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I Got Your Back, Brother

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The little rundown house was cramped, but there was space and it was cleared out for the night. There were a few supplies that they would be able to take with them when they leave in the morning. It was late and everyone was mostly asleep, some just lying there until exhaustion took them.

Daryl looked out the window and watched their leader walk to the tree line to stand guard for first watch. He glanced over to the couch where Lori slept, Carl on the floor in front of it like his mother’s own little personal guardian. Then he looked back out the window, finding that the leader hadn’t moved.

A hand brushed his lower back as he went to stand up, hefting his crossbow onto his shoulder. Daryl looked down to find Carol staring up at him. She looked like she wanted to say something, but all she said in a whisper was, “Night, Pookie.”

Daryl nodded and went out the door, footsteps quiet on the wood floor and shutting the door quietly behind him. Compared to inside, even though there wasn’t any electricity going, it was cooler outside than in. The cramped space inside the little house warmed up pretty quickly, but with the temperature dropping it was not a bad thing.

But what was was the fact that even as time has passed the tension between Rick and Lori had not diminished. From the moment he saw the two together at the quarry he knew the relationship between them was complicated and messy and that he wanted nothing to do with it. It was even worse in complication when Shane was alive.

The relationship between Rick and Shane was definitely more than they made it to the others. The hunter only noticed because he watched everyone.

Since Shane’s death, though, Rick has seemed different. Not in a dangerous way or even in a way that he became colder, it was more like he was lonelier if anything.

Rick didn’t take his eyes from staring ahead into the woods when Daryl came to stand next to him. The man didn’t even move, but his jaw was clenched and eyes closed, his arms crossed over his chest.

For a moment, Daryl didn’t say anything, but someone needed to do something so it might as well be him. “Ya okay?” he asked.

“Fine.” That was a lie, a bold faced lie if Daryl ever heard one.

The two of them were quiet. Daryl wasn’t going to force him to talk, but he’ll keep his ear open to the other man. They walked the perimeter of the house for a while to check for any walkers. The house was on an acre that was free of trees and because of that it was easy for Daryl and the others to set up an alarm system on the tree line, flimsy as it was it would do the trick.

Daryl checked the line, careful not to ruin what they had been able to put together. After checking the line he stood from his crouch position and dug in his pocket, pulling out a crunched up pack of cigarettes. He found them in the glove department of the abandoned car a mile from the house. There were only four or five of the sticks left in the packet, but they’d last him a while.

He took the lighter out of the packet and lit one of the cigarettes after placing it between his lips. Taking a drag he looked over to the man that was making his way over to him. Daryl exhaled an air of smoke.

Rick took the cigarette from Daryl’s fingers and took a drag.

The hunter raised an eyebrow. “Didn’t know ya smoked.”

“Not anymore. Used to.” Rick blew out an air of smoke and stared down at the cigarette between his fingers, deep in thought, eyes glazed in memory. His hand began to tremble and he gave the stick back to the other man. “Never was a heavy smoker, quit soon after high school and marrying Lori.”

Daryl hummed and returned the cigarette to his lips.

Rick closed his eyes as he looked ahead at nothing, but saw everything that was in his memories. “I loved him, y’know. Shane.”

The hunter frowned and looked at the ground.

“I wish I was able to forgive him before he died.” His voice barely above a whisper as he added. “I wish I could forgive both of them.”

Daryl didn’t need to know that the other person he was implying was Lori. He wasn’t blind, he knew things were complicated between the three of them after spending some time with them after Rick found them at the quarry. A blind man could see it. Things had tapered off after a while and seemed to have had reached a plateau.

Then things went to shit and everything fell apart between the three, that quiet truce burning in flames along with their lives.

It was so complicated that he turned the other direction to stay out of it.

Daryl looked over at the man beside him as the other man sighed and asked, “Need anything?”

“Time,” was Rick’s simple answer.

Without having to ask what the other man meant Daryl nodded. “I got ya.”

Rick nodded and then walked off to check the perimeter again, hatchet in hand and hand gripping it tight enough for his knuckles to turn white.

Yeah, hopefully Daryl can give him time, but until their leader was ready he’ll look after him. He needed to because mourning for Rick was going to be a process for everyone around them.