Disclaimer : The Walking Dead, Daryl, Carol, Rick and the other characters are the property of Robert Kirkman, Glenn Mazzera and AMC. Sadly, I do not own these characters. This writing is for pleasure only. No profit is intended.
AN: This little idea pounced on me while writing my silly Supernatural story, Piggyback. It seemed such a natural fit here on the Walking Dead. Also, I needed a little comic relief as Praxid's amazing story, Down in the Willow Garden, is coming to a close. I'm really hoping her Carol will live. If you haven't read any of Praxid's work, I highly recommend it. Start with Little Janie Reed. Thanks to Praxid, I'm writing again :)
The New Normal
Most days, things were pretty routine.
The campsite was much the same as all of the campsites since leaving the farm. The group was getting fairly efficient at living outside. If the weather was decent, they would all sleep around the fire pit, under the open sky.
Daryl would always take last watch, so he could go hunting at first light. It had become the general practice for Daryl to take someone with him; both to pass on his skills, and to provide a safety measure. Today's tagalong was Glen. Everyone pitied the tagalong. Daryl liked to hunt alone and didn't see the point in hiding it. Just as first light was breaking in the distance, Daryl would start tormenting the designated trainee awake.
Carol was always the first one up, starting whatever breakfast she could find on hand. People always thought she did this to be helpful, but that wasn't the real reason. Carol was first up because she reveled in the dawn. It was the only time of day she could feel completely comfortable and hopeful. She liked waking up and knowing Daryl was always there keeping the group safe. She also enjoyed the morning show. She noticed how Daryl had distinctive 'torments' for each person he took hunting. For Glen, he would hook one toe under the sleeping man, and deftly roll him away from Maggie's warm form. Eyes tightly shut; Glen would try to roll back. Daryl would block the way. Back and forth, further and further, they'd go at it until either Glen got up, or Maggie would wake and give them both a piece of her mind in harsh whispers.
As for breakfast, the food choices left a lot to be desired. Carol was currently working through a sack of sweet feed Hershel had uncovered at a previous farm. Although sweet feed, an oat, wheat and corn mixture laced with molasses, was blended for horses, when roughly ground in an old coffee mill and cooked in water, it became a filling, hot cereal. It tasted terrible and was hard on the digestive tract, but it was better than nothing. They did have two gallon jugs of raw honey to put on top, courtesy of the same farm. Carol settled herself on the ground and began grinding the grains by the cupful. Perhaps she might try to make the rough flour into biscuits tonight. Carol wondered if she could remember how to make a box oven to bake the biscuits in. Biscuits and honey would be a nice treat, she decided.
Carol's morning noises usually got Hershel moving. He would stoke the fire back from carefully banked ashes, fill the breakfast cereal pot with water and then relieve Daryl from watch. Today, he also started a batch of yaupon holly tea. Hershel was fond of his morning caffeine. He really needed it to get his joints working properly. All this camping was hard on his old bones. He grumbled about it 'round the fire one morning and Daryl showed up later dragging half bush of yaupon holly. It grew wild in this area. The tea was rather tasty, too.
The rest of the group would rise soon after. Each had their respective chores. Carl and Beth gathered firewood and foraged for berries. Maggie broke down the camp, folding and putting bedding away. Lori would do whatever she felt well enough to complete, but it was always something. The pregnancy had been difficult, especially with the inconsistent diet they all shared.
Rick and T-Dog usually slept in for a while, since each had done a four hour watch the night before. Carol often wondered when Daryl managed to get his extra bit sleep. As far as she could tell, Daryl managed to exist on a whisper of rest. He always seemed to be doing something useful. Carol often thought of him as their guardian angel, wings and all.
This was the new normal. Things were usually routine, until they weren't.
Rick was up, sporting two big, swollen bee stings on the side of his neck and two heavily bandaged hands. Rick had been the first one to attempt to harvest honey from that farm's two wooden hives. The attempt had not gone well, resulting in a swarm of angry honey bees and everyone running. Rick unluckily took the brunt of the retaliation. Maggie saved the day wielding a lit smudge pot like the sword of an avenging angel. The smoke calmed and subdued the bees, saving Rick from even more stings. Beth stepped in when the bees settled and directed T-Dog on how to pry loose and lift the heavy comb frames. They had all feasted on honey comb last night, liberally coating the roasted rabbit meat for the evening meal. For once, dinner had been delicious. Even Lori managed to enjoy that meal.
"Morning, Rick. How's your hands?" Carol asked, dipping out a mug of tea for him and adding a dollop of honey with a smile.
"Sore," Rick returned the smile with a slight grimace. "I'm not going to get much done today."
"Maybe that's for the best. We could all use a day to stay put." Carol patted his arm and filled a second mug for Hershel. As she made her way over to the watching man, Rick took his warm mug and settled next to the fire. Nearby, T-Dog stirred.
"What's for breakfast?" he asked with a tremendous yawn.
Rick only whinnied in return. T-Dog groaned and pulled the blanket back over his face. "Man, I hate horse mush," he said through the cloth.
"Mash," Hershel corrected over his shoulder, sipping his tea. "It's a hot mash. Horses love it."
"Well, I hate it," came the muffled reply.
"It's food," Rick agreed, although he privately detested it, too. "At least we have honey." T-Dog nodded enthusiastically from under the blanket.
All conversation broke off as the bushes began to rattle. With cold efficiency, the camp reacted.
Everyone moved in, backs to the fire, weapons raised. The strongest defenders created an outer circle, the weaker ones inside. Lori yanked back an overly enthusiastic Carl from the outer line.
"It's us! It's us!" They could all hear Glen before they could see him. "I need help!"
Rick and Hershel kept their weapons raised as T-Dog started forward. About that time, the bushes parted revealing a frazzled Glen supporting a heavily limping Daryl. Daryl was dragging a huge burlap sack on the ground behind him. Both men were dirty and sweaty, even in the cool air of the morning. T-Dog rushed forward to take the sack. Unable to resist peeking in, he immediately exclaimed, "Potatoes!" T-Dog ignored the irritated looks of both men.
"What?" T-Dog asked, looking at the others. "He's obviously not dead and I'm hungry. You know how long it's been since we've had potatoes?"
"Good Lord, Daryl. What happened?" Carol was the next to move as the circle broke apart. "Sit down and let us take a look." She dropped to her knees and gave a gasp. "Are those what I think they are?"
"Can't sit," Daryl growled, pulling away from Glen to lean against the truck. "Grace here made sure of that. Remind me later, to beat your ass," he threatened. Glen wisely backed away.
"What happened?" asked Rick, taking a closer, puzzled look. "Hershel? I think we need you here."
Lori, once again, pulled a curious Carl back from the fray. She hissed at him to stay put and shuffled off to find Hershel's vet bag. Carl gave her retreating figure one sneaky glance and scooted forward on his knees until he could get a clear look.
Daryl's leg was covered in what looked like toothpicks. Carl had a great view. From his hip to halfway down the back of his leg, thick clusters jutted through the canvas. Awed, Carl gave an appreciative whistle and he scooted around the other side. "Hey, Daryl. They're in your butt, too!" He reached out to touch one. "Cool." Abruptly he was yanked back, this time by Glen.
Hershel gave the leaning man a long look. "Son, that is one sorry sight. Looks like you've been quilled."
Behind him, Beth gave a snorting giggle. She had both hands across her mouth, trying to hold the laughter in. Daryl gave her a filthy look.
"That's not funny, young lady!" Hershel admonished. "Getting stung by a porcupine is very painful."
"Especially in the butt!" Carl crowed, with his own giggle. Around the circle, the adults tried to hide their amusement behind fake coughs and raised fingers.
"I'm so glad to provide this day's entertainment," Daryl snarled. "Can someone just give me a pair of pliers, so I can pull the damned things out!"
"Not so fast. The quills can be fragile. If you break them off, they'll just work their way deeper and deeper into the skin." Hershel put a calming hand on Daryl's shoulder. "You best let me do the pulling."
"My day just gets better and better," Daryl groaned, laying his head down on crossed arms. He wouldn't admit it to the group, but he felt terrible. Not only did the quills burn like wildfire, but his entire body ached like he was coming down with the flu. He'd tell Hershel about it when he got a moment of privacy. It was probably nothing.
"How'd you end up like this? Last time I checked, porcupines didn't throw their quills," Rick asked with an overly solemn look. "What did you do, sit on one?" All around him, snickers abounded. Rick was having to strain to keep a straight face.
"It's my fault," Glen admitted, drawing attention. The young Asian shuffled feet in the dust. "I tripped and knocked Daryl right into it."
"Why don'tcha tell them the whole story," Daryl glared. "Tell 'em how you riled him up first poking him with a stick. You and that stick were having a field day!"
"I don't have to tell them. You just did," Glen protested. "How was I supposed to know it would get all aggressive like that. I was trying to chase it away! You're the one that was complaining it was eating all the potatoes!"
"You don't poke wild animals with a stick unless you want them to bite you, or claw you, or sting you. Hey Carl!" Daryl spat. "Go fetch me a stick. I want to show Glen how it feels. Let's see how he reacts." Daryl lurched toward Glen a bit. "I owe you a good thrashing."
"Sure thing!" Carl leapt up and ran for the woodpile, only be halted by his father's glare.
"Let's all calm down," Rick reasoned. "There will be no stick poking today." He gave a level gaze to the injured man. "Or beatings." Daryl snorted and looked away. Rick turned to Glen.
"Ok, Glen. You provoked the porcupine. My understanding is that they don't generally attack."
"Well, it didn't," Glen said. "It just got all mad. It was spitting and pacing around and swinging its tail back and forth. Daryl just ignored it while cutting the asparagus."
"Asparagus? Really?" Lori chimed in.
"Yeah," Daryl said tiredly, slumping down on the hood. "They had a couple of trenches of asparagus, the potato patch and a whole buncha herbs. I got garlic, thyme, basil, rosemary and cilantro. I even got the roots, so we can try so keep some in pots. I am so sick of sweet feed mash." Murmurs of agreement echoed all around.
"Back to the point," Rick redirected. "How did Daryl end up pin cushioned?"
Glen gave Daryl a distressed look and moved away another couple of steps. "I was having a hard time ignoring the rabid porcupine."
"It weren't rabid!" Daryl interjected, half-hearted swatting Carl's curious fingers away. Could nobody control that boy?
"Fine! Agitated porcupine. I got kinda jumpy pulling up potatoes and keeping one eye on that monster. At some point, I felt something grab my leg and I flinched."
"It was one of the potato vines, you moron. Jumped damn near a foot into the air and landed right on me," Daryl sighed. "Knocked me directly into the porcupine's tail. Sucker was probably thirty pounds, or more."
"Yeah, like dominos." Glen agreed. Wrinkling his forehead with guilt, he gave Daryl a wincing glance. "Sorry?"
"Sorry?" Daryl exclaimed. "That all you got?"
"So, you did sit on it." Rick interrupted, his repressed smile breaking through. Snickers went all around.
"Not directly," Hershel commented. "It appears that the more, ah, tender parts of your anatomy are clear."
"Is he talking about his junk?" Carl whispered dramatically to Beth, who giggled even louder. Even Maggie lost it then and had to turn around to gain her composure.
"Well, that's about the best damn news I've heard so far," Daryl barked. "If ya'll are done makin' fun of me, I'd like to get this lil' problem taken care of. I ain't got all day!"
"That's enough, everyone." Carol got to her feet and started shooing people away as Daryl slumped lower on the hood. "Nothing to see here."
"Ok, people. I'm sure everyone has something they have to do," Rick agreed. "Let's give Hershel some room to work."
"Hell, no. This is better than HBO." T-Dog grinned, but moved slightly away at Rick's hard stare.
Everyone started to disburse, going back to their normal routine. This all stopped when Hershel said.
"Ok, son. Let's get those pants off of you. Who has the scissors?"
AN: Please let me know how you liked it As for the story, I wonder Daryl is a boxers, or briefs kind of guy? I can't remember seeing him in his underwear on the show. Anyone know?
Thanks for reading (and reviewing)!