A/N: This one's nothing serious, just some light Caryl set at the prison. (We all need some happy in our lives, right?) It was written as a one-shot, but I'm honestly not sure if that's where it will stay.
Disclaimer: The Walking Dead and its characters do not belong to me. Mechanical references are straight from google.
Carol slowed as she rounded the corner into the sun, the white heat blinding after a morning spent inside the dim prison walls. The rubber tub serving as a laundry basket bounced too sharply against her hip. She'd intended to take advantage of the stifling weather and hang their ragged bits of clothing on the makeshift line. They'd dry in minutes in heat like this. Spotting Daryl, however, drove the intention straight from her mind. Unwittingly, her feet slowed to a halt on the disused concrete.
He was working on one of the cars. One of the older ones that lacked any keys. They'd rolled it in from the outer lot, intending, she'd thought, to use it for parts. The rusting Chevy had stood a silent watch on the abandoned lot throughout their stay at the prison. From the sun-faded paint, she wondered if it hadn't lingered there for years before that.
Bending slightly, Carol eased her grip on the laundry tub, allowing it to slide through her dampened hands. From the driver's seat of the silent car, Daryl glanced over, alerted by the scuffle it made when it hit the concrete. Wriggling on his back with a tool clenched in his teeth, he offered a nod at her approach. She watched as, boots planted on the ground, he edged headfirst under the steering column. A bemused smile crossed her lips when she realized what he was about to do. Interested, she chanced a few ambling steps forward, resting her fingers on the open car door.
"I hear that's illegal."
His cheek twitched toward a smirk, but he didn't respond. Carol observed as he pried around under the wheel, preparing, she supposed, whatever was needed to hot-wire the car. Sweat rolled from his temple, dampening his hair into darkened streaks. The sleeveless shirt he wore edged dangerously high over his waist, wet cotton clinging damply to his muscular chest. Oblivious to her attention, or perhaps just in spite of it, Daryl continued on at his task, twisting easily around on the seat while her shadow kept the sun from reaching his eyes.
"Pretty hot," she mused with a teasing grin. Carol shielded her eyes and innocently surveyed the sun high overhead. She didn't miss, though, how his head whipped up from the seat or the way his face reddened just a little too much to be an effect of the heat. She couldn't help but be pleased as he fumbled slightly with a tool.
Satisfied, she crossed past his boots and leaned against the rear door of the car, ignoring, for now, the basket of laundry she'd abandoned so eagerly moments before. The heat of the sun-warmed metal soaked deliciously into her aching back. Still, she couldn't stop the chuckle from passing her lips as she eyed Daryl's well-worn boots peeking out from the open door. It was ridiculous, really. Hot-wiring a car from inside a prison.
Though no more ridiculous, she supposed, than laundry strung on old barbed wire.
Removing the screwdriver from his teeth, Daryl paused only long enough in his work to offer her something in the way of a half-serious glare. She felt it like a nudge against her back. "Whatcha laughin' at?"
"Nothing." Carol bit back a grin and studied the sky. "Just the things that come in handy at the end of the world."
He didn't respond for a moment, but she could hear a scraping sound from inside. Carol rubbed absently at her dampened neck. Heat shimmered waves across the lot, the effect creating tiny puddles that didn't exist. She used to chase them when she was a kid.
"It's whatcha get for growin' up with Merle," Daryl muttered, dragging her back to the present and away from her thoughts. He huffed impatiently from inside the car, and she could just imagine how he'd swiped at his hair. "Hot- wirin' cars and avoidin' the cops."
"Well, it's a lot more useful than piano lessons and T-ball, that's for sure."
From Daryl came a snort of agreement. "Guess it's a good thing Merle weren't no boy scout."
"Probably so." She squinted against the sun, shifting as the heat of the metal stung at her skin. "Doubt it would have done much good. Lots of things they never taught us in the girl scouts, anyway. Like how to kill walkers or hot-wire a car." She smirked. "But I do sell a mean box of cookies."
He graced her with another good-natured grunt before asking her to hand him the pliers.
"Why this car?" Carol passed him the tool, then surveyed their meager options across the lot. "Looks like it'd fall apart before it rolled out the gate."
"Got more life in it than you'd think." He hissed slightly as he tugged himself farther under the wheel, one boot scrambling for purchase up on the seat. "And the older ones are easier to wire. Way they make 'em now, gotta go through a lot more work." He jerked off a panel, then stilled his movements almost as if reconsidering the task.
Curious at his hesitation, Carol leaned to peer in through the open door. Moments later, she found herself taking a quick step backward as he wriggled out from underneath the wheel. His boots dropped to the ground, skidding slightly on a few pebbles of loose gravel as he edged himself forward and out of the car. Once standing, he gestured to the empty seat. "Go on."
Carol blinked in surprise. "What?"
"Go on," he repeated, swiping an arm over his brow. "Get in there. Oughta learn how to do this."
"Said yourself it comes in handy. Oughta learn...case you ever need ta know."
She swallowed and studied his face a moment more. He was serious enough, and she couldn't fault the argument. Still...
"We doin' this, Girl Scout?" His eyes held something like amusement, but she got the sense that he really did want her to learn. That beneath the gruff, teasing words there rested something like concern.
Carol eyed the narrow bench before moving to perch delicately on the edge of the seat. Even sitting where she was, she could feel the trapped heat of the vehicle tumbling in waves like an oven against her back. She looked up at Daryl. "I don't even know where to start."
He shoved a few strands of wet hair off his face. "Kinda the whole point of learnin'." He gestured behind her and wiped a screwdriver with his rag. "Can't do it from there. Gotta get underneath on one like this." Daryl held out the tool.
With a sigh, she accepted the proffered screwdriver and eased herself backward to assume the position he'd occupied only moments before. "I don't know what I'm doing," she tried once more. The screwdriver felt too large in her hand, and, to be honest, she wasn't even sure what, if anything, she was supposed to unscrew. Feeling the humid air crawl across her midsection, Carol tugged awkwardly at her shirt, trying in vain to close the gap between it and the top of her jeans.
"Just tell me whatcha see."
Blowing out a breath, Carol twisted her neck, readjusting her sweaty grip on the metal tool. He'd already pried off part of the cover, and she could see where he'd intended to take off the rest. "Wires," she answered in a deadpan voice.
"Yeah, I got that part." She heard him chug from a bottle of water and fumble with the plastic cap. "What color? Different colors mean different things." His boots crunched on the gravel, nearing the spot where her legs now dangled. She flushed when she sensed his gaze skimming over her body, suddenly conscious of lying stretched on her back. Relax, Carol. He's just trying to get a look at the car.
"There's..." She shifted in an attempt to keep her shoulder from falling off the seat. Her shirt only managed to ride up again. "There's red, brown...one's kinda yellow..."
She pried off the second piece of plastic, then shifted it awkwardly down to the floor. "Looks like two...of most." Carol cocked her head to the left to eye him from under the wheel. He was watching, just like she thought, backlit by the midafternoon sun. "Really, I have no idea what I'm doing. I'll probably electrocute myself."
"Ain't gonna let ya get hurt." He leaned forward, gripping the roof and edging his torso into the cab just above where she lay. Daryl's knee pressed against hers. An electric jolt traveled her leg. The flush swept briefly over her face, and for a moment Carol doubted it had much to do with the heat of the day.
She marveled, not for the first time, how his comfort with her varied so much from one brief moment onto the next. That night on the bus and that day in the tombs...but sometimes he'd flinch if she did so much as brush his hand.
"It's easy," he assured, nodding toward the wheel and producing a knife. Carol did her best to focus. "Just gotta figure out what you're lookin' at. Can teach a kid to do it. Have Asskicker out here in a couple a years."
"Right." Carol gritted her teeth at what was more than likely a sad reality. "So what do I do first?"
He flashed a grin and backed away, leaving her the knife and more room to maneuver.
He told her, guided her patiently through all of the steps. Carol's sweaty fingers refused to behave, but he just waited easily through all of her fumbles, repeating directions and leaning in from time to time to check on the progress. And at last, when the engine finally sparked to life under her own hands, he looked at her and actually smiled. "Told ya. Nothin' to it." He extended an arm over her waist.
She accepted his hand as he hauled her off the cramped bench seat. Carol righted herself next to the car, enjoying the way his palm fit over hers. He held on, she noticed, for an all-too-brief moment even after she stood. Dizzily, she leaned back against the rusting frame, realizing the back of her shirt was completely soaked through. "Nothing to it," she repeated in a mutter. "I'm not so sure about that." Carol rolled her eyes, though he saw the pride that was there. Inhaling a breath, she savored the tentative breeze on the back of her neck. "Took me an hour to get through this one, and you tell me every car's different."
Daryl shrugged as he stalked around to peer at the engine, now humming away beneath the raised hood. She missed the steadiness of his hand covering her own. "Did fine." He squinted down to study a hose. "And they ain't that different, long as you find an older model. Just need more practice is all. Some time to get 'em all figured out." He dabbed at something with his rag before nodding in slight satisfaction. "Can show ya on some of the other cars. Teach ya how ta work with the newer ones. Be runnin' from the cops in no time at all."
He swore he saw her smile at the words as she joined him at the front of the car. Satisfied with what he saw, Daryl moved to unhook the prop and release the hood, but she beat his hands to the greasy hook. Sweat had soaked through her shirt, and he blushed at the way it clung to her skin as she reached up to ease down the hood.
She caught him watching even though he jerked back his head. She didn't seem to mind, though. Just let the hood drop and rested her hip on the front of the car. A moment later, he leaned beside her, silently offering his bottle of water. She accepted it with a brush of her hand, gratefully untwisting the cap.
Daryl chewed a nail and watched a single cloud dissipate in the sky. The hum of the engine roared in his ears, and he found himself a little unsure where exactly to go from here.
"Thanks for teaching me," Carol offered, gaze still trained across the lot. He watched as she sipped from the plastic bottle. Then those blue eyes turned on him. "It was actually kind of fun." She offered him a twinkling smile. "Lot better than the girl scouts."
He didn't know why he couldn't quite hold the gaze. "No problem." She turned away, but an impish thought struck his mind. "You were right," he finally dared with the tiniest grin.
"About what?" Carol looked to him in mild surprise, her cheeks flushed and damp with the heat.
"Whatcha said earlier." His allowed his eyes to flicker on her. The memory of her stretched in the cab flashed in his mind while heat rolled in waves up the back of his neck. "Is pretty hot." He felt himself blush as he pressed the words out. Daryl scrambled up and away from the car. "Best head in and find some shade."
He was gone a second later, jogging inside the cool cellblock walls.
A strange sort of pleasure jumped like a spark inside her chest. Carol was left standing shocked and alone...and almost certain his words had nothing to do with the warmth of the sun.