Disclaimer: I don't own AMC's The Walking Dead, wishful thinking aside.
Authors Note #1: This is a 'fix-it-what-Carol-was-up-to' fic meant to fit in after 4x04 to whenever Carol comes back to grace our screens. This is written in response to an anon prompt in my askbox on tumblr. Honestly, I just couldn't resist.
Warnings: Contains spoilers for all four seasons of the Walking Dead, strong language, probably very much AU by the time the season ends, angst and more.
If she were asked to pick the exact moment where she finally rose above the crippling smog, honestly she wouldn't have been able to tell you. All she knew was that nearly a week after the ambush she woke up feeling, well, different. She felt lighter, better.
Perhaps it was true, that time heals all wounds.
Though, in the back of her mind, she knew it wasn't about time – not fully. Because she hadn't forgotten, in fact, she'd promised herself she wouldn't. That was the point right? Learning? Internalizing one's mistakes? Life wasn't easy, but she could be human about it, she could have regrets. Something she couldn't say for the likes of Fornell and his group.
So, she hadn't forgotten. But perhaps, she'd found it in her to move on.
If anything, she figured it was a start.
Did Rick regret it? Leaving her behind?
She supposed it was something she was going to have to tackle in baby steps.
It was only when she'd recovered enough to take stock of herself that she realized she was in trouble. She was low on gas and ammo. But more immediately, since she'd been cooped up with her wounds, the bottled water she'd salvaged from the SUV had run out faster than she'd anticipated. And worse, she used the last of her chemical tablets two days later, desperate and knowing she had to stay hydrated as the last of the fever slowly filtered out of her system.
She needed to do another supply run – that or risk drinking the water from a nearby stream. She had a collection of empty jugs left over from the previous occupants; it wouldn't be too hard to-
She held back a shiver, revulsion crawling up her spine at the thought. Before all this, before the illness that'd spread through the prison, she'd had no problem drinking boiled water. The prison had been self-sufficient; the same water they drank and bathed in watered the crops and fed the animals. They'd set up filtration system not long after Daryl had found Henry rooting through one of the cars on the interstate. It was something the two of them, along with Sasha, had cobbled together after they'd gotten fed up wasting fuel to boil it.
But before that, boiling their drinking water had been the standard. They'd done it any number of times on the run. During the winter after they'd lost the farm, at the Quarry months before that. Sometimes the water hadn't even been boiled; taking the risk when they'd no other choice.
But she didn't think she had that luxury now. Not after everything that had happened. They still had no idea how it spread. Perhaps they'd figured it out – cured it since she'd been gone. She hoped so. They'd lost far too many as it was.
She drummed her hands on the steering wheel, peering out across the abandoned interstate. The windshield was partially filmed over with dirt and grime – it'd been out of washer fluid since she'd found it. A group of walkers shuffled past, oblivious to her presence as she remained still - silent in the front seat.
The frayed material of a hospital gown fluttered in the light breeze, a tattered trouser cuff, a wisp of a skirt. Shadows. Death pantomiming life, you'd think she'd be used to it by now.
The scent of old death and rotting flesh filtered through the air long after the group disappeared – stumbling down the endless line of abandoned cars until the distance swallowed them.
She had to make a decision. Try for supplies at the next turn off or take the chance that her gas tank would last long enough to get her to the next one.
She bit her lip as she looked over the map. Since she'd arrived in Macon she'd shaded over large sections of the county, each chunk was crossed out with a thick x – bold and often unsteady depending on how close of a call her escape had been. Some of the areas were overrun. Others were mostly deserted, but already so picked over by other survivors that there was no point risking a second look. Right now she was in between two shaded sections. There was only about thirty miles in between them. Too close for comfort.
Finding bottled water these days was like stumbling across liquid gold in the Arctic. Almost impossible. But right now, she'd settle for a tin of sanitizing tablets, which meant a hunting and supply store. Something geared towards camping, deep woods and out of the way.
Either way, she knew the decision, through necessity, had already been made.
A/N #1: Thank you for reading. Please let me know what you think! Reviews and constructive critiquing are love! – We are approaching the end, my loves. I am thinking four or five more chapters for sure. Either way, this story will be completed probably the night before the end of the hiatus! – After this chapter marks a noticeable shift in the story, exciting things are ahead!