Disclaimer: I own nothing.
The last chapter. I appreciate your feedback, so let me know what you think of it. Enjoy.
Ten Years Later
Carol finished getting the peaches, glancing over at Judith and Matthew as they tended to the carrots, and she smiled. They were such good friends. Ten years and they were thick as thieves. They were so adorable, just like their parents in some ways and just themselves in the other ways. They were sweet and gentle, but they knew of the dangers just beyond the ranch. They were happy and prepared. That's all anyone could ask for.
She rose and carried the basket over to where Glenn and Carl were building another house. They'd found people on the road, and they had expanded the land. Everyone pitched in, it was hard work and a lot of noise, so they had to be careful. "Here." She tossed some peaches up to them.
"Got any AC?" Carl joked, wiping sweat from his brow.
"It's about fifty feet that way." Carol pointed the main house.
Glenn laughed. "And about two hours away."
He sighed. "All right, let's finish this up. Thanks, Carol."
She nodded and walked over to where Beth and Maggie were fortifying the gates. They'd gone back to the prison for the scrape metal, Carl got the picture for Judith, and Beth got Hershel's Bible for his grave. He had passed a few years ago, but he was happy. He died peacefully, and the girls were okay with that. Beth named her son after him, but Jeremiah named their daughter. It was only fair. They had Hershel Jacob and Charisma Jane. Jeremiah even took Beth's last name, just to keep the Greenes alive, and he hated his last night.
As for Maggie, Matthew was the only child she had. Glenn didn't want to risk her as time went on, and Maggie didn't want a lot of kids like Beth did. She was fine with her baby boy, and her beautiful niece and nephew—which almost weren't born because of Callie. It was so hard for Beth to see Jeremiah and Callie get so close, and she saw the way Callie was looking him, and that led to something completely normal happening. Beth went off on her and told her to back off, and Callie found Beth's jealousy amusing. They got into a fight that Bobby and Jeremiah had to break up, and Callie told Beth she and Bobby were having sex. It wasn't true at the time, but it got Beth off her back. Callie and Jeremiah never explained why they were so close, talking softly, but Carol had heard Callie form the bathroom at night. It wasn't a surprise she had nightmares, and whatever Bobby and Jeremiah did worked. She slept well now.
"Yay, more peaches," Maggie tightened the rope.
"Do I sense some bitterness?" Carol asked.
"Yes. I haven't eaten so many peaces since the farm." She smiled though. "I love it."
"Is there any jerky?" Beth asked hopefully.
"Yes." She reached into the bottom and held out the wrapped jerky. "Share."
"We will." Beth took it. "Thanks, Carol."
"Don't forget to get water, okay?" She looked at them sternly.
"We won't." Maggie took a peach. "I'll get more water now."
"Good. I hate finding you passed out on the ground. Twice was enough." She turned and walked away as Maggie left to the fill their bottles. She found Lilly gathering the kids for a lesson in the garden, and Ty was close by as always. Their little girl was so beautiful, with her dark curls and light skin. She was so thoughtful and would become a great leader one day. She was seven now, but she had an old soul.
"Mrs. Carol." She smiled. "Here." She held out a rose to her.
She smiled warmly and took the rose. "Thank you, Samara." She handed her a peach.
"Thank you very much!" She grasped the peach and ran to her mother before she got scolded for not listening.
Carol was glad Lilly found Tyreese. They saved each other and have a beautiful family together. Ty had forgiven Carol fully the day his little girl was born, and they were kind of friends now. They had trust, but he would never forget. Carol understood that and respected him.
"Carol." Lizzie waved her over.
Carol walked over to her. "What?"
"How do you catch a chicken? I have the rest in the coop, but that damned chicken won't come. Milla's too busy laughing to be any help."
"I have no idea."
She sighed. "I'll just ask Bobby. He's repairing the roof to the barn anyway. He should be on his break now."
"I'll walk with you."
They found Bobby and Caesar sitting on hay, eating lunch, and Bobby was teaching him the difference in wrenches. Lizzie smiled at Caesar and ruffled Bobby's wild hair. They had a brother-sister relationship that took Carl years to fully understand. He and Lizzie were having issues, so they weren't together at the moment, but Carol knew they would be back together by the end of the month. She just hoped they stopped meeting in the barn late at night.
"I need help." Lizzie sat beside him.
"Yes, you do."
"With a chicken," she added, glaring at him for the comment.
He threw his head back and laughed.
"Fine, I'll use your kid as bait."
"No!" Caesar hid behind Bobby.
Carol smiled. Caesar was a cutie with his brown curls and hazel eyes. His parents were dying when Bobby found him six years ago, his mother had died in childbirth, and his father had been bitten trying to protect them, so he begged Bobby to take his son and protect him. Honorable man that he was, Bobby took their son and ended them before they changed, and he and Callie raised him. After a few months, Callie warmed up to Bobby, and they went out once a month to give the horses some fresher air, and they slowly got together. However the men who took Callie and Milla had made sure Callie could never had a child of her own, and Bobby didn't mind. It was truly amazing when Bobby found that baby, and Callie insisted on Bobby naming him after his idol. Caesar Martinez, but little Caesar was named Caesar Miguel Shepard. Callie loved those names together, and Bobby wanted her to be in the name too. Most people—Daryl—called him Lil' C. Daryl had a nickname for every kid here, though.
"Fine, I'll help. Carol, could you take him to Callie?"
Caesar took her hand with both of his. "See you soon, Daddy."
"See you soon, kiddo." He kissed the top of his head and left with Lizzie.
Carol let him have a peach, because he could do the ABCs and count from one to one thousand. He was a smart child, and he affectionately called Carol "G-Mom". Bobby was family to her, so it made sense that Caesar saw her as Bobby's mother. Thank God Bobby had fallen for Callie or that name might scare her.
Callie was training the dogs, and she saw Carol and Caesar and waved. "Stay." She jogged over to them and scooped up Caesar. "Hey, baby boy." She kissed his dirty cheek. "Bobby got busy?"
"He's got a chicken to catch." Carol nodded.
"I see. Well, good for me then." She smiled at her son. "Go round up the puppies, okay?"
"Okay." He nodded.
She set him down, and he went to open the puppy pen. "Thanks for bringing him."
"It's my job." She handed her a bottle of water. "You look thirsty."
"Thanks. I gave mine to the dogs." She looked at the peaches and frowned a little. "Do you have any apples?"
"Yep." She grabbed the bag of ripe red apples and held them out. "Happy birthday."
She laughed. "Thanks." She took the bag and smiled. "I'll let you finish your rounds."
"Mommy!" Caesar called.
"I gotta go." She turned and ran over to him.
Carol noticed one of the puppies following her as walked away, and it was the runt of the litter. She bent down, covered the few peaches and set the puppy in the basket. She was so tiny, but so lovey. Callie would notice, but everyone had a dog expect for Carol, so it's only fair.
Rick and Michonne were going over the plans to expand the back of the ranch a little more, Jeremiah was telling them about how much wire and wood they had left, and they made it work. Jeremiah made notes to post someone behind the house at night just to be sure. Probably Issac or Scott from the Argent group. They were all a group, but they still called people by the group they were with originally, but it was just so they know they had the right person.
Jeremiah had Hershel with him, teaching him about the layout and how to be a doctor too. Jeremiah had read every medical book they could found, and he'd saved a lot of lives. He was the young Hershel, and everyone respected him. He always told them if it wasn't for Hershel Greene, he wouldn't be who he was right now. It was true. Hershel gave him knowledge and the woman he loves. People who didn't know Hershel respect him and left flowers on his grave every week. It was so thoughtful.
She spotted Bob and Sasha going into the shed that held the heavy artillery to do a daily check. Bob was still a doctor to them too, but he and Sasha were on the ones they went to for advice. Sasha had a vast knowledge on how to get in and out safely with a group, leaving Glenn to be the man who knew how to go solo, and Bob gave them tips on how to handle wounds until they got back. They were quite the couple.
Carol waved and smiled at the people they'd found, all of them pitching in to help with the house building and making sure the fences were stable. She passed Tara and Edna as they watched the rear, and Carol smiled at them. They were only holding hands, but it was a start. Edna and Tara butted heads often, but they loved each other. They were arguing now, but holding hands was a good sign.
Carol saw the house the guys had built for her just ahead, her flowers were blooming beautifully, white and gold. She watched the front door open and out ran Wyatt. She titled her head and narrowed her eyes, but as his arms wrapped around her waist in a tight hug, she lost the glare and hugged him back. "You're supposed to be with the others." She set her arm around his shoulders as they headed toward the house.
"I know." His light blue eyes met hers. "But I wanted to make sure you got here okay."
"I'm not that old," she scolded.
He laughed. "No, that's not what I meant. With Dad gone, I'm the man of the house, and I have to make sure you're okay."
"Well, Mom isn't be happy to hear you're skipping school, no matter how noble the reason. Dad's gone, baby, and you need to learn." She opened the door and set the basket down. "But I have a surprise for you."
"Mommy!" Marley hugged her from behind.
"I knew it." She turned. "You two need to go to school. Ten is not adulthood." Her twins stared up at her with the eyes as their father, and she sighed. Wyatt was just like Daryl, same hair, same face, same personality—everything was the same. He even used Daryl's crossbow. Marley was so like Sophia. Daryl named her Marley after Bob Marley, and Carol named Wyatt after her father. They were the best kids, and Daryl would be proud.
"Mommy." Marley frowned. "You're crying."
She sniffed and wiped her eyes. "I'm sorry."
"Dad?" Wyatt asked.
"Yeah." She could hardly believe it's been a year. Her heart ached every day without him, but she had promises to keep, and she couldn't break down. Daryl was gone, but she was alive, and he wouldn't want her to waste away mourning. She couldn't. "I have a surprise for you both."
"What?" Marley asked.
She removed the blanket off the puppy, and they gasped. She was asleep now, but the gasps woke her. She jumped out of the basket and yipped happily at them. They took her outside and played with her, thanks Carol with a kiss on each cheek. She smiled and watched them from the window.
Daryl had been killed shortly after walkers tried to overrun the ranch. He refused to let his children run all of their lives. They had friends here, family, and he wasn't letting the dead take another thing from him. He and the others killed them, all of them, and then...it happened. One shot rang out, and it went through Daryl's chest, not the walker behind him. Wyatt blames himself, but it wasn't his fault. No one could Wyatt screaming for Daryl as Rick and Glenn called to the others to make sure the walkers were away from the kids, crying for him to look out, and so Wyatt took the gun from Beth's holster and shot.
Carol could still see it all.
"Daryl." She felt so numb, and she dropped her gun. "Daryl?" She pushed through the people that tried to comfort her dropped to her knees beside him, the blood was soaking through his shirt. "Daryl, hold on! Get Jeremiah!" She put pressure on the wound.
"Dad!" Wyatt ran over to them. "Oh, God. Oh, God, Dad. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry." He was sobbing big tears.
"Did good," Daryl told him, blood running down his mouth. "Did real good. You got Dixon aim."
"Daddy!" Marley dropped beside Carol. "Daddy?"
"Hey, Angel." He swallowed hard, holding his hand out to her, and she took it with both of hers. "Be strong for me, okay?"
"No, no. Please, don't say that."
"You're a strong little lady," he told her. "Don't...don't lose that. And you." He looked at Wyatt. "You're in charge now, son. No tears. No tears."
He nodded, wiping at his face. "I'm in charge."
"Protect your momma and your sister. Family first always." He wheezed now. "Re—respect 'em."
"Daddy!" Marley and Wyatt cried.
"Where the hell are they?" Carol growled.
"Carol." He moved her hands off his chest. "Stop."
Her eyes filled with tears. "Daryl."
"I love you." He locked eyes with her. "I love all of you."
"We love you too," Marley and Wyatt told.
Carol leaned over and kissed him. "I've always loved you, Daryl, and I'll always keep loving you."
"Stay safe," was the last thing he said to them. That's just like him. She was glad he got to say goodbye, and she knew he was up there, taking care of her baby girl, protecting them down here. So many times they'd gotten hurt and bleeding just stopped. He was a man with many scars, but he was a hero, someone to respect, and Carol would never forget him.
She grasped the Cherokee rose he'd carved for her as a wedding ring. It was beautiful and hung on her necklace with her gold cross. She'd stop wearing it for a long time, but she'd found it the day after Daryl passed, and she never took it off.
She inhaled deeply and looked up at the sky. Daryl, can you see us now? Are you protecting us? She sniffled. "I love you, Daryl Dixon," she whispered. "And I remember. I'm Carol Peletier." She smiled. "Carol Dixon."
"Mom," Wyatt called. "Mom?"
"I'm coming." She stepped out of the house and closed the door, following them to the picnic area, and she sat by herself, Wyatt sat with a few boys he was friends with, and Marley was helping out. Daryl called her Angelfish, but shortened it to Angel as she got older. He never told Carol or Marley why, though. She'd find out one day.
"Hey, stranger." Michonne sat beside her. "You didn't come by today."
"You looked busy."
"I hate that you're pulling away," Michonne told her. "Rick's worried about you."
"I'm not pulling away." She crossed her arms.
"I just need some space."
"I get it. Believe, I get it, but space isn't always the answer." She smiled warmly. "Look."
Carol looked over and found Beth was sitting with her family. Today was Beth's day to entertain everyone. She sang mostly. Bobby played guitar for them, and some of the kids did plays. They weren't do good, but the kids were so cute, no one cared. Only three days a week did someone perform, so if it wasn't Beth, who was it?
Carl noticed Marley was missing from her usually table and her heart raced with panic, but Michonne pointed to Marley as she stood on the platform—the entertainers and council used it when they made new rules or asked if anyone wanted to go on a run. She had changed into a dress and her hair was down. She looked a little nervous, and Carol started to ask what was doing when Marley spoke.
"Today marks the first full year my daddy's been dead," she said. "Beth was supposed to sing today, but if you don't mind, I—I'd like to sing."
No one said anything bad, just cheered her on, especially Wyatt and his friends. She smiled and cleared her throat, and Carol was shocked when her little girl sang. She had a beautiful voice, and Carol had never heard it before. Where did she find time to practice? Where did she even learn the song?
"Slowly fading away, you're lost and so afraid. Where is the hope in a world so cold? Looking for a distant light, someone who can save a life. You're living in fear that no one will hear your cry." She intertwined her fingers. "Can you save me now? I am with you. I will carry you through it all. I won't leave you, I will catch you when you feel like letting go. 'Cause you're not, you're not alone."
Carol was overwhelmed with memories of Daryl, from the day they first met in the quarry to the way he held her with Sophia to hm saving her in the prison and his soft voice saying, "Stay safe". She felt her eyes burn as her memories went to the mall and the trailer park and to the ranch...to his death.
"Your heart is full of broken dreams, just a fading memory. And everything's gone but the pain carries on. Lost in the rain again, when will it ever end? The arms of relief seem so out of reach, but I, but I am here." Marley met her mother's eyes. "I am with you. I will carry you through it all. I won't leave you. I will catch you when you feel like letting go. 'Cause you're not, you're not alone."
Carol had a hard time breathing as tears flowed down her cheeks, her heart was so heavy, and she felt a hand clasp her. It was Wyatt. He smiled at her, and she put her arms around him and hugged him.
"And I will be your hope when you feel like it's over, and I will pick you up when your whole world shatters. And when you're finally in my arms, look up and see love has a face. I am with you. I will carry you through it all. I won't leave you. I will catch you when you feel like letting go. 'Cause you're not, you're not alone. And I will be your hope, you're not alone. And I will pick you up. I will be your hope. And I will be your hope." She smiled at her mom and brother. "Slowly fading away, you're lost and so afraid. Where is the hope in a world so cold?"
Everyone applauded her, she ran over to her mom and hug her tightly, and Carol cried more than she had in a long time, but she was happy. She was proud and happy. She was alive, and the part of her shutdown when Daryl died—the same part Daryl fought to get back—was awake now. She was so blessed, and she would never forget that. Horrible things happen and nobody gets what they deserve most of the time, but Carol got the man God had made for her, had three beautiful children who will always be with her, and she has a family, somewhere she will always belong. And when the time comes, she'll go home and find Daryl waiting for her.
'Cause you're not, you're not alone.
She would never be alone again.