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.
Carol steered the car down the highway, headlights cutting a path through the darkness. She looked over at Michonne, the third time in as many minutes. “How you doin’?”
“I’ll be all right.”
She nodded and turned her eyes back on the road. Her hands were still shaking, trails of dried blood illuminated by the soft glow of the dash light. Damn, Carol, you bring destruction wherever you go.
Like everything else in her life right now, the run was a disaster. They had the supplies requested, but the cost had been high. Michonne had been injured, and Carol… She blinked back the tears that teemed on the edge of her lashes.
“You’re not gonna cry again, are you?”
Carol tried to laugh, but the sound turned more into a moan. “I’m sorry. The adrenaline won’t stop.” She looked at Michonne again. “Are you sure you’re okay?”
“It’s just a dislocated shoulder.”
“I’m sorry,” she whispered, swiping away a stray tear.
“Are you okay?”
The prison was in sight, and she pressed harder on the gas pedal. All she wanted was Daryl. To hold her, to tell her it was going to be okay, to praise her efforts at keeping herself and Michonne alive. He was her gravity, the one thing holding her to this life.
But now she was spinning out of control. He barely looked at her. Didn’t speak to her. She knew he’d never touch her again. There was no doubt in her mind that if – if – he even greeted them in the loading dock, he wouldn’t be the one to comfort her.
The gates parted, and she drove inside, hitting a bump that caused Michonne to wince. She mumbled an apology, eyes scanning the loading dock, looking for him, hoping he’d be there just to prove her wrong.
Rick and Daryl ran to the car, meeting Tyreese who was already helping Michonne out of the passenger side door. Daryl’s heart thumped in his chest as Carol stumbled out of the vehicle, weak and disoriented. What he saw was something out of a horror movie.
Both women were caked with dried blood, hardly a clean spot on them. Carol’s skin looked almost raw, and bits of shriveled organs dotted Michonne’s hair. Whatever had happened, it had obviously involved a lot of fighting.
And I wasn’t there for her.
Daryl clenched his fists to prevent himself from going to her. His refusal had gotten her into this, and she would assuredly push him away if he tried to comfort her now. He looked to Rick, who continued to stare agape at the scene.
“I’m gonna take her to Bob,” Tyreese said, guiding Michonne into the prison. “Get her shoulder checked out.”
Daryl cast one final look at Carol; she didn’t meet his gaze, didn’t seem to even register his presence. Content that she was safe with Rick, safer than she’d be with me, he followed Tyreese and Michonne inside. “What the hell happened?”
“Made it to the store, got all the stuff Hershel needed. On the way back, we stopped to check some abandoned vehicles for supplies. There were a couple walkers here and there. Nothing significant.”
Daryl strode in front of her and blocked the path to the cell block. “You look like fuckin’ extras in Carrie and you’re tellin’ me ‘nothing significant’?”
“Nothing significant until the herd moved through and we found ourselves surrounded. One of them yanked my arm back, dislocated my shoulder.”
His eyes drifted to the injury to her dominant arm. Michonne had been unable to fight; Carol had been the one to take out the herd. The entire herd. And I told her to take the tanto. He punched the air in defeat. “Fuck!”
“Hey.” Michonne lifted her good arm and put a hand on his shoulder, a hint of a smile playing at her lips. “Your girl kicked some serious ass.”
“I just grabbed Michonne’s sword and started swinging.” Carol put her hands against the car to steady herself. “It’s not as heavy as I thought it would be.” She shook her head. Despite the lightness of the katana, her arms were weak from the movements. Every slice had to be fluid with a full reach to achieve maximum efficiency; her usual knives required quicker, shorter motions.
“How many were there?” Rick asked, startling her out of her reverie.
“Thirty? Forty? Felt like hundreds.” She didn’t want to think about the attack anymore, didn’t want to answer his questions. Her actions had been feral, a blind rage with only one purpose: to get back here, to Daryl. And he didn’t care at all. “I know you were gonna run the showers tomorrow so everyone could get ready for the weddin’ – but do you think you could make an exception for me?”
“Of course.” He reached a hand out like he was going to squeeze her arm but changed his mind when he couldn’t find a blood-free spot. “Of course.”
“Carol?” He offered a warm smile. “I’m glad you’re back. We all are. You’re an asset to our group.”
She tried to smile back, but her muscles wouldn’t cooperate. “I don’t think I’ll be going on another run any time soon. Things don’t seem to ever go in my favor.”
“Not yet – but they will. Be patient.”
As she hobbled her way into the building, she idly wondered if he meant something more by his statement. Be patient. She was tired of being patient, tired of waiting for things that never came. Thirteen days was plenty of time to make a decision. His refusal of her was obvious. It didn’t need words. It was evident in his actions, or lack thereof.
She’d heard him, loud and clear. What she thought could be something more than friendship turned out to be nothing more than a fling. Her feelings hadn’t been reciprocated; her imagination had created emotions where there were none. Fine. She’d dealt with rejection her whole life; what was one more?
There were plenty of new residents in the prison. Maybe she’d get lucky and find a man who was available both physically and emotionally. She wanted to do more than survive the end of days; she wanted to come out on top, strong and beautiful and desirable and wanted. The world owed her that much.
Her pace slowed as she turned the corner and came face to face with the only potential roadblock to her newfound optimism.
She felt her eyes well up with tears. How was she supposed to heal with him in such close proximity?
“Michonne told me what happened. Ya all right?” he asked, his drawl laced with concern.
“Fine. Now if you’ll excuse me.”
“I’m sorry about this morning. I shoulda been there with you on this run.”
“Don’t do this,” Carol pleaded.
“Do what? I’m tryin’ to apologize.”
“And I said stop. Daryl, I can’t do this anymore. I can’t look at you and not think about that night in the cellar. I can’t keep pretending that one day you’re gonna change your mind and love me back. So just…” The dam holding back her emotions finally cracked, and the tears flooded from her eyes. “Just let me get over you.”
“Dammit, I said no.” He crushed her into his arms, mouth coming down hard on hers. The kiss was angry, fierce, almost violent in nature. His teeth bit into her bottom lip, and she tasted blood, warm and coppery on her tongue. She tried to push him away, but her body responded oppositely, gripping his back and pressing herself against him.
Suddenly, he shoved her away almost as forcefully as he had grabbed her, choking out a pained gasp, his face unreadable. She ached from the loss of contact and blindly reached out for him again. Her fingers brushed against his cheek, feeling the sandpapery stubble, damp from her tears.
He captured her hand and pressed it flat against his chest, above his heart. She felt the rhythmic drumming, beating in time with her own. His lips fluttered against her bloodied forehead and he whispered once again:
End of chapter 4