A/N: Finally, this is where it needed to go. Thanks to those who hung in there with me and encouraged me finish. I hope you enjoy.

He pushed back as many times as he could.

Shoved and fought until his strength gave out and he reeled stumbling back, scrambling in desperation against the rocky ground.

Still, it kept coming. That snarling, cold, inhuman thing that took his brother kept driving near. And through it all, damned if Daryl didn't keep looking in its eyes to see if there was still something left. Some memory of what it used to be. Some hint of his brother locked deep inside.

Because, just for a moment, he swore that there was. That behind those glazed eyes rested some whisper of a promise Merle made him beneath a navy sky.

But it kept coming and clawing and biting and at last Daryl ran out of time. He just couldn't search for that memory anymore. Couldn't look into those clouded eyes.

So he lunged and beat until nothing at all, no remnants, remained.

And when his legs wouldn't hold his grief anymore, he collapsed beneath the crushing weight. Fell, exhausted, below a taunting sky.

When he could stand without the world tilting cruelly, could take a breath without it choking into a painful sob, he made his way back. He refused, as he stood, to look on the thing that he'd destroyed.

Behind those glazed eyes...

Because, just in case, he didn't want to see.

They didn't ask him what happened when he returned.

In the hours that followed, Daryl realized the explanation was all too plain.

A few mumbled words to Rick at the gate and he'd bolted. Bypassed the others and headed straight for the tombs and away from all those sorry eyes. He'd taken his bow and his knife, his anger and grief. He plunged them into every monster he could find. He pushed and he beat and he tried to pull some sort of pleasure from the familiar sickening crunch. Tried to enjoy the spray of dark blood against his skin.

And, in the end, it did nothing to erase that whisper of something in his dead brother's eyes.

When he emerged - bloody, broken, spent - he went to his cell, grateful that the evening meal must have kept the rest far away.

Daryl leaned against the cement wall, palms flattened and throbbing against the cold. And then he pushed - raged against the weight, but the damn wall wouldn't bend. Just stood there, solid and weighty and completely devoid of any soul.

So he'd stumbled back onto his cot, lowered his head into his hands, and tried to forget how his brother had been just the same.

Hours later, he finally looked up. The sky had darkened, and the sticky blood had dried stiff on his skin. It tugged a reminder against his every labored move. Cautiously, he stood while his head throbbed at the effort. In the doorway, something caught his bleary eye.

A plate of food. Long cold by the look of it, and a bucket of water draped with a towel. He stared at them for a moment, wondering how - when - he hadn't even heard her approach.

He didn't stop to wonder how he knew that it was her.

A few shaky steps forward and he confirmed that the objects were all that was there. The corridor outside his cell was vacant. It must have been late enough, for the prison was quiet and strangely too still.

Stooping for a minute, his hand hovered in thought. Leaving the plate on the ground, Daryl lifted the water and towel to the table by his cot. Easing himself down beside it, he fingered the cloth with his bloody hands. The cream colored fabric smudged into brown. Tentatively, he moistened the towel. Brushing it against his arm, he marveled at the change.

Blinking at the smeared towel and the glistening streak left on his arm, he moved to plunge the cloth deep in the bucket. He soaked it in the frigid water, then wrang it dry and began to scrub.

Hard. Over and over on his arms. Roughly over his face until it burned raw. Unthinking, he shed his shirt and did the same. Didn't stop until his skin flamed and the water ran a dirty red.

He stood there when it was done. His chest heaved as the evidence of his labors swam darkly in the bucket. As his flesh began to chill he dressed again. The prickling of his skin brought him back to what he'd done.

And suddenly, the cell was too small. Too quiet for his roaring ears. Too claustrophobic for his racing heart.

He fled, footsteps echoing down the stairs as he burst out the doors and into the night. The metal banged behind him. Drawing in the night air to soothe his lungs, he headed for the guard tower without conscious thought. He didn't pause as he climbed the stairs and roused Maggie and Glenn from their midnight watch.

Without words, he dismissed them. They left him there alone, sparing only a concerned parting glance he tried not to see.

Running a hand through his wet hair, Daryl circled in place and collapsed to the floor. His back slumped against the cold wall while the stars circled high above. So far out of reach.


Footsteps scuffed on the floor before him.

Daryl lifted his head in mild surprise. Once again he hadn't heard her approach.

So consumed had he been with his thoughts that he'd missed the gentle signs of her presence. Would have missed the Governor and the whole damn US Army had it chosen to arrive. He would have been ashamed if he hadn't known they'd continue keeping a watch from the prison far below.

She stood, then, across the small space. Plate in one hand and a bottle of water in the other. He didn't move, but his eyes glittered as they watched her approach.

Without words, Carol placed the plate on the floor. Not too near, just out of his reach. Just far enough that it wasn't a threat. Balancing the water next to the food, she straightened deliberately and stepped away. Watched him with a gravity that hurt deep in his chest.

At his continued silence, she took another quiet step back. Bit her lip and started to turn.


It slipped out. He hadn't meant to say the word. But it lingered between them in the humid night air.

She stilled her retreat, but did nothing more.

Daryl dropped his head and tried to inhale. Tried to clear the dizziness that tilted the world and threatened to throw him right of the edge. In habit, he looked up and searched the sky. He found the familiar shapes without conscious thought. Righted himself, just a little, by their very presence. Guided himself back from the looming edge.

"Merle liked the stars."

Carol shifted her weight, but didn't move. Didn't even make a sound at his quiet words.

"Knew all the stories 'bout constellations." The words, long silent, kept tumbling out. Rushing like water over a fall. "Used ta tell 'em to me when we was kids."

The memory came seeping back. Another one of those whispers he'd tried not to see. Him and Merle huddled on their crumbling porch far too late on an autumn night. Merle's breath fogging in the air as he spoke, and Daryl huddled into his side desperate for warmth. Both of them pretending not to hear the sounds from inside.

"He used to say," Daryl continued watching the sky, "if I knew the stars, I'd never get lost. Could use 'em to navigate and find my way home. Taught me how. Said he'd always do the same." He lowered his head and studied the brown red crescents still under his nails. He spoke to the memory more than to her. "Guess he was wrong. Least about that."

Even then, she didn't approach.

Daryl closed his eyes against the burning haze that threatened his sight. His head continued to throb with every frantic beat of his pulse. Glancing over, he watched her still form, then lowered his head. "Ya shouldn't stay. Should head back inside."

Always before there had been Merle. A presence, tangible or not, in the back of his mind. Real as those stars up in the sky. And now, he couldn't seem to find his way. And Carol...he found himself scared she'd wander behind. Find herself lost by his very presence.

The scrape of the plate had him lifting his head. In surprise, he watched as she slid it over and out of the way. Daryl narrowed his eyes in confusion as she took the water in hand and sat in its place. Carol settled herself on the floor and scooted closer until her back met the wall. Drawing up her knees, she curled her arms around her shins. Carefully, she angled the water his way, not looking at him while she did.

When he didn't reach to accept the bottle, she tilted it toward him once again. "You need to drink something." Her voice was soft between them. He realized they were the first words, other than his own, he'd heard since he came in that gate while the sun had been high.

Except, of course, for the ones in his head.

Finally, his fingers curled around the plastic just as hers retreated away. Opening the bottle, he took a hesitant sip. The liquid slipped cooly down his parched throat. He swallowed again and it calmed the roaring inside his ears.

Sitting back with her head resting against the wall beside him, Carol offered nothing more. Just waited with her eyes trained somewhere far above.

He tried to relax. Tried to focus on anything but the images swimming every time he closed his eyes. Tried to listen to the even steadiness of Carol's breathing beside him. Tried to match his own to her even rhythm.

Slowly, he drained the rest of the bottle. He recapped it and placed it away and off to the side. He noticed, for the first time, that Carol had taken to watching the sky. He followed her eyeline up near the North Star.


She turned slightly in mild surprise, but averted her eyes within the same breath.

Worrying his thumb, he nodded gently toward the stars. "Around the Big Dipper."

And then the words began to come.

"Callisto was a mother." His voice was rough, but he went on. "But her son was taken from her, and she was turned into a bear. She watched her son grow up, but she could never tell him who she was. Arcas, the boy, he was raised by hunters. One day he was hunting and he saw this bear. Callisto. She couldn't help it. She was a mama. Knew it was dangerous, but...Got too close."

Ripped away for a moment, she found herself torn back to the barn. Falling, reaching, breaking apart in the dirt.

"And she raised her paws to try to tell him who she was, that she didn't mean to hurt him, but he lifted the bow ready to shoot. But before he fired, he looked at that bear, and he saw..."

He'd tried so hard. Pushed back as many times as he could. Looked for some sign in its clouded eyes...

He swallowed, drawing in a ragged breath. "And he saw his ma. Recognized her, even through that."

Carol had to close her eyes. The tears on her cheeks shone in the starlight.

"So to protect 'em, keep 'em together, Zeus turned Arcas into a bear. Sent them both into the sky." He lifted his chin. "Right up there. Always together. They never come down."

Suddenly shy, he lowered his head and fiddled with the fabric of his pants.

Minutes passed before she turned to him fully for the first time. "You know he did it all for you."

Though he didn't speak, he held onto her words and studied the sky.

Finally, she stretched out her legs and massaged her aching knees. Carol shifted so that her back leaned more firmly against the wall. Gesturing to her flattened lap, her gaze flickered over to Daryl with an offer plain between them. "C'mon."

His eyes widened when he saw what she meant for him to do.

She sighed at the subtle shake of his head. "Still got a couple hours 'til morning. You should rest your eyes a little bit while you can."

He fidgeted, mind reeling and exhausted by the very same thought.

Patient, she only nodded at his indecision and waited him out.

And finally, he felt steady enough to begin to move.

The floor was cold under his shoulders, but solid beneath his weary back. Carol's fingers just skimmed his hair as his head came to rest against her warm thigh. They brushed his temple, absently clearing a missed smudge of dirt. He had to angle himself away from her eyes.

He wanted to tell her not to stop.

But the hand moved away from his throbbing skin, coming to rest with feather weight over top of his chest.

The thudding of his heart vibrated her hand. Thoughtlessly, his own hand reached to cover it. He hadn't even meant to move his arm.

She looked down in surprise when his hand covered her own. Insistent, almost like he meant to hold it still. His larger palm pressed her delicate fingers to the rapid thrumming inside his chest. Her eyes flickered to his, finding them already watching her with an intensity that stole away her quiet breath.

Carol lowered her gaze again to their hands. His own blue eyes traveled the same narrow path. Slowly, she threaded her fingers gently through his. Wove them together against his chest so that his fingers grazed against her pulse.

He watched, transfixed, as his heart slowed to match that delicate beat.

And when he finally dared to look at her face, she offered him that same quiet smile that had him wondering so many times.

But maybe was gone and promise was there. Clear and unclouded and just within reach of his steady grasp.

And together they held vigil on a deep navy sky.