The Darkest Storm
Keep it Cool
Darcy about trips herself when she finally makes it down to the bottom stair. With one hand holding the railing, she struggles to put on her beige heel with the other. When that’s finally done, she steps around the corner, surprised to see Daryl leaning up against the counter watching her amusingly while shoveling cereal into his mouth.
“Did Maggie leave already?” She asks him, leaning over the counter for the pair of earrings left on the granite courtesy of Rosita. His eyes slowly travel up her lean legs, where the hem of her black, tee-shirt dress rests mid-thigh. She adjusts her brown braided belt around her waist when she’s back on her feet.
“Mmhm.” He mumbles, taking another bite and nodding his head. She smiles to herself as she puts on the earrings, seeing him fumble with his spoon and drip milk onto his chin. He wipes it away with the sleeve of his jacket, which she notices, is still as dirty as the day they arrived in Alexandria.
When she snatches the clasp into place, she puts a hand on her hip and the other on the counter separating them. “Are you coming?”
Daryl looks up underneath the strands of greasy hair and hesitates, taking in her appearance and then his. “You really wanna be seen with me?”
“You could shower.” She smiles and wipes away some crumbs on the counter. “I mean, before Carol comes after you with a hose.”
Daryl shifts his shoulder and scoffs. He taps his fingers on the outside of the glass bowl and crosses his feet. He looks up at her once again and feels his breath catch in his throat. She, seemingly unaware of his eyes, looks towards the back deck to see just a small glimpse of the wall barricading their community.
“You look beautiful.” A whisper escapes Daryl’s lips.
Darcy turns her head at the sound, and a blush rises to her cheeks. “Thank you.”
“I need to have a chat with somebody?” He teases, placing the bowl in the sink next to him. He hears her heels stepping on the hardwood and he turns back around. She’s walked up to him with a smile on her face, and puts her hands on his chest softly while leaning into him.
A tide of seriousness crosses her features when she plays with his collar. “You don’t have to watch out for me anymore.”
He would never forget this sight of her; her tall, slender form, outlined against the bright light of the sunlight streaming through the white curtains hanging from the windows; the vivid sense of slumbering fire that seemed to find expression only in those wonderful amber eyes of hers – eyes different from any other person’s he’s ever known; the intense power of stillness she possesses, which nevertheless conveyed the impression of a wild, untamed spirit he could never picture his life without.
“I want too.”
“You gonna be able to run in those things when shit hits the fan?”
Darcy puts her hands on the painted, wooden railing in front of her and stands from her leaning position. She looks over her left shoulder and smiles, seeing Abraham’s mouth curled upwards in a goofy grin in the doorway.
Leaning back on the rail, she hears him come up beside her and mock her position. “I’m sure I’ll have enough time to take them off.” She mimics a stabbing motion with her arm, using the make-believe shoe to hit Abraham in the forehead.
He laughs, taking a sip of the bubbly, austere liquid from the green bottle. “I don’t doubt it.”
She lets out a small laugh, and follows his gaze back to the woods. They are quiet; listening to the soft hum of music back inside and rhythmic chatter of the residents of their newly found home. Darcy wonders if Abraham had the same thoughts as her after a while in there; the constant care-free smiles and nonchalant discussions about favorite past-times were a bit…how would she say…unnerving?
“You alright?” Darcy’s amber eyes blink upwards at the redhead, seeing his baby blues already grazing over her to get a reading.
Darcy lets out a weary sigh. “This place is weird.”
Abraham lets out a snort. “No shit.”
“You buying it?” Darcy asks, not returning the chuckle.
Abraham sets down his now-empty glass bottle on the deck and stands full beside her. He shrugs, “Haven’t decided yet.” His southern drawl is smooth like bourbon. “But if it lasted this long on its own,” he whistles and tilts his head down at her. “It’s a damn good thing we showed up.”
“Hey,” another soothing voice comes out behind them. They turn, seeing it’s Michonne. Her soft gaze lands on each of them, then quirks a brow. “Did you two come out here to escape the pasta-talk, too?”
“Oh,” Darcy smiles, leaning her back up against the rail. “The pasta-maker?”
Michonne nods and widens her eyes, “Yeah.” She drones. “That one.”
“I cannot imagine the turmoil that woman has been through.” Abraham smirks. “To live without a fancy noodle machine? Well, that’s just inhumane.”
Michonne leans her hip against the railing and joins them. Leaving the ill-humored conversation behind, she turns to Darcy. “You alright?”
Darcy rolls her eyes and twists her long waves over her left shoulder. “I wish you all would stop asking me that.”
“Punk got a good lick in,” Abraham shrugs. “Even if Dixon hadn’t tackled the guy, you’d ’a taken him.”
Darcy nods admirably. “Thank you. He was a punk.”
“You four need new gigs.” Aiden hadn’t stopped running his mouth since the moment Glenn put down the walker in the woods.
Darcy walks abreast with Tara, quickening her steps to try and catch up with Glenn. She could see him tense his shoulders, the twitch in his neck and clench of his jaw with every word Aiden called out to them.
“You’re not ready for runs yet.”
“Yeah, pretty sure you got that backwards.” Glenn marches on.
She talks over Aiden’s tantrum, “Glenn, keep going. Keep walking.”
“Hey.” Footsteps behind her picks up, “Hey!” And a hand reaches out to pull back on Glenn’s shoulder. All six stop, Darcy looks to Tara and Noah to her right. “We got a way of doing things around here. And you don’t –“
Glenn points at him. “You tied up walkers.”
Aiden waves his arms, “It killed our friend!” He looks back to the other three. “Look, I’m not having this conversation. You obey my orders out there.”
“Oh, well then we’re just as screwed as your last run crew.”
“Glenn.” Darcy hisses, stepping her shoulder in between the two and staring him down. “Not now.” She can feel Aiden’s presence press up around her like she’s not even there.
“Say that again.” He grinds his teeth.
“Yo, back off Aiden.” Tara says.
Aiden gives a light shove to Glenn’s shoulder. Darcy steps back as Noah steps forward, “C’mon man just take a step back.”
Ignoring all protests, Glenn’s shoved again. “C’mon tough guy.”
“Glenn.” Darcy says sternly. She ignores Aiden all together – she’s just trying to get through to Glenn. It wasn’t a matter of if she thought he could knock Aiden out, no. It was the fact that she knew he would.
“No one’s impressed man.” Glenn warns. “Walk away.”
“Aiden!” Deanna’s voice cuts through the tension, but Darcy can feel it thickening still. The wind picks up the ends of her hair, covering her eyes through sweat and dirt. “What is going on?”
“This guy’s got a problem with the way we do things.” He turns to face his mother, a sense of disgust washes over his features, “Why’d you let these people in?”
“Because we actually know what we’re doing out there.”
That was it; the last shot. Darcy can see the tightness of Aiden’s jaw as Glenn says those words. He swoops around, swinging his arm at a near miss, Glenn ducking down and bringing up a solid fist to his nose. Aiden falls, but the people around him are in an uproar.
Darcy had stepped around to the left of the two, grabbing Aiden by his collar just before he swung. Nicholas, ever the jackass behind her, grabs her by her waist and tosses her away, slamming her back into the rusted, metal wall to the side of them. She hits her head, and pushes herself up slowly from the gravel. She barely sees the flash of Daryl flying by her, ducking like a left-tackle and knocking Nicholas onto his back with a sickening ‘thud.’ He’s now pinned to the ground with Daryl’s hand firmly holding his neck.
Rick runs up from the gate, wrapping his arms around Daryl, “Don’t do this, not now.” His grip grows tighter around Nicholas’ neck. “Daryl.”
Give one last squeeze, Daryl allows himself to be pulled back by Rick. But even as Nicholas stands up, face beet red and coughing, Daryl paces himself – eyes set like a wild animal ready to pounce his prey. If Rick wasn’t pacing with him – the thought in everyone’s minds was the same; Nicholas wouldn’t have ever gotten up again.
“Don’ you ever touch her again.” He growls; pointing at him with a hard finger.
Carl puts a hand on Darcy’s back who still struggles to stand. She places a flat palm on the back of her head, and looks. Just as she suspected, a gash bled from the back of her skull.
Darcy instinctively feels for the cut which had just stopped bleeding before she left the house for the party. “Caught me off guard was all.”
“You don’t have anything to prove.” Abraham looks out towards the back woods. “Kids’ don’t know what they’re doing. I suspect if ya’ll hadn’t been out there when they found that walker, they’d both be dead.”
Darcy catches a glimpse of leather in between the trees, moving along the pathway running behind the homes. She hands Michonne her plastic cup of punch and hops the fence. “I’ll see you both at home.”
“I take everything back I ever said ‘bout them heels.” Abraham calls after her.
“Daryl.” She jogs after him, waving him down and smiles softly when he stops to wait for her.
“You gonna drag me to that party?” He mumbles.
“No, I’m actually here to ask if you could drag me away from it.” She breathes heavily. God, why’d I have to pick heels? “Phew.” She bends over to catch her breath.
“That bad, huh?” He smiles in amusement.
“You wanna try running in these?” She looks up between the strands of hair that now dangle in her face. Daryl puts his hands up slightly and scoffs. “That’s what I thought. C’mon.”
Grabbing his hand, he stiffens. Darcy stops when he comes to an immediate halt. She peers back at him; he’s just staring at their intertwined fingers. It’s when his thumb gently rubs the inside of her palm does he look up at her with innocent, yet kid-in-a-candy-shop eyes. “We ain’t never done this before.”
He was right – the simplest action of holding hands wasn’t even heard of these days. The more she thought about it, the more it struck her as odd. A feeling in her chest tightened, and it wasn’t sure if it was excitement at the silliest touch or fear that he’d reject it.
“Do you want to stop?” She asks.
He gives her a quick smile and starts walking with her, shaking his head. “No. Don’ think so.”
Darcy returns the smile. They begin to walk slowly, their eyes glued to their feet and the path in front of them. Every time they’d pass a house they’d look up, gazing over its structure and open windows. They’d occasionally see a couple reading on their back porch; someone standing over the kitchen sink washing dishes. An odd feeling moves over them; was this their life now? Could this place be what Deanna said it was?
“Hey you two!” Bright porch lights had switched on and the front door opened. Aaron pops his head out, smiling at them and quickly glancing at their entwined fingers. As if on cue, Darcy drops his hand and Daryl steps in front of her.
Aaron bounces down the steps and raises his hands before letting them fall to his sides again. “I guess I have a habit of sneaking up on you guys.” He laughs.
“I’d say so.” Daryl says, and points.
"Thought you were goin’ to that party over there.”
“Oh, I was never going to go ‘cause of Eric’s ankle.” Aaron rolls his eyes. “Thank God. But I see that uh, you – Darcy – went.” He smiles. “You look very nice.”
“Thank you.” She returns the gesture.
“You two want to join us for some dinner?” He moves back to enter his home. “It’s some, pretty serious spaghetti.”
Darcy watches Daryl think it over when Aaron leaves the door open for them, but retreats and disappears inside. His blue eyes meet hers underneath his dark hair, waiting for her answer. “Spaghetti?” He asks.
Darcy smiles. “Do you know just how cute you are?”
Daryl rolls his eyes before taking her hand again and making for the stairs. “Stop.”
Darcy leans with her right hand up against the wall, ear leaning in closely and smiling at the conversation between Aaron and Daryl in the garage.
“It’s nice to see you all under better circumstances.” Eric calls out to her. She spins around, seeing him perched up halfway onto a bar stool by the island, pouring himself another glass of red wine.
“You mean, less life-threatening and not thinking of ways how we’re going to kill you?” Darcy quips, crossing her arms playfully.
Eric laughs and nods heavily. “Yes, that’s exactly it.” He puts down his glass and runs his finger over the top, listening to the crystal hum. He stops a split second later and drops his hand onto the counter. “Thank you.”
Darcy scoffs. “Please, spare me.”
“I’m serious, Darcy.” Eric nods sincerely. “Thank you. If it hadn’t been you and Daryl he first stumbled upon –“ He shudders in thought. “I have nothing against Rick, but that beard,” He winces. “Frightening man.”
Darcy laughs and takes a sip of her own wine. “He can be.” She looks back over her shoulder and Eric watches her gaze fall back to the garage.
“How long?” He asks. Darcy furrows her brow in confusion. “You and Daryl?”
“Oh.” She twirls the step of her glass in thought. “We’ve known each other since this whole thing started, really. So three, four years?” She stops and looks up. “[i]God,[/i] has it really been that long?”
“I guess time tells differently when you’re out there.” Eric gives a forced, quick smile and his voice drops. “Are you okay with this? With Daryl going out there? Being our new recruit?” Darcy looks back over her shoulder again and furrows her brows. She sits down next to Eric and her eyes soften, not answering in so many words. Eric reaches out and puts a hand over hers.
“Hey, I get it. When Aaron started going out – we fought for days. But, I knew he needed to go out sometimes; get a clear head – kinda, wrestle with reality. And I think you know Daryl’s like that too. He doesn’t belong out there. He doesn’t. But I think he could do some real good.”
Darcy lets herself get distracted by a suddenly interesting crumb on the counter. “When this all started,” she began, “It was always me and Daryl. Making runs, going hunting…scouting.” She flicks the hard piece across the granite. “Even when we knew we wouldn’t find anything, we still would go just to…” she shrugs, “…Get out for a little while. It was always us; it felt wrong if it were anybody else.” She looks up. “I think it was that little voice in the back of our minds telling us that if we didn’t –“ Darcy stops and clears her throat, shaking her thoughts away. “It still feels wrong.”
“Darc.” The low, raspy voice steals her from the conversation. Her and Eric look up to see both Aaron and Daryl standing a few feet away, watching and listening and holding onto every word.
“You ready?” She doesn’t let it faze her.
“You look tired.” Daryl shows a glint of a smile that rests almost invisibly on his face – anyone that didn’t know him would’ve missed it completely. He steps out and reaches a hand towards her. He beckons her to him, and they both miss the smile shared between Aaron and Eric. “C’mon.”
Darcy peels of her heels before taking his hand with her right. She holds her shoes with her two fingers and smiles to their hosts. “Thank you.” They both nod, Eric giving a small wave as Aaron walks them to the door.
“This was nice.” He tells them once they’re making their way down the front steps. “It’s nice talking to real people. Helps me believe that the world hasn’t completely lost everything good.”
Daryl and Darcy exchange a glance, but don’t say anything in response. Daryl gives his new friend one last nod of a good-bye, then leads Darcy onto the grass to walk four houses down to their home.
“Your feet okay?” He asks her.
“They’re really mad at me.” She winces. “Don’t ever let me wear these again.”
“Why’d you wear ‘em in the first place?”
“Rick said to try.” She looks over at him. “This was me try – ouch!”
“You alright?” Daryl puts a hand on her lower back.
“Stepped on something –“
“C’mon.” Daryl swoops down and wraps an arm behind the back of her knees and around her waist, picking her up and cradling her to his chest. “God, you weigh a damn ton.” Darcy wraps her arms around his neck and flicks his ear. “Hey!” He stops walking and gives her a playful glare. “You do that again an’ I’m ‘a drop you on your ass.”
When they get to their pair of houses, they appear as empty as they left them hours ago. “Looks like no-one’s home.” Daryl sets Darcy down on the top of the porch, her feet feeling the smooth wooden planks and the sudden ache in her heels. He still holds onto her waist, now with both hands, and before she has a chance to head towards the door, his hands graze their way up and into her hair, pulling her in for a slow, delicate kiss.
Daryl pulls back, wrapping his arms around her again and resting his forehead against hers. “I know ‘t’s different now.” He tells her. Darcy furrows her brows and swallows back the lump forming in the back of her throat. “But I made you a promise a long time ago.”
Daryl reaches up and cups her face with his right hand, “Wherever we go, we go together. I ain’t gonna leave you – not for nothin’.” He tilts his head to make him look at her; nodding together to make sure she heard him. Then, he pulls her in for a hug, letting her forehead rest against his cheek. “I’m all yours.”