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.
Search the entire premises before proceeding.
Take your time.
Pay attention to your surroundings.
Never let your guard down.
Daryl knew the drill, knew it better than most. He and Rick had taught it to nearly everyone at the prison, a mixture of police procedure and old fashioned common sense. If you want to survive, you follow the rules. Ignore the rules, and you die.
He hadn’t said a word to Carol in over an hour, hadn’t even looked at her in the passenger seat. He had ignored the rules, thinking with his dick instead of his head. Hadn’t searched the whole store. Hadn’t been paying attention to his surroundings.
Easy fucking target.
It was exactly like he had told her back in the cellar, but he’d been taken by her belief that love made someone stronger. Total, utter bullshit. Love made you stupid. Love made you immune to rational thinking. Love made you die.
Her voice was barely audible above the roar of the engine, but it was a sound that he would recognize no matter what. He looked at her quickly, noted her red rimmed eyes. Aw, shit. It would be so easy to be mad at her, to blame her for every damn thing that had happened to them in the last 24 hours. All he had to say was fuck you, and it’d be over. Done. Finished.
But it wasn’t her fault. All she had wanted to do was care about him. His parents, his brother, Rick, the group at the prison. None of them had ever cared about him the way she did. No one had ever believed in him the way she did. She was the only good thing he’d ever had in his life.
He didn’t want it to be over, but he couldn’t let it continue.
Turning the truck onto a familiar road, he guessed they were within ten minutes of reaching the prison. If they were going to have this talk, it would have to be now.
He licked his lips while considering a reply. There were a lot of things he could say to her apology. Unfortunately, he didn’t know which of them to choose. He finally settled on, “Sorry for what?”
“For not making sure the whole store was safe.”
He sighed. It wasn’t his plan to make her feel guilty; she was the one who had saved his life, not the other way around. “Don’t go blamin’ yourself for that. I was supposed to be lookin’ for walkers.”
“You almost got bit,” she said quietly. “I never would have forgiven myself.”
His desire to comfort her was so overwhelming, he almost changed his mind about everything. The wall he had built around his heart crumbled every time he looked into her eyes. If he didn’t say something now, it would collapse, and he would be forced to confront his feelings for her. He needed to regain his self-control, needed to find some brick and rebuild the wall. Without that protection, everyone would know he was a failure.
“You know we can’t make this work.”
“You mean you can’t make this work.”
“It wouldn’t last.” Because I’d fuck it up.
She barked out a derisive laugh. “I knew you were going to say that.”
“Fuck, Carol. What did you think was gonna happen? We were gonna waltz into the prison hand in hand and have a double wedding with Glenn and Maggie?”
“You would never waltz.”
“This a fuckin’ joke to you? Well, I ain’t laughin’.”
She took a breath, eyes forward, voice steady. “We made a mistake, Daryl.”
“But that’s no reason to bury your head back in the sand and pretend like nothing happened between us!”
“I never said it didn’t happen; I said it can’t happen again!”
There was a long pause before she spoke again. And when she did, every word was like a knife digging further into his body, grating at the bone, tearing him apart. “Why are you doing this?”
“It ain’t for me; it’s for you.” He couldn’t bear to look at her; she never hid her feelings from him, and he was afraid of what he’d find if he allowed himself to meet her gaze. “I can’t keep you safe anymore.”
“I can take care of myself.”
“Dammit, Carol, it’s got nothin’ to do with you!” he yelled, punctuating his sentence with a fist to the steering wheel.
The fence to the prison was in sight, and he saw a couple of residents move to open the gate. He needed to get away, to nurse his wounded heart in peace. Why couldn’t she understand that this was the best option? The hardest decisions were always the right ones.
He drove up to the loading dock, and Carol was out of the truck before he even put it in park. She slammed the door and, almost as an afterthought, addressed him through the open passenger window. “There was something there, Daryl. I know you felt it too. Something good. Something worth living for.”
The words rang in his ears, and he felt all of the fight draining from him, replaced by memories and regret.
“But you’ll never admit it, will you? You’ll tuck your tail and run, pretend it never happened, go back to being alone. And that’s fine for you – but what about me?”
He tried to swallow, but his mouth was dry. “I can’t be the man you want me to be.”
She gave him a small shrug as she walked away. “Maybe you already are.”
His gaze dropped as he tried to process their conversation. Something on the floor caught his attention; it was the blue hydrangea from the craft store. He picked it up carefully, stared at it, wondered if it was some kind of sign. He saw Carol embrace Maggie at the loading bay doors and show her the basket of flowers. Maggie clapped her hands excitedly and hugged her again.
The driver’s side door opened, and Rick stood on the other side. “Glad you made it back. We were ready send out a search party.”
Daryl climbed out, tucking the flower out of sight. “We were all right.”
“I don’t know about you, but we had a big storm last night. Lightning, hail, the whole nine.” They rounded the truck, and Daryl lowered the tailgate, revealing their haul. Rick beamed, picking up a ten pound bag of rice. He handed it to a nearby resident, who passed it to another, creating a chain to unload the truck bed.
“We found this in a storm cellar at a farmhouse,” he explained. “Got caught in a tornado.”
“Looks like you got lucky too.”
Daryl froze. “What?”
Rick gestured to the food but squinted at him curiously. “Why, what did you think I meant?”
Carol grabbed two jugs of water, nodding a hello to Rick, but when her eyes met Daryl’s, her expression went dark. Daryl watched her departing form, struggling to keep any emotion out of his voice. “We were just lucky to find the shelter.”
“Sounds like it was one hell of a storm.”
“It was incredible,” he mumbled, the double meaning not lost on him. He couldn’t take his eyes off of Carol, but she seemed content to ignore him. He’d made the wrong choice, he realized that – but it was too late to fix it. Shit, he thought. Now he was sure she hated him.
As she walked away, listening to the final exchange between Daryl and Rick, Carol failed to suppress a misty smile. Shit, she thought. Now she was sure she loved him.