Hello people of the internet and fanfic readers alike! This is my original story 'Smoke the pain Keep the Ashes.' I would love it if you guys gave me feedback and let me know what you like and what to don't like! This is a Carol/Daryl fanfic so it will be centered around those two characters. This story is rated R for the use of language and minor sexual scenes so please read at your own risk. I will let you guys know in each chapter if there is a sex scene.
I do not own any rights whatsoever. Please like or rate whatever you call it on Movellas! Thanks love you guys!
He can’t sleep – not in this place, he fidgets uncomfortably on top of the rough pink blanket as he wonders – was this the room they stayed in before? Carol had walked right in to it – like she knew. He thinks it was, and he wonders if he is lying where Sofia had lain, all that time ago.
He knows Carol hates it here – hates that it mocks her with her inability to stay, but he gets it. Hell, she left. Sure it was one time, but it was more than his mom ever did for him – more than Merle ever did. Nobody left with him – not even once. He knows she sees it as a failure but he sees it for what it was – proof. She’d been trying, even before the shit hit the fan and her prick of an ex got bit – she’d been trying.
He shifts as he listens to her shallow breathing above him and he finds himself comforted by the thought. She’d have left, if none of this had ever happened. She would have – he can see it even if she can’t. Her breathing is evening out above him, and her soft breaths are soothing in a way no other white noise ever could be. He can still hear the walkers down the hall, growling and scratching, but he ignores it for now, instead opting to let her sleep.
He’s too keyed up to sleep – they are so close to finding Beth, and he wants to find that girl alive. Just one loss that he can fix – he wants it so badly he can taste it. He couldn’t save Sofia, and even the thought of the little girl tears at his heart. He knows that Carol lost Lizzie and Mika, even if he isn’t sure how. He knows it isn’t likely to be good, and he feels guilty that he wasn’t there for her. But she saved Judith.
That was something.
He wanted to save Beth the same way.
She shifts in her sleep above him, bed springs creaking as she huffs out a little sigh and he smiles at that, glancing around for something to preoccupy his time. His eyes land on the book on the desk, and he hesitates for a moment, looking around as if someone is watching him, before he grabs it and settles back on his pink blanket.
Nearly five hours later, he is still reading, engaged by the book’s way of didcussing the subject – he appreciates the non-nonsense tone of it, as well as the numerous exercises. He shifts, swinging his legs out of the bunk and he stretches, before he tucks the book in to his satchel. He’s read the whole thing – but it’s worth a second read, he thinks.
He stands, looking over at Carol who is in the same position she fell asleep in. She is clearly sleeping hard, and he finds himself pausing to study her face for a moment. Without the ever present tension and worry there, she almost looks like a whole different person. A girl – someone untouched by any of this shit, and his heart clenches as he stands there trying to memorize the relaxed lines of her face. He wants her to look like that awake, and he wants it bad enough that he thinks he’d do just about anything to ensure it.
The growls issue weakly from down the hall again, and Daryl turns his head, listening intently and then nodding once to himself as he smoothes the blanket over her, his hands lingering in ways he would be embarrassed to admit to anyone – especially her. He leaves the room silently, lifting his cross bow to his shoulder and glancing at her sleeping face as he closes the door.
They are still there – of fucking course they are – the dead don’t exactly fucking sleep, do they? He snorts and shakes his head as he straps the flashlight to his weapon before he creeps toward the door, bow loaded and ready. He decides to let the mother out first – take her out and then go in for the kid – they must have been here a while so he doesn’t anticipate any issues.
He breathes slowly and clears his mind – dropping in to hunt mode easily. They are not people, they are prey. The mother stumbles out from the door he opened, arms up and eager, old blood seeping from a bite in her shoulder. He puts her down quickly, yanking the arrow out without even looking at her face as he opens the door slowly.
It smells like death in here – and he knows that the fact that he can smell it means it must be horrifyingly strong. The child stumbles out of the corner and for one moment he freezes – back in the Georgian dirt holding Carol as pink sneakered feet trip towards them – but he pushes the memory back and releases a second arrow. The child sinks instantly, and he has to force himself to look away as he pulls this arrow out.
The room is cramped, but clearly filled with survival supplies – there is a gun, discarded and empty, and bullet holes in the walls. A knife lies on the floor, kicked half under the bed along with several dented cans of food. He looks around once, and then looks down at the little girl crumpled at his feet. She is remarkably untouched – no bites, no wounds of any kind and Daryl feels a wave of nausea rock through him as he escapes the room, back into the hall with the mother. He’s not sure what killed the girl – but he does know the girl killed the mother. She’d been unable to put her child down – and for a moment his vision swims, picturing that same Georgian dirt, but him unable to reach Carol before she ran to Sofia.
It could have been her.
He rubs a hand over his face as he looks around him, not wanting to see the horrors of what could have been. He opens the room next to it, ripping the plain white sheets from the bed and moving back to wrap both the mother and child up. He moves quickly, finding roof access and cringing when he sees that it’s a tar roof. A fire is dangerous – could engulf the whole roof – but fuck – who’s going to complain?
He moves back for the mother, carrying her gingerly and trying not to think of the weight of Carol in his arms that day. It had been close – if he hadn’t dropped his gun, if he hadn’t grasped her tighter when she tried to pull away. He lays the body down, pulling the edge of the sheet out so he can hold it over his lighter until it ignites. The sheet lights up and the fire seems to spread into the sky – lightening it as well, bit by bit.
He goes back for the girl slowly, his steps steady and sure as he finds himself contemplating the what ifs of it all. Not just Sofia and that barn – but the prison too. If Carol hadn’t hidden herself in those tombs or if he hadn’t found her. If she’d come to him about Karen and David – let him help. If he’d known then Rick couldn’t have kicked them both out – or maybe he could but either way she’d have been with him after the fall of the prison, and maybe those girls… but then maybe she'd have been locked in that boxcar with him, waiting to die.
The girl’s body is so light in his arms, and he carries her back to her mother, wondering if Sofia had ever been this slight. The body in his arms is younger, he thinks, but he’s shit at guessing that stuff anyway. She feels too small, too light, not tall enough, too bony and too stiff. It’s unnatural, he thinks as he heads out to the roof, judging the best place to place her without burning himself.
Once she is settled, the ashes of her mother cradling her as the fire engulfs them both, he feels more than hears Carol’s presence at his side. He glances at her and she looks at him with such a level of relief and vulnerability in the line of her shoulders that it almost takes his breath away.
“Thank you,” the words are soft, but strong with meaning, weighed down by events he doesn’t entirely know. But he doesn’t entirely need to know, he thinks. He knows whatever it is – she’ll tell him. He’s sure as shit not going to be the one to force that trust and break her in the process. Maybe break him too.
She’d never pushed him, not once, not with Merle not with his past, not with anything. And he can god damn well do the same for her, so he simply nods, and lets her be.
When she sidles closer to him, her shoulder brushes against his and he breathes a bit easier; content to stay by her side as the smoke clears and the embers turn to ash.