Thank you all for the kind reviews. This chapter was emotionally draining, I hope I did it justice. Please let me know, good or bad
Carol paced across the guard tower with her arms across her chest in the thin light of dusk. Daryl crouched against the far wall silently with his head in his hands. They had been like this ever since he had helped carry Leon into the prison with Carol holding the arrow that jutted out of his shoulder still, so it wouldn't do any more damage.
Carol shivered and pulled her sweater tighter around her shoulders. The temperature had dropped significantly since the gruesome scene played out between the fences. Leon's blood was now dry on both of their shirts, a grisly reminder of Daryl's possibly deadly misstep.
As soon as Leon had been deposited inside the infirmary, Daryl had stumbled out, his face a sickly gray. Amber had stepped past Daryl with tight lips and a glare as she ran out to their vehicles to grab bandages and a field surgical kit. After she passed, he headed out to the tower without a word to anyone, leaving his bow where he dropped it in the field to help Rick carry the injured man into the prison. Carol followed him, knowing that with Amber's medical experience she could add no more to what could be done. Daryl's steps faltered only when he passed Beth and Maggie, who were leading the six crying children to an empty cell as their mother assisted Herschel in his attempts to keep their father alive. Daryl had stopped then and swayed for a minute with his hand on the wall as if fighting to stay upright. Carol reached out for his shoulder but he had jerked away and moved forward again.
She stopped her pacing, looking at Daryl's seemingly withered form against the wall. She finally moved to his side, sliding down the wall to sit next to him. He didn't move or acknowledge her presence, just squatted with his head down, his breath coming out in strangled wheezes as if choking on the reality of what he had done.
Carol waited several long minutes until she reached out to Daryl, trying to smooth his hair back where it fell across his forehead. He flinched at her touch for the first time in a long time, sliding down to sit with his head on his drawn up knees, looking very much like a frightened little boy. He still seemed incapable of interaction, or maybe thought himself unworthy of it.
"Daryl." she spoke low and carefully. If she saw that flinch again she wouldn't be able to hold back the tears. He shook his head almost imperceptibly, refusing to answer or meet her eyes.
"Daryl, please, just look at me."
He turned his head up to her slowly, and as his eyes met hers, they seemed ancient and exhausted. He looked at her for a moment before speaking, like he had to remember who she was.
"I'm a murderer." His voice was flat and resigned.
"It was an accident."
"I killed an innocent man in front'a his family. I'm a murderer." His last sentence had a grim air of finality.
"Daryl, you don't even know...he was alive when he came out here. They have medical supplies, his wife's a nurse..."
"You need to go." He turned back away from her to stare at the far wall.
"No. I'm not leaving, no matter what happens in there."
A muscle in his jaw flexed but he still stared away from her.
"I said ya need TO GO."
She just sat, her refusal obvious.
He turned his face to her again, his breath now jerking out of his lungs. "Ya don't understand, I almost...almost..." He shook his head violently, pressing the heels of his hands against his temples for a second as if trying to rid his brain of something.
Carol was about to ask him what he was trying to say when the door clicked and then swung slowly open. Amber stepped in, her arms wrapped across her stomach. Her face was unreadable, the animated woman of earlier gone. Her vibrant pink shirt was flecked with burgundy so dark it was almost black.
Carol released a breath she didn't realize she was holding as Daryl sagged against the wall, running one hand over his face.
"He's weak, lost a lot of blood, but it looks like he's going to make it with the antibiotics we had."
"Thank God." Carol breathed. "I'm so..."
"No." Amber interrupted her, holding up a hand. "It was an accident.", she unknowingly repeated Carol's words from only a minute before.
She knelt down in front of them and extended a hand to place it on Daryl's shoulder, only to draw it back when he cringed as if he expected her to strike. Carol's heart was suddenly aching.
Amber looked to Carol for a second before addressing him again.
"Leon wants to know if you're okay."
Daryl squinted at her in confusion. "What?"
"He woke up for a little bit after we got the bleeding stopped. After I told him you thought your family was in danger and that no one else was injured, he wanted to make sure you were okay."
"But why?", Daryl's voice broke, belying emotion that he never had before shown in front of a stranger.
Amber sighed gave Daryl a small tired smile and shrugged, "Because that's just who he is."
Daryl shook his head slowly in disbelief as his brow furrowed.
Amber turned to Carol. "You all need to get some rest. Leon's sleeping, he'll be upset if y'all don't too. If you need some meds to help, we have some."
Carol found Daryl's hand and wrapped her fingers around it. He didn't hold hers back but didn't pull away either. "I think we'll be alright."
She knew that was a lie.
Amber rose and moved back to the door. She turned before she left.
"Yes'm?" he choked out.
"That was smart, what you did with the owl call. My granny taught me that a owl hooting in the daytime means death is coming. I'm glad that today, it didn't ring true..." she hesitated looking down for a second before finishing.
"...for both your sakes."