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Daryl was out cold after Andrea shot him, and then in and out until Hershel woke him up by cleaning the wound in his side. After he got through yowling he settled down and blinked, looking at his still-dirty body against the clean white sheets.
Not that he gave a shit. It was just that everything in this bedroom was so clean. The cross hanging on the pristine walls reminded him of his grandma’s sitting room. She’d died when he was little.
The cleanliness-Godliness all around made him even more pissy-faced, but the hell with it. He’d walked around with an arrow in his side and had visions of his brother all damn afternoon, listening to that sneering voice calling him Darylena and insulting him until his ears burned. Topped off with finally making it back to Hershel’s only to get shot for a damn walker. Shit.
Hershel finished cleaning and bandaging his wound, and Daryl returned the favor by threatening Hershel's horse for throwing him. It was the horse's fault he'd gotten an arrow in the side in the first place. He was beyond caring that he’d taken the horse without asking, also beyond caring if the horse ever made its way back.
Hershel turned to Rick and bitched some more about Daryl and the rest of the group, and then they finally left him alone. He lay back, thinking about how he’d yelled at the vision of Merle out there by the stream. Told him how Merle was never there for him. Except he thought now maybe it wasn’t true. Whether Merle really gave a shit or not didn’t even matter.
Merle had responded by taunting him some more, telling him the group thought he was nothing but redneck trash and a freak. He’d egged Daryl on until he had to climb just to vent some spleen. He’d gotten Daryl back up the embankment he’d fallen down. Or the vision of Merle did, but still, same difference.
Daryl dozed in the quiet of the house. The last thing he thought about was his brother leaning over him, tugging at him and demanding that he get going. It was really a walker trying to gnaw through his shoe.
But it was Merle who got him up and away.
Nothing had come, nothing could ever fill the space left inside her after Amy was bitten by a walker. Gray dullness set itself up in place of her sister’s presence.
Everything in the world was too pointless, anyway, too ugly to want—so it seemed crazy to Andrea that a gun was the first thing that seemed real, that made her grip the handle tight in a sweaty hand and want, that made her breath first speed and then slow, calmer, something like peace lurking beneath. Something like purpose. It was the heft of it, the weight, the certainty of what the gun could do. So much better than crawling through Dale’s RV and hiding in the bathroom, no weapon and no defense against the prowling walker on the highway, like last time.
She wanted to fight. And she wanted the walkers to die.
And then she’d shot Daryl Dixon, for God’s sake.
She sat on Hershel’s porch afterward while they patched Daryl up, gnawing at her lip. She’d found something in the guns that might start filling the grayness inside, something bright and sharp and useful. Something to keep the group safe.
She’d only grazed the side of Daryl’s head, but she knew how it could have gone. She could have killed him. Daryl, who looked for Sophia as if on a mission from God. So certain he’d find her.
Dale sat down beside her on the wide porch. He’ll be fine, he said. How about you?
“I shot Daryl,” she said aloud in time with the words in her head. The truth was that the bright, sharp spot inside her hadn’t faded, even with what she’d done.
“Don’t be too hard on yourself.” Dale, worrying about her yet again. “We’ve all wanted to shoot Daryl.”
Making her smile in spite of everything.
She went by Daryl’s after they let him go back to his tent. He lay on his back, idly poking holes in the side of it with an arrow.
I’m so sorry, she said. I don’t expect you to forgive me.
He looked her over with his flat blue-gray eyes. You were trying to protect the group, he said. We’re good. Then he told her if she ever tried it again she’d best pray he was dead.
She smiled a little and left.
She turned back a minute later on the urge to do something, anything, if only to try and make up for forcing the man to be bedridden. She stood at the doorway of his tent. He cocked his head a little, looking at her impatiently. She couldn’t think of anything to say.
“You want me to read to you?” she finally blurted out.
He scowled. “Why, think I can’t?”
“Of course not. I just thought—” She shrugged. “I don’t know what I thought.”
Daryl’s arm was crooked back behind his head, and he looked at her as if she were crazy. But then he looked away, at the same time throwing his hand out in a gesture she figured meant for her to sit.
She picked up the book she’d brought him earlier to read and cleared her throat. “Just remember I told you it’s not very good.”
He nodded, the smallest glint of something that might be humor in his eyes.
He fell asleep soon after she started reading. His face looked pale but his cheeks were flushed, and she felt his forehead for fever. There was none.
Later, after the trip with Shane to find Sophia, the showdown with the zombies when they found the place overrun, the exhilaration of putting the walkers down (and the sex with Shane, her mind insisted on adding to the list), she went back to Daryl’s tent. She wasn’t sure why.
“Told you I’m okay,” he said, but that was all. He gestured at the seat she’d taken before.
The sun was going down, but the heat was still ever-present. The high she'd ridden earlier in the day faded into exhaustion. She nodded off, only stirring when Carol came in for a moment, nodding and whispering a brief greeting so as not to wake Daryl.
After Carol left, she stared sleepily at Daryl, remembering lying down on the roof of Dale’s RV, the metal hot against her stomach. Aiming, shooting, feeling the cool want, the steady need to kill the fucking things that killed her sister wash over and steady her aim.
Not too steady, though. Not that time, thank God.
She slept, and her dreams were like nightmares except that they weren’t. They were real, running, running across the field. Oh my god, oh my god is he dead—
And Glenn’s voice, incredulous and high upon seeing what Daryl wore around his neck for a necklace—he’s wearing ears—
T-Dog, holding Sophia’s doll.
After darkness fell she wrapped her hand around Daryl’s, figuring he wouldn’t allow it when he was awake but that it might bring him some comfort while he slept. He tossed and muttered, something about scraping dog shit off his heels. He said Merle’s name.
Andrea rolled her eyes at the mention of his brother. Daryl was irascible, but (thank you) he was no Merle.
She was sorry for hurting Daryl, so sorry, but when Daryl had said, We’re good, she’d known he meant it. Maybe protecting them was all he had left.
She found herself nodding in the darkness, agreeing. She fell asleep, remembering the walkers she’d shot earlier that day, falling to the ground.
The next morning Daryl woke up, yawning, hair sticking out all over his head. The sun was just beginning to lighten the sky. Andrea slumped down in the seat beside him, her head hanging close to his. Her neck had a crick that wasn’t going to go away anytime soon. She reached for his hand again, unthinking.
Eyes going wide, he snatched it away. She sat up and grinned at him, then winced at the pain in her neck.