Three Little Birds
Disclaimer: I own nothing, for I am not worthy. I swear, I just wanna play with the toys!
Spoilers: Post S3 finale
A/N: I woke up with this idea in my head around 3am this morning, and it won't let me go. I've already written the first 3 chapters of this behemouth. This is going to be violent. There will be blood, and angst, and a smashing of feelings. I apologize in advance. Hopefully, I make you feel something.
This is for Noxid Anamchara, the first Caryl-er I met online who was willing to befriend and actually speak to me.
Chapter 1: A Storm is Coming
The sky was green.
Carol sat below the railing of the watchtower, one arm hooked over the railing, the other cradling her rifle as her legs dangled over the side. She almost felt like a big kid with her legs swinging in the air, but the weight of the rifle kept her grounded. That, and the air so thick she almost choked on it. Her stomach was tight with a feeling she couldn't quite put a name to and she scanned the line of trees continuously, just waiting. It was her least favorite thing about watch, the constant waiting, but she wanted to pull her weight and she was good enough with the rifle now that Rick was comfortable with her taking watch solo. They all took watch more often - herself, Rick, Glenn, Maggie, Daryl, Michonne. Tyrese and Sasha were both willing but Rick didn't trust any of the newcomers to run watch yet. So Carol sat as she had for the last 4 hours, eyes shifting between the tree line and the ever darkening sky.
Tornado weather. Balls, Carol thought. That's the last thing we need right now. The sky was dark enough that, even though it was only lunch, Hershel had corralled everyone inside the prison to camp out in the common area where they ate their meals. Carl and Glenn had spent much of the last hour barricading the windows. Everyone was fairly certain they were going to see an actual tornado today. Carol was more worried about the people who weren't here, so she continued to sit on watch. Waiting and worrying on the people not nestled in the relative safety of the prison.
Six months. Six months since the fight with the Governor had ended in so much spilled blood, since the survivors Rick had rounded up had come to live at the prison. Six months of relative peace and quiet, until this morning Maggie had come running down from her tower where she'd been sitting her turn on watch, swearing she'd seen one of the Woodbury jeeps just outside the treeline. Rick had jumped at the chance to "end this madness", as he put it, and now they were outside hunting the Governor. Rick, Maggie, Michonne, Daryl. Rick and Maggie in one of the cars, Daryl and Michonne on foot. Carol swore she could hear the echoes of Glenn and Maggie's fight still ringing through the prison halls; it had been their longest and loudest one ever. Glenn had wanted to go, but had wanted Maggie to stay behind. Rick had wanted them both to stay, but Maggie had argued that she had a personal reason for hunting the man down and had surprisingly been backed by Michonne. Maggie had jumped in Rick's car without another word, leaving Glenn screaming furiously behind her. Carol had sighed and simply nodded when Rick asked her to go sit on watch until they came back. She'd walked by Daryl and stopped briefly to smile at him. "I'll loan you one of my nine lives, but just this one time," she'd grinned at him. Daryl had rewarded her with a smirk and replied "Keep it. Just-"
"I know," she'd said softly. "You too, okay?" A nod was all she got in return, and up the watch tower she'd gone. Four hours ago and the sky was getting darker by the minute and the knot in her stomach was getting worse. She hated this. Hated being the one left behind while he was out there with God knows what chasing him. There were steps on the stairs behind her and she turned to see a somber Glenn climb up to her perch.
"Hanging in there, tiger?"
"Ha freaking ha," Glenn mumbled. "Can I please punch Carl?"
Carol sighed. "What did he do this time?"
"Typical Carl nonsense. Trying to be all adult and ending up just being a pain in the ass. I swear he's the one we should be calling mini-Shane." Glenn settled down next to Carol, legs crossed in front of him. They sat in silence for a few minutes, letting the wind brush their faces.
"I don't like that sky," Glenn muttered.
"Me either. I was hoping they would be back by now."
She looked at Glenn and was taken aback at how much older he seemed to her. If he's looking older, I don't even wanna know how bad I look these days. Life with Ed had made her look much older than her 42 years before the apocalypse had reigned chaos down on their heads. She hadn't had regular access to a mirror for a while, her appearance taking a backseat to days full of cooking, organizing, watching Ass-kicker; clearing the fences of walkers with the others, arms aching as she drove the large hunting knife Daryl had given her down over and over again; target practice, minutes blending into hours in a clatter of bullets; working with Daryl on unarmed combat (always Daryl, never Tyrese even though he'd offered to help her, but Daryl had almost torn the man's head off later that night. He didn't know Carol had heard about that incident thanks to Beth), the screaming ache of muscles pushed to breaking point just so she could feel as if... Carol exhaled slowly, feeling suddenly overwhelmed with a tension she couldn't source.
Carol jumped about a mile; lost in her reverie, she'd forgotten Glenn was there. "Yeah, I'm just... worried. You know me," she said with a shrug. Glenn just nodded and they both turned back to watch the sky.
The green, ever darkening sky.
Carol rolled her neck and felt the bones crack and pop as she moved. Glenn grinned.
"That's how you get arthritis, you know."
"Very funny," Carol smiled back. "Are we crazy?"
Glenn sighed and turned around to he leaned back against the railing, facing the prison behind them. "Yeah I think we are crazy," he said. "I'm crazy for letting Maggie go out there without me, crazy for living in a freaking prison, crazy for sitting here with a sudden case of the willies. Dude, we're all crazy these days."
"Have you figured it out yet?" She asked him as she leaned forward, leaning on her hands and tilting her face up to the dark sky. The knot in her stomach was getting tighter but she was determined to ignore it for the moment.
"No. I keep thinking about Maggie."
"Anything about Maggie in particular or just your epic showdown this morning?"
"I'm pretty sure if there was anybody left over at Woodbury they would have heard the yelling."
"Ouchville, population: me," Glenn laughed. "Sorry about that."
Carol huffed a laugh and gently bumped his shoulder with her own. "C'mon. Talk to me."
"Love, Maggie, all of it, "Glenn said. "We're in the apocalypse. Like, civilization has actually ended and we're waiting for a madman to bring war to our front door and I proposed to my girlfriend in the middle of all of this. What the hell is wrong with me?"
Carol smiled, her first real smile of the day. "I like that you proposed."
"Seriously," Carol laughed. "It gives the rest of us hope."
"Hope for what?" Glenn turned to look at her. Carol reached out and took his hand, suddenly so full of love for her young friend.
"Hope for a real future, of having a life for ourselves in the midst of all of this. Remember what Rick said the day we lost the farm? It isn't just about survival. There needs to be a future, some kind of life for all of us, or else why struggle so hard to survive? We need to live, not just survive. Loving is part of living." Carol gave Glenn's hand a squeeze before she released it to rest again on the butt of her rifle. Glenn was silent for a moment, clearly thinking about what she had just said.
"We'll have to go in soon," she said quietly.
"I know," Glenn replied. "5 more minutes. It's kind of nice out, even with the sky going all evil on us."
Carol chuckled at that. It was sort of nice out. Even though the sky was growing ever darker, the wind hadn't picked up much and was nothing more than a light breeze on her skin. The prison was quieter than she had ever heard it, with not even the groans of walkers to distract her today. There were none by the gate; in fact, there were no walkers anywhere Carol could see, a first since they had come to the prison, and it piqued her attention. She should have noticed that before. Stupid, she cursed herself.
"Hey Glenn," she whispered and why the hell was she whispering? The air wasn't sitting right and it wasn't the threat of a tornado anymore. "There are no walkers. None."
Glenn looked then, really looked, and suddenly stood up. Carol could see the same tension that had been curling her stomach all day suddenly fill Glenn's face.
"Its not quite our usual, I agree." Now they were both whispering and the surrounding silence, so different from the constant noise provided by the walkers that usually combed the fence, was unnerving her deep in her bones. Something's wrong and it isn't the weather.
"Do you know why?"
"No," Glenn whispered. "And that's what worries me."
Another moment passed and Carol suddenly stood, her left hand clinging to the railing. "How crazy are we? There are no walkers around and that is what worries us?" She'd meant it to come out as a joke but it came out a choked whisper, full of fear. Glenn looked at her and she knew the fear in his eyes was reflected in hers. That was when she realized that she didn't hear anything. No voices from inside the prison, no walkers, no birds in the trees, not even the wind made a sound. Wow I really suck at watch. Without speaking, they both turned, aimed their weapons and stood, shoulder to shoulder, watching the tree line.
Something was coming.
Daryl kept one eye on the ground in front of him, following the faint car tracks through the mud. The other watched the sky as it grew greener and darker. His shoulder was fucking killing him, a sure sign of bad weather to come. His old man had dislocated his left arm when he was 14 during a drunken rage. Daryl waited until he'd passed out then, knowing they had no way to pay for anything if he'd try to go to the hospital, and had Merle help him pop the joint back in place. Neither one had done anything like that before, and they had done it wrong the first time. Daryl remembered screaming in agony, the pain as bad as the old man pulling the damn thing out had been. Merle had been forced to pull the arm back out of the socket in order to push it back in at the correct angle. Daryl had passed out during the second attempt. His arm had worked all right since, but every time bad weather came up it ached like a bitch. Fuckin' human barometer.
Michonne was at his back, sword drawn, eyes scanning the area around them. Daryl had to give her credit for being as quiet as she was in the woods. She made a decent tracking partner, light years better than Rick who Daryl swore made it a point to step on every single fucking twig and dry leaf he could find.
The hum of a motor reached his ears and he ducked into a low bush, Michonne right on his heels. It took a moment for the green Hyundai to swing into view and Daryl sighed, dropping his crossbow and taking a moment while Michonne flagged down Rick and Maggie to rub his aching shoulder. It reminded him of Carol.
Wanna screw around?
Fuck yes, he wanted to screw around. He'd wanted to screw around since the damn farm but there was no way he could tell her that. How could he tell her that? He was a novice, a fucking 40-year old virgin in the flesh, survival taking precedence over women. Not to mention ain't no way I was gonna fuck any a' Merle's castoffs. Sloppy seconds, my ass. Carol wasn't like any woman he'd ever been around before. She was soft and graceful. She smiled and tried to take care of him and everyone else (but mostly him, a thought that made his belly squirm with delight). In the past year she'd become the best friend he'd ever had. Daryl knew, he fucking knew, that there was more between them than friendship and he knew that Carol knew it too. It wouldn't just be screwing around with them, and that had scared him shitless for a long time. Thing is, he felt like he was ready now. Had been ready since he left with Merle and had only made it about a quarter mile before he knew he'd had to go back for Carol and the group. It was always Carol and the group; Carol separate and always first before anyone else. Daryl knew what it means and he was ready now. Trouble was, how the fuck did he make that jump? Daryl shook off this line of thinking and moved over to the car where the others were waiting for him.
"Ain't nothin' here, man," he said to Rick. "This is just a dead end once we hit the road here. Can't track that." Rick just nodded and ran a hand over his tired face.
"We should call it," Michonne said quietly. "That sky doesn't look too friendly." Maggie nodded and Rick heaved a heavy sigh. Always gotta be so damn dramatic.
"Let's head back then," Rick said. "Get in."
Michonne wandered around to the other side of the car to get in behind Maggie. Daryl slung his crossbow off his shoulder and was about to get in the car when something stopped him. He froze, ignoring Maggie's chattering and he listened, all of his attention on the woods around them. Somethin's wrong.
Daryl turned at looked back at the trees from where they had come out onto the road. The wind was starting to pick up slightly, but he could still hear the chatter of birds high in the trees above them, the whisper of leaves. Still though, there was something...
"What is it?" Rick was next to him suddenly, leaning into his ear.
"Dunno," Daryl said. "Jus' a feelin'... We need to get back. Now." He knew that would be enough for Rick to get them moving and without another word Daryl jumped in the backseat and pulled his crossbow into his lap. Rick leapt into the driver's seat and floored it, swinging the car around to head back to the prison with a screech of tires.
"What's wrong," Maggie asked from the front seat.
"Can't you feel it? Somethin' aint' right," Daryl said. He couldn't explain it, didn't know why, but he trusted his instincts and loaded his crossbow, knowing Michonne and Maggie were both watching him. The urge to see Carol was suddenly overwhelming; combined with the dread pooling in his stomach, Daryl felt like he was going to be sick and rolled the window down slightly to get some air.
Something was wrong.
Carol look at the sky again, then grabbed her wrist and took her pulse with a press of her fingers. She wasn't surprised to find it was racing; her heart was practically jumping in her throat.
Glenn hadn't moved much from his post next to her since they had shouldered their weapons, his head turning side to side, watching the space below them. Has it only been 5 minutes? She let him be, since it seemed that there was nothing she could say that wouldn't be irrelevant, distracting or frivolous. He would glance at her as she shifted slightly, both of them hardly breathing, waiting for something but neither knew what.
As if by an invisible signal, Carol and Glenn both dropped their weapons and relaxed a bit, giant exhales of tension getting lost in the wind as it slowly picked up speed. The bang of a door being slammed open behind them made them both jump and turn, guns at the ready. They watched Carl storm outside, Beth hot on his heels and cradling a sleeping Judith. They could hear Hershel and some of the others yelling from inside the prison. Carol sighed. And then there's that. Carl was turning into a serious problem. Mini-Shane indeed. They couldn't hear the words Carl and Beth were yelling at each other but the angry tones carried up to the watchtower. Carol was about to say something when her ears pricked up. Carol felt her heart slam in her chest as all of the tension from before suddenly exploded inside of her. She leaned around Glenn and yelled down to the courtyard "SHUT UP!"
Carl and Beth turned in surprise; Carol was not one for yelling and it caught them off guard. Glenn was at her side in an instant as she leaned back over the railing, clicking the safety off of her rifle and aiming at the trees. It was getting harder to see as the sky got darker but Carol focused all of her attention to the area in front of the prison.
"What is it," Glenn muttered as he shouldered and aimed his own weapon.
"Can you hear that?" A distant hum, low bass, like thunder a long way off. They listened in silence for a moment, ignoring the clatter of Carl and Beth climbing up the stairs to join them at the railing.
"Is that thunder?" Beth asked.
"No," Glenn said slowly. "It's too consistent."
"A tornado?" Beth held Judith tight to her. Carol wanted to reach out and comfort her but found she was frozen to the spot.
"Not windy enough," Glenn said, suddenly taking control. "You two get inside. Carl, tell the others to turn the lights off and get down low."
Carl's face scrunched with his usual anger. "But-"
"NOW," Glenn and Carol yelled together. Carl turned to look at Carol for a quick moment. Something in her face must have convinced him, because Carl grabbed Beth and bolted, hurtling them down the stairs and through the open door. She could could hear him start to yell at Hershel before the door slammed shut, leaving Carol and Glenn alone outside again.
"It could be just Daryl and the others coming back," but as the words left her mouth she knew neither she nor Glenn believed it. The humming sound was getting louder, and there was definite movement in the trees up ahead. Carol didn't know if she was shaking, or if it was the ground itself.
"It isn't," Glenn said. They watched for a moment, weapons raised, when lightning streaked in the storm clouds over the heads, giving them enough light to see what was coming at them from the trees.
From inside the prison, the screaming started.