Disclaimer :The Walking Dead, Daryl, Carol, Rick and the other characters are the property of Robert Kirkman and AMC. Sadly, I do not own these characters. This writing is for pleasure only. No profit is intended.
Epilogue - If It Weren't For Bad Luck, I'd Have No Luck At All
Carol folded the mended pair of Bulldog sweatpants for the third time. She knew she was being ridiculous, but just couldn't quell her nervous stomach. It had been two days since they had gotten back on the road. Two days since their streak of bad luck had ended. Two days since Daryl had come anywhere near her. All because she had flashed a little skin and made him touch her bare behind.
Carol snorted to herself. Fine. It was all of her skin, but it wasn't her fault he had come on her bathing. It definitely wasn't her fault that his gimpy self had practically tripped over the biggest rattlesnake she had ever seen. You'd think he'd be grateful, but no. Not Daryl Don't-Touch-Me Dixon. He eyed her wildly and kept his distance.
Oh, she had caught him staring at her alright. Watching her every move. But the stupid, infuriating, stubborn, sulky...yes sulky, redneck pain-in-the-ass man had kept a clear distance of at least thirty yards at all times.
Carol rolled her eyes as she shook out the pants and folded them a fourth time. She was a coward. Plain and simple. She was avoiding him just as much as he was avoiding her.
Weren't they a pair?
Carol let out a long breath and shook the pants out for a fifth try. All around her, the spring night deepened into a lush, balmy ink that happens only in the south. One day you were freezing body parts off, and the next night you were wishing for a cool breeze. Somewhere in the night, an odd chirping sang from the treetops. Carol wondered what bird sang at night. All her years in Texas, she had never heard that sound. Nor had she realized how mercurial spring in Georgia was.
What was it her mama used to say? That woman always had a rhyme or song for every occasion.
Spring's sprung, fall's fell. If you ask me, it's still cold as hell.
Not here, Carol smiled silently.
"Whatcha doing, honey?"
Carol turned to see Lori emerging from the darkness, a paper bag in her hands. The very pregnant woman had pinned her wealth of wavy brown hair up in a messy bun. The warm night must have agreed with her because Lori's eyes were bright and her cheeks rosy. Carol hoped Rick caught a sight of his wife and gave her a little attention. Carol gave a little shrug and replied honestly. "I'm screwing up the courage to bring Daryl his laundry."
"That's what I thought," Lori winked. "This might help." She handed Carol the paper bag with a wink and a little grin.
"What is this?" Carol took the sack and shook it a little.
"Your winnings," Lori smirked.
"Winnings?" Carol was surprised. She opened the bag and peered inside. Unfortunately, it was too dark to tell what was in there.
"You know, from the bet. I thought you might like to share them with Daryl, since he was the one that won the bet for you." Lori smiled again, and gave Carol a friendly little shove. "Go on. He's alone right now. It's the perfect chance."
"Perfect chance to run away, you mean," Carol said ruefully as she closed the bag. "He'll melt into the night before I get ten feet from him."
"Not if you do it right," Lori said crossing her arms over her bulging belly. "You take that laundry, give it to him and ask for his help."
"Right. Like I said, he'd run away, probably after dropping his clean laundry in the dirt." Carol huffed and dropped the paper bag on the pile of laundry.
"I've never seen that man not help when you asked," Lori smirked.
"As if," Carol muttered, casting a glance his way. Despite the warm night, Daryl sat in front of a small fire. Several newly hewn bolts were lying at his feet. The man seemed a little hunched over. Carol felt a pang of worry that something might be wrong.
"Chicken," Lori accused.
"I am not," Carol retorted. "Like you have room to talk."
"Brock, brock brock brock..." Lori clucked at her, tauntingly.
"Fine." Carol snatched up the pants and the bag and gave Lori a challenging glare and marched herself right toward the fire. Her steps faltered somewhat when Daryl cast her a sideways glance and then looked away. For a moment, she thought he would bolt up. Then he settled right down, still hunching a little. Firelight reflected off the clean patches on his dirty face. Carol resisted the urge to lecture Daryl about cleaning himself up. Instead, she eased into the fire circle. "Brought you some clean clothes," she stated. "Fixed your Bulldog sweat pants, too."
"Thanks." Daryl gave Carol a little nod and peered at her through too long bangs. "My pack is just over there," he said jerking his head to the left.
Carol nodded herself and walked the few feet to the army surplus backpack. The thing had to date back to World War II. She set down her 'winnings' and carefully opened the pack inserting the clothes. The smell of lavender waifed out. How odd.
"Daryl. Why do I smell lavender in your bag? Have you decided to fumigate your clothes with patchouli?" Carol asked with a grin. "Good idea, by the way."
"Naw. It's for you. Picked it yesterday. Remembered smelling on ya before," Daryl huffed goodnaturedly. "Check the front pocket," he gestured with his chin.
Carol crouched and unbuckled the wide front pocket. Inside was a sizable bundle of wilting lavender stems. The fragrant purple blooms were a little squished. Carol removed the bundle, buried her nose deep and inhaled. Heavenly. She rose and turned on her heel. "Thank you," she said with a wide smile. "Here I was worried that you'd give me the slip into the woods and instead you bring me flowers."
Across the circle, Daryl ducked his head. "Ain't like that. Just thought you'd like 'em for your clothes."
"Well, thank you," Carol said warmly. "Good thing I have something for you as well." She scooped up the sack of winning and dropped them at Daryl's feet. Plopping down on the log next to him, Carol took another big sniff at her 'bouquet'.
"What's that?" Daryl asked peering at the bag curiously. He made no move to pick it up. Instead he seemed to hunch over a little more.
"My winnings. Or maybe I should say 'our' winnings," Carol said. nose deep in flowers. "You know, from plucking day."
"Plucking day?" Daryl asked in confusion. He unwrapped one arm to snag the rolled flap of the bag, but quickly pulled his arm back.
"Quill plucking day," Carol responded, voice muffled by blooms "Remember all the bets?"
Daryl only shook his head. "I remember all them quills getting plucked outta my ass. Remember you and me scraping about my pants. Remember Rick's throat closing up." Daryl paused a minute. "Remember the stars and hot chocolate. Remember a damn big rattlesnake. Don't remember no bets."
"You were a little preoccupied at the time." Carol blushed remembering Daryl without his pants. "You know how everyone is. T started with a betting pool. He bet that Glen would pass out in the first ten seconds after Hershel started pulling quills. After that, everyone placed a bet. Some on who would pass out. Some on who would get sick first."
"And you won?" Daryl asked with a smirk. "I remember Glen puking down Hershel's leg."
"And I won," Carol affirmed, wondering just what else Daryl did remember and if he would ever tell her.
"Whatcha win?" Daryl asked with an amused snort. He really wanted to ask what Carol had bet on, but he thought that might be too bold.
"I'll tell you if you tell me why you're hunched over like that," Carol said directly. "Is something wrong?" Her voice picked up with a little worry at the end.
Daryl looked up in surprise. "Nothing wrong. Are you afraid of varmits?"
"Yeah, you know. Mice, rats, squirrels. Those kinda things?"
Carol squirmed a little looking around. Her bundle of flowers shed a light rain of purple petals. "Why, you see one crawling on me?"
"No," Daryl snorted. "I got one in my shirt. Wanna see?"
Carol stopped searching for vermin. "You have a varmint in your shirt?" Carol whipped her head up, Curious. "Why would you do that?"
Daryl carefully uncurled and dug inside his tattered shirt. With cupped hands, he pulled out a tiny creature no bigger than a hamster. The creature didn't even move.
"C'mere," Daryl gestured with his chin. "It won't bite."
Scooting from log to another, Carol moved closer. The paper bag on her lap crinkled noisily. The tiny creature in Daryl's hand flinched. "What is it?" she asked, mesmerized. "That's got the be the most adorable thing I've seen in a long time. It almost looks like a cartoon character."
The tiny 'varmint' was covered in soft, tawny fur, whiskers and huge, shiny eyes. She would think it was a chipmunk, except for the long, furry tail curled around its body. The wee thing held very, very still.
"It's a flying squirrel. See those big eyes? They come out only at night," Daryl said quietly. "This one got knocked out of the tree by an owl. Landed hard over there by my bike. Got stunned, I guess. Don't see any wounds on it."
"Is that why it isn't running away?" Carol asked, leaning closer. "Because it's hurt?"
"Naw. This one is okay. It's just cold and it likes the warmth on my hand. They're too tiny to keep up their body temperature when they get a shock like this. Usually, if you warm'em up, they'll scamper to safety after a small while," Daryl explained. In the reflective firelight, his dirty features were expressive. Open. Carol liked it.
"So, once it's warm enough, it'll just jump out of your hand and run up a tree?" Carol mused, smiling.
"Yep," Daryl affirmed. "Wanna hold it?" he asked with guileless eyes.
"Sure," Carol said automatically. She wasn't sure she did want to hold it. She just didn't want this moment to end. She wasn't particularly fond of hamsters and mice. She wasn't afraid of them either.
Holding out her cupped hands, she braced herself as Daryl carefully transferred the flying squirrel. Carol could feel the little creature shiver, then relax. She could feel tiny whiskers dance over her skin. It was just precious.
"It's so small. Is it a baby?" Carol carefully shifted her hands to look at all sides. It was tiny. Much smaller than a hamster.
"You'd think so, but no. It's an adult. Probably mate to that one chirping in the trees," Daryl pointed off into the dark. "They stick together for the whole breeding season."
"I wondered what that sound was. I heard it earlier." Relaxing herself, Carol shifted her hand so she could stroke the tiny creature with one gentle finger. The fur was very soft. "If it's a flying squirrel, where is it's wings?"
With a snort, Daryl reached over and gently took the squirrel from her. He carefully used two fingers to pull the front and side legs apart, revealing a thin stretching membrane. "They don't actually fly, ya know. Just sorta glide downward from tree to tree."
"I knew that," Carol smirked back. "Just testing you." She shook her head when Daryl tried to give it back to her. It was much more fun to watch him with the squirrel than hold it herself. "I'm amazed that you aren't roasting that thing over the fire. Thought that squirrels were just food to you."
Daryl scoffed. "It wouldn't make more than a mouthful, if that. Sides, I had one as a pet when I was a kid. Lived in a tree outside my bedroom. Eating this one would be like eating a dog." Daryl set the flying squirrel down on his lap. The tiny thing started exploring. "Won't be long now," he said. Carol just nodded.
The two of them sat and watched as the flying squirrel worked its way over every inch of Daryl lap. Then they both chuckled as it his climbed his shirt and managed to scale his shaggy hair. Carol cupped both hands over her mouth to keep from laughing as the little guy perched on top of Daryl's head and proceeded to clean his whiskers. And then, all at once, the squirrel made a mighty jump, landed on a tree trunk and scampered up out of sight.
"I hope he didn't poop in your hair," Carol snickered.
"That your way of telling me I need another bath?" Daryl laughed back. It was a fine night.
"There is a creek just over the hill," Carol said pointedly. "That's how I got your clothes clean."
"I can do that. Thanks," Daryl nodded and made to get up.
"Not right now," Carol said, crinkling the bag. "I've got winnings to share, you know."
One by one, Carol took out the winnings and laid them on the clean clothes; five Hershey kisses, pack of gum, bar of Irish Spring soap, box of mints and a half pack of cigarettes.
Daryl grabbed one of the kisses and the pack of cigs before leaning back. Carol reached over and tossed the bar of soap in his lap as well. "You're gonna need that., but I want it back."
"Yes ma'am," Daryl drawled as he lit one of the cigarettes. It had been a while since he had one.
"Smoking's a nasty habit. I wish you'd quit," Carol griped, as she waved smoke away.
"Gonna run out eventually. I'll quit then," he mumbled before taking another drag. All around them, the night forest came alive with sounds. In front of them, the fire popped sparks like fireflies.
"What was Dixon Demolition? Was that your company?"
Daryl nodded. "Family business. Run by my Uncle Joe. Me and Merle both worked there."
"Can you tell me about it? What did you do? How'd you get started?" Carol fingered the Dixon Demolition t-shirt halfway down the pile of laundry. She wondered if she could somehow steal it out of the pile without him noticing. She had a sudden desire to sleep in the thing.
"One question at a time, woman. I don't usually tell this shit to just anyone. You really want to know?" Daryl turned and cocked his head. "My life ain't all that interesting. Got some stories, though."
Carol nodded firmly. She stretched her feet out and warmed them by the fire. The night was rapidly cooling off. The fire was starting to feel good. She nudged the laundry off to one side, hiding it for now.
"Ok then," Daryl settled back against the log and blew a plume of smoke. "It all started when Merle was released from the stockade. He was supposed to get a dishonorable discharge. Damn moron could never keep his mouth shut. Uncle Joe was a retired jarhead with a lot of connections. He somehow managed to get Merle out after eighteen months on some type of probation. Worked a deal, most likely. Anyhow, I was just seventeen and Uncle Joe hired me to keep Merle outta trouble. Worst damn job I ever took."
AN: I wrote this long, long ago waiting to finish Dixon Demolition. The flying squirrel part came from my own experiences. An owl took one down. My husband rescued it. My daughter cuddled it until it climbed her head. Cutest darn critter I've ever seen.
Anyway, Dixon Demolition is finally moving along. I combined the first few chapters to one big one. I'll post it tomorrow. I hope to see you all there. It should be a fluffy piece of pre-series that ties into this one.
Thank you for reading. I hope you drop me a line and tell me what you think.