Title: Take a Bath
Flavor: The Walking Dead
Characters: Carol Peletier & Daryl Dixon
Rating: T turned to M in chapter 3
Word Count: 7800
Synopsis: Carol and Daryl meeting for washing - first at the quarry, later at the CDC. The new comfort in each other's company turned to a hot night.
A/N: This (chapter 1) was my very first fanfiction idea for The Walking Dead. Finally the big project is done and I can publish it. I need to thank my wonderful friend Hannah. She already wrote such a story twist for her CI fic 'Fingerprints' and here I created my own version.
Beta: My wonderful Suzanne worked with me again.
Disclaimer: I earn no money from this thing, nor do I profit in any other way from it. Involved persons are only borrowed and always go back to their owner.
Carol Peletier woke up with the birds as she had every morning for the last 15 years. Like so many other times she was wrapped around the feathery body of her beautiful and breathing daughter. But something was different. He was gone. There was no more sign of his blood, which they had seen splattered all over the tarp and the sleeping bags. Carol couldn't remember cleaning up, but she had put her daughter into a fresh made bed.
The whole last day had gone by in a haze. She was only aware of the chapped skin on her palms left by the rough shaft of a pick axe. They had lost too many of their own in only ten minutes. Hungry walkers, gun fire - it had been apocalyptic. The worst had happened and even more. But she lived, she and Sophia survived.
Carol got up. She tried to be calm, permitting her daughter a few more minutes of sleep and peace. Today they would leave the camp and head out to the Centers of Disease Control. Maybe they would find an escape from the end of the world or maybe they all would die.
Carol fetched one of the big bath towels from the clothes line as well as a fresh shirt and pants. On her way through the camp she passed Glenn, who was sitting on the RV with a pump gun as big as himself cradled in his arms. A few feet away she came across Rick squatting down in the grass. The golden sun was rising and he spoke into a walky-talky. In sheer mockery, the new day was calm and beautiful. Nature taunted all of them. Sooner or later the planet would cleanse itself of the arrogant mix of humanity and the world would be safe and maybe healthy once again.
It only took Carol a few minutes to reach the quarry. She was already sweating from the short walk down to the lake. This day would get as hot as the last ones – damn summertime in Georgia. Carol got out of her night gown, a long wide plaid shirt and felt a soft breeze on her exposed skin. She couldn't remember the owner of the shirt but was pretty sure it wasn't one of Ed's. She had burned all of his clothes in the fire along with the dead walkers yesterday. She held the brown garment in front of her, Carol really couldn't remember.
Who cares, she thought, and entered the cool water of the lake where there was easy access. There were branches to hold on to and the women had piled up stones in a semi circle to create a big shielded tub-like area perfect for bathing. It was chilling but also liberating to submerge her whole body into the water. Carol unexpectedly enjoyed her breath being taken away by the chill of the water, surprised that she could feel something. She scrubbed her body with the last squeezes of her shower gel, removing the caked blood under her nails.
It hurt as she touched her belly, breasts and thighs. There were still marks, but the outlines had already changed to yellow and the bruises would be gone soon. She dove under the surface of the water to rinse the soap from her hair. When it was necessary to breathe again, Carol pushed off from the bottom. Yes, she wanted to go on. Everything, no everyone she'd ever loved was still living. Together with Sophia she would adjust to the new world. She didn't need Ed to tell her what to do. With this confidence Carol jumped over the stone wall of the tub to swim a short distance across the lake.
Daryl Dixon was roaming through the forest close to the camp. It couldn't hurt to have fresh meat for provisions. He had finished the night shift but couldn't fall asleep after Glenn had replaced him on the RV roof. They would take off to the CDC in a few hours and Daryl wanted to check the surrounding once again. Maybe he would find a lost arrow or a little something of Merle's. Of course he would take the Triumph with him. He had already loaded the bike on his truck. But everything else of his brother Daryl would leave behind. He had stuffed all of Merle's belongings in a pillow case and had hung the sack in a tree to protect it from animals and the geeks. You never know. Maybe it would be useful to someone sometime?
As Daryl reached the quarry the sun glistened on the glassy surface. Only one triangle-shaped wave interrupted the perfection. A duck, he thought. Too bad he had no hunting dog. Waterfowl were easy to hunt but difficult to retrieve without a helper. Daryl began to turn away but the sound of a deep sigh halted him. Daryl focused again. The cliffs around the abandon quarry bounced even quiet sounds over long distances. The woman with the very short hair, Carol, right? swam toward the tub the chick's had built. A few garments hung on the bushes. She must have taken a bath and then gone swimming. Not a bad idea to wake up, he confessed.
Daryl couldn't spot where Carol was leaving the water. The path down to the shore ran though a thicket. Against his nature Daryl started to make noises as he reached the stony place where the women always washed the clothes. Carol shouldn't be startled. "G'mornin," he also called, raising his hand as Carol turned around looking toward the scuffles. She pulled the faded shirt over her belly, nodding with a shy smile. But Carol wasn't quick enough. Daryl saw the ugly contusions which were a graphic contrast to her pale skin. Peletier had known how to place a punch where it wouldn't show. Daryl boiled - in the end this jerk got what he deserved - but Daryl pretended to see nothing. He always hated to talk about injuries, explaining cuts and black and blue marks. This woman was reserved and he assumed she felt the same way as he did. At least he had never heard her complain about the abuse. And the few times in the past that Daryl wanted to talk and explain he had been ignored. He bet Carol would know a thing or two about this topic as well.
"Took a bath?" Daryl asked, and stepped closer.
Carol nodded and toweled her hair. "It's wonderful and refreshing. But this won't last for long. Just getting dressed makes me sweat again."
"I see." Daryl moved to the water's edge and put one finger in. "Wow, fucking freezing."
"Only for the first moment," Carol laughed, running her hands through her tousled hair to arrange it a bit. "I can leave you the towel, if you want to jump in."
"Thanks." Daryl started to unbutton his dark yellow shirt but he stopped before he uncovered the huge bruise on his ribcage – a souvenir of Atlanta's finest male nurses. The fresh bruises highlighted the scars he wanted to keep hidden even more.
The young widow turned away hanging the towel with the large grinning Tweety Bird on a branch. She sensed the uncertainty of the hunter. She was a bit surprised that the younger Dixon brother had come over and had started a conversation. They'd hardly shared a dozen words since their first meeting. None of his usual anger showed at this morning. Carol was really curious what was behind the hard shell of Daryl Dixon. Layers, many layers, she assumed. She didn't know what to say but also didn't want to leave without a word. Thankfully her eyes fell on the soap bottle. She crouched to pick it up. "Maybe when you squeeze you'll get the last bit. Oh, but it smells of roses."
"Ain't a problem." Daryl took the shower gel, as he kicked off his boots. "Smelling good on you."
"Oh," Carol felt the heat crawl up her cheeks, fumbling with the tiny gold cross of her necklace. "You like tea or coffee for breakfast?" Carol moved back to known and comfortable topics. Accepting compliments was never her strong suit. Not that Ed had ever made them but Shane and Rick were Southern gentlemen in this point.
"Coffee would be nice," Daryl answered with lowered eyes. Shit! He wanted to bite his cheeky tongue.
"And maybe a pan of hot water for shaving?"
"No, you don't have to!"
"Not a problem," Carol replied with a smile, and set out for the camp the night gown over her shoulder.
"Carol wait," Daryl called, as her slender figure was nearly around the corner. He held his shirt in front of his chest to hide at least a few of his scars.
"Yes?" She turned back to him. Carol could spot the edges of a big bruise but handled the situation like Daryl before, pretending not to notice.
"Do you and your little girl, So… eh'hem?"
"Sophia. Do the two of you need a seat in my truck when we leave for Atlanta?"
"Thank you for the offer but no. We'll take my Cherokee with the Grimes'."
"But maybe you can take one or two of our bags? That way we'd have more space."
"Yeah, I'll fetch them after breakfast. Just show me where."
"Okay. See you soon."
As Carol reached the steepest part of the path back to the camp, she heard a loud splash followed by a high squeal and cursing.