Shelter from the Storm
Written August 2013
Rated a very strong R
Synopsis: A routine supply run turns dangerous as Daryl and Carol find themselves battling against Mother Nature … but the storm brewing within their shelter might be more intense than the one raging outside.
Disclaimer: The characters and universe herein were created by Robert Kirkman et al. The series is produced by AMC and other corporations. No infringement is intended.
They dined on peanut butter, stale crackers, canned peaches, and black beans. Without utensils, it wasn’t pretty, but they were past the point of manners. They hadn’t eaten since breakfast, their ration packs still in their temporarily abandoned truck back in Livingston. Well, assuming the tornado hadn’t devoured it.
Much of the time was spent without speaking as they were too preoccupied with eating and drinking to carry on a conversation. But unlike their usual meals shared in silence, this one was awkward. Any time Carol happened to look his way, Daryl was always focused on something else, like he’d been caught staring and didn’t want to get caught again. She figured it had something to do with their respective states of undress; she knew she was bothered by it.
Her mind drifted to Glenn and Maggie’s wedding. While searching the bedrooms upstairs, Carol had come across a perfectly preserved veil. The dress was missing, but they’d already found something appropriate on a prior run so it didn’t matter. The bride looked lovely in blood-stained jeans; she was going to be a knock-out when she was in something clean.
They weren’t likely to have the wedding until she and Daryl returned, but she wasn’t sure when that would be. If the herd was still passing through, or had become completely distracted by the dead raccoon in the general store, their truck might not be reachable. Maybe they’d get lucky, and the tornado would carry all of the undead away. If not, and their truck was indeed a lost cause, they could walk back to the prison, but it was dangerous and they wouldn’t be able to bring any of the food or supplies they had found. More than likely, they would spend the night in the cellar and head out at first light. If all went well, they would be home by lunch.
Home. Who would have thought they’d consider a prison to be their home?
She brought the wine bottle to her lips and discovered it was empty. Did they really drink the whole thing? There was a second bottle at her side, but she wasn’t sure she had the coordination to open it. She felt warm and a little sleepy, still sober enough to know what was happening but tipsy enough to not give it a second thought. The wine had definitely helped take her mind off the size of the room.
Daryl offered her the last cracker, and when she turned it down, he popped it in his mouth. “You want anything else?” he asked, words muffled by the food.
“No.” Her belly ached; they had eaten more than they were used to getting.
“Suit yourself.” He used his utility knife to remove some more peanut butter from the jar, which he swiped off with a finger and put into his mouth.
She grinned at his method, but his attention was on the cellar doors. She was glad they had held. If they could withstand the force of a storm, they could certainly protect them from any walkers who happened to pass by. They wouldn’t be able to sleep in a bed, but they would be able to sleep.
“Hand me that bottle, will ya?” She passed the wine to him, and he opened it, taking a drink. “It’s a good thing we ended up in here instead of out there. Coulda gotten trapped in that storm out there on the highway. No shelter.”
“Guess it’s a good thing that herd was passin’ through.”
“I wouldn’t go that far.”
Carol laughed. “Well, we certainly got lucky with our find. We can load up the truck, bring all this food back to the prison. If the house is still standing, we can get the sewing machine. I also found something Maggie could wear for the wedding.”
“What is it with you and this damn wedding? You ain’t the bride. Why does it matter to you?”
She shrugged. “Somethin’ to look forward to, I guess.”
“Nah, that’s Rick’s line. Makin’ those Woodbury assholes happy.”
“They ain’t equipped for this life. If any of them were out here with us, they’d be walker food for sure. Surprised they lasted this long.” He nudged her with the bottle, and she took a drink. “So what is it?”
“Like you care.”
He huffed. “I asked ya, didn’t I?”
Shooting him a mock glare, she downed another mouthful of merlot. “I guess after all this time, everything that’s happened… I still believe in love.” She waved her hand like she’d just finished a magic trick. “There.”
“Hmm. Figured it was some girly bullshit.”
She punched him in the shoulder a little harder than necessary. “When I see the two of them together, I see hope for the future.”
“When I see the two of them together, I see easy targets. You heard what the Governor did to them. What my idiot brother did to them.”
She noticed the slight dip in his tone, the sadness. Merle had not been kind, but he hadn’t had a chance to atone for his sins either. She tried to distract him with sarcasm. “Yeah, I heard how Glenn took out that walker while his hands were bound together with duct tape. Real easy target.” Daryl shook his head, but she pushed on, determined to make him understand. “Love made him stronger. He is not the same Glenn he was back at the quarry. She’s changed him, made him a better person. He’s really stepped up at the prison. People respect him, and he’s taking on more responsibilities. I’m not sure he’d be this way without Maggie.” He rolled his eyes at her. “Come on, Daryl. Haven’t you ever been in love?”
“Don’t believe I’m drunk enough to indulge your curiosity,” he said, taking another drink of wine.
“Well, I have. Once. Little Jimmy Lewis. I kissed him on the playground, and he cried.” She chuckled at the memory. Her ten year old self was so brave.
“Not Ed,” Daryl said, more of a statement than a question.
“Not Ed,” she replied. “I think I loved him to some degree, a long time ago, but it wasn’t that … sweaty-palmed, weak-kneed, take-your-breath-away feeling.” She smiled at him. “You know what I mean. The one where you would move mountains if it meant making the other person happy.”
He didn’t say anything, just continued to nurse the wine bottle in his hand. She wondered what was going on inside his head, wondered what kind of woman it would take to win his heart. Did she need to be a perfect match or the exact opposite? Maybe someone in between, someone who saw him for who he was: a man of honor.
“The wedding’s not just for Glenn and Maggie. It’s for all of us. Right now we’re just surviving, living day to day. If we’re ever going to move forward, we’ve got to believe in love. Otherwise … what’s the point?”
He regarded her unabashedly, and she felt her cheeks burn. As much as she tried to deny it, there was something tantalizing about him. She tried to tell herself that her growing attraction was a misplaced result of his kindness toward her. When they first met, she was a shell of herself – a complacent, abused housewife. Now she was a fighter, damned and determined to make it through this apocalypse alive. She owed a lot of that to Daryl.
But when he looked at her like that, like he could read her mind and wasn’t put off by what was inside, she couldn’t help but feel a tingle down her spine. Her heart always beat just a little bit faster. They were cut from the same cloth, she and he. A surprising duality that was as natural as light and dark.
He was still looking at her, and she met his gaze evenly. What was the point in living without love anyway?
“Maybe…” she began, speaking to herself more than him, “maybe it’s time to stop surviving and start living.”
And she kissed him. Sweet and slow, without fear or trepidation.
End of chapter 3