AN: I wasn't going to post this, but with a bit of a shove I figured it might help me feel a little better. I need a confrontation, and I need everyone there for it. Not Rick picking off group members to tell them one by one. I need him to face what he's done, face his decision, so here is my version. It's a bit of Rick bashing and I don't go in for character bashing in fic, but I tried. Oh Lord, I tried.
"She had no right." He said it with such conviction, such anger, and it continued to thread through his blood like a needle and thread, sewing up all the exits so it just built up with nowhere to go. "They could have lived."
Hershel stared at Rick a minute, contemplating his emotional state, then slowly shook his head. "No, Rick. They never stood a chance. I don't condone what Carol did, but she made a decision. Granted she should have discussed it with the council, but if she had, I'm not so sure I could have said her theory wouldn't have worked. It was a risk—"
"It was damn gutsy, is what it was. And nothin' any of us woulda had the balls to try, for all our bellyachin' about makin' the hard decisions for the good of the group," Daryl spat out, his eyes wild and roving the room like he was just waiting for someone to get up and confront him, tell him again right to his damn face that it was right that Carol had been banished without a trial, without a chance to say good bye to her friends, to her girls.
"The balls to try?" Rick spun on his heel, tried to stare Daryl down but blanched back when the hard glare Daryl adopted didn't shift, just seemed to harden even more. "She killed two innocent people, Daryl."
"She got rid of a threat."
The room went silent, other than one or two shocked gasps from the Greene girls, but Rick's jaw hung open as his son stood front and centre, in front of them all with a frown on his face and argued that Carol had done the right thing.
"They weren't a threat, Carl," Rick said, his voice breaking in the middle as too many differing emotion surged inside him. "They were in isolation; they could have got better and Carol took that chance away."
"No, she didn't." Carl's insistence was deadly and he slowly moved to stand closer to Daryl and further away from his father. "You said we had to protect Judith, above everything else. That's what Carol was doing. She was trying to protect Judith, and me and Beth, and Lizzy and Mika. Glenn could have died—"
"But he's fine now," Rick interrupted, desperate.
"Rick, Glenn is only fine because of the medication Daryl's group brought back. We almost lost him…and Sasha. We lost many others, and all of them came down with this flu at least half a day after Karen and David. I'm sorry, Rick, but Carol was right. They'd have died horribly, choking on their own blood and there's not a damn thing we could have done to stop it."
"No." Rick pulled away mentally, it was so obvious to all of them that the never-ending pressure was cracking him open. "She had no right to make a decision like that, without consulting anyone. That's why we set up the council—"
"Now that's rich." Daryl surged forward, leading on one foot, restrained threat almost vibrating with flexing muscles. His hand raised and a finger covered in ingrained dirt pointed without wavering at Rick. "You mean like you up and decided that Carol had to go?"
"I didn't rush the decision, Daryl." Rick shook his head, stepping back, his eyes looking around wildly, lost before his resolve momentarily strengthened. "I talked to her, gave her chances to show remorse, to talk about things…Sophia."
Daryl was across the room in an instant, the threat of before now replaced with barely restrained rage. "What the fuck about Sophia?"
"She can barely even say that girl's name. Never talks about her. She's detached, losing her humanity—"
"You're wrong." Beth's quiet voice found its way into the discussion like a meandering sheep amongst a pack of wolves.
"Beth, stay out of this," ordered Maggie, but she stepped up anyway, ignoring her sister as she tried to catch Rick's eye, finding it more difficult than usual as the weight of his decision and the reaction of his people started to make his fortitude buckle.
"She does talk about Sophia, Rick. She tells me things about when Sophia was a baby all the time. How do you think I learned how to take care of Judith? Maybe," she darted a careful glance at the group, at her family before standing up straight and saying exactly what she thought needed to be said. "Maybe she only doesn't talk about Sophia to you, Rick. Maybe she was trying to protect you, so you wouldn't feel guilty about losing her in the woods. She didn't blame you, but she knew how everything weighs on your conscience. She knew how you felt about losing Lori."
"Beth." Maggie chastised, coming forward and curling an arm around her sister's shoulder, tugging her back to the outside between her and their daddy. "She killed two people. She killed them—she didn't wait for them to die, she just killed them. She shouldn't be allowed to stay.
"What, you on the council now, too?" Daryl called across the room, his mouth set in a groove of petulance.
Maggie did her own version of a growl, frustration destroying her earlier composure. "What do you think, Daryl? You really think she deserves to be here when she's going off killing people for the hell of it?"
"Deserves to be here?" he exploded, the lid on his anger completely blown to pieces. "What the fuck has that woman ever done but put every damn one of you before herself? Know what? I never wanted to be leader, but you bunch of assholes put me in charge, so I'm puttin' what I learned from Rick in motion. I say who comes and who goes in this sorry shit experiment of a community and no one gets kicked out unless there's a fucking discussion about it first."
"I wasn't bringin' her back here to be around my kids. I'm real sorry, Daryl, but she brought this on herself." Rick looked like he was trying to claw himself back from the edge, sweat smudging curls against his head, his eyes bright and his limbs flinching with agitation.
"Did I just hear you right? You don't want her around your kids? Which one? The one that's sucking so far up your ass so he can convince you he's all rehabilitated so you'll hand him back his gun? Or the one Beth's raisin'—with Carol's advice and help? Huh? Who you think picked up the slack when you had your head so far up your ass with grief you wre too busy wallowin' to be fucked with whatever anyone else here was goin' through?"
Daryl paced, shook his head and obviously didn't expect an answer.
"She's gonna be fine, Daryl. She's strong, she knows how to survive now." Rick collapsed against the wall, his energy depleted as everyone looked around at each other uncertainly, the lines so blurred that no one really knew where they stood in regards to it all.
Daryl stopped pacing, swung his crossbow around into his hands and slowly positioned himself in front of his friend. "Pack your shit up, Rick. I want you out in an hour. You're a bigger threat than she ever knew how to be, making fucked up decisions like this. I'll give you what you didn't give Carol, though. A chance to say goodbye to your family."
"What?" Rick sagged against the wall, stunned. The rest of them just stood there silent, shocked, not prepared to jump into the middle of what looked like a situation escalating far out of anyone's control.
"You heard me."
"You can't kick me out of here, Daryl."
Daryl got right up into Rick's face, breaths flowing thick and fast as he obviously tried to reign in his temper. "Oh, yeah? Why's that?"
He was struggling to give a reason, they could all see it. His eyes squeezed shut tight, Rick inhaled deeply and tried to calm himself. "This is my home and I won't be forced away from my kids." His lids snapped open and he stood up a little straighter. "I didn't kill our own," he said finally, furiously.
"Except for Shane." Daryl hated flinging the truth at his friend, but the truth was the truth. "You didn't do that for the good of the group. You did that to get him out of the middle of you and Lori."
"He was going to kill me." It was a refrain that Rick had clung to all through the months they'd been on the run, when eyes had swept over him with so many questions and trust issues that it had made him want to scream. It's what he told himself when Lori's arms had grown cold and he'd been condemned to sleep alone, until she'd finally accepted what he'd done and he was too bitter to take her back, too far gone to want anything but to punish her for sleeping with Shane in the first place. Too busy hating her for causing a situation where he'd had to kill his best friend.
"You keep tellin' yourself that, Rick. We both know you knew what he was up to before we even started searching for Randall. You led him out and drew him into a situation neither of you could come back from. Where was your humanity then, Rick? He may have been an asshole, but he was just an asshole that loved your wife. He was an asshole that had done everything he could to protect your family, then had everything ripped out from under him. He saved your kid's life—doin' what he had to do."
Belated gasps were heard from the Greene's but Daryl wasn't slowing down to allow them to fully process what he'd revealed, pushing his own point so hard he could feel it when the cracks grew wider.
"Carol did what she had to, to keep everyone safe. It didn't work, an' don't think I'm not damn pissed she did it at all, but at least I can make the effort to understand it. She did wrong but she ain't suddenly untrustworthy, she ain't suddenly losin' her humanity. What kind of bullshit is that, anyway?"
His arm flung out like he was tossing something away—maybe it was his perception of the kind of man he'd always assumed Rick to be. Some of the veil split and fell away and Daryl saw his friend as the man he was—human, prone to making some bad decisions and being far too hesitant to make others. Someone who cracked when the stakes got too high and retreated into a world that they just couldn't afford to live in anymore. They'd all given Rick his time to mend, no one questioning why he'd needed it when so many of them had had losses just as devastating as Rick's, and yet they'd all been forced to continue on, picking up the slack Rick left behind so that they could all continue to survive. The discovery hurt, Daryl realised, hurt just as much as coming home after a day of fighting to stay alive to find his…whatever Carol was to him…gone. Not just gone but abandoned, shunned, left out beyond the fences to whatever chance at fate there was left to have. Left to a fate the same as Merle.
"We ain't none of us can survive out there on our own. I said it to Merle, done said it to Andrea. It's the mistake we all make, thinkin' we can, but even before all this shit happened, bein' alone was a risk. Now, it's impossible. You sent her out there where she's exposed to herds, groups like Randall's. Fuck, we still don' know where the Governor's hidden his ass, an' you think it's alright to banish the woman whose daughter you left in the woods, what fed you, kept this place goin' while you hid in your damn garden? Hell no. You think it's so easy, go get your shit an' try it out. Let us know how good you do."
"If she came back..." Maggie's voice poked into the open sore of his heart and Daryl winced. If. She weren't coming back and he knew it. "If we got her back here, what would we do about her killing Karen? Tyreese will want something done."
Daryl chewed the inside of his cheek. Tyreese was a problem he didn't want to deal with yet. He knew the man was justified in wanting revenge, in demanding justice, but after seeing how many bodies they'd had to drag out of quarantine, hear how many Hershel had already had to burn out the back of the cell block, Daryl found his anger at the audacity of the killings start to ebb.
"If killing Karen and David had stopped the spread of the infection, would you think her justified? If she'd done nothing and Glenn had died today…what if killin' and burnin' those bodies woulda worked? Prevented it all? Don't you think any of it was worth the risk?" Daryl turned sharply and found Rick's hand shaking as he rubbed it across his face, lined and beaten down with exhaustion from just dealing with this life. "What if we all got it? Judith. What if we all died and killin' them mighta been the one thing to stop it? Would you have taken the risk, Rick? You were willin' to hang Randall for less."
"There's nothing to justify murder, Daryl," Hershell reminded softly, his own heavy burden of guilt weighing him down.
"An' yet your hands ain't clean, neither. Or do you forget not wantin' to know what the vote was on Randall? You were happy enough to let Michonne be handed over to the Governor to be tortured and murdered if it meant savin' everyone in this prison. Savin' your daughters."
More gasps and then Beth was sniffling miserably, tucked into her father's side.
"Carol did what she had to do," said Carl again, his tone hard, blisteringly certain. "She was protecting the group, like we all have. She wasn't afraid to do what needed to be done. Doesn't mean she liked it. "
Rick's knees gave out and he slid down the wall, his hands grasping handfuls of hair once he was hunched over in an awkward crouch. "It doesn't matter. She's gone. There's no way to bring her back. Even you can't track a car, Daryl."
The fury stirred within him again and it was all Daryl could do not to throw his crossbow into the wall. Everyone was silent, but the one who'd not said a word the entire conversation stepped into the circle now, throwing down with a soft, understanding smile as she peered at their fallen leader.
"I forgave you for condemning me to the Governor," Michonne whispered, her low, thick voice rumbling powerfully through their stillness that her approach had achieved. "I was as much one of you then as Karen and the others are a part of us now, but I forgave you for sentencing me to death, because I understood you had to do it. You had to keep everyone safe—even though there were no guarantees."
"Like Carol," Maggie said, understanding suddenly dawning, and then she burst into tears, sat down heavily at the table and gave into the weight of her concern for Glenn and her father that she'd tried to bury for the last day and a half.
"There's nothing she did, Rick, that you ain't done already. 'Ceptin' she ain't never been so cruel. She forgave you for leavin' Sophia in the woods, just like I forgave you for puttin' the idea in Merle's head to take Michonne to the Governor. You didn't need him—it was your plan, but you knew he'd do it. You used him and he ended up dead, but I forgave ya, because I've always been willin' to follow you. Not anymore. Not after this." With that, Daryl left the room, leaping up the stairs until he could close himself inside his cell, sit brokenly upon his bed and let the sting in his eyes produce tears that he could shed in the privacy of his room without every other asshole watching him break apart. He felt exhausted, weary, heart-sore with a spasming cramp in his gut so strong he thought it was going to kill him.
Not a damn word mattered, because ultimately Rick was right. He couldn't track a car. There was nothing he could do to get Carol back. The only way he'd see her again is if she came back to them. If she came back. His head in his hands and tears of defeat and loss dripping to the cell floor, Daryl hoped she would.