After watching the mid-season finale and seeing Axel getting fresh with our girls, I got this little oneshot in my head and had to get it out before it did some serious damage.
Of course, this little fic includes SPOILER warnings for 3x08.
Enjoy, and remember that I own not (so sue not)!
He never thought he'd be so happy to see that run-down prison, to see the Walkers consistently hovering about its fences, to see its looming towers and metal cells…
But when Rick and What's-Her-Name set fire to one of the buildings near the arena, sent every dumbass citizen of that fucked-up town into a panicked frenzy, dragged his and Merle's sorry asses out of the line of fire and got them back to the prison without a damn scratch to be had, he couldn't deny his relief.
Trouble was, things weren't exactly in order there either.
He was chewing his nails again. Thought he'd kicked that habit several months back. But he couldn't give two shits about biting his thumbnail half-off and making it bleed as Rick locked Merle in a cell.
Daryl knew, the moment he saw the way Merle snickered at Glenn's busted-to-shit face, that his stay at the prison, his "acceptance" among them, wasn't gonna go very well. Hell, with the look Glenn was giving his brother their entire trip back he was surprised Merle even made it back with them alive.
As he sat and watched Merle spit insults and threats Rick's way, he knew his brother hadn't changed a damn bit. And when it came down to it, his place behind those bars was deserved.
Didn't stop Daryl from making his fingers bleed, though. Didn't stop him from wondering just how much his brother hated him for standing by Rick on this decision, just how much of a traitor to their blood it really made him…
Daryl blinked down at the thick red liquid seeping out from beneath his torn thumbnail. He tuned out Merle's ranting. Refocused on the newcomers that Carl had locked outside the main block.
Rick was talking to them, looking back at him every now and again. He knew that look, that signal. Rick wanted him to come stand nearby, show these people that he had Rick's back, show them exactly what they were up against in case they decided to do something stupid…
Daryl turned away and avoided the man's beckoning glances.
He wasn't in the mood to study Rick, either.
Slipping from Merle's line of sight he made his way down the cells until he found Beth and Carol huddled together with the baby; Rick had told him Carl named her "Judith"…he still preferred "Little Asskicker" himself, but then, it wasn't his kid- Carol glanced up at him and smiled, the baby cradled in her arms and a bottle in her hand.
Another shout from Merle had both Carol and Beth glancing outside the cell with worry. Daryl felt the urge to both reassure and condemn them; they didn't know Merle, at least Beth didn't, and her look just screamed "Shut that scary new guy up."
He wanted to shout at her that the 'new guy' was his brother…
And then he remembered that Merle was scary, and both women probably should be afraid.
Daryl felt sick to his stomach. He wanted to puke.
Judith did it for him.
Carol laughed while Beth made a face at the white milk the baby had spit up all over her shirt.
He willed his own nausea away as Beth took Judith from Carol's grip and he backed away when the woman stood from the bunk.
"It's not a big deal. I'll just go change my shirt." She snatched one of her old tanks from her bag and passed by him with another quick smile. The smell of the baby-puke hit his nose and he grimaced.
He watched her make her way down the corridor, taking a short turn to head up the staircase. The spittle ran down her shirt with every step she took, and he couldn't help but shake his head at the unaffected look on her face.
Woman was born to be a mother….
Daryl glanced back at Beth as Merle caught a second wind and his cussing echoed around them. She met his eyes and he nodded down at her.
She offered a tiny smile before focusing back on Judith.
A shadow passing behind him sent his spine stiffening before the soft sound of steps on metal hit his ears. Turning away from the cell he caught sight of the only surviving con (Axel was his name, he'd offered to tune his bike, he never stop talking…and he was annoying as shit) slowly heading up the same stairs Carol had just taken.
For a moment Daryl stood stunned, something shutting down in his brain, frying his thoughts and blurring his vision.
His jaw tightened. The chaotic noise of his brother and the occasional whimper of the baby were lost to the sound of Axel's feet creaking up those stairs.
And then the pounding of his heart slammed into his ears, his eyes seeing a mix of red and white and his muscles, every single one, grew tighter and tighter until they burned with pain.
Nails bit his palms. He inhaled deep and felt his throat convulse against a growl.
Every man had his breaking point, his edge…
And this dumbass motherfucker had just pushed him over it.
And he didn't even know it.
Whipping the bow around he loaded a bolt without even looking, his eyes glued to the other man's back. His body was suddenly lowering as he bent his knees and began making his way to the stairs. As he took his first step up he saw Rick standing in the center of the corridor, near Merle's cell, watching him ascend. Rick's gun was in his hand, probably cocked, and Daryl knew he'd seen Axel follow Carol up as well.
He gave Rick a quick nod before creeping up as quietly as possible.
Daryl found Axel ducking behind one of the fewer open cells on the second tier, his back to the staircase, head poking out to watch the woman standing in a corner at the very end of the walkway.
He caught just a glimpse of Carol's naked back as she peeled the soiled shirt off, bending down to reach for the fresh one.
Already his feet were carrying him down the cement floor, quick and quiet, and as Axel's head leaned out even farther to stare at Carol's ass, Daryl lowered the bow to reach out and snatch the man by the throat, pushing him into the cell and raising the bolt to rest between Axel's eyes.
The con gasped, wide-eyed, hands shooting up to plead with him,
"No…no no no man, it ain't what it looks like—"
Daryl saw red again. His grip on Axel's throat tightened.
"Naw? What is it, then?"
"I wasn't gonna—"
Axel's lips clamped shut, his stupid-as-fuck mustache trembling. The point of Daryl's arrow punctured the skin of the man's forehead and a droplet of blood seeped out before sliding down across his eye.
Below them, Merle was cursing his name.
He felt his teeth grind together and he snarled.
"You come near her again, you look at her again, and you'll be eatin' my bolt for breakfast, asshole."
Even as he spoke Axel was nodding in agreement, blinking against the blood and grinning nervously.
"No problem, brother. I didn't—I didn't know, okay?"
I ain't yer brother-
Didn't know what?
Daryl felt his own breath puffing back into his face from Axel's own, felt the shudder go through the man's body. His finger tightened on the trigger of the bow.
Rick probably would have killed the man if he'd try to touch Carol….
But he hadn't…
But he could…
Ripped the bow from Axel's face and flung him away from the wall.
"Get yer ass back down there and stay in Rick's sight. You make one wrong move…"
"I gotcha, man. No problem."
And with that, the con ducked out of the cell and flew down the stairs, not even bothering to glance back to see if he was being followed.
"Just a Peeping Tom." Carol stepped into his line of sight as he exited the cell, her stinking stained shirt balled up under an arm.
She shrugged her shoulders and looked down over the railing.
"Could be worse. Pretty sure he's harmless—"
"You don't know that."
When she looked up to hold his eyes Daryl stepped closer and gripped his bow tight.
"Man's been without a woman for God knows how long. No tellin' what he could do. He ain't harmless. But he won't be a problem anymore…"
He didn't expect her to suddenly close the short distance between them and reach up to touch his cheek. He also didn't expect her to lean forward and plant a kiss on the other one.
Fumbling with the weapon in his hands he stepped back, away from her touch, suddenly riled in a completely different way.
Carol laughed lightly and he wanted to hate her for it.
"Thank you." She smiled and stepped around him to head back down the stairs.
Daryl felt his fingers unloading the bolt from his bow, but he barely registered the action.
Just as he barely heard Merle's scratchy shouts or Judith's responsive fussing.
He stood at the rail and watched Carol make her way to her cell below, a strangely content smile plastered on her lips. Scanning the corridor he found Axel hovering nervously near Rick, eyes averted to the ground and forehead dotted with blood.
The man never even glanced Carol's way when she passed him by.