Summary: She had outlived all the other women from the original Atlanta group. She was the last one standing. Who could have seen that?
How great it is that Carol made it to season 4 outliving so many other characters?
This is a one-shot of her dealing with it and Daryl supporting her.
There's a chance I'll turn this into a series of incoherent drabbles, I'll think about it.
The Walking Dead belong to Robert Kirkman and AMC. No copyright infringement intended.
What caught his attention was the way Glenn narrowed his eyes in concentration staring at the fence. He followed his gaze only to see Carol walking purposely in that direction, a metal pipe in one hand and her machete in the other. Last time he had seen her, she was helping the newcomers from Woodbury settle in the cell block.
She stopped a few inches away from the fence, evidently waiting for the walkers to gather. Then she raised the pipe. One down. Two. Three. Woman was right on target. He felt a swell of pride twitching in his chest. Four. Five.
Tossing the pipe, Carol unlocked the gate and walked straight into two last stray walkers swinging the machete in their heads with strength and determination that made both Daryl and Glenn wince at once, effectively smashing them with a single blow to each. That was weird. What the hell was she up to now? Six. Seven. In a matter of seconds. She rested her hands in her hips, blood staining her clothes and dripping from the machete. Her eyes were scanning the place for more of them close to the fence. When she didn't find any, she shook her head in disappointment and stepped back inside the yard, locking the gate behind her.
Furrowing his brow, he headed towards her with long, fast strides. Getting herself killed under his watch wasn't something she was allowed to do.
By the time he reached her, she was leaning heavily against the fence, fingers wrapped around the metal wire, shoulders hunched. Something was wrong in her stance, but if she cried, he couldn't tell definitively.
"What's wrong?" he cut straight to the chase.
She gasped at the sound of his voice and wiped her eyes quickly. His hunting skills made him unnoticeable when he wanted to sneak up on her. Having Daryl come to check on someone was a rare honor; still, she'd much rather stay alone right now.
"Nothing. I just wanted to take off some tension. Long day…"
His first reaction was to spin around and walk away, but he only shifted nervously on his feet. He had caught the tears rolling and although she hadn't turn to face him, he could see from his standing point that her cheeks were stained from older ones. She must have been crying silently for a while here.
"And what else?" he offered again despite himself.
His persistence touched her. It wasn't like Daryl to pursue a small talk about feelings. She'd bet he would bolt at her first refusal of anything being wrong.
"Andrea is dead…" she said flatly.
He nodded. "Got bit. We didn't make it there in time."
It was her turn to nod now.
He kept casting peeks at her. It was more than that, he could tell. People around them were dropping like flies, but going into a walker killing spree wasn't like Carol, it was more like something he'd do.
"And what else?" he kept pushing.
She snorted a humorless laugh shaking her head.
"Come on, spit it out," he encouraged her.
He raised his hand and curled his fingers around the fence, mimicking her grip, but tilted his torso slightly towards her and watched her cautiously. He had no idea what the hell he was still doing here, it was obvious she didn't want to talk. But, maybe, it was precisely that. This entire behavior was so unusual for Carol, he just couldn't turn his back and walk away. So he waited.
She swallowed hard, narrowing her eyes. Her gaze still darting faraway, her lips pressed in a thin, grim line. It took her forever to collect herself to the point she'd be able to open her mouth without burst into sobbing. And he was still there, lingering by her side. She didn't really know how to describe this suffocating lump in her throat whatsoever. How could she explain this kind of loneliness? It wasn't even loneliness, it was something else. Some kind of void raising deep inside her, threatening to devour her, that was impossible to articulate. She exhaled the air she had been holding. There was no way to put it into words. It didn't even make sense. She was being irrational having this outburst and she knew it; she just couldn't help herself.
"I'm the last one standing," she whispered with trembling voice.
"What?" Now he was lost. Not a clue what she was talking about.
"From the women from our original group, back in Atlanta. I outlived them all," she elaborated a bit.
"So?" he stared at her intensely.
"Who could have foreseen that a year ago? What were the chances of that happening?" She could feel his eyes digging holes in her face.
"So? You feel guilty for surviving?" He was effectively getting angry now. Carol never talked this kind of crap these days; she had grown strong and confident, nothing reminding of the meek, needy woman who was whining about being a burden.
She grunted and turned to meet his eyes. He was glaring down at her now, his brow frowned.
"Oh, please…" she shook her head in disbelief.
"What?" he hissed.
"I've made a habit of getting saved. This is hardly surviving." She knew she was flirting with the chance of getting her ass kicked now. She also knew that she was much more self-degrading than she actually deserved; she just couldn't help herself.
"You are not alive because you got saved; you are alive because you are a survivor," he mumbled trying to control his frustration.
"I can't believe I outlived them all…" she closed her eyes, bowing her head and fighting tears back.
"Are you crazy?" he snarled angrily. His jaw was clenched; he was trying really hard not to lash out at her.
The incredulous, hurt look he received when her head snapped at the sound of his words grounded him. She didn't need him to give her any shit right now. She gave herself enough.
He sighed and turned his back to the fence to get a better look at her. Since he wasn't going anywhere, he would try his best to stay calm.
"Ok, let's see…" he started. God, he'd really do this, wouldn't he? "Amy had the worst luck in the world, got bit out of nowhere. Jacqui opted out in CDC. Andrea would have done the same back then, if it wasn't for Dale. Lori knew how to fight and had Rick and Shane hovering all around her and still didn't know any better than to get herself pregnant in the middle of all this shit. And Andrea's choices brought this shit to herself; she could have stayed here when she found us; she could have followed your advice and slash his throat in his sleep…"
"Or she could have let me die when the farm was overrun and never get separated from the group in the first place," she interrupted him.
"Oh, don't go drag me into this getting saved crap now!" he said losing his patience again. "Andrea had her fair share of getting saved as well. Hell, we all have. That's what we do, we save each other and that's what keeps us alive, for as long as it does. You have saved all of us enough times."
"Not Sophia." her voice cracked.
"Stop it," he said firmly, feeling a growing knot in his stomach. Sophia was off topic. Too painful. After almost a year, it was still too fucking painful. "That was bigger than all of us."
Her chin trembled at the memory of her sweet daughter, fresh tears welling up in her eyes, but she remained silent.
Suddenly, all his anger vanished and he felt the urge to drag her in his arms and let her cry in his neck.
"Shit, Carol," he sighed, kicking the dirt in the ground beneath his boot. "You are more of a survivor than any of us. You were nothing but a punch bag to that asshole husband of yours when hell broke loose. And then you smashed his head with that pickaxe. You lost your daughter and still didn't give up. You didn't even consider opting out, you just kept pushing forward. You learned how to fend for yourself and defend the group; you were in the fuckin' tombs this morning shooting at the Governor's soldiers, dammit!"
She kept quiet, but he could say his words were slowly reaching her; her breath was getting more stable now. So he kept talking.
"You are the only person here able to cook a decent meal. You know details about each one on us, treating every person in the group differently. That kind of shit make a difference, they bring a sense of normalcy in this fuckin' world. You are the glue that keeps us together. Tougher than the toughest man I've ever met", he was almost yelling at her, but his voice wasn't hard, it sounded… pleading?
Whatever it was he said that flipped the switch in her heard, it was working; he could tell. She finally turned to face him, offering a weak smile; but a smile nonetheless.
They shared a long look. How could he tell her that he hated it when she spoke like this? That something was twisting inside his gut every time she cried? That he'd always do anything in his power to keep her alive? That he needed her alive? "We all know how this ends. Odds are sooner or later we're all gonna die. Someone from the original group would outlive the rest. It's you," he stated simply, knowing well that death wasn't something intimidating to her any more. But before he could stop himself, "I'm glad it's you," he blurted out.
Shit, why did he say that one? He felt his cheeks blushing. There was a reason Dixons didn't do feelings, it was because they sucked at it. He should have left from the beginning; no, he should have never come out here in the first place. What was he supposed to do now? Now that she was looking at him so sweetly he felt his fuckin' heart flutter, skipping beats. Maybe he would finally have a heart attack and save himself from the embarrassment after all.
"And you are good with all these feelings crap, but I'm not. So do me a favor and stop beating yourself. Just start following your smartass advices you give all the time to everyone and you'll be fine." Couldn't he just shut the fuck up already? He pursued his lips stubbornly, keeping his eyes downcast to avoid her gaze.
She was taking in his words, grateful for everything he said, for the comfort he was offering, for wanting her alive. She loved him; she knew it for a while now and in rare moments like this, she even thought that somehow, beyond any hope, he was reciprocal. Seeing how awkward his own speech had made him, she decided to save him from himself. And she knew exactly the right way to do so; a little teasing and he'd be running so fast he wouldn't have time to think.
"Wow…" she said, "I'm so great, people should loathe me."
He opened his mouth to scold her big time, but she caught him.
"I'm kidding. Thank you, Daryl. And I'm sorry."
"Apparently my rant is upsetting you."
"Just… Stop this shit," his voice sounded huskier than he wanted.
"Yes, sir! I just had a moment of weakness here. Can't always be a tough cookie, like you." Her smile was brighter now and a playful tone crept in her voice.
"I'm no cookie," he scowled. Shit… Would she start teasing him now? "And moments like this can get you killed."
"I still have my nine lives, don't I?" She beamed at him.
"Yeah, you wish! With the rate you've been spending them around, I'd bet you are down to six, maybe five by now," he accused.
She became serious again. It meant the world to her that he had been counting.
"Just allow me to be a little taken aback that I'm the one who survived the longest, ok?"
He nodded. "Better get back. We've done enough talking for a month." He was fidgeting now, looking really eager to disappear.
"You're so into me, Dixon, you can't even help yourself. I flip for a second and you lose your mind", she fired.
Anger sparkled in his eyes. "Next time you start whining around, I'm gonna let you put your shit together by yourself," he barked already walking away with Carol in his tail.
"What? I need comfort and you're throwing me a tantrum?" she protested, giggling.
He shook his head opening up his gait. "You're such a pain in the ass."
"Wouldn't have me any other way, would you?" she laughed, finally allowing him to put some distance between them.
No, he wouldn't. He had to make sure she'd outlive them all. Freaking world needed her smile. But, she could never know.
Thank you for reading! I'd be happy to have your reviews!
"Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten."
― Neil Gaiman, Coraline