The Darkest Storm
Days Gone By
The sunken azure-blue eyes stare impassively at them. It is clear from his hesitation and forlorn tenor that the meeting was going to hold no good news this time. He scans the disarray of papers in front of him that hold no true meaning until his face is filled with sadness.
“It’s spread.” Hershel rubs his hands over his beard and sighs.
Nobody dares to let their minds ease back into the memories of days gone by, happier times when they could live their lives with minimal fear and anxiety, without wondering how long they have left together when that final knock of death on the door will come.
“Everyone who survived the attack in in Cellblock D; Sasha, Caleb, and now others.”
“Jesus.” Daryl mumbles as he thumbs the arch of the chair he sits on.
Darcy peers around the corner of the doorway, not making herself known just yet. Through the small lens of the doors window she can just make out the faint illumination of dusk from the spotlights outside beginning to shine. She’s taken to heart Sasha’s words and seeks the old role she was once known for and pleaded to return to by the others.
She had figured it out the day they first came to the prison, how she’d provide – her absolute role. Darcy never thought herself as a protector or provider of the group in those days, and in the back of her mind, she believes this was the exact reason why she has survived – to be a part of this group and do what she could to ensure their survival as well as her own. She supposes with Daryl especially, she was to be enduring and shatterproof.
A sharp cough from Glenn’s throat breaks Darcy from her daydreams and she peers back around the doorframe. The group focuses on Hershel’s words, but she is daunted by the way Glenn continues to adjust his jaw and rub his neck. It was spreading faster than she imagined.
“So what do we do?” Carol asks.
“First things first.” Hershel stops when soft footprints enter the library.
The group, which consists now of him, Daryl, Glenn, Carol, and Michonne, look over to her and give a welcoming nod. Specifically, her eyes flicker to Daryl for some other source of comfort, something that only he can provide. Under his shaggy hair and tired lenses she spots a small smile when he blinks. She positions herself away from the table by a bookcase, crossing her arms and waiting for him to continue.
“Cellblock A is isolation. We keep the sick people there like we tried with Karen and David.”
“The hell we gonna do about that?” Daryl growls. Ty was on a reckless rampage, still after his toss up with Rick and the others. There was absolutely no telling what he was capable of if the problem wasn’t solved soon.
“We’ll ask Rick to look into it, try to make a timeline who’s where and when…” Carol seems too quick to brush off the topic. “But, what are we gonna do to stop this?”
“There is no stopping it.” Hershel picks at his fingers and shakes his head. “You get it, you have to go through it.”
“But it just kills you?” Michonne infers.
“The illness doesn’t, the symptoms do.” Hershel points.
“We need antibiotics.” Darcy shuffles on her feet in thought.
Daryl looks to her. “We been to every pharmacy nearby ‘n then some.”
“That veterinary college at West Peach Street Tech, that’s one place people may have not thought to raid for medication.” Hershel mentions, nodding at her agnize observation. “The drugs for animals there are the same we need.”
“That’s fifty miles.” Darcy says.
“Took a bigger risk before, ain’t now.” Daryl stands. “I’m gonna take a group out. Best not waste anymore time.”
“I’m in.” Michonne steps forward.
Hershel looks over to her, then Darcy. “I assume we can count you as well?” He shakes his head as if he’s not surprised. “You two haven’t been exposed, Daryl has. You get in a car with him –“
“We’ll be alright.” Darcy scratches her arm. Her voice is somewhat raspy, as if she’s just woken up. “Besides…we don’t have a whole lot of options at this rate.”
“First thing in the morning then.” Daryl nods. “Pack up everythin’ tonight, make sure we’re set. Searchin’ in the dark’s no good.”
To this day, Darcy can never shake the connection between her and Daryl, nor does she ever want to. She feels some of the pressure in her chest lighten at his presence behind her.Darcy looks over her shoulder as she wipes the pistol with a cloth. She has lain out all the weapons the small group intends to bring, double-checking that everything is set and in order to prepare them for the tough day or so ahead.
She sees when Daryl lifts the hood of Zach’s old car. He pulls out the oil gage and wipes it off before putting it back in for a correct measurement. He sighs and steps back into the light to see where the depth lays. All the while, Daryl catches her eyes and blinks a smile. She feels the heat rise to her cheeks and causes her to turn around back to her task.
Michonne takes her katana off the table and loads it in the car. She walks around to Daryl who shifts on his feet, still checking the engine.
“Son ‘a bitch is ‘bout a quart low.”
“You still keep it in the bottom of tower three?” She asks.
“Yeah.” He says, stealing a small glimpse at Darcy’s back.
Michonne wipes her hands off and turns, “I’ll go get one.”
Still messing with the oil stick, he watches and waits for Michonne to be out of earshot. Darcy is still in a trance, breaking down the shotgun now and cleaning it by every inch.
“Hey.” He calls over. The speed and agility at which she cleans and has overall mastered all the weapons in front of her initially takes his breath away. Of course, he’s never met a girl like her before, so it’s natural to happen but always catches him by surprise.
Darcy squints her eyes at the butt-plate of the gun. She doesn’t bother to glance up at him. “Your bow’s in the car.”
“I know ya got it covered.” He nods. Daryl fumbles with the rag hanging on the hem of his pants. “Not sure if I told ya before but I don’ mind sayin’ it again. I’m glad you’re here.”
“Where else would I be?” She turns around, placing the shotgun back down on the table. There’s something in his voice that warns her to not ask questions, not now at least.
Daryl shrugs, like he almost doesn’t want to say. He squints in the sun, “Runnin’ off.”
Darcy feels a sudden heaviness in her stomach, “You know I’m not running off.” He gives an unconvinced, hesitant nod in response. He doesn’t want to push things further. Darcy sighs, “You think what Glenn saw was me running?”
“Don’ know what it was.” Daryl says firmly. “You ain’t told me nothing. ‘Sides, what I meant was –“
“The Governor.” She scoffs. “I said I was done looking for him, Daryl. What else do you want me to do?”
“I am here.”
“No.” Daryl puts both his hands on the rim of the car and pushes himself off. He struts over to her and steps close. “You’re here, but you ain’t.”
Darcy doesn’t know how to respond. “What are you talking about?” She takes a step back defensively but he persists.
“Something’s got ya.” He points. He takes quick strides to block her path. “I can see it, I know it. Ya jumpin’ in your skin every time you turn around. Staying quiet ‘n outta sight.”
Darcy stares off to the side at nothing in particular and narrows her eyes, but Daryl moves his head to block her vision and forces her to look back at him.
“Know ya better than anyone here. Stubborn more than anythin’ but never jumpy or shy. It ain’t you. ‘N why ya can’t talk to me ‘bout it…”
He waves his hand at her because he really doesn’t know what to say. Darcy’s departure from the prison earlier that month had been the last straw and left Daryl feeling somewhat isolated; she has been his confidante, his outlet for all doubts and frustration, just as she had been his. Since their early days together it has been like this. But now, he suffers in a regal, dignified silence that has been quite unenjoyably distressing as he searches for answers from the others and from what he merely observes of her.
“So,” Michonne smiles from behind them, catching them both off guard. Daryl wipes his hands on his towel and gives a quick look to Darcy before he fakes a grin and passes her without another word. “Is it just gonna be the three of us like in the old days?” She asks.
“Yeah ‘n Bob.” Daryl takes the oilcan out of her hands. “Still, feels as though we could use another person.”
“Who else isn’t sick?” Michonne asks.
“We don’t ask Rick.” Darcy crosses her arms. She runs her tongue across her teeth inside her mouth to hold herself back from saying anything in front of Michonne. “He wants to stay here with Carl and Judy. Keep them safe.”
“Plus there’s plenty of stuff he can do here.” Daryl steps back and takes his vest off of the hood.
“So who else we got?” Michonne puts her hands on her hips.
“Ty?” Darcy asks. “You think he’ll be up to it?”
“He’s a wild card right now, ‘specially with what happened earlier.” Daryl shrugs and closes the hood. “I’ll go talk to him. Best if ya’ll got some rest. Got a big day tomorrow.”
Michonne watches Daryl as he disappears inside the cellblock before she turns around. “Everything okay?”
Darcy aggressively slams the bullet cartridge back into place. “Great.”
As she enters the cool, humid evening, she can see the moon reflecting on the steel surfaces around her and over the fields. The narrow footpath wisps up dirt and dust with every step, and it is lit by the same lamps that are strewn throughout the prison inside, attracting the insects of the night that fly and chirrup within the grass.
Darcy Shaw had left the lonely cell and started on the path to the towers.
Her feet barely kiss the metal walkway. She has developed an unconscious sense of adoration to keeping quiet and sneaking around. She is heading towards the northeast corner of the prison, hoping a particular person is at watch at this late an hour. With all that’s been going on, she’s counting on it.
The conversation they had earlier at the car was pushed behind her in an attempt to go back to the days where they just enjoyed each other’s company and didn’t have to worry about one or the other leaving for the sake of a guilty conscious formed by a madman.
The final doorway is up ahead of her. Darcy hesitates, tapping her hands together and taking in a deep breath, she sees the door is already opened. She reaches in her back pocket and pulls out the carton of cigarettes she’s found on the road with Michonne, hoping her good intentions and a feeble attempt at persuasion will allow him to let her in his company.
The angel wings sewn onto the vest stare straight back at her when she steps back into the moonlight. Leaning against the frame, she lets the smoke hang from her lips as she watches him with crossed arms.
What led her here was simple, yet terrifying. She woke with a jump and the shivering feeling of a cold sweat dripping from her hairline. She lied on her back breathing sharp and fast, swallowing hard and brushing her loose chestnut waves back from her face. Without looking she inched her hand towards the right side of the bed, only to find it shockingly empty beside her.
“Hey.” She whispers, catching him turn around mid-stride.
He sighs heavily and nods to her. “Go on,” He beckons. “I got this.”
Darcy moves forward anyways and leans against the rail with both elbows in defiance. With a
slow breath he draws in the familiar scent of smoke. She turns then, facing him head on with the same coy smile that has driven him half mad countless times before in the past; the memories invade his mind.
She holds out the pack of cigarettes. Daryl pauses then gives a single nod with a small grunt. His shaky fingers barely touch the tip of the carton before he flickers his eyes towards the one in her mouth. He steps forward and narrows his eyes in a playful way. He doesn’t want just any one, he wants that one. The one in her mouth, the one that’s dangling from her lips, the one that would taste of her.
She doesn’t stop him when two fingers pluck it from her mouth and rest in between them. Daryl brings it to his mouth and inhales the mixture of smoke and her sickly sweet scent.
“Save ‘em.” He points to the pack with a starling glint in his stormy-blue eyes.
Darcy arches a slim eyebrow in amusement and turns back to the woods. A strange, but familiar silence follows. He brings the cigarette back between his fingers and exhales. He watches her with questions flowing through his mind.
“Why’re ya up?” His voice is hoarse at night as always. It sends a trickling shiver down Darcy’s spine.
“About?” He hands the stick back to her and she takes it. Daryl’s eyes are transfixed as she flicks it, the ash tumbling down over the railing like crumbling, grey petals. A light breeze tosses a few thin strands of her hair about her face. She’s hesitating every word.
“I wasn’t sure you’d wanna talk.” She says softly, at last betraying a hint of uncertainty whilst keeping her gaze firmly on a tripping walker just outside the gates.
“Told ya before,” He leans against the rail next to her. “Whatever shit we go through, we go together.”
An image of that night flashed in her mind. She dips her head towards the ground, somewhat shy all of a sudden. “I remember.”
“So?” Daryl aggressively shifts his stance and takes the cigarette back. It was unlike her to keep secrets from him.
Darcy shakes her head like its no big deal, but her sigh shows her true exasperated feelings. “Him. As always.
“You still angry ‘bout that?”
“Aren’t you?” Darcy picks her nails. “About Merle?”
“Angry? No. What happened, happened and tha’s on him ‘n no one else. But if he stood in front of us right now, I’d kill him in a second. Cause that son ‘a bitch needs to die…deserves to die. ‘N a whole lot more.”
Darcy sighs, seemingly disappointed by his response. “I saw him.”
Daryl tilts his head forward and scrunches up his eyes in shock, “What?”
She waves her hand slightly and hastily stubs out her cigarette. “It’s not what you think. It wasn’t real.” She sighs. “It’s happened a few times but once when Glenn saw me. I don’t know what it was –“
“’S more common than you think.” Daryl tells her.
“I’m not going crazy?” She looks up at him.
Daryl shakes his head, “Remember that day back on the farm? Got shot ‘n Herschel had to stitch me up?”
“Unfortunately.” She mumbles.
“Saw Merle that day. Hell saw you too.” He points.
“What?” Darcy’s amber-hues flashed.
Daryl nods, “Mhm. Hit my head ‘n woke up to my brother bein’ an ass as usual.” He grows quiet and tilts his head to look at her distraught features. “Scary though. Somethin’ seems that real.”
“It is.” She agrees.
“Anythin’ else I should know?” Daryl looks back out towards the fences and the moon illuminates his face that mesmerizes Darcy for an instant.
“At the meeting.” She says. “I saw it. Glenn.”
Daryl nods. “I know.”