A/N: This is a new fandom and a new pairing for me and I'm still getting my feet wet. I'd love feedback if you're so inclined. All disclaimers apply.
A Moment of Grace
He watches Carol through the cell door for a moment, hand tightening reflexively on the bars when she stirs restlessly. He should let her sleep. Rest and liquids, that was what Hershel had said, like that's all she needs to forget about fighting her way through a pack of geeks and then being left to die in some godforsaken closet.
He swallows that portion of guilt down to where the rest of it lies; it ain't no use to him now. He found her, opened that door and touched her and found clear eyes and warm living flesh. It's a moment of grace that he sure as hell doesn't deserve. She does though.
"Daryl?" She makes a sound halfway between a groan and a sigh and he moves forward as her eyes blink open.
"Here," he says shortly, grabbing the canteen next to the bunk she's lying in-Lori's bunk-he remembers, wincing.
"That bad, huh?" she asks, struggling up on one elbow.
He shrugs her off, watching her sideways as her mouth quirks up at the corner and then slides an arm around her shoulders to ease her up into a seated position. It's a little fucked up how natural that comes but he'll push that thought down too.
"Drink," he says, and she does while he settles into the chair next to her, scraping his boots along the floor and picking at the frayed hem of his shirt. "You had something to eat?"
"Carl brought me something a little while ago. He...he brought the baby too." She pauses a few beats, runs a weary hand along the blanket. "Little Ass-kicker?"
"S'a good name," he defends.
"It is," she agrees with a smile and they sit in companionable silence for a while until the damn fools out in the common area start up again.
"Getting kind of noisy out there," she says.
"Stupid waste of time," he grunts. "All this shit about the whens and hows and if we need to make another ammo run first. We ain't letting this go, no matter what that woman with the sword has to say about the sick fuck running the place."
Or about his brother.
Enough talk. He's going to go and get his people back and if anyone gets in his way-if Merle gets in his way-well then someone isn't gonna walk away from that.
She's nodding like she understands and if anyone does, if anyone can get how twisted up it all is in his head, it's probably her.
The bickering outside the cell is picking up again. He catches Rick saying his name and it's enough to spur him into action.
"Got something for you," he says, licking his lip nervously when she angles her body towards him. He pulls out the knife he's been carrying ever since the tombs, now cleaned and resharpened. Just like he did all those months ago when he first gave it to her, he wraps her fingers around the hilt, only this time he doesn't release her hand, Instead, he holds on, frowning down at a smudge of dirt on the inside of her wrist and rubbing at it with his thumb.
"Don't lose it," he warns. Be safe. "Don't wanna have to go looking for you when I get back." I don't think I can do that again.
He's always been shit with words.
Only maybe she understands that too, because her other hand comes to rest on top of his own and squeezes and he feels the warmth of it all the way down to his toes, quieting all his turmoil and uncertainty along the way..
"Daryl! You ready?" Rick's voice echoes down the hall.
"Yeah," he calls back and then to her, "Take care of them." Take care of yourself.
"I will," she promises.
She releases his hand and he lets out a breath and walks away.