Author's Note: This is my first Walking Dead fanfiction. I am quite excited about it as I am a huge fan of the show. This story contains large doses of Caryl, so if you don't like, don't read. Simple as that. If there are any warnings that need to be included, I will do so in notes like this.
EDIT: I used to open my chapters with song lyrics. I have been told that this was not approved of by the site so I am going through the chapters and removing those lyrics. I will, however include the name of the song that was previously used for this chapter. Consider it a Caryl playlist.
Song of the Chapter: Last Kiss - Pearl Jam
Thank you for your interest. I now present to you...
A Better Man
Summary: After Carol's death, Daryl makes a desperate wish to save her. Suddenly, he finds himself back in the quarry, staring as she and her daughter cower in the shadow of her husband. With all of his memories of the future intact, can Daryl change life as he knows it?
Disclaimer: From here on out, I do not own The Walking Dead or any of its characters. I also do not own any song lyrics that you may find in this story. Their owners are listed next to them.
Prologue: Last Kiss
He was running, running as far and as fast as his feet could carry him. He didn't have a destination in mind. He just had to get out of the prison and away from the prying eyes and sympathetic looks. They didn't understand. They didn't realize what she had meant to him, what she had done for him in the three years since he met her. She had made him a good man, a better man, far better than who he was at the beginning…
He could hear the gentle, once-soothing sound of leaves and grass swishing around him, but they held no comfort to him now, not when her dying scream still echoed in his mind. He let out his own anguished cry, a primal sound of grief and pain.
Then he was falling, tumbling down a sharp ravine until he landed in a heap at the bottom. Wincing, he turned his head to look at the path his body had taken down the sheer side. Small trees had been snapped. Bushes and forest plants had been squished. He could even see some red flecks on some of the greenery.
Not his, though. It was hers.
Tears flowed down his dirty, grimy cheeks.
He had seen the danger too late. A man, drenched in walker blood, cut a hole in the fence. The walkers had spilled into the yard. The original prison group lurched forward without hesitation, only thinking about the people in the cellblock, people they loved. He had shot his arrows, killing several walkers before he raced into the fray to help her. They fought side-by-side, him and her. They jabbed their knives into the walkers as if they had done it a million times. He had trained her, taught her how to fight. He had faith in her and thought that of everyone, she would be the last to fall.
But then she screamed. He turned, not finding her on his right, but finding her behind him, a walker sinking its teeth into her shoulder. He had screamed in fury, lunging forward and putting that walker down. He stood over her, protecting her. He killed anything that got too close. It ended when Tyreese sacrificed himself to close the hole. The others took care of the remaining walkers. He fell to his knees, cradling her in his arms. She was still alive and the fear in her eyes broke him. He was crying.
Then she gasped that she loved him. He said the same and then he kissed her one last time. Then she had looked at Rick, who had looked nearly as heartbroken as Daryl. Rick pulled out his revolver, but Daryl wouldn't let him take the shot. Daryl grabbed the gun, his hands shaking as he brought it close to her head. The sobs and the cries were muffled in his ears. He tried to muster the will to pull the trigger, but before he could, she reached for it. She told him that she loved him again. She said she was sorry. Then she did it. She put herself down, ensuring that she would not turn. Carol Peletier was dead. She ended her life and left him forever.
Daryl Dixon, the stoic, gruff, redneck hunter, now sobbed into the forest floor, mourning the woman who had never given up on him.
"P-please," he begged, "Please bring her back. I can't…I can't do this without her…I'd give anythin' to change it. Please change it. I love her."
He rolled over onto his back, only dimly aware of the pain in his ribs, and stared up passed the lush green canopy. He prayed to the heavens, begged them for a second chance.
"Give me another chance! Please give me another chance! Don't take her from me. I can save her! I can make it right!" he sobbed. He was exhausted and injured, both physically and emotionally, so much so that after his desperate plea, he slipped into unconsciousness, barely registering that he was lying beside a Cherokee Rose bush.
He wouldn't be when he woke up.