. What the fuck, man?"

Miles cradled the broken bits of Ben's camera in his arm and shifted to rake his free hand through his hair. Both Daryl and Carol saw it clear as day when the kid finally noticed all the dried blood on that hand. Saw him stare at it before he could move it to his head. Saw it start to shake.

Daryl's lips twitched and his hand lifted to his mouth, but he stopped before it he could. Stopped and stared at his fingers. Strangely clean after what he'd done.

Carol let out a sigh beside him and Daryl shook himself free from the staring match he was having with his own hand. He shifted his eyes over to her and followed her line of sight as she watched Miles stalk away with the broken bits of Ben's camera cradled in his arms. She continued to stare after the boy, and Daryl continued to watch her. Stiff back and shoulders going slightly slack as her head dipped down and her eyes roved over the destruction he'd wrought on the small camp area by the Hummer.

Daryl snarled and instantly looked away when those pale blue eyes of hers lifted up and met his. He didn't know what was behind that look in her eyes but he knew he didn't deserve it. Whatever it was. Then again….

Daryl shook his head and started walkin' off before she could open her mouth. He stalked off, kicking at shit the entire way. He walked off past the end of the Hummer and out towards the fencing near the roadway. He walked with his shoulders hunched under the weight of that woman's stare on him as she followed quietly behind.

"The fuck you want?" Daryl snarled as he came to a stop, his arm arcing out towards her. He expected her to back up, but again she surprised him and simply raised a brow. "What? You wanna tell me somethin'? You wanna gloat?"

"No," Carol said simply, that same calm strength in her voice echoing out and ringing oddly in his ears.

"Get the fuck out of here, lady," Daryl seethed, with a flippant wave of his hand as he turned his back on her. He took a few more steps and then kicked his foot out at the bottom rung of the little white fence. He kicked and kicked and kicked again until that dilapidated fuckin' thing had cracked down the middle. When that didn't quell the sickening anger boilin' in him he reared back and rammed his foot hard into the post nearest him. He did that again and again until finally his foot was numb from the pain and that fuckin' post was half knocked down and the dirt around it was all pulled up in a heap at the base.

Breathless, Daryl stumbled back slightly and stared down at what he'd done as the tingling sensation of sweat rolled slowly down the sides of his face and over the bridge of his nose. He spared an aggravated glance towards Carol who was slowly settling herself down on the front bumper of Shane's fuckin' getaway car. Her arms were crossed over her chest, her hands clenched tight into the fabric of her sweater holding it closed. Daryl kicked at the broken wood a few more times and then hunched himself over the upper rung, hands clenching tight to the wood as he bent and stretched and snarled out the lingering frustration in him. After a moment more he spun around, slammed his back into the post nearest him and slid down to the ground.

He kept his eyes on his hands as they dangled between his upraised knees. He stared at his palm as he worked his thumb over it, wondering if the odd feeling that seemed to have settled itself deep into his bones would ever go away. Sniffing hard he spit out the saliva that had settled atop the heat at the back of his throat and continued to glare at his hands.

"The hell you doin' here?" Daryl asked gruffly a moment later, his eyes barely lifting from his hands to catch the gaze of Carol still silently settled on the bumper of Shane's car. She shifted slightly, her eyes lifting from her feet and over to him, the low light of the moon illuminating her face just right that he could see the shining wetness in her eyes and the small tilt of a tight-lipped smile on her lips.

"I'm sitting here," Carol said in a matter-of-fact tone. The answer was a shit one, the kind he'd expect to get from Callie. Truthful, but not really explainin' what needed to be explained. He furrowed his brow and gave her a slightly snarling look before shakin' his head and once again workin' his thumb deep into the palm of his hand. He stopped after a moment and stared at his left palm, then his right. He sucked his bottom lip in between his teeth and chewed idly, while his mind replayed him finding Merle's hand on that rooftop in Atlanta, and Ben's arm layin' on the floor of the kitchen.

Then Jenna.

Then Sophia.

Dale.

There was just so much…

"Don't need a fuckin' babysitter," Daryl muttered as he clenched his hands tight and glared off towards the carnage he'd wrought near the Hummer.

"Neither did I," Carol said firmly. His eyes snapped back over to her, and he watched her back stiffen and her shoulders lift as she stared back at him. "I didn't. But you sat with me anyway. You sat with me," Carol said quietly her eyes blinking a few times as if she were tryin' to ward off the tears settled along her lashes. She succeeded and sat up a bit straighter because of it, a movement that had Daryl's head tipping up slightly in respect of the woman. Daryl firmed his lips and chewed at the inside of his cheek as the two of them entered into some kind of heated staring contest.

They held one another's gaze for what felt like a long time. And during that time, he saw all the times he'd yelled at her. Railed out against her. All the times she'd stood her ground when he'd damn near fuckin' physically threatened her. The way she'd looked after he'd chased her off when she'd said she couldn't lose him too. Saw how she kept comin' back despite it all. How she never seemed to fall back, and give him space.

He didn't understand her, couldn't wrap his head around her. But he found himself wantin' to.

"Miles was wrong," Carol said after another few moments of silence, again causin' Daryl's head to snap up from where it had fallen on his shoes. Her eyes caught his and he continued to chew at the inside of his cheek waitin' for her to finish. "You have every right to be angry. You have every right to do exactly what you did to that tent, the camera, the fence. He doesn't understand. He's like Callie, she-they -they don't understand," Carol said shaking her head slightly and firming her lips. "But I do. You saw what I did in that RV after Sophia…" Carol blinked a few more times and angrily swiped her hand at her eyes while Daryl watched in silence. "I understand this," Carol said waving her hand out at the broken down fence that Daryl was settled at. "I understand that back there," her hand waved out towards the Hummer and Daryl's eyes followed. "I understand, Daryl. I'm not here to talk to you about Dale. I'm not here to tell you that Ben's going to recover, or that things are going to be fine. I'm just going to sit with you, because you just sat with me."

Daryl let out a long low sigh and held Carol's gaze for a moment longer, before dipping his head back down and once again staring at his hands. His head bobbed idly in response to the words she just said and then stopped.

The rain started falling again almost an hour later, a slow steady misty rain. And still Carol sat with him on the front bumper of Shane's getaway car, that beat up little sweater of hers held tight around her thin frame and her eyes fixed on him as he stared at his boots.

I've been believing in something so distant,

As if I was human,

And I've been denying this feeling of hopelessness

In me, in me

All the promises I made,

Just to let you down,

You believed in me, but I'm broken,

I have nothing left,

And all I feel is this cruel wanting,

We've been falling for all this time,

And now I'm lost in paradise

~Lost in Paradise/ Evanescence

AN: First off…sorry for the wait between chapters. Life UGH. I think you can all relate in some way or another so I won't go into detail. I promise I'm working to chug these things out as quickly as I can, and no worries…the story will be finished!

There shall be ZERO Fic-Abandonment Issues on my watch, okay?!

Now, as for this chapter, she's short-well, shorter than my usual output. And really she was supposed to be longer. There are two segments that I have written out that I had added on to the bottom of this one, but for some reason it wasn't flowing well. They layout didn't sit right and well…the word count was a bit OVERBOARD. Even for me.

So with that we got the chopped version. Which I'm still pretty happy with. So, there ya go.

I'm eager to hear what you guys have to say about how all this is going down. So hit me up any time. PM, Review/Comment/ my Tumblr. I'm here and I'm ready to talk DEAD with all of you.

We're heading into the thick of things…but before that…we've got a shit-ton of NECESSARY FILLER so Hope you enjoy.

Lastly, I don't know how many of you there are, but I know from reviews/PMs that there are a few moms out there, so HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY TO ALL OF YOU!

Much love!