Hello and welcome to my first TWD/Caryl fic! It was inspired by a fanart done by the talented NormanZombie on Tumblr entitled "What Could Come Between Two Brothers?". This chapter sums up things that happened in "Beside the Dying Fire," but future chapters will be more original.
I do not own The Walking Dead. If you recognize it, it's not mine.
An inferno surrounded by the dead. A fleeting dream of hope, of a life that could have been was lost in the sea of walkers and smoke, falling piece by piece before his eyes. The farm they called home for weeks now was lost to them as the flames moved from the barn to the RV. Gunshots pierced the night, muting the moans of the walkers temporarily. Daryl barely heard either as he watched the barn begin to collapse.
His comrades' vehicles were leaving the farm one by one. A sense of pride crept into his heart. He had led them into battle with bitter odds, and yet they emerged victorious. He watched from the distance as each vehicle disappeared into the dark. The abandoned RV left little hope for the boy, Jimmy, turning the blanket of pride into a lead weight that fell to his stomach as doubt began to grow.
A scream shattered his thoughts, jolting him to his feet. He could barely make out a staggering figure fleeing just ahead of the walkers, but there was no mistaking Carol's cries. He kicked the bike to life and sped in the direction of her screams. No one would be left behind on his watch.
He found her staggering mere inches ahead of the walking death that followed her, her breath hitching between sobs. "No!" she gasped over her shoulder. "Oh, God, no!"
The light at the end of the tunnel took the form of a Triumph Bonneville, and the Angel of the Lord wore his wings on the back of a leather vest. "C'mon, I ain't got all day!"
Her fingers dug into his arm as she scrambled onto the back of the bike, dragging her boot across his back in her terror. "Go! Go!"
They left the walkers behind them in seconds. They rode through the darkness in silence. With each passing mile, Carol's grip around his waist began to ease away until she removed them altogether, leaving a strange emptiness where they once held him.
The first rays of the dawn lit the sky, turning the morning fog and lingering smoke into a white wall across the dirt road. Daryl didn't see the walkers until they were already within arm's reach of them. Carol screamed, throwing her arms around Daryl as he sped up. He became very aware of her hands against him, filling the void they had left before.
Carol buried her face against his neck as the walkers fell further behind. He couldn't hear her over the roar of the motorcycle, but he felt hot tears fall against his skin. Torn between his instinct to pull away and the desire to reach out and comfort her, he settled for not reacting to her touch and allowing her the physical contact she desperately needed.
She didn't let go of him again until they found Rick and the others.
As the others began loading the vehicles, Carol looked torn, glancing between Maggie's Hyundai and Daryl's bike. It wasn't until Daryl jerked his head towards the seat behind him that she climbed on. She held on to his waist as they crossed the grassy median of the highway, but gone was the death grip she used the night before. Now, she held him tentatively, almost shyly, as if realizing how close they were to each other. Within a few miles, her hands drifted away and the empty feeling returned.
A sharp blast from the horn of Rick's Chevrolet brought the caravan to a halt. As soon as the bike had stopped, Carol jumped off the back, putting several feet between herself and Daryl. It suddenly felt lonely behind those ape hangers.
Rick was out of gas. Everyone had left with nothing but the clothes on their backs. They talked about making a supply run, but Rick was determined to wait until morning. While the others talked, Daryl began surveying the surroundings, looking for a place safe enough to hunker down for the night. He noticed Carol keeping close to him step by step, never allowing any more than five feet between them as she cast nervous glances back towards the others.
Daryl walked back to the group to stand near Carol, who was chewing her fingernails as Rick talked about finding shelter. Her eyes darted between him and Daryl, gauging their reactions back and forth like a tennis match before finally speaking.
"Does that sound right to you?" Her calm voice took on a sudden edge, not bothering to hide her skepticism.
Daryl didn't reply, but turned to face Rick. "You know I found Randal, right? He'd turned, but he wa'n't bit."
Questions arose from the group as Daryl went on, explaining how Shane had killed Randal. Rick was finally cornered with no distractions to hide the truth.
"We're all infected," he quietly confessed. "At the CDC, Jenner told me... whatever it is, we all carry it."
Fear and betrayal spread through the faces of the group like wildfire. Daryl found himself turning away in disgust. Carol followed his steps, then paused to face Rick. "And you never said anything?"
Daryl turned around. It was rare Carol questioned Rick, but she voiced what everyone was thinking. Why hadn't he said anything before now?
"Would it'a made any difference?" he replied.
"You knew this whole time," Glen accused flatly.
"How could I have known for sure?" Rick retorted. "You saw how crazy-"
"It wasn't your call! When I found out about the walkers in the barn, I told for the good of everyone."
Rick regarded Glen for a long moment. "Well, I thought it'd be best if people didn' know."
As the two men stared at one another, Daryl replayed their words in his mind. He was just as shocked as the others, but he could understand why Rick kept this information to himself for so long. There would have been panic, especially among the women. There had already been too many things to concern themselves with between the search for Sophia, the conflicts with Shane and Randal, and now their hunt for shelter and food. He didn't appreciate being left out of the loop, but he could respect Rick's decision.
He stole a glance at Carol, who was fidgeting in place as she looked around at the others. She reminded him of a doe caught in the headlights of an oncoming car... scared, confused, unsure of where to turn for safety. The corner of his mouth twitched as he began loading an bolt into his crossbow. It wasn't like him to let his mind wander, and yet in the last twenty four hours, it had strayed in the same direction more than he'd care to admit.
Night came too soon. Daryl had tried to hunt, but all the game had been scared off by the herd. He made use of his time by gathering wood for the fire as the others huddled around in small clusters. With the stone walls around them, they could risk a larger fire than the ones they built in Atlanta, but even with T-Dog standing watch, Daryl kept the flames low. Even a small group of walkers could prove too much for the weakened group.
As Daryl knelt by the fire to break some more branches, Carol moved closer to him. He flicked his eyes towards her, but said nothing. She was quiet for several long moments, then whispered, "We're not safe with him... keeping somethin' like that from us?"
Daryl regarded her curiously. Over the last few weeks, he'd watched her become braver, voicing her opinion more often. He wondered what Dale would have thought, having chastised her himself for keeping silent when her voice could change the tides of fate.
Carol glanced over her shoulder, then continued. "Why do you need him? He's just gonna pull you down."
He couldn't stop a small smile that twitched at the corner of his lips as he shook his head. No one pulled a Dixon down without his permission. "Nah... Rick's done alright by me."
Carol's face softened, but the fire never left her eyes. "You're his henchman," she said softly, then frowned as she spat, "And I'm a burden. You deserve better."
Daryl stopped breaking branches and looked at her. He didn't appreciate being called a henchman, but her other words struck a deeper cord. He didn't see her as a burden, but quite the opposite. Carol was the glue that held the group together with a sense of normalcy, giving them structure and routine with warm food and clean, mended clothes. He'd never seen her with a gun, but the comforts she provided from them was just as important as keeping the group safe.
But to say he deserved better? Those words confused him. Better what? A better leader? Better companions? He frowned slightly as he struggled to keep his voice calm. "What do you want?"
Carol's gaze turned to the fire as her body stiffened. She was quiet for several moments as she struggled to find her voice again. "A man of honor?" she whispered, turning a hopeful gaze back towards Daryl.
His frown deepened. "Rick has honor," he retorted, turning to put the branches in his hand into the fire.
Carol said nothing as she turned away from him. It was then he wondered if maybe she wasn't talking about Rick.
"I think we should take our chances," Maggie declared, breaking the silence.
"Don't be foolish," Hershel scolded. "There's no food. No fuel. No ammo."
Maggie opened her mouth to argue, but was cut off by a rustle in the leaves. "What was that?" Beth asked, her eyes widening.
"Could be anythin'," Daryl said, rising to his feet. "Could be a raccoon. Could be a possum."
"A walker?" Rick interrupted, coming out from the shadows of the wall.
Carol and Glen rose to their feet. "We need to leave," Carol pleaded. "I mean, what are we waitin' for?"
"Which way?" Glen asked.
"It came from over there," Maggie replied.
"Back from where we came," Beth chimed in.
"The last thing we need is for everyone to be runnin' off in the dark," Rick snapped. "We don't have the vehicles. No one's travelin' on foot."
Another rustle of leaves silenced the group. "Don't panic," Hershel murmured.
"I'm not sittin' here, waitin' for another herd to blow through," Maggie said icily. "We need to move now."
"No one's goin' anywhere!" the sheriff snarled, silencing Maggie's protests.
Carol's voice was small as she spoke up. "Do something."
"I am doing something!" Rick roared. "I'm keepin' this group together... alive! I've been doin' that all along, no matter what. I didn' ask for this! I killed my best friend for you people, for Christ's sake!"
A stunned silence swept across the group. Even Daryl found himself speechless. Rick was as predictable as the sunrise with a face as readable as a book. The two men were like brothers, even fighting like brothers alongside the road as they debated what to do with Randal. But murder?
"You saw what he was like," Rick went on. "How he pushed me... how he compromised us... how he threatened us. He staged the whole Randall thing! Led me out to put a bullet in my back."
His gaze turned to Lori, who seemed to be the only one who wasn't surprised by this new revelation as she held Carl close to her. Daryl wondered how long she had known.
"He gave me no choice!" Rick exclaimed. "He was my friend, but he came after me!"
Carl's sobs filled the camp as he clung to his mother, but Daryl's eyes never left Rick. He sensed Carol's eyes glance between the two men, but she said nothing as Rick continued to rant, challenging them to leave. Daryl surveyed the group. Of course there were no takers. Even together, they were powerless against what lurked outside the walls that surrounded them. Facing the world without food, ammo, or shelter would be suicide.
"No takers?" Rick concluded. "Fine. But get one thing straight... you're stayin'. This isn't a democracy anymore." With that, he turned and walked back into the shadows to keep watch.
Carol turned and looked once more to Daryl. He said nothing, only watching as the sheriff walked out of sight. She sighed quietly and sat beside his feet once more, clutching her cardigan closer to her body.
Daryl frowned. He could respect Rick's decision to take charge, but the day's revelations left him wary. There were too many secrets, too many important things not being discussed. His faith in Rick was shaken, but tonight was no night for making decisions. Now was a time for rest.
New chapter coming soon! And a special thanks to my betas, Lexcade and my very understanding husband, lol. 3