The first time she had any interaction at all with Daryl Dixon, she was trying to hide her face down by the quarry. Blood slowly dripped from the cuts in her lip. The corners of her mouth were sore from the repeated blows that Ed had deemed appropriate for her alleged crime. She had sassed him. In reality al she did was ask him if he was going to fix the small hole that had formed in their tent. But to Ed, that was insubordination and subject to a brutal backhand across her already bruised and battered face. She was used to it by now. Any small infraction earned her a smack, a punch, a kick. She would gladly take anything Ed had to dole out, if only to spare her angel, Sophia from having to endure the pain Ed seemed to enjoy doling out. She tried to spare Sophia the horror of what her bastard father was capable of. Fortunately, or unfortunately for Carol, she and Ed had somehow produced a very astute child within Sophia.
At the creek, Sophia found her mother dipping a tissue into the cold water and dabbing it precariously at her lips.
"Momma, I tried to fix the hole before you asked daddy", she murmured. "But I couldn't get it closed enough to keep the water out, " Sophia said with tears gathering in her eyes.
Carol slowly looked at her precious baby. Then her eyes were downcast toward the murky water she was trying to repair her cuts and abrasions with. The bottom dropped out of her stomach and her heart hurt more than someone stabbing her in it. The darling girl she had taken countless beatings for, taken countless hospital trips to try to protect. She realized that she had not protected Sophia at all. The only thing she had done was give herself the impression that she was protecting her most precious possession. In that single moment, she realized that Sophia had understood every slap, punch, kick, and rape that had befallen Carol. She felt sick and was angry with herself for not realizing sooner. How could she have subjected Sophia to all of this abuse? She really thought she was being a good mother, trying to shield her child from all of her father's perversions and abuse. She had recently seen Ed staring at his daughter in a way that made her blood boil. In her old life, she would have just sent Sophia to live with her sister in Vermont. She loved her cousins and Carol would take any abuse that Ed had to give her regarding that ongoing debate. But, in this new world, Carol had begun to dream of another way.
In a sick twisted scenario, this zombie apocalypse had given her a new idea and a new purpose. She would somehow get Ed to succumb to the Zombies, or the horrendous immoral other humans that occupy the world now. She really didn't think it would be a huge ordeal. Ed was big, slow, and stupid. Hell, she might even be able to place his dinner right in front of a walker and the big stupid fat ass would try to get it. Strangely in this new, uncertain world, Carol found respite for herself and her girl.
The new community he had found was less than ideal. She knew some of the personalities were less than desirable. She knew Lori and Shane were intimate, but she also knew Shane's eyes seemed to wander towards Andrea and also her sister Amy. She thought he was just a dog, bound to take a woman when her found their weakness. Dale, on the other hand was a man of integrity. He sought out each member of their rag tag group and sought to bring them together and form a sort of post-apocalpyse community. A she had tried numerous times to talk to Dale about her life and what she wanted in life, only to find Ed's fingers digging into her arm when she even so much as said hello to Dale. Carol wasn't stupid, and neither were the people she was around. Everyone, Shane, Lori, Dale, Andrea, Amy, Daryl, and Merle, knew that Ed was a sadistic son of a bitch when he got going. Only once, so far, when Ed had kicked her hard enough in the ribs to make her fear something was broken, did she encounter any type of sympathy. And that would come from an unlikely source, Daryl Dixon, the rough, redneck, and yet somehow sympathetic man-child in a sleeveless flannel shirt.
In that moment, Carol found her heart swelling, even in the slightest bit. The way he looked at her and caressed her ribs in the pale moonlight, she looked beyond the dirt streaked face, the shaggy hair, the muscular arms, shoulders and chest and saw a savior for herself and Sophia that she had hope and dreamed for all of her life. She knew in her heart that Daryl was not one to show tenderness or care. But in that moment he bent down and dipped his red kerchief in the cold, clean water of the small lake and dabbed the corners of her mouth and up near her temple, where Carol only now realized she was injured, did she see a softening of his eyes. He placed his rough, work worn hand at her side. Pressing slightly to gauge her tenderness in that area, Carol hissed out a small sound and she realized that her ribs, where Ed had kicked repeatedly were sore and possibly broken. Daryl would never seem soft in front of anyone. But as he blotted the blood at the corners of her lips and at her temple, he looked over at her girl, her kin, the beautiful blonde girl who seemed to regard everyone with trust and sweetness, and he did not feel bad showing kindness, but he knew that would have been a different story if Merle had been standing over him, as he usually was.