CHAPTER 10: Hunting

Rick decided that they would stay at this house a few days, so Daryl went out to hunt at dawn the next morning. He was gone all day long, and by nightfall Carol and the others were worrying. Hershel tried to reassure them that the redneck hunter could take care of his self and was probably going to come waltzing in the door any minute. When Daryl still wasn't back at midnight, and Carol still couldn't sleep, she got up to sit at the kitchen table with a mug of water, pretending that it was a soothing hot cup of tea.

After some quiet sex in the tiny back bedroom, Maggie got up for a drink, noticed Carol in the kitchen and joined her. She placed her hand on Carol's shoulder, saying "He's okay… he's probably sleeping in a barn somewhere." Carol nodded numbly, fidgeting with her mug.

Maggie tried to lighten the mood, asking in a teasing voice, "So, after I saw you two at the bar, anything else happen?"

Carol smiled and looked up. "Well, another kiss in the stockroom. But then he took off, and… well, he was pretty drunk, I don't think he even remembers…" Carol paused, wondering if she should continue. Maggie's eager look encouraged her so she went on, "He did kinda hug me in the pickup that night last week when it rained… and then another time..."

"Yaaayyy!" Maggie's brilliant smile lit the room and Carol felt better. They talked quietly a little longer, then Carol saw Maggie yawn. She insisted that Maggie go back to sleep with Glenn. Trying to shut her brain down and not think about all the horrible possibilities, Carol sat up all night waiting for Daryl's return.

Meanwhile, out in the forest, Daryl had found nothing all morning. In the afternoon he shot a few squirrels, and was nearly back to the house with them when he found a small deer just before dusk. He took aim with his crossbow, and let loose a bolt. Unfortunately, the deer moved slightly and the bolt did not hit any vital organs. Daryl knew that it was wounded and trailing blood (thus attracting any Walkers in the area), so he followed it as it ran. By the time he caught up with it, it was quivering and bleeding out, so he delivered the killing blow with his knife.

He quickly field-dressed the deer, then used a fallen branch to dig a hole, and buried the entrails so the smell wouldn't attract Walkers. He slung the deer over his shoulders and set off in the direction of the house. He estimated that he was still a mile away when it became too dark to continue, so he used the rope at his belt to hang the deer high in a tree, well out of the reach of any Walkers that might find it, and perched himself in a tree several yards away to try to sleep.

At dawn he took a good look at his surroundings, and was relieved to find that the groans he heard were coming from only 2 Walkers reaching for the deer. He jumped down from his tree and stealthily crept up behind them, stabbing them in the head quickly. He left the deer hanging while he jogged back to camp.

By dawn, Carol was exhausted from worry and lack of sleep. She was still sitting at the kitchen table, trying to get her silent tears under control before anyone else woke up, when the back door suddenly opened and Daryl walked in, with dried blood smeared on his face and arms. Carol jumped up and hugged him before either of them could think. He awkwardly returned the hug, looking down at her bowed head. A tear dripped onto his neck, and he put a hand gently under her chin, looked in her eyes and asked with worry, "Hey, what's this?"

Carol reached up to wipe dried blood off his earlobe and replied, "What's this?"

They both laughed nervously, and he simply replied "Deer." Their eyes locked for a moment before he awkwardly looked away. He put both hands on her shoulders and pushed her back slightly, asking, "You want venison for breakfast? Better go get me some plastic bags." As she smiled and moved quickly toward the supplies on the counter, he couldn't resist slapping her ass playfully, and was rewarded with a sweet smile and a cute sound. At the sound of Carol's squeal, everyone in the living room woke up and greeted Daryl happily.