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"When we were out there by that car," he said, his tongue so goddamn dry he could hardly speak, "what if I didn't show up?"

Daryl knew what she was gonna say.  That she'd been planning to leave.  She'd snuck out, she'd juiced up that car, she'd had it all planned.  He'd known something was up almost from the get-go, from basically the first few hours after Terminus.  She hadn't talked much, had kept to herself.  It reminded him so much of the way she'd been at the quarry, that timid little mouse she'd been, that once or twice he'd almost caught himself getting mad at her.  Which of course just made him mad at himself.

They'd all gone through shit, in the days after the prison fell.  Whatever it was she'd gone through, it was bad.  Shit, though, she'd survived her own kid dying, survived seeing her stumble out of that barn as a Walker.  She'd get through this, too.  Daryl couldn't quite bring himself to look at her.  He knew she was laying down next to him on the bed, and he could still feel what it had been like to hug her.  Looking seemed a bit too much right now.

"I still don't know," Carol said.  Her voice was so soft, someone else might have thought she was saying the truth.  He knew better.  And there was a part of him that wanted to have it out with her.

What? he wanted to say.  To yell, to shout.  You think you're the only one that's had a shitty couple of weeks?  I got stuck with Beth and I fucked it all up, and now she's gone.  Rick got the ever-loving shit beat out of him, watched his own son almost get raped in front of his eyes.  Maggie and Glenn and the rest were this close to winding up on some sick fucks' supper table.  So why don't you just get over it?  Everything's fucking awful all the fucking time, that's just the way it is now, so stop trying to run away.  Just stop.  You can't run away - we need you.

And that's as far as he'd let his inside voice go before he cut it right the hell off.  Wasn't going to think about needing anyone.  Daryl hadn't made it as far as he had - and that wasn't just counting the days since the Walkers had shown up - by needing a single solitary soul.  He sure as shit didn't need Carol.  Appreciated having her around, sure - she'd saved all their asses just now, hadn't she?  But that was all.

He laid down beside her, feeling old and tired all of a sudden.  This room in the women's shelter reminded him a bit of the prison, and knowing the locked doors between them and the street made him feel as safe as he'd felt in quite some time.  Adjusted his head, got his pillow situated.  He didn't know what to say to her.  Didn't know what to do.  He'd never been any good at the touchy-feely shit.

They just laid there, her legs hanging off the edge of the mattress, his feet up on the frame, for a long time.  Daryl found himself drifting off - it was so quiet, so still.  Then Carol was sitting up.

"Where you going?" he asked, his voice hoarse.  He didn't like the way it sounded.

"To sleep," she said.  But she didn't get any farther than sitting up on the edge of the bottom bunk.  He looked at her for a little bit.  She seemed too skinny to him, and the way her head was hanging, she must of been tired.  Maybe too tired to stand up, probably way too tired to climb up onto the top bunk.  Without really thinking, he brought his legs up, swung around so he was laying the right way down the bed, realizing his pillow was still against the wall and fighting hard to lift his head enough to stuff the pillow under.  Shit, when was the last time he'd actually got some sleep?

Carol turned her head and looked at him.  The room was so dark, just some moonlight coming in through the window.  He couldn't really see her all that well.  She didn't say nothing; just looked.

Daryl swallowed, his throat as dry as his tongue had been.  Without really planning to, because if he'd thought about it he'd never of said it, he rasped out, "C'mere."

For a long long minute she just kept sitting there, looking at him.  He couldn't see her fucking eyes, he couldn't tell what she was thinking.  Come where? he thought - there wasn't enough room for the two of them.  But she laid down, moving real careful like she was hurt, her back to him.  Should he put his arms around her, like a hug?  Daryl couldn't figure out what the fuck to do with his arms.  He kept the left one all hitched up against his chest, and very carefully put his right arm over her waist.  Something inside him seemed to melt a little at feeling just that one small part of her body.  She was warm.  Of course she's warm, you dumb fuck.  It's hot as shit in this room with the door and window closed and no AC.

She made a sound in her throat, and he couldn't tell quite what it was.  It almost sounded like she was crying.  She wiggled back just a little bit at the same time that he put a bit more of his arm around her.  He heard her almost say something twice - he could hear her open her mouth, could hear her take a little breath.  But she never said anything else that night, just covered his hand with hers.  He inched his head forward just enough that the tip of his nose was poking her hair.  That was the last thing he remembered before he fell asleep.

January 2017

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