A/N: Just a little one shot drabble. The next chapter of Bad Influence should be up soon, it is being Beta-d. General Disclaimer. Reviews make me happy!
Carol stood in the tower with her rifle at the ready staring off into the distance. Rick had returned with Maggie, Glenn and Michonne a full two days ago. It seemed as though everyone assumed Daryl was dead; Carol knew better. Rick had a new group of people to deal with and an impending battle with the governor to think about, returning to find him was out of the question.
Her eyes drifted to the three graves in the courtyard, one being hers. There had been a conversation at breakfast about turning her grave into a monument for Daryl.
"You see anything?" Axle squinted at the horizon. From the moment she confirmed her sexuality he had been following her around like a dog looking for a bone.
"Nothing unusual, few walkers at the tree line." she couldn't stop staring at her own grave. "Can you take watch for a few? I have to do something"
Before waiting for his answer she tossed her weapon over her shoulder and bolted down the staircase, out the door toward the makeshift crosses. She crumpled to her knees in front of the small stone "T" pattern. With her eyes welled up and tears threatening to fall, she glanced and Lori's grave then to her own, the stone "C" with a wilted Cherokee rose wedged into the pebbles. A small smile played on her lips as she realized what it was and where it had to have come from. She picked it up, sliding it between her bra strap and her chest above her heart. She stood quickly then kicked at the stones to scatter them and pulled at the cross until it was free from the dirt. Carol brushed off her hands after throwing the cross of to the side. She then turned back to the other actual graves. "Thank you" she whispered and turned back to the guard tower.
"Carol!" Maggie popped around the side of the building. "Can you help Beth with dinner? I don't think any of us can stomach that cold mash another meal. Glenn and I will take over watch."
"Yeah sure. I'll throw together some canned meat stew. Do me a favor, don't let Axle know where I am heading, I could use a little time to myself" She passed her rifle over to Maggie.
"I think someone has a crush on you…" Maggie laughed.
"Did you know I'm not a lesbian?" Carol asked.
"Yeah, I mean you and Daryl flirted all the time, so I assumed you weren't" Maggie shrugged. "Why?"
"Axle thought I was, and when I put him straight he won't leave me alone now. Its weird and I don't know what to do about it. And we didn't flirt."
"Sure you didn't… He ain't the only one lookin' either" Maggie grinned at her.
"What are you talking about? " Carol questioned.
"Watch Tyresse, that new guy, he's been tripping all over himself around you."
"No! Its like I am the last woman on earth! I've never had any man pay any attention to me, even my poor excuse for a husband. I have no idea how to handle this. What should I do?"
"You are the last woman on earth. Look around. You can have your pick! " Maggie leaned in to give her friend a comforting hug, "I'll cover for you with Loverboy"
Carol groaned and jogged off hoping to put a little distance between herself and Axle. Once reaching the kitchen she found Beth eager to give up cooking duty in favor of a card game Sasha was teaching Ben and Carl. Beth was only able to over cook some rice and open cans of veggies so Carol was left to make the stew on her own. She had missed cooking, with Glenn's injuries limiting his sight, Hershel watching Judy, no one really trusting the new people and without Daryl and T-dog for watch they all felt short handed. She had taken a few extra watch duties so that Rick could get some rest, which left the cooking and cleaning to Beth who obviously needed more training. Carol was so inspired she pulled out some canned peaches to make a crisp for dessert.
Carol was so engrossed with her cooking that she didn't look up at the commotion entering their cellblock. Daryl limped slowly into the room, covered in dirt, grime, bristles and blood, brushing off a concerned Maggie and Glenn with Axle trailing behind. Everyone gathered around him to celebrate his return.
"My lord son, we thought you were gone. Do you want me to take a look at those cuts?" Hershel asked.
"Welcome home brother" Rick pulled him into an uncomfortable hug.
"What happened to you?" Maggie asked.
"Not talking about it. Need to rest. Get offa me" Daryl shrugged them all away. "Who the hell is on watch? They ain't gonna leave us alone, we need to be on guard all the time" He sunk down on the steps in the cafeteria across from Carol, only a few tables between them.
"I'm on it" Carl left the room at a run.
"We'll head back up too, just in case" Maggie tugged on Glenn's arm.
Carol glanced away from her food to him for a moment then turned into the storage closet they had been using. She emerged holding a bottle of water, a clean rag and a few bandages. She handed the supplies to Daryl with a smile. "I told them you'd be fine. Dinner will be done shortly. Relax and I'll bring you a bowl." She leaned in and whispered, "and I made a peach crisp that you can take first crack at. I'm glad you're back" she kissed him softly on his hairline.
Everyone bustled around getting the table set for a meal. Once the meal was on the table and Carol and Beth return from dropping off meals with those on watch there were only three spots left open at the table. Beth plopped down in the open spot next to her father, leaving Carol to choose between next Axel or Tyresse. Opting for a much less awkward eating arrangement she took a bowl of the canned beef stew and sat next to Daryl on the stairs.
"Carol, you really are a fantastic cook. Your meals are some of the best food I've ever had, even before all this," Tyresse complemented.
"Truly!" Axle concurred.
"Great as always" Rick stated.
"I've only known one better cook, and my mama is long gone" Hershel joined the complements.
"Agreed!" Beth smiled at her.
"Uh… Thanks" Carol stammered turning slightly pink at all the attention.
Daryl nudged her with his elbow, "It's good, tell me more about that peach thing." Showing her his empty bowl.
"It's a surprise, no one knows about it yet. Wait until we clear the table" Carol whispered back.
"Well then hurry up woman, I'm starving."
"Then finish this and I'll bring it out" She handed him the last few bites of her stew. "Everyone, I made a bit of a surprise dessert, I'll be back with it in a few"as Carol collected the plates and bowls both Axel and Tyresse jumped to help her clear the table.
"Hey Carol, did I see you tearin' up one of them graves?" Axle asked.
"I'm not in it, didn't seem necessary." She said quietly as she scrubbed out bowls and restacked them to bring out her dessert.
"You know, I dug that for ya" Axle puffed out his chest a little.
"All that energy to burry a scarf, and my favorite one to boot. That was wasteful." She shook her head at him.
"How can I help?" Tyresse gently touched her arm as he asked. Carol jumped at the unexpected contact.
"Uh, Here. Wash these. I'm going to bring out dessert" she quickly scurried away from him.
"You are too good to us" he gave her a big toothy grin.
"I'm starting to think that…" Carol pulled the crisp out of the oven and took it back to the table. Bringing Daryl the first helping she sat down next to him again.
"Looks like you've got a few fans" He dug into the warm baked treat, letting a soft groan out of his throat. "Why aren't you eatin?"
"I'm fine. You know, I didn't ask for all this damn attention. Did you ever think I was gay?" She asked him pointedly.
"What? No. Why?" Daryl coughed a little as he almost choked on his mouthful.
"Axle. He thought I was, and when I told him I'm not he has been following me around, and now this new guy, that I don't even know and it is just too much." Carol spewed her feeling out then buried her head in her arms.
Daryl began to chuckle so much that Carol reached over and hit arm lightly. "Cut it out! This is terrible, I don't know how to handle it"
"You know I can help." He quieted his laughing, but still grinning at her.
"Yeah? How?" She peaked out of the crook of her arm at him.
Daryl slid across the small space separating them so that their legs were flush against each other. He then snaked the arm closest to her behind her back so that he was leaning into her, his face at her neck.
Loudly he spoke directly into her ear, "I ain't even been gone a week and you already have idiots falling all over you. Where does that leave us?"
Carol glanced around, both Tyresse and Axle looked painfully embarrassed, Rick and Hershel were both grinning at them and Beth actually squealed.
She turned her blushing face back to him, "Where ever you want."
Daryl leaned in and softly kissed her jaw. "Good, It is taken care of now." he whispered in her ear. "Its you and me."
"Where did this come from?" Carol was noticing just how comfortable she was sitting this close to him.
"Don't take long when you think you are done to realize what you should have done a long time ago. I should have died there. Hell, Merle did. And all I could think about was you." Daryl handed her his peach crisp. "Eat"
"Ok." Carol grinned at him, taking the bowl and letting her fingers linger over his.
"Damn it." Axle shook his head and walked out of the cafeteria.