Carol looked in disbelief at the untouched plate of food in his hand. "Take it, I don't need nothin'. You eat, or give it to Beth or somebody."
She closed her eyes for a moment and clenched her fists against the rage that threatened to overwhelm her. "God, Daryl, you really do piss me off sometimes. Did you ever think that by being so damned stubborn and insisting on overextending yourself, night after night, you put us all in more danger? You tell yourself you're only thinking of everyone else when you go without, but I'm telling you, that is the most bone-headed, short-sighted bullshit I've ever heard. You're of no use to me, to yourself, or anyone else if you're so cross-eyed from lack of sleep and not eating properly you can't react in time to help us."
She was up in his face now, her eyes steely with fury, poking him hard in the chest and following him closely as he took a step back from her accusing look, raising his own hands as if to fend her off, or surrender. "I rely on you to have my back, Daryl, and frankly, it pisses me off that you don't trust me to have yours. In the condition you're in, I hardly think you can protect yourself, let alone anyone else, so I guess it's on me to see to your well-being, whether you want me to or not. Now, you are going to let somebody else keep watch for a change, eat your damn' food," she picked up the plate and slammed it down again for emphasis, "lie down, and do your dead-level-best to sleep, because in a few hours we're going to have to move again, and we need you to be in better shape than you are right now. And if you get me killed because you're off your game, I swear by all that is holy I will haunt your ass until the day you die."
He could not have been more stunned if she'd shot him. The mouth on that woman - that mouth, spitting curses like a teamster, telling him he wasn't doing anyone any favors by wearing himself to a thin strand. His head spun between exhaustion, the anxiety that she was right - hell, he knew deep down that she was right, but he didn't know how to even begin letting someone else call the shots or take care of what he'd come to see as his job - and a surge of pride that she had faced him down and never for a second hesitated to tell him what she thought he needed to hear. It wasn't easy to let it go, though. "Ain't the only one around here that goes without and neglects theirself," he muttered.
She whirled on him, and the look in her eyes was hot enough to peel paint. "Don't you even try to turn this around and make it about me, Daryl Dixon. Honest to God, I have had about as much of your superhero complex as I can take for any one day. You are not bulletproof, and I wish you'd stop trying to prove otherwise." She stomped away, and he could almost swear the air around him cooled a good five degrees once she'd gone. He shook his head and breathed deep, trying to will his heart rate to drop back to normal.
Whoo boy, good thing that was over. She had some points, he'd give her that - if he wasn't at his best, it lengthened the odds on any of them safely getting through whatever problems they'd run across. He'd have to try to let go a little. not take on everything personally, let others to use the skills he'd taught them and hope for the best. Maybe he needed to admit he couldn't do it all, and just try to do better at what he could. Because the thought of losing someone else just about killed him, and to protect them he had to be quicker - stronger - think faster...
Ah, FUCK. If he could just leap tall buildings in a single bound, catch bullets in his teeth, hear lost puppies whimperin' for their mamas from 20 miles away… This was exactly what she'd been talkin' about.
He sighed, knowing that before too much time passed they would have to have another confidential chat where he'd apologize and admit he was a total dumbshit when it came to the complexities of the human heart and mind, but also knowing that she was probably already ten steps ahead of him on that, and that no matter how awkward or painful it was in the going, he'd be better for it in the long run. And it was due to her that he was even here to be grateful for the lesson.
That's my girl. She was easily the best, the strongest person he'd ever known, and his chest was tight with things he couldn't really put a name to, admiration and respect and, if he was honest with himself, so much love it nearly flattened him.
So he would do as she asked, eat and try to sleep (as much as he could, because it wasn't all up to him) and rise to go on another day with her.