Like Dying Embers
Carrie curled into Merle’s side, loving the comfort of his embrace. It had been a long day, and with a trip ahead of them that they didn’t know where it would lead, she was apprehensive.
They had been attacked by a group of walkers that stumbled upon the camp. It had been late into the night, the scavenging team not even back yet from what they were told later was a hold up with the stolen van. She could remember Amy’s screaming, the panic ensuing all around them camp. She had been grabbed by Merle and thrown towards the RV where they were trying to take refuge, but she tried to help shoot some of the walkers down.
They’d lost people. Amy was dead, along with a dozen others who had camped around the same area. Jim had been discovered to be bitten, and Daryl had quickly checked Carrie all over for damage when a walker had fallen on top of her. She’d been terrified, as while she was used to huge groups of the dead, this time she had nowhere to run, and had never been that close to dying.
“Stop movin’ ‘round and get some damn sleep,” Merle grumbled at her, throwing his arm over her waist and bringing his hand to cup under her breast. She sighed, trying to close her eyes, but not able to bring herself to sleep.
She interrupted the silence again, scratching her head, causing Merle to grunt under his breath in annoyance. He and Daryl had been ready to put down those who had been killed, taking charge when nobody else would; by default, she helped with the task too, but found herself feeling sick at the thought of putting down those who had been living just the day before. Their group had been destroyed by half, and it was almost pure luck that the children and the women who couldn’t fight didn’t die. Well, except for Amy and Jim.
Jim. She thought he was an odd guy, and granted, he definitely was. He was bitten, in their camp right now, able to turn and kill them all. Carrie had not been one that was on the side of keeping him around, fearing for everyone’s safety. Rick insisted that the CDC might be able to cure him, that there must be some hope. Weeks ago she would have disagreed, but finding both brothers alive and well almost made her want to believe that there could be somewhere safe after all of the bullshit.
“Do you think the CDC is a good idea?” she asked in a light whispered, turning over to her other side so she could face Merle. Daryl had decided to sleep in the bed of the truck, keeping watch on the camp before bed.
She felt him shrug in the darkness. “Prolly’ not—yah think this shit would have gotten this far if it was? But might as well go, can’t hurt. If it’s a bust though, I’m gettin’ you and Darylina out; fuck ‘em” he answered, though his whisper was not nearly as quiet. Carrie shuffled closed, nuzzling her head into the crook of his shoulder.
“I wanna stay with the group,” she said, and she felt him stiffen. Carrie knew that he hated half the people in the group, and she wasn’t too sure how long they’d all last, given what had happened the night before. But she had spent too much time alone in Atlanta, too scared some days to even leave the apartment when she needed food. She knew that she would be safe with the Dixon brothers, but having extra bodies was comforting. “I know you don’t like ‘em, but there’s safety in numbers. We’ll stick around for a while and see what happens, ya hear? First sign of big trouble, we can be out. Maybe go home and see if we can hole up in your place.”
Carrie was pretty sure that their would likely be no home to return to, but she knew the thought of being in a familiar place would be comforting to him; it definitely was to her. “Plus, with more people, it might be easier to find my sister,” she added, her thoughts drifting to Gen, who was probably around three months pregnant now.
Merle snorted under his breath,” Ya really think ya family could have survived it?” She shrugged, not answering. Her parents would likely be dead, too stubborn to leave their home and materialistic lifestyles to head for safety. Them not answering the phone was sign enough for her that they were either dead, or didn’t care enough about her to find her. But Gen had Ryan, and while Ryan was definitely more boy-next-door than survival-expert, he could have been smart enough to find a way to keep her safe and alive.
She felt his hand run over her waist and down to her thighs, a comforting gesture in Merle’s world. “If they out there, we’ll find ‘em suga’, but ya got me and Daryl, so don’t worry ‘bout nothin’.” She nodded, tilting her head to kiss his neck in appreciation. He would never act this way in front of others, especially when he was wide awake, but Carrie could appreciate the softness in the situation.
Carrie maneuvered her head so she could kiss him, and he quickly responded, as if he woke up in his own head. Anything that could turn sexual always woke Merle up. His arms wrapped around her, and he rolled so he could hover over her. She relished in his kiss, the warmth comforting her and making her forget the problems of the last few days. They’d been alone, but hadn’t had time to be alone. She’d missed his touch, the way his large hands roamed her body like they were now. Carrie had made the lonely nights in Atlanta a little less so, laying in bed and closing her eyes, picturing the scenario. The real thing was much better. So much better.
His lips moved down to her neck, and she held in her giggles at the tickling sensation of his facial hair rubbing against her skin. She kissed the side of his face where she could reach, trying to memorize the feeling of the moment. She felt Merle’s teeth graze her neck, and almost as if a bucket of water was dropped over her, she gasped, pushing him away.
“Car, wha’ the—“
“I’m sorry,” she whimpered, covering her eyes with her hands. Feeling his teeth against her neck, it was like the scene has changed. She was laying in the dirt of their camp, the walker on top of her, it’s disgusting teeth snapping at her, almost reaching her neck. Carrie hadn’t been strong enough to get it off and grab her knife or gun, only saved by Merle grabbing the monster off of her and Daryl ending it. Merle had instantly picked her up after the rest were dealt with, cradling her shaking form and taking her to the tent to sleep. On her insistence, Daryl slept in the tent too, her in between them so she could easily feel that they were both their, that she was alive and they were too.
Merle sighed and slowly lowered himself down to her, and Carrie’s arms went back around his neck, embarrassed by her sudden change. He didn’t say anything, and she didn’t either. Words had never been either of their strong suit, but she wasn’t a woman who cared about talking. She didn’t need to be comforted by him reciting Shakespeare or bullshitting her that everything would be alright, but Carrie knew, as he began to slowly kiss her neck, that he understood.
/ / /
The camp had been easily packed up, Carrie helping the Dixon brothers load up the truck, Merle insisting on riding his bike while he could. Morales and his family had split, something that had been somewhat sad for her; she had grown to like Morales a lot. Carrie could only hope that they found whatever family they were going to be looking for.
She had the window down, letting the breeze run through her hair for the first time in ages. She hardly ever let her hair down, the long length being just a hassle now, but in the truck, she had some sort of safety net, allowing her to relax. Beside the dead bodies and lack of others on the road, it almost felt normal.
“Got any CDs in this thing?” she asked hopefully to Daryl, who was focusing on the road, Merle’s motorcycle audible in their line of vehicles. Her companion shook his head, and she slumped in the seat a little, put out. She missed music, since she always had something playing in her own car. She started clicking her tongue absentmindedly, picking at the dirt underneath her fingernails.
Daryl’s gruff voice broke her out of her momentary trace, sounding annoyed. “Can ya cut that shit out? Swear, ya like a kid,” he said, rolling his eyes.
Carrie grinned, throwing her feet up on the dashboard, her running shoes discarded on the floor of the car. “Would ya rather have me or an actual kid though?” she teased.
“Think I’d take that battered woman’s brat—actually listens.”
“Whatcha mean? Carl is like a little soldier with taking orders,” she joked, both of them laughing. It felt nice to hear Daryl laugh, even if they were joking about a child. Carl never seemed to be where he needed to, and while that wasn’t the worst thing in the old world, in the new world, it could get you killed. They were seat kids, though, she having helped with a bit of the stupid math work problems their mothers had thrown together. She wasn’t the smartest tool in the shed, but Carrie could do numbers.
It was silent between them as their laughter died down, just rolling through the streets. They stopped not too long after, pulling over to let Jim out on the side of the road. She thought it was almost inhumane to leave him there to turn, but it was what he wanted. She crouched to his level, leaning against the tree. Carrie hardly knew the guy and wasn’t close, but human life fading away was still sad.
“Rest easy, Jim,” she said, leaning forward and kissing his cheek. He gave a weak smile, and she squeezed his arm before returning to the truck, trying not to look back as the others gave their final goodbyes to the dying man.
They hit the road again, hoping to make their destination relatively soon. Carrie stared out the window, her mind on Jim, wondering how long he had until he turned into the dead, walking around and looking for nothing but a meal. “You think we making the right decision, staying’ with these people?” she asked Daryl, wanting to hear his opinion on the situation. He usually never spoke his own opinions because of Merle’s obnoxious nature, but Carrie found he had a lot of insight. When Merle was in prison and all they had was each other, she grew to find out he had a lot more to say than expected.
He shrugged, blowing the smoke from his cigarette out in a sigh, tapping the ashes out the window. “Don’t know, guess we’ll figure it out,” he said, glancing over to her. She gave him a look, and he rolled his eyes. “Travel in numbers is smart, but hopefully learn to pull their weight. Need teach those kids how ta’ use guns, and make everybody learn basic survival skills, or they ain’t gonna last long.”
“Maybe teach them how to—oh my God,” she cut off, her eyes widening as they neared their destination. More and more bodies littered the streets, reminding her of the downtown of Atlanta. They were silent as they weaved through, the other cars doing the same. It only seemed to get worse the farther they got in, military vehicles scattered around. The building came into full view, tanks and soldiers on the ground, along with the dead.
Everybody quickly jumped out, Carrie having a tight hold on her gun, her backpack swung on her shoulders. They regrouped and quickly ran to the doors, the walkers closing in. Panic set in as the doors didn’t open, only Rick insisting the camera was moving.
“Merle!” she called nervously, the gun in her hands shaking. She’d only been a half-decent shot when he had taught her how to properly use a gun all those months ago, most of their lesson interrupted by their flirting and eventual roll in the literal dirt in the middle of the forest.
“We’re gettin’ outta here! Daryl!” he called, Daryl stepping up in the line. “Stay behind me!” he said. She felt like crying, not sure how to handle or deal with the stress. They were going to die chasing a pipe-dream; it had been her call for the Dixons to join them. Rick was begging the faux-presence behind the camera as the rest of them panicked, Shane trying to get everybody prepared to run.
But the sound of the doors opening caused Carrie’s eyes to widen as she spun around, almost rooted to the spot. She grabbed Merle’s arm, quickly pulling and they ran inside along with the others, the doors shutting behind the large group shortly after.
/ / /
Crying on the floor is not where she expected to be barely a day later. Showered and fed, maybe crying for joy, but not because she was going to die. Just last night, they were celebrating, even Merle and Daryl being included in the fun and chatter, no ill will.
“Yo Carrie, you gotta tell us, how the fuck are you with a guy like Merle? No offense, brother,” T-Dog asked, raising his glass of wine in said man’s direction. The southern comfort provided to Merle was lulled him into his happy drunken state, causing him just to wave the man he previously detested off.
Carrie laughed loudly, having drank enough wine that she was already feeling the warmth and tipsiness. “Honest? Big partier, always seemed to like the seedy little bars. Went to this place on the other side of town, always managed to get free drinks there. Saw Merle hanging out there, and that’s just it,” she said, leaning into him easily, his arm wrapped around her shoulder. She hadn’t felt so at ease in ages, the familiar feeling of alcohol making her relaxed.
“Approached me an’ everythin’. Here I am, fuckin’ old as dirt, this pretty lil’ bombshell walks up to me, short lil’ dress and high heels, leaning ova mah’ table,” Merle boasted, rubbing her arm.
Glenn chimed in now, drunk off his rocks already. “Still can’t believe that man, so weird,” he said, Daryl filling up his drink again when he wasn’t looking.
“Imagine my surprise when I came to check on him, she was cookin’ in his kitchen. I thought I’d stepped into the Twilight Zone,” Daryl barked out, the Southern Comfort already having its toll on him as well. They all laughed, Carrie kissing Merle’s cheek sloppily as Lori, who normally wore a grimace was even smiling, cut the conversation off for the little ones. She took another long drink from her glass, watching with laughter as Carl took his first sip of wine. It couldn’t get much better than this; hot food, alcohol, warm conversation. It was almost like home.
Head between her knees, her gun lazily hanging from her fingers. She looked up briefly to look at the glaring clock, ticking down slowly. They were running out, and soon, the building was going to blow, hit decontamination. She heard Merle threatening to throttle Jenner in between helping Daryl try to break down the door. Carrie had given up helping after ten minutes.
Merle slammed down next to her, Daryl still working on the door. She leaned into him, instantly wrapped in his arms, sobbing into his shoulder as he pulled her close. This would be the last time he held her; this would be the last time they’d be together in this world. She’d lost her faith in God long ago, but now, she couldn’t help but hope there was something beyond, so she could be with him and the rest of her family after they were gone.
The hot shower had warmed her up considerably, feeling more clean than she had in since the start when the water still worked in the apartment. The creek had helped her wash up, but the lukewarm summer water didn’t quite feel the same as the warmth of hot water hitting her. She’d been able to shave and clean up comfortably, wash her hair through, leaving it in wet tendrils down her back, the waves already forming as it started to dry.
Carrie giggled, falling back onto the bed, loving how it felt to slept on one. It wasn’t as comfortable as the one in the apartment, but it was definitely better than the floor of the tent in a sleeping bag.
Merle flopped next to her, toeing off his boots and placing his bottle of Southern Comfort on the bedside table. He rolled to hover over her, brushing the wet hair out of her face before pressing flush against her, digging his hips into her. Hips lips found her neck, and her laughter continued as he nipped and kissed down her neck to the crook of her shoulder.
“Need ya,” he gruffed out, his hands digging into her hips. She moaned into his mouth, instantly moving her hands to push him to hastily peel her clothes off, a mixture of the alcohol, the ultimate feeling of safety, and the privacy to finally get what she had desperately desired from him. Their relationship had been built of sex, and to have been without him for over three months had been like a starving man faced with a full buffet.
And a starving man he was. Merle’s hands were rough and tugging, his mouth leaving a trailblazer against her skin. If there was any doubt that he had missed her or mourned her as much as he claimed, he was certainly showing it now. She cried out as he clamped down on her neck, the memories of the dead and walkers fading away, and there was Merle, and only Merle.
“We’re going to die here,” she whimpered into his arm.
He tightened around her, practically growling into her ear. “We are not, you are not. I just gotcha back, I ain’t gonna let some dumbs hit scientist ruin that,” he snapped, releasing her and getting up again. Carrie watched as he stalked over to Jenner and Rick, his arm muscles flexing threateningly as he waved them, likely telling him off for keeping them inside.
And the doors were opened, something that didn’t register to her. Everybody was scrambling, and she vaguely heard her name, though it wasn’t registering. She saw Jacqui talking to T-Dog, though she knew someone she was staying. Andrea and Dale were sitting at Jenner’s table too, Andrea looking angry at him.
It was like the world froze for a minute, as she pulled herself to stand. It could all be over if she stayed; no more suffering, no more death. The world would end painlessly and not by a walker bite. She wouldn’t have to see any more friends die. Quick, painless, without even knowing it. The thought of staying crossed her mind, but she was snapped out of it almost instantly when she was dragged out of her slow-motion world, her feet leaving the ground.
“Daryl, grab her shit!” Merle yelled, throwing her over his shoulder, like a wounded soldier in battle before taking off running with her, Daryl right next to them.
She’d never been fireman carried out of a building before, nor had she been thrown down to the ground and covered as a grenade went off. Hell, she’d never even been close enough to a grenade in her life. The explosion caused her to blink as it settled, being yanked up by Merle quickly. Her feet finally worked, her heart restarting and the panic set in. They were escaping, oh God, they were going to live.
She ran alongside him, being handed her gun by Daryl, and she tried to shoot incoming walkers, but her shots were in vain. “Get to the truck!” Merle yelled, and she took off towards it, yanking open the back door and climbing in to the farthest side. Instinct kicked in as she folded herself as much as possible to the floorboard of the backseat, Merle climbing in after her on the other side and ducking his head. The truck rocked and she assumed Daryl had gone in the front. She wanted to reach out to Daryl, to know he was safe, but she didn’t dare move her arm.
The explosion came not even a minute later, heat blazing over her. Carrie shut her eyes tight, every muscle in her body clentching as she waited for it to all pass. There was still heat, and the rumbling continued, but she felt Merle lift slowly from next to her, and she followed, looking out the window.
The CDC was a fireball, the building crumbling down. Those who had stayed were likely a pile of ash—if even that. Carrie stared at the building, conflicted, seeing as Merle had carried her out. She looked to him, meeting his hard eyes, looking away then to look at Daryl, who was between the both of them, his expression unreadable.
Slowly, her shaky hand moved to rest on Daryl’s arm, and her other hand to rest on Merle’s cheek. She looked between both of her boys, trying to think of life ending and them living. Did time move fast when you died? Did the hours and minutes trickle by slow? If she had died, caught in the fiery blaze of the CDC, would she ever be reunited with the brothers?
Daryl was the first to move between the three, squeezing her hand back. Merle leaned into her hand with a heavy sigh. She sighed herself, green eyes looking back to the burning CDC, the walkers moving toward it, attracted. The explosion would likely attract them for miles, if they kept their attention. They would have to fight them if they stayed too long.
But in that moment, staring at the blaze, she was glad Merle had picked her up, rushing her out. He needed her, like she needed him, she supposed. With the brothers, with the whole group that she had grown close to over the past few days, life seemed worth living. They had to move soon, since life just kept moving on, but Carrie knew that they could all make it through. She could make it through.
Not my favorite chapter, but soon, we'll start diverging off of the canon a bit more, coming into season 2/the farm. After here, I'll be mixing some of the comics plot, show plot, and my own Merle/Daryl centered thing, just to keep it different. Hope you all are enjoying, those who are reading!
Let me know what you think in the comments, please rate, and if you're enjoying, subscribe for updates!
If you want something more to read, check out my other story, Match Made. AU, no apocalypse, and Carrie/Merle have their future, while Daryl finds his!