Rick pulled the van into the motel parking lot at two thirty-four in the morning. Michonne sat in the passenger’s seat next to him, Carol was sprawled out in the backseat sleeping, and Daryl was in the back, snoring like a freight train.
“We can leave them here while we get a couple rooms,” Rick said as he exited the van. Michonne nodded and grabbed her wallet as they carefully shut the doors as not to wake their sleeping passengers.
Finding this motel had been a surprise. The gang had been planning on a direct trip home; the map hadn’t shown as much as a rest stop between Park City and Coolsville, but when Michonne saw the giant neon sign from the highway, she told Rick to pull over.
The place looked like it was a hundred years old. There had been some remodeling, maybe half a century ago, but the place was obviously run down and falling apart. The doors were made of thick, heavy wood and it took all of Rick’s strength to open them wide enough for both to pass through.
The interior looked as if it had been born in the 1950’s and slowly taken over by the 1970’s. Dark brown shag carpet, mustard yellow curtains, and a portrait of Jesus Christ on the far wall.
Michonne giggled. “Daryl’s gonna hate this place.”
“That’s okay, Carol will love it,” Rick replied.
There wasn’t anyone at the front desk, so Michonne rang the dusty bell and announced their arrival. They waited a full minute, but no one acknowledged them, so Rick shouted out.
“Hello? Is there anybody here? We’d like to get a couple rooms for the night.”
They heard slow, shuffling footsteps coming from the hallway by the desk. From around the corner a tiny old woman appeared.
“I’m sorry it took me so long to get here,” she said in a crackly voice. “I don’t move as well as I used to.”
“Don’t worry about that,” Michonne said. “We weren’t sure if anyone was here or not.”
“Oh, I’m always here honey. If it’s not me, then it’s my George. We’ve run this place for almost sixty years; it’s only ever been us. You said you wanted two rooms?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Rick replied. “Just for tonight. We’re on our way back home.”
The old woman smiled. “It’s always nice to get back home, isn’t it. Now, two rooms for one night will be seventy-five dollars, and I’ll need you to sign the registry.”
Rick took a pen and signed the book while Michonne handed the woman a one hundred dollar bill. Opening a metal lock box, the old woman sat the one hundred inside and removed a twenty and a five for Michonne. She then took two keys from a drawer and laid them on the desk.
“You’ll be in rooms 118 and 120. If you go down this hallway,” she said pointing to the opposite end of the room, “take a left at the end and your rooms will be at the end of the hall on the right. Oh, and kids, once you’re settled in your rooms, I’d recommend you don’t leave. Strange things happen around here.”
Rick and Michonne looked at each other for a moment before watching the old woman slowly make her way back down the hall. They smiled at each other as they walked to the door.
“Yep, Daryl’s gonna hate this place,” Michonne said and giggled.
Carol woke up when Michonne opened the passenger’s side door. “Are we home?” she asked.
“No, Rick and I found a motel for the night. I think you’ll like it.”
“Thank God!” Carol exclaimed. “I’ve got one belt buckle wedged in my spinal column and one working its way into my asshole,” she said as she sat up.
Michonne giggled and leaned down to whisper in Carol’s ear. “Don’t say that too loud or you’ll have something else trying to work its way into your asshole.”
Carol immediately blushed and turned her head to see Rick trying to wake a still snoring Daryl. The whole gang knew Daryl had a crush on her, but no one ever talked about it, especially Daryl.
Meanwhile, Rick was trying to wake Daryl up. He shook him, but it didn’t help. Finally he slapped Daryl in the face. The man’s eyes shot open and he sat straight up.
“I’ll take a double bacon cheeseburger, two orders of fries, a chocolate pie, and a diet coke,” he screamed without taking a breath.
Everyone burst out laughing and Daryl shook his head to get his bearings. “What the hell man?” he groaned. “Are we home?”
“For the night,” Rick said.
Daryl looked around him and finally saw the large building behind him. “Hey, man, this ain’t Coolsville. This is Creepsville.”
“You’ve slept in places that were much worse,” Michonne said.
“Yeah, and you know what happened in those places, right?” he responded.
“Let’s get to our rooms, then you and I can find the kitchen. I’m sure you’re hungry,” Carol said.
Daryl looked at her and nodded. The quartet walked through the front door and down the hallway to the end. Michonne opened one of the doors and announced that it was the girls room. Rick groaned inwardly and Daryl shoved him through the doorway before he could start bitching.
“Dude, she ain’t gonna share a room with you; whether it has one bed or two,” Daryl told him once the door was closed. “Hell, you’re so damn obvious it probably creeps her out.”
“Why don’t you be a little obvious with Carol. She has no idea you’re goofy over her,” Rick retorted.
“I ain’t goofy over her,” Daryl said. “She’s smart and pretty, and she’s my friend.”
“Uh, yeah,” Rick replied. “Why don’t you and your friend, Carol try to find some vending machines or something.”
“Good idea. You can keep Michonne company while we’re gone,” Daryl sassed and walked out.
He knocked on the girls door and Carol answered. “Hey, I’m gonna look for some vending machines. You wanna go with me?”
“Sure, I’ll go,” Carol replied. “You’ll be okay while I’m gone?” she asked Michonne.
“Of course,” she replied assuredly.
“She don’t have to worry,” Daryl said with a smirk. “Rick’ll be over any second now to make sure she’s safe.”
Michonne laughed. “That’s okay. Maybe he’ll actually make a move this time.”
“I doubt it,” Daryl replied. “You may have to make your own move.”
“Well, some people just need a little nudge to get them started,” Carol said and led Daryl back into the hallway. She closed the door loud enough that Rick would hear and know that they had left.
“Like, why do they always have to pick the creepiest places to go, man,” Daryl asked as they walked down the hall toward the front desk.
“I don’t think this place was a choice. It’s the only place for miles and we all need sleep. Besides, monsters don’t exist, Daryl. You know that. How many of the ghosts, vampires, and werewolves we’ve come across have been real?”
“They’re all real until you figure out they’re not,” he told her. “You’re always the one who figures it out. Rick just comes up with those stupid plans.”
Carol laughed. “Those stupid plans work, most of the time.”
“But I’m always bait. It’s not fair,” Daryl complained.
When they arrived at the front desk, there was no one there. Daryl rang the bell and Carol looked down the side hallway, but no one responded.
“Let’s go look around, maybe we can find something,” Carol said and took Daryl’s hand, pulling him away from the front desk. She continued to hold his shaking hand as they passed what they could only assume were empty rooms and came to the end of the hallway. Carol pulled him down the left corridor until they found a door partially open.
“Ooh, let’s see what’s in here,” Carol said excitedly.
“Oh no,” Daryl replied. “There’s no way I’m going in there. No ma’am. Fuck. That. Shit.”
“Don’t be a scaredy cat. I’ll be with you. I won’t let anything get you, I promise,” Carol said and brushed some hair behind his ear.
Daryl swallowed hard. He wasn’t sure if it was because of his paralyzing fear or the fact that Carol had touched him with her small, delicate hands, but Daryl’s stomach flipped.
Carol pulled the door open wide enough that they both could fit through and walked inside. The room was dark except for a light coming from the back wall. It was filled with shelving upon which sat various types of canned and non perishable foods. Daryl let go of Carol’s hand and started shoving items in his jacket pockets.
Carol continued walking around the room and Daryl continued collecting food to take back to their rooms when he turned the corner to the next aisle and heard a long, loud groan.
“Carol? Is that you? Are you okay?” he asked in a shaky voice.
“You’re gonna have to talk louder, Daryl. I can barely hear you from over here.”
Daryl gulped loudly. “I don’t think we’re alone, Carol.”
He heard Carol’s footsteps and the sound of a switch flipping. Standing in front of him was something that used to be a man; an old man from what Daryl could tell. His left eye was hanging out of its socket, the skin on his arms was falling off, and half his scalp was visible.
“ZOINKS!” Daryl screamed and turned to run out of the room. He nearly ran into Carol who had turned the corner and now stood in front of him.
“Daryl, what’s …” was all she was able to get out before she glanced over Daryl’s shoulder. “JINKIES” she screamed and turned to run through the door. They raced each other back down the hall, past the front desk, and to the rooms.
They screamed and banged on the door of the room Carol shared with Michonne until it opened and Rick greeted them. Bounding through the door, Rick almost fell on his ass as they rushed past him.
“There’s a zombie in the store room!” Carol and Daryl said in unison.
“There’s a what in the where?” Michonne repeated.
“We were, like, looking for food and found the storeroom. Anyway, there was a zombie and it was gross, man,” Daryl said, his hands and voice shaking.
“It looked real, guys,” Carol reiterated. “One of its eyeballs was out of the socket, and its skins was falling off.”
Rick looked at both of them incredulously. “Pretty elaborate, but it’s a disguise. Y’all know it’s a disguise, right?”
“I don’t know, Rick. It looked pretty real to me,” Carol replied.
“It stank too. I didn’t smell it until it was right in front of me, but it stank like death,” Daryl said.
“I’m not surprised Daryl is overreacting, but Carol? Makes me think it could really be something,” Michonne said.
Rick rolled his eyes. “Okay, gang. Let’s go check it out.”
Rick and Michonne walked side by side down the hallway as Daryl and Carol brought up the rear. Daryl’s teeth were chattering and he was trying to convince Rick that leaving was just as good an option if not better. He even offered to drive while Rick slept in the back.
“Nope. I’m gonna show you, for the millionth time that there are no such things as monsters. It’s just a guy in a mask.”
When they got to the store room, Rick went in first. The overhead light was still on, but there was no one there. Rick and Michonne went around the room looking for clues while Carol stayed back in the hallway with Daryl.
“I don’t see anything,” Rick said. He was walking the perimeter while Michonne walked up and down the aisles of food.
“Wait a minute,” Michonne said cautiously. “What is this?” she asked and bent down to examine something in the aisle where Daryl had seen the zombie.
Rick and Carol went over to where she was and looked down at the floor. It was grey and black with specks of red. Carol tentatively touched it with her finger and recoiled instantly.
“I’d like to say it’s a piece of latex, but I’m not sure. It doesn’t feel like it.”
Rick picked it up. “It has to be latex. Part of the mask must’ve fallen off. If this fell off, then maybe we can find more of it in the hallway. If we can find a trail, we can find out who it is.”
The quartet gathered in the hall in front of the store room. “Alright, gang, Michonne and I will take this end of the hallway. Carol, you and Daryl take the other end.”
Rick didn’t wait around to hear Daryl whine or bitch, he grabbed Michonne’s hand and walked away. Daryl began to hit his forehead against the wall.
“He’s such a fucking asshole. He always does this shit to me, Carol. He knows how I feel about this.”
Carol pulled him away from the wall. “Daryl, stop that. I agree, he’s an asshole, but you’re not a coward. I know that if Michonne or I were ever in any real danger, we could count on you to save us.”
Daryl blushed. He wanted to tell her that, hell yeah he would risk his own life for hers, but he was actually scared shitless at the moment and couldn’t promise her anything.
He nodded his head shyly and followed Carol down the hall sticking as close to her as he could. He kept his eyes on the floor and occasionally on Carol’s ass, as she opened what doors were unlocked. Luckily, they weren’t finding any clues, or zombies, until they heard one of the doors they had just walked passed, open.
They stopped in their tracks. Daryl was too afraid to turn around, but Carol wasn’t. He saw her facial expression and his entire body stiffened. Her mouth was agape and she was pointing behind him.
Daryl shook his head vehemently. He was not going to turn his head, he didn’t give a shit if his only escape was the opposite direction, he would jump out a window if he had to.
“Daryl …” Carol began to say, but was interrupted by a haunting groan coming from behind Daryl. When he felt a bony hand grip his shoulder he screamed and ran, grabbing Carol’s hand as he went and drug her along with him.
Blindly running down unknown hallways, they ended up finding an exit that led to the back of the building. Once outside they leaned against the wall and tried to catch their breath.
“I’m always the one that finds them!” Daryl yelled in frustration. “Like, doesn’t he know that by now!”
“Aw, shit!” Carol yelled. “My glasses fell off! Goddammit!”
Daryl looked at her with wide eyes. “Carol! Your language.”
She looked at him with disdain. “Says the man who should be rated R for Dixon mouth.”
He gave her a lopsided, apologetic grin and shrugged his shoulders. “Sorry, but I’m not going back in there for them. I’ll carry you around before I go back inside that place.”
Carol’s features softened. “I’m gonna take you up on that. Keep in mind, it’s hard to run away when you’re lugging someone around.”
“Then let’s stay in the van and wait for ‘Chone and Deputy Dipshit. They’ll come running out of one of those doors soon enough.”
“You know they won’t,” she replied. “We have to go back in there and find them. They may have found one of those zombies or at least some of the latex material.”
Daryl sighed heavily. He knew she was right, she was always right. As he moved to scoop her up in is arms, he noticed what looked like an old wooden shed in the distance. Knowing better than to mention it to Carol ... he mentioned it to Carol.
“Let’s go check it out,” she said excitedly.
Daryl groaned, but carried her bridal style down the small hill to the shed. Expecting it to be locked, they were surprised to find the door slightly open.
“We don’t got flashlights or nothing. Everything’s in the van and I’m not carrying you up there and back again. Besides, how are you gonna see anything without your glasses?”
“I won’t be able to see much, but I can certainly see that,” she said as she pointed to the back wall. The moonlight shown through the slats of the shed well enough that the crossbow hanging up was clearly visible.
Daryl stared at it. His brother had one just like it when he was growing up and Daryl had bugged him incessantly to teach him how to use it, but Merle had refused. He walked up to it slowly and took it off the hook. It was loaded with a bolt and there was a full quiver sitting on the table below it.
He swung the crossbow across his back and handed the quiver to Carol. “I know y’all think this is just somebody in a mask, but just in case, I wanna be prepared.”
Carol looked at him with a mix of emotions. She couldn’t condone hurting or killing another human being, but if someone was trying to hurt or kill them, she would fully support taking them out. Daryl’s new found bravery was kinda sexy too.
He scooped her up in his arms and walked out of the shed. He took her back to the door they had come out of and sat her on her feet. “We’re gonna go back in there. I promise I won’t shoot anybody unless I have to. Stick close to me. I promise I won’t let anything happen to you.”
He leaned forward and kissed her quickly, which left both of them stunned. Carol’s eyes were wide with shock, but the soft smile on her face negated her surprise. Daryl couldn’t think about what he’d just done, he hadn’t planned on doing it; his present lack of fear had caused him to do it, and he wasn’t sure if it would ever happen again.
Swinging the door open, he stepped back inside and felt Carol’s finger slip through his belt loop. They walked through the hallways back the way they had come and when they arrived at the spot where the zombie had been, there was nothing.
When Rick and Michonne came running around the corner at the opposite end of the hallway, Daryl instinctively pulled the crossbow off his back and aimed it in their direction. As they got closer to Daryl and Carol they each grabbed them by the arm and pulled them along behind them and back into the lobby area.
“Where the fuck did you find that thing?” Rick asked, panting and pointing at the weapon in Daryl’s hands.
“Shed out back,” he replied. “Did you see it?”
“We saw them,” Michonne replied. “There were at least five of them. I think two of them were the old woman and George.”
“Did you find any of the latex material?” Carol asked.
“Yeah, but I’m pretty sure it’s not latex,” Michonne answered.
Daryl gulped. “What do you think it is?”
“It smells like rotting flesh and I’m pretty sure the red splotches are blood,” Rick replied.
The sound of groaning and shuffling soon got their attention and around the corner came five zombies of varying degrees of decomposition. The gang screamed collectively and ran back to their rooms. Once the four of them were inside Carol and Michonne’s room, Rick locked the door.
“I told you those things were real!” Daryl yelled and collapsed on the bed next to Carol.
“We still don’t have proof of that,” Rick said calmly.
“The fuck kind of idiot are you, Grimes?” Daryl said. “Why don’t you go out there and pull their masks off, huh? They’re not moving too fast, I’m sure you could get at least one of ‘em.”
“I got a plan, guys,” Rick said and everyone else in the room groaned. “Daryl, you know how to use that crossbow?”
“Yeah,” he answered, suspicious, but knowing what Rick would say next.
“Why don’t you and Carol go out there and distract them? Then Michonne and I can come up behind them and capture them.”
“Capture them?” Daryl replied incredulously. “Capture them with what? The giant fishing net you keep in your pocket?”
“That shed where you found the bow? Were there more weapons in there?” Michonne asked.
“Mostly hunting rifles, shotguns; there were a few knives on the table and a big sword,” Daryl answered.
“If we can get to the shed, I got dibs on the sword,” she said, smiling.
“If we can get down the hall to the entrance, we can go out the front door and around the back,” Carol offered.
“Okay,” Rick said and huffed. “Daryl, you take point with the crossbow and we’ll be right behind you.”
Daryl gave him a death glare then looked at Carol for reassurance. She smiled softly at him and rubbed his back.
“I’ll be right beside you, and if you can get us out of this place and to the shed, I’ve got something special for you.”
Daryl’s eyes widened with curiosity of what Carol could be referring to and stood up. “‘Alright, let’s get this over with.”
Daryl led them down the hall to the lobby, his crossbow ready to fire if needed. Carol walked beside him holding the hem of his shirt loosely while Rick and Michonne followed behind.
Of the five zombie creatures they had run from, only one remained in the lobby. It didn’t move toward them, but groaned loudly as they entered the room. Daryl was still convinced that these creatures were real, but if they were not he didn’t want to murder anyone.
“Y’all make a run for the door,” he whispered to the gang and ran up to the zombie. Smashing the butt of the bow into the creature’s temple, he watched it crumple to the ground and ran out the door behind everyone else.
Daryl immediately handed the crossbow to Michonne and scooped Carol into his arms again before leading them to the shed. “Where are your glasses, Carol?” Michonne asked.
“In one of the hallways. One of those things came out of a room in the hall Daryl and I were in. We ran out of there as fast as we could and they fell off somewhere.”
When they got to the shed, Daryl and Carol stayed outside while Michonne and Rick went in to inventory the weapons. Rick walked out with a machete and Michonne came out with a long, shiny sword.
Making their way back to the front door, Daryl put Carol back on the ground and took the crossbow from Michonne. Looking through the glass door, they saw that the creature Daryl had knocked out was no longer lying on the floor.
“Jinkies,” Carol whispered.
“Okay, planmaster,” Daryl said sarcastically. “What do we do now?”
“Michonne and I will take one end of the hallway, you and Carol take the opposite end.”
“That’s it?” Daryl exclaimed. “That’s all you got?”
“I’m tired, Daryl,” Rick explained.
“You’re tired, I’m hungry, and we’re all gonna die,” Daryl retorted and pointed to the door. “Go on then.”
Rick opened the door and they fell in line behind him. Quietly, Rick and Michonne went down the left side of the hall which led back to their rooms.
“Like, of course he would leave us with the most populated creepy area,” Daryl sighed in resignation. “Just stay as close to me as you can. Maybe we’ll find your glasses instead of those nasty whatever they are.”
“Remember, there’s a surprise waiting for you when this is over,” she told him.
“I guess I better make sure we get out of this alive then,” he replied and began walking down the hallway.
Carol held his shaking hand as they made their way around the motel. They listened for shuffling and groaning, but didn’t hear anything. Daryl stiffened when they turned the corner to the hallway where they had found the second zombie. There, on the floor at the end of the hallway, lay Carol’s glasses.
“Thank God!” She said and ran to get them.
“Wait!” Daryl tried to stop her from running ahead of him but was too late. When she bent down to get them, a hand reached out from the adjoining hall and grabbed her by the arm.
Daryl burst into action and ran to her, took her by the shoulders and tried to pull her away. As he pulled her back from the open corner, the zombie that held her came with along for the ride. It tried to pull her down, but Daryl held onto her; when he tried to wrench the hand from Carol’s, the arm broke off at the elbow.
Screaming, they bolted back down the hall, but not before Carol grabbed the detached arm and brought it with them. Running back the way they came, they met Rick and Michonne in the lobby; they had been running as well.
Carol showed them the arm as Rick held up the lower half of a jawbone. “This shit is real!” he screamed.
“I fucking told you, asshole!” Daryl screamed back.
“They’re coming this way,” Michonne yelled over them. As soon as she had said it, they came shuffling around the corner where Rick and Michonne and run from. There were more than five of them.
Daryl pushed Carol behind him and shot off a bolt into the crowd. Hitting one of them directly between the eyes, he told Carol to hand him another bolt from the quiver she was still holding. As the small horde moved closer to the quartet, Michonne and Rick stepped toward them and began to stab and behead them with their weapons.
Daryl took down two more before they were all taken care of. Without pausing or taking a moment to think about what had just happened, the four friends ran out the door and jumped into the van.
“Like, let’s get the hell outta here,” Daryl said breathing heavily.
“We gotta go to the authorities,” Rick countered. “Somebody needs to know about what happened.”
“Fuck. That.” Daryl said as he scrambled to the back end of the van. “You go to the police and I’ll call a cab to take me home.”
“Come on, Daryl,” Michonne said. “Someone needs to know about this. We don’t know what happened here.”
“What do you think? The foundation is made of gold? There’s buried treasure under the shed? There’s oil under the ground? What do you think, Chonne? That zombies give a fucking shit about any of those things?” Daryl said excitedly.
“People need to know that there could be a serious health or disease outbreak,” Rick stated. “If it’s contagious, people have to know.”
Rick drove them down the highway and eventually found the local police station. After speaking to an officer, they were ordered to stay at the station while a couple of cars were sent out to investigate. While they were waiting, Daryl went out to the van to calm down and get some fresh air.
He was starving by this time and anxious as hell. He looked through the bag he kept hidden in the back of the van for something special, but didn’t find it. Carol came outside shortly thereafter and handed him a bag of Fritos, a Hostess cupcake, and a bottle of root beer.
“It’s not much, but it’s all I could find in the vending machine.”
“Thanks,” he said and crawled inside the van. “Is this my surprise?”
She smiled and crawled in behind him. “No. Do you want it now?”
“Yes,” he answered before shoving the entire cupcake in his mouth.
“Okay, close your eyes.”
While his eyes were shut, Carol pulled something from the back pocket of her jeans. She let it unravel in her hand, then told Daryl to open his eyes.
Daryl almost choked on his cupcake. “Is that grass?” he asked and swallowed the cupcake whole.
“Yep, I think you’ve earned it. You were so brave, Daryl and I owe you my life. I thought maybe we could share?”
Daryl took the baggie from her. “Where? How? Why do you have this?”
“I know you ran out, so I got some before we left Park City. Does it even matter? I say roll one and let’s forget about what happened.”
Daryl didn’t hesitate and took rolling papers from his bag. Within a minute they were well on their way to blissful ignorance.
“You’re just full of surprises,” Daryl said. “I never thought you would partake in the herb.” Taking a deep inhale, he handed it to Carol.
“So are you. I didn’t think you had it in you, Daryl, but you faced your fear and saved us all. I think Rick will be more apt to listen to you from now on. Then, of course, there’s the kiss.”
He blushed, but smiled proudly. “Yeah,” he said slowly. “How the hell did that happen?”
“It wasn’t much of a kiss, if you ask me,” she answered him. “It lasted a tenth of a second and you barely touched my lips.”
He looked at her dumbfounded. “Gimme a break, man. I was about to face down some real life zombies. I was scared shitless.”
“Are you scared now?”
He shook his head fiercely. “Nope.”
Carol handed the joint back to him and straddled his outstretched thighs. “Then why don’t you try again.”
Holding the joint between his fingers, he carefully cupped her cheek and touched her lips with his. This time it was sweet and unhurried. Their lips glided together as if they’d been doing this forever. Daryl moaned his contentment into her mouth as their tongues danced with each other.
When the kiss ended, Daryl’s eyes were closed. There was a smile on his lips and his thumb caressed her cheek. “Like, that was amazing,” he said dreamily.
Before Carol could agree, the door to the van slammed open. “What the hell is this?” Rick groaned.
Carol looked over at Rick and Michonne; Daryl didn’t even notice they were standing there.
“What does it look like, Rick? I think we should give them their privacy,” she said and winked at Carol. As the door closed, she saw Michonne put her arms around Rick’s neck. “Like Carol said, some people need a little nudge to get them going.”