Thirteen Days 6/6

Thirteen Days
Written September 2013
Rated PG-13
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. The song Beth sings is “You and I” and was written by Stevie Wonder.  No infringement is intended.

A Youtube version of the song can be found here:

Carol wrapped the argyle quilt around her shoulders and sauntered back to the picnic table that Daryl had commandeered. While everyone else sat together, drinking wine and eating cake, he took one table for the two of them and sat on top of it. Under normal circumstances, she would have dragged him to the party. This time, however, being a little more secluded seemed like a better option.

She pondered his reaction to seeing the quilt from the cellar. While they had distributed the ones they had used to cover themselves, it didn’t seem right to let others use this one. The memories it evoked were too strong for her.

As she approached, she watched Rick and Daryl exchange a nod and smile. The gesture wasn’t entirely unusual – they were friends after all – but there was something about it that she couldn’t figure out. It was almost like they were finishing a conversation without the need to speak, a private exchange meant for only them. She stopped to give them a moment alone, but Rick saw her. He waved in greeting before walking away.

Daryl glanced over his shoulder but turned his entire torso when he saw the quilt. “You’re shittin’ me. Ya kept it?”

She did a little turn, arms outstretched to show off the familiar design. “Don’t worry; I’ve washed it.”

“I sure as hell hope so.” He patted the spot next to him on the table top, and she sat down. The way his eyes darkened and slid across her body, she could tell exactly what he was thinking, and she felt her cheeks redden. It was the same recollection she always had.

She offered half of the blanket to him, and he adjusted it over his shoulders, scooting closer to her until their thighs touched. She felt the slow burn return to her belly, the flame that erupted whenever he was near. If they’d been alone, they’d be on round two by now, and if their absence wouldn’t have been noticed, they would be alone.

He handed her a glass of wine, and she chuckled. “You sure you wanna trust me with alcohol? You know what happened the last time.”

“I think I can handle it,” he replied, taking a drink from the bottle to hide his smile.

The sounds of cheering and applause drifted to them. Hershel helped Beth stand on the bench of one of the picnic tables, and the audience spread out. Glenn and Maggie embraced in the middle of the courtyard, swaying to the sound of Beth’s sweet voice as she sang.

Here we are, on earth together
It’s you and I
God has made us fall in love, it’s true
I’ve really found someone like you

Carol smiled and sipped from her glass, watching Glenn and Maggie dance. The love in their eyes was evident even from her distance. She hadn’t been lying in the cellar; their love gave her hope that the world could rebuild. It wouldn’t be easy, but it would be possible. Marriage, children, family, community. All of it.

Will it stay, the love you feel for me
Will it say that you will be by my side
To see me through
Until my life is through

She could have that, with Daryl. He had performed the Dixon equivalent of sky writing by holding her hand at the wedding ceremony. There wouldn’t be a marriage or children, but they could live out the rest of their days together. The thought was both exciting and terrifying.

It had been so long since she had been in love. Every emotion was a butterfly, wings flapping wildly in her chest, and she wasn’t sure if she should laugh, cry, smile, or scream. The anxiety made her hands shake, and she squeezed Daryl’s knee to calm herself, watching him with a sidelong glance.

Well in my mind, we can conquer the world
In love
You and I, you and I
You and I

He tensed at the contact, remnants of the past, but the reaction was fleeting. She’d done a lot to keep him from flinching at a simple touch, and it became easier to relax with each passing day. When she leaned her head on his shoulder, he managed to remain calm. Besides, she felt warm and soft and fit against him perfectly.

And despite the fact that everything had gone better than he expected or even could have hoped, a tiny twinge of doubt began to pulsate in his mind.

I am glad
At least in my life I found someone
That may not be here forever to see me through
But I found strength in you

“Do you, uh…” He nodded his head toward Glenn and Maggie, who had now been joined by other dancing couples. “Ya know. Wanna go out there? To dance?”

Carol regarded him with a frown, and while he tried to look nonchalant, he realized he probably looked like he was in pain. He took a mouthful of wine and nearly choked as he worked it past the lump in his throat. She took the bottle from him and sat it on her side, away from him. “No.”

He expected himself to feel flooded with relief, since he didn’t know how to dance and had only asked in an attempt to emulate normal people with normal relationships. Instead he felt a little dejected and embarrassed. Why was she looking at him like that?

I only pray
That I have shown you a brighter day
Because that’s all that I am living for, you see
Don’t worry what happens to me

“Daryl, you don’t have to change for me.” She smiled gently. “I appreciate the sentiment; it’s very sweet, but it’s not you. I would never ask you to be somebody you’re not.” A blush crept onto her face. “That’s not the person I fell for anyway.”

He looked at her, but his eyes were drawn to the blue hydrangea in her hair. Acceptance, he reminded himself. Not just of their relationship but of him. No one had ever offered that before, had ever accepted him exactly the way he was, faults and all. “Just wanna do right by you,” he mumbled.

“You make me happy … and that’s right enough for me.”

Cause in my mind, you will stay here always
In love
You and I, you and I
You and I, you and I

The final globe of doubt popped and shattered in his mind. Daryl found himself stifled by an overwhelming sense of self-respect that he’d never really had before. He wasn’t inept or incompetent or incapable of feeling; he had merely believed that no one would want someone like him. Damaged. He’d lived his life thinking he needed to prove himself, when in reality he simply needed to be himself.

Carol was smiling at him again. Carol, with her endless forgiveness and patience. She was the best thing he’d ever had in his life, and he’d be damned if he lost her again. He was finally home.

In my mind, we can conquer the world
In love
You and I, you and I
You and I

The final note was punctuated by a rumble of thunder. There were a few screams as fat raindrops burst through the clouds and drench everything beneath them. Daryl and Carol darted under the walkway, quilt acting as a makeshift umbrella, and watched everyone else run for the cell block. The courtyard cleared out in a hurry with just the two of them remaining outside.

“You’d’a thought they were gonna melt, the way they took off,” Daryl said with a smirk. He gestured to the downpour. “This is nothin’ compared to what we went through.”

Slowly, one hand over the other, Carol pulled the blanket from his shoulders. Then she spread it out on the ground, careful to straighten out any creases or lumps. Daryl watched her methodic actions, rooted to the ground.

When she finished, she straightened and clasped his face in her hands, eyes locked on his. Emotions flashed between them like lightning, one dominating the others like thunder. “I love storms.”

He nuzzled his nose against hers, sharing the same breath, the same feelings. “I love them too.”

The End


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