Smoke the Pain Keep the Ashes


2. Clear the Air

Chapter 2: Clear the Air

Her gut wrenched at the sight of the shadowy figures behind the glass door. The one on the right was just a bit smaller than she, whilst the other only came up to her hip.

Sophia. The name rang in her ear like a rusty gong that hadn't been played for centuries. She turned her head, trying to torch the name from her mind. Her face was actually clenching, she could feel it, almost as if the memory itself was trying to break free of her.

"You don't have to." Daryl could see it too. That rage that the new world had instilled into her. She inched towards the door.

"You don't." He persisted still, forcing her eyes on his.

Why was he doing this? She wasn't mad that he was keeping her from putting them down exactly. She was mad at the fact that he was acting as if she was still this lost little lamb that he had to protect. And maybe...that she knew she wouldn't have been able to do it, even if he'd have let her.

No. She was not the lamb anymore. She was the wolf.

But he's still staring at her, why is he still staring at her? Looking away, she strides across the hall and around the corner, unwilling to confront what is now right behind her.

Tomorrow would be better. They could get out of this god damn place, hopefully find Beth, and get the hell out of the city. The metal ladder to the top bunk creeped when she climbed up and flung herself onto the mattress, not caring enough to bother herself with the covers.

A minute later she felt the bunk shift, a slight ruffle of the covers, and a soft grunt. How did she get here anyway? This place--with it's moldy bunk beds, walker children, and old memories. She could be in Florida right now. Near the coast even. If it hadn't been for him.

Him...Daryl. He's kept her from doing a lot of stupid things lately. Against her will of course, but still...they had been things she had only thought once about. The farm-- that day that will never go away, no matter how hard she tries to forget--he held her as she cried.

It almost wasn't crying. More of a way of letting go of herself, allowing herself to think without having to control her emotions. Needless to say it was the hardest she'd ever cried.

The soft growl echoed in the hallway and for a moment...just a moment... She was afraid. So she did what she had done a million and one times before. She forced herself to close her eyes, and went to sleep.

Birds were what woke her up that morning. That was one less time she could say that the sound of anything dead had woken her. And that, to her, was one more victory.

Taking in the mid morning sunshine through the window, she noticed smoke rising past. Now she was really awake. Grabbing her knife from under her pillow, and the rifle she always kept, she sprinted into the hallway. Peering into the nearest window, she squinted her eyes. What she saw next created a lump in her throat that grew larger with every passing second.

The flames from the fire made the glass and everything around it, warm. Slowly, and quiet carefully, Daryl held a petite body in his arms. The body was covered with a snow white cloth,that turned midnight black as it was burned by the glowing embers.

For the first time, in quiet a long while, she felt hot tears come to her eyes.

Sliding next to Daryl only moments later, she stares into the fire. The ashes of the mother almost seem to cradle the body of the small girl. Without looking, she can still feels is eyes on her. Instead of looking straight into his eyes and saying something that is filled with words but empty of meaning, she says the only two words that can even begin to describe how grateful she is.

"Thank you."

Daryl jus nods. Lets her slide a bit closer to him even, which is more than words could have ever done.

They stay like this for a while, as the fire burns, the embers scorch, and the air clears.

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