Heya guys, I come bearing Caryl angst!
First off, I want to warn against SPOILERISH THINGS HERE. I read some stuff about Carol in S3 that I've used here. So yeah. Warning has been issued.
Secondly, I disclaim all the things.
Thirdly, I love you guys and I love this fandom and I love this ship. Please enjoy and let me know how you feel!
He lay in the darkness of the cell block, high on the balcony overlooking the others. It was late. Too late to still be awake. Too late to attempt any semblance of sleep.
The wind whispered through the cracks in the walls, the night air still a bit biting and the hairs on his arms rose briefly. The moonlight filled the block with soft white light.
Daryl sat from his position against the wall, looked down at the occupied cells.
He nodded stiffly as Rick looked up at him from his own vigil in front of one cell in particular. It wasn't Lori's. It wasn't Hershel's.
Daryl felt his teeth grind as he thought of the two cons that lie dozing in the cell below. Rick had decided to spare them, the ones that moved to help gather Hershel up and tote him back to the block. The ones that looked at them with lingering humanity.
The others had made the simple and deadly mistake of looking at them wrong. Daryl had seen the wild insanity in their eyes, the desperate glint as they first glanced at his crossbow, then at Rick's hatchet, and finally at Hershel's severed and bleeding leg. Rick had seen it, too.
The bastards were practically drooling.
Closing his eyes he leaned forward against the railing, legs hanging over the side of his perch.
With the wind he could still hear Hershel's muffled screaming.
With every creak of the old building he could still hear the silenced gunshots they used to put the crazed cons down.
She bit her lip when he moaned again.
Carol sat in an old wooden chair just next to the bunks, watching an exhausted and horribly injured Hershel attempt sleep.
He was sweating; the little beads of salt flickered in the light of the moon streaming through the windows. Every minute or so his head would jerk to one side and then to the other, his eyes shut and his brows furrowing in pain. In the bunk above him Maggie sighed, lying on her side and peering down to meet Carol's upturned gaze.
She could only offer the young woman an uncertain shake of her head.
They couldn't know for certain if Rick's decision to severe Hershel's leg would ultimately save him. They couldn't know that the large wound would not become infected that very night and kill him by morning. They couldn't know that he wouldn't simply bleed to death. They just did not know.
She felt helpless. An entire winter of absorbing Hershel's vast knowledge of medicine did nothing for her now. She had nothing to help him. The med bay had not yet been cleared.
Hershel groaned again. His head jerked back a bit and he shifted and grunted and sighed as his body seemed to go slack. Above him Carol saw Maggie sit up, wide-eyed.
Leaning forward she reached out to find Hershel's wrist. Pressing two fingers below his thumb she waited but a second before feeling a thump, and then another, and then another.
Releasing held breath she looked up to meet Maggie's eyes once again.
"He's okay. Passed out I think."
Maggie moved to crawl to the end of the bunk, swinging a leg over to slide down.
"I can't sleep like this. I'll watch him for a bit. Go on and get some sleep."
Standing to let Maggie take her seat, Carol smiled sympathetically. She rested a hand on the young woman's shoulder and squeezed.
"Call if you need me."
As she slipped from the cell the moonlight seemed to drift across the floor, chasing her steps. With a quick glance around she noted Rick sitting in a similar chair, guarding the surviving prisoners they had run into. He glanced at her momentarily, gave her a look that seemed both sharp and tired at the same time. She did not smile at him. They hadn't much to smile about this night.
As she glanced up towards the second floor of the block a shadow leered over the cells, cutting the moonlight. She felt his gaze on her head but could not make out his eyes.
As the wind whispered into the hall, she shivered and headed for the stairwell.
He watched her bypass the cell she and Lori shared and head instead for the stairs. Her steps were soft, light, like a cat with foot padding. He barely heard her come up the stairs and make her way to him, but he knew she had.
Daryl looked up and saw her standing next to him in the dim light, arms crossed to hold herself.
"You need to be sleepin'."
She made a humming sound at his whisper and moved to sit down next to him.
"I need to be, but I'm not going to. Not tonight…I can already tell."
He watched her assume a similar position to his, letting her legs dangle from the edge of the floor and entwining her arms in the railing that supported her body.
A low moan drifted up to his ears for the twentieth time that night and he knew it originated from no Walker. Frowning he glanced at the woman that sat quiet and spent next to him.
"How is he?"
A grim smile formed on her face as she looked at him squarely.
"Alive," the smile dropped and her eyes lowered to the cells below, "But I don't know for how long. He's sweatin'. Feverish. I think he already has an infection setting into that leg."
"Figured that'd happen…"
She nodded and gripped the rail tight. Daryl felt the tension practically radiate from her body.
"We need to get into that medical bay. There might be something left. Antibiotics. Something to get an IV set up. Clean bandaging."
Nodding slightly he grunted in agreement.
"We'll get in. Tomorrow. Clear it out and find what Hershel needs. Don't worry."
When she smiled at him softly he couldn't help but smile back. He'd decided months ago to stop trying to fight it, the urge to smile at her. Couldn't be helped, the way he saw it. Just like everything else that had happened between them.
But just as soon as she smiled she frowned again, head shaking and eyebrows lowering. He hated it when she got upset. He hated it when she did anything but smile and laugh at him. He didn't tell her, but he hated it when she wasn't happy. Even when he knew the chances to be happy were few and far between in this world.
A bitter grimace formed on Carol's face and Daryl frowned at it.
"He's probably going to die, Daryl. And then….and Beth, and Maggie, they'll have to watch Rick or you or…or me put him down and…and then Lori, she thinks the baby might be dead."
She seemed to want to go on but paused, eyes blinking erratically and he knew she was fighting tears by that point. Her last words hit him and he leaned a bit closer to her.
"Lori. She hasn't felt the baby move in awhile. She's afraid. We're all afraid. And dammit, Daryl, we had it. A home, a place to be safe and start over, a sense of hope here. And now…Hershel's on the verge of death and Lori might be close. And I just don't know what to do."
She felt helpless, hopeless. Daryl could see it on her. She felt alone.
You're not. You're not alone.
Leaning close to her face he reached out, found the shoulder he'd rubbed earlier that night and settled fingers against the muscle.
"We're gonna get him some medicine. We're gonna save him. And Lori's gonna have that baby, if you have to cut her open and pull it out screamin' yourself. And we're gonna make this place safe. We're gonna make this our home."
His words escaped him even as a memory rushed through his mind.
He'd done this before. Tried to assure her.
"We're gonna locate that little girl and she's gonna be just fine."
Damn, but I mean it. I meant it then.
He expected her to simply laugh her tension away and agree. He hoped for it.
But instead Carol watched his face, even when she knew it made him uncomfortable as hell, and met his eyes and held them and stared blankly for several seconds too long.
She barely said it, but he heard it. It sounded half-hearted. As they stared at each other he saw the tiny droplet of saltwater form at the edge of her right eye, building at its corner before slipping down from its own weight. The tear rolled down her cheek and Daryl gripped the rail with his free hand.
He came so close to reaching out and wiping it away. He wanted to.
But then she smiled, just slightly, stilling his muscles. Freezing his breath.
She repeated it, louder this time, and Daryl smiled at her. When she scooted closer he didn't move his arm, didn't attempt to give her space. She didn't want space. He didn't want her to want space.
Together they sat at the edge of the balcony and watched the white light filter in through the dust-covered windows, listening to the light snores and occasional moans below.
Daryl didn't have to look at her to know she was fighting more tears.
Resting his arm across her shoulders he pulled her in slightly.
With every inhale through his nose he swore he could smell the salt.
For those wondering, the spoilery theme here was Carol's training as Hershel's medical protege. Read it online. Can't remember where. Guess we'll see if it's true!