Carol looked into the large pot of stew she had just made and smiled. It looked wonderful and smelled delicious. She enjoyed cooking for everyone and was very excited for them to try the stew. With the amount of stuff they had collected, pots, pans, spices, she was beginning to feel like she had a real kitchen to cook out of. Not since she had made dinner at Hershel's farm had she felt like she had truly made a great meal.
A flurry of activity near the gate snapped Carol from her own thoughts and started her heart racing. Horns were honking, engines were revving, and Carol knew that they didn't make noise unless something was wrong, very wrong.
The spoon fell from her hand and Carol started running towards the drive to the spot where the vehicles would pull up once they got through the gate. She glanced down towards the gate and watched as Carl and Tyreese opened it as quickly as they could.
"Please don't let it be Daryl," was the first thing that came to her mind. Carol felt immediately guilty knowing that other people she cared about had also gone on that run. Maggie, Glenn, Michonne... Of course she hoped they were all safe but Daryl was always her first thought.
Rick came running from out of the prison, followed by Hershel limping behind him. "What's going on?" Rick asked, out of breath.
Carol shrugged, "no idea." They watched and waited as the car sped towards them, followed by Daryl's bike. Carol felt bile rise in her throat when she saw that Glenn was driving the motorcycle. "Daryl," she whispered, catching Hershel's eye. The older man mustered up a reassuring smile, "we will take care of him," he said squeezing her shoulder before moving quickly towards the car.
Michonne jumped out, "it's Daryl," she confirmed. "His leg is broken, it's bad." She opened the back door to reveal Maggie putting pressure to Daryl's right thigh. "He passed out, just before we got here," Michonne continued. "He's a tough son of a bitch," she grinned. "Saved Glenn from gettin bit, even after he broke his leg." Carol smiled. That was so typical of Daryl. He was a hero.
Carol peeked in the car from a distance. When she saw Daryl's face, pale and sweaty, it took everything she had to stay out of the way and let Hershel work.
"We have to get him inside so I can take a good look at this." Hershel backed away so Rick and Tyreese could get Daryl out.
Carol grabbed Michonne's wrist, "come on, let's get everything ready."The two of them took off but not before Carol heard Daryl groan as the guys lifted him. She glanced back quickly, then ran, trying to catch up to Michonne. "Jesus, maybe I should start jogging with her," Carol thought, trying to distract herself from the knot in her stomach.
By the time the men arrived with Daryl they had things set up. Blankets, towels, water, alcohol, everything was ready for Hershel. Carol often helped Hershel when there were injuries but she found herself hanging back this time, frozen with anxiety. Maggie and Rick were helping and Carol needed air.
With one last glance and an aching desire to touch him she left Daryl in capable hands and went outside to breathe.
Not long after she got outside Michonne showed up, looking a bit shaken, even through her tough exterior. Carol met her eyes. "I didn't know how much you cared about him," she said gently.
Michonne smiled softly. "He's become the big brother I never had. Feels like I have some family again, ya know?"
Carol reached out and grabbed her hand, "You do have family now, we're all in this together." She paused, "but I am glad you're close to him. He needs people who understand him, and I believe you do."
Michonne glanced at the ground. "I glad you feel that way. I wasn't sure..."
Carol knew where Michonne was headed. "I'm not the jealous type," she said with a laugh. "Besides," Carol added "he's not mine to share." Michonne looked doubtful. "He's not," Carol insisted.
"I saw the look on your face when we brought him back today. And I see the worry in your eyes right now."
"It's the same worry I see in your eyes," Carol shot back, slightly defensive.
Michonne met her eyes again. "Yes, but I have seen the way you look at him, and it is definitely not the same way I do."
Carol stared back. Deep down she knew Michonne was probably right but Carol had never allowed herself to consciously think of Daryl as anything more than a friend. Yeah, she joked with him, teased him mercilessly, because it made her laugh when he blushed. Carol liked flirting. It was part of the liberation she gained after Ed died.
Michonne interrupted her thoughts. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to upset you any more than you already are. "
"It's ok." Carol shook her head. She changed the subject. "Tell me what happened?"
"We found a mall. It was a stupid idea to go in, I don't even really know what we were hoping to find. Glenn thought there could be a pharmacy or maybe an electronics store with batteries and walkie talkies, stuff like that." Michonne shook her head, "it was stupid. But we went in. Everything was fine at first so we separated, just a bit, to check things out faster. We were almost ready to leave and I went to find Daryl. He was in a jewelry store, of all places," Michonne laughed and Carol smiled in response, thinking of Daryl surrounded by rings and necklaces.
"Walkers came out of nowhere. Lots of them. They blocked the entrance and Daryl was trapped. He broke the store window and came out that way but a huge piece of glass cut open his leg. There was so much blood." Michonne shuddered and Carol felt her stomach turn at the thought. "We were running and he was trying to keep up but his leg was weak and he slipped in the blood. The way he landed, it was so awkward, I knew he broke his leg." Michonne paused for a breath, obviously disturbed by what had occurred. "Glenn was the closest and he ran back to help. He would have got bit if Daryl hadn't acted fast and shot the walker. Somehow... Somehow we got him up and out of there."
Michonne closed her eyes. "I just pray we made it back in time and he hasn't lost too much blood."
Carol didn't know what to say so they stood there in silence for a moment. "Do you want to go back in with me? Check on him?" she asked, breaking the silence.
"You go ahead." Michonne managed a smile, "He will want to see you when he wakes up. But will you ask Rick to let me know what's going on?"
Carol nodded, "Sure." She walked towards the prison with a million thoughts in her mind about the conversation that had just occurred. She pushed them all away for the time being and focussed on Daryl, she needed to know he was ok.
Rick was outside the room they had set up for Hershel. Carol didn't even have to ask before Rick started to update her. "Hershel set the bone and stiched him up and he's just working on some kind of cast. The cut was bad and he lost a lot of blood but his pulse is strong and Hershel is pretty confident he'll be just fine." Carol sighed with relief and hugged Rick impulsively. He hugged her back, knowing she needed the comfort of physical contact, and he needed a little of his own as well. "It was scary for a while," Rick admitted "but he really will be ok." Rick gave her one last squeeze before releasing her. "Why don't you go in? He's still out cold but Hershel should be almost done."
Carol peeked her head in. Daryl was laying there covered with a blanket as Hershel and Maggie were cleaning up the mess. She watched as Maggie gathered up the blood soaked jeans they had cut off him and wrapped them up in bloody sheets and towels. "Hey," she said acknowledging Carol. "I'm just going to get rid of this stuff," she said to her dad before heading out.
"Rick filled me in," Carol said to Hershel. "Will he wake up soon?"
"I expect he will," Hershel said. "And I expect he's not going to be very happy." Hershel lifted the sheet to show Carol the "cast" they had devised. It was bulky but looked secure. "Its boards and strips of sheets, it's the best we could do." Hershel looked at her seriously, "he needs to wear this for 6 to 8 weeks. If he doesn't his leg won't heal and he may suffer permanent damage." Hershel touched her shoulder. "Someone needs to be with him, all the time. There will be a lot of things he can't do alone but more importantly, we all know what Daryl is like and I need to be sure he's not going to push it." Carol nodded realizing that Hershel was suggesting she be the one. "Are you up for a challenge?" he asked.
Carol looked at Daryl, laying there silently. She moved to his side and touched his forehead. "I'll do whatever it takes," she said. Hershel nodded and left the room. Carol leaned down and placed a gentle kiss on Daryl's forehead. He stirred slightly. Carol brushed a strand of hair away from his eyes as they fluttered open. "Hey there sleepy head," she said with a smile.
Daryl groaned in response. "Fuck, my leg hurts." He lifted the blanket and looked down. Carol was about to say something reassuring when he suddenly got agitated. "My pants, where the hell are my pants?" Anger flashed in his eyes.
"They had to cut them off to fix you leg," Carol said calmly.
"Ok but where the fuck are they?" he said in frustration. "I need them."
"Maggie took them to get rid of them," Carol looked at him confused. "Must be in shock or something," she thought to herself.
Daryl persisted, "Stop her, I need those pants." Daryl tried to sit up and Carol rushed to keep him laying still.
"Ok, calm down," Carol said firmly. "I'll go find them if you promise to just lay still and calm down."
Daryl nodded. "Go," he said when she hesitated.
Carol ran out of the room hoping she could catch Maggie before she disposed of the jeans, the whole time wondering why a destroyed pair of bloody jeans was so damn important.