Daryl has always wondered what the end of the world has been like for people who don’t live in the South. Did all of the Walkers in Alaska freeze to death before they could bite anyone, or did they get those poor bastards just the same?
Not that any of this actually matters, but still. He’s been wondering. Without TV or booze or drugs, he’s had a lot more time to think recently.
At least they don’t have to worry about the weather, even in the dead of winter it doesn’t ever get below freezing. He can’t imagine trying to figure out how to heat the prison on top of everything else.
In theory, Daryl is keeping watch. In practice, he’s mostly just enjoying the nice day and watching the Walkers bump up against the fence. It reminds him of being a kid and watching moths fly into the bug zapper.
The sound of footsteps startles Daryl out of his weather-based ponderings and he turns to find Carrol coming up the stairs.
“Keeping watch?” she asks, and Daryl jerks a shoulder in something resembling a shrug.
She sits next to him, backs leaning against the wall of the guard tower, and leans her head onto his shoulder.
“You okay?” he asks. He’s never been good at this, figuring out how to comfort people, but Carol is as close to he has as an old friend, so he figures he owes her.
She huffs out a sigh that he can feel against his shoulder before speaking, “I didn’t think today would bother me, but it does. Reminds me of how much the world has changed.”
This time she laughs against his shoulder, “It’s Valentine’s Day. Or it would have been, I guess. I’m not sure if we even still celebrate holidays. Ed used to hate Valentine’s Day.” There’s a lot that’s unsaid there, Daryl only knew Ed for a short time and even he can guess what Carol is skirting around saying. “Given the choice, I prefer Walkers,” she says and he snorts out a laugh and soon they’re both giggling like school girls. Their breathless laughter rings through the air and Daryl never used to laugh like this. The apocalypse hasn’t really played out the way the preacher used to say it would.
Once they’ve both caught their breath, Carol turns to look at him. “You going to do something for Beth?”
He meets her gaze as levelly as he can, “Nah.”
“You should. She’d like it,” Carol says firmly and it’s so easy to forget that she isn’t the nice housewife she sometimes seems to be, Carol is made of steel right down to her core.
Finally, he can’t meet her eyes anymore and turns to watch the Walkers. One of them has blue hair. Had. Sometimes Daryl can’t believe that’s how the world ended. Not with a bang or a wimper but with blue-haired dead people. “I’m a lot older than her,” he says to the open air, still not looking at her.
“Do you really think anyone cares about that anymore?” Carol says without missing a beat and it takes him a moment to realize that she’s thought about this before. This isn’t just Carol making idle conversation.
“Her daddy might.”
“Maybe, but Rick would talk to him. Hell, Maggie might talk to him too. You’re a good man, Daryl Dixon. Better than you give yourself credit for.” It’s silent after that. Well, it hasn’t actually been silent for months, the groaning and shuffling of Walkers is the constant background noise to his life. But neither of them is speaking, so it’s as good as silent.
Finally, Carol gets up and heads back inside, leaving Daryl alone with the afternoon.
It’s later that day when he goes to find Beth. Not for any reason, he just wants to say hi. Because they’re friends, he reminds himself. Friends, he thinks, putting extra mental emphasis on the word.
She’s sitting on her bed reading a paperback, probably one of those mystery novels Glenn loves so much.
“Hey,” he says, voice gruffer than he means it to be.
“Hey,” she’s not gruff at all. He can’t imagine that she even could be.
She cuts him off before he can finish whatever irrelevant thing he was about to say, “I’ve got something for you.” That Georgia accent clings to her words, practically dripping off of them. It sounds like home to him, he’s never trusted people who don’t drop their g’s.
She bends over to dig something out from under her bunk and he averts his eyes, trying to look at anything but the tiny strip of pale skin peeking out from between the top of her jeans and the bottom of her shirt.
Christ, he feels like a dirty old man.
When she stands back up and hands him something, he’s still trying so hard to avoid staring that it doesn’t register to him immediately. It’s one of those blue vacuum-sealed snack pouches printed with a cartoon picture of peaches. He doesn’t know where she got this, in this world they live in it’s worth more than gold. Freeze Dried Peaches! The label proclaims Good For Up to 2 Years! A Good Source of Vitamin C! Whoever made this package must’ve really liked exclamation points.
One of her small, pale hands is still holding the package, fingers brushing against his dirty ones. “Do you like it?” she sounds nervous, and he can feel the heat from where her fingers are touching his, all of his attention focused on that one spot. “You said awhile back that you like peaches so I thought maybe you’d want them,” she’s babbling now.
Before he can think too hard, Daryl wraps his arms around Beth, pulling her close to his chest. She makes a little noise of surprise but relaxes quickly, threading her arms around his waist. The peaches are still clutched in one of his hands.
“Thanks,” he says, and he wants to say more but can’t find the words.
She pulls back a little and looks him dead in the eyes, “Happy Valentine’s Day, Daryl,” Beth says and stretches up on her tippy toes to press a kiss against his cheek, her soft lips against his stubble.
Beth unwraps her arms from around him, leaving him standing in a prison cell, dumbfounded and holding a bag of freeze dried peaches.