No Time to Mourn - Chapter Five

I mean no copyright infringement since I do not own the characters nor the setting. I wanted to finish this chapter before the season four premier tomorrow night. I cannot wait to see what really happens next. Definitely Caryl in this chapter.

"Daryl, when are you going on a supply run again?" Carol leaned against the door to his cell. It was late, and she was surprised he was still awake. The flickering light had drawn her over. She held an elbow in each palm hugging herself.

Looking up from where he was packing his fletching equipment, he asked "Why? I thought we got enough from Woodbury to last another week."

"You did but I could use another blanket or two. It's really cold." That was an understatement. She could see her breath. The prison had radiators spread out along the walls but with no electricity or gas, they were as cold as the exterior wall.

Daryl squinted in confusion as he thought. They'd all had bedding when they were on the road. How had Carol lost most of hers? "What…"

"I gave most of my blankets to the children," she admitted. Used to living within insulated walls, the Woodbury folk had not brought enough blankets to combat the cold.

He shook his head. Of course she did. Why was he not surprised? "I don't have a spare blanket." In fact, he didn't have a blanket at all. He was down to using his poncho. "Judith," was all he said.

Carol smiled. That baby still melted his reserve.

Nodding his head slightly as he thought, Daryl came to a conclusion. "You haven't been in your room all day have you?" At her confirmation, he said, "The lantern has warmed up this room. Go get your pillow and blanket and come back." He was still choosing between options when she returned. When he turned off the lantern, there would be some residual heat but it would dissipate before dawn. The room would be as cold as hers then. He squished his pillow over next to the wall and took hers from her unresisting hand and placed it also on the bunk. Taking his poncho off the top bunk, he wrapped it around his torso and sat down on his bunk before lying down and scooting back against the wall and lying on his left side. "Wrap yourself up in your blanket and come here." He lifted the edge of the poncho so she could move closer to him. "Oldest trick in the book—body heat." He waited as Carol settled down and then dropped the edge of the poncho over them both. Dithering about how to settle down, he rested his right arm along his body.

Carol slid her arm under her pillow. She told herself that Daryl was not making a move. He was only offering her a warm place to sleep and nothing else. She had realized months ago that any flirting or other moves would have to come from her. Outside Atlanta, he'd have told her to go to hell if she had complained about being cold. Six months ago, he would have given up his poncho and been cold himself rather than share it. He didn't let people get that close. At least he hadn't. She kept telling herself not to hope, but she could not stop the smile that came from within.

"Stop smiling," he groused.

"How…?" Carol stopped herself. She'd just admitted that she had been smiling.

His only response was a snort. He remembered her flirting when he was trying to ease her shoulder strain. The thing was he did care about her. He just didn't know what to do with his feelings. How to act. How to be like other people. They had both lived in and survived households where violence was commonplace. It was part of what made it impossible for him to even think about anything other than friendship. He had to learn that first. Then maybe he could think about her as something more than a friend.

Daryl found it hard to relax. He almost regretted making the offer but he'd been cold too. He listened as the sound of her breathing slowed as she drifted into sleep. He hoped he wouldn't talk in his sleep. He'd had nightmares almost every night about finding Merle as a walker and having to kill him. It took longer than it normally did, but Daryl finally fell asleep.

Judith was wailing as Beth came up the stairs. She jostled the infant in an effort to soothe her. Beth had already changed her and fed her but nothing calmed the baby down. Carol would know what to do. But Carol wasn't in her room. Beth continued on the second floor walkway and peeked into each cell. Then she spotted her. In Daryl's room. A wide grin broke out over her face. It was about damn time. She tried to back off and not wake them but Judith had other plans.

Carol started awake. For a second, she thought she was back at home and it was Sophia who was crying. A warm body behind her reinforced that mistake and an arm lay across her. Daryl had relaxed in his sleep, as he never did while awake. The filthy cell walls brought her back to the present. Still clutching her blanket, she eased away from Daryl hoping he could stay asleep. She wasn't that lucky. He was a very light sleeper. She tucked the poncho around him.

"It's Judith, I'll just go see what needs to be done. Go back to sleep."

Gauging the time of day by the illumination in the building, he determined that he could sleep another half hour and closed his eyes.

Moving slowly into the hallway, Carol took the blanket off her shoulders and draped it over one arm. Beth blinked, disappointed. Carol was completely clothed and even wearing her jacket. Beth was surprised at how sad she was at that revelation. They were so right for each other. She was hoping that both would find some bit of happiness together like her sister and Glenn had.

"What's wrong?" asked Carol as they descended the stairs and headed into the common room.

"I can't get Judith to stop crying. I've done everything but she still...she won't…I don't know what to do!"

Carol lifted the infant out of Beth's arms and cradled her so she could examine her more easily. She felt her skin and found no fever. Judith was wailing her head off by now. "How long has she been crying?"

"She's been crying since before dawn." Beth was at her wit's end. She had done everything they had told her to and Judith was still crying.

"Relax," said Carol. "I think she just has a bout of colic. Remember what I told you about Sophia? If there is no fever, we can almost bet that's what it is. She's too young to start teething. Is your father awake yet?"

"Teething?" You mean we have more of this to look forward to?" Beth was beginning to panic.

"You said you wanted a child. It's never easy. But there are rewards." Carol's voice petered out. There was not a day that went by that she did not think of her Sophia.

Beth wished Carol would lose that lost look in her eyes. The only times it lessened was when she was taking care of Judith and when she was around Daryl.

"Let's go heat up some water for tea and start getting breakfast ready," said Carol and led the way downstairs.

Daryl had only been able to doze since Carol had left. His thoughts were racing around and wouldn't leave him be. He felt more rested than he had been in a while. He realized that he didn't remember dreaming about Merle. Sitting up on his bunk, Daryl scrubbed his face with a hand before running it through his hair. Carol had teased him about how far he'd come since Atlanta but she was right. Before the world had crashed down on them all, he'd been attempting to be a carbon copy of his big brother. Away from Merle, he'd become someone he was proud to be. The way Merle had continually called him "little brother" and "baby brother" after they found each other had showed that he would never see Daryl as he had become. Refusing to acknowledge that Daryl was right about the direction they were traveling in and the river's name had shown Daryl that he could not change Merle. Merle had to always be in charge. He had to control his brother's thoughts and actions. Merle had not chosen to adapt or change in the months that they had been separated. Daryl smiled slightly as he remembered Carol actually threatening to cut Merle's throat if he messed with Daryl. She'd come a long way too since Atlanta.

He stood up. Another day. Hershel had suggested that the council meet during breakfast every day to plan and go over any issues that had arisen the day before. The Woodbury people still had not gotten their act together enough to nominate people so it was still just those Rick had chosen on the council.

Descending into the common room, Daryl collected his breakfast and headed out towards the freezing yard. Steam rose from his mug and bowl. They really needed to find another place to eat inside. Luckily, they were all used to rising early and had the yard mostly to themselves. Hershel had insisted on transparency and welcomed others to listen in. He felt that when the Woodbury people understood how they worked, they would volunteer. Daryl hoped some would volunteer soon. He was still uncomfortable being in the spotlight. Ana had backed off a bit, but he still did not trust her. While she had stopped attacking him verbally, she always glared in his direction. She didn't have many followers but she had a few. He felt he had to watch his back from more than the walkers.

He sat down and started to eat as Hershel opened the meeting. He watched as the sun cleared the fence, illuminating the crosses in the graveyard below. Merle's grave was where Carol's marker had been placed when they thought she was dead. The hole inside threatened to swallow him but the voices of his friends pulled him back. He faced the living and joined them.

Daryl walked around the tower's perimeter slowly. The setting sun was no longer in his eyes. It was times like this when he was stuck in his own head that things were the worst. As a hunter, he'd been able to divide his consciousness into two parts. One would focus on the trail while the other kept track of what was going on around him. That skill had kept him out of his dad's reach sometimes. He felt his shoulders tighten as he remembered the pain from his father's belt.

He shook his head. "Stop it!" he told himself. He thought about what Hershel had suggested as their next course of action. They would build pens and Daryl was supposed to keep a lookout for pigs or goats. Those were small enough that they could get them back to the prison. A cow would not be so easy. He called up the regional map in his head to remember what direction the nearest farms were at. If he could find a big farm, chances were the animals, although feral by now, would be nearby if they still lived. He tried to think of whom to take with him. While Daryl wanted to go off on his own, Hershel was adamant that they all travel with a partner, preferably a Woodbury person. They would learn faster by doing and maybe begin to trust faster too.

Once he had his plan in mind, Daryl's thoughts drifted again. This time to the farm. He'd set up his tent and moved the bike near the ruined farmstead on the edge of the clearing. Near sundown, he kindled a fire. He was so angry with Carol. Why hadn't she cried? Why had she refused to go to her girl's funeral?

He remembered his mother's funeral. They'd let Merle out of juvie for it and both boys were wearing borrowed suits that did not fit them. Their father was behind them with a strong hand clenched on each boy's shoulder. Daryl remembered that the bruises took over a week to fade because they were so deep. That night, Merle stayed at home. The police would pick him up in the morning to return to serve out his time. His brother had gotten high as a kite. He'd had a stash of weed somewhere and crawled out onto the porch roof to smoke. Daryl had refused. He'd tried it once and hated that disjointed feeling. He never felt what Merle claimed to feel. Daryl lay in his bed, hearing Merle complaining softly outside about everything. Their dad was passed out on the couch; he'd finished off a bottle of Bushmills.

Daryl held the bag of Merle's drugs in his hand. He'd never tried the hard stuff. He hated losing control of his thoughts. They were the one thing he could control. But he'd lost control of his life. His father and uncle were dead. He'd not been able to track Merle or Sophia. Carol's cries still rang in his ears. He was so angry with her, and he didn't understand it. She had given up on Sophia; she wanted him to stop searching because she didn't believe her daughter was alive. Daryl had desperately wanted to prove her wrong, to show that things could still go right. To show this woman that her faith was justified.

He looked at the bright blue crystals. According to Merle, they would help him forget. He needed to forget, needed to lose himself, needed to feel nothing. He opened the bag and pulled out the prescription drugs and set them aside. There was a lot of meth. He had no idea how much was safe. His eyes lost their focus as he stared at oblivion. Time stood still.

He stood up and with a cry of revulsion, threw the bag of drugs into the fire. He backed away from the pillar of smoke and threw more wood on the fire. Soon, the flames rose towards the sky along with the remnants of ruin.

He was poking the dying fire when Carol showed up to ask him about Lori.

He shivered with more than cold. He'd come very close to using meth then. Looking back, he thought that that was when he'd buried Merle in his heart. He'd believed he was the only Dixon left then. And now he truly was. The bonds he'd formed with Rick, Carol, and the rest kept yanking him away from despair. He would never forget Merle but he'd also never forget the lessons he'd learned. He did need people. People who needed him too. Merle had needed a shadow not a partner. With Rick, Daryl had a brother figure who trusted him to do what was needed and to make his own choices. He had a new family.

He turned around as Monica opened the door at the top. Although short, she'd proven to them all that she was a good shot. She nodded to him as she took over the duty station and he headed down.

A lantern's soft glow poured out of his cell. Carol was in there patching up a pair of pants that she'd torn that day. She held them up to the light. Her patches had patches. She'd need new pants soon. She looked up as he stepped in.

"You didn't go on a run today and get blankets. I did try to make things a little better. Remember when you got hurt and soaked right after we left the farm?" At his bemused nod, she added. "I heated up some broken bricks and put them in the bed."

Daryl smiled slightly. He remembered when they had all worked to keep him from getting pneumonia. That had shown him how much he had mattered to the group. It had been a close call but he was still around. "Yeah." He set his bowl down while Carol removed the now cooler bricks and placed them under the bunk. She climbed into the warmed bed first this time, scooted back, and patted the mattress.

"We've got an early start tomorrow," she said.

Bemused, Daryl took off his poncho to drape over them both and soon they were settled down again. Daryl rested on his back this time. He didn't want to roll back and squash Carol against the wall.

Carol rested her arm over his chest and snugged her forehead against his shoulder. "Night," she muttered. Soon they were both asleep.

Daryl was starting to mutter and his head was twisting from side to side. Carol woke but realized that he was dreaming.

Daryl's faint words became clearer. "No. Stay away! Damn it Merle! Not you too. I can't do it!" He continued on in a similar vein.

Carol was not a stupid woman. She guessed that Daryl had been forced to stop his brother. That he had faced their own worst nightmare: seeing someone they loved turn. Rick had taken care of Sophia. She had been prepared to take care of T-Dog. It seems Daryl had been forced to take care of Merle. Tears sprang to her eyes. Another mark against the Governor. She hoped Michonne found him soon. Maybe Daryl would be able to sleep undisturbed then.

He started to flail and Carol decided to wake him.

"Daryl," she shook his shoulder.

Daryl came awake with a start. "What? What's wrong? The Governor?"

"No, you were just dreaming."

"Did I say anything?"

Realizing that Daryl did not want to share with the others the depth of his loss, Carol said, "I didn't understand what you were saying." She could feel him relax beside her. Whether it was due to shame or something else, Daryl wanted to keep that pain to himself.

"Go back to sleep," was all she said and she draped her arm over his chest.

Daryl wasn't sure he believed her about not hearing anything. He wasn't sure why he didn't want to tell anyone about Merle turning; it just never seemed to be the right time or a good way. How do you bring up something like that especially weeks after it had happened? He laid his left arm across his body so that his fingers touched Carol's.

They slept.

I have started writing the story about Daryl almost getting pneumonia. I really hoped you liked this. Please let me know if you would. Constructive criticism is welcome also. Happy season 4!