Hey Carylers!

Here's a smidgen of angsty/fluffy ficanon set just before the ending of 4x02.

Spoiler warnings and standard disclaimers apply!

Caryl on:

The girls moved into their block.

Minutes after the burial of their father, Lizzie and Mika were trudging into their new cell a door down from hers and Daryl's, arms empty of personal belongings. What few items of clothing, room décor and family pictures they could call their own were left behind in Block D, ripe with the unknown infection that had so suddenly led to disaster in a single morning.

Carol watched the sisters quietly designate their bunks and then look around tensely, meeting each other's eyes before both sets turned to question her.

She attempted a smile.

"It's a little bare right now, but…we'll find some stuff to brighten it up until we can get your things from D. But you do need to understand, both of you: everything in your old room is contaminated. You might not get any of it back. We can't be sure yet."

Lizzie frowned momentarily before allowing her eyes to wander once more, seemingly ignoring Carol's stern truth. Mika simply nodded, accepting.

A pang of concern strummed into Carol's chest at the way the older of the girls reacted to the world around her, but pushed the feeling aside for the time being. It was more important to get them settled, get them in a place where they could come down from the chaos that had destroyed their lives in a matter of moments, a place where they could face reality in safety and accept it while still having the freedom to mourn.

She glanced at Mika, who still held her gaze.

"Just…settle in for now. Walk around the block if you like. Don't go outside until we get confirmation that the fences are holding strong. The walkers are pushing in hard; anything could happen."

Mika nodded again and turned away to begin tearing off her shoes.

Lizzie stared upwards at her top bunk as if trying to decide whether or not to climb up.

Carol sighed.

Pulled away from the doorway and walked into her own room.

Found Daryl cleaning his arrows briskly, head down and breathing ragged.

She frowned.


When he peered up at her his mouth thinned, but he nodded stiffly to her in greeting,

"Hey. How're Lizzie and Mika?"

"Fine. You look frazzled. Something happen?"

He paused his scrubbing and seemed to peer past her at the block. Down below their tier Judith cooed, the sound of Beth's humming in the background. Several sets of footsteps riddled the silence on the first floor, and she could make out Maggie's voice at one point, and Michonne's at another.

Carol looked behind her, following Daryl's gaze. Looked back and found his eyes, prompting.

He shrugged. Rigid.

"Walkers almost broke the damn fence down this time. Ain't lookin' good. We had to sacrifice the pigs to get 'em away."

"All of them?"

"Yeah. Rick's idea."

Carol stepped inside the cell, the sheet that served as their door brushing her shoulder. It surprised her when Daryl offered his lone cell to her at the beginning of the winter, offered to change beds so she could have the bottom and be more ready to jump up and respond to medical needs as quick as possible. It surprised her, but not nearly as much as his silent permission to let her hang the sheet. Give them a door.

Give them their own private space.

She would never forget the way his entire body froze when she picked at him about it, waggling her eyebrows before laughing outright at his nervous response.

He ought to have known by then that she was only teasing.

Except she wasn't. Not completely. And maybe he knew it.

Daryl peered up at her from his place on the bunk (the bottom bunk. Her bunk.) as she leaned against the wall opposite and held his face in her eyes.

"Is Rick okay?"

The man had pulled away from being their leader. Pulled out of council meetings and pulled out of fighting the walkers unless his extra set of hands was absolutely necessary. He was doing it for Carl. He was doing it for himself. Rick needed something, something only he could give himself: peace. Time. To find balance with his own identity, his place in the group, his place in his own family. Carl needed that balance. Carol understood it but even she would admit a tickle relief hit her at the thought of him stepping back up and doing what he did best.

Rick was a leader. He was a good leader, and they needed him to be one. Maybe not exclusively. Maybe not constantly. Maybe just….

"A little dazed, I think. Got crazy out there. And he loved those damn pigs of his."

Daryl's voice cut her thoughts and at his words she made a mental note to check on Rick as soon as she saw him.

"You okay?" He whispered, cautious. Carol wasn't stupid. She knew what he was referring to and she knew he was watching the wall that separated their cell from the girls' for a reason.

She shrugged, arms crossing. It was okay to feel the tension, she told herself. It was okay. A lot had happened that morning and a new infection was spreading and people were dead and she had just adopted two little girls after shoving a knife into their father's dying brain and it was okay,

It was okay.

It was okay.

Something in her chest tightened and she choked on her own voice.

"Yeah. I'm fine, don't—don't worry."

A thick quiet fell between them and Daryl seemed to straighten his back, eyes suddenly more alert, studying her face and darting to her chest, where her hands clung tightly to their opposite arms. He stood, setting an arrow on the bed as he took a step close to her.

Carol suddenly found him just in front of her face, a warmth radiating from his body and pulling her own out of her in the form of a flush. He didn't normally do things like that to her. That was her expertise, making him flustered and wary.

When she forced herself to look at his face she found his eyes dark and gentle, blinking hesitantly into her own.

"I ain't worried. You know what you're doin' with those girls. You're gonna make em' strong. Keep em' alive." He nodded to himself, to her, as if the silent underlying message was being whispered into both their skulls,

You can do it, and you will. They won't fall like her. You're stronger now and they will be too.

She smiled at him, ignored the pounding heartbeat in her ears.

Daryl took a small step back then, gave her space. Reached out and brushed his knuckles against one of her arms. She felt the softness of the touch even through the cloth of her sleeves.

"Just tell me…if you're ever not okay."

Carol rarely got to experience Daryl Dixon tenderness. Kindness, sure. Companionship, always.

But gentleness, physical expression of his concern and love…

She wanted to cry for a million and one reasons and the way Daryl's voice softened at her was definitely one of them.

She smiled wider. Fought the itch to reach out and grab the leather of his vest and pull him to her, bury her face into the hot skin of his neck and wrap her arms around the width of his shoulders and cling to him for dear life.

She nodded, determined.


They shared a small smile (meaningful: understanding, encouraging), and she pulled away from the wall, brushed past him to check back in on Lizzie and Mika.

His eyes followed her until their sheet fell between them.