Written September 2013
Synopsis: Sequel to Shelter from the Storm. “It had been thirteen days since they returned from their run. Thirteen days since he had pushed her away. Thirteen days since he had spoken to her. He hated every minute.”
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.
The prison library had become their meeting room, a comfortable and relatively private location to discuss the daily chores needed to run a community. The leadership council consisted of what was commonly referred to as the founders, those who had overtaken and established the prison as a home. Anyone was invited to attend, but most of the Woodbury residents were content to do whatever was asked of them so they rarely came. This time was no exception.
Daryl stood against the support post, picking at a hang nail on his thumb, head bowed. He would occasionally gaze at Carol through his long bangs as she chatted amiably with Maggie. The chair next to her was empty, the chair that he had always occupied.
It had been thirteen days since they returned from their run. Thirteen days since he had pushed her away. Thirteen days since he had spoken to her.
Thirteen days since he’d begun desperately trying to convince himself that he’d made the right decision. Thirteen days of failing. Thirteen days without her.
He hated every minute.
“Mornin’.” Rick strode into the library, followed by Hershel, and they took their place at the table. Nobody sat next to Carol. Rick took note of the empty chair but said nothing. “I need two volunteers for a run today. Shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours.”
“Sure, what are we getting?” Glenn asked.
“Unfortunately, Glenn, you’re gonna have to sit this one out. You’re getting married tomorrow, and Maggie would have my head if I let you go.”
He scoffed at his fiancée, hands upturned in question, but she merely smiled at Rick and mouthed, Thank you.
He grinned back at her. “Now as most of you know, we took in some new survivors early this morning. Anna and Matt. Anna is pregnant.”
Hershel leaned forward in his chair. “Based on her estimation, she’s already in her third trimester, but my measurements show the baby is on the small side.”
“I met her,” Glenn mentioned. “I didn’t realize she was pregnant.”
“The baby could arrive at any time,” Hershel said. “We need supplies.”
“There’s a store about an hour east of here,” Rick said, flattening a map on the table and pointing to the general area. “We’ve already cleared it of formula, but we’ll need another crib, diapers, blankets…”
Daryl knew it was coming, but it didn’t stop him from scowling when Carol said, “I’ll go.” She’d do anything for the children in the prison, and she was no doubt thrilled at the arrival of another newborn. Where she saw the future, he saw a liability. Why would she even consider going on another run after what had happened the last time?
And the memory of the cellar came flooding back, painfully, overwhelmingly, and he choked back a moan, struggling to keep his expression blank. If she went on the run and was faced with another herd or tornado, she might not survive. And if she didn’t survive… He couldn’t leave it like this.
“Daryl, go with her.”
He froze as everyone except Carol turned to him. She was staring at her hands, either embarrassed by or indifferent to Rick’s command. Hadn’t people been paying attention? “Can’t.” Can’t be alone with her.
Rick stood and slowly walked over to Daryl. His voice was low and even, almost a whisper, sounding strangely like a plea. “I’m not asking you; I’m telling you.”
“And I’m tellin’ ya I can’t!” Can’t keep her safe.
“I’ll go,” Michonne offered, hand on the hilt of her katana. When Rick finally nodded and took a step back, she eased her stance. “We’ll leave in ten minutes.”
Carol rose from her chair and put on a gentle smile. “Maggie, I have something for you in my cell.” They left the library together, followed by Glenn and Hershel.
The expression on Rick’s face was sympathetic, and Daryl found himself angered by it. What the hell did he know about what happened? Nothing. So he should keep his damn nose out of it. There was no way Daryl would go on another run with her, and if she knew what was best, she would quit volunteering for them. She needed to stay in the prison where she was safe from harm, safe from him. He had failed her in the craft store, forced her to save him when he should have been the one saving her.
His fists clenched as he remembered the terror in her face as she felled the walker that had nearly bitten him, the tears that spilled down her cheeks. The what if was worse than the did; she did what she had to do, but every kill shook her faith in survival, and he knew that he couldn’t keep putting her through this.
They did have something worth living for, but it wasn’t worth dying for.
Without thinking, he turned on Michonne, rage coursing through his body, his face inches from hers. “If anything happens to Carol on this run, anything at all…”
“She’ll be fine.” Michonne pressed her forefinger to his chest and shoved him. “But if you don’t get out of my face, you won’t be.”
He stared at her, slapped in the face by reality. Threatening Michonne, talking back to Rick… What the hell was he doing? He’d had thirteen days to prepare an apology, thirteen days to actually recite it and deliver it, and he’d done nothing but spend thirteen days fucking things up. Now he was left with only ten minutes. Time to man up … or give up. “Thanks,” he mumbled.
“Get your shit together, Dixon.” She turned on her heel and walked out of the library. Rick gave Daryl one last glance before following.
“Oh, Carol, it’s beautiful!” Maggie accepted the gift with unsteady hands. It was a wreath of red, orange, and white silk roses, a layered tulle veil and ribbons flowing from the back. Carefully, she placed it atop her head. “You said you made this?”
Carol smiled and adjusted the crown. “I picked up the supplies during the last run. Your sister is makin’ you a bouquet, but I wanted you to have this in case I… Well, just in case.”
“There is no ‘just in case’. You’re going with Michonne. In and out in no time.” There was no mistaking the look of sadness on the other woman’s face, and she sighed. “He’ll come around, Carol. He always does.”
She gave her a feeble smile. “Maybe.”
“Well, if he doesn’t, then he’s the biggest fool in all of Georgia.” Maggie squeezed both of her hands. “Now come find me when you get back. You, me, and Beth – Michonne and Sasha too if they want to come – we’ll use that little spa kit I found last month, and we’ll practice dancin’ for my wedding tomorrow.”
“Yes dancing! I don’t know what Beth is planning, but she said she’s been practicin’ a few songs, so there will be dancing.”
“We’ll see. I still have to finish your cake.”
“I get a cake?” Her grin faded. “But how? We don’t have a cow, so no milk, no butter…”
“Let me worry about that.”
“Well, you best get back then! I haven’t had cake in forever.” She gave her a hug and whispered, “Keep your chin up.”
Daryl stood outside of Carol’s cell, listening to the conversation inside, slowly banging the back of his head against the concrete wall. He really was the biggest fool in all of Georgia. He’d managed to find the one woman who made him feel like he could be something, and he pushed her away, pretended she didn’t mean anything to him when she meant everything to him.
Maggie stepped out of the cell, still wearing her bridal wreath, and noticed him loitering. Without a word, she punched him in the shoulder and hurried down the steps. He glared after her, rubbing the spot where her fist had made contact.
Now or never.
He slowly walked in front of the cell. Carol knelt by her bed, her impressive collection of knives spread out before her.
“Take the tanto.”
She stiffened at the sound of his voice but didn’t turn around. “I’d feel more secure with the Bowie.”
“Michonne is gonna do the killin’. You don’t need the Bowie for this run.”
She selected the Bowie anyway and put the rest of her weapons away. His mouth twitched, but he said nothing, watching her attach the sheath for the knife to her belt. When she was ready, she met his gaze, almost challenging him to speak. And why shouldn’t she? He hadn’t spoken to her in thirteen days.
“Stay focused,” he said. “Clear the store before you get the supplies. Move quickly and quietly, and you’ll be back in time for supper.”
She scoffed at his comments, blue eyes blazing at his patronizing statements. “Is that why you came up here? To tell me how to clear a building?”
“No,” he said softly. The ten minutes were ticking away.
“Then what do you want, Daryl?”
What do I want? he thought as he stared at her. I want to apologize for turning you away. I want to stop fighting. I want a chance to make things right. I want to prove myself to you. I want to make you happy. But right now, I just want you, and I want you to want me too.
Carol nodded, looked at the floor and ran a hand across her eyes. When she faced him again, he saw nothing but disappointment. He had lost his chance. He had lost her. “See you at supper.”
She moved to pass him, and he grabbed her arm, rooting her in place. Say something, anything. And he said the only thing he could think of, hoping she would understand.
End of chapter 2