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.
“Ungh.” Wine hangovers were the worst. Daryl couldn’t remember the last time he’d had that much to drink, couldn’t even remember how much he drank, but he knew it had to be a lot because it felt like his head was in a vice. As long as the Woodbury assholes kept their voices down, he wouldn’t have to shoot them with his crossbow.
Hmm. It was quiet, almost too quiet. Someone was always up, shoes tapping on the concrete, and the fact that he couldn’t hear anything was disconcerting. He tried to move his arm, but it was pinned down somehow.
Then he remembered. And then he panicked.
He had to get out of here, go somewhere that he could process the night’s events without distraction. But her head was using his arm as a pillow, and there was no way to slip away without waking her.
Fuck! Why did she have to come with him on this run? If she had stayed back at the prison, this never would have happened. He would have gotten the supplies and been back in no time, except for the stupid wedding shit. Instead, they got trapped by a herd, chased by a herd, fell down a cliff, sought shelter from a tornado, ended up drunk and naked in a storm cellar, all of which culminated in an impressively short fuck topped off by premature ejaculation.
Why couldn’t it have been more like his dream? The one where he took control, where he made her scream his name and where he didn’t sit against the wall like a pussy and not even touch her. This is why he didn’t get close; he was a massive fuck-up. And if she ever spoke to him again, it would be a miracle because a smart woman – and Carol was a smart woman – wouldn’t look at him the same way after such a disappointing performance.
Carol’s eyes flew open. “What? What happened?”
He honestly hadn’t realized that he had shouted. “I gotta piss.” He rolled his eyes at his own excuse, but she backed away so he could get up. Righting himself proved to be a painful experience as his equilibrium tried to return to normal. He picked up one of the empty wine bottles – Four bottles? They drank four fucking bottles? – and stood in a corner to relieve himself.
He could tell she was looking at him, and a glance over his shoulder confirmed it. As if this morning could get any worse. “What are you gawkin’ at?”
“Just admirin’ the view.” She had an impish grin on her face that made him scowl even more.
“What the fuck is so interestin’ about my bare ass and scars? Can’t a guy get any privacy?”
She chuckled and rolled onto her stomach, eyes on the opposite wall.
Her amusement at the whole situation did nothing but piss him off. He grabbed his clothes and dressed quickly. The sooner they got back to the prison, the better. “Gonna look for walkers. Best hurry up or I’m leavin’ without ya.” Slinging the crossbow over his shoulder, he trudged up the stairs, out of the cellar, and into the morning air.
Finally, he could breathe again. The sky was a blue-grey, the temperature unusually cool for that time of year. Based on the sun’s position, he guessed it was mid-morning. Not as early of a start as he would have liked, but they could still make it back by dark even after loading the truck.
There weren’t any walkers nearby. Hopefully they’d run into some later so he could take out his frustration and embarrassment on something other than himself. He felt edgy and anxious. The trip back to the prison was not one he was looking forward to.
His feet sank into the grass, which had been saturated by the massive amounts of rainfall the night before. He stepped away from the cellar doors before he became stuck and walked toward the front of the house.
Or what was left of it.
The two story house was now one story, the entire upstairs having blown away with the storm. The balusters that had lined the porch now stuck haphazardly out of the mud in the yard. He didn’t see the rocking chair at all. He continued to circle the house. The wall where the kitchen had been was torn away, counters and plumbing exposed to the outside. The tornado had obviously traveled right over them; it had even cut a wide path through the yard, removing grass and uprooting trees.
“Oh, my God.” Carol stood beside him, hand over her mouth.
She was going to be pissed about the sewing machine.
“The house. The sewing machine…”
He snorted. “Come on. Let’s see if the truck is still there.”
The trek back to Livingston was made in silence. Carol was concerned about his demeanor, the way he got mad at the mud for sticking to his boots. She had tried to lighten the mood, but he wouldn’t respond to her meager attempts at humor. When she asked a question, he would respond with a grunt or nothing at all. He may not be talking to her, but his silence was louder than his voice.
Something had happened – and she knew that something had been her.
Daryl had always been fiercely protective of his heart, so she knew that he wasn’t going to start reciting poetry or professing his love after their night together. But did he have to be so damn mean? Every look in her direction was a glare, and when she tripped over a rock, he didn’t even offer to help her up.
She should have expected this. She should have ignored her attraction, ignored the wine’s effect on her confidence, and left him alone. But she was tired of always doing what she was supposed to do, tired of taking everyone else’s feelings into consideration but never her own. Why should she be destined to sit on the sidelines while everyone else took control? She wasn’t the same person she was when they first met, yet she was stuck in the same role she’d always played. They didn’t see her for anything other than a mousy housewife.
She hated that they relied so much on their first impression of her.
Something clicked, a simple realization that she hadn’t considered before. That’s why Daryl was so angry. In his mind, he’d made a terrible first impression – not lasting as long as he should, not paying attention to her, whatever silly notion he had derived. He probably felt like she was laughing at him. She shook her head; he should know her better than that.
But why was he so hell-bent on beating himself up over the first time when the second time had been amazing?
After what felt like hours, they finally reached the main street through town. Except there was no town. And no truck.
“Are you fucking kidding me?” Daryl yelled.
Carol tuned out the rest of his expletive-filled rant as she looked around. A Southern magnolia that had to be hundreds of years old had been uprooted and tossed on its side, blocked the gravel road to the east. At least they weren’t going that way. Aside from that, there was nothing. Livingston had been completely demolished.
Something caught her attention, glimmering in the sun through the mass of magnolia branches, and she unsheathed her knife before walking that direction. It wasn’t a walker; Daryl’s outburst would have drawn its attention long ago. The tree’s crown was probably forty feet across, but enough leaves had blown off in the storm that she could see through the branches fairly easily.
She spread a few limbs apart to get a better view of what had caught her eye. When she finally made out what it was, she couldn’t help but laugh.
“You find somethin’?” he asked, jogging over to her, his anger shifting to hope.
“Our truck.” She pushed through the crown on her way to the trunk.
“Hey!” He yanked her back before she could continue. “What the hell are you doing?”
“You got a better way to get over there?”
“Walk around it?” he suggested sarcastically.
“Yeah – and while you’re still looking for the end of this thing, I’ll be on the other side starting the motor. Maybe I’ll leave you behind.”
The look on his face was one of shock and disconcertion; she would have smiled if she hadn’t been so irritated with him. “Fine,” he growled. “Get yourself killed. I don’t care.”
“You do care,” she pointed out as she slipped around some limbs, trying to climb her way to the trunk of the tree. “And that’s the problem.”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean? Carol!” She didn’t respond, so he started after her. His foot caught on a branch, and he fell forward, a mass of leaves whacking him in the face. “Motherfucker.”
Carol held out a hand to help him around the offending branch. “Oh, come on. I bet you’ve climbed hundreds of trees.”
“They’re usually goin’ the other direction.”
Unable to stay mad at him for any real length of time, she felt herself grinning. “Well, don’t worry. I won’t tell anybody.” A pained look flickered across his face. “Is that it?” she asked softly. “You think I’m gonna tell people what happened in the cellar?”
He scowled but didn’t meet her eyes, reaching for a nearby limb and pulling himself over another branch.
“Dammit, Daryl, talk to me.” She scrambled after him, grabbing his arm to prevent him from continuing. “I’m not mad at you, and I sure as hell wasn’t disappointed.”
“Yeah, right,” he muttered, trying to walk again, but she wouldn’t let go, her eyes pleading with him. “Ain’t good at that kind of thing.”
He shook his head, and she realized she must have misinterpreted what he was trying to say. “No, it- That was- I ain’t- Fuck!” He grabbed her knife and tried slicing through the leaves that were in his face. It was ineffective and only served to anger him further. “I ain’t never done that before! Ya happy now? Fuck!” He stormed off, weapon swinging wildly at the tree.
Out of all of the things he could have said, that really wasn’t what she expected to come out of his mouth. She stared at his retreating form for a moment before hurrying after him. “Well, neither have I, so we’re even.”
“What are you, the Virgin Mary?”
“Oh, no, I’ve done that. But I’ve never…” She blushed. Usually, she found the right words, but this time she was at a loss. One of her most intimate confessions to the only man she felt would understand – and she couldn’t even say it. “I’ve never experienced … that. Only by myself. Never with Ed, never with anyone. Until you.”
He stopped and stared at her. She forced herself to meet his gaze. Finally, he was beginning to understand. His muscles relaxed, his jaw went slack. She could see the wheels turning. They weren’t as different as he thought. But his glare returned almost immediately, fists clenched at his sides, and her heart sank.
Oh no – now what?
“I really fucking hate your husband.”
Relieved, she let out a chuckle. “You and me both.”
He returned the knife to her in an act of solidarity. “Let’s get out of here.”
It hadn’t been a dream after all.
Daryl could barely believe it himself, but Carol’s confession made it as real as it could be. He wasn’t as big of a fuck up as he thought. He felt ridiculous, particularly now that he was doing some mental happy dance. He’d never drank so much that he mistook reality for a dream before – and with reality being that much better, he doubted he ever would again.
Things were finally falling into place. Their truck was in pristine condition despite being blown down the road and almost crushed by a tree, and they were able to find a passable route that took them to the farmhouse. There, they loaded up the cargo bed, all the way to the top of the truck cap, with the entire contents of the storm cellar.
After a quick lunch of beef jerky and fruit cocktail, they made their way back to the prison. The full inventory from the cellar was more impressive than their cursory examination revealed the night before, and Carol chattered about it for a good thirty minutes. He didn’t really mind. It was nice to see her genuinely excited about something.
His attention drifted in and out as he drove, finally allowing himself to entertain thoughts about the future. Was she right about Glenn and Maggie, that they were paving the way out of hell for everyone? Could the prison be a realistic home for infants and toddlers while couples began repopulating the species? Judith was the youngest of the children, but it wouldn’t be long until people started pairing off and making more.
Shit, did Carol expect that of him? He cast a sidelong glance at her. She hadn’t said anything about turning their little underground rendezvous into something more permanent. She hadn’t said anything against it either. Then again, he had been pretty shitty toward her all day. Maybe she hadn’t said anything because she was worried he’d blow up at her again.
They passed slowly through a small town, and Carol sat up in her seat. “Daryl, stop.”
He did as he was instructed, killing the engine. He looked around for any signs of danger, ready to act at a moment’s notice, but didn’t see anything.
“Yes, this is it.” She opened the door and hopped out.
“Shit.” He grabbed his crossbow and ran after her. “Where are you going?”
“Look.” She pointed at the building in front of them. “Craft store. I can get some stuff to make a bouquet for Maggie.”
He was already shaking his head. “No, no, no. You remember what happened the last time we tried to get supplies for this weddin’.”
“Yeah, we found a cellar full of food.” She stuck out her lower lip. “Come on, Daryl. Five minutes, I promise.”
He felt his resolve wavering. She had certainly put up with more than five minutes of his bad attitude; he owed her at least that long to supply the wedding with flowers. “Fine.”
She practically skipped to the store but stopped in the doorway, knife in hand, to listen for any walkers. Hearing nothing, she grabbed a shopping basket and walked past the checkout lanes to the large section of silk flowers. Every color was at her disposal, and she started selecting a few from the bucket of white blooms.
He stood near the counter and watched her. They lived in a time of danger, and here she was picking flowers. This time yesterday, he would have heaved several sighs and called her careful selection a waste of time. But now … now they both needed this. A brief reprieve, a return to something simple in a world that was anything but. Just a girl picking flowers and a boy admiring her from afar.
And it hadn’t been a dream after all.
What was he going to do when they got back to the prison? He wasn’t really made for a committed relationship, content to go where the wind took him, but it didn’t seem right to let other men have a chance with her either. Frankly, he didn’t want to see her with anyone else, not after what had happened between them. And if he was being really honest, he didn’t want to see her with anyone else, period. Unless it was him, a mental admission that was not easily made. But for that to happen, he’d have to convince her that he was worth the effort.
She returned to his side with a basket full of flowers and some spools of ribbon and tulle. “Since Maggie doesn’t have a veil, I was thinking I could make one for her. We’ve still got some wire back at the prison, don’t we? The one we used for the coops?”
“Probably.” He fished out a bundle of blue hydrangea from her selection, rubbing a calloused thumb along the silken petals.
“I know, don’t tell me. It’s stupid.”
“No, it … it kinda matches the color of your eyes.”
The instant the words came out of his mouth, he desperately wanted to swallow them back down. Since when did he know the exact color of her eyes, and what the hell was he doing telling her that he did? There was no way to backpedal from this one.
He didn’t have to. Carol flung her arms around his neck and kissed him. He stumbled into the counter, surprised by her sudden action. He knew what was happening but not entirely sure why. He had never pegged her as one of those women who fell for a corny line. Maybe it was her way for forgiving him for being an asshole all day. Obviously he didn’t know all of her quirks, but something told him he was going to enjoy finding them out.
He spun around and hoisted her onto the counter, positioning himself between her thighs. She pulled her tank top over her head, and he buried his face between her breasts, steeling himself as she ran her fingers across his scalp. Their last two encounters had been fast paced; he just needed to take it slow and focus. Make it good for her, show her that he’s serious.
But then she wrapped her legs around him and squeezed, and there was no way he was going to be able to take it slow. There’d be time for that later. There was a soft thump behind him as she dropped her basket of flowers, but he was too focused on removing his pants to give it any attention. Her moaning was almost a distraction; he was going as fast as he could! His fingers fumbled with the button, but he felt a surge of victory when it finally unhooked.
Carol leaned hard against him, and he felt himself start to fall. He tried righting her, but she kept pushing, and he lost his balance. His body bumped into a solid form behind him as Carol’s knife landed a few inches from the side of his cheek. A splatter of fluid burst onto his face, and he was momentarily stunned. She finally came back into focus, droplets of blood on her cheek, eyes wide and glistening, and he realized what had just happened.
He had almost been bitten by a walker.
End of chapter 5