A sort-of sequel to When the World Made Sense Again. Carol gets her sass on, and Daryl makes a move. Rated M for language. Warning: Expect silliness. I don't always write angst. Daryl D./Carol. Romance/humor.
Disclaimer: TWD and its characters belong to someone else. I own nothing. This is just for fun.
Dedication: For all the Carylers on Tumblr.
Hershel wouldn't let her help him tend to Daryl's leg wound, no matter how many times she reminded him that she'd seen a man's bare bottom half more than once in her lifetime. Carol fumed silently to herself as she mopped out the cell Rick had chosen for Merle. He'd raised his eyebrows at her when she'd begun dragging the mop and bucket over but had wisely kept his opinions to himself.
She couldn't just sit around and wait for something to happen. So what if the foul-mouthed idiot wouldn't appreciate the work she was doing to make his cell a little less vomit-inducing? She wasn't really doing it for him; this was therapy. This would keep her from doing something stupid.
Like climbing Daryl Dixon like he was a tree and planting a big smooch on him.
Oh, right, she'd already done that. Mark that one off the list.
Carol muttered under her breath as she wielded the heavy mop. She'd been so relieved to see him, so glad to know he'd managed to dodge death yet again, that she hadn't really considered what she was doing until she was doing it. If she held still long enough, she could conjure up the sensation of his mouth beneath hers: lips chapped and dry, the hard pressure of his teeth behind his closed lips.
Had he even touched her once she'd wrapped around him like some choking vine? She was pretty sure he hadn't. She'd probably scared ten years off of him. Christ. She pushed a mix of dirty water and bleach across the concrete and bore down on the mop in an effort to scrub some of the filth away and maybe even scrub her mind clear of regret. Sweat was running down her temples and into her eyes, and she blinked the salty sting away.
"GOD DAMN IT!" a hoarse voice roared downstairs, and she knew it was Daryl because she could hear Hershel chiding him for taking the Lord's name in vain. What followed was surely the worst foul language Hershel had ever heard. Carol stopped counting after hearing fifteen distinct uses of the word fuck. Hershel went off then, informing Daryl he was being a jackass, and then wonder of wonders, he was calling for her. Nice. First he didn't want her delicate sensibilities besmirched by Daryl DIxon's bare behind, and now he didn't care? Whatever.
Carol stomped back down to the ground floor. In deference to his precarious balance with the crutches, Hershel had covered one of the tables they used for meals with several layers of sheets and scratchy towels, and it was on this makeshift gurney that Daryl lay on his back, apparently naked from the waist down with only the edge of the sheet beneath him carelessly flipped over his pelvis. Hershel was glaring down at his recalcitrant patient, and his patient was glaring right back at him.
"What do you need?" Carol asked brusquely.
Hershel's bushy eyebrows rose at her tone. "Can you please convince him to hold still while I stitch this wound?"
Carol snorted but moved towards the table. Daryl let out a string of curses as he tried to yank more of the sheet over his lower half. "Oh, stop it," she muttered. "You've got nothing I haven't seen before."
"Who pissed in your corn flakes?" Daryl threw back at her, blue eyes narrowed to slits as he tried not to show how much pain he was in. Bullheaded men, she thought as she put her hand on his chest.
"Nice," she said. "I'm trying to help you and you're being a shit."
"Carol?" Hershel's shock was evident in the way his voice cracked. "Do you want me to get Rick to help?"
"No, I'm fine," she replied. She pinned Daryl with her gaze. "Try to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth," she told him.
"I ain't havin' a baby," he growled, but he did what she said. His heart was thumping hard beneath her palm. She could feel his body heat through his shirt.
"He's running a fever," she told Hershel.
"Not surprised to hear that." He kept on stitching, eyes on his work. "Can you take penicillin?" he asked Daryl, who nodded. "Last thing you need is an infection."
She watched Daryl's face twist as Hershel worked on a particularly ragged edge of the wound. There was a relatively clean piece of toweling next to the bowl of clean water Beth had set up for Hershel. Carol dipped the cloth and wrung it out, then pushed Daryl's sweaty hair away from his forehead. "Close your eyes," she told him.
"Why?" He stared up at her, his expression a mix of pain and unease.
"Because it might help you relax." She folded the cloth and laid it across his forehead.
"Woman, I'm being sewn up by a veterinarian," he muttered. "Ain't no relaxin' going on." Yet even as he was growling these words at her, his eyelids began to droop. Carol put her hand back on his chest and left it there.
He reminded her of a feral cat, rangy and prone to spitting and scratching until you managed to coax it into allowing a chin rub or a light hand stroked along its back.
When Hershel finished closing up the ragged gash in Daryl's leg, he prodded Daryl into shifting onto his side briefly so he could give him a shot of penicillin in his hip. Daryl barely grumbled at this indignity and didn't even open his eyes, a sure sign that he was beyond exhausted. "See if you can convince him to rest for a while," Hershel told her as he gathered up his suturing supplies into the first aid box for Beth to put away later.
"I'm still awake," Daryl muttered without opening his eyes. Hershel snorted and exchanged a wry look with Carol as he adjusted his crutches. He was about to swing away from the table when Daryl spoke again. "Thanks, doc."
Hershel harrumphed and gave her a comical look of disbelief before thumping away.
"Do you want to stay here or go up to your sleeping bag?" Carol asked.
"Ain't goin' nowhere without some pants."
"I'm throwing the pair you had on out with the trash to burn," Carol replied. "They're ruined, so don't make that face at me."
He let out a long sigh. "There should be another pair in my rucksack."
She found a pair of relatively clean cargo pants in his knapsack that looked like they would be loose enough not to rub against his stitches. She added a pair of boxers and some socks to the pile.
"I don't suppose you'll let me help you get dressed," she said as she laid the clothes next to him. The incredulous look he gave her made her lips twitch. "Right." She unfolded an unused blanket from the pile on the table and held it up as a makeshift screen, then bent her head so that she couldn't see what he was doing. "Go ahead, I can't see anything," she told him.
He huffed and grumbled, but after a few seconds, she heard movement and a lot of muttered curses.
"What's going on?"
Rick's voice startled her. "He's changing into cleaner pants," she said. "Hershel just finished stitching him up."
"Daryl, do you need help?" Rick asked.
"NO, I don't need help," Daryl muttered, then added a heart-felt "Shit!"
Rick clicked his tongue and walked around Carol and her blanket-screen.
"HEY!" Daryl's tone was a mix of outrage and shock. "What the hell-? Git outta here, Rick!"
"Stop it. I'm just trying to help."
Carol was pretty sure she was going to bite through her tongue in an effort to keep from laughing at the amount of swearing that ensued, interspersed with Rick's mutters of "Would you STOP" and "Cut that out, dammit." When Rick finally told her they were done, she could hear the relief in his voice.
It took more cursing, prodding, and arguing to get Daryl off the table and up the steps to the landing where he normally slept. Carol noticed, too late, that she'd neglected to put his pallet to rights after Maggie had abruptly wakened her, but if Daryl noticed the disarray, he didn't let on. He turned onto his uninjured side and resolutely shut his eyes.
"Hershel give him something for the fever?" Rick asked her.
"Not yet, but I will. Thank you for helping him," Carol added. "I couldn't have gotten him up here on my own."
"Quit talkin' about me like I'm not here," Daryl grumbled.
"Shut up and go to sleep," Rick replied. He patted Carol on the shoulder as he left.
She knew better than to hover, so she put a bottle of water and two aspirin on the floor next to the rucksack that served as his pillow. Before she could straighten up again, his hand closed around her wrist. The heat of his palm surprised her. "What is it?" she asked quietly. He didn't say anything, his eyes still closed, and she thought he'd fallen asleep again until she felt his thumb stroke the inside of her wrist, once, twice, before he released her wrist and fumbled for the pills. She made sure he was able to uncap the water before she forced herself to leave him before she did something stupid, like curl up beside him.
He was in hell, or the closest thing to it, because the flames were crawling up his legs, and he couldn't move. His skin was crisping, clear fluid seeping from splits caused by the heat.
Momma had died just like this, burned to nearly nothing, so it made sense that he was suffering the same end. Fire bloomed in his chest, settled in his throat. He waited for the end to come, for the dark and the nothingness.
He burned forever, and then he didn't.
Daryl opened his eyes.
He felt oddly hollow, weak as shit, and all he could do was lie still and try to figure out what the hell had happened. He'd had some weird-ass dreams, nightmares really, about corpses walking and fire eating him alive. His eyes felt like sand was wedged up under his eyelids; he had to struggle to open his eyes completely after each blink. He moved his head, and the pillow under his cheek moved with him, and he realized he was lying with his head on a woman's soft breasts.
Daryl felt his sore eyes pop wide open as everything rushed back to him: Woodbury. Merle. Getting shot. Making it back to the prison. Carol jumping into his arms. Hershel sewing him up. Pain, and then fire.
He shifted gingerly, and the warm body curled around his shifted too. He knew it was Carol who lay with him, whose chest rose and fell evenly a few inches away, whose leg was wedged between his. He realized that his arm was around her, holding her loosely against him, but he knew if he moved, she'd wake up, and he didn't want her to wake up while his face was all but buried in her chest.
As if she'd somehow heard his thoughts, Carol stirred against him. Daryl hastily shut his eyes and did his best to stay still. He was good at playing possum; had done it many a time to end a beating at papa's hands. Damn if he could slow down his breathing though, so he settled for faking a series of coughs as he slowly rolled onto his back.
"How is he?" a raspy voice asked quietly.
"I think his fever broke during the night," Carol replied, her voice scratchy with sleep. He flinched a little as her cool, narrow hand touched his forehead, then his cheek. "Still feels okay," she added.
"Did you sleep at all?" The raspy voice was Rick's, he realized.
"I did." She sounded surprised. "Once he settled down, I was out like a light. I can't remember the last time I slept through the night."
"Y'all stop talking about me like I'm not here," Daryl groused. He cracked open his eyes and squinted over at Rick. "What the hell happened?"
"Your fever spiked, and you were out of your head, " Rick informed him. "Hershel was afraid you were going to have a seizure."
Daryl grunted and plucked at the tangled sheet and blanket. "Yeah, well, I didn't, did I?"
"No, but you were cussin' and shoutin' and fightin' until Carol laid down with you," Rick said.
Daryl turned his head and looked over at her. She was propped up on her elbow, her cheeks still flushed pink from sleep. "Hi," she murmured. "How are you feeling?"
"Okay," he muttered. "Sorry for being a pain in the ass."
"You were really sick," she said.
He ducked his head and pulled at the blanket again. Now that there was some space between them, he was getting cold. He wanted to ask her to stay, to come closer. He wanted to go back to being warm and sleepy and surrounded by her.
Jesus Christ, he had it bad. He had it so bad for her that her spooning up with him had calmed him down when he was out of his damn head, as if some part of him had known she was there when his mind was screwed up with fever dreams. And what did it say that she'd admitted she'd slept soundly with him? He couldn't count all the times he'd seen her pacing in the middle of the night because she couldn't sleep.
Yet she'd slept through the night next to him. He was pretty sure his chest was puffing up like a pigeon's right then.
She shivered and drew his attention, and he had to clench his fists to keep from pulling her under the blanket with him.
"It's early yet," Rick said. "Why don't you sleep a little more? I'll make breakfast in about an hour."
"Are you sure?" Carol asked around a hastily-covered yawn.
Darryl listened to Rick's fading footsteps. Carol covered her mouth as she yawned again, then glanced sideways at him. "Do you want me to go so you can stretch out?" she asked.
"No." He said it so quickly that he could have kicked himself, but she didn't seem to be put off by his answer. She wiggled back under the covers again, and without even hesitating, she slid over to him and rested her forehead against his shoulder. It seemed only right to move his arm so that she could rest more comfortably against him. She settled in with a sigh, and after a few seconds when he thought his heart was going to hammer right out of his chest, she rested her arm across his middle. She was warm and soft and fit perfectly against his side.
He fell into a sweet and dreamless sleep without even trying.
"Damn. I can't believe we can hear Merle all the way out here."
"I know." Carol sighed and smiled over at Maggie. "You'd think he'd lose his voice ."
"Or at least run out of ways to tell us to go fuck ourselves," Maggie added.
They were on watch in the guard tower, although Carol had a suspicion that Rick had put them on watch together to spare them the brunt of Merle's endless ranting. Rick had brought the elder Dixon into the cell block earlier that afternoon, and as expected, Merle was nothing but trouble. The more he shouted and cussed and carried on, the darker and angrier Daryl's expression grew. Rick had finally sent him out on a short hunting run with Glen.
"Sooooo..." Maggie began, dragging out the word. "About you and Daryl..."
Carol smirked. "I know where you're going with this. Stop."
"Oh, come on," Maggie pleaded. "GIve me something, anything even slightly romantic. You guys were so cute, all snuggled up under the blankets."
Carol scanned the yard and tree line. She knew she was smiling like the Mona Lisa with a secret. It was silly and stupid, but she couldn't help it. It had pleased her to no end that she'd been able to ease his fevered distress by lying down next to him, and waking up this morning practically braided together with him had been an unexpected gift. He'd retreated into quiet watchfulness after they woke up again and began their respective duties for the day, but every now and then, she'd looked up from whatever she was doing and catch him looking at her, and instead of looking away or scowling, he'd held her gaze for a few seconds before giving her a nod and moving on.
"You're killing me," Maggie said, elbowing her.
"I don't know what you're talking about," Carol fibbed. "Oh, look, there they are." She laughed as Maggie did a little happy dance. "Go on," she told the younger woman. "I'll cover you."
She watched as Maggie re- appeared a few minutes later and unlocked the gate for the returning men. Glen greeted her with an enthusiastic kiss that ended abruptly when Daryl bumped him with his elbow as he came through the gate. Carol saw Daryl speak briefly to Maggie then look up at the tower after Maggie replied. She bit her lip as he unceremoniously shoved the bundle of dead game into Glen's arms and headed for the tower. She could see Maggie smirking up at her and flapped a hand at her to make her stop.
"Hey," Carol greeted him when he stepped onto the platform. "Looks like you guys had a good hunting trip." She didn't mention that he looked tired and grumpy and moved like his leg still hurt him.
"'Was alright." He scanned the yard and tree line. "Been quiet?"
"No walkers if that's what you mean." She offered him a small smile when he glanced sideways at her. "Merle is still...being Merle."
"Meanin' he's still being a jackass."
They stood side by side in silence. She could feel the brief touch of his glances and had to work to breathe evenly. He shifted beside her and gently nudged her elbow with his.
"Here," he said gruffly, holding out a square of somewhat clean material. "Picked 'em before we got all bloody with the critters."
Carol took the small bundle and moved aside the material to reveal a handful of dark purple berries. She let out a little chortle of glee and deftly ate one by dipping her head and capturing one of the berries with her lips. When Daryl blinked at her, she carefully swallowed the bit of fruit. "I can't remember the last time I washed my hands, " she explained. She held up the cloth and berries. "Here, have some."
"Naw, they're for you. Glen has a pouch of 'em for everyone else."
"They're wonderful," she said, and she nipped up another berry. "I wish we had power so I could make a cobbler for y-for everyone." Dammit, she almost slipped up. He was looking at her steadily, and she could have sworn his gaze dipped to her mouth and lingered there.
"You-uh-" He gestured at her lips. "You've got a little-" He pointed to the corner of his own mouth.
"Oh, figures, I can't eat without making a mess," she said, and she worked the tip of her tongue against the corner of her mouth. "Did I get it?"
He shook his head, so she turned her head and lifted her shoulder so she could wipe her mouth on her t-shirt. "Better?" she asked.
He squinted at her. "Your tongue is purple."
Carol laughed. "I imagine it is." She ate another berry. Oh Lord, he was staring at her mouth again. She focused on the yard and tree line once more. He shifted beside her, and his bare arm brushed hers. Instead of moving away as he would have done not so long ago, he took a step closer to her.
"About yesterday," he began.
Uh-oh. Carol looked over at him. "Hmm?"
"I, uh... " He grimaced, scratched his jaw. "Uh. You kind of surprised me. At the gate," he added.
"I did?" She wasn't sure if he was referring to her jumping into his arms or kissing him or both. Her heart was practically up in her left ear. "S-sorry," she blurted. "I was just so glad to see you and-"
"I ain't askin' for an apology," he muttered.
Carol blinked at him. "Oh. Well. Okay."
He rubbed one hand over his face. "Lord. I am fucking this up."
Carol opened her mouth, then shut it. She had no idea where he was going with this. He didn't want an apology, but what did he want? She stared out at the yard.
"I was too surprised to kiss you back," Daryl blurted. "Didn't want you to think I didn't like it." And with that he turned and headed for the stairs.
Carol realized her mouth was hanging open again. It took her a couple of tries to compose herself enough to close it. Before she could say or do anything else, she heard Daryl talking to someone who had come up to the stairs. She walked over to see what was going on.
"...just came up to see if she needed some help," Axel said. "I saw Maggie come in without her, and I thought-"
"She's fine," Daryl interrupted. "Don't you worry none about her."
The con had the balls to look past him. "Carol," he began.
"I'm fine, Axel. Go on back to the cell block." Her voice was firm.
Daryl couldn't believe it when Axel started to step around him. He caught the man's thin arm. "She told you to go on back to the cell block," Daryl said in a low, steady voice.
"Back off, man," Axel huffed. "I got some business with her."
Jesus Christ. He felt like someone was squeezing a band of iron around his chest. He looked over his shoulder at Carol. The iron band eased when she shook her head at him. He looked at Axel again. "Leave," he said flatly.
"This don't concern you!" Axel bawled.
"The. Fuck. It. Don't."
Axel looked at her, then looked at Daryl, then back at her. "Axel, go back to the cell block," she said again. "We're fine."
The con yanked his arm away and finally obeyed, clearly unhappy. The bastard was stupid enough to give Daryl a dirty look as he stomped down the steps. Daryl flipped him the bird.
"What was that about?" he asked, still watching the convict's progress across the yard.
"He's an idiot. He tried to flirt with Beth, and when I told him to stop because she's too young, he tried to flirt with me. After he told me I was a lesbian, actually."
He had the crossbow in his hands before she finished her sentence.
He snorted. "Was jus' gonna shoot him in the ass," he muttered. He looked over at her. She was pink cheeked and wide eyed, and something about her expression reminded him of how she looked this morning next to him.
Next to him, not next to that ass Axel.
Mine, he thought, and before he could talk himself out of doing it, he walked over to her, leaned in, and kissed her.
It was brief and awkward; they bumped noses, and he was too aware of his chapped lips, so he ended it as abruptly as he'd begun. She dropped the last few berries, and for some reason, that pleased him to no end, so he leaned in and kissed her again, not caring that he was no good at this stuff, not caring that anyone in the cell block could see them, not caring about anything except the way she leaned into him and put one cool hand behind his neck. Her lips were soft against his, and he wasn't at all in a hurry to end this kiss, and instead of iron around his chest, it felt like he had helium in there.
He felt her flinch at Rick's shout. He lifted his head reluctantly, pleased to see that it took her a second or two to open her eyes and focus. She actually grumbled under her breath as she slipped around him and went to the railing. "Yes?" she called down to Rick, her voice just this side of sharp.
"Have you seen Daryl? Glen said he came back with him, but-"
Jesus H. Christ on a cracker. He stomped over to the railing. "What do you want?" he barked.
"Oh. Hey. Uh. Can you come down and help me with your brother?"
Daryl sighed. "Yeah. Be right there." He hitched his crossbow a little higher and turned away from the railing. "You all right?" he asked her gruffly.
"Yes." She reached out and gently touched his chin. "Go help Rick. I'll be down soon." She stepped close and leaned up to kiss him.
He broke away and swore loudly and stomped towards the stairs. "Hellfire and damnation, Rick, I'm coming!" he shouted.
He was halfway down the steps when something small and dark whizzed past him and smacked right in the middle of Rick's forehead.
"The hell?" Rick yelped as he pulled a bit of splattered berry from his eyebrow.
"Serves you right," Daryl grunted.
Damn, her aim was good.