Author's Note: Hello and welcome! I should let you know that this particular fic follows all events up to - but not including - episode 9 "Triggerfinger", Season 2. So pretty much the way Daryl acts in this story doesn't match up to the way he acts towards Carol in episode 9. (But that's not really vital, just thought you should know).

Enjoy! Reviews are highly appreciated, no matter what you have to say. I'd like to know your thoughts; whether you liked it, didn't like it (etc.) or just thought it was alright. Thankyou for reading! Have a nice day/evening :)

Daryl could feel the sun drawing the sweat from his skin. He he sat on an old trough in a paddock further out on Hershel's farm than anyone else cared to go. At first he was concentrating on trying to carve something – anything - out of the piece of thick branch he'd found. Daryl just needed to be alone and to channel all his confusing and rather intense emotions in a non-violent way. Carving was exactly how he did this.

Try as he might, Daryl couldn't avoid his feelings or his thoughts, which always crept up on him when he least wanted them to. Daryl could swear that most of the time his mind was devoid of any real thinking, it always seemed rather empty. But when he didn't want to think or feel, when it was all too much to deal with, it was as though he could do nothing else.

There was so much happening inside his head at that moment, so many thoughts fighting against one another, that Daryl couldn't concentrate on anything and when he looked down at his hands, he discovered the worst carving he had ever created. It was just a chunk of jagged wood, really. He even managed to give himself a nasty splinter without noticing. He'd been too busy cursing to himself about how hard he'd searched for Sophia and how she had turned out to be dead all that time. But mostly, he hated the way his efforts were barely matched by anyone but Rick. Were they the only two who truly held any hope for the poor little girl? Heck, her own mother had even lost faith. But she was right all along, wasn't she? And Daryl, stupid Daryl,had planted a sense of hope in her that would only enable her to fall further into grief for her daughter.

Daryl wanted to feel bad for this, but just couldn't. Hope was always important. You can never be sure of anything, but there's always hope and that's what keeps life moving. Fuck it if he'd been 'wrong'. That's life and no one should let the events of reality discourage them from holding on to hope. Because that's part of reality too, and the best way to survive it.

He would never forget the way Carol cried when Sophia walked out of that barn, no longer the nice little girl she was remembered to be, but a rotting corpse. That was a memory that would always stick.

But the way Carol wouldn't even attend Sophia's burial; that was something he couldn't understand. It made him nearly as frustrated as when she'd told him to not go out looking for her daughter again. The time she lost faith. After all he'd done to try and find her little girl.

Something else Daryl felt utterly confused by was; why he cared so much. Why did he let himself get so fired up about a few words from her? Why did it matter so much to him?

Daryl wiped the sweat from his brow with the bottom of his sleeveless plaid shirt, momentarily revealing his firm stomach to the harsh mid-afternoon sun. He let out a deep sigh as he stared out at his picture-perfect rural surroundings.

All of a sudden, being alone wasn't at the top of his list anymore. He didn't like the way it forced him to think about everything.

Just as he was about to toss away the jagged piece of wood, Carol appeared beside him. He didn't look up, but he knew it was her.

"What's that?" She gestured toward the object in his hand.
"A hunk o' wood." He replied matter-of-factly, squinting from the bright sun.
"Oh." Carol sat. Daryl remained silent.

He wasn't sure why he was being cold towards her, apart from that he was a Dixon. Despite that, Carol's daughter had still died and he still knew how to be compassionate. Perhaps it was because he still felt... - 'disgusted' is a strong term, but in that moment when she asked him to stop looking, that is exactly how he'd felt. Later he had come to realise that he had over reacted. But shards of that disgust remained within him. Or perhaps it was because he was afraid she would start crying and hugging him and expecting him to be emotionally responsive. He never wanted to have to deal with situations like that. In the end however, he knew Carol was distraught beyond comprehension and deserved to be treated with kindness.

Carol sat quietly beside him, her hands clasped together. He looked up at her for the first time that day and saw an almost unrecognisable woman. Her hair was the same, her clothes, her body, even her eyes. But she looked tired. More tired than he'd ever seen anyone look in his entire life.

The face muscles that had been holding Daryl's cheeks and brow into a squint, dropped upon his observation and Daryl felt a pang of sympathy for Carol in his heart. He wanted to put his arm around her, but then he thought about the whole 'crying-hugging-emotional thing' that scared him so much, and thought better of it.

But soon, - after what must have been a long moment's silence, filled with much thought on both sides - Carol's eyes began to well up and Daryl watched her throat muscles try to swallow back the tears. She looked down in what Daryl thought looked like shame.

Goddamn. He couldn't just sit there. He had to do something. Daryl reached out his arm, spreading his fingers and awkwardly patted her on the back. A sudden tinge of pain reminding him of the thick splinter inhabiting his calloused hand, made him wince.

Upon the unexpected contact between his hand and her back, Carol burst into uncontrollable tears. She thought that by now she had cried out all her despair and had reached a stage of numbness. But this moment was different.

Hands cupping her face, she shook her head in embarrassment and attempted to say "I'm sorry", but the words barely came out. Nonetheless, Daryl understood. Taking in a deep breath, he finally gave in to showing his softer side and, sliding a little closer, he wrapped his arm generously around her shoulder and held her close, letting her tears soak into his shirt.