The Darkest Storm
Her biggest mistake was believing there are limits to how bad it can get.
“Where have you been?” The quiet voice of Glenn pries her eyes open, coming face to face with the cool brick wall of the inside of her cell. She does not move or give him the impression she’s listening or if she’s even awake. She hasn’t been able to sleep anyways, so that was just a fool’s dream.
Darcy’s eyes feel as if they are about to split apart. There is no mistaking the red swollen edges and dryness of her amber hues; she’s been crying ever since she walked away from Daryl in the woods two nights ago.
Once in a while, she’d stir; get up as if moved by some urgent purpose, only then to collapse back into stillness after thinking of him once more. The numbness would ease her when her body forced her to stop from exhaustion. But then the pain would hit her out of nowhere again, doubling her over, racking her body with sobs.
She managed to make it back to the prison that night safely after dark. Carol and Rick had opened the gates for her, but she couldn’t face them. She couldn’t face anybody. Instead, she passed them all by with their eyes locked on her in worry and concern as she climbed the stairs as calmly as she could. When she reached her cell, she unfolded one of her extra sheets and laid it across the door for privacy.
Darcy stood with her back up against the closed door and slid down to the ground and let the tears flow silently. Her vision was blurred, and her mind was spinning madly on. She clutched at her hair; gripping it with such force she thought she might pull it out. Then she stood, walking over to the desk and wiping all of its contents, some of his belongings alongside hers, onto the floor with a loud rattle.
He wasn’t coming back; that’s all there was to it.
Darcy hears Glenn sigh heavily and walk over to crouch next to her cot. “We need you out here.” Glenn tells her. She shuffles a bit and he sighs again. “Listen, with Daryl gone…” Darcy clutches at her pillow when she hears his name. “And Rick off, well, going crazy…you’re next in line to make the choices around here.”
Darcy shakes her head. “No.” Her voice is raspy and somewhat foreign to herself, as she hasn’t spoken these past two days.
“No?” Glenn asks, he is becoming frustrated. With no other response, he talks on. “Fine. I’m in charge then.”
“Okay.” She closes her eyes again. She doesn’t care anymore. She doesn’t care if they are depending on her for answers. She’s done.
Glenn walks towards the cell entry and stops when he bites his lip and turns back to face her. “I know that it’s hard to deal with right now, but this isn’t the end. You’ll come back from it.”
There are more tears dropping from Darcy’s eyes and she sniffles as she wipes them away.
“We need you to come back from it. It’s not the end.”
The end; such a funny little phrase. How can two tiny words seem so finite, so certain, so complete? Sometimes an ending can fill a person with joy, settle all lingering worries and leave them with a feeling of pleasant resolve.
Other times it may leave them desolate of hope knowing that after everything, after all the work, the twists and turns that this is all the ending they’ve been given; that after everything there is only a man stumbling blindly among the thick woods still trying to convince himself he is making the right choice, and a girl who is fighting the urge against detaching herself from everything, feeling empty, desolate, and heartbroken, all the while she is clinging to her cot succumbed to the overwhelming misery that he too shall soon feel, blinded by tears as her heart feels hollow and torn.
Darcy forces herself to sit up and stand from her bed. She sees from out of the corner of her eye Glenn’s silhouette in the shadows of the cell. He blinks a few times, not only because he didn’t expect her to get up so fast, but also because of the complete visual torment she has caused herself at Daryl’s leave. No one thought she could ever not be strong.
Darcy knew her weaknesses, though. It was because of them she didn’t want to attach herself to the members of this tightly interwoven group to begin with, especially Daryl. It only leads to disappointment, distant memories, and those whom she cares the most about becoming vacant silhouettes, or they choose to abandon her altogether.
She feels the weight of Glenn’s eyes in her direction, and she rubs her nose with her long charcoal gray sleeve before swallowing the tightness forming in her throat again.
Darcy picks up Dale’s old rifle he left her and moves around Glenn. “I’ll take watch.” She tells him, throwing the large gun over her shoulder and leaving her holster behind on the desk.
Making her way downstairs, Darcy tries to ignore the once again lingering stares of the others. She pushes the gate open to the cafeteria where Carol is spotted making lunch. Darcy tries to avoid her by not bringing her head up but she stops her anyway.
“Eat something.” Carol tells her. Darcy stops in her tracks and looks at the woman’s face filled with concern. She holds a bowl out for her to take, and Darcy can’t help but let Carol give it to her.
Giving a small nod, Darcy thanks her and heads outside to her normal lookout position in the watchtower. To her dismay, she heard Rick had a sudden panic attack in front of Tyresse and the others just before she arrived back at the prison.
It was apparently violent enough to get them on their way. Since then, Rick’s been quiet like Darcy. He seems to be looking through his binoculars more often as if he’s searching for something that is just out of reach. Or maybe, he’s being paranoid about the Governor.
Darcy is too tired and absentminded to pay attention or try to figure it out. She just notices his mourning figure running through the prison’s fields towards the gate as she sits back down in her lawn chair in the tower. Darcy has put the food bowl to the side without touching it - she is sure she won’t be able to keep it down – and rests the rifle in her lap and her feet up on the rail.
The climate of the outside Georgian atmosphere is drowsy. The remnants of the talks her and Daryl used to have hangs in the air with the late afternoon sunlight. Questions like: “Where is he now?” and “Does he even care?” haunt her quiet mind as she stares blankly in the distance.
“Ya still ain’t told me ‘bout her.” Merle purses his lips as he rocks back and forth on his feet. He watches Daryl skinning a squirrel, but his question stops all of Daryl’s movements.
“Ain’t nothin’ to say.” Daryl blinks, returning to his work.
“Mm-hmm.” Merle nods, raising a brow. “Looks like lil’ Darylina got a crush to me.” Daryl sighs, and is forced to stop again. He sits up straight and looks ahead in thought. “Ya gonna tell me how you met her?”
Daryl bets to himself Merle’s getting a kick out of this. “Back in Atlanta. The day ya went missin’. Ran into her in the woods – she was by herself. Brought her back ‘n went with us to look for ya.”
Merle nods slowly. “Uh-huh.” His lips curve into a smirk. “”N then?”
Daryl glances back at his prodding brother, “Then what, bro?”
Merle bobs his head, “You know,” He rolls his hips around. Daryl stands up, infuriated.
“Shut up. Don’ you start sayin’ nothin’ about her.” Daryl points.
Merle laughs and holds up his hands, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, Darylina. Didn’ mean to, strike a nerve. Ne’er seen you so worked up over a broad before.”
“Don’ call her that.” Daryl shakes his head. “It’s ‘cause of you she’s even gone now in the first place. What the fuck Merle, ya needed to beat the shit out of her for what?”
“Hey!” Merle snaps, “I ain’t gonna listen to ya wine like a lost puppy over this girl. What’s she doin’ with you anyways, huh? Look at ya –“
“Shut up! You don’t know the first thing about her!” Daryl got in his face.
Merle chuckles, “Oh yeah. I gotta pretty good idea. Gotta fight in her that one. Can only imagine what she must be like –“
“I’mma stomp your ass if you even think about finishing that sentence.” Daryl growls. Merle takes a step back and looks at his brother like he doesn’t recognize him at all.
“What’s she to ya, lil’ brother?” Merle asks, genuinely.
Daryl sits back on the log in front of his unfinished squirrel. He holds his knife in his hands and looks off in the distance, and doesn’t answer. All he can think about is that in reality, she meant everything to him.
An overwhelming feeling sends shivers down Darcy’s spine. She can sense something growing in the air, through the fields and the woods. She keeps her eyes planted on the eastern skies and doesn’t for a minute close them for she fears she might miss it.
She whips her head over at the sound of someone approaching. It’s Carol, and she gives a small smile towards her as she peers around the corner. Darcy sees her notice the untouched bowl of food given to her a few hours ago, surrounded by buzzing flies and it is now spoiled from the intense heat.
“May I join you?” Carol asks. Darcy shrugs her shoulders and looks back to the horizon, but Carol does not break her stare from the woman before her. Daryl would have wanted Carol to look after her; she knows this to be true.
“Daryl loved you.” Darcy hears her say. This causes her to looks up at the woman, who merely nods and gives a sincere smile. “He may not have said it, but he did. And he still does. Merle isn’t good for him. He’ll figure that out and hopefully return to us. But, these feelings you’re going through can’t break you.”
Darcy shifts in her seat and looks back towards the fields where Hershel has met up with Rick at the outer gate. Darcy had always picked up on small cues form Daryl that made her think maybe, just maybe, Daryl was hinting at some feeling far greater than either of them had expected. But there is no way of finding out for sure now, and if she sees him again, she isn’t sure he’d get the greatest welcome home.
“You’re going to be okay.” Carol nods her head heavily and Darcy lowers her own. “Remember you’ve been in this place before, when you were on your own. You’ve been this uncomfortable and anxious and scared, and you’ve survived. Breathe, and know that you can survive this, too.”
“I know it’s painful and debilitating, but you can sit with them and eventually, they will pass. Maybe not immediately, but sometime soon. They are going to fade and when they do, you’ll look back at yourself in this moment and you’ll laugh for having doubted your own resilience.”
Darcy feels a gentle hand on her shoulder as Carol stands up to leave, “I know it feels unbearable right now, but just keep breathing. You have so many people here willing to look out for you. This will pass, I promise it will.”
Her mind has been bringing her in and out of reality. When she looks over to say thank you, she expects Carol to still be there but there is a vacancy where she used to be. Darcy peers out over the yard, and sees that the sunlight has brought an entirely new look to the area and almost everyone is now outside.
Specifically, she sees Hershel talking to a disheveled Rick on the outer fence lines. She suddenly notices how Rick shuffles his weight and looks back and forth between Hershel and the woods like a child who has done something wrong. She hears Carol’s giggles and Axel’s voice from below her, along with Carl and Beth who sit at one of the picnic tables just simply talking.
And then it happened.
An unmistakable shot rings out across the fields, scattering the birds that lay hidden beneath the tall grasses, and emitting screams of fear from below the watchtower. Darcy’s head whips around at now an unmoving Axel, a bullet straight though his skull, and Carol who shields herself behind him.
More startling shots are fired, and Darcy stands up at the sight of slightly hidden vehicles unfamiliar to her across the way. There stands a man in plain sight with a sniper rifle gripped in his hands and aimed straight for the prison.
A few yards away from him, another man fires at Rick. He is out in the open, and is forced to run across the bridge and dive behind larger bushes. Darcy kneels down and aims her rifle, now seeing there are in fact three other men hiding behind the trees. She takes a sharp breath in when she has one in the cross of her scope, and fires. The other two around their fallen ally startle them and they suddenly point to the tower where she is stationed.
Darcy brings her head up and looks where the man was and pulls back the lever on her rifle to bring up another bullet. But before she can retake aim, a painful sharp sensation strikes her left arm and she falls backwards. There is another man held up in the adjacent watchtower a few yards away from her. She scrambles to try and get behind the wall before being fired at by dozens more shots.
When she finally has reached cover, she leans back against the wall. The man is still trying to mark her, and the glass from the windows up above her shatter around her. She covers her head as best she can but the sharp corners of the glass nip at her skin, leaving cuts all over her body.
The gunfire directed at her finally ceases, and she breathes heavily from fear and pain as she watches the dense amount of blood flow from the top of her arm below her shoulder. She winces, sitting up straight and trying her best to rip the bottom hem of her shirt. Darcy uses the long material to wrap up her arm momentarily, using her teeth to pull it tight and rip the remaining material off.
Anger and worry for her friends sweeps over her, and she looks around the corner at the man who had shot her, now dead sprawled out in the corner of the top level. Darcy crawls over towards her rifle and winces at the pain in her arm, she cannot seem to bring it up enough to use so she rests the barrel on the rail, crouching down as best she could to still be useful and help defend their camp. She knows she can survive from this.
But the weapons are silent now, and she waits. In the distance, what seems to be a van is traveling straight for the prison. The driver doesn’t hit the breaks nor even tries to when he reaches the gates. They are simply run over, and the van is brought into the heart of the field where Hershel is still trapped inside.
The van suddenly stops, and the back ramp is instantly dropped. The moans are unmistakable; the Governor has brought walkers into their domain once again, and the old threat is placed back on their doorstep. The entire group watches as each corpse trickles out into the valley, the sweet smell of a meal fresh in their noses.
Guns start firing again. Darcy grits her teeth and clenches her jaw. Daryl is gone, but she understands now what Glenn meant back in her cell. She was needed, depended on, just like she did Daryl. But now, as he was gone, her loyalty lies with the group and she would renew her strength and composure to defend them.
The foreign vehicles leave the prison to defend itself mercilessly. Darcy keeps her eyes on Rick as he stumbles to reach the broken down gate to safety. The shots have attracted more walkers than before out of the woods. Darcy follows Rick with her rifle, taking down any that got too close and that he didn’t have time to see.
Darcy then sees Rick backed up against the fence, and she goes to shoot another walker but her rifle jams.
“Shit!” She screams, pulling back her rifle with a struggle and trying to clear it. Darcy looks up with haste at the group of walkers that have started to form around him, and she panics because she still can’t clear the hold.
Finally, she gets it. Darcy rests the barrel back on the rail. She shoots two more walkers down and attempts at another, but an all too familiar green arrow has already pierced its skull.
Looking through the scope, she sees him. Darcy gets up weakly, taking her gun with her as she runs down the steps and outside. The truck that Glenn had managed to be in to save Hershel and Michonne were riding through the gate to safety, but Darcy had her eyes locked on Daryl on the outside.
Suddenly, her knees grow weak and the effect of dehydration, starvation, and just plain exhaustion takes its toll. Her vision is blurry and she sees Michonne running towards her to catch her just before she falls.
When she wakes, she feels a slight heaviness on her bed next to her. She lays on her back with her left arm in a homemade sling out of an extra sheet, and the pain is almost bearable. Hershel must have taken care of her when she was asleep. Darcy blinks repeatedly, sitting up slightly and reaches up to grab the bar that hangs above her.
Darcy comes face to face with Daryl, who casually has one leg up on the bed while the other rests on the floor. His back is up against the bed pole, and he stops fixing an arrow when she stirs.
Was she dreaming? Maybe she hit her head harder than she thought. She brings up her hand to her forehead to help reassure herself against the dull throb. Darcy has absentmindedly forgotten about her gunshot wound and she immediately hisses at the sharp pain.
“Take it easy.” Daryl says as he sits up with her. It’s quiet and low, just as it used to be. But it’s also different. Behind his words and his tone holds a hint of fear. He wonders how she will respond to his presence after all this time.
Darcy is sure this is all in her head. She turns her feet to drop them against the floor and stares at him, completely unsure. She watches as his eyes dart from every feature on her face and she knows he’s trying to read her.
Darcy wants to know if this is real. With her good hand she reaches out to his that rests on the bed by his side. A single touch confirms it; the warming sensation and recognition of his skin on hers forces Darcy to snap into reality and, as if scolded, she pulls back and stands up shaking.
“What are you doing here?” Darcy back is facing him and he stares with anxiousness. Her voice is low as if she’s whispering. She doesn’t wait for his answer, she instead starts rummaging through her things that are still scattered a mess on the floor and finds the crinkled pack of cigarettes she was looking for.
“This is where I belong.” His voice is hoarse in its deepness and meaning.
Daryl has noticed that her hands are shaking as she pulls one out and fidgets with it in her mouth. She reaches in her pocket and pulls out the familiar golden lighter, and flicks it open ready to light the smoke her body begged her for. But as she stares into the tiny flame, Darcy remembers when Daryl gave it to her and what it meant.
“One night.” She hisses. Daryl jumps slightly when she suddenly throws the lighter angrily at him and drops the cigarette to the floor. He doesn’t know what she means when he looks up at her, shaking her head from the oncoming tears.
“That’s all it took for you to throw away everything we had.” Darcy looks down at the ground, but she says this very confidently.
It was in this moment that she decides she will not let anyone take advantage of her, or break her down like she had before. Carol was right; she would become stronger and wonder why she ever let herself go down that path.
“I didn’ throw nothin’ away, Darcy.” Daryl stands up and takes aggressive steps towards her. He speaks to her her roughly, but also in caring. “He’s my brother. You know – you know I couldn’t leave ‘im. Had nothin’ to do with you.”
“But you left me. You left after you said that nothing could make you leave. That you couldn’t picture waking up and not seeing me everyday – was it all just bullshit to string me along?” She shouts, pushing him off of her and walking away.
“’M here now, ain’t I?” Daryl shouts back. “Right back next to ya side. Tha’s all we ever wanted ain’t it?”
“I can’t.” Darcy shakes her head and crosses her arms. The nauseous feeling comes back to her and she swallows hard. She almost can’t bring herself to say it. It was that question that he had worn on his lips – like a loose thread on his favorite sweater he couldn’t resist pulling – that made him fear this could all unravel around him.
“Don’. Don’ do this.” Daryl pleads. “Look, Darcy, I’m sorry. I’m sorry I felt like I didn’ have no choice. He’s my brother it was always ‘im and I before all this I couldn’ just leave ‘im!”
“But you could leave me.” Darcy says.
“Look, I –“ Daryl shakes his head and avoids her strong gaze. He knows she’s right. “”M sorry. Can’t take back what I did ‘n I wish you could see why I had to do it. I just don’ want ya to throw us off the table because we’re too damn good for each other and ya know it. Hell, everybody does.”
“Ya told me ya needed me, here I am.” Daryl lifts up his arms and drops them back to his sides. “Came back ‘cause I need you too.”
Darcy consciously rubs her right hand against her thighs and makes her eyes look to everything in the room except for him. He doesn’t truly understand how much he’s hurt her. Darcy now wants to pull herself back and step away from him. She wants to think if this type of pain is worth it all. She wants to believe it is, but her heart is too broken for her to realize it.
“I think you need to go.” She whispers.
The familiar scowl is on Daryl’s face, “What?” He frowns.
“I really think you need to go now.” Darcy repeats herself.
Daryl takes her face in her hands and looks into her eyes, “But we decided we’d go together in everythin’, remember? I – I know I messed up but ya gotta understand we – I didn’ want to leave ya…” He presses his forehead against hers. “Darcy, please. I can’ watch you walk by me everyday ‘n know I can’ t be with ya.”
Darcy lets Daryl watch her cry for the first time. “No.” She whimpers. He closes his eyes softly at the heart wrenching sound. “I can’t its – its not the same now. I thought you were someone who would never, ever hurt me. And now I feel like I just can’t not picture you leaving…I can’t sit by and be worried every second whether you’re gonna do it again, it’s just too hard.”
Daryl drops his hands and steps back, running his fingers over his lips. “Ain’t gonna leave like that again, I promise. I wanna stay here ‘n have your back like old times.”
Darcy wipes her eyes with her sleeve, “You’ve made so many promises already that you haven’t kept, Daryl. I can’t do this. I can’t wake up wondering if you’ll be here or not. I fell apart while you were gone I – I needed you and you weren’t there.”
Daryl raises his voice again, “So what, we – we just gonna pretend we ain’t nothin’ anymore? We gonna ignore each other ‘n not talk? Not even be in the same room?”
When she avoids his gaze, his heart drops and he can’t help be defensive.
“Ya know what?” Daryl pace a bit before turning back to her and glaring. “I’m not the one who started this!” Darcy gives him a look as if she’s about to object but he continues over her.
“At the farm you – you told me I meant somethin’ for ya. And then you just ran off like it was nothin’, then you come back ‘n make me feel anxious and safe when I’m around ya I just – I just can’ shake ya off!”
“I started this?” Darcy yells. “So I’m to blame for everything, is that right?” Daryl can’t help but return her glare through the strands of his hair. He knows it isn’t true; Daryl just doesn’t want it all to end and is looking for someone other than himself to blame. He’s wanted this just as badly as she did, if not more.
“Fine.” Darcy exits the cell. “Then we really do have nothing more to talk about.
Breaks my heart.