The Walking Dead isn't mine.
She regretted it almost at once. The way he froze. The sound he made when he exhaled. And that breath only released when she had stepped back from him. It was a shaky, whimper of pain. Barely audible. His head was cast down now and she knew she should go. That he wanted to be left alone.
Embarrassment flooded her. They were on watch together, but she could make some excuse. Someone could replace her. Or not. Daryl would be fine on his own. She felt certain he only required her absence to regain his footing. Carol brought a hand to her cheek in an attempt to cool the flush there.
"I'm sorry." She whispered. She longed for some way to laugh it off. To make it a joke between them. But all that seemed lost to her now. She had ruined it. She'd kissed him, finally, and had been so sincere about it. She cringed inwardly and pondered throwing herself at a walker just to escape this awkward hole she'd dug for herself.
"Why?" He asked then, just as she had turned to leave.
Carol closed her eyes in shame. She didn't want to spell it out for him. Particularly after he'd already rejected her. What was the point?
"Does it matter?" She asked, trying to sound lighter than she felt. "Don't worry, I won't do it again." She turned back to look at him and offered a smile and a shrug.
He stared back at her, bringing his thumb up between his teeth. "I thought you was joking. About fooling around."
Carol had never felt so foolish. Her thoughts involuntarily went back to that last day with Axel. She'd been enjoying his company, which had surprised her. She supposed once she'd realized he was harmless, she'd gotten used to him. And she had enjoyed the attention. He'd been sweet to her. It was flattering and for the first time in a very long time she'd swelled with feminine pride. It had been near impossible to keep the grin from her lips or the swing from her hips. But always, always, her thoughts had turned to Daryl.
Even gone, like he had been, her heart had saved a place for him that left no room for poor Axel. He took every rejection like a gentleman, never truly expecting her to reciprocate. Carol saw now what a squandered chance that was. How many opportunities were there left for affection? For pleasure? Was she really going to waste every moment waiting for love?
She loved Daryl. Had for a long time. She was never sure if he felt anything for her beyond friendship. She wondered if he was shy. Which is why she got her nerve up to make the first move. She'd imagined that if she broke the ice, he'd, well, she'd imagined a lot of things. Alone at night, in the dark. She'd imagined mostly that he'd hold her. Not to save her from her walker daughter and not to carry her up and away from death. No. She wanted to be held by someone who loved her. Wanted her. And believed her to be the most precious thing in the world. In the harsh light of rejection she could see now that Daryl hadn't ever done anything for her that he wouldn't have done for anyone else. He was a good man.
"Sorry." Carol repeated uselessly. "I guess the loneliness got to me."
He looked at her with continued puzzlement. "Lonely?" He questioned.
"Yes, lonely, Daryl." Carol said, starting to become irritated. She'd apologized and promised never to touch him again. Why was he dragging things out? Was this humiliation meant to be punishment? "I'm alone in the group. I'm not like you. I need human contact. I need to be comforted. I need to feel..." She cut herself off. "Maybe lonely was the wrong word." She huffed, angry at herself for nearly saying it. She wouldn't beg to be loved. "Maybe I should have said horny. Would you understand that?"
Daryl took a step back and crossed his arms. His eyes darkened. He looked angry now too. "If you wanted a fuck you could have just said." He spat.
"And how would that work? Since my kiss nearly sent you running?" Carol asked. She leaned back against the railing of the tower and waited, curious.
"I ain't running no where. You're the one trying to get away from me." He accused.
"I'm mortified." She declared. "I thought maybe I'd save us both further embarrassment by getting out of your way."
"I know I ain't any good at that stuff." Daryl said, ducking his head. "But I don't want you to be sorry."
Carol frowned, confused. "I said I was sorry because it was clear to me that you didn't want to be kissed. I shouldn't have pushed myself on you like that."
Daryl shook his head and fiddled with an arrow that was suddenly in his hand. "Got no problem fucking. But I know you. We're, well... I don't know how to do the softer stuff."
Carol could see the colour creeping into Daryl's cheeks at this admission. His eyes hadn't left the arrow that his fingers were nearly tearing apart.
"That's okay." Carol said softly, needing now to put him out of his misery. "Let's just forget it. No harm done." Maybe they'd even be able to laugh about it after a day or two. Or a year, if they lived that long.
She pushed herself off the railing and moved to walk past him, toward the door, when his hand shot out and grasped her wrist. She paused, looking back at him. Waiting.
"Don't want to forget it." He rasped. They stood frozen like that for a moment, unsure of what to do. Finally Carol pulled her arm through Daryl's fingers so that he was now holding her hand. She squeezed and felt him tighten his hold in response.
"Maybe I could give it another try?" Carol suggested, finding her courage again. She was rewarded by a fleeting half smile and then the sudden warmth of Daryl standing in her space.
This time when she reached up, he bent down and met her half way.