Disclaimer: I don't own AMC's The Walking Dead or Steven King's "The Mist," wishful thinking aside.
Authors Note #1: This is an AU/Crossover fiction involving Frank Darabont's "The Mist" and "The Walking Dead." As fans of both productions will note, "The Mist" is host to a large quantity of TWD actors, including Melissa McBride. So, this story revolves around a Caryl spin on what might have happened between McBride's first and last scenes in the movie if Daryl Dixon happened to be thrown into the mix. Consider it an alternate universe look at what Caryl could have looked like with multi-dimensional monsters instead of zombies - with 'Carol' being a single mother of two and Daryl being well, Daryl.
Warnings: Contains spoilers for both the movie and just to be safe, all three seasons of the Walking Dead, adult language, canon appropriate violence, gore and mature content.
The chicks were still sleeping when he figured it was light enough to venture outside. He craned his neck as he peered out the window, sinking down on his haunches by the sliding glass, trying to judge the distance between the back porch and the neighbour's house. They couldn't put this off any longer.
The distance wasn't the problem, nor was the other house - which seemed to be built solidly enough. It was host to one of those pretentious, p-shaped driveways and a manicured front lawn. It was more the fact that there was nothing but sloping green grass and stunted shrubbery in between them. There was nowhere to hide, nowhere to take cover. It was too exposed.
His shoulders hunched, muscles tensing under the skin. It wasn't like they had a lot of options, but shit. Something in him rankled at the choice. If he'd been alone, if he hadn't decided to toss in his lot with the flightless-wonder and her two rug-rats, he wouldn't be in this god damned mess. He would have kept going, headed towards the state line, somewhere built up, populated, in the hopes that they'd have way to combat this thing.
Shoulda, woulda, coulda.
And if he tried to ignore the other, far quieter voice that argued that if he hadn't found the bird, he might not have made it at all, that was purely his business. Because really, who in their right mind let their conscience get snippy?
She bit her lip, arms crossed, fingers feathering down her ribs as she gave him space. She watched as he unlocked the sliding glass door, sticking a couple of fingers out to test the direction – it was calm out - still. They weren't downwind, so under normal circumstances that meant they were even more at a disadvantage. But really, with all this 'invasion from Mars' bullcrap, he figured it was anyone's best guess.
"What do you need me to do?"
It was an innocuous enough statement, something that could be easily filed away and ignored. But that was just the surface. It was the stuff underneath, the gushy, complicated bits that actually mattered. Because it meant more, it meant it wasn't just him anymore, it was them. It meant they were in this together.
Talk about a mind fuck. Merle would have had his balls two minutes after he'd fuckin' found her – let alone all this.
Part of him wanted to comment on it, tease it out and extend the moment. But it felt out of character – or perhaps just different. It felt like dull scissors hacking through that thick plastic packaging they put on the expensive shit in the general store. It felt…new. Untested.
"Get the kids ready," he replied, ducking his head as he shoved the rest of his crap into his pack. "The place looks safe enough but I might be coming back in a hurry. Make sure you're ready to leave the moment you see me heading back. I'll get the truck and bring it around to the front. But if I don't-"
"We'll figure something out," she broke in, speaking over him in a fit of nerves, forcing determination into her tone as if by sheer will she could make it exactly that.
He shook his head. "If I don't make it back, head south. Stay off the main roads. Those things are smart. They've got nests strung up in the trees on either side of the blacktop. If they get you-"
"You'll be back."
Frustration rose up at her quick denial. Reality was a tough thing to stomach but if she wanted to survive, if she wanted to make it, she was going to have to face facts – preferably sooner rather than later. What if he didn't make it back? What was she gonna do then? Talk 'em to death?
He opened his mouth, perhaps to say exactly that, but she spoke over him - firm. "The keys should be in the bowl by the stairs, on the other side of the garage," tone broaching no argument as she handed him his pack. Blue eyes soft but more determined than ever as color flushed high on her cheeks.
His mouth closed with a sullen snap.
If she wanted to ignore reality that was fuckin' fine by him. What did he care, anyway?
"Don't wait for me. If I get cut off, I won't be coming back the same way, head out the back, the same way we came in, keep the sun on your left shoulder if you can find it. Stay close to the road, but not on it. Find a car – something – anything – and just go," he insisted, shrugging into the straps of his pack.
"We'll be fine," she assured, close at his heels as he eased the screen door open in increments, wincing as the pop-pop-ping of rusted hinges carried in the hush, "be careful."
He was about to turn away, fingers tangling in the straps, easing off the safety on his crossbow, when she suddenly rounded on him. Her fingers dug into his shoulder blade, startling him, catching him so off-guard that he forgot to flinch.
"You still haven't told me your name!" she reminded, chiding but with enough emotion haunting the backdrop that it made him feel like all kinds of an asshole. Because he hadn't. He'd kept her hanging since that moment on the road, holding back on purpose when she'd tried to introduce him to her chicks. It seemed so stupid now, so petty.
She was so close he could feel the warm of her breath, chill against his sweaty skin. It bled down through the center of him as she leaned in, all feather-red hair and watery-blue eyes. He swore he'd never stood so still in his entire fuckin' life.
Her lips were parted, just a few millimetres more than was strictly decent, ill-fitting to what lay between them. Or rather, what didn't. It was strangely…intimate. Part of him baulked at it on sheer principal, the other on experience. He didn't fuckin' know her.
But hell, he was self-aware enough to know that regardless of all the shit, he realized he actually wanted to.
And really, ain't that just a bitch?
"Daryl. My name's Daryl," he grunted, forcing himself to meet her eyes, bloodshot blue and shimmering, for a handful of beats before he turned, whirling, shouldering his pack and hefting his bow as he swung himself off the deck.
The look in her blue eyes haunted him long after the mist swallowed her.
A/N #2: Thank you for reading. I realize this type of a crossover is something of a rarity so please let me know what you think! Reviews and constructive critiquing are love! – Sorry this chapter is so short; I reached a natural break in the action!