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Life at the end of the world

Chapter Text

You groaned when someone blew the horn of their car once again and resisted the urge to flip them over through the window. You’d been in that traffic jam for hours without any car moving, yet some people seemed to think honking ever so often was going to be a solution.

You exited your car once you found the slightly melted chocolate bars you’d been looking for, went towards the car stopped in front of yours and handed them to the kids you’d met a couple of hours ago, Carl and Sophia.

“Thank you, lady!”

“It’s nothing.” You shrugged, smiling.

Carl had been complaining about being hungry to her mother but when Carol, the kind looking mother of Sophia had tried to share some food with him, his mean looking, asshole of a husband had interfered. You hadn’t know Carol for long, just a couple of hours, but still, you wondered what a woman like her could be doing with such a man.

You had begun talking with her and Lori, Carl’s mother, out of boredom as time passed as you all were still trapped in the road. Shane, the man you took for Lori’s husband before she corrected you, joining you from time to time when he wasn’t trying to catch some signal on the car’s radio.

You all looked as stressed and tired as you felt, but you were trying to put on your best face and not bring each other down, joking with the kids and sharing silly stories of your lives.

In that couple of hours, you’d learned they were on their way to Atlanta too, trying to find shelter from the madness that was overcoming the world. You were the only one with family in the city, though. You were on your way to check on your mother and half-brother after not being able to reach them by phone. As time passed and the cars still didn’t move, you grew increasingly worried.

“I’m sure they’ll be fine Y/N.” Carol tried to gently comfort you. “The city is supposed to be safer.”

“She’s right.” Lori agreed though you could see the doubt in her tired eyes.

You’d been quite sheltered since all the madness began, working as a teacher in the tiny high school of a small town in the countryside, out of the beating track. You’d seen the world starting to go to hell through TV, the town seeming almost untouched. Almost.

Some horrible screams had made you run out of the school one morning and you stumbled into a nightmarish scenario, with police dragging an ill-looking corpse of someone you’d never seen before away from the father of one of your students, who were lying bloodied but alive on the floor.

You’d rushed to take your students into the school so they wouldn’t see such a gory picture. Later that day you were told the man had died but had woken up again as a seemingly alive and rabid thing, but still pretty much dead. It seemed whatever was going on had reached your tiny town too.

Weird things were happening.

Couple days after that and from what you could gather through the TV things were just getting worse and worse.

You tried to call your mother, worried sick, but she wouldn’t pick up. You hadn’t seen her or your half-brother in years, but you had their address in Atlanta, so you’d decided to take your car and drive to the city to check on them.

And now you were there, trapped in the traffic.

When the planes flew over Atlanta you were quick to follow Shane and Lori, running to see what was going on.

When you saw Shane embracing Lori you knew it had to be bad, but you were in no way ready for the sight of the fires that seemed to cover the city. You gasped in horror and turned away from that horror, tears running down your cheeks as you ran back to your car.

“Ey, ey, are you okay?” Carol stopped you, gently holding you by your arms. “What’s wrong?”

“They are bombing the city or something.” You sobbed. “Everything is on fire.”

“It’s okay, darling.” Carol held you while you cry. “Everything is going to be okay.”

Sophia and Carl were looking at you with wide, afraid eyes. You didn’t want to scare them but you couldn’t help yourself. Not knowing anything about your family was killing you, and now the fires. You could only pray they were safe and sound somewhere away from the flames and the monsters, but you were not feeling very optimistic.

“We have to get out of here,” Shane said when he and Lori joined you. “The city is not safe anymore and I’m sure things are going to turn into shit here soon.” He looked around nervously at the mass of honking cars and yelling drivers.

You nodded. You still wanted to go to Atlanta and check on your family but right now you were at loss of ideas and you were feeling increasingly worried about yours and your new friends’ safety.

“We have to leave the main road, find somewhere less crowded, away from this,” Shane suggested and you all nodded your agreement. Not that you had any other ideas.

“Y/N, you are coming?” You nodded. “Carol?”

She bit her lip and looked pointedly at his husband, who hadn’t still got out of the car. Shane went towards him and you and Lori stopped Carol from following him when his husband got out of the car, watching nervously as the two men talked. Finally, mister asshole husband went into the car again and Shane nodded at Carol as he walked back.

You all got into your cars and followed Shane, zigzagging between cars as you left the main road.

Some kilometers into a secondary road Shane stopped the car to inspect a map. “There seems to be some quarry or something like that close.” He informed the group. “Seems it was used to camp.”

“You think it’s safe?” You asked unsurely. “It’s quite in the middle of nowhere.”

“That’s why I like it, if they’re fewer people then probably there’re less of that monsters, I guess.” Shane shrugged, seeming tired even though he tried to put on a brave face. “I don’t really know, Y/N.” He admitted.

“It could work, at least until we can figure something else.” You nodded, it wasn’t like any of you had a better plan. “You still have that radio, we can keep trying contact with a safe place.”

“Yeah…” Shane’s eyes seemed uncertain for a moment but then he was nodding with determination, smiling encouragingly to Lori and Carl. “Come on people, let’s move.”

The quarry itself was not bad, there was space to camp, trees that hid you and fresh water nearby. You could live there until you found where there was a safe place. Shane had camping gear and Lori offered to share hers and Carl’s tent with you since you hadn’t figured when you left home that you would be needing something like that.

Ed, Carol’s mean husband, had camping gear too but he wouldn’t lean you anything. He placed his tent far from yours, distancing his family from your group and yelling at Sophia to go back when she ran to play with Carl.

Carol gave you an apologetic look but said nothing and you felt anger building in your stomach as you glared at Ed, but you didn’t dare to do anything.

That same night, an RV showed up in the road that headed to the quarry. First, you heard it as it growled up the road then you watched with worry how the lights got closed. When it got close you could see that the elderly man who drove it was blinking in surprise too, probably not expecting to find your camp. He parked his RV and got out of it to greet you.

“Hi there, I’m Dale.” He said politely, giving you an easy smile. “We were looking for a place to camp.” He gestured to the blonde women who were inside the vehicle, looking at you warily. “I hope we’re not bothering you…”

“Not at all.” Shane shook hands with the man, seeming to find him non-threatening enough. He actually looked quite nice, in your opinion. “We just arrived, waiting for a place to camp too. I say the more the merrier, safety in the numbers and all that, yeah?” He looked at all you and you all nodded, except Ed who scoffed and retreated to his tent.

The sun was going down quickly so after briefly introducing each other, you all sat beside a small fire to share your food. Expect Carol and Sophia, who were dragged by Ed to their side. You all talked during almost all night, trying to chase away your fears and worries, trying to feel like you knew each other for longer than you did.

You learned that Andrea and Amy, as the two blonde women where called, were siblings. They hadn’t met Dale until a couple days before, when he’d saved them from the monsters in the city, and they’d been together since them.

“I used to camp here with my wife every summer until she died,” Dale told to your group. “That’s why I thought about coming here.”

“We just saw it on a map,” Shane explained. “We thought it might be safe.”

The night went by easily and you were glad you’d meet these people. They seemed nice and made you feel less lonely, less scared. You weren’t sure what would have been of you if you’d stayed in that traffic jam or reached Atlanta. You still wanted to get to the city and found your family, but you were at loss of how to do it, much less alone, so, for now, you’d just be content with being safe and would wait for your opportunity.

A couple of days after getting installed in the quarry, you had your first up-close encounter with a walker.

Despite having been living in a town in the middle of the countryside for a few years now, you knew nothing about surviving in the wild or anything like that, and you felt pretty much useless watching Andrea and Amy provide for the group by fishing while you were unable to bring anything.

Your best friend, though, had been fond of hiking and every now and then she’d drag you and her wife to the woods for a weekend. She’d taught you about edible and medicinal plants, mushrooms and berries that you could eat and now that knowledge was coming up handy. You wished you’d paid more attention and remembered more things.

You were frowning at some yummy looking berries, trying to decide if they were edible or not when suddenly you felt a hand tangling in your hair and pulling it.

You screamed and fell to the floor, the monster on top of you, and you struggled with it, trying to keep its snapping jaws away from you as you cried out for help.

You heard a shot and then the corpse was falling on top of you but it was almost immediately pulled up an away from you by Shane, Andrea running close behind him, gun on hand.

“Y/N, Y/N, you okay?” He grabbed your arm and pulled you back to your feet.

You were in shock, shaking violently, tears falling down and you couldn’t say a word while Shane and Andrea walked you back to the camp.

Everyone rushed towards to you, asking you worried questions that you couldn’t reply so Shane did it for you, telling them what happened while Lori wrapped you in her arms as you cried.

Everyone was shocked and worried, you all had thought you were safe there that there weren’t any monsters close.

“All right people, try not to worry,” Shane told all you after sweeping the perimeter. “There’s nothing else around, I think it might have been a strand. But we’ll keep watch all the time, just in case, alright?”

Dale nodded, already going to the top of his RV to scan the surroundings with his binoculars, rifle in hand.

That night, you were almost feeling like yourself again, but you could still feel the hand of the corpse tugging at your hair. You took the scissors and walked towards Lori.

“Cut my hair?” You said as you dropped down, sitting down next to her.

“What?” She gave you a confused look.

“Just cut it.” You said, disgruntled.

“Okay, okay.” She began combing your hair. “So what do you want, a buzz like Carol?” She joked.

“No, nothing so drastic.” You laughed. “Just…short. So none is able to grab me by it? Jaw length maybe? Or shorter? I don’t know… just cut it.”

“Alright… I don’t know how it’s going to look, I’ve never done this…”

“I don’t care.” You replied honestly as you watched locks beginning to fall down.

______________________________

“Oh my god, your beautiful hair Y/N!!” Amy gasped when she saw you next morning. “What did you do? You’re crazy!”

“Don’t listen to her Y/N, you look great.” Carol winked at you. “Short hair is the best. It doesn’t get in your way, doesn’t bother you, all advantages.” She said as she wrapped you in a half hug, arm around your shoulders as you walked together to do some laundry.

That same day you asked Shane to teach you how to use a gun, vowing to never be defenseless again. He frowned at you at first but gave in, and you spent an hour each day away from the camp as he taught you how to safely work a gun, how to aim and everything you may need. You never got to actually shoot, though, as Shane didn’t want the sound to startle anyone at the camp or to bring up undesirably company, and you could understand him.

Slowly, your camps started to grow as you took in more people. You found most of them on the road that led to the quarry as they tried to run away from which seemed to be more and more the end of the world.

The first people you found that way were Glenn and T-Dog. Shane’d found them halfway through the road on their wagon, while he patrolled. Without a better plan, they’d decided to join your little group and pretty soon you had been sure they were nice people with good hearts.

Glenn was really fun to be around, a change in the gloomy atmosphere of your camp, making jokes and keeping your spirits high. T-Dog, while quieter, was always trying to help and he seemed a very compassionate, genuinely good person.

You were glad you took them in and it encouraged you to take more people in whenever you found them or they found you, as time passed.

The Dixon brothers seemed to appear out of nowhere one day, walking out of the woods and towards the camp.

You eyed them suspiciously, but they couldn’t be that bad, because Shane decided to take them in after talking to them. Truth be told, you had never turn anyone away. Besides, the one with the crossbow was carrying some rabbits and your group hadn’t had fresh meat since you left home. If he could provide you with food then welcome he was, no matter how shady they looked.

You tried not to judge a book by their cover, so to speak, but your second, third, fourth and so on impressions were not better but even worse.

The younger brother, Daryl, seemed to keep mostly to himself but Merle fucking Dixon made you want to rip his tongue to make him stop talking for a moment. Racist, sexist, homophobe, arrogant and just a plainly awful person, he seemed to love the sound of his voice as much as he seemed oblivious to how much all you hated it.

You were fairly certain you were not the only one annoyed but just like with Ed, nobody seemed to do anything, so you just tried to ignore him and carry on with your life. Which was not as easy as it could seem, loving as much as he did to voice his stupid opinions on everything, bossing you all around whenever he got a chance.

You didn’t know what to make of Daryl. He was quieter than his brother, which was a blessing, you couldn’t deal with two talkative Dixons, but whenever he talked he was almost as loud and brash as his brother, if only at least not that arrogant.

He followed his brother everywhere, doing as he told him, and you were confused by their relationship. Merle was always talking his brother down, berating him and making fun of him, yet Daryl never complained about it and he kept doing what Merle wanted.

You wondered why he did it. Daryl seemed pretty capable of standing for himself and you had heard him loudly voicing his opinions and lashing out at the others quite often and vocally, yet never against his brother.

Maybe that was the way little brothers were with their older brothers. You wouldn’t know. Your heart ached as your thoughts drifted to your little half-brother, to whom you were almost a stranger.

No matter how annoying their company was, at the very least the Dixons kept you feed with fresh meat from rabbits and squirrels. Or it’d be better to say that Daryl kept you fed since he seemed to be the one doing most of the hunt. Merle, for all his talk about being such a great survivor, didn’t seem to do much to prove it, yet he took every chance he could to remind everyone, especially his baby brother, of how superior he was.

About a little less than a month after the Dixons joined your camp, you were in the forest looking for mushrooms with Amy and Lori, who were interested in learning which ones were edible. Not that you were an expert, but you liked to feel useful. Eventually, the other two women decided to head back to the camp but you decided to stay in the woods for a bit longer, enjoy the silence that you couldn’t get back at the camp.

As you strolled around, you heard some sounds nearby and you stopped moving, heart beating fast. Your instinct told you to run back at the camp, in case there was a walker approaching you, but if that was the case maybe you should take him down before it could cause havoc at the camp.

Clutching the gun Shane had lent you, you walked towards the sound. It was not a walker but Shane and Lori seeming quite entertained with each other. You blushed and walked away awkwardly, glad they didn’t notice you.

You already suspected they were together but you said nothing since it seemed they wanted to keep it secret, but after this, you decided you were going to tease the hell out of Shane about it this night, just for fun. He was single and Lori was a widow so what was the matter? Still, you thought it was pretty irresponsible to go at it in the middle of the woods like horny teenagers, they could be attacked by geeks. But you guessed they knew what they were doing.

You were almost back at the camp when you heard the unmistakable voice of Merle Dixon from somewhere in the woods ahead of your path. You cursed your luck, you only wanted to take a nice walk by yourself, enjoying some alone quiet time, but it seemed you were stumbling into everybody’s business. To be fair, going out to the woods was the only way any of you could have any privacy these days.

As you kept walking you caught sight of Merle. He was saying something in low but furious voice at his brother, who had a dead deer at his feet, but you couldn’t quite make the words, it sounded as if they were discussing something about your camp. Daryl was just looking down while his brother went off, making no attempt to interfere or say anything.

Curiosity got the best of you and you carefully walked closer, wanting to hear what Merle was about, having a bad feeling about it.

“We should have done it by now. Bet you want to stay here forever now, playing hero by bringing them food so they kiss your worthless feet, while they couldn’t care less if you are killed while hunting for them.” Merle hissed. “You know they laugh at you when you are not there calling you an idiot redneck.”

Whatever suspicion you had about Merle talking about your camp was drowned by the sudden anger you felt at him talking in such a way to his brother, especially when Daryl was just standing there in silence, cowering from Merle.

You must have made a noise as you crept close because suddenly Daryl’s head snapped up and his eyes found you, Merle turning around and seeing you too.

Shit.

“Ey!” You greeted, raising your hand, trying to play it casual so as not to look like you were spying on them. “I was collecting mushrooms with Amy and Lori, but it seems those lazy heads have abandoned me.”

They Dixons were still looking at you suspiciously as you walked closer. “Did you hunt that?” You asked Daryl, trying to shift their attention away from you, and he nodded. “Want me to help you carry it to the camp?”

He just shrugged but Merle chimed in.

“Yeah, you do that, help baby brother with his hunting games while the big man does actual useful things.” He growled, storming off.

“That’d be the first time that ass does something useful.” You murmured, frustrated before you could stop yourself. You glanced quickly at Daryl, afraid he’d be angry at you for saying that of his brother, but he snorted quietly.

“Why you let him talk to you like that?” You asked, feeling brave.

“Like what?” He muttered, glaring you down, but you didn’t let it stop you from voicing your opinion.

“Like that, like he always does, he’s always saying those mean things about you.” You didn’t know why it bothered you that much, Daryl wasn’t your friend and you didn’t even like him that much, resenting his rough treatment, but it did bother you.

You’d always hated bullies like Merle, both as a student and as a teacher and you hated seeing him treating his brother like that, no matter how rude said brother was too.

“You shouldn’t let him.” You added, it bothered you that Daryl didn’t seem to question his brother treatment or try to stand for himself

“He’s my brother…” Daryl shrugged as if that answered everything.

“That doesn’t mean he’s right.” You insisted. “For the record, we don’t laugh at you and we don’t call you an idiot redneck. Granted, you are always with Merle and he’s the biggest idiot ever, so you should have to be the greatest idiot in order to stand over him.”

You were worried you were taking it too far in your vent against Merle, but Daryl snorted quietly again, looking down. It was obvious he was feeling uncomfortable and very awkward though, so you let the matter go.

“Dinner tonight is going to be a feast.” You said cheerfully as you helped Daryl carry the deer back to the camp. “This should feed us for a couple days.”

Daryl nodded. “I’ve been tracking more but the dead seem to chase them away.”

“Have you find geeks in the woods?” You asked, a shiver going down your spine, you hadn’t got one close to camp since the one that had grabbed your hair all that time ago.

“Yeah. Not close to the camp though.” He added as if noticing you shiver at the thought. “But those dead fuckers scare the game away.”

You eyed him with curiosity. This was the longest you ever recalled hearing him talk whit anybody that was not Merle.

“You should be careful, no matter what your brother says, we don’t want you getting killed.” You ventured to say.

“Not that I care…” Daryl huffed, shrugging and looking away, and you both walked in silence for the rest of the way.

Later that day the spirits were high as the group dined, happy to have meat that wasn’t canned. Daryl was back to sitting with his brother slightly away from the others, listening to Merle’s nonsense and ducking his head when you smiled at him, nodding in thanks for the deer. Old habits die hard, you weren’t expecting him to suddenly be your friend just because he’d exchanged a couple of sentences with you and you weren’t even sure you’d actually want to be his friend. But you wished he’d be able to at least break free of Merle, just as you wished Carol were able to break free of Ed, who also kept her away from the group most of the time.

You had talked to Shane about Ed a million times before, and he always told you there was nothing any of you could do, you had enough just trying to survive. All you could do was keep an eye on Carol and Sophia and made sure they were alright, and that was what you had been doing since the beginning.

And for Merle Dixon, he might be annoying but he and his brother were useful to your camp, patrolling the woods and hunting for you.

___________________________________________________

A few days after your deer feast, Daryl announced he was going to the forest to hunt more and not to expect him back in a day or two. Merle was staying at the camp, for good or bad.

“You sure it’s a good idea to stay alone there by night?” You had a chance to voice your worries to Daryl before he left. Going out alone like he did almost every day for hunting was dangerous enough without staying the night out too.

“It’s fine,” Daryl said without even look at you, shrugging off your concern as if it made him uncomfortable. “I’ve been taking care of myself since always, I don’t need any of you.” He turned away and heads into the forest.

“Well, okay then.” You murmured, rolling your eyes and calling yourself stupid for trying to be friendly. It was obvious you weren’t welcome.

There seemed to be some kind of discussion back at the camp and you were tempted to duck away from it for a moment before walking closer to see what was happening.

“What’s going on?” You asked Lori as you approached.

“Glenn is going to the city again and Andrea is going with him. So now it seems like everybody wants to join too, for some reason.” She explained. “Shane and Glenn were discussing if it’s a good idea to take a group or not when Merle announced he’s going too and it doesn’t seem to make anyone happy.”

“Go figure” You snorted and walked towards Shane and Glenn.

A week after joining the group, Glenn had started going on runs to Atlanta to bring back supplies. At first your group didn’t want him to, it sounded too dangerous, but you were in need of supplies and finally, Glenn had convinced Shane he’d be alright. And he’d always been, he was smart and quick on his feet and always came back victorious. He never let anyone else go with him though, saying he was used to moving alone and they’d only slow him down.

It seemed someone had convinced him now, though, and if Glenn was taking a group to Atlanta you wanted to be in. It was your chance to finally go to the city, see how things were going down there and hopefully try to go find your mother and brother.

You didn’t want to abandon your new friends, but if it came down to it, you were ready to leave them and sneak away in Atlanta to go looking for your family. The decision broke your heart more than you had anticipated and you realized how fond you’d become of these people in the short time you’d known them.

Except of Merle of course.

The travel to Atlanta with him was a nightmare that you were only able to bear by cracking whispered jokes with Andrea and Jackie about sewing his big mouth shut with his own shoelaces.

As always seemed to happen in your life lately, plans didn’t go as you had expected.

For starters, Atlanta was overrun, way more full of walking corpses that you could have ever imagined. There was no way you could make it to your family’s home alone out there and you did your best not to start crying right there in front of everyone.

Then, while you were scavenging through a store looking for supplies, some idiot decided to fire a gun next to the store, bringing every single walker within earshot to you. Glenn, blessed his heart, wanted to help him but you just wanted to get the hell out of there as soon as you could. It seemed kind of impossible, though, with the dead piling up everywhere, knocking at the windows and doors, but before you knew it Glenn was already gone to help the idiot.

“You son of a bitch. We ought to kill you. We’re dead because of this stupid asshole.”

You were not surprised when Andrea pointed her gun at the confused looking man Glenn brought back. He was dressed as a police officer and looked totally lost and out of place. You almost felt pity for him, but Andrea was right, you were dead because of him.

You tried not to let the panic get the best of you, though, trying to come up with a way to escape, something to do, when there were gunshots sounds coming from the rooftop.

Merle fucking Dixon.

You all rushed up and there he was, shooting the riffle and laughing like a madman, like everything was fun to him.

“Hey, Dixon, are you crazy?!”

“Hey! Y'all be more polite to a man with a gun!” Merle threatened the group and before you could do anything he’d gotten into a fight with T-Dog.

You all stared in horror as Merle landed blow after blow, unsure of what to do or how to help until you were able to pull T away from him while Merle delivered a discourse of being the boss, making you all do a show of showing hands to vote for him.

You would rather bite off your hand that gave in to him, but he was still aiming his gun at you, so you did it, blinking away the tears of frustration and rage that threatened to fall off your eyes.

Suddenly the police officer who you had dimmed useless sprung into action, throwing himself at Merle and managing to handcuff him. Maybe he wasn’t as useless as you thought.

Once Merle was dealt with, it was time to focus on a plan of escape but you found yourself at loss of ideas.

“Old building like this built in the ‘20s, big structures often had drainage tunnels into the sewers in case of flooding down in the subbasements.” Jackie and her knowledge of buildings came in handy, maybe you’d be able to escape through the sewers.

Luck kept avoiding you, and your part of the plan consisted in babysit Merle with T-Dog while trying to contact your group back at the camp by radio without any luck. You found yourself bored of Merle’s nonsense and his bickering with T soon so you walked to the border of the roof and looked around, trying to find the neighborhood where your family lived, but you couldn’t see it.

The city looked devastated and abandoned of life, just the dead roaming through it and you felt your heart broke into pieces. You could only hope your mother and brother had left the city, even if that meant you were never going to find them, at least that way they might be safe.

You didn’t have time to dwell in self-pity as Glenn and the others ran back up to the roof and you had to spring into action again. Apparently, the sewers were a bust, and Rick, the police officer, had come up with another plan. It was disgusting, involved gusts and it was the craziest most dangerous idea you had ever heard, but you didn’t have anything better so you all watched in anguish as Glenn and Rick made their way through the sea of walkers covered in guts.

“This is insane…” You murmured to Andrea, but she just nodded, holding her breath.

You couldn’t quite believe it, but it worked. Or at least it did until the rain started falling, washing away their disguise. What was with your group and bad luck? Had you all collectively break a thousand mirrors?

You gasped in horror watching Glenn and Rick ran away from the walkers, running for their lives and getting into a van. For a terrifying moment, you thought Glenn and Rick had abandoned all you but then Glenn’s voice was on the walkie, telling you they are coming back to you and what to do. Then, everything was a blur, everything happened so quickly you could barely think or register anything, as you ran behind Andrea, unable to hear anything but the crazy beating of your heart. You didn’t come fully back to your senses until you were safe inside the van, sitting down next to Andrea, clutching her arm.

“I drop the damn key,” T-Dog said, and honestly you couldn’t care less about it. Merle had it coming.

“Where’s Glenn?” Andrea asked and you realized he wasn’t there, panic starting to get a hold of you again.

“He’s fine, he has a car and was chasing the geeks away,” Rick said, but you didn’t stop worrying until after you saw a red car zoom past you, alarm blasting, Glenn at the wheel.

“Crazy idiot.” Morales laughed and you found yourself letting out a nervous laugh before chocking a sob, the events of the day finally catching up with you.

You shook the whole way back to the camp.

Chapter Text

“Thank god we made it.”

T-Dog whispered and you all nodded your agreement. You’d never been gladder to see the quarry and your group than when you finally arrived there safe and sound.

You felt a bit lonely as you saw Amy embracing Andrea but then Carol and Sophia were coming to welcome you, holding you and ignoring Ed dirty looks from far away back at his tent.

You weren’t in any way prepared for what happened when Rick got down off the van and you could only watch in amazement as Carl and Lori ran to hug him.

It was unbelievable in the most wonderful way, he was Rick as in Carl’s dad, Lori’s husband, Shane’s best friend. They had told you about him before, some nights when the melancholy had been too heavy to bear it alone. They all had thought him dead and yet there he was, hugging his family with tears in his eyes, and you felt close to tears yourself watching them.

What were the odds of them finding each other again in this crazy world? Maybe miracles actually happened sometimes or maybe it was a wild, wonderful casualty, but you couldn’t help your smile as you watched them hug.

You stole a glance towards Shane and your smile fell. He was looking at the reunited family with confusion and pain clear in his eyes, before giving a smile to Rick when he looked at him.

You couldn’t imagine how Shane might be feeling about the whole thing. You got the chance to talk to him about it later that day when the others were busy getting dinner ready and introducing Rick to everyone.

“I thought you said he was dead.” You blurted out, probably not the best way to start the conversation but you didn’t know how to tackle the matter.

“I did think he was dead,” Shane growled, glaring at you. “You all think I made up everything to steal his wife?”

“Whoa, whoa.” You raised your hands. “Your words, not mine.”

“Bet that’s what she thinks now.” He said looking at Lori, who was sitting down in front of the fire with Carl and Rick, sounding pained and desperate, the anger in his voice gone.

You were at loss for words. You knew Shane’s affection for Lori and Carl was genuine, but certainly things weren’t looking in his favor at this moment. Luckily, you were sure you were the only one in the camp who knew about his affair with Lori, as far as you were aware.

“So what happens now?” You asked and he just shrugged, deflating.

“Don’t know.” He let out a sigh, rubbing the back of his neck. “He’s my best friend…”

“You should talk about it with Lori…” You suggested, not knowing what else to do.

“Yeah, sure, I bet she’s dying to talk to me right now.” He snorted bitterly. “Dinners ready.” He turned and walked towards the group sitting by the fireplace and you followed him in silence.

You hadn’t thought again about having left Merle in that roof in Atlanta until Dale brought up the matter of how to tell Daryl about his brother’s fate. Whichever way you did it, whoever was the one break the news, you knew trouble was going to ensure, and you didn’t think T-Dog assuring Merle was alive was going to soften the blow. At least you were lucky enough Daryl was not back at the camp yet.

Next morning, you were helping Carol with laundry, talking good-humored about the miracle of Rick finding his family among this chaos of a world, when Sophia and Carl ran screaming towards the camp. You dropped the shirt you were folding and ran behind Andrea and Amy, gun in hand until you found a walker feasting on an unlucky deer.

The little group that had gathered around it soon beat the corpse down and Dale voiced your worries as he stated you had never had a walker this close to camp before. You thought Daryl had said he had never found anyone close during his hunts.

Daryl himself appeared from behind the trees, loudly cursing the walker that had apparently stolen the deer he had been tracking, therefore poisoning the meat, and storming off towards the camp before any of you could talk to him about anything.

Once they gave him the news, things went as bad as expected or worse, and you watched anxiously at Daryl scuffling with Rick and Shane. You couldn’t help but wonder how Daryl could care that much about an asshole like Merle, who treated him the way he did, but it was quite clear not only by the way he lashed out at the news but also by the way his voice broke that he did and you caught yourself feeling a bit sorry for him.

You couldn’t quite believe what you were hearing when Rick offered to go back to Atlanta with Daryl to bring back Merle, T-Dog volunteering too soon after. Maybe you were selfish, but you wouldn’t go back to that hell of walkers for Merle Dixon in a million years.

However, as they got ready and plans were made, your thoughts went back to your family again and you found yourself thinking about volunteering too, just so you could maybe have a chance to go to their place and check it out, although you still wished they had left that hell of a city by now. Anyway, you were sure nobody in the group would want to help you with that, and even you knew it was madness.

Finally, the memories of your terrifying experience in Atlanta and of the herds of corpses that roamed the streets stopped you from volunteering.

Shane and Rick were talking quietly, getting everything ready you supposed, and you could see T-Dog doing the same. Daryl was sitting far from them, distancing himself from the camp. At first, you thought he was sharpening arrows for his crossbow, but when you paid attention you saw he was just playing absentmindedly with them.

You weren’t sure of what made you do it, you knew it’s a bad idea, he had made clear he didn’t want company and he was upset with all of you, but you found yourself walking towards him. You knew he was hurting for his brother, no matter if that brother was an ass, and your heart went to him for it, you couldn’t help it.

When he heard you getting close he roughly rubbed his eyes with the heels of his hands before glaring at you.

“The hell you want?”

You opened your mouth but your brain didn’t want to cooperate and you couldn’t find the right words, so you gaped like a fish out of water, trying to find something comforting or helpful to say.

“I hope you find your brother?” You said lamely, coming out of your mouth more like a question than a good wish.

“Yeah, sure.” He chuckled bitterly, obviously aware of your feelings for Merle. “As soon as I find my brother we are out this shit place.”

“That’s a pity, I’ll miss the squirrel stew.” You found yourself joking awkwardly, your nerves taking the best of you.

It totally backfired and as Daryl got up glaring at you and getting in your face, you fought the urge to retreat to the camp.

“Well bitch, if you wanted squirrels you shouldn’t have left my brother handcuffed to a roof!” He yelled at you and you looked down, biting your lip anxiously and digging your nails into your palms. You didn’t deal well with people yelling at you, and the face of your mother’s husband flashed in front of your eyes before you pushed it away.

Daryl gave you a look you couldn’t quite place when he saw your reaction and retreated, giving you space as he flopped down on the floor again. You sat down too, trying to regain control of yourself. It had always embarrassed you, the way you reacted at people yelling at you, but you couldn’t help yourself.

“Merle gave T-Dog a beat and then threatened us with a gun.” You quietly said, not as an excuse, just stating the facts. It wasn’t like you’d left an innocent man, he had it coming…but of course his brother was never going to see that.

“So you left him as walkers bait,” Daryl replied stubbornly, but his anger had deflated.

“It wasn’t like that…” You said, tired of him antagonizing you. “We had to left in a rush…and you heard T-Dog, he chained the door so the walkers couldn’t get to him.” It was even more than Merle deserved from him, in your opinion, but T-Dog had always been kind-hearted. “And he and Rick offered to go back for him.”

“Rick only does it because he left a bag of guns back in Atlanta.” Daryl scoffed. “I heard him.”

“Oh…” That honestly made way more sense than going back for Merle Dixon, but you weren’t about to say that to his brother.

You didn’t know what more to say and you couldn’t see anything good coming from this conversation so you got up, ready to go back to the camp and to busy yourself with anything.

“For all that’s worth, Merle’s lucky to have a brother like you.” You said before you left and Daryl looked up at you, frowning as if confused by your words.

You meant it, you didn’t think you had ever had anyone who cared about you as deeply as Daryl cared for his brother. Maybe your mother, long time ago. You laughed at yourself if you weren’t careful you were going to end up being jealous of Merle. But it must be nice, having someone backing you up like Daryl did with his brother.

“Are you here?” Carol asked with a smirk at your thoughtful face while you helped her fill some baskets with clothes that needed to be washed.

“Just thinking how fucking lucky Merle is without deserving it.” You answered, honest and bitter. As in cue, Daryl stormed into the van, honking impatiently as he rushed everyone in. “If it were me who was trapped in Atlanta, I’d had none.”

“Why you say that!” Carol chided you. “Any of us would go back for you! We take care of each other Y/N.”

“I know…” You couldn’t help but blush, but Carol’s words made you feel a bit better, a bit less lonely. “It’s just…” You shrugged.

“Missing the family.” Carol guessed correctly, although you hadn’t seen your family in so long…you hadn’t realized how much you missed them until the world ended and it was too late. “But you have us now, for good or for bad.” She wrapped an arm around your waist as you both walked to the creek. “Mind you, we can’t all have Daryl’s…’passion’.” She added chuckling.

“Beautiful way of saying he’s a hot-head.” You laughed. “But Merle’s lucky he has him anyway.”

“I won’t say no to that.”

You always hated laundry day, and washing clothes by hand in a creek was even more annoying, but the company and jokes of the other women made it almost enjoyable.

You couldn’t agree more with Jacquie, though, you were also tired of this stupid an annoying gender division you’d been noticing in your camp since the beginning, and you itched to tell the men to wash their damn clothes, but you didn’t want to make it into a whole camp argument.

Still, you gave Shane an annoyed look as he played with Carl while all you washed, but he shrugged at you as if he were oblivious to why you were glaring at him and you huffed. Maybe all you should unite and tell the men off. Starting with Ed, who was looking at all you as if you were his slaves, making your blood boil. You shared a look with Andrea, knowing he was right there with you.

“I miss my Maytag.” Carol complained, leaving you wondering how someone could miss a washing machine. But then again, that’d be better than washing by hand.

The grumpy mood lighted as all you listed things you missed. Just everyday things, without going into the deep stuff, trying to lift each other’s mood.

“I miss chocolate.” You said in a pretended mournful tone. “All kinds of chocolate.”

The other women hummed melancholically in approval.

“I miss my vibrator,” Andrea said, making you burst into laugh.

“Me too,” Carol replied, making the other women laugh like crazy again and you gapped at her, you didn’t see that coming from her.

Of course, Ed had to go and ruin the fun with his stupid remarks, “This ain’t a comedy club”… damned were that rude asshole.

You were still calling Ed names in your mind when you saw Lori approach Shane and you watched anxiously as they bickered quietly.

“You don’t need to be a genius to know what’s that about.” Andrea murmured, sharing a knowing look with Carol. Maybe you’d been wrong assuming you were the only one knowing about them…you just hoped this didn’t mean even more problems for your group.

Ed kept watching you up close like a bothering fly and you were more and more fed up with it, so you were not surprised when Andrea got up to confront him.

“Ey Ed tell you what, if you don’t like how your laundry is done you are welcome to do it yourself.” She said in a mockingly polite tone.

When Ed threw the shirt back at her began calling her names you didn’t waste time, getting up ready to back her up, and when he beckoned Carol like she were his dog, you felt your blood boil. Your attempts at making Carol stay with you ended with Ed slapping her hard and at first, you found yourself too scared to do anything, paralyzed by horror, but then you were throwing yourself at Ed in mad rage, right behind Andrea and Jacquie, not caring he was stronger and bigger than you.

Before anything could happen, though, Shane showed up, dragging Ed away from you and throwing him to the floor, landing punch after punch on his face while Carol cried in anguish. You weren’t proud of it but you couldn’t help the satisfaction you felt watching that abusive asshole get beaten up for a change, but it quickly turned into worry when it looked like Shane could end up just straight up killing Ed, ignoring your calls.

He did stop though, pulling away from Ed after threatening him if he ever laid a hand on Carol of Sophia again. The other women tried to comfort Carol but you couldn’t bear the sight of her crying and apologizing to such an asshole, so you followed Shane when he left.

“What was that about?” You confronted him when he stopped to wash the blood from his hands at the creek.

“What?” He asked, obviously annoyed. “You’ve been talking my ear off about doing something with Ed since forever and now that I do it you throw it to my face?”

“It’s not that…and what I meant was that we told him he’d have to leave the camp if he didn’t behave, not to beat him into pulp.” Not that he hadn’t it coming, but you had the feeling that by doing it, Shane was venting his frustration about Lori’s situation. “Not that I didn’t enjoy watching…I’m just afraid it might backfire.”

“I was trying to help Carol and the little girl, you know something had to be done.”

“I know, and I hope for now on Ed thinks it twice before pulling any other shit.” You were almost certain Shane’s punching therapy was going to keep him in line at least for a while. “Just…I know things are tough for you now…” You ventured and Shane looked at you like a cornered dog.

“She thinks I lied to her about Rick. She hates me.” He said mournfully.

“I don’t think she does it, I bet she’s feeling just super guilty too.” You could see it in Lori’s eyes. “So he’s taking it out on you. Just give it time, things will get better eventually.” You could only hope so.

“I doubt it,” Shane said bitterly, walking away from you and towards the camp, leaving you alone with your troublesome thoughts.

There was yet another commotion back at the camp. Jim seemed to have been digging holes non-stop under the sun without any explanation and he was still at it when you all walked to see what was going on, led by Shane.

Shane attempts to talk sense out of the situation were unsuccessful, though, and you all watched in worry as he was forced to reduce Jim, dragging him back to camp and tying him to a tree while Jim kept muttering nonsense. You were more than a bit weirded out by the situation, and you were sure you weren’t the only one, but you all tried your best to calm each other and by the end of the day you had all almost convinced each other that probably Jim had just taken a bit too much sun to the head and it had made him sick.

When you all sat down for dinner, Jim seemed to have calmed down so Shane untied him so he could join you. You grinned when you saw Carol and Sophia were joining you too, leaving Ed in his tent alone. You hoped it was Carol’s firsts steps to walking away from his abusive husband.

As night progressed, tension was palpable in the air as much as the group tried to ignore it, all you worrying about your group in Atlanta, so you did what you all had been doing always at night since the beginning to chase away your fears and worries: Share pieces of your life and stories with the others.

You couldn’t say about the others, but listening to Dale talk about his late wife yet once again was making you feel quite better. That was until a horrible scream made your blood freeze in your veins and you saw Amy standing in front of the VR, a walker biting off the flesh of her arm. For a second you all froze in horror but then everyone jumped to their feet, Andrea running to her sister but it was too late, another walker taking hold of her.

“Y/N, your gun!” Shane’s voice cut through you as you saw horrified how more walkers stumbled into the camp. You aimed towards the closer one, your first shot hitting him in the shoulder, your second in the neck, which didn’t stop him at all, but your third bullet hit close enough to the brain to kill him.

Everything in the camp was chaos and you backtracked towards Shane who was taking down walkers with his shotgun and hiding Lori and Carl behind his back.

“Carol, Sophia!” You wildly gestured to them to get close too, the Morales’ kids already hiding behind.

You looked around and saw Dale was shooting his rifle at the approaching monsters but Morales was fighting against them with just a metal bar and walkers were getting close to him so you headed closer to help him, shooting at any walker you deemed too close, trying not to get discouraged whenever you failed a shot.

You were so focused on aiming and shooting right that you didn’t notice the walker that almost grabbed you until he dropped dead at your feet, a bullet hole in his head. You looked around and saw Rick, Daryl, T-Dog, and Glenn running towards the camp, weapons raised.

You didn’t know how long it took you to stop all the walkers, it could have been a minute or it could have been an hour, you were too out of yourself to notice, adrenaline high as you tried to keep the monsters away and protect your group.

When it finally finished, you looked around and saw Andrea holding Amy’s dead body and you could see several bodies of your people mixing with the walkers. You flopped down on the floor, exhausted and devastated, doing your best not to cry.

Shane’s shadow fell over you and you looked up when he tapped your shoulder. “Quite good for your first time shooting a gun.” He told you with a tense smile before going to talk with Rick.

In another circumstance, the comment would have made you feel mad happy, but right now you couldn’t find within you the energy to be glad about anything.

“Merle?” You asked Daryl when he got closer to retrieve an arrow from the head of one of the monsters, afraid you already knew the answer.

“Gone as you wanted, congrats.” He growled at you.

“That’s not…” You began but stopped. That was not what you wanted? Not exactly maybe, but truth be told you’d wished Merle wasn’t in your group and you were sure Daryl knew it. But you hadn’t wanted him to end up devoured by monsters.

Soon the sun was up and people began working on cleaning the camp, bringing peaks to the heads of walkers and friends equally. It had to be done, you knew it, but still, you couldn’t watch. The only difference was that the walkers would be burned and your dead ones would be buried.

Andrea was still holding Amy without letting anyone get close or take her, ignoring Lori’s words and even pointing her gun at Rick. You joined the group that was discussing what to do just in time to hear Daryl tell Rick to take the shot from there and put a bullet in Amy’s head, and you shook your head in disbelieve at his coldness.

“Just let her be…” Lori sighed tiredly and you nodded sadly, your heart was breaking for Andrea.

Daryl scoffed at all you, ignoring how you glared at him and stormed off to help with the bodies, still complaining about everything the others decided.

“You left my brother to die, you had this coming!” You heard him shouting and you were baffled he could be so cruel.

You were fed up with him and gathered all your courage to face him

“Are you trying to win the ‘biggest asshole in camp’ title now that your brother isn’t here?’ You hissed at him.

Daryl glared at you in disbelieve, cheeks red with anger and eyes so dark they seemed black instead of blue, and you felt your courage running low.

Before he could say anything though, yet another commotion caught both of your attention as Jacquie announce Jim was sick and probably had been bitten. Jim was mumbling excuses and didn’t look all that good, pale and sweaty, and when Daryl forcefully lifted his shirt you all could see the bite mark on his flesh.

“I’m okay, I’m okay.” Jim kept repeating while you all stared at him horrified.

What did you do with a person that had been bitten? You knew what’d happen next, you knew that he’d turn but still, he was alive… you couldn’t just straight up murder him, could you?

Well, unsurprisingly enough, it seemed Daryl could and he had to be dragged away by Rick and Shane when he ran to Jim, peak raised up. You knew Daryl was a hothead but you’d never imagined he’d be like this and you felt stupid you’d ever thought he was different from his brother.

He glared at Shane and Rick but stormed off without starting another fight, knowing he couldn’t win against the two of them together. No matter how much Rick and Shane argued, those two were a great team together, even though they seemed to be disagreeing all the time.

Just five minutes ago they had been arguing about what to with Jim and what the group should do next. Rick suggested you should go to the CDC where you could hopefully find refuge and maybe even a cure for Jim, along with some explanation of what was going on in the world. Shane, however, agreed that you should leave, the quarry not being safe anymore, but he thought you should try Fort Benning. It was further away than the CDC but he thought it’d be safer and it had probably stood a better chance that the CDC.

You honestly didn’t care. You felt you had touched rock bottom, after seeing Atlanta overrun with all that it meant for your family and then having the place you considered somehow safe viciously attacked.

For now, they decided to leave Jim in the VR to rest, someone guarding him, but the decision of what to do next, where to go, was still in the air.

You saw Carol leave Sophia with Lori and Carl and head towards where Daryl had disappeared. You followed her, afraid Daryl might be rude to her in such a moment and ready to tell him off if he did, but you caught up to them just in time to see him passing the peak to Carol. She derived blow after blow to Ed’s head, crying, startling you.

When Carol felt she was done, she gave the peak back to Daryl, who was looking at her as shocked as you and almost sorrowfully, and she headed back to camp.

You didn’t know what to say and before you could say anything at all, you heard a shot coming from the camp. Daryl and you rushed there and saw Andrea crying over Amy’s body.

“I guess you don’t have to worry about that anymore.” You said to Daryl bitterly, but he didn’t seem remotely glad about it, he was looking down and fidgeting, and you resented your harsh tone, no matter how rude he had been himself before.

Later that day, once everything was dealt with and you’d buried your dead in the place where Jim had begun digging holes, now turned into a graveyard, you all sat down next to the fire while the sun went down. This night there were no stories and nobody talked, the mood sorrowful and tense. Shane broke the silence, beginning to talk about Rick’s plan and you braced yourself for a new fight.

“I’ve known this man for a long while, I trust his instincts.” Shane delivered, agreeing with Rick’s plan and surprising you. “I think the most important thing now is that we need to stay together. Those of you who agree, we leave first thing in the morning.”

There were some unenthusiastic nodding, some murmurs and you nodded too, it wasn’t like you had any other option or a better plan and you had come to appreciate and feel safe with this people, so you’d tag along.

Later that night you were on top of the VR on guard duty, trying to ignore Jim’s feverish moans that you could hear from inside the vehicle. You had been thinking about tomorrow’s journey. For what you could gather, there was a big chance the CDC wasn’t operative anymore but it also seemed your chance to find an explanation of what was going on. You were still lost in thought when you saw Daryl climbing up.

“It’s my turn to keep watch “

“Thought you would rush to sleep…” He murmured when he saw you weren’t moving, sitting down on the floor next to your chair.

“I don’t think I could even if I tried.” You sighed. “I don’t think any of them is actually sleeping.” You nodded towards the tents, your gaze stopping on Carol’s, frowning in concern. She had seemed serene that night, but still, you worried about her.

“She’s okay, she’s strong, you saw her this morning,” Daryl said as if reading your thoughts and you looked at him surprised. You hadn’t expected him to talk to you or to have given any thought about Carol at all.

You bit your lip, wondering if what you were about to say made you a bad person. “Ed had it coming, now she and her girl are free of him…” You couldn’t help it, you knew it was evil but it was how you felt.

“He deserved it.” Daryl nodded, his eyes hard. “I knew what he did to her and the lil’ girl.”

“We all knew, we should have done something.” You said bitterly.

“So you coming with us?” You nodded towards his pickup where he had already parked Merle’s bike. “I thought you wouldn’t come, I thought you wanted to leave us, that you hated us or something.” You were still upset about his earlier words.

You hadn’t expected Daryl to tag along with the group and had been surprised to see him getting ready for the journey. “You said we had it coming.”

Daryl just shrugged, uncomfortable. “I don’t have a better plan. And I don’t have my brother to be with…” He whispered the last part, looking down, and you felt genuinely sorry for him. With all the things that had happened and how annoyed you had been at him, you almost hadn’t realized that he had just lost his brother.

“I’m only going to say this once and I know you don’t believe me.” You said. “But I’m sorry for your brother.”

Daryl looked at you first surprised and then as if trying to decide if you were genuine or not, but he didn’t say anything just looked away, biting his thumb and you wondered if he was missing Merle, no matter how badly he had treated him.

You got up, deciding to go and try to get some sleep, you needed it for tomorrow. Before climbing down the stairs, you stopped to say quietly, “I think I may have lost my brother in Atlanta too…”

The thought brought tears to your eyes and you rushed down before Daryl could seem them. You got into your tent and cried yourself to sleep.

Chapter Text

“Anyone needs a lift?”

You asked when you finished gathering your scarce belongings inside your car, trying to sound more cheerful and hopeful than you were feeling. You were bound to leave towards the CDC as soon as everyone was ready.

“Nah I think we’re all settled.” Shane leaned back against your car. “We’re shorter in fuel than in cars.”

Actually, now that you saw all of you ready to get on the move, you realized how many vehicles you had. “We’ll find a gas station on the way.” You weren’t sure if you were trying to convince Shane or yourself.

“The Morales’ family isn’t coming.” Rick approached you, looking stressed.

“What?” It made no sense, they had been with you since the beginning and it was clear it was easier to survive in a group in this new horrible world.

Turned out they wanted to try and find their family, which you totally understood, but you were not very hopeful they’d manage after what you’d seen in the city, after the realization that the world was more full of monsters that you’d believed, creeping even into your tiny camp in the middle of nowhere.

But they were determined to leave the group and try luck on their own, so you all could only say your tearful goodbyes and wish them good luck. Rick and Shane gave them some guns and ammo so at least they could protect themselves, and you elbowed Daryl when he scoffed at it. He glared you but didn’t open his mouth to argue and that was a progress, you guessed.

Halfway through your journey, you had to stop when the RV seemingly broke down, smoke rising from his hood. According to Dale, it did it sometimes, but he’d be able to fix it soon. Things went worse as Jacquie went off the RV announcing Jim was getting worse and worse.

Rick got inside the vehicle to check on him while Dale and Glenn worked on fixing the RV. Even worried as you were, you couldn’t help but smile at the sight of them. Since getting to know each other, they had grown close and Glenn seemed to look at Dale as a role model, seeming to respect and care for him. For his side, Dale tended to him and Andrea as if they were family. It was a beautiful relationship that never failed to bring a smile to your face.

Your smile fell when Rick got out of the RV, though, judging by his face he didn’t bear good news.

You didn’t know if it was because Jim was too tired and sick to keep going or because he didn’t want to risk turning and attacking you, he had decided he wanted to be left there. No matter how much Dale said you had to respect Jim wishes, the idea sat uneasily in your stomach. You were abandoning a sick man to be devoured by the monsters to come.

But Jim was resolute and there was no way to change his mind, so you could just watch helplessly as Shane and Rick left him resting against a tree. He even declined the gun Rick offered, seeming to assume his fate calmly. One by one, you said your tearful goodbyes.

“Come on.” Shane squeezed your shoulder in silent comfort, gently pushing you towards the vehicles. “We’ve to keep going.”

You turned your head back and saw that Daryl was the last one saying goodbye to Jim, nodding silently to him and giving him a small smile. For someone who just a day ago was asking to kill him, Daryl seemed quite afflicted.

You found yourself thinking about it while you drove, wondering again if there might be something else to Daryl besides his outburst and harsh ways, if he may be not as insensible and cold as you’d deemed him to be, if maybe he cared about people on his way. You weren’t sure what to make of him and there were other, more urgent things that needed your attention anyway. Like surviving.

When you arrived at the CDC, the sun was already going down with all the risks that it carried. You all moved together, weapons in hand, searching for threats while you headed towards the door of the building.

It was closed, none was answering your calls and the building seemed abandoned. Rick didn’t want to give up, knocking again and again at the doors, shouting at whoever he thought was inside while walkers started showing up. Shane was trying to drag him away, you all needed to move before there were too many walkers but Rick wouldn’t give up, saying he’d seen the camera move, shouting to the imaginary inhabitants that they were killing you.

You were ready to run to the cars, no matter if you had to drag Rick by his hair, the walkers getting too close, when suddenly the doors started opening, bright white light coming from inside, blinding you.

You all rushed inside, running from the walkers approaching you, your weapons still raised in front of you in case there were more threats inside, but you only found a man waiting for you. He was a scientist of the CDC, Dr. Jenner, and you all couldn’t help your relieve when he offered shelter in exchange for letting you run some blood examples.

Everything was a bit strange but still, it was better than the outside.

When you reached the main room you couldn’t help your amazement and curiosity at the complex looking computers that were everywhere and at the big screens of the wall. On top of that, the voice Dr. Jenner had been talking with was actually a robot, and he was all alone in the facility.

It was all still a bit weird but you tried not to let it take you out of your knew hopeful mood.

That night, spirits were high as the group dined in actual food and even enjoyed some drinks, everyone celebrating, laugh and cheers all over the table.

“Keep drinking little man, I want to see how red your face can get,” You heard Daryl saying loudly over the table, already opening a new bottle of wine, and your turned your head to see Glenn with yet another empty glass in front of him, his cheeks bright pink and seeming half intoxicated already.

In the middle of the celebration, you notice Dr. Jenner’s somber mood, distancing himself from your happiness and seeming uncomfortable when you cheered to him after Rick noticed too. Shane seemed to be noticing it too and soon he was interrogating the doctor, questioning him about what happened and where was everyone else.

You could understand where Shane was coming from, you were wondering the same but you noticed how everyone tensed up, the mood darkening, even more when Jenner explained how some of his colleges ran to their families while others decided to ‘opt out’.

Nobody felt like celebrating after that, but the smiles came back to your group’s faces when your host showed you the rest of the facility and you saw you had not only actual rooms but also showers with hot water and everything.

You weren’t sure how long you spent there, just standing under the spray of the shower letting the hot water engulf you before you began to actually wash properly.

On your way back to your room you crossed paths with Lori, who was heading towards the library, and you couldn’t help but admire her washed hair with those beautiful curls falling down her back. Your freshly washed, short hair was spiking everywhere without control and you considered for a moment letting it grow long again, but the memory of the walker grabbing at it was still vivid in your memory, no matter how long ago it was.

Once in your room sleep avoided you and soon you were bored out of your mind, not used to your own company and lack of activity anymore so you decided to take advantage of the library and see if there were any interesting book. Your group had a little haul of books but you’d almost read all of them by now.

You were run almost run over by Shane, who was storming off the library. He seemed out of sorts and his neck was bleeding.

“Shane!” You called after him but he ignored you, striding away.

You walked into the library and found Lori sitting on a table, shaking and crying silently.

“Ey, you okay?” You rushed to her.

“Yeah, yeah…” She said weakly, rubbing her eyes and getting up.

“Did you two have a fight?” Since Rick coming back, things between Lori and Shane had been tense, to say the less.

She nodded but was still shaking and you didn’t know what to make of it. You knew Shane cared for Lori and you would have never thought he’d do something to her, but Lori wouldn’t be like that for a simple fight.

“Lori, what happened?” You questioned softly but she just shook her head.

“I have to go, Rick’s with the doctor and I don’t want Carl to be alone in the room.” With that, she left before you could say anything else.

You got out of the library, anger rising inside you, books forgotten, and headed towards Shane’s room, knocking at the door insistently until he finally opened it.

“What did you do to Lori?” You spat out.

Shane blinked at you, neck still bleeding. He seemed drunk out of his mind and he began closing the door again, but you stepped in so he couldn’t.

“Shane!”

“Leave me the fuck alone, Y/N,” he muttered, trying to close the door again and you had to step back so you wouldn’t be dragged by it.

“I didn’t know you were such an asshole.” You hissed. “Stay away from her!” was the only thing you could yell at him before he closed the door on you.

You huffed and headed down the corridor. You didn’t want to go to the loneliness of your room, sure you couldn’t sleep agitated as you were, so you decided to wander around, snooping at the open rooms although there wasn’t much to see and certainly nothing that could give you more information about what had happened there and out in the world.

You were startled when you found someone in a half-empty room but quickly realized it was Daryl, sitting on the floor and lying against the wall. You were about to leave but you stopped to do a double-take, surprised when you saw him smiling at you. Then you saw the bottle of liquor he had on his hand. That probably explained it.

Intending to borrow some booze, you sat down next to him, reaching out until he passed you the bottle.

“What do you think of this place?” You asked after taking a sip, not caring what the liquor was.

“Strange. Shady. But we have a refuge, food, and booze.” He shrugged.

You took another sip and then let Daryl take back the bottle. None of you said anything for a long while, just passing the liquor back and forth.

“You said you lost your brother in Atlanta too…” Daryl said tentatively after taking a long sip, looking at you and then quickly looking away.

You groaned. That was something you certainly didn’t want to think about. “I’m going to need more booze if you want me to talk about that.”

Daryl raised his eyebrows but passed you the bottle silently.

“So…my mother and my brother lived in Atlanta…” You began. “And you saw how Atlanta was. If they were there, they could very well have ended up being…you know…but I’m hoping they left the city when everything started…” You tried to distance yourself from your feelings so they wouldn’t take a hold of you, but it was hard.

Daryl nodded, reaching out to you to pass him the bottle and taking a sip before talking again. “We found a group of people in Atlanta, alive. So maybe if they didn’t leave they are alive with another group.”

“Yeah…yeah, maybe…” It was hard for you to be hopeful about it, but you appreciated it. Maybe your family had found a group like you’d done… “Merle?” You asked softly.

“He might not be dead either. We didn’t find his body or anything.” Daryl answered, passing the bottle back to you. “He cut off his hand to escape, cauterized it and then left the building.”

“Shit…” You gaped, it was horrible but still, it didn’t surprise you that much coming from Merle.

“Yeah…” Daryl scoffed but you saw his small, sad smile as he thought about his brother and you couldn’t help but feel sorry for him. “Toughest son of a bitch I ever knew.”

“I bet.” You chuckled softly and left the bottle on the floor, done with the liquor, you were starting to feel it. Daryl didn’t reach for it either.

“So maybe my brother is in a group or wandering Atlanta like your brother.” He said quietly.

“Maybe…” You whispered, feeling Daryl was as little hopeful as you were.

“I didn’t know you had a brother,” Daryl said after a moment of mournful silence.

“Well, it’s not like you and I talk much.” You shrugged awkwardly. Truth be told, none in the group knew it, some knew you had family in Atlanta but nothing specific. You never felt like talking about it.

Daryl just nodded silently and you bit your lip. Thinking about your brother, talking about him…it hurt but it was better than the silence and it had been so long since the last time you knew anything about him, since the last time you talked about him, that he was starting to feel like a dream just real in your memory.

“He’s my half-brother, son of my mother and her husband. More than ten years younger than me, you see…” You explained. “But I haven’t seen him in…I don’t know maybe eight years? I’m not even sure.”

“How’s that?” Daryl asked with genuine curiosity.

“Well, after I left for uni I went back a few times, then I stopped going…then found a job…didn’t have the time… They would never, ever visit me…” You bit your lip unsure about keep talking, but words kept pouring out of your mouth… “Truth is…I love my brother, okay? I do, and I missed him, I talked with him by phone whenever I could. But I never felt like coming back. My stepdad was an asshole, see…”

“So you left your brother.” Daryl had been avoiding your gaze but now his hard blue eyes were fixed on your, glaring down at you. “Left him with his asshole father.”

“It wasn’t like that!” You complained, but he was making you felt super guilty, this was a sensitive matter for you. You had always felt bad about not going to visit him but you just couldn’t bring yourself to deal with your stepfather, and he had made everything he could to show you that you weren’t welcome. You averted Daryl’s gaze but you could feel him judging you, seeming almost mad.

“I didn’t leave him in the wild or anything, he was at home with his parents, and his father wasn’t an asshole to him!” You were upset, who was Daryl to judge you. “Just to me…he was his son after all. But he hated me and I was never welcome there, not even if I wanted…” You weren’t sure why you were excusing yourself to him but you were done. “You know nothing about it anyway…” You murmured bitterly.

“My father was an asshole too.” Daryl murmured quietly, finally looking down and away from you. “My brother left me with him too.”

“Oh…” You didn’t like to be compared to Merle. It wasn’t fair. But you felt Daryl was still affected by it, probably the reason why he had reacted like that to your words, so you said nothing else.

For a moment none of you moved or say anything else, until Daryl reached out for the bottle again, taking another sip.

“Your own father was an asshole too?” He asked, gaze still down.

“I never knew him.” It didn’t hurt, you’d never been able to miss something you’d never had.

Daryl just hummed. “And your mother didn’t want you to come back home?”

You let out a long sigh. “I…I honestly don’t know. I don’t think so, though…” That, on the other hand, hurt so much you felt your heart crying. You missed the love of your mother, you missed how she was before she met that asshole, no matter how you tried to ignore your feelings. “But his husband had a way of turning her against me…always telling lies, convincing her everything was my fault, that I was bad and mean…” You hissed in bitter rage against your stepdad. “I don’t think my mother loved me anymore.” You closed your eyes tight and dug your nails into your palms to stop your tears.

“She’s your mom, she loves you,” Daryl said as if it were a matter of fact.

It was the closest thing to trying to comfort someone you had ever seen Daryl do, just like when he had told you that your brother might be alive in Atlanta, and you smiled gratefully to him.

“I like you more when you’re drunk, Dixon.” You joked, your voice tight with unspilled tears. Still, you felt a bit lighter after having talked about your family after so long, after getting all out, all the guilt and grief out of your system for a bit.

Daryl scoffed but you could see his small smile.

“I’m going to take advantage of that real bed.” You said after a long moment of silence, getting up lazily. The alcohol and the exhaustion, both physical and emotional, beginning to take a toll on you. “Thank you for the booze.”

“Thank the doc.”

________________________________________

Maybe it was thanks to the alcohol, maybe it was having a room and a bed, sleeping unfed a roof inside safe walls, but that night you managed to sleep longer and deeply that you had since the end of the world and you found yourself smiling in good humour as you made your way to the table were most of your group were having a real breakfast.

Glenn was looking like shit, pale and groggy, complaining about how much he drank and seemingly having his worst, probably even first hangover ever. Rick seemed half hungover himself too and you laughed good-hearted at them, having managed to avoid one yourself. You smiled at Daryl, who also seemed unaffected, and he smirked at you before starting to make fun of Glenn.

When Shane arrived he didn’t even look at your group, going directly towards the food and answering evasively at T-Dog when he asked what’d happened to his neck and saying he probably made it himself on his sleep.

“You’d never done anything like that before.” Rick seemed worried about his friend.

“Yeah, it was nothing like me at all,” Shane replied, looking pointedly at Lori.

You hoped whatever had happened between them would never happen again but you glared at Shane for good measure, no matter he seemed regretful.

After breakfast, the doctor finally showed you what’d been going on…kind of. It didn’t look like much to you, never having been a science girl, but you watched with morbid interest the recording of the brain going down while the person died. Then the brain began turning on again but Dr. Jenner pointed out that it only happened to certain areas of the brain and you weren’t sure what it meant, only that you weren’t yourself anymore but a monster driven by the will to devour.

It was some kind of infection, that was all the doctor was able to tell you, having found no cause or cure, not there neither in any of the other researching facilities which, according to Dr. Jenner, were all down. Not only that but the virus had spread everywhere, all around the world without a safe place.

All your worst fears had been confirmed in one go and it hit you like if someone had punched you in the gut. You looked around taking in the faces of your group, the disbelief, the desperation as you last hope died.

“That clock is counting down, what happens when it reaches zero?” Dale asked, pointing at a big digital clock.

“Basement generators run out of fuel.” The doctor replied evasively.

“What happens when the power goes out?” Rick asked loudly to the robot voice when Dr. Jenner refused to say anything else.

The robot said something about decontamination and you didn’t know what that might be but it didn’t sound good, so Rick, Shane, Glenn, and T-Dog rushed down to the basement to investigate.

You didn’t know what to do with yourself, your mood in the lowest point, all hope gone. Daryl had said something about getting drunk so you went looking for him, wanting to take your mind away from your horrible reality. You found him in one of the rooms, sitting on the sofa and sipping from the bottle of liquor.

“Mind sharing?” You flopped down on the opposite side of the sofa, Daryl already passing you the bottle. “Although I’m not sure it’s sensible to get drunk, given our situation…”

“The world’s gone to shit and there’s no way to fix it or any safe place, what’s wrong with getting drunk forever?” Daryl shrugged, taking the bottle back. “Besides I’ve been told I’m more likable when I’m drunk.” He joked quietly, making you snort.

“Indeed.” You weakly teased back before getting somber again. “I guess this place was too beautiful to be true.”

“Yeah…but we still have this place even if there’s nothing else outside anymore.” Daryl offered, you weren’t sure if as a way of comfort.

“You trust that doctor?” You asked him. You certainly didn’t and you were sure you weren’t the only one. There was something off about him and he kept hiding things. You were supposed to be safe there but you felt uneasy.

Considering the look he gave you, Daryl seemed to share your thoughts but he said nothing, taking the bottle back and taking a sip.

“Were you a big drinker before?” Daryl asked after a moment of silence, taking you by surprise.

“What?”

“You’ve drunk way more than the others and you’re not hungover.” Daryl elaborated, making you chuckle.

“First, I’m pretty sure Shane drank more than me.” Your face went dark at the thought of him. “Second, you also drank more than me and neither you are.”

“But I’m used to it, I drank a lot with Merle…” Daryl shrugged. •”That’s why I’m asking.”

It didn’t surprise you to hear that of him and Merle.

“I wasn’t that big of a drinker but maybe it’s just that I’m used to the hard stuff?” You said. “In the village where I lived my best friend used to make her own liquor and that was strong.”

“My dad made his own moonshine,” Daryl told you.

You nodded but your thoughts had wandered to your best friend, memories hitting you.

“I wonder how my friend’s doing…I wonder if she’s still in the village…” You said saddened, trying your best not to cry. “I don’t even know if the village’s still standing or if the walkers took over it…I hope my kids are okay…”

“You had kids?” Daryl blinked at you, seeming surprised.

“What, no! I meant the kids I used to teach, my students.” Your eyes were wet but you couldn’t help your chuckle at Daryl’s surprised face. “I wouldn’t have left my kids alone there, what you think of me.”

“Could be with their daddy or something…” Daryl said defensively.

“Nah, no kids and very single.” You said, laughing quietly to yourself. “It’s not easy to find someone when you’re new to a town where everybody knows each other since forever. I’d been working there for years and I was still the foreigner.”

“My town was like that too,” Daryl said quietly.

“So you had a childhood sweetheart or something like that?” You asked teasingly and Daryl didn’t even reply, just glared at you and you chuckled softly, rising your hands in surrender. “Just asking…”

You stayed silent for a moment until you saw Daryl looking up and frowning.

“What?”

“Air conditioner stopped.” He explained, pointing at it.

“What does that mean?” You asked worriedly, but he just shrugged.

“So you were a teacher?” Daryl asked out of the blue and you were glad for the distraction, your worried mind already having gone through all the worst scenarios for your situation.

“Yeah,” you nodded. ”Got a job fairly quickly after I finished my studies cos I didn’t mind working in the middle of nowhere.” You’d been in desperate need of money to pay your loans, rent and all that. “Now my job is kind of useless…” It hadn’t given you any skill to survive what you were facing.

Daryl just shrugged and you looked at him with curiosity. “What about you?” Considering his skills, you were sure he had to have been doing something that was more useful for this new world than you.

Daryl didn’t reply, just looked away without a word, shifting awkwardly.

Suddenly the lights went off and you jumped, startled. You sensed Daryl move in the dark until he found the handler of the door, pushing it open. You could see the heads of the others popping out of their rooms too.

“What’s going on?” Daryl yelled at the doctor when he walked down the corridor.

“Shutting down anything that’s not a priority,” was Dr. Jenner’s only answer along with something about the building shutting down itself.

You all followed him while he ignored all your questions, reaching the computers rooms. It seemed the place was going to hell so as soon as Rick and the others were back you all rushed to take your things and leave. Before you could do it, though, an alarm started blasting and the doors closed, locking you in.

“Open the door!” Rick demanded but Dr. Jenner said it was electronically closed and couldn’t be closed which you weren’t sure if it could be an excuse or not.

You couldn’t help it, you were panicking, your fear just growing more and more until you felt you couldn’t breath when you caught up with what the doctor was saying. The building was going to destroy itself. It was going to explode with you inside.

You’d never been so scared and you saw the others panicking too, crying and begging to the doctor but he seemed cold, ignoring all your words and panic. Shane and Daryl sprung to action, trying to open the door with axes but it wouldn’t give up.

“These doors are made to stand a rocket launcher.” Was the only comment of Dr. Jenner.

“Your head ain’t!” Daryl ran to the doctor, axe raised but was dragged back by Rick who seemed to still want to dialogue with the doctor, but you could see it was useless, blind to your tears and deaf to your tears and Rick’s words about hope.

You fell down on the floor next to Carol, unable to offer her any comfort as tears fell down your cheeks. You felt helpless and you weren’t surprised when you saw Shane resorting to violence again, threatening to shoot the doctor and shooting wildly at the computers when Rick stopped him.

Rick tried to plea yet once again and it seemed it was for nothing, you had long stopped listening to anything, face hidden on your hands as you huddled with Carol and Sophia, waiting for the worst to happen when suddenly the doctor seemed to finally take pity, opening the doors.

You froze for a second, not really believing it, but then you were rushing out with everyone. You’d already reached the end of the corridor, running behind Daryl when you saw some of the others were backtracking. You went back to find Jacquie had decided to stay there, seeming to have lost all her hope and wanting for all to end quickly. You couldn’t believe it but Andrea seemed to also want the same, Dale deciding to stay with her too.

It was heartbreaking but there wasn’t much time for goodbyes, the clock still tickling down so you all had to rush out only to be stopped by the locked main doors. Nor Daryl’s axe neither Shane’s shotgun could open it and you thought you were lost again until Carol gave Rick a grenade she’d found in one of his shirts and that finally broke the glass.

There were walkers out, heading to you, blocking your way to the cars and you all shoot to them while you ran away from the building and to the cars. You tried but couldn’t run and shoot at the same time, unable to aim properly and you had to stop running in order to shoot at the closer walkers until you felt Daryl pushing you forwards.

“Come on, keep moving!” He yelled at you, bashing his crossbow into the skull of the nearest walker.

You made it into the car in time to see Andrea and Dale running out of the CDC and towards the car too, the building exploding right behind, blinding and deafening you for a moment.

“Everyone okay?” You heard Shane’s voice.

You stumbled out of the car, a bit disoriented but a big smile lighted up your face when you saw Andrea and Dale had made it on time and all you were okay. At least physically.

You didn’t know what could you do now, where you could go, but you’d survived and you were alive and that was more than enough for now.

Chapter Text

“There you go.”

You smiled to Sophia, trying to hide how worried you were, as you passed her a half-empty box of cereal bars you had taken from the CDC. It brought you memories from the first time you met the girl and shared your chocolate bars with her.

“Thank you, Y/N.” She took one of the bars and gave the other one to Carl.

Carol smiled to you gratefully and passed you a can of beans she was dining in. Food was scarce and you all were sharing a couple of cans with each other.

“We should have taken all the food that asshole had,” Daryl said grumpily. “Now it’s ashes.”

“It’s not like we had much time…” You had taken the box of cereal bars, the closer food item you saw when Rick had told you to grab your things before Dr. Jenner closed the doors. Wherever you went, you were sure to be short of food.

You were hiding in a rather small warehouse at the outside of Atlanta. It had been almost clean of walkers and seemed the only more or less safe hiding place you had seen since driving out the CDC earlier that day. You had chained the door but still, you were taking turns keeping watch. In this world, you couldn’t be too careful.

There had been some talk about what to do, although most of you were feeling so down and hopeless you didn’t care much. Shane’s idea of going to Fort Benning seemed the only chance you still might have, although after the CDC you didn’t feel very hopeful about it.

“We must have hope…” Rick had tried to lift the group spirits and you had to admire him for it.

It had been decided that you’d go to Fort Benning at first light. You didn’t have much gas so you’d take the fewer vehicles possible, splitting the remaining fuel. You were almost sure that you’d have to say goodbye to your tiny, old, second-handed car. Not the most practical for traveling, even back before the world ended.

After securing the warehouse, Glenn, Rick, and Daryl had gone on a run, trying to find supplies for your travel. You all worried sick watching them go but it had to be done. You couldn’t go to Fort Benning or wherever you ended without any food. They had come back with some cans of food and bottles of water but they hadn’t managed to find any fuel as they had hoped, hence they had taken the decision of splitting the fuel you already had.

After dinning on the canned beans you went to the door to keep watch, letting T-Dog who was currently there have some rest. You saw the others starting to spread their sleeping bags here and there, standing close to each other.

“Y/N.” You looked up when you heard your name and saw Daryl standing next to you. “I’d forgotten I found this but Sophia said they are your favorite.” He passed you some chocolate bars of your favorite brand.

“Thank you!” You were taken aback, having thought you’d never eat one of those anymore. Sure, canned beans were more useful and nutritious, but your mouth was watering at the chocolate. Still, you bit your lip thinking about the kids and how much they loved them too. “You know what, give them to Sophia and Carl, but tell them not to eat them all in one go.”

Daryl took them back but threw one of the bars to you anyway. You smiled at him, opened the bar and split it in half, giving one part to Daryl. He frowned as if confused but took it. You took a bite of chocolate and closed your eyes, smiling in delight.

“It’s not that I don’t appreciate how lucky we are to have cans of food, but this…,” you said, mouth full. “This is another level.”

Daryl snorted quietly with laughter but nodded, eating the other half of the bar and leaving you to keep watch.

You huddled in the blanket Carol had given you more for comfort than for cold, the evening was warm, and got ready for the long, lonely hours until your turn finished.

Halfway through the night, Shane got up to take your post so you could have some sleep before the sun went up. You got up and turned your back without a word but he stopped you.

“Ey, Y/N, wait.” Shane went to grab your arm but stopped when he saw you were turning to face him. “I…um…I’m sorry I was like that at the CDC. I was too drunk.”

You nodded, accepting his apologies but said nothing, heading towards your sleeping bag. You weren’t upset anymore about how he had been with you but you felt uneasy thinking what might have happened between him and Lori. Still, Shane’d been one of your first friends in the group and you felt strange being strained with him, but you couldn’t help it. You hoped things would get better eventually, though.

Next morning you weren’t the only one saying goodbye to their car in order to save gasoline. Actually, the only car your group took was Carol’s Cherokee, Rick, Lori, Carol and the kids all going on it. Daryl left his pickup in favor of his brother’s bike, which needed less gas.

“You don’t think it’s dangerous to go like that?” You asked him, genuinely worried at the lack of helmet or anything between his body and the walkers you might find on your way. You weren’t even that safe inside cars.

Daryl scoffed at you. “I’ve been riding since forever, it’s fine.”

“At least you’ll be less cramped than the rest of us.” You pointed at Carol’s car, already full and then made your way into the RV.

There was no discussion about taking Dale’s old RV, no matter the risk of it breaking down. You needed the space and it had room for all your things, not to mention a bathroom and a real, big bed. Dale, Glenn, T-Dog, Shane, Andrea and you were all in it and it felt a bit too cramped but you weren’t going to complain.

_______________________________________________________

You weren’t sure of how long you’d been travelling, you thought you weren’t even halfway but it was feeling eternal. The mood wasn’t the best, all mourning Jacquie, worried about what you’d discovered in the CDC and afraid of what you might find next.

You were bored out of your mind listening to Andrea and Shane’s talk about guns, you knew the basics already. You borrowed a book Glenn was reading but you weren’t even five pages into it when your group ran into trouble.

The road seemed to be blocked by cars and cars, but you didn’t have enough fuel to find a detour so Daryl zigzagged through the cars trying to find a way through. You watched him worriedly, hoping that there weren’t any walker inside a car that could grab him but as the RV followed him you only saw people really dead, seeming to have been like that for a long while, and you looked away quickly.

On top of everything, the RV decided to break down in such a moment, groaning as it halted into a stop, smoke rising from his hood.

“I said it, didn’t I say it…” Dale complained before starting to work on it.

The group decided to take advantage of such an eventful situation and you all went from car to car trying to scavenge something useful. Food, water, supplies, anything that you may need. You were short of everything.

The corpses inside the cars turned your stomach but you forced yourself to keep going, to be brave. By now you knew you needed it if you wanted to survive this world. You followed Carol and Lori, hand on the holster of your gun, scooping from car through car.

“Ed didn’t let me wear anything like this…” Carol said as she took a cute tank top from one of the cars. “We’re going to need clothes.” She excused herself when she saw the look Lori was giving her.

You felt a bit annoyed by Lori since you started your search she had been complaining about it. None of you wanted to do this but you had to, did she wanted you to go without food? And Carol was right, you barely had any spare clothes.

“It’ll look perfect on you, Carol, take it.” You gave her the brightest smile you could muster.

You all kept scavenging silently, finding some food items. Boxes of cereal bars and biscuits, cans and all the usual things like that, and you collected them next to the RV.

The gloomy mood of your group lifted a little when Shane found a truck full of big water containers.

“Were we short on water?” He announced before opening one and letting the water fall over his head.

You ran to the truck, laughing, and did the same, letting the fresh water pour over your hair and shaking your head, sending droplets everywhere.

“You look like a dog,” Shane told you, laughing.

You were smiling at him brightly before you knew what you were doing. You smiled faltered for a second but then returned to your face. You were glad the tension between you two was slowly ebbing away.

Of course, whenever something good happened to your group, something bad seemed to always have to happen too and Rick jumped off the RV roof to tell you walkers were getting close. You had barely any time to hide and you tried not to panic, not knowing what to do. You followed Rick and hid under a car, barely making it on time before walkers started to walk around.

You saw Carol and Lori under another and also Carl and Sophia, but you couldn’t see anyone else. You saw the legs of the walkers as they passed, more than you had ever seen together, like a true herd. Your heart was pounding so hard you were afraid the monsters were going to hear it, they were so close and you felt so exposed you felt you could just start crying, you were so scared…

Rick seemed to notice your panic because he gave you an encouraging look, nodding his head as if trying to say you everything was going to be alright. You nodded and closed your eyes, trying to breathe deep.

After what felt like an eternity the growls of the walkers seemed to go away, his footsteps walking away. You opened your eyes and looked around, you couldn’t see any rotten leg, it seemed all they had gone away but Rick held up his hand, telling you to wait.

Suddenly a walker appeared out of nowhere and you watched, terrified and helpless, as it fell down to the floor next to the car under which Sophia was hiding. The little girl cried out and tried to move away but the monsters crept under the car too.

Sophia got up and ran away from the car before any of you could do anything to help her, the monster being too close. You rolled out of under the car along with Rick in time to see her running towards the woods chased by two walkers, Rick jumping out off the road and running behind her, trying to get the walkers before they get her, all disappearing into the woods.

Carol tried to follow them, panicking but Lori held her in place exhorting her to wait for Rick to come back with Sophia.

“Ey, some help here!”

You heard Daryl’s voice and you turned around to see him making his way towards the RV, holding T-Dog’s forearm, which seemed to be bleeding.

“What happened?” You asked, walking to them and watching as Andrea and Glenn began cleaning T-Dog’s arm.

“Cut my forearm while trying to hide…” T-Dog grumbled weakly, grimacing.

“Ey, what’s going on?” Daryl frowned taking in your panicked face and seeing Carol crying at the side of the road, staring at the woods.

“Some walkers found Sophia and she ran to the woods.” You explained, following him as he quickly made his way towards where Carol and Lori were standing. “Rick had gone after them.”

“Shit…” He murmured.

“Rick’ll bring her back, we have to wait.” You said when he didn’t stop walking, afraid he was going to disappear into the woods too.

Daryl looked from the woods to you, then back to the woods, then to Carol and nodded, stopping, but soon he was anxiously pacing around. You were in anguish too but focused on comforting Carol.

When Rick came back Sophia wasn’t with him.

Carol began sobbing again, panic rushing through her but Rick began talking fast, trying to ease her fears. He had led the walkers away from Sophia and had let her hidden, telling her to ran back to the camp if he wasn’t back. If Sophia wasn’t there, then she must be still hidden.

This time, when Rick went back to look for Sophia, Daryl, Shane, and Glenn went with him, leaving you all there waiting anxiously. Shane and Glenn came back not much later, without Sophia.

“It’s fine, it’s fine people,” Shane told you before you started panicking. “Daryl and Rick can find Sophia without us so Glenn and I decided it was better to come back and start getting everything ready so we can leave as soon as they are back. Right, Glenn?”

Glenn nodded quickly but he seemed out of sorts and rushed towards the RV.

You knew Shane, knew he was trying to keep you busy so you wouldn’t panic about Sophia, so things wouldn’t get out of hand. Still, you welcomed the distraction and were eager to feel useful.

“Alright people, I want you to put together all the supplies we have found and try to see if you can find anything else,” Shane commanded. “Andrea, Y/N, I want you with me, we’re going to push those cars that have blocked the road.”

After you managed to unblock the road you went to check on Carol but heard Dale and Andrea having a heated argument. Apparently, Dale was refusing to give Andrea her gun back and when Andrea complained about it to Shane he agreed with Dale, taking you aback.

“I’m going to have to take yours too, Y/N.”

You gaped at him. You understood he didn’t want anyone without training to carry a gun, they could shoot in a bad moment and bring walkers to you when they heard the sound or they could even hurt one of your own, but you’d already proven you knew how to shoot. Maybe you couldn’t run and shoot at the same time, alright, but you’d shot down walkers back when they attacked the quarry!

Shane was begging you with his eyes not to cause a scene though, so you took the gun he had lent you, already feeling vulnerable and helpless and gave it to him harshly.

“Okay, it’s your anyway.” You grumbled, walking away, ignoring Shane when he called after you.

The sun was getting down when Rick and Daryl came back, once again without Sophia. Your heart was in your throat and you couldn’t imagine how Carol must be feeling, sobbing as she saw them approach without her daughter.

Rick explained that Sophia wasn’t where he left her but that they’d keep looking for her at first light, all you, trying to calm you all down without much success. Carol began panicking at the idea of Sophia staying the night alone in the woods. She was finding hard to breath and you held her, trying to help her stand up.

“There was no blood, lots of people get lost and they get back,” Daryl said, looking at Carol worriedly and trying to comfort her but Carol just began panicking more when she noticed the blood on his trousers.

None of you felt better when Rick and Daryl explained the blood was from a walker they cut open, making sure he hadn’t eaten Sophia. Your stomach turned but you tried your best to stay strong for Carol.

“How could just leave her out there to began with, how could you leave her.” Carol sobbed, blaming Rick. “She’s just a child…”

She ignored all Rick’s explanations and you couldn’t blame her. She was in shock, scared to death for her little girl who was alone in the woods at night, maybe with walkers out there. But still, you felt bad for Rick. He had done his best, had tried, was still trying, and you pat his shoulder when you walked past him as you all made your way back into the cars for the night.

There wasn’t much space to sleep inside the vehicles, so you were lucky you got to share the RV bed with Carol and Andrea.

Before getting into the RV you saw Daryl perched up on top of it, having taken the first turn of watch duty, and you made your way up.

“Ey…you really think Sophia is okay?” You asked as quietly as possible so the others wouldn’t hear you. “Please, be honest.” You begged, even though you were afraid of what he might say.

“Course she’s okay.” Daryl looked at you in disbelieve, seeming a bit annoyed. “Told Carol already, lots of people get lost and they get back.”

“Yeah…but the walkers…” You bit your lip hard, feeling dangerously close to tears.

“I saw no walkers but the one I cut open. The little girl is fine, we’ll find her.” Daryl insisted and he almost made you have hope. Maybe Sophia was alright, hidden somewhere. Maybe you’d find her tomorrow.

“Okay…okay, thanks.” You gave him a weak smile. “I’m gonna check on Carol.”

“Take care of her,” Dary whispered quietly, a worried frown on his face. You could see how much he actually cared about her and her little girl, more than you could have thought. It made you feel a bit better, somehow. Daryl would found Sophia.

“Yeah, she’s strong though, you told me right?” You replied, thinking he might be in need of some comfort too, even though for now he seemed to be the only one keeping the spirits high about the situation.

Once in bed, Carol kept crying and crying, unable to sleep and when Andrea got up, saying she needed some air, you saw she was crying too.

You stayed there though, you couldn’t get yourself to leave Carol like that, no matter how much her tears hurt you, how much it made you think about all the horrible things that could happen to Sophia, no matter Daryl’s words. You cuddled with Carol, letting her sob into your shoulder until she passed out, exhausted, a couple of hours before dawn, you falling asleep too almost immediately after her.

Next morning, while Daryl explained to the group the plan and route to follow in your search for Sophia, Shane gave you all weapons. No guns though. You got a decent sized knife, it wasn’t bad but you much preferred your gun. Still, it seemed Shane wasn’t going to give it to you back and if he did it’d probably just upset Andrea more.

She was still complaining about them having taken her gun and you could understand her but you didn’t want to start an argument about it, not now when you had a way more important task to focus on, so you took the knife without complaining.

All you were going to look for Sophia, besides Dale who stayed to repair the RV and T-Dog, whose wounded arm was being hard to heal and had left him weak.

Daryl guided you into the woods, at the head of your line and you all looked around anxiously, waiting for any trace of Sophia or any danger to show up.

For a while you found nothing but then you saw a tent standing a bit further ahead of the path. Getting closer, Carol called quietly for Sophia, but nothing happened. You all watched anxiously while Daryl got into the tent, but he exited it after less than a minute to announce there wasn’t any threat inside, neither any trace of Sophia. Only the corpse of someone who had ‘opted out’.

Suddenly the sound of bells filled the air and you all ran towards it until you reached a church. Shane pointed out the church didn’t have any steeple so the sound couldn’t come from it but Rick ignored him, running towards it, and you all followed him.

When you reached it, Rick opened the door of the building and you carefully stepped inside, discovering three walkers which were sitting down on the benches. They turned their evil faces towards you and got up, stumbling towards you, but Rick, Shane, and Daryl made quick work of them.

“Sophia! Sophia!” Rick called for her, refusing to accept she wasn’t there, but the little girl didn’t come.

“Ey, J.C” You heard Daryl murmur to the statue on the cross. “You taking requests?

You patted his arm in what you hoped was a reassuring gesture, trying not to show how disappointed you were at Sophia not been there, trying not to lose hope, and Daryl looked at you as if startled before relaxing and giving you a nod.

Shane was trying to explain to Rick again that the sound of the bells couldn’t come from there when suddenly the bells started ringing again. You all rushed outside, finding out that the sound came from some speakers and Glenn stopped it ripping off the wires.

It had been just a recording…

Carol went back inside the church, tears falling down her cheeks, the hope of Sophia having found refuge in the church gone.

“There can’t be many walkers out here, they’d have come following the sound,” Daryl told you before getting inside the church.

“That’s good…” You said weakly, following him inside.

No walkers had shown up so maybe there weren’t many around, maybe Sophia was safe and sound, hiding somewhere. You had to keep hoping.

You couldn’t help your tears hearing Carol talking quietly, blaming herself and begging god to get Sophia back to her safe.

“We have to find her…” You whispered to Daryl and he nodded quietly, chewing on his thumb.

Once outside the church, Shane and Rick seemed to be discussing something and Shane announced they had decided it was best to split, him and Rick, and also Carl who insisted on going with them, would keep searching for Sophia while you retreated, looking for her in the woods and then Daryl would lead you back to the road.

Rick felt uneasy about leaving Lori without a gun so he tried to give her his but she refused, not wanting to leave him defenseless, and you blinked in surprise when Daryl offered his own gun to Lori immediately.

Andrea scoffed and sure, it was not fair Lori had a gun and you couldn’t have yours but still, you were moved by Daryl gesture, it was something you hadn’t expected from the redneck you’d met at the quarry.

He seemed to be changing somehow since leaving that camp or maybe he was just starting to show his true self. You’d already caught glimpses of it in your talks, in his insistence on the search for Sophia, in how he cared for Carol and her little girl. Now you saw another as he selflessly lent his gun so Rick would stop worrying that much.

You followed Daryl as he guided you through the woods, looking for Sophia but finding nothing.

“So this is it, this is the whole thing…” Carol complained and you didn’t know what to say, how to comfort her. You understood he was frustrated and worried sick, but you were doing everything you could.

You let out a frustrated sigh when Andrea and Lori started to argue, you couldn’t lose time in things like that. Lori called Andrea out, offering the gun, saying she was tired of her dirty looks and then confronted Carol too, exhorting her to stop blaming Rick for everything when he was doing his best to find Sophia.

You understood both parts so you stepped away, not wanting to be caught in the middle of the argument. To your relief, they seemed to sort everything out quickly.

“Come on people,” Daryl rolled his eyes. “We still have a lot of ground to cover.”

You hadn’t gone far when you heard a gunshot and you all looked around startled, but it came from far away, from where Rick, Shane, and Carl had gone. Worry was clear in Loris’ eyes, it had been a single shot and they wouldn’t shot at a walker unless they had problems, but Daryl insisted you had to keep moving.

You walked behind Daryl but he stopped when he heard Andrea trying to comfort Carol.

“We’re all hoping with you, for all it’s worth.” The blonde was saying kindly to Carol.

“I tell you what’s worth, not a damn thing. It’s just a waste of time to be hoping and praying” Daryl interfered harshly. “We’re gonna locate that girl and she’s gonna be just fine. I’m the only one zen around here? Good lord.” He ended his rant, making you snort a laugh.

You all kept following him, trying to not lose hope as you kept finding no trace of the little girl.

“Let’s head back,” Lori said when the sun started to get down.

“We’ll pick it up again tomorrow?” Carol asked, eyes begging sadly.

“We’ll find her tomorrow.” Lori tried to reassure her.

You were so tired and so focused trying not to trip over any root or bump in the path that you didn’t notice Andrea had gone out of the path until you heard her screams. You all ran towards the screams, horrified when you find her struggling against a walker.

Daryl aimed his crossbow but before any of you could do anything a young woman in a horse appeared out of nowhere, knocking down the monster with a bat.

“Lori, Lori Grimes?” The woman asked, eyeing your group.

“I’m Lori.” Lori walked to her, looking as confused as all of you. Who was that girl, where did she come from, how did she knew Lori’s name?

“Rick sent me, you gotta come with me now!” The girl explained quickly.“There’s been an accident, Carl’s been shot. He’s still alive but you gotta come now!”

You gasped in horror and Lori went pale, rushing to the horse.

“Whoa, whoa, we don’t know this girl you can’t get on that horse!” Daryl exclaimed, trying to stop her but Lori ignored him and the two women rushed away on the horse before the young woman told you where to find her family farm.

You all stood there, too shocked to do anything for a moment but then Daryl rushed to help Andrea onto her feet.

“Shut up.” He growled at the walker, who was getting up again, shooting an arrow into his head.

As soon as you reached the road Dale rushed to you, bombarding you with questions and looking more and more shocked as Glenn told him about the girl who took Lori on her horse, saying Carl had been shot.

“And you let her?” Dale asked Daryl and you rolled your eyes. Daryl was your tracker and your leader on the search, nor your babysitter, Lori had taken her own decisions and besides, Daryl had tried to stop her.

“Get off my ass, old man.” He answered annoyed. “Rick sent her, she knew Lori’s name and Carl’s.”

You saw there was still palpable tension between Andrea and Dale as she ignored him while he asked her if it was her who he had heard screaming in the woods and getting flustered when Glenn explained she took down a walker.

“Andrea? You alright?” Dale insisted but she kept ignoring him, getting into the RV.

You sat down next to Carol and she rested her head on your shoulders, tears falling down her cheeks silently. Daryl looked at you both, frowning and biting his lip but said nothing. You were at loss of words too, not knowing how to comfort Carol, so you just rested your head against hers, trying to offer some silent comfort for a moment until you were forced to get up and make plans.

There was much to talk about and decisions to make.

Chapter Text

“I won’t do it, we can’t just leave.” Carol shook her head.

“Carol, the group’s split, we are scattered and weak.” Dale tried to explain his point of view.

“What if she comes back and we’re not here, it could happen.” Carol insisted.

“If Sophia comes back and we’re gone, that’d be awful.” Andrea agreed.

You looked from one to another but said nothing. You agreed with both points of view and couldn’t make your head about it. You’d been discussing what to do for a while now, stay there or go to the farm, but still hadn’t reached an agreement.

You had talked with Daryl quietly about it while Dale and Carol argued back and forth, hoping he’d tell you what to do but he had just shrugged, saying he wasn’t a leader to make those decisions or anything, he just wanted to find Sophia.

You looked at him and saw he was watching Dale and Carol too, biting his thumb until he finally decided to interfere.

“Okay, we gotta plan for this. I say tomorrow morning’s soon enough to pull stakes. Give us a chance to rig a big sign, leave her supplies. I’ll hold here tonight, stay with the RV.” He sounded confident and you nodded your agreement.

“If the RV’s staying I am too.” Dale chimed in immediately.

“Thank you, thank you both,” Carol said with tears in her eyes but a smile on her face.

“I’m in.” Andrea and you decided too.

Glenn wanted to stay too, arguing with Dale but finally accepting to leave when he told him he must go to the farm with T-Dog and get him help, his wound getting worse and worse, and having gotten a blood infection.

Daryl frowned while Dale talked about T-Dog’s condition and made his way to his bike, looking for something inside the bags.

“Get your oily rags off my brother’s motorcycle.” He grumbled to Dale, throwing him a piece of fabric before placing a plastic bag full of pills containers on the hood of a car. “Why’d you wait till now to say anything? Got my brother’s stash.”

Daryl began listing drugs until he found a couple of painkillers and what not, throwing them to Glenn and saying something about them being first class for when Merle got the clap.

You grimaced at the mental idea forming in your mind but then grinned at Daryl, who frowned at you as if confused. You just shrugged, still smiling to yourself at Daryl’s gesture, reminding you of earlier that day, when he had given his gun to Lori.

For all his tough, harsh exterior, he was behaving like one of the most responsible and caring members of your group lately, you thought amused, laughing quietly to yourself as you imagined how angry he’d be if you told him, he’d probably hiss at you and storm out as an offended cat or something.

The sun had already gone down and there wasn’t much you could do until morning, so you all decided to try and get some rest, Dale insisting on taking the first watch.

Tried as much as you wanted, none of you seemed to be getting much rest. You lied awake on the bed next to Carol who was sobbing her heart out, trying to be quiet. You could hear Andrea loading and unloading a gun again and again on the table.

Daryl was lying on the floor but you heard him turning and tossing until you saw him sat up, looking at Carol as if her tears hurt him as much as they hurt you. He got up and said he was going to walk up the road and see if there was any sight of Sophia, Andrea and you immediately offering to go with him, glad for the distraction and needing to have something to do.

“I’m going for a walk. Shine some light in the forest.” Daryl said to Dale, who was on the top of the RV keeping watch. “If she’s out there, give her something to look at.”

“You think that’s a good idea right now?” Dale eyed you with concern.

“Dale…” Andrea warned him, and you three turned on your lanterns, walking down the road and into the forest.

You hadn’t been walking for long when Andrea turned to Daryl, voicing her worries. “You really think we’re gonna find Sophia?”

Daryl rolled his eyes and looked at you as he heard the same words you had already asked him yesterday repeated once again.

“You got that look on your face same as everybody else. What the hell’s wrong with you people? We just started looking,” he complained. “It ain’t the mountains of Tibet. It’s Georgia. She could be holed up in a farmhouse somewhere. People get lost and they survive. It happens all the time.”

His words gave you hope and you nodded your head. “Yeah, we’ll find her.”

Andrea didn’t seem that sure, though. “She’s only 12…”

That prompted Daryl into telling you about the time he got lost in the woods when he was younger than Sophia but came back home all safe by himself. You listened with curiosity. During all the nights you all had spent at the quarry, sharing stories about your lives, Daryl had never participated, never had told you anything about his life besides that time he told you about some chupacabras he claimed to have seen. You knew nothing about his life before and you were eager to learn more.

You laughed quietly at the image of little Daryl coming back home and making himself a sandwich as if nothing had happened, but you also felt sorry for him, getting lost in the woods without his father and brother knowing it or seeming to care.

You remembered Daryl telling you his father was an asshole and that his brother had left him, how he still seemed affected by it even though he tried to hide it. You had the feeling Daryl had been severely neglected as a kid but he’d probably scoff at you if you said something like that. Still, your heart went to him.

“Only difference is Sophia’s got people looking for her. I call that an advantage.” Daryl finished, eyes trained forwards as he looked through the woods, trying to find any trace of Sophia.

“Yes, that’s true.” You nodded eagerly even though Andrea still looked unsure.

You were grateful he was keeping spirits high and still felt the strange urge to comfort him after hearing his story, so you reached out to squeeze his arm reassuringly. He yanked it off without looking at you and you tried not to take it personally, as he seemed to have acted out of impulse.

You’d been walking for a short while when you heard some sounds. You followed them and found a tent, but when you called Sophia’s name quietly Daryl hushed you. The sounds were coming from some point a bit ahead of the tent.

“What the hell…”

There was a walker hanging of a tree, face purple and bloated, gurgling sounds mixing with growls, and the flesh of his legs seemed to have been eaten a while back. It was a pretty disgusting image on the whole.

“Got bit. Fever hit. World gone to shit. Might as well quit.” Daryl read the note nailed to the tree. “Dumbass didn’t know enough to shoot himself in the head. Turned himself into a big swinging piece of bait.”

Your stomach was turning at the sight but Andrea seemed to be even worse than you, trying her best not to throw out.

“Let’s just talk about something else for a minute.” She begged. “How’d you learn to shoot?”

“I want to know it too!” You chimed in.

“Gotta eat.” Daryl deadpanned. “That’s one thing these walkers and us have in common. I guess it’s the closest he’s been to food since he turned. Hanging up there like a big piñata. The other geeks came and ate all the flesh off his legs…”

He kept talking and pointing at the disgusting sight until Andrea threw up. “I thought we were changing the subject…” She complained, heaving.

“Call that payback for laughing about my itchy ass.” Daryl chuckled quietly.

You rubbed Andrea’s back as she recovered but couldn’t help your own giggle at the situation and Daryl’s dark sense of humor.

“Let’s head back,” Daryl said and you made to follow him but Andrea didn’t move, still looking at the moving corpse.

“Aren’t you gonna…” She began, pointing at Daryl’s crossbow.

“No. He ain’t hurting nobody. Ain’t gonna waste an arrow either He made his choice. Opted out. Let him hang.” Daryl replied and you elbowed him softly, giving him a scolding look for talking to her like that after what had happened at the CDC.

He moved away from you, though, turning serious and facing Andrea. “You want to live now or not? It’s just a question.”

“An answer for an arrow.” She offered after taking a deep breath. She waited for Daryl to shoot the walker dead and then spoke again. “I don’t know if I want to live or if I have to, or if it’s just a habit.”

You bit your lip, eyeing her with concern. You had been so focused on running, surviving, then looking for Sophia, that you’d barely had the time to check on Andrea, see how she was doing. Not very good it seemed.

“Not much of an answer. Waste of an arrow.” Daryl shrugged and began walking away.

You didn’t know what to say, how to comfort Andrea, so you just gave her a small smile and followed Daryl back to the road.

Once you reached it you saw Dale worriedly making his way to you, smiling when he saw you were all alright, his face falling at the realization Sophia wasn’t with you.

Carol tried to hide her disappointment when he saw you back without her little girl but her eyes filled with tears and he disappeared into the van. Daryl and you followed her, leaving Dale and Andrea talking outside.

***

You were panting, running through the woods, searching. You couldn’t find what you were looking for, couldn’t find a way out, trees closing around you, the moans and growls of the monsters getting closer. You found a clear, several walkers bending over something, devouring it, and when you walked closer you saw it was the corpse of your brother as the little boy you’d seen for the last time so many years ago.

You woke up with a start, covered in sweat and shaking, looking around wildly for a second before realizing you’d been dreaming. Carol seeming to finally have fallen asleep so you got out of the bed carefully, not wanting to wake her up.

Andrea had fallen asleep sitting at the table, head resting on her arms over the table, hand clutching a gun.

You got out of the RV and saw the sky at the east was beginning to clear. You climbed up to the roof of the RV, nodding to Daryl who was there keeping watch. He returned your nod and you sat down, hugging your knees.

“You okay?” Daryl asked and you realized you must still be looking out of sorts.

“Yeah, yeah…just a nightmare.” You shrugged, a bit embarrassed.

Daryl just hummed.

“I was lost in the woods, I think, the geeks were chasing me…” you began, the images of the nightmare still vivid in your mind. “And I think my brother was lost too…I was looking for him but when I found him he already…”

You didn’t finish your sentence but Daryl nodded, understanding.

“Is he Sophia’s age?” He asked.

“More or less I think…” It was hard for you to imagine the little boy of your memories being now as big as Sophia, but he must be.

You wondered how he looked like, his parents hadn’t bothered showing you pictures no matter if you asked, trying to push you away from the family, reminding you that you weren’t part of it anymore and you weren’t welcome to visit. You were lucky whenever they decided to pick the phone when you called and let you talk to your brother.

You felt a mad rage against them that you hadn’t felt in a long while but you were also mad at yourself. You should have tried harder, you should have done something, you shouldn’t have let them push you away from your little brother.

Daryl seemed to see something in your face because he arched his eyebrows at you but you shook your head. “It’s just…you were right, I just left him, I should have done something…”

“I left my brother too…” Daryl said quietly, looking away.

“What?!” You were taken aback. “As soon as you knew what happened you went to Atlanta looking for him, taking any risks! You didn’t leave him! He disappeared…”

Merle didn’t deserve it, in your opinion, but Daryl had flown to help him and done everything possible, you couldn’t believe that he didn’t see it, that he may be berating himself about it.

Daryl looked at you for a second but then just shrugged awkwardly, looking away without saying anything else, and you had the feeling he still felt he was guilty of leaving Merle in Atlanta.

“I can keep watch so you can sleep a bit.” You offered after a moment.

“Nah,” Daryl shook his head. Though if you stay here I’m gonna go looking for Sophia before we have to move to the farm.”

“Okay.” You nodded. “We’re gonna keep looking for her after we move, we’ll find her.” You added, knowing Daryl didn’t like the idea of leaving the road without having found Sophia. “Maybe the people of the farm will help us.”

“We don’t know who they are, we don’t know if we can trust them Y/N,” Daryl grumbled.

“I know but that girl seemed good enough.” You shrugged. “I think we can trust her.”

“You don’t know her.” Daryl scoffed.

“Still, I think we can…” You tended to trust the vibe people gave you and you’d liked that girl. “And how cool was she? Showing up like that, knocking down a walker while riding a horse like some sort of warrior princess…”

“You’re an idiot,” Daryl told you but you didn’t take offense, he seemed genuinely amused at you, a small smile on his face that you returned.

He went to the woods, leaving you to keep watch until everyone got up and you began to help Carol getting supplies for Sophia and writing her a message.

As soon as Daryl came back, you all left for the farm. You had managed to get moving one of the most decent cars you had found in the traffic block, it was actually quite nice and Andrea and you drove it to the farm, following Daryl’s bike, Dale’s RV behind you.

Once there your group finally got good news when Rick and Lori announced Carl would pull through and get better. Rick pointed that Carl was alive not only thanks to Hershel, the owner of the farm, and his family but also thanks to Shane, and you gasped surprised when you saw his new shaved head before giggling at how ridiculous he looked with those big borrowed clothes.

Shane looked somber, though, and didn’t return your grin. You were confused, you had thought he’d be elated with Carl being alright, you knew how much he loved the kid.

Soon you found out that Shane had gotten the medicine helped by one of Hershel’s friends, Otis, who had died in the mission. That explained Shane’s dark mood, he probably was feeling guilty and beating himself about it.

“I’m sorry.” You said quietly to him as everyone got ready for Otis funeral, squeezing his arm. Shane gave you a nod but he still looked like he was far away from there.

It was strange and awkward, standing at the funeral of someone you’d never met, but those people seemed good people and one of them had died trying to help one of yours, so your heart went to them and you stood there solemnly.

Otis’ wife asked Shane to say some words and he seemed utterly uncomfortable but eventually accepted, telling how Otis had died a hero in order to save him and Carl, almost making you cry.

As soon as that matter was dealt with Daryl didn’t lose any more time, telling Rick you must start looking for Sophia again and exhorting the group to start moving.

Rick explained the situation to Hershel and her daughter Maggie, the woman of the horse, brought you a map that showed the whole area.

“We’ll grid the whole area, start searching in teams,” Rick told the group, looking the map appreciatively.

Hershel, though, who was actually a veterinarian and not a doctor like you’d thought, forbade Rick and Shane for joining the search today, once for having given too much blood to Carl, the other for having twisted his ankle.

“Guess it’s just me.” Daryl pointed at something the map. “I’m gonna head back to the creek, work my way from there.”

“I can still be useful. I’ll drive up to the interstate, see if Sophia wandered back.” Shane offered.

“Daryl, I can go with you, help you look for her.” You didn’t like the idea of any of you wandering alone and maybe getting hurt without the others knowing it. Besides, you wanted to do something useful.

Daryl gave you a look over but nodded.

Before you could get started though, a discussion started. Shane wanted you to carry guns again and start training, and you couldn’t agree more. Hershel, on his side, forbade having guns on his propriety and Rick sided with him, reminding you that you were guests and finally he and Shane handed over his guns. The only concession Hershel did was allowing one of you to keep watch with a rifle, in case any walker would wander into where you were setting camp.

You were getting ready to leave with Daryl, watching him talk with Rick, when Shane approached you.

“Ey Y/N, Hershel doesn’t allow us to have them here, but you are going to the woods, so…” He handed you the gun he had lent you. “This is yours now, not mine.”

“Thanks…” You took it, a small smile tugging on your lips. “You look super weird like that, by the way.” You giggled quietly at his shaved head.

“Yeah well, it was time for a change…” Shane shrugged awkwardly but gave you a smile.

You nodded. You had cut your hair after your first experience with a walker, and it seemed like Shane had gone through something to get Carl’s medicines, so probably he had needed to do something like that.

“You coming or not?!” Daryl shouted at you, frowning as he looked at you from afar.

“See you at the interstate,” Shane told you before you rushed towards Daryl.

You followed the archer into the woods, trusting he knew where he was going. You were going to search an area you hadn’t tried before and then head back to the road through the woods.

“Your friend Shane is full of bullshit.” Daryl rasped when you had been walking in silence for a while.

“What?” You looked at him, confused.

“He told that sad story to the family. Said that man, Otis? told him to run while he covered him.” Daryl scoffed. “But he came back with the man’s gun, didn’t him? Was he covering him punching geeks? Bullshit.”

“What you mean?” You hadn’t realized that and it just made you feel more confused, but there must be some explanation, Otis must have had another weapon or something.

“I mean nothing.”

“Yes, you do.” You insisted. “You think Shane ran and left him there?”

Daryl gave you a look but said nothing.

“Shane’s not like that.” You shook her head. “He wouldn’t abandon a man to the walkers. He’d always been protecting us.” You knew Shane and no matter he’d been kind of an asshole lately, you knew he wasn’t like that, he’d been always making sure you were safe, helping all you. It couldn’t be.

“Believe what you want,” Daryl grumbled grumpily.

You two walked in silence until you reached a clear, an old, abandoned farm standing there.

“Sophia could be there!” You tried not to let your hopes go too high, but you couldn’t help yourself and rushed to the building, Daryl close behind you, crossbow ready in case you ran into trouble.

“Wait.”

He opened the doors and walked in before you, aiming his crossbow from room to room while you followed him, but there didn’t seem to be any walkers in there. Or anyone at all.

“Look,” he pointed to a garbage can on the kitchen, taking a half-eaten can of tuna from it.

“Someone’s been here.” You whispered.

Daryl nodded towards a half-closed cabinet on the wall. He gestured to you to get behind him and opened the door, pointing the crossbow at it.

You held your breath but let it out disappointed when you saw none was inside. Still, there were some pillows and blankets at the bottom. It was small, only a very small person could have fit there. A kid. You looked at Daryl and he nodded, sharing your thoughts.

“Sophia! Sophia, it’s us!” You called loudly, and Daryl shushed you.

“We already know there’re no walkers here!” You complained. “She could have been there no long ago!” Maybe she had heard you and she had run away scared, thinking you were walkers. Maybe she was still close.

You quickly scooped the house again but she wasn’t there, so you looked for her in the terrain around the house, calling her name, but she didn’t come.

You dropped to the ground, elbows on your knees, letting out a defeated sigh. Daryl stood next to you, silent.

“I really thought she’d be there…” You said quietly. “That she’d been hiding in that closet and we’d finally found her.”

“Someone was in that closet, it could be Sophia, she still can be around,” Daryl told you, and you’d to admire his spirit. He seemed to never give up.

You saw him make his way towards a bush of white flowers, looking at them before taking one.

“You know what are they?” You asked, getting up and walking to him.

“Cherokee roses.” He told you. You’d seen them a couple times before, but you didn’t know what they were. “There’s this story that says they come from the tears that the Cherokee mothers seed when they were losing their kids when the American soldiers forced them to move. So the flowers would give the mothers hope.”

Daryl seemed uncomfortable telling you the story.

“I’m gonna give this to Carol…” He murmured, turning around looking awkward and walking away.

You found the story and his gesture so moving you felt close to tears. “That’s really beautiful, Daryl.” You told him as you rushed to follow him, but he just scoffed without looking at you.

You kept looking around for a while but there was no sign of Sophia. You tried not to lose your hope but you couldn’t help yourself. That cabinet had been the closest you had been to find any clue of the little girl, yet she was nowhere to be seen.

“We have to go back…” You said sadly to Daryl. You had to meet Carol, Andrea, and Shane back at the road and probably they’d worry if you arrived late.

Daryl nodded, frown on his face, and you wondered if he was losing his hope too.

“I’ll found her tomorrow, she can’t be far from here…” He murmured as if answering your thoughts.

Once at the road, the others had neither found Sophia, so there wasn’t much you could do than drive back to the farm in mournful silence.

Later that day you were sitting down outside the RV, leaning against his side and trying to distract your mind with Glenn’s book, when you saw Daryl making his way into the vehicle, holding a bottle with the flower in it.

From the outside, you could hear his muffled voice telling Carol the long version of the Cherokee rose story she had told you before, and when you heard him getting out of the RV again you rubbed at your eyes so he couldn’t see your tears.

“We’ll go looking for Sophia at first light, yeah?” You said awkwardly, trying to hide your emotions.

“Yeah.” He nodded. “I’m going by myself, borrow one of the farm’s horses.”

“Oh…”

You knew you weren’t a tracker and now that you thought back, you hadn’t helped much or found anything during the search even though you’d tried, but still, you hadn’t expected Daryl to just cut you off like that.

“It’s just I can cover more ground like that…”

“Yeah, fine.” You nodded, trying to hide your disappointment.

Of course he’d rather go alone, you couldn’t even ride a horse, probably you’d been just slowing him down today.

He was looking at you while chewing on his thumb but said nothing else, leaving you there to your self-deprecating thoughts.

“Ey, you alright?” Carol asked you when she got out the RV a short moment later, taking in your saddened face.

“Yeah, fine…just…I’m not being very helpful, am I?” You told her honestly.

“How can you say that?” Carol scolded you. “You’ve been looking for Sophia all the time, you just went into the woods today again. That’s dangerous but you go anyway. You and Daryl. And I can’t thank you enough. So don’t say things like that.”

She reached out to you and you took her hand, letting her help you onto your feet and wrap you in her arms.

“He’s going without me tomorrow.” You murmured, your insecurities reflecting in your voice.

“Cos he’s used to going into the woods alone, he’s good on his own. And he knows it’s dangerous.” Carol told you, trying to chase your feelings of inadequateness away. “But you’re just as helpful as anyone of us or more. So hush.”

“Thanks…” You murmured, moved, and giggled softly when Carol kissed your forehead. It almost brought tears to your eyes. It’d been a while since someone had shown you affection like that. There wasn’t much time for it anymore, now that simply surviving was so hard.

“Daryl’ll find Sophia, Carol.”

Carol just gave you a sad smile and you made your way towards the rest of your group.

Chapter Text

Next morning the search for Sophia continued after Daryl informed Rick and Shane of his idea of going alone, and you split groups to search through the places Daryl and Rick believed to be your best chances.

You were with Andrea and T-Dog, glad you were still on the search even if it wasn’t with Daryl. You were feeling better and you felt a bit silly you’d reacted like that to him telling you he’d go alone, like if it had meant you were totally pushed off the search because you weren’t good enough.

You guessed you’d been going through lots of emotions and even the smallest things triggered you now sometimes.

You tried your hardest but went back to the farm without any trace of Sophia, same like Shane and Rick. Daryl wasn’t back yet, he’d more ground to explore, and you could just hope he’d have better luck than all you.

There wasn’t much to do besides waiting for Daryl, so Shane decided it was time to start your shoot training. You all drove to the place he had decided was the best and started with the basics, how to hold the gun, charge, and everything you might need before starting shooting at your targets.

By the end of the practice, you were feeling content enough, managing clean shots your targeted bottles almost all the time. Still, you knew it wasn’t that easy to shoot to something that was moving, especially if you had to move too.

Later that day, you were sitting alone on the porch. Carol and Lori had told you about their plan to make a big dinner Hershel’s family as a thank you, but you weren’t as good of a cook as them, and between them, Patricia and Beth the kitchen was quite full.

When you saw Maggie walking near you, you decided to go and talk with her for a bit, maybe get to know her a bit better. Besides, you’d seen the hearts in Glenn’s eyes since they went together on a run, and the farmer girl didn’t seem to mind his company either.

“Ey, Maggie, hi!” You greeted.

“Hi, Y/N right?” She greeted you. “You need something?”

“Nah, I was just passing time. I don’t cook well enough to be making the feast they have planned.” You giggled awkwardly.

“Yeah, me neither.” Maggie gave you a genuine smile. “You can help me set the table if you want, though.”

“Sure, fine!” You smiled back. “By the way, I wanted to ask you, what are your intentions towards my boy Glenn?” You couldn’t help but tease.

Maggie's face went serious and she frowned at you. “What the hell are you talking about.” She grumbled.

“I was just joking...” You raised your hands in surrender. “But everyone can see how he looks at you...”

“Really?” Maggie seemed mortified.

“He gives you the heart eyes.” You chuckled fondly. “You don’t like him then?” You had thought she did...if not then Glenn’s heart was going to break and you really hated having to see that.

“Not really...I mean...I don’t know?” Maggie shrugged and his cheeks turned pink, and you couldn’t help your smile... Maybe she did like him after all.

“He’s...he’s sweet, I enjoy being with him...but I don’t know if I like him like that, you know?” Maggie kept talking. “We just met and...I don’t know...”

“Well, all I can tell you is that Glenn is really a good guy.” You said seriously. “And good things don’t seem to happen much in this world anymore, so if you enjoy being with him, then maybe you should? I don’t know, I’m not that good at this stuff actually...”

“Yeah, well, maybe you are right...Thanks.” Maggie gave you a smile. “Help me with that table?”

“Sure thing.” You nodded but didn’t move, your eyes scanning the path to the woods.

Daryl hadn’t come back and you knew he was perfectly capable of taking care of himself, it wasn’t the first time he was alone in the woods, he’d been there at night too, but still, you worried. What if something had happened to him and you didn’t know.

You tried to end that train of thoughts. Probably he was just taking advantage of as many sun hours as he could, he’d be back after dinner when the sun went down. Maybe he had even found Sophia.

“The man of the crossbow’s still out there looking for the little girl, right?” Maggie asked you, following your eyes, and you nodded. “I hope you’ll find her soon.”

“Yeah, me too...” You murmured, following Maggie inside to prepare everything in the dining-room.

A moment later you were back at the porch. Hershel had walked into the room and had looked pointedly at you, making you understand he wanted to talk with her daughter alone, so you shrugged, gave Maggie a smile and left, hoping she wasn’t about to be scolded for Glenn or something.

You were sitting down on the stairs, focused on your book, when you heard a gunshot. Dropping the book you rushed to your feet and ran towards the sound. You gasped aloud when you saw Rick and Shane dragging a blood-stained, unconscious Daryl.

“What happened?!” You asked panicking.

“I...I shot him...I thought he was a walker...I...” Andrea replied, seeming in shock.

“Not time for that now.” Rick cut her off.

You nodded and ran back to the farm as fast as you could, calling for Hershel, who rushed out, helping Shane and Rick carry Daryl into the downstairs room, Patricia rushing in too, carrying everything Hershel might need.

Time seemed to pass slower than ever as you waited for news about Daryl’s condition. You were sitting down with Carol, holding hands as you both looked anxiously towards the corridor. Carol’s other hand hold Sophia’s doll against her chest. T-Dog had given it to her, telling her Daryl had brought it with him.

After what seemed an eternity but wasn’t even that long, Rick finally appeared with news.

“He’ll pull through, he’s doing fine.” He reassured all you.

You grimaced as Rick explained how Daryl had taken an arrow to the side, besides the bullet that grazed the side of his head, and seemed to be pretty banged up, amazed he was still not only alive but doing fine, as fine as anyone could be after all that.

“He told us where he found the doll, Carol, we can keep looking around there,” Rick told to Carol gently, but she just nodded silently.

That evening you were all having the most delicious, yet silent and tense dinner you had had since the world went to hell, when you saw Maggie and Glenn passing notes under the table. You smiled, arching your eyebrows at the girl and she rolled her eyes but smiled.

You saw Dale and Hershel were noticing too, as if the dinner weren’t uncomfortable enough. Still, you almost had to chuckle, Hershel was Maggie’s daughter and now Dale seemed to be acting like Glenn’s father, both worried about their kids dating. Some things never changed.

“I’m gonna get Daryl some dinner,” Carol told you and you nodded. You finally got to have a real dinner and the poor one was bedridden.

It seemed the mood wasn’t going to improve anytime soon, so right after you finished everyone got up and began helping, taking everything back to the kitchen and doing the wash-up, making plans for the morrow and taking care of everything that needed to be taken care.

You made your way to see Daryl, wanting to check on him, you hadn’t seen him yet and also intending to take his plate back to the kitchen. You knocked on the door and walked in.

He’d the sheets wrapped around him tightly and up to his chin, his back to you, and you couldn’t help a soft giggle. You thought he looked kind of cute like that, like a Daryl burrito wrapped in sheets.

You’d thought he was asleep but the turned to face you when he heard you snicker, frown on his face and glaring at you.

“What you laughing at?” He growled.

“Nothing...” You shook your head, not wanting to voice your silly thoughts.

Daryl was looking at you angrily and you realized he thought you were laughing at him.

“I just thought it was fun to see you so wrapped in sheets.” You tried to explain without making an idiot of yourself. “Looking like a human burrito or something, you know...” You tailed off, embarrassed.

Daryl was still eyeing you warily but eventually seemed to decide you weren’t making fun of him and relaxed a bit, but still looked at you cautiously.

“You okay?” You forced yourself to ask despite the awkwardness, you’d gone there to check on him after all.

“Vet says I am...doesn’t feel like it though.” He grumbled and you thought you’d never heard him sound so tired.

“I bet...” You murmured, looking at the bandage that covered the side of his head were Andrea’s bullet had grazed him. “You were just shot.”

“Fell on my own damn arrow too.” He growled grumpily. “Fucking horse threw me downhill..”

So that’s how it’d happened, you’d been wondering about it. You still thought it was a miracle he was alive.

“Too stubborn to die, right?” You joked darkly and nervous, trying to lighten the mood a bit and to your surprise, Daryl chuckled at your words.

“Wanted to prove something to my brother.” He rasped. “Piss him off too.”

“I saw him, hallucinated him or something.” He explained when he saw your confused face. “Told me I was going to die there.”

“Always an ass even in hallucinations.” You rolled your eyes.

“I liked to see him...” Daryl murmured, sounding vulnerable. You knew he missed his brother, no matter how Merle had been. “Until he started talking bullshit. Said some truths, tho.”

“Like what?” You were genuinely curious. Merle wasn’t there, whatever he’d said to Daryl had to come from his own mind.

Daryl said nothing, shifting to the further side of the bed and turning his back to you again, finishing the conversation for good. As he turned, though, the sheets fell off his back and your eyes opened wide when you saw the scars that marred his skin.

“How you got those?” You asked, shocked, before you couldn’t stop yourself. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t...” You added quickly, flustered at your indiscretion.

The scars were intentional, there was no doubt about it, as they seemed to follow patterns. And almost all his back was marked with them, different sizes but all looking deep and painful.

Daryl looked over his shoulder and lifted the sheets to cover his back again quickly when he saw what you were talking about. You apologized again, taking the trail and making to leave.

“Told you my father was an ass...” Daryl muttered so quietly you almost couldn’t hear him before you could open the door.

You were horrified. You’d already put together that his family had treated him badly and that he’d probably been neglected as a kid, but this was something else. You couldn’t believe his own father could have done something like that to him. It broke your heart.

“I’m sorry...” You whispered, making Daryl turn around to glare at you angrily.

“I need no pity!” He snapped, looking at you in disgust.

“It’s not pity...” You tried to explain. You felt sorry, yes, but it was no pity. What you felt was the need to protect him and it took you aback. You knew Daryl needed no protection whatsoever, but still, you felt the urge to guard him against any more harm. And you were totally enraged at his family.

“Yeah, I know what you and your friends think of me.” He grumbled, still glaring you.

You were confused for a second but then realized it might be something his hallucinated Merle had told him. Which meant it was something he thought deep down, and it pained you to think he might believe all of you thought ill of him. You couldn’t speak for everyone, but you knew most of them appreciated the efforts he was doing and valued him. At least you did, and for Carol, he was a hero.

“I don’t know what you think...what Merle told you...but you said it, it’s bullshit.” You gathered enough courage to speak, no matter the angry way he was looking at you was making you uneasy and telling you to fly out of the room.

“I think you’re brave and I’m grateful you are helping us and looking for Sophia. And so is Carol.” You blushed at your words.

Daryl said nothing but his eyes were not that angry anymore, just wary, but you saw he’d blushed too. He said nothing and turned his back to you again and without another world, you left the room.

****

You yawned, getting out of the RV early in the morning. Carol had offered to keep sharing the bed and you had accepted, not only to sleep in a real bed instead of in a sleeping bag but also for the comfort of sleeping next to someone instead of in the loneliness of the tent.

Since the dead started walking the earth, you didn’t enjoy your time alone as much as you used to. And you had gotten used to always have someone not far from you. You felt vulnerable alone in the tent.

You saw Daryl limp out of the house and made his way slowly into his tent, grimacing here and there.

“I feel so bad...” Andrea complained, stopping next to you.

“Come on, it was a mistake, you thought him a walker...” You tried to comfort her. Stumbling around covered in blood he had probably looked like one. “And if he’d been a walker you’d have almost nailed him.” You chuckled softly, wondering when you started to have such a dark sense of humor, but Andrea didn’t seem amused at your words.

“I almost killed him...” She blamed herself.

“But you didn’t, he doesn’t blame you,” Carol assured her.

“I’m going to apologize,” Andrea said before heading towards Daryl’s tent resolutely.

You saw Rick and Shane were looking at the map again and you made your way towards him, eager to start doing something. Turned out you weren’t starting the search for Sophia right away, first you’d do some shooting practice.

You knew it was important, but looking for Sophia should be the priority. Still, you didn’t complain aloud, not wanting to cause an argument.

This time, Andrea and you tried aiming at further and further targets until you couldn’t keep up with her.

“Damn girl, have you been practicing in your sleep or something?” You chuckled softly, amazed at her. You could just hope your aim would be that good someday.

After your training session, you split to look for Sophia again. Shane told you he’d go with Andrea to check some housing area in which he thought Sophia might have hauled up while Rick, Carol and you checked the woods again.

Both places where a bust and you felt your mood going down and down. You felt you weren’t doing enough and you were frustrated, but didn’t know what to do about it. You got into the RV, lying on the bed and intending to finish Glenn’s book, oblivious to any drama that might’ve been going on outside.

You didn’t realize you had fallen asleep on the book until you felt the bed shifting under the weight of Carol. You opened your eyes and realized the sun was already down.

“Ey...” You greeted groggily, shifting to the side of the bed to give Carol more room.

“Didn’t mean to wake you,” Carol said quietly. “Go back to sleep.”

You nodded, yawning. “Have you seen Daryl?” You hadn’t seen him since he went to his tent in the morning, and you wondered if he was doing okay.

“Brought him dinner, he’s doing fine,” Carol told you with a small smile. “Bored. Cranky. But okay.”

Chapter Text

“Thanks.” You smiled to Carol when she gave you a dish with the omelette she’d cooked, starting to devour it. Everything she cooked seemed to taste better than it usually did and you were starving, having missing dinner last night.

You were glad to see Daryl out and about, having breakfast with the rest of you, looking better. The atmosphere was silent and tense, though, the moodiness that had settled over your group still palpable.

“Um...guys?” Glenn broke the silence, standing and looking very nervous. “So...the barn is full of walkers.”

You stopped mid-bite, staring at him wide-eyed, sure you must have heard him wrong. Why would someone have walkers inside their barn? You could see the rest of your group was as shocked as you but then Shane strode towards the barn and you all followed him.

It was true, you could see the monsters looking through the holes between the wooden planks. It made no sense to you, why would Hershel keep them there? It was dangerous and insane.

Soon a fight broke within your group, dividing it into two sides. Shane wanted to clean the barn of walkers while Rick argued you were in Hershel’s land so you must do as he wanted in order to not risk being kicked out.

You understood you were Hershel’s guests but still, you couldn’t stay there, couldn’t live there knowing the barn was full of walkers. They could get loose, they could kill every single one of you the moment the barn’s door gave up.

But you couldn’t leave until Sophia were back. Maybe you could go back to the road or something, or stay somewhere else, maybe the farm Daryl and you’d found. What you knew was that Shane was right about the barn, it was too much of a risk.

You were about to voice that you agreed with Shane, when he suggested you should start considering that Sophia might not get back. It hit you as a slap and you shifted away from his side. You couldn’t believe it, you couldn’t believe he’d just give up and abandon her! And even if he truly believed Sophia was dead, he couldn’t just say it like that, in front of Carol...

“Shane!” You scolded, disappointed on him

“We’re not leaving Sophia behind,” Rick said and you nodded, glad your sort of leader saw like you on that.

 “I'm close to finding this girl. I just found her damn doll two days ago!” Daryl chimed in angrily.

“You found her doll, Daryl. That's what you did. You found a doll.” Shane retorted.

In a second they were yelling at each other, a fight breaking between them.

“I'm just saying what needs to be said. You get a good lead, it's in the first 48 hours” Shane was still yelling angrily, Rick stepping between him and Daryl “Let me tell you something else, man. If she was alive out there and saw you coming all methed out with your buck knife and geek ears around your neck, she would run in the other direction.”

You couldn’t believe the venom in Shane’s words, anger rising inside you, and you helped Lori to push him away, all you finally managing to keep him and Daryl away from each other.

“Now just let me talk to Hershel.” Rick tried to calm the situation down. “If we're gonna stay, if we're gonna clear this barn, I have to talk him into it. This is his land.”

“Hershel sees those things in there as people... Sick people... His wife, his stepson...” Dale explained, telling you he’d already talked with Hershel about it but was waiting for Glenn to break the news.

That caused another yet another fight, Shane yelling again, and you jumped back, startled, when the walkers began pushing the barn’s door, the sound exciting them.

“Come on, let’s move from here,” Rick commanded you and you all went back to your camp, eyeing the barn warily.

Until Rick could talk with Hershel, it was decided you’d take turns watching the barn’s door. It hadn’t opened in all the time the walkers may have been inside but still, now that you knew they were there you couldn’t help but live in fear of it.

You all tried to go back to your usual tasks while Shane and Andrea went to keep watch, but you could see everybody’s eyes darting to the barn from time to time.

You saw Daryl storming off the stable, Carol following him shortly after with tears in her eyes, and you made your way towards her, concerned.

“Ey, you alright?” You asked, holding her hands. “What did he do?” You nodded your head towards Daryl’s tent. You knew he was still angry at Shane’s words and in his anger maybe he’d lashed out against Carol.

“Nothing, just...” Carol let go of your hands to rub her eyes before smiling weakly to you. “I tried to stop him from going out to search for Sophia, he’s still recovering and he’d just get worse, but he hates it.”

“Yeah, he doesn’t strike me like a good patient.” You chuckled softly.

It was obvious Daryl was sick of being stuck in his tent, itching to start moving and looking for Sophia again, even if it was clear he wasn’t well enough. He still had stitches on his forehead and side, and the wounds were tender, but he didn’t seem to care.

“Don’t take it to heart, you know how he’s.” You gave Carol a half hug, noticing how upset she still looked. “Whatever he said just ignore it.”

“It’s not that...it’s...” Carol let out a sad sigh. “I don’t want him getting hurt looking for her. I don’t want anyone to get hurt...”

“But we want to look for Sophia.” You tried to reassure her but she cut you off.

“It’s what Shane said. We don’t know if we’re going to find her, Y/N, we don’t...”

Carol had tears in her eyes again and you huffed, angry at Shane.

“Don’t listen to Shane! We all want to keep looking, we know we can find her.” You assured Carol, hating she was losing hope.

 You understood her, days passed without any of you finding her little girl, but you hated to see Carol like that, so hopeless and broken. Still, you didn’t know how to help.

“We’ll find her...” You said weakly. Carol gave you a sad smile, squeezing your hand before leaving you.

You made your way to Daryl’s tent, not sure if to talk about Sophia’s search, yell at him for upsetting Carol, or for what, but you walked purposely towards it.

“Can I talk to you?” You asked from the outside, the tent unzip.

“You come to talk my ear off about being an ass to Carol?” Daryl said without looking at you.

“Kind of...” So he knew he’d been an ass. That was something.

“Did she told you what she thinks of the search, uh?” Daryl snapped.

“That’s not fair.” You walked in, flopping down onto the floor of the tent. “Her little girl’s been missing for days and we can’t find her, then Shane says all those things...you can’t blame Carol for doubting.”

Daryl scoffed and you rolled your eyes, frustrated.

“Come on, Daryl! She’s having a hell of a time, she’s suffering, I don’t even know how she can keep going.” You tried to explain. “You can’t be an ass to her just because she doesn’t want to get her hopes high only to have them crushed again!”

“I told her, I keep telling you all, I’ll find her.” Daryl sounded as frustrated as you. “I found the doll, she has to be out there, I’m close. But you just won’t listen.”

“It’s not like that...” You could understand his frustration, especially after this morning. “But it’s hard to keep hopes high, Daryl, it’s hard...” You’d been trying, but day after day without any luck had been taking a toll on you.

“But I’m glad you’re looking for her, it’s kind of the only thing that keeps me going.” You admitted. Daryl was so positive he’d find Sophia, never doubting, it had a way of lifting your spirit. “If someone can find her it’s you.”

Daryl scowled at you and at first you thought he was angry at you before realizing he seemed mostly taken aback. You blushed, self-conscious. “It’s not like you don’t know you’re our best tracker. We can look for her as much as we want, but you’re the one tracking her...”

“Yet you don’t think I can find her.” He grumbled.

“Course we do...” You assured. “It’s just that it’s hard to keep hopes high, with everything that’s going on. But think about how you’re gonna shut everyone’s mouth when you show up with Sophia.”

Daryl scoffed but he’d half a smile on his face.

“But you have to rest and get better before going out again.” You reminded him.

“I’m fine!”

“Yeah, sure.” You pointed to his shirt, droplets of blood staining it from where he’d opened his wound a bit.

“Like you care anyway.” Daryl still had that angry, harsh exterior but you thought he sounded almost vulnerable.

“We care, same we do about everyone in our group.” You pointed out as if it were obvious, noticing his insecurities were real and wanting to ease them without making a big deal of it.

Daryl had been kind of out of the group since always and now that he was slowly integrating, you guessed it was normal he felt out of place and maybe even unwelcome, but you didn’t want him to think you didn’t appreciate him. You did value him and were sure the others did it too, even if Daryl didn’t really see it yet.

“Stop being dramatic.” You half teased, nudging his feet with yours. Daryl huffed but said nothing else, eyes trained on the floor of the tent while he fidgeted.

“By the way...what Shane said, it was bullshit, he was just trying to prove his point, you know it right?”

Daryl shrugged at your words as if he didn’t care, but you knew better. Realizing you weren’t going to get much else out of him, you got up. It was your time to take watch at the barn.

“Apologize to Carol!” You reminded him before leaving.

***

“You still mad or what?” Shane snapped at you when you kept shooting him angry looks as you kept watch.

“It’s like you were an asshole this morning or something.” You snapped back.

“I was just saying things as they are. Y/N,” he said, and you scoffed. “We can’t stay here waiting for those walkers to get lose, waiting for a girl that’s not going to come back.”

“You don’t know that!”

“Y/N, we’ve looked for days and haven’t found her...you know the chances, you do...” Shane sounded almost sorrowful but you shook your head and said nothing.

“And you know we gotta clean that barn if we’re going to stay.” He kept talking. That, you knew it was true. But it was up to Hershel.

“If Rick doesn’t manage to talk Hershel around and we have to leave...I really don’t feel like going on the road again.” You admitted.  You didn’t want to leave the farm, the shelter and that it gave you.

“We’re not leaving,” Shane said with confidence.

You could just hope he was right.

“Gonna tell you something...” Shane said after a moment, looking around nervously and then at you. “But don’t go around saying it yet, alright?”

“Sure...” He’d spiked your curiosity.

“Lori’s pregnant.”

 Shane dropped the bomb and your eyes went wide. How could someone get pregnant in this world? It was insane...

“So we can’t leave, here she’s safe and we’ve Hershel to help with the baby and all. Rick knows it. We’re not going anywhere. We’re gonna make this place safe.” Shane delivered with confidence before leaving you to keep watch.

Now you understood the eagerness to stay of both men.

To you, it just sounded like a lot more problems coming your way. Like you hadn’t enough.

***

You’d been taking watch for a while when you saw Andrea and T-Dog hurrying towards you.

“Ey, have you seen Rick or Shane?” Andrea asked when she reached you, and you shook your head. “Rick told us we were going to split and look for Sophia again, but it’s past time we went.

“If you are going to search for her I’m going too!” You followed them back to the camp.

If the barn’s door had resisted all this time, it would probably last a day more. Besides, both you and Andrea knew you kept watch mostly to prevent Shane from doing some stupidity, and he wasn’t around.

Glenn was sitting down in the porch with Maggie, both looking so cute you couldn’t help your tiny smile, but neither did he knew were was Rick, he only knew he’d gone to help Hershel with something.

“We were supposed to leave a couple hours ago,” Andrea complained.

“Yeah, you were. What the hell?” You heard Daryl’s angry voice as he and Carol walked closer, seemingly coming from outside the farm.

“Rick told us he was going out,” Carol added.

You looked at her raising your eyebrows and she gave you a nod. So Daryl had apologized and sorted things out then. You were glad.

“Damn it, isn’t anybody taking this seriously? We got us a damn trail...” Daryl complained angrily.

You nodded in understatement, but still, it was important that Rick talked to Hershel, he had to convince him to not only let you stay but also clear the barn. Maybe you all could just split and go looking for Sophia without him, you had Daryl to lead you on that.

Before you could do anything, though, you saw Shane approaching, carrying what looked like a big bag full of guns. He seemed out of sorts, an angry look on his face that scared you a bit.

“Time to grow up.” He announced as he began giving guns to all of you, talking about how you had to protect yourselves now that you knew the dangers that lie within the farm.

“Can you stop! You do this, you hand out these guns, my dad will make you leave tonight.” Maggie announced, trying to talk reason to no avail.

“Ey, ey, Shane, hold on a second...” You tried to stop him when he went to give a gun to Carl, telling him about finding Sophia, but Shane just brushed past you.

“Rick said no guns, this is not your call, this is not your decision to make!” Lori hissed, stepping between Shane and her son.

“Oh, shit...”

T-Dog voice made you all turn your head from Shane to where he was looking, and you couldn’t believe your eyes when you saw Rick walking into the farm with Hershel, both pulling a couple of walkers with them, holding them with some kind of leash.

“What is that!” Shane yelled, running wildly towards them and you all followed him. “What the hell are you doing!”

“Shane, back off!” Rick yelled back.

Soon a fight broke down between the two men as Shane kept shouting against the insanity of all this while Rick tried to make him stop, all while he and Hershel tried to control the geeks.

You were still too shocked to do anything, all you knew was that you wanted to be away from those walkers and that the farm felt more and more unsafe.

“Y/N, the gun!” Daryl's voice got through you and you noticed he was pointing the rifle at the walkers, so you aimed the gun that Shane’d gave you to them too, though you prayed they didn’t cut loose.

“These things ain't sick. They're not people. They're dead. Ain't gonna feel nothing for them 'cause all they do, they kill!” Shane was shouting at Rick and Hershel, who seemed overwhelmed. “Hey, Hershel man, let me ask you something. Could a living breathing person, could they walk away from this?”

“No!” Rick shouted and you could just stare in horror as Shane shot at the walker Hershel was holding.

“Could someone who's alive, could they just take that. Why is it still coming? That's its heart, its lungs.” Shane kept shooting at it. Why is it still coming?”

“Shane, enough,” Rick yelled back, desperate.

“Yeah, you’re right man, enough.” Shane delivered before shooting at the walker on the head.

You knew it had to be done, you knew they were dead and dangerous, that they’d kill all of you but still, looking at Hershel’s face while he stared at the now unmoving corpse, seeming out of words, seeming even unable to move...it killed you, it made you felt horrible.

Before any of you could do anything to stop it, Shane broke the chain of the barn, ignoring Rick’s cries and letting the walkers lose.

Shit...

You forced yourself to spring into action as the monsters began walking outside and towards your group and you went to the front line, shooting at the geeks as they came.

When the last one of the walkers had fallen, you flopped onto the floor and hid your face on your palms, unable to look at the Greenes’ faces. You’d just massacred what they considered their family and friends.

You looked back up when you heard a growl coming from the barn but didn’t get up, let anyone else take care of it, you were done.

Your heart almost stopped beating when you saw the walker. It couldn’t be. It couldn’t be real.

Sophia was walking outside the barn, eyes clouded, skin pale and purplish, dead except for the fact she was moving, growling as he made her way towards you.

“Sophia!” Carol cried, running towards her, but Daryl caught her, both falling to the floor next to you. “Sophia...”

She kept sobbing and wailing again and again and you hid your face again, choking sobs, when Rick pointed her gun at who had been Sophia. You jumped when you heard the gunshot and curled onto yourself, trying to escape from all it, trying to wake up from the nightmare that it had to be.

Chapter Text

“Don’t look...”

You heard Daryl trying to talk softly to Carol.

You looked up in time to see her pulling away from his arms and storming off, still sobbing. You were heartbroken. Never, not even in your worst moments, had you thought you’d find Sophia like that.

You couldn’t even imagine how Carol might be feeling.

You forced yourself to get up and you shifted closer to Daryl, who looked at your tear-stained face and gave you a quick, quite awkward squeeze on your shoulder before following Carol.

You felt you should go to her too, do something, offer some comfort, but you didn’t know how and you were scared you might make things worse, afraid you might say the wrong thing.

Maggie’s little sister, Beth, was crying her heart out as she made her way towards the pile of corpses, looking for her mother’s body. You heart leaped into your throat when the geek grabbed her but your group acted quick, dragging the young girl away from it and killing it for real.

“We've been out. We've been combing these woods looking for her and she was in there all along?  You knew.” Shane accused the Greenes as you made your way back to the house and you couldn’t believe he was back at it, after everything he’d done.

“Fuck, Shane, stop being an ass.” You told him quietly, trying to grab his arm to stop him but he pushed you away, still seeming frantic, ignoring yours and Rick attempts to stop him.

Hershel, who still looked totally affected by what had just happened, tried to explain how it was always Otis who got the walkers inside the barn, how he didn’t know about Sophia, but Shane wouldn’t listen, he just kept shouting at him.

“Get him off my land!” Hershel finally delivered in anger before disappearing inside his house.

You followed Glenn inside the house too, you couldn’t bear to be near Shane.

Hershel was nowhere to be seen, Beth was crying on Patricia’s arms and Glenn was hugging Maggie, who was crying too. You felt totally out of place but you didn’t want to go away and face Shane or go to Carol when you were still not able to comfort her.

“Y/N...we didn’t know it...” Maggie told you, looking up from Glenn’s shoulder. “I’m so sorry...”

“I know...” You said weakly, hugging yourself. “I’m sorry too...”

When you heard Rick and Shane had stopped yelling, you stepped back outside. The two men were nowhere to be seen, Andrea was covering Sophia with a blanket and for that you were glad. You couldn’t bear to look at her.

It was time to stop cowering from everything so you tried to pull yourself together and walked to the RV where you knew Carol was.

You found Daryl still there, looking at Carol in silence. She was crying silently, looking out through the window.

“Carol...” You whispered, stopping yourself from murmuring an empty ‘I’m sorry’.

You hugged her shoulders and she rested her head against you for a second before turning to look through the window again, still in silence. You looked at Daryl, who was watching her seeming at lost as you. You didn’t know what to do, so you just stood there in silence, holding Carol’s hand while she kept ignoring both of you.

After a while of just sitting there, Lori came to tell you everything was ready for the funeral, but Carol refused to go.

“That's not my little girl. That's some other thing.” Your heart broke hearing her talk like that. “My Sophia was alone in the woods.  All this time I thought, she didn't cry herself to sleep. She didn't go hungry. She didn't try to find her way back. Sophia died a long time ago.”

Lori left, as lost of words as Daryl and you, and soon you both followed her, Carol still ignoring you. You tried to reach out for Daryl, to maybe give him some comfort, but he pulled away, walking away from you.

None talked during the funeral, your group standing in silence next to the Greenes as you buried your dead. You glanced at Daryl, who stood at the opposite side from you but he averted his eyes.

After the ordeal he walked away, giving you an almost angry look when you tried to walk to him. You tried to shrug it off, he was affected by Sophia’s death, but you couldn’t help it, it hurt you.

You hadn’t much time to think about it, though, since you had to help your group to carry the others walkers to the pickup to drive them away and burn them later, a task that you forced yourself to do despite turning your stomach.

When you finished carrying bodies, Glenn asked you to help look for Hershel in the farm. Poor little Beth seemed to be so affected by what she had gone through that she had collapsed and they needed Hershel to help her, but he was nowhere to be seen.

You were unable to find him anywhere, so Rick and Glenn decided to go looking for him in the nearest town.

“So...you are together, together?” You asked Maggie after watching her and Glenn’s sweet goodbye.

“I guess?” She smiled softly. “I really like him... I’m bad for feeling like this after everything that’d happened?”

“What? No! You found something good in a horrible world, that’s something to be happy about.” You reassured her. “Just enjoy it.”

Maggie gave you a smile and squeezed your hand gently. “I’m going to check on my sister.”

You knew you should check on Carol too, so you made your way to the camp. On your way, you crossed paths with Shane and you made a point of walking away from him.

“Y/N, Y/N, wait.” He called after you, walking towards you. “Please.”

You let out a sigh but stopped. He seemed more calmed down, at least.

“I didn’t know Sophia was in there. I wouldn’t have done it if I knew, you know I wouldn’t.” He told you, looking almost desperate to deliver his point. “You know I’m sorry about her.”

“You said loud and clear that she was dead and we were losing our time looking for her.” You reminded him.

“I was right, wasn’t I?”

“Yes, just keep outassing yourself, Shane.” You growled, turning to leave.

“All I did was to keep all of you safe, that’s all I wanted.” He said and you had to admit he sounded genuine.

“Then stop doing shit like that! We have enough problems without creating more.” You replied tiredly. “I...I need to go check on Carol.”

“She’s not there, I just saw her.” He pointed somewhere next to the stable. “There.”

“Okay...” Without another word, you left.

You found Carol sitting on the grass and you sat down next to her. She shifted closer to you, resting her head on your shoulder. She still didn’t say a word but it was better than ignoring you, it was progress you guessed.

You wrapped your arm around her waist and you both sat there in silence, trying to ignore the smoke that rose up from somewhere in the farm, your group burning the dead bodies.

When the sun went down, you both retreated back to the house.

Carol seemed to be feeling a bit like herself again and you helped her and Patricia in the kitchen as you cooked dinner.

“Lori, dinner!” She called for Lori when you all sat down at the table.

Turned out Lori wasn’t in the house and nobody had seen her so you all left your untouched dinner to look for her around the farm without any success, until Carol came back from talking to Daryl, saying Lori had asked him to go to the town after Rick and since he didn’t, probably she had gone herself.

Before any of you could do anything, Shane was getting into a car and driving away.

“Why the hell Daryl didn’t say anything before?!” You growled, frustrated. “And why the hell is he moving to the further end of the yard.” The way he kept ignoring you bothered you more than you wanted to admit.

“He...he’s not taking the loss of Sophia well...” Carol said quietly.

“Well, neither of us is!” You complained before realizing it was the first time Carol had said the name of her daughter after losing her.

You looked at her and she looked serene, but still, you reached out your hand and she held it, giving you a sad smile.

                                         _____________________________________________

“I’m going to check on Daryl.”

Carol told you, getting up from the stairs of the porch where you were sitting, waiting for Shane, or anyone, to come back.

“Want me to go with you?” You offered.

“No, it’s fine, I want to talk to him.”

“Okay...be careful, it’s dark out there.”

Carol nodded and left.

Later, when you saw her making her way back to the house, she seemed really upset, tears rolling down her cheeks.

“What’s wrong?” You asked, worried out of your mind.

“Nothing, it’s fine, I’m fine...” She said weakly.

“No, no you are not,” You stopped her when she tried to walk away.

“It’s nothing...” She glanced back to where Daryl had placed his tent for a second.

“What did he do?” You growled but Carol shook her head.

“Y/N, Y/N wait!” She called after you when as you began to walk purposely towards Daryl’s camp but you ignored her.

You found Daryl sitting down beside a small fire in front of his tent and you walked closer, trying to ignore the dead animals he’d hung around.

“The hell did you say to Carol!” You snarled.

“Get the hell out of here!” He snarled back, getting on his feet as soon as he saw you.

“What’s wrong with you?! Why are you being like this?!” You couldn’t understand his sudden change of behavior, you felt he’d become close to all of you but now he was pulling this shit.

“Like what? This is who I am!” Daryl shouted in anger, getting on your face. “And I don’t care what you all think of me or if you hate me for it!”

You tried to stand your ground but couldn’t help it and stepped back when he yelled at you, your heart beating fast. “I don’t hate you, but I might if you keep this up.” You muttered.

Daryl recoiled but kept glaring at you.

“Carol is really distressed, Daryl...” You tried to explain but he cut you off.

“She should! Her daughter’s dead!” He was yelling again but this time he didn’t move close, instead, he began pacing around. “Cos she couldn’t bother to keep an eye on her, so she got lost and she got bite...” He tailed off.

You gaped at him, you couldn’t believe he could say something like that.

“Did...did you say that to Carol?” You asked in dismay.

Daryl’s furious eyes went guilty for a second before he went back to glare you angrily, giving you all the answers you needed.

“I can’t believe it...” You knew Daryl to be a hothead and harsh with words, yes, but this was something else. “Her daughter just died, Daryl, you can’t say something like that!” It was beyond your mind how Daryl could even think that.

“And you know it’s not true!” You kept going, anger rising in you. “Carol took care of Sophia always! She was her whole world! And you know it.” You shook your head in disbelieve. “How could you say something like that...I can’t believe it.”

Daryl shrugged, looking gloomy, but you thought he seemed more guilty than angry now.

“Shane was right and I was an idiot.” He said bitterly, flopping down on the floor. “Sophia was dead and I kept looking for her like an idiot. I got shot, I was almost walker’s food...”

“Shane was an asshole in that.” You were starting to see where Daryl’s anger was coming from. “You did the right thing, looking for her, giving us hope.”

“It was stupid, it was for nothing.” Daryl scoffed.

“If Sophia’d have been alive and we’d listened to Shane, we wouldn’t have found her. You did good, it wasn’t stupid.” You tried to reassure him but he cut you off.

“But she wasn’t,” He said, frustrated and angry. “We found her dead. She’s dead.”

“Yes, yes she is.” You flopped down on the floor too and hid your face on your hands as you felt tears in your eyes. “But that doesn’t mean that looking for her, hoping to find her, was a mistake.”

You didn’t know what else to say and you didn’t feel like you could keep having that conversation without breaking down, it hurt too much, so you stayed silent and so did Daryl.

“I understand you are being like this cos you’re upset...cos Sophia...” You began when you felt you were able to talk again and Daryl gave you a look but you ignored him. “I know you are, try and pretend you aren’t but I know.” Daryl looked away and you knew you’d won. “But you gotta apologize to Carol. Cos you were an ass. And she cares for you, a lot.”

Daryl scoffed as if to disagree but you kept talking. “She does! So stop being like this and apologize to her!”

Daryl shrugged but then nodded slowly.

“I better go back...” You said. You wanted to check on Carol and see if Lori was back safe.

“I saw how you are when people yell at you,” Daryl muttered before you had time to get up, taking you aback. “Your stepdad...”

“No, not like your dad.” You cut him off and he nodded silently.

The image of his scars was still vivid in your mind. Your stepdad had done many things but nothing so horrific like that. He’d scarred you in other ways, though.

You got up but before you left you reached down to pat Daryl’s shoulder in awkward comfort, squeezing ever so gently. He could be as mad as he wanted, being an ass and yell until his lungs gave up if he wanted, but you knew he too was devastated about Sophia and felt stupid for having looked for her for so long.

He looked at you, startled by the touch but then he lifted his hand, hovering close to yours and you thought he might hold yours or something but he just dropped it down again.

Without another word, you left, heading back to the house.

Back at the house, Shane’d brought Lori back. The others had cleaned her cuts and wounds, she seemed to have encountered some trouble, but she was more worried about Rick than about herself. There wasn’t much any of you could do about it so you and Carol headed back to the RV, talking quietly about all your worries before falling into an uneasy sleep.

                                     ______________________________________________

Next morning, Rick and Glenn still weren’t back, neither Hershel, so it was decided you would to go to the town and see if you could find them.

Daryl had shown up early in the morning, offering to help with it. You’d seen him awkwardly hovering close to Carol during breakfast and you hoped he’d sorted things out with her.

You were getting ready, along with him, Andrea, Shane and T-Dog, when the car Rick’d taken pulled up, Glenn and Hershel with him.

You all ran to greet them, glad they seemed alright, but your relief what short-lived, turning into shock and worry when you saw they had brought a young man with them, blindfolded and seeming unconscious and severely wounded.

They told you how he and other men from his group had attacked them and how they’d brought him there to save his life, with ensured a new discussion, Shane and Rick as always voicing the two opinions that divided the group.

Shane thought it was dangerous to have him there, his friends could go looking for him and for revenge for the other men Rick had killed, while Rick himself assured he was not a danger, not knowing where he was and with none looking for him.

You didn’t know what to make of it, the young man didn’t see much of a threat, especially hurt as he was, but you were afraid of the people from the group that had tried to kill your friends.

“Do us all a favor and kept your mouth shut!” Hershel ended the discussion, threatening Shane to kick him out of his farm as he kept being more loud and derisive.

He stormed off and after Rick assured Hershel none of you would do anything without his approval, you all went to take care of your daily tasks.

Couple days later you all watched in worry as Shane threw a more or less recovered Randal, the young men Rick had brought, inside the trunk of a car, blindfolded and with music playing loudly into his ears through earplugs.

Rick had decided he and Shane would drive Randal away from the farm and then let him go, far enough for him to not know how to come back. It wasn’t a perfect solution, you were basically throwing him to the wild where monsters roamed around, but you knew neither could you have him in the house, he and his group sounded dangerous.

                                              ____________________________________

 

“He's not the same. Says he froze. Blames me. Says I got inside his head.” Maggie complained to you and Lori.

You were sitting down on the counter of the kitchen, watching Maggie get some food ready for her little sister, who was still recovering.

“Men have to do certain things... you know that...And they're either gonna blame the little woman as the reason they do them or the reason they don't.” Lori sounded a bit fed up with men herself.

There wasn’t much you could add the conversation so you listened in silence until Lori offered to bring the food to Beth and you and Maggie walked outside to get some fresh air.

You saw Glenn glancing at Maggie, pacing back and forth and you chuckled quietly, playfully pushing Maggie towards him.

“Come on, go and talk.”

You made your way to your camp and found Carol getting out the RV with a plate of food.

“I’m gonna get this to Daryl.” She informed you, walking towards his little camp where he was still holding himself away from the others unless he was needed.

You got inside the RV and flopped down the bed with Glenn’s borrowed book, intending to finish it for once and for all.

It was going to be a while until Rick and Shane were back.

Chapter Text

You were silent as Daryl got out of the barn and made his way to your gloomy group, his knuckles open and bloodstained.

You struggled not to show how distressed you were feeling as you wondered in which state the boy Daryl had been questioning might have ended up. You tried not to blame Daryl, he had done what he’d been asked, what Shane and Rick deemed necessary to protect you all, but you still wished he hadn’t agreed to it.

You knew the situation you were in was worrying and potentially dangerous but still, torturing someone...it made you feel uneasy. There must be another way but you just couldn’t find it...

You didn’t know if you had been more surprised at Rick and Shane showing up again with Randall or at they looking like they had beat the shit out of each other.

They had started working as a team as soon as they were out of the car, though, as if nothing had happened, telling all of you how they couldn’t release Randall because he knew Maggie and where the farm was. They had locked the boy inside the barn instead.

“We gotta get some answers! We gotta know where’s his group and who they are, and we gotta protect ourselves.” Shane had delivered. “You, you wanna help?” He had turned towards Daryl, who nodded silently. “Come on then, go, get us some answer, do whatever you have to.”

Daryl had seemed reluctant for a second but then he’d walked purposely into the barn, locking the door behind him.

“Are we really doing this?” Dale had confronted Rick, but he had said nothing, walking away.

So now there you were, looking anxiously at Daryl, waiting to see what he’d found out.

“Boy there's got a gang, thirty men. They have heavy artillery and they ain't looking to make friends. They roll through here, our boys are dead. And our women, they're gonna...They're gonna wish they were.” He announced and all you shared worried looks.

Thirty? They were way more than you and better armed it seemed. You couldn’t let Randall bring them to you, you couldn’t, and they’d better not find the farm. You didn’t stand a chance.

“What did you do?” Carol asked, glancing at Daryl’s bloodstained hands and seeming as upset as you with the situation and Daryl’s role in all this.

“Get answers.” He replied evasively and Carol shook her head, heading towards the RV.

You didn’t know what to feel when Rick said it was necessary to ‘eliminate the threat’. Killing a man like that...it was against everything you’d always believed in and some part of you was screaming against it, but you were truly scared of his group and what might happen if they found about you.

Dale was the only one voicing his opinion against Rick’s decision and following him when he walked away, trying to change his mind.

Wanting to take your mind off what was going to happen that evening, you went to help Maggie with the farm and as you talked and shared stories, you slowly started feeling a bit better.

You were still at it when you saw Dale coming up to you. “Y/N, can I talk to you for a second?”

You shrugged to Maggie and approached Dale.

“You can’t agree with all this, can you?” He told you. “I know you don’t want us to execute that boy.”

You let out a sigh. “Truth is, Dale, I don’t know what I want. No, I don’t want him executed but it’s too dangerous to have him here...neither can we release him cos he knows where we are...”

“So we just kill him?!”

“I don’t know, Dale, okay?” You were frustrated. “Not that what I think matters.” The decision wasn’t up to you anyway.

“Why you all keep telling me this?!” Dale sounded desperate. “Just talked to Daryl and he said the same. Everyone’s opinion is important, people! Rick would listen to us...”

“You tried to win Daryl to your side?” You imagined the archer hadn’t been amused about it. “I guess it went well...”

“You think he likes this, that he agrees to torture and kill a boy? And I thought you were his friend...” Dale scolded you.

You shrugged. You guessed Daryl didn’t like the situation, or at least you hoped so, but you couldn’t know for sure. By now you were sure Daryl had a good heart, deep down, but he didn’t seem to regret what he had done to Randall, he deemed it necessary, and maybe it was, you didn’t know.

Dale could try as much as he wanted, you were unable to make your head about it.

“I wouldn’t call him my friend...” You just said. You cared about Daryl, sure, but you weren’t sure he really saw you as a friend.

“Y/N, just...help me on this, please? I know you are a good person. Just tell Rick what you think, if we do it together he’ll listen, we can stop this, we can’t turn into murderers and monsters.” Dale was back at it again, eyes pleading .“I don’t care what Daryl said, the group is not broken and we’re gonna show it.”

“I’m not making promises...” You said evasively before he went away, to try and talk to someone else you guessed.

You let out a sigh and walked towards the pen to help with the hens but before you reached it you caught sight of Daryl and you made your way towards him.

“Redecorating again?” You pointed at a string of squirrels he was carrying.

“Just thought I could bring dinner...” He shrugged without looking at you or stopping walking.

“Well, thanks...” You followed him, trying to step in front of him. “Can I talk to you for a minute?”

“What’s with everyone wanting to talk...” He growled.

“Yeah, Dale told me he talked to you.” You chuckled quietly, he seemed as grumpy about it as you had guessed. “Said you told him the group is broken.”

Daryl had stopped walking if only to not run you over and he looked at you warily.

“It’s broken.” He said simply but didn’t give you any reason as for why he thought that. “And Dale can talk all he wants, Rick only listens to Shane.”

“That’s not true, we are making a vote.” You informed him. “He’s gonna listen to us before decide. You agree with this, to kill that boy?”

“His group’s dangerous. It’s the way to keep us safe, Y/N.” He said, trying to brush past you.

“Thought you didn’t care...”

Daryl scowled at you and began walking to his camp.

“The group is not broken.” You told him as he walked away. “We still care about each other, we protect each other, and that’s what matters.”

      ___________________________________________________________

When the sun began to go down it was time for all you to meet and discuss what to do with your prisoner.  True to his word to Dale, Rick asked all you to voice your opinions so you could make  a decision together, but nobody seemed to stand with Dale.

“Couldn't we continue keeping him prisoner?” Maggie was the only one saying something when Dale kept asking for support, asking people if they truly agreed with this.

“Yes, I agree with Maggie, we don’t need to kill him, just stop him for going back to his group.” You chimed in shyly.

The idea was discarded soon, you’d have to feed him and so he’d have to help around in the farm, and Rick and Shane didn’t think it was safe to have him going around freely or have someone to watch him, he’d could run away to his group, he could hurt any of you...You understood it, it was truth, but still, killing someone in cold-blood...

“Could you drive him further out?” Hershel suggested.

Another idea that was thrown off, it’d mean to put your people at risk of getting ambush by Randal’s group or killed by a group of walkers.

Soon it seemed you couldn’t find any solutions that weren’t to kill the boy and, much to Dale’s dismay, people began talking about how to do it. Dale was more and more worked up and soon everybody was fighting and yelling. You felt tempted to just flee the room, stop listening and ignore what was going to happen, but you knew you’d to be strong, you were just trying to do what was best for everybody.

Carol seemed to be right there with you. “Stop it. Just stop it. I’m sick of everybody arguing and fighting. I didn't ask for this. You can't ask us to decide something like this. Please decide, either of you, both of you...But leave me out.”

“Not speaking out or killing him yourself...There's no difference.” Dale had a way of making you feel guilty, but you honestly had no idea of what else you could do with Randall.

Rick gave you a last chance to vote your opinions, but all of you remained silent.

“Please...let’s do what’s right,” Dale begged, tears in his eyes and you all looked away. “Isn’t there anybody else who’s gonna stand with me?”

“He’s right...we should try to find another way.” Andrea surprisingly chimed in. You nodded but said nothing else.

Still, as the majority of you remained silent, the decision to execute your prisoner was settled.

“This group is broken,” Dale said to Daryl before walking away, wanting to stay away from all of you.

Night fell and Rick, Shane, and Daryl went to take care of Randall. You stayed at the camp with the others, besides Dale who had gone you didn’t know where. You felt like you might throw up if you thought about what was going to happen, the execution of a person, no matter the reasons, but you tried to put on a brave face.

You thought almost everyone was feeling the same, all tense and silent. After what felt like an eternity, you all watched anxiously as Rick made his way towards you, little Carl with him for some reason.

“We’re keeping him in custody for now.”

You let out a sigh of relieve when Rick made his announcement. You knew his group was dangerous but still, killing a boy for, as Dale had put it, crimes you weren’t certain he’d done, for a crime he might never do, was a weight you weren’t sure you could bear.

“I’m gonna find Dale,” Andre said, big smile on her face.

Before any of you’d time to talk about Randall, a horrible scream cut through the night. You all ran towards the scream, totally terrified as far away you saw Dale on the ground struggling against a walker. From the distance, you saw Daryl threw himself at the walker and finish it.

“Help! Over here!”

It was too late. When you reached him, Dale’s stomach was torn and bloodied. It was horrifying. He couldn’t talk, just pant and groan, seeming to be suffering. You all looked in hope at Hershel, who came running, hoping the veterinarian could do something, but he shook his head mournfully.

All you could do was fall to your knees and cry, feeling totally helpless.

“He’s suffering...” Andrea sobbed as Dale’s whimpers went louder. “Do something.”

You scooted closer to Andrea, who hid her face on your shoulder, sobbing her heart out and you hid your face on her shoulder too, unable to look as Rick pointed his gun to Dale’s head.

You knew it had to be done, sooner or later, he’d turn otherwise. And Dale seemed to be in a big amount of pain, agonizing and whimpering, you couldn’t let him suffer like that. But you couldn’t watch it, you couldn’t.

You looked up when the shot didn’t come and saw that Rick’s hand was shaking as he cried silently. You wished you’d never have to be in his situation, you wouldn’t be able to do it. Before could do it, though, Daryl stepped in, pushing Rick’s hand away gently and kneeling down to point his own gun to Dale, who lifted his head until it touched the barrel of the gun, as if giving his permission, as if asking for it.

It was more than you could bear to watch and you hid your face again.

“I’m sorry, brother.”

Eventually, you felt gentle hands on your shoulders and you looked up to see Carol pulling you up and into her arms. Glenn helped Andrea up too and they both held each other while your group made its way back to the house, Rick, Shane, and Daryl staying back to take care of Dale’s body.

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You sat down dejected on the stairs of the porch, alone.

You had been inside the house for awhile, looking helplessly at Carol and Maggie as they tried to comfort Andrea and Glenn, not knowing what to do, how to help. All of you were hurting, silent tears falling down your cheeks, all of you had loved Dale, but the bond he had shared with Andrea and Glenn had been different and special, and they were truly devastated.

You rested your elbows on your knees and hid your face on your hands. You could still see the look on Dale’s face as he clutched his open belly, the image turning your stomach and breaking your heart. You closed your eyes tight, trying to stop your tears, but the images won’t leave.

Suddenly you felt a hand on your shoulder and you jerked away by pure instinct, startled.

You looked up and saw Daryl recoiling from you, and you chastised yourself for having reacted so harshly to him trying to show affection when he barely did it. You felt it was difficult for him to do so. But you had been too lost in your horrible thoughts to realize it was him. You were about to murmur an apology but you didn’t have time, Daryl talking before you could do it.

“I had to do it.” He said quietly, and you were lost for a moment until he kept talking and you realized he was talking about Dale. “He was going to turn. Was hurting...”

You frowned, wondering why he was telling you that. Did he think you were judging him, that that was the reason why you’d jerked away from him? You would never think ill of him for that, honestly you just admired him for his strength. You had just been able to stand there, just crying and crying, staring in horror at Dale while he suffered, unable to do anything to stop it.

“I know.” You said softly, giving him a weak, tearful smile and patting the floor, signaling him to sit down next to you.

“Rick would have if I hadn’t...” Daryl started speaking again in quiet, husky voice. You remembered how Rick’s hand had shaken as he had tried to gather enough strength to shot Dale. “But I didn’t want him to have to do everything always...he did Sophia...”

He trailed off and his voice carried so much hurt that you couldn’t stop your soft whimper, tears falling down, at the thought of the little girl.

You reached out your hand, palm up, and he seemed to doubt for a moment before taking it reluctantly. You squeezed it gently, surprised when he returned your soft squeeze, fingers warm against your own before he let go of your hand.

“You did well.” You assured him, wiping away your tears. “It was the right thing to do. For Dale, and for Rick.” He gave you a weak smile and you smiled back. “I don’t think I could have done it. I don’t think I’m strong enough...”

You heard a scoff and you look up to see Shane standing at the bottom of the stairs, looking at you with disgust. You hadn’t heard him approach.

“No, you are not strong enough, neither is Rick.” He said in that mocking yet angry voice he seemed to use always lately. It was harder and harder for you to recognize the man who had been your friend in him anymore. “So I’ll tell you what I told him, you gotta be strong to survive, you gotta be doing things you don’t want to and taking the hard decisions in order to survive. You saw it today.”

“Well, I didn’t see you trying to end Dale’s suffering either.” You spat back, hurt by his tone and implications but he chose to ignore your words. He was pacing back and forth and you could see him getting more and more worked up, too lost in his own thoughts, whatever that was, to actually pay attention to what you were saying.

“But I was right, wasn’t I?” You were not sure if Shane was talking to you anymore. “We were in danger, and nobody did nothing and you all acted like everything was fine here and now another one of us is dead. And you all are still acting like’s it’s not on Hershel, like it’s not fucking Rick’s fault!

Shane glared at you, his anger focusing on you again and you recoiled a bit. “Rick can’t do what it has to be done, you saw it! Fuck Y/N, are you blind now or what, you are siding up with all those who are letting us die!” He yelled at you.

“Back off, man,” Daryl growled, getting up before you could try to say anything.

Shane scoffed at him, a mocking smile on his face, and you stepped in front of him before the situation could escalate.

“Stop this, Shane, just stop.” Your voice was shaking. “You are not making any sense lately, I don’t even recognize you. Leave me alone.” You shook your head, too tired and hurt to try to reason with him. You didn’t think you could do it anymore. “Just...do all of us a favor and go back to your old self...”

Shane glared at you but you could see something behind the anger in his eyes. He looked like he wanted to say something else but he just shook his head and walked away.

“You okay?” Daryl asked as you slumped down onto the floor again.

“Yeah...” You whispered, not bothering trying to sound convincing.

“He’s an asshole,” Daryl said as he sat down next to you on the stairs again and you nodded.

“Yes. Wasn’t an asshole always, though” You sighed.

“I reckon he was.” Daryl words made you chuckle sadly.

“Nah, he just has this way of saying things...but he wasn’t always like this. He was one of the first people from our group that I met, he and Lori, Carol, little Carl and Sophia...” You smiled sadly at the memories. “They took care of me. Shane too. He saved me from a walker, taught me how to use a gun...”

You were sad you couldn’t see that man in Shane anymore. The world, everything that was happening, had made him turn into something else, a different man, scared, cold and dark, and maybe even dangerous.

“He’s just...he’s scared you know?” You kept talking, even though Daryl wasn’t saying anything. It felt good, saying your worries out loud. “He cares about us, he does it in his way. He’s scared something is going to happen to us. To Carl and Lori, especially now with her being pregnant...”

Your bit your lip, a sudden realization hitting you. Could Lori’s baby be Shane’s instead of Rick’s? If Shane was wondering the same, shit was going to get even worse. Daryl blinked at you in surprise and you realized he probably didn’t know about Lori...well, he was going to find out sooner or later.

“I just hope he’ll get back to his old self because if he doesn’t...I don’t know what’s going to happen.” You let out a long sigh. “I can’t recognize my friend anymore and it sucks. It feels like he’s going insane or something but he won’t listen to anyone anymore, he’d just get mad, he’s always mad, like a bomb about to go off...”

You glanced at Daryl, who was still silent and you let out an embarrassed chuckle. “I’m sorry, I’m talking your ear off.”

Nah, it’s fine...” Daryl shrugged. “Still think he’s an asshole tho.”

“Yeah, he’s kind of an ass.” You conceded, the chuckle you let out sad but your heart feeling a little bit less heavy.

Chapter Text

As soon as the sun rose, Dale’s funeral took place.

You buried him next to the Greene’s and Sophia’s graves, and you held Carol’s hand while Rick talked about Dale, Glenn, and Andrea too shaken to say anything. Tears came to your eyes as Rick reminded you how Dale, with his kind and gentle heart, thought you could be better people no matter you lived in an awful world.

“He said this group was broken. The best way to honor him is to unbreak it. Set aside our differences and pull together. We're not broken. We're gonna prove him wrong. That is how we honor Dale.”

You exchanged a look with Daryl while Rick talked. You’d already told him before, the group wasn’t broken, not while you still cared about each other, not while you took care of each other.

After the funeral, you went with Shane, Andrea, Daryl, T-Dog to patrol the perimeter of the farm, looking for any fences that might have fallen down, allowing walkers to come in, and killing any of them that might be inside already.

You’d been reluctant to go at first, more scared of the monsters that you wanted to admit but finally, you decided to join them. After Sophia, after Dale, you had to stop being scared, you had to start being strong and fighting for your life, for your friends’ lives. You hadn’t asked Shane to teach you how to use a gun, all that time ago, for nothing, you had wanted to be able to protect yourself and it was time to start acting about it.

You found a couple of down fences, the walkers had probably wandered in through them, and after pulling them up again you followed Daryl as he tracked the geeks, killing them for good as you found them. It was your first time killing them so close, using just a shovel instead of your gun since Rick’d said you needed to save bullets and avoid making noise. It was scary and hard, but you forced yourself to be strong and kept going.

Back at the house, Rick and the others were moving your things in. Hershel had allowed you to stay inside the house, in case any more walkers may wander inside the perimeter, sure their cattle were bound to attract them.

You were beyond grateful, hugging Maggie when he smiled at you, so happy and relief of going to sleep inside sturdy walls.

Rick began listing what needed to be done, giving you all tasks and you were glad for it. It gave you a purpose, something to do, and it gave you a sense of safety.

He wanted to build a lookout in the windmill and at the top of the barn, which sounded as hard work but would allow you to watch over the whole farm and beyond so you could see any threat coming. He gave first watch to Daryl and T-Dog, and Andrea and you would start to patrol as soon as everything was organized.

You were feeling content, feeling so busy and helpful, and your good mood just went up when Rick said him and Daryl would take Randall offsite and cut him loose. So you weren’t going to kill the boy then! It was the right thing to do, you knew.

Shane, though, didn’t seem to agree and you stepped away, not wanting to hear yet another Rick-Shane discussion that would ruin your mood, and headed to help driving the cars to the farm’s exits.

Back again at carrying your stuff inside the house, you couldn’t help but hear a bit of the conversation between Maggie and Glenn as he refused her offer to sleep in her room. When Glenn walked away, Maggie looked at you, shaking her head and rolling her eyes.

“Men.”

“Don’t mind him.” You laughed quietly. “Boy is head over heels with you, bet he’s just awkward.”

“Maybe...” Maggie let out a sigh before letting out a chuckle. “Why do I like that idiot...”

“He kind of grows on you.” You teased back. “But if he doesn’t step up his game I’m gonna try to steal you from him.”

You winked at Maggie and she snorted a laugh, pushing you playfully.

On your way to get more stuff from your camp, you crossed paths with Daryl, who was watching from distance at Rick and Shane talking in the porch.

“Ey!” You greeted him.  “Heard you’re taking Randall away from here with Rick.”

Daryl just hummed, looking at the two men talking with a frown on his face. You’ve seen Daryl making plans with Rick earlier while you got stuff into the house, but you also had noticed how he’d started to avoid Shane whenever he could, so you guessed that was why he wasn’t with Rick now.

Considering how Shane was being lately, you didn’t blame Daryl, you’d began avoiding him too since he’d yelled at you last night. You liked that Rick seemed to be relying more on Daryl too and not only on Shane, whose temper was getting out of control. You trusted Daryl, somehow, despite how surly and harsh he could be sometimes, he’d showed that deep down he cared for the group, try as much as he wanted to hide it.

He didn’t seem to be feeling very talkative, though and you shrugged, deciding to let him be. You placed the last few things that remained in your old camp into a couple of boxes and took one to carry it to the house. Shane was walking away from the porch, Rick too, and you saw Daryl taking the other box and following you.

Back inside the house, everything was a mess of boxes and things, a mess of people even, but you liked it, it made you feel safe and less gloomy.

“Here.” Carol came from the kitchen, handing Daryl the food she’d been getting ready for Randall so you wouldn’t kick the boy away without any supplies.

You were putting things together so all your stuff weren’t just lying around everywhere when you heard a commotion coming from outside, Daryl, T-Dog, and Rick talking urgently about something.

You all ran out to find Randall seemed to have escaped. Weird thing was, the handcuffs were still locked and so was the door of the barn.

“Rick, Rick!”

Shane’s voice reached you before any of you had time to come up with an idea or look for your missing prisoner and Shane rushed towards your group, face bloodied, explaining to you how Randal had snuck on him and clocked his face, running away with his gun.

Soon Rick sprung to action, commanding T-Dog to get you all safe inside the house while he, Daryl, Glenn, and Shane went looking for Randall, you couldn’t leave him out there with a gun, not knowing if he’d attack you or if he’d be able to find his dangerous group and bring them to you.

Before leaving, Daryl approached you.

“You know that boy didn’t stand a chance against Shane to break his nose like that and ran away, right?” He muttered to you hastily.

You looked from him to Shane and nodded your head weakly, biting your lip. You didn’t want to believe Shane might have done something to Randall, but the boy was way smaller than him...he could have taken Shane by surprise, though, maybe...still, the situation was strange to say the less. Shane had disagreed with Rick’s plan since the beginning and you only hoped he hadn’t done something hast and that he might regret.

Inside the house, you all tried to do things, sorting things around, trying to occupy your mind with something that wasn’t worry about what might be going on out there, but it was evident you all were anxious and tense.

Daryl and Glenn were the first to come back.

Things got weirder and weirder as they explained how they had found Randall as a walker but without any bite marks, he’d his neck broken and Shane’s and Randall’s track showed that they were together, according to Daryl. You knew what it looked like and you couldn’t believe it.

Shane had been a bit out of control lately and he hadn’t agreed with the plan of letting the boy free, but this... it was too much even for him, there had to be another explanation, or at least you hoped so. Seeming as worried as everyone else or even more, Lori begged Daryl to go looking for Rick and Shane and off he went.

Before he could go anywhere, though, you all saw in horror how dozens and dozens of walkers, more than you had ever seen, had somehow got into the farm’s fields, making their way towards the house.

It was the scariest thing you’d ever seen and you looked around at the faces of your equally scared friends, waiting for some indication of what to do. Glenn suggested going inside the house, locking down everything but Daryl pointed out such a massive herd would rip down the house. It was terrifying.

“Carl’s gone!” Lori announced in despair before any of you could come up with any plan. “I can’t find him anymore!”

She obviously refused to leave without his boy and you all agreed, so Carol, Patricia, and Beth went to help her look for him inside the house again, see if he was hidden. You stayed outside with the others, Maggie passing some riffles and shotguns around but Daryl said it was no use, there were too many of them.

It was true, you would run out of ammo and there would still be dozens of them coming, even with all the bullets of the world they were enough to overrun you in a moment.

Hershel, though, didn’t want to leave, he wanted to fight for his farm and Andrea came up with the idea of taking the cars and leading the geeks away from the farm.

“This is my farm. I’ll die here.” Hershel’s opinion was clear.

“Alright, is a good a night as any,” Daryl said gloomily.

“I’m not dying here!” You whispered to Daryl, quiet enough so the other wouldn’t hear you, and he nodded to you.

“You stay here, help Hershel shoot them as they come.” He instructed you. “But as soon as the others get out of the house or if they get too close, you take a car and drive away from here, gotcha?”

You nodded, trying to hide how scared you were, and he left with Andrea, T-Dog, Glenn, and Maggie, off to shoot the walkers from inside the vehicles and drive them away.

You gasped when you saw the barn lit up in flames, you didn’t know what had caused it but you were grateful as it attracted walkers to it and away from the house, but they were so many, there was no point trying to shoot them or drive them off, they just kept coming. You had to leave, no matter if you had to drag Hershel kicking and screaming.

“Come on, we gotta go!” You shouted at Carol and Lori when you saw them getting out of the house.

Lori didn’t want to, she still hadn’t found Carl, but there was nothing you could do, you had to run. Hershel wouldn’t move though, but the walkers were just a couple meters away so after he ignored your calls again and again, you leaded Carol, Lori, Beth and Patricia to a car.

Before you could reach it, though, a walker took hold of Patricia, her screams of agony and the sight of the monster ripping off her neck paralyzing you in terror for a moment before you sprung back to action.

The walkers had cut your way to the car but T-Dog and Andrea showed up to help

 Lori and Beth rushed inside but you’d seen Carol run away chased by geeks and you run after her, Andrea behind you. You weren’t about to leave your friend there to be devoured, not if could help it.

You found her circled by monsters but between Andrea and you, you managed to shoot down the closer ones. There were too many, though, seeming to endlessly appear out of nowhere and you screamed in horror as one of them fell over Andrea.

“Come on!”

 You shouted to Carol, shooting at another geek that had almost grabbed you. They were everywhere. You both run for your life, but there were more of them approaching you, closing your paths.

“Keep going!” You yelled at Carol as you stopped to shoot at the closer ones, but she seemed reluctant to leave you “Come on, I’ll follow you in a second!” She nodded wildly, as scared as you, and began running again.

You shot the shotgun as good as you could, not used to it, but hitting enough of them to clear a small space around you. When you turned to follow Carol, though, you couldn’t see her anyway, a new sea of walkers coming.

You looked around, unable to find any of your friends, just more and more geeks, seeming to never end. You felt like just dropping to the ground and crying, there were too many and you were alone. You’d never felt that desperate and scared in all your life.

But you had said it, you weren’t going to die there. You forced yourself back into action, forced yourself to do something, to keep going and fight, to survive.

The only idea that came to your mind was to run to the woods, if the noises at the farm and the fire of the barn were attracting the walkers, maybe there were less of them in the woods. You ran as fast as you could, shooting walkers on your way until you run out of ammo and then hitting them with the shotgun, trying to keep them away from you, glad that you’d been right and there were less of them in that part of the forest.

You ran and ran through the trees, memories of the nightmare in which you’d been running for your life in a wood, chased by monsters, coming to your terrified mind.

You kept running and running, panting and heart pounding hard. The walkers were getting scarcer so you were able to hide from them, but you stopped only when you saw there weren’t any around. You fell hard on your knees, panting, totally exhausted.

You didn’t have much time to rest, a geek appearing out of nowhere, forcing you back onto your feet and you hit it again and an again with the barrel of the shotgun until he fell to the floor, dead.

You fell down next to the corpse, finally breaking down and crying your heart out. You didn’t know were where your friends, if they had made it or not, you weren’t even totally sure of where you were, you felt alone in the world and totally hopeless.

You didn’t know how long you’d been crying but when you looked up, startled by a noise, you saw the sun was starting to come up. A couple of geeks were coming from ahead of you and you held your breath, hiding behind a tree. They stood close for a moment, vacant eyes looking around, their growls freezing the blood inside your veins, but then they began stumbling away, something having caught their attention.

You saw a cloud of smoke rising up from where they were going. It must be where the Greene’s farm was, the smell and noise probably kept attracting walkers to it.

You had to force yourself to do something, you couldn’t just stay in that wood forever, crying in despair until some walker devoured you.

You’d seen some of the others drive away in their cars, so you’d to hope they were alive...how could you find them again, you didn’t know, it seemed impossible. Probably you weren’t going to see them again, they would already be far from there. The thought almost made you choke in sobs again, but you forced yourself to stop that and do something.

Thanks to the smoke you were able to locate the farm, you’d come running from it so you tried to figure out where you might be, but all the wood seemed the same to you. You tried to think where the road to the farm might be, considering where the farm was and where you’d run to.

Feeling not very certain but with no other plan, you began walking towards the direction where you thought the road might be, leaving the column of smoke to your right.

After a while of walking without the woods changing not even a bit you were certain you were totally lost but then you heard the sound of an engine revving. The road had to be close! You ran towards the sound and finally saw the road, and you sprinted towards it, no matter how exhausted you were.

You’d never been so happy to see someone as you were when you saw Daryl on his bike coming up the road. You jumped to the side of the road and without thinking it twice you ran to the middle of it.

“Shit, woman, are you crazy!” Daryl yelled at you, turning his bike and slamming the breaks, wheels skidding.

You threw yourself at him as soon as he was off the bike, glad to see someone alive, someone from your group. You’d been so certain you were alone, that you were never going to see them again. You couldn’t believe it.

Daryl grabbed your arms before you could wrap them around him, though, holding you at distance and taking in your disheveled state, walker’s blood spattered over you, and his frantic eyes scanned you, taking in the blood and looking for bites.

“You okay?” He asked softly, eyeing you with concern and noticing you were shaking, still in shock and terrified

You could only let out a choked whimper, unable to find words. You were alive, and now you weren’t alone, you weren’t badly hurt, you hadn’t been bitten...but you felt you were far from okay.

When Daryl was certain you hadn’t been bitten he finally let go of your arms, allowing you to hug him and you buried your face in his chest, unable to stop crying. You were so relieved to have found him, but you were still half scared to death and so exhausted you felt you might just collapse.

“Are the others okay?” You choked out after a short moment when Daryl pulled away from you again. You tried to calm down but tears just kept coming.

“Yeah, we met in the intersection.” Daryl nodded. “I came back looking for you and Andrea.”

“Thanks...” You sniffed, clutching at his arm as if afraid he might just disappear and more grateful than you could express in your distressed state.

“Carol wouldn’t stop saying you’d been running right behind here and that we had to go back for you, so...” Daryl shrugged. “Andrea?”

“I don’t know...I saw a walker fall over her...they were everywhere, they wouldn’t stop coming...” You sobbed.

You couldn’t think Andrea might have gotten out of there alive, if the walker that fell over her hadn’t killed her, when you had run away there’d been dozens of the monsters around her. But you felt uneasy about just abandon her without checking. Coming back was dangerous though, the massive herd of walkers sure to be still there.

You saw Daryl was wondering the same, frowning towards where the farm was, smoke still visible, as if trying to make his mind. He bit his lip, looking to you when you shuddered as you caught sight of the strand walkers that were starting to show up.

“We gotta go.” He pulled you towards his bike.

You hid your face on his back, still crying and shaking, and held onto him so tightly as he drove, fingers clutching his shirt, that you thought you might be hurting him but he didn’t say anything.

“Y/N!”

You looked up from Daryl’s back when you heard your name and saw Carol running to you as the bike stopped. You didn’t even have time to get off it before Carol wrapped you into a hug, almost knocking you over.

“I told them you were alive, I told them you were right behind me.” She said softly as you cried into the crook of her shoulder. “I knew you’d be alive.”

“Thank you...” You sobbed quietly.

Eventually, Carol pulled away from you, letting the others greet you. You giggled when Maggie and Glenn pulled you into a weird hug the three together that almost made you all fall to the floor. As you greeted everyone you began feeling more calm, relief washing over you. You had made it, you had not only survived but also found your friends again. You couldn’t believe it, you were going to give thanks for it every day.

You looked around and noticed the people missing.

Patricia, you had seen her being devoured. Jimmy wasn’t there either, probably having found the same fate.

 Andrea...You felt guilty to say the least, she had been with you, helping Carol...you should have helped her, you should have done something, you should have pulled that walker away from her...but there had been so many of them...

Shane wasn’t there either, but you were too afraid to ask, you didn’t want to hear it. You didn’t need to.

As soon as everyone had greeted you and you’d stopped crying and shaking, Rick didn’t lose any time, reminding all you that you needed to move, it was dangerous to stay there, a couple of strand walkers already making their way to you.

You needed to leave the main road, go somewhere out the beaten track where there’d have been fewer people hence fewer walkers, try to find somewhere safe to stay even if only for a night.

You were in the back seat of Glenn’s car, you’d looked so drained Carol had said she’d go on Daryl’s bike, afraid you might just collapse and fell down. Daryl had just shrugged, telling you to decide it quick before he’d drive off and leave you both there.

You were sitting down next to Maggie, who was between you and Beth, and both her little sister and yourself were holding her hands and resting your heads on her shoulders, and soon you felt your eyes close as your exhaustion took hold of you.

You woke up with a start when you heard a honk and looked around, startled. The cars had halted to a stop and when you got out Rick informed you he’d almost run out of gas so you’d have to stay there and he’d make a run for gas in the morning.

You shuddered at the idea of having to stay the night out in the middle of nowhere, easy prey to the walkers that might roam the woods or the road, and the faces of the others told you they were right there with you.

“I’m freezing...” Carl complained.

Summer had ended and autumn was starting to come strong, the wind cold and the weather not ideal, to say the least, to camp outside without even sleeping bags, no matter if you built a fire as Lori suggested.

No matter what anyone said, Rick was adamant on staying the night there and waiting until the morning to go looking for supplies, turning off Maggie’s offer to go with Glenn to look for gas and supplies while the others waited there so you wouldn’t have to spend the night out there.

He didn’t want the group to divide, he wanted you to stay together so none would get stranded or separated and unable to find each other. You could understand it, having been lost alone without them just a few hours ago. If it happened again, if the group got divided and you lose contact with the others, who knew if you’d able to find each other again.

It was terrifying. You didn’t want your group to divide ever again, you didn’t want to get separated from them. It was too easy to get lost.

The alternative, though, was almost as terrifying. Staying there you could get attacked by walkers, maybe even ambushed by a dangerous group of people, and tried as hard as he could, Rick couldn’t ease your worries with his words about keep hoping, about finding a place not only where you could survive but thrive.

It sounded like a dream. Such things weren’t possible anymore. You had seen it with the farm. You felt totally hopeless at that moment, and were sure you weren’t the only one.

Daryl had been silent during the whole exchange, ignoring Carol when she’d asked him if he agreed with Rick, but then he began confronting Rick about having found Randall turned into a geek without having been bitten, stating that Shane had killed him.

It pained you to think that a man who had been a good friend could have done something like that, but you knew it was true, and you’d seen him fall into what had almost seemed insanity. He was gone now, though, so it didn’t matter anymore.

“We’re all infected.” Rick blurted out after a moment of tense silence.

You were confused for a moment until you caught up to what that meant. So you didn’t have to be bitten to turn. So you only had to die and then you woke up as a geek. The news hit the group hard, mad at Rick for having hidden it, shocked and upset, and soon a fight started between them and Rick.

Rick cut it off quickly, though, and reminded you harshly you had to get everything ready for the night. There were some small and half down stone walls at the side of the road that Rick had chosen to set camp in, so he and Daryl went looking for wood while T-Dog and Glenn kept watch.

That night, you all had to dine in a rabbit Daryl had managed to hunt. It was meager but it was something and for that you all were thankful. The night was cold, even close to the small fire, and you huddled next to Carol for warmth and comfort.

“We’re not safe with him...” You heard her whisper to Daryl when he sat down next to her.

You knew she mistrusted Rick and was upset with him for having hidden the secret that Dr. Jenner had told him, she had told you so, but you still thought it wasn’t that bad, there were worse things. Rick might seem really cold at times but you had always felt you could trust him, that he would always try to help and protect the group. Carol, though, seemed to think the opposite, as he suggested Daryl you should just leave him.

“No, Rick’s done all right by me.” Daryl shook his head at his words, seeming to agree with you on this, stating to Carol that Rick was a man of honor when she claimed she wanted to follow one.

“I’m not leaving the group.” You said quietly, you hadn’t almost opened your mouth since you got out of the car. “I want us to stay together always.”

Carol seemed to notice something in your voice because she sighed and wrapped an arm around you, pulling you closer and letting the matter go.

Before you could try to sleep, though, panic rushed through the group as some noises came from somewhere within the woods. Yet another fight broke as Rick didn’t want anyone to wander away in the night, which on one hand sounded logical...but on the other, you couldn’t just wait there for whatever the sound was to come and attack you, no matter Daryl tried to assure you it would be just a harmless animal.

Soon Rick seemed fed up with everyone and everything and he began ranting until he confessed he had killed Shane. You gasped aloud, horrified. It was one thing to think that Shane had been killed off by the monsters but to think that he’d been murdered...and by Rick, claiming he did it for you... You couldn’t believe it, just like you couldn’t believe Shane had tried to kill Rick. Everything was just too horrible...

Rick claimed his hands were clean but you saw in his face he thought otherwise as his facade broke for a second, but soon he was ranting again, telling you all to go off without him if that was what you wanted or to stay an obey him as your one and only leader.

There wasn’t much of a choice.

Later that night, Carol seemed to finally fall into an uneasy sleep but you weren’t able to do the same, as much as you tried. Carol’d been complaining quietly about Rick and you agreed with some of her ideas, but not with everything as she seemed to have little to no faith in Rick as a leader. The only thing you were certain was that you weren’t going to leave the group and neither would Carol, no matter her opinion about Rick.

Rick and T-Dog were still on watch while the others slept, or tried to. Daryl, though, was still awake, sitting down next to Carol and you. Carefully as not to wake Carol, you sat up and shifted closer to Daryl.

“You ain’t sleeping?”He rasped and you shook your head.

“I’m terrified.” You confessed quietly after a moment of silence, hugging your knees, hating to feel that weak.

“You shouldn’t. Rick and T-Dog are on watch.” Daryl pointed out. “If there’s a threat coming they’ll see it.”

You nodded but it didn’t make you feel better, you trusted them to keep watch but lots of things could happen without them noticing, or maybe a herd could come too quick...but it wasn’t only that...

“I’m a bit scared of Rick...” You whispered, not wanting anyone but Daryl to hear you. He frowned at you, seeming confused, so you kept talking. “He killed Shane...I know how Shane was but Rick murdered him...”

“Shane tried to kill him too, not for the first time I’d say. Had it coming.” Daryl was looking at you in disbelieve, as if he couldn’t believe you’d throw that to Rick’s face.

You knew he was right, but it felt bad anyway, and not only because of Shane... Rick had seemed so cold, so hard that evening while he talked, he’d scared you a bit.

“I don’t like this...” You stole a glance towards Rick who was scanning the perimeter, before dropping your gaze down again.”This Rick going tyrant more...it worries me...”

It was what scared and worried you the most. You valued Rick as a leader, but you couldn’t agree to follow him blindly and without question, it was beyond you. And it made you feel a bit scared of what he might become. It didn’t feel right.

“Rick ain’t like that. He’s a good man.” Daryl sounded so sure you had to almost believe him. “He’s tired and he’s worried, so he said all that. But it ain’t like that, it ain’t gonna be. He just wants us to stop arguing about shit, wants us to be together and safe.”

You hoped he was right. You had to almost chuckle at his faith in Rick, considering how they’d first met each other. They seemed to have started trusting each other and relying on each other since the last days at the farm, and you’d seen them talking quietly here and there.

It was almost funny, how Daryl devoted himself to the group now when back at the quarry he’d been so ready to leave, seeming to despise you all. Those days seemed so far now, after everything that had happened to you all.

But you all had come out stronger from it, you all were more united as a group and that wasn’t going to change, no matter what. Daryl’s change of behavior was proof of it and you couldn’t be happier about it, having thought for a while now that there was more to him than what he’d been showing.

“I’m gonna keep watch, let T-Dog sleep.” Daryl’s voice cut through your thoughts. “Sleep.”

He commanded and you nodded, curling up with Carol again when Daryl got to his feet and forcing yourself to sleep.

When the sun came up you all got ready, hitting the road again once Rick and Daryl found fuel, and driving away towards an unknown destiny, towards a nomadic life on the road, fighting to survive, looking for that safe haven Rick seemed to believe in

It was going to be a long, hard quest.

Chapter Text

Surviving the winter was hard.

You moved from place to place without staying anywhere for long, the dead always close, chasing the living. Most times you could stay in the same place only for a day before a herd of walkers roamed dangerously close, forcing you to run away

There were days when at least you had a roof over your head, staying at some old house or abandoned cabin, but a lot of times you were forced to camp in the middle of nowhere. That had been the worst, especially at first when you were forced to make camp with just a few blankets, having left most of your belongings at the farm, until Maggie and Glenn managed to find some camping gear on a run. Still, as the weather grew colder, it was hard to keep the cold out of your thin tents and most nights you found yourself trying to sleep through chatting teeth, huddled close to Carol in your sleeping bags.

But you were alive, and you were together, and that was what mattered.

Rick had proven himself to be a good leader, despite all your worries and doubts and even Carol had to admit it, he kept you going, kept you safe and motivated. Daryl had been right, though sometimes cold as hard, Rick was no tyrant. He leaned on Hershel and Daryl, talking his decisions with them but also listening to all of you.

He cared for you, striving to keep you all safe. It was obvious, even if he didn’t externally show it much, busy as he was taking care of his pregnant wife and kid while making sure you all you were okay too. You all cared for him as in return too, the same way as you cared for each other.

You all had become a family, one you were beyond grateful for. Those people were your world and there wasn’t a day you weren’t grateful for them. You all were tired and scared, but you kept each other going, always there for each other, never giving up.

It wasn’t easy, some days you were at each other’s throats, arguing about little stupid things. It was no wonder, having to be always together in such close quarters, but at the end of the day, you were always there for each other.

There was a bond between all of you that you were sure was unbreakable and some days it was the only thing that kept you going when despair took hold of you.

If you had to take something good out of your situation, besides becoming a close family, it’d be that it had forced you to handle weapons, no matter most of you weren’t used to it before, and you all were getting increasingly good at killing the monsters.

You still preferred guns to hand to hand weapons like knives, your small size being a disadvantage when most walkers were rather taller than you. You could work your knife, sure, and had ended your fair share of walkers, but you were more comfortable with your gun and you were proud of how good your aim was by now.

Carol was also working on it, and sometimes you two would get into friendly competitions. It wasn’t often, though, since you had to save bullets and the noise would bring every walker nearby to your group. You wished you could practice your aim more often, but the only gun silencer you had found for now had gone to Carl and still, you couldn’t waste the bullets, so you found yourself neglecting your gun and relying on your knife more than you’d have liked to.

You had been eyeing Daryl’s crossbow with well-meaning envy, since it was silent and most times he was able to get his arrows back, besides making his own with a skill that amazed you. Daryl had caught your wanting eyes and much to your surprise had eventually allowed you to try the crossbow so you could keep practicing your aim.

It wasn’t as easy as you had hoped and totally different from working a gun. You were proud to say your aim with a gun was rather good but with the crossbow you felt like a beginner again, arrows working way different than bullets. It kicked back harder than you expected, making you miss your targets as the crossbow moved, hurting your arm a couple of times.

Not to mention the process of recharging the arrow and tensing the string, which required strong arms and had you cursing the effort every time you had to do it. Daryl would just chuckle quietly at your frustration but he kept letting you try whenever you had free time and wanted to practice your aim without wasting bullets and making a fuss.

“I think I’ll stick to guns.” You said deflated one day after missing your target for the third time in a row, unable to control the kickback, your arms sore and hurting.

“Then you’ll never be good at this,” Daryl said while retrieving the arrow from the tree trunk you were using for practice. You had missed the mark Daryl had drawn on it and you glared at the tree as if it were its fault.

“I’m not getting any good.” You complained grumpily, handing him the crossbow, feeling done for the day.

“You wanted to practice, quit bitching.” Daryl took the crossbow just long enough to reload it, taking in your tired arms before handing it back to you. “Again.”

By the time you went back to the cabin where your group was staying for the day, your arms were sore but you had managed to hit the mark.

You sat down next to Carol with a proud smile.

“Now, look at that face.” Carol laughed. “I’d say you’re getting better.”

“Yes, now I can hit things that don’t move one time out of ten.” You joked, taking a bite of tuna from the can Carol passed you.

You were running low on food again, having to share even the tiniest cans, trying to give as much food as possible to Lori. She was getting bigger, but her face was getting more and more thin and pale, and you all worried for her even though you didn’t say it aloud.

Daryl’d hunt for you whenever he could, but it was getting harder for him to find any game and you saw him growing more and more frustrated and worried each day. You didn’t know if it was the geeks or the cold, but animals were scarce to find. Daryl wouldn’t give up though, no matter what.

Glenn and Maggie went on runs whenever they could, both of them being the most expert of you at scavenging supplies, but that too was starting to get hard. There weren’t many places unspoiled, stores where already empty and any house you found seemed to have been emptied long ago. Rick wanted you to keep out of the beating track but soon you had reached a point in which you needed to go on runs to bigger places from time to time.

As your confidence on your skills grew, you started to go on more runs to help, sometimes with Maggie and Glenn, sometimes with Daryl on his bike, whenever the road was too blocked for the cars.

Carol wouldn’t join your runs much, busy as she was learning everything she could from Hershel, mostly in order to help Lori deliver her baby, she needed all the help she could get.

You were closer to Carol than to any other in your group and she was still your best friend, but as you went on more runs you found yourself growing close to Glenn and Maggie, becoming fast friends with the farmer girl. She was sweet and kind like Carol, even though sometimes she showed a tough face, and funny and brave. You admired how good she was with her knife, walkers dropping at her feet whenever you encountered a group in your runs.

“It’s just that I’m taller so it’s easier for me, but you are good too.”  Maggie would tell you whenever you complained, throwing her arm around your shoulders in a half hug.

The heart eyes Glenn would always give her told you that you weren’t alone in your admiration, and they were such a cute, strong couple you loved to be around them, enjoying your runs together no matter the danger.

The same way, you had grown closer to Daryl too. Back in the farm, you had started to see a side of him that had been hidden when his brother had been around, you had seen how he actually had a kind, big heart that drove him to help others. He was completely loyal to Rick and your group, and there was no doubt he cared for all you as if you were family.

He had been slowly opening up to the group, especially to Carol who you were sure was his best friend and the first one to get him to do so, and to Rick, who relied on Daryl for help and who in return had won Daryl’s respect and affection.

You felt safe with him, his presence comforting in your darkest moments, and you even enjoyed your runs together, which gave you a chance to talk more with him, slowly getting to know more about him, tiny bits and pieces of information about him and his life before that he’d share with you ever so slowly, and which you cherished. Though usually, it was you who made all the talking while Daryl just listened, but he never complained and seemed genuinely interested in whatever you were saying.

And so you found yourself growing fonder of the archer.

You thought Daryl was closer to you too or at the very least you were sure he saw you as a good friend too. Friend enough to let you try his crossbow and take you with him on runs, it seemed, which wasn’t little.

 As time passed, you felt more and more comfortable around him, enough to joke around with him and Carol, who seemed keen of teasing the shy archer whenever she had a chance but who deeply cared for him, and soon they both, along with Maggie, became the people you were closer to in the group, seeking their company during those challenging, tiring days or nights when you felt yourself despair, hunger, fear, and cold getting a hold of you. But whenever your mood faltered, you could count on your family to pull you back to your feet.

One day, you weren’t sure after how many days on the move anymore, you woke up to find that everyone else in your camp was already up and making plans for the day. It was later than you usually woke up and you weren’t one to oversleep these days, but you had been up in watch duty with T-Dog for the most part of the night.

You saw Rick and Daryl had a map lying on top of Rick’s car hood. They were studying it and you walked closer to see what they were looking, munching on a cereal bar Carol had tossed at you.

“Road is almost blocked so it might be dangerous.” Rick was frowning at the map, always looking worried and half exhausted these days. You knew he felt the pressure of having to provide not only for all of you but for Lori and the baby especially.

“We have to do it anyway.” Daryl shrugged. “It’s okay, it’s not that far, it’ll be easy.”

Rick gave the archer a small smile as if he were grateful he was trying to keep spirits high and ease his worries. “It’s probably empty already, but it’s quite in the middle of nowhere so it’s worth a shot.”

“What’s worth a shot?” You asked when you got close, leaning over the map.

“A service area not too far from here.” Rick pointed at it on the map. “Daryl’s going on a run to see if there’s something useful left.”

“You coming?” Daryl raised his eyebrows at you.

“Sure thing!”

Not even fifteen minutes later you were already speeding up the road on Daryl’s bike. When you hit the road that led to the service area, it didn’t take you long to see why the cars couldn’t go. As Rick had told you, the road was almost blocked by cars. It seemed there had been a traffic jam back at the beginning that had ended up badly. There were a few walkers roaming around, not enough to call it a herd, and they turned their heads towards you when they heard the motorbike.

Daryl just ignored them, zigzagging the bike through cars and walkers equally as if they were nothing. You trusted him but you couldn’t help your fear as the monsters snapped at you, never reaching you, and you closed your eyes, pressing your face to Daryl’s back and holding tight to him.

“You okay?” Daryl asked over the rumble of the bike and you nodded but didn’t look up.

As Rick had said, the service area was quite out of the beaten track and was also rather smaller than you had expected. It consisted of which seemed to have been a bar or restaurant for travelers to rest and a gas station a few meters away.

“They won’t catch up to us for a while,” Daryl told you when he saw you worriedly glancing towards the road where you had left the walkers.

You headed for the restaurant first. There were a couple of cars parked in front of it and you walked towards one, leaving the other for Daryl. There was a dead woman on the passenger seat, but she wasn’t moving, seeming dead for real and when you pulled her out of the vehicle, trying not to think much about it, you saw the bullet hole on her temple.

There weren’t much to scavenge inside besides car papers and licenses. You only found a pack of gums and a pair of sunglasses that you tried on, deciding they didn’t look bad. And the woman wasn’t going to need them anymore.

“Any luck?” You asked Daryl, tossing him the gums. “Well’ it’s something...” You let out a sigh when he showed you a pack of chocolate cookies. They were probably melted and out of date but you weren’t going to say no to chocolate.

“Come on.” Daryl headed to the building and you followed him.

It was too dark inside too see anything through the windows and they were too dirty anyway, but when Daryl knocked on the glass nothing happened. The door was held closed with a metal bar, which was never a good signal, but you couldn’t just leave empty handed and no walker had come to the windows no when Daryl knocked, so between you and Daryl, you managed to remove it. Turning on your lanterns, you opened the door and stepped inside.

First the smell then the sight made your stomach turn and you almost gagged. There were several bodies scattered around, half rotten and more than half eaten. Walking closer you saw all of them had a neat bullet hole in the middle of their forehead.

“Like they were executed or something...” Daryl muttered.

“What happened here?” You asked but he just shrugged.

You had goosebumps on your skin, a horrible feeling washing over you and you couldn’t wait to be out of there so you rushed to explore. You knew you couldn’t carry much with you in the bags attached to the motorbike, but you hoped you could find some useful stuff. To your disappointment, the place seemed empty.

You were so sure the place was empty of walkers that when you heard one crawling towards your direction from a corridor you almost jumped out of your skin. You aimed quickly, landing a perfect headshot. Judging by the state of the corpse, it seemed it’d been trapped there for a while.

“Why I can’t do that with the crossbow.” You complained and heard Daryl chuckling.

Unable to find anything useful in the restaurant main area or in the bar beside broken alcohol bottles, you went to the kitchen. You found another two walkers there which also looked dried out and half rotten. They were munching on the remains of which seemed to have been a person once, but there wasn’t much left. You felt almost sick at the sight but Daryl acted quick, shooting an arrow to the head of one and sinking his knife in the head of the other.

“I don’t think that’s sanitary...” You joked nervously when Daryl took back his arrow and cleaned the gore on his shirt.

You had more luck there, even if just a little. The kitchen seemed to have been emptied already too, and the food and produce were rotten but you managed to find hidden a few cans of tuna, some others of spam and a couple cans of beans.

“Better than nothing.” You said to Daryl while you get the cans inside your bags, knowing he’d been hoping for a bigger haul.

You left the restaurant and headed towards the gas station without much hope, but after scooping around Daryl managed to find two fuel bottles which lifted his mood immediately and you couldn’t help your smile when you saw his.

“Let’s head back,” Daryl told you and you nodded.

You stopped in your tracks after a couple of steps when you heard a small cry coming from somewhere close. The sound was so soft you thought you might have imagined it, but Daryl looked at you like he’d heard it too.

“There.” He pointed at some worn-out cardboard boxes next to a wall.

You walked closer and heard again a tiny whimper coming from a cardboard box that was covered by several other holed cardboards.

Daryl lifted the cardboards so you could see what was inside the box, and you gasped, not sure if you were more shocked or delighted at the sight of what you found.

There were three kittens inside, lying over a cat you supposed was their mother. She gave you a soft mew and looked at you warily, but didn’t move. She seemed very tired and you guessed she hadn’t had the chance to eat much lately.

“Kittens!” You couldn’t help your squeal and knelt down to watch them. “They’re so cute, I never thought I’d see kittens again...”

Daryl knelt down next to you with a worried frown, and now that your initial, delighted surprise was ebbing you worried too.

“What do we do? We can’t just leave them here...” They were bound to be walkers food if a group found them.

“It’s not like they’d be safer with us, Y/N, we don’t have a safe place or anything,” Daryl told you, but he seemed reluctant to leave them there too. “And I’m not sure we could take them on the bike.”

You knew it was true but it still broke your heart. The kittens weren’t newborn but they were tiny enough it’d take them a couple weeks at the very least to be able to survive on their own.

“But the herd is coming, they’ll find them...” You whimpered disgruntled.

You watched as Daryl carefully let one of his hands hover over the box as if to see if the mother would attack him or not before lowering it. One of the kittens lifted his head and got up, walking towards the hand and Daryl reached his finger, letting the kitten give him a shy sniff.

“We can try and get them a safer home than a cardboard box.” Daryl finally said, getting up and looking around. “There.” He nodded towards the other side of the gas station where there were some broken pallets and small wooden planks on the floor.

You helped Daryl carry everything he deemed useful back to the box. You weren’t sure of what he wanted to do, but you followed his instructions as he placed and stacked the pieces of wood here and there. Soon it began to take form and by the end, he had created some sort of wooden fortification around the box.

“Aren’t they trapped inside now?” You asked worriedly.

“Nah.” He pointed at the tiny holes between each wooden plank. “They can breathe through there, and that,” he pointed at a slightly bigger hole at the back, half hidden, “allows them to go in an out but it’s not on sight. They better be smart enough to keep quiet, though.”

“You are amazing Daryl Dixon.” You smiled in awe, but he just scoffed, looking down as his cheeks turned pink.

Carefully, Daryl lifted the couple planks that served as a roof so you could take a last look at the kittens. They were more awake now, inspecting the planks, some of them even trying to scratch the wood with their tiny nails.

“Careful with the noise there.” Daryl scolded, gently tapping the head of one of the kittens with his finger, earning himself the smallest bite.

Slowly, you scratched the mother behind the ears and soon she was purring. “I love cats purring, I never thought I’d hear it again...” You smiled blissfully, scratching one of the kittens now.

“You think Rick’d be mad if we give them some of that tuna we found?” You asked uncertainly. You knew Rick had a good heart but he’d probably not trade his family food for some kittens he hadn’t even seen.

“We could not tell him...” Daryl replied but he sounded unsure as if he didn’t like to lie to Rick.

“I’ll tell him it was my fault.” You offered.

“No, it’s fine.” Daryl was already taking a can of tuna out of the bag and he let it next to the mother after opening it. The cat sniffed at it curiously and then began to eat from it as if she were starving, one of the kittens sticking his head on it too. They seemed hungry and you ended up leaving them almost half of your tuna cans haul and one of spam.

“Ready?” Daryl asked after putting the wooden roof back in place safely.

“Yeah.” You nodded and followed him to his bike. “Thanks for this.” Daryl just shrugged at your words, looking away from you as he got onto his bike.

You looked at the road and saw that the small group of walkers you had passed earlier that day was getting closer. No matter if it was small, you shuddered at the idea of having to zigzag through them on the bike again.

“I hope they’ll be okay...” You gave a last worried look at the kitten fort before getting behind Daryl on the bike and held to him.

“They’ll be,” Daryl assured you, turning the engine on as soon as he felt your arms around him. “Probably those walkers will follow the sound of the bike away from here...we gotta lose them before reaching the camp, tho...”

You were glad for the kittens although the perspective for your trip didn’t sound good at all, but you nodded and gritted your teeth, holding tight to Daryl, trusting him to get you home safely.

He did, although you arrived at the camp when the sun was almost down already and you were greeted by the worried eyes and worried questions of your friends before Rick cleared his way to you.

“You alright?” He questioned, his eyes easing when he took in your unharmed state. “What took you so long?”

Daryl looked at you for a second and spoke before you could do so. “Walkers on the way. The usual.” He shrugged, avoiding Rick’s eyes, and you nodded a bit too eagerly at his words, wanting to keep the kittens secret just in case.

Rick arched an eyebrow at you two like he didn’t believe Daryl but didn’t question any further and he began helping you unpack your little haul, face lifting when he saw the fuel bottles tied to the bike, that’d allow your group to keep moving for a while.

“You had us worried,” Carol told you while you kept her company during watch duty. “We always come back before the sun goes down, no matter what.”

It was obvious she hadn’t believed Daryl’s excuses, she knew you both and knew you were hiding something, and you bit your lip, wanting to tell her.

“Don’t tell the other’s okay?” You finally said quietly and Carol nodded, a smile tugging at her lips and a playful look in her eyes. “We found kittens!” You smiled like an idiot again at the memory. “But the walkers were close so Daryl made them a tiny refuge of wood, it was amazing, that’s why we took longer, and...”

“Kittens!” Carol’s chuckle interrupted you and she shook her head. “And here I was thinking Daryl and you had stopped to have some quality time together...”

“What?!” You blinked in disbelieve, not sure if she was really suggesting what you were thinking.

“I think Rick thought the same when he heard your sad excuses and saw your guilty faces and that’s why he didn’t go harder on you.” Carol kept talking and you felt mortified it had been so obvious you were lying. “He knows that’s why Glenn and Maggie take longer on runs sometimes...”

“Well, it’s not the case!” Your voice went louder than you wanted, your cheeks blushing at her insinuations. “How could you think that...you know it’s not like that...” You lowered your voice again.

“Why, you seem to spend a lot of time together lately...and well, you have this look on your face sometimes when you are together...” Carol shrugged smirking.

“We also spend a lot of time with you and that doesn’t mean anything!” You groaned, pointedly ignoring her remark about the look that you might or might not have when you looked at Daryl.

“That’s cos none of you’d been brave enough to make a move on me yet.” Carol winked at you and you couldn’t help but snort a laugh, some of your tensions leaving you.

“We know you’re out of our league.” You nudged her shoulder with yours. You shouldn’t have taken her words so seriously, knowing she liked to tease and embarrass you sometimes.

Later that night, though, you found yourself thinking again and again about her words, wondering if you had reacted like that because maybe she had hit close home. You could deny it to everyone in your family, to yourself even, but you had begun to harbor feelings for the archer that you couldn’t strictly label as platonic, no matter if you tried.

They grew every day, with every run together, every shared guard duty, every conversation, no matter how much you tried to stomp on those blooming feelings, sure they wouldn’t do you any good. But they resisted, didn’t go away no matter how hard you tried.

Daryl was attractive, of course he was, but it was more than that. You admired him, how he’d been able to grow and become the person he was now, despite what the world had put him through since he was a kid. You trusted him completely and you loved his big heart, he was kind and compassionate, a genuinely good person in an awful world, you had seen it again today. He was loyal to your group no matter what, caring for all of you way more than for himself, always making sure you were okay and helping you in every way he could.

Your heart was starting to beat fast, fast, and you forced yourself and your mind to stop. Daryl was your friend, you were happy he appreciated you and felt comfortable with you. If he knew what was on your mind, he’d probably freak out, he might even close himself to you again, putting distance between you two, and that was something you couldn’t bear. So you were determined to sit on your feelings until they went away, to ignore them and cut off that silly crush before it could ruin your friendship.

You were about to give up on the idea of sleeping at all when you heard T-Dog alerting you of walkers approaching. You jumped on your feet and helped your family gather your scarce belongings, throwing them onto the vehicles to leave as fast as possible.

On the move again.

Chapter Text

Slowly, seasons changed again.

You couldn’t even be sure in which month you were anymore, but you could feel the cold of winter gave way to a warm and humid spring that had you drenched in sweet whenever you’d to run from walkers or scavenge for supplies.

You weren’t going to complain though, you’d been so cold during winter you thought you might just freeze one night and never wake up, though you couldn’t deny you felt totally disgusting covered in sweet and dust more often than not.

Your cars, which had protected you from the cold and wind all winter, were now becoming ovens that you all resented. No matter you drove with the windows open, four or five people crammed inside it were a bit too much. Carol and you would draw lots anytime you had to hit the road to see who’d get to go with Daryl on his bike, the fresh and cold wind as he sped up the road a welcome change from the stuffy atmosphere of the cars.

Lori’s growing and growing belly was also a way for you to track the pass of time, but by this point it seemed it couldn’t get any bigger. You hadn’t imagined she would get that big and were honestly amazed she was able to keep up with everything without complaint.

You could see it in her face, though, how exhausted and scared she was. In Rick’s face too, in his desperate search for a place where she could be safe and his baby could be born. You all were afraid she would have to just deliver there, in the middle of the road or the woods, wherever you were staying, walkers not far.

It was a terrifying idea and you all took good care in never saying anything like that in front of the Grimes, but it was obvious they were worried about it too.

***

You stood silent, half hidden behind a tree, Daryl’s crossbow on hand, aiming at a rabbit that was oblivious to your presence, eating grass a couple of meters away. It was very cute and for a moment you felt a pang of sadness in your heart thinking about what you were about to do, about killing that beautiful living animal. Then your stomach growled, reminding you that your group was in desperate need of food, you hadn’t had much luck scavenging lately.

You tightened your jaw, took a deep breath, aimed and shot...Your arrow missed the target and the rabbit ran away startled.

“Shit, fuck.”

You grumbled under your breath and heard Daryl’s quiet chuckle from behind you. You shot him an angry look and he said nothing but still seemed amused at you.

“Give me that.” He took the crossbow back. “Gotta get us something to eat.”

“I’m still half asleep anyway...” You muttered grumpily.

Your group had made camp last night in a clearing in the woods, not far from the road, as night was starting to fall and you hadn’t found any place with a roof to stay. Next to it was a small creek, clear of walkers, which was a welcome sight to your dirty and sore group.

You hadn’t even bothered pinching your tents, when walkers appeared suddenly there wasn’t much time to dismantle them, so as the weather went milder you tried to camp only with your sleep bags and blankets.

You’d woken up when the sun was just a dim light at the east and had turned around hoping to fall asleep again, but then had seen Daryl already up and about, shouldering his crossbow, ready to go hunting. You had quickly got up, wanting to practice your aim and maybe catch a thing or two about tracking and hunting, knowing how valuable those skills were in this world.

It was hard, though, so hard you were starting to believe you would never learn, though every time you complained discouraged Daryl just shrugged telling you it wasn’t rocket science and that you’d get better.

He had stopped not far from the camp, totally silent as he pointed to you the rabbit. He had carefully handed over the crossbow to you, trying not to make any sound and you held your breath as you aimed.

And there you were now, shot failed, rabbit gone. Just great.

“Are you okay going back to the camp alone?”

You nodded, hand over the holster of your gun. “I’m way better with this than with that damn thing.”

You knew Daryl wanted to go hunting deeper into the woods and even though he didn’t say it, you were painfully aware that you’d slow him down and maybe scare the game away, and right now he couldn’t afford to waste any opportunities to bring food to your family.

“Be careful okay?”

Daryl went out hunting alone on a daily basis and even though he was one of your most skilled fighters, you worried every time. It wasn’t safe to be alone in this world, for anyone. He could be attacked by a sudden herd of walkers at any given moment...he always returned safe and sound, though.

He nodded before disappearing further into the woods.

Back at the camp, the others were starting to get up, besides Glenn and Maggie who’d been on watch when you left and were now curling up together for an early morning nap. Carol raised her hand in greeting while she put together some breakfast and you made your way to the creek.

You cursed under your breath as you slowly got into the freezing water. You hadn’t got any soap but you scrubbed yourself harshly anyway until the dusk stuck to your skin washed off and then you dipped your head under the water, rubbing your fingers through your hair, which reached past your jaw now, and scrubbing at your scalp until it felt less greasy.

By the time you got out of the water, you felt numb from the coldness but way more refreshed and rested than you had felt in a long while, not to mention clean. Greasy hair and dirty skin was something none of you minded anymore but it felt so good to be clean again.

Later that morning you were doing some laundry with Carol and Lori, taking advantage of the close creek and the sunny day that would dry the clothes, when you heard the sound of Carl’s laughter. It was something you hadn’t heard in long, too long, as the kid too felt the pressure of having to be always on the run, always scavenging and killing monsters, the desperate fight for survival stealing his childhood, turning him silent and sullen.

He looked like a kid now, though, laughing as he played-fought inside the water with Beth, Maggie, and Glenn, who’d just woken up from their nap, all of them squealing about the coldness of the water, trying to keep it quiet.

You couldn’t help your smile watching them and it grew bigger when you saw the glee in Lori’s eyes as he saw them. You knew she worried about Carl the most and that their relationship was strained.

Even Rick, as serious as he always was and as stressed as he always looked, was smiling softly at the sight while he kept watch over the camp.

Daryl didn’t come back until the evening and you gasped a little at the blood that spattered his arm. It wasn’t much but still, it was blood. Rick saw it too and made his way towards the archer to question him.

“Found two walkers in the woods, but there aren’t any close, I made sure as I came back.” He assured Rick who seemed to relax ever so slightly, considering he was always on edge.

“You are not getting any dinner until you wash off that blood,” Carol told Daryl as she took the couple rabbits he’d managed to hunt to skin them, and you chuckled softly when you heard him grumbling as he made his way towards the water.

He came back with his hair dripping water as he shook it and sat down to help Carol with the rabbits. He worked methodically but you could feel he was frustrated and you sat down next to him.

“We’re lucky we eat fresh meat instead of canned food so often...” You said casually, trying to talk him out of his bad mood.

“Not that these rabbits are gonna feed us much.” He grumbled.

 “It’s something. I’m tired of those canned beans and we have barely any left...but you’re always bringing us meat...” You head-butted his arm and he scoffed but gave you a reluctant, small smile.

He wanted to bring bigger pieces, you knew, and anytime he didn’t manage he’d get angry with himself. Still, you ate thanks to him, food being scarce to find as you were always moving from place to place without much time to go on runs, and the places that hadn’t been raided already were bustling with walkers. It bothered you that Daryl didn’t seem to see how important he was for the group.

That night you weren’t able to sleep, a usual thing for you whenever you had to sleep in the woods, in the open air. You felt vulnerable, hearing imagining sounds of walkers when you were about to fall asleep. It had happened a few times before, a herd of walkers suddenly showing up and making their way through the trees towards your camp. You always had time to leave before they were on you, though, but you lived in fear of the day you might not realize it on time.

Daryl was on watch and you got up and tiptoed your way towards him, carefully as not to wake up those of you who’d managed to fall asleep.

“I can’t sleep.” You complained, sitting down next to him. “So I can keep watch if you want to sleep.”

“Nah, I’ll sleep when it’s T-Dog’s turn.”

You nodded and hugged your knees, resting your head on them as you closed your eyes, a headache beginning to form for the lack of sleep.

“There aren’t any geeks close.” You heard Daryl’s voice. “And if they come I’ll see them.”

“I know...” You assured in a whisper. “Can’t help but be scared tho...”

Neither of you said anything else for a moment, as Daryl kept watch over the camp and you tried to relax enough to sleep.

“Those cats we found must be young adults by now...” The image of the kittens had sprung to your mind while you were half-awake half-asleep. “I wonder if they still live in the house you made them.”

You smiled at the memory. You knew there was a big chance they’d ended up being walker’s food but you refused to acknowledge it. They were safe and sound in your mind and memory.

“If we keep going in circles maybe we’ll get close enough to check...” Daryl replied quietly.

You stood silent. You didn’t want to check in case you found evidence that the kittens had met a deadly end

Besides, you couldn’t just keep going in circles. There weren’t many places to find supplies that you hadn’t already cleaned of that weren’t full of geeks, and you hadn’t find any place where you could settle for long. The herds of walkers kept moving and cutting your paths, making you go in circles or backtrack all the time.

It was frustrating and you could see Rick growing more and more tired and irritated each day, everyone in the group tense and exhausted.

“Did you have any pets before?” You asked Daryl, wanting to take your mind away from your anxious thoughts for a moment.

He shook his head. “My father didn’t like them. You?”

“Not really, but the cats at the village were kind of everyone’s. Also, my best friend had a dog that I saw every day and I loved it as if he were mine...” You felt a pang of sadness thinking about them.

You knew by now that you would never see anyone of your life before again, no friend or family. It didn’t make you break down and cry as it used to anymore, but it hurt nonetheless. You always tried to keep up the fantasy in your head that they were all alive and safe somewhere, with a group maybe, even though you knew it was delusional.

“I don’t want to check on the cats, I want to pretend they’re alive and well...like I do with my friends, with mother and brother...” You explained to Daryl.

“They might be alive, you don’t know...”

It was sweet of him to say that, you though, but his words didn’t make you feel better.

“Daryl, you had seen how the world is now as much as me...” You gave him a sad smile.  “I might be delusional but I’m not an idiot...if they are out there I know they’re most probably dead.

“We’re out here and we ain’t dead.” Daryl shrugged.

“Yeah...yeah, I guess you’re right...thanks.”

You smiled again, grateful for his words as he tried to lift your mood. You nudged his arm with your shoulder and he gave you a crocked, small smile that always made you feel better, before looking back at the forest. You stood silent now, taking comfort on his reassuring presence, trying to believe his words.

You didn’t realize you had fallen asleep sitting down there until you felt a shift of movement next to you when Daryl got up, and you opened your eyes to see T-Dog coming to keep watch now. He seemed amused at your half asleep self and you grumbled some nonsense, getting on your feet too and stumbling towards your sleeping bag, managing to sleep for a couple of hours before the sun went up and you had to move again.

Your group spent the following days on the go but still close to the creek so you could easily cool off, the weather growing warmer and warmer. The shelters were scarce and walkers found them after you were able to rest for just a few hours. Herds of walkers kept cutting roads and paths, blocking your way, forcing you to study maps all the time, trying to guess where you should go next.

You were washing clothes and cooling off in the creek, all of you in your lowest point, desperation, and exhaustion clear in everyone’s face. Lori was sitting down, resting against a tree, face pale and eyes closed, hand on her belly and you exchanged a worried glance with Carol.

Lori didn’t seem to be doing that good lately, she didn’t eat enough, didn’t get enough rest and was forced to move from place to place, running away from the dead. If things kept going like that, it seemed Lori might have to deliver her baby in the middle of nowhere and you knew the idea was hunting Rick.

He and Daryl had gone out hunting and when they came back Rick had a smile and a glimmer of hope in his eyes you hadn’t seen in a long time, maybe never, and that was at odds with the fact they were only bringing back a few squirrels. Daryl was bound to be pissed with such a scarce booty, but he didn’t look like it.

They explained they had found a prison nearby, fences still standing. The downside was that the perimeter was full of walkers, but Rick was positive you might be able to clear it. You could understand why Rick and Daryl seemed so hopeful about it, the idea of having fences separating you from the monsters was too good to ignore it, not to mention the potential safety of the strong walls of the prison. You were worried about clearing the walkers, though, it seemed they were more than what you were used to handling.

Still, it was your best chance so you all went there, wanting to see it by yourselves and see what could be done about it. r

You began by cleaning the walkers close to the first fence while Rick cut an opening in it, tying it close again with some wire after you all were safe inside. Just the feeling of having those fences around you, even if you hadn’t reached the yard yet, made you feel safer, though the walkers kept pushing at the fences dangerously, excited by your presence.

Rick wanted to take the field surrounding the yard of the prison, for which you needed to close the door that was getting the walkers in from the yard, and then kill all of the geeks that were inside already. It was dangerous but Rick seemed to already have a plan of action prepared and at that moment you felt totally proud of your leader. Now the plan had to work.

Rick would run to close the gate and you all had your part in the plan. Daryl, Carol and you’d climb to one of the watchtowers and Hershel and Carl to the other to cover him while T-Dog, Maggie, Glenn, and Beth tried to bring the walkers attention to them instead of Rick by making noise next to the safety of the fences.

“Sorry...”

Carol murmured when one of his bullets almost hit Rick’s feet and you chuckled nervously. It was hard, shooting from so far away but you did your best, and you howled with happiness when Rick managed to close the door and then quickly hide in another tower. With your combined efforts the field was soon clean of walkers.

“We did it!” You cheered, jumping and hugging Carol.

“Come here,” she giggled, pulling Daryl into a half hug with you both. He rolled his eyes, grumbling something and pulling away after a second but you could see his happy smile.

“Nice shooting,” he congratulated you both.

You rushed out of the watchtower, congratulating and hugging each other, running around the field. Even Rick had a big smile on his face, seeming to be rejuvenating by moments.

It was the best thing your group had come across since the farm.

Spirits were high as night fell and you were safe inside the fences, the walkers outside unable to get in. You roasted the squirrels Daryl had hunted for dinner and you felt totally content, safe and fed. Your smile just grew even bigger as T-Dog explained how you could dig a canal under the fence to have fresh water and Hershel assured the soil was good and you could grow crops in it. Yes, this was a place where you could live in. What all those months ago had seemed like Rick’s impossible dream was beginning to turn into reality.

Rick was keeping watch, patrolling the fence that separated you from the yard while Daryl kept watch at the other side, on top of the car that blocked the gates to the prison’s field.

Daryl hadn’t had any dinner and you saw Carol getting a plate ready for him before there wasn’t any food left. She winked at you, cracking a joke about him being unable to take care of himself unsupervised and made his way towards the car. She was right, most times Daryl would go without if he thought the others were hungry or Lori hadn’t had enough. It was sweet of him, sure, selfless and caring as he was, but still, he had to eat just as anyone and you worried about him. Carol wouldn’t have any of it, though, always reminding him to eat and winning any fight they might have about it.

You smiled warmly watching them joke around and chuckled softly when they made their way back to the group and you saw the blush that tainted Daryl’s cheeks. You smiled and raised your eyebrows at Carol, silently asking her what she had done to him this time.

“Don’t mind him, he wasn’t that shy two minutes ago... were you?” She teased Daryl who just blushed more and pushed her with his shoulder roughly.

“You are gonna have to tell me what was this about.” You giggled and Daryl seemed mortified so you let it go.

Beth and Maggie had started singing and you lied down, curling up on your blanket and resting your head on Carol’s thigh. The song and the voices of the Greenes were lovely and you closed your eyes, feeling more relaxed than you had been in a long, long while. You were about to fall asleep but your eyes snapped open when you heard Rick’s voice.

He explained how you had to do a last effort and clear the prison of walkers. It wasn’t only for the safety of the walls, which was a lot just on its own, but also he believed there must be supplies inside and an infirmary, commissary, armory...all the things you were in need of.

You knew he had a point, place was a gold mine, but it sounded too dangerous, especially having to go hand on hand as you were too low in ammo.

“After all we’ve been through...we can handle it, I know it. These assholes don’t stand a chance.”

Rick delivered, trying to lift the group’s spirits, and he sounded totally confident but he didn’t make you feel better about the plan. You were exhausted, all of you were, and it was a dangerous mission.

Before you realized it, though, you were falling asleep, your worries soon forgotten as you drifted into a peaceful sleep, finally feeling safe enough to let your guard down, protected by your family and the fences.

 

Next morning, Rick’s plan to take over the prison began. It was dangerous, sure, but you all knew the prison was your chance of surviving, your long sought haven, so there wasn’t much to discuss.

Rick, Daryl, Maggie, Glenn, and T-Dog, who were your best hand to hand fighters, would be the ones cleaning the first yard while Carol, Beth, Carl, Hershel and Lori stood outside, rattling the fences to bring walkers to them and killing them once they got close enough.

Your part in the plan was to stand on top of the watchtower with a rifle and your scarce ammo, shooting at any walker that might be a threat for the group inside the yard. They had deemed your aim good enough to help them like that, entrusting you with the remaining ammo you had, and you couldn’t be proudest. You were going to make sure you didn’t let Rick down.

It went smoother and better than you had expected, your group working in synchrony, all moving together in formation, bringing down walker after walker, and you couldn’t help but admire them, and be proud of them. There was a moment, when some walkers in riot gear attacked them,  that you held your breath in fear, but they managed to put down those too.

“Yes!” You cheered when they managed to chain the door, stopping walkers from coming into that yard which was now clean of them.

You saw them talking and then they made their way towards a cellblock, disappearing inside. You rushed out of the watchtower, running down the stairs.

“Where are they going?” You asked Carol, short of breath, but she just shrugged.

They came back bringing good news. The cellblock of that yard had been almost clear of walkers and it was free of them now. It was full of corpses and rubbish, though, and the group spent the next few hours cleaning it and getting it ready. It was hard work but none of you could complain, you were all elated at having a roof and sturdy walls, also surrounded by several fences, that protected you against the monsters and served as a refuge...this could be a home, maybe...

“You were right,” you squeezed Rick’s arm gratefully when he walked past you and he gave you a tight smile and a nod, congratulating you for your shooting skills.

He was as glad as any of you, but you knew he wanted to keep cleaning the rest of the prison, it was necessary if you wanted to live there and be safe for long. You also were in need of food and supplies and Lori needed you to find the infirmary.

But that would be in the morning, for now, it was time to rest and enjoy your hard-earned price.

“Thought it was Rick who was keeping watch?”

You walked towards Daryl who was walking up and down the fence that separated you from the other yard, walkers snarling through it.

“I ain’t keeping watch, just trying to guess how many of them are there.” He frowned looking at the monsters.

“We’ll take care of them, little by little, we’ll secure this place, it’ll be a home.” You assured him, sounding confident. You couldn’t remember the last time you had felt that hopeful. “Rick reckons we’ll find weapons and ammo.”

“We better...”

“Come on, let’s get back inside.” You squeezed Daryl’s arm gingerly. “They just get worse when they see us close...”

The geeks were starting to push harshly at the fences and they were starting to worry you a bit.

“Wait, I wanted to show you something.” Daryl turned towards you. “Got your knife?”

“Yeah...” You were puzzled but took your knife from your belt as he did the same.

“I know you are always complaining you can’t reach half of the walkers’ heads...” He began and you blushed, embarrassed.

“It’s not my fault I’m short...” You mumbled.

 “Look.”

He harshly grabbed one of the walkers from the other side of the fence, bringing it towards him and you recoiled a bit. You watched as Daryl stabbed his knife under the monster’s jaw and sank it up deeper until it reached the brain, the geek dropping dead as Daryl took back his knife and released it.

“Could be easier for you, stabbing them from below.”

“Maybe...” You weren’t very sure, you understood the theory but weren’t comfortable with the idea of being in such proximity to the monsters. Still, you knew you should better learn, it was a vital skill and if you wanted to help the group clear the prison, you couldn’t rely on guns always.

“Come, on, try.” Daryl was already holding a walker for you.

You were nervous about it but wanted to try and didn’t want to disappoint him so you stepped closer and sunk your knife under the monster’s head. It was hard, you had to push it up with strength, but you managed.

“That is.” Daryl encouraged you.

By the time Daryl and you went back into the prison you had managed to put down two more walkers, this time holding them yourself, and you were growing confident in yourself, even though you knew it would be a lot harder without the fence holding them away from you. At least you wouldn’t be so defenseless whenever you had to rely only on a knife.

Back inside everyone had already sorted their things into the cells. You had left your things inside the cell next to Lori’s and Carol’s, both of them sharing one in case Lori needed any help.

“You’re really gonna sleep on the floor instead of on a bed, with a soft mattress and all?” You shook your head in disbelieve at Daryl as he spread his sleeping bag and blankets over the perch.

“Ain’t sleeping in a cage.”

“It’s not a cage, it’s not even a cell anymore...”

You didn’t dare to call them ‘your rooms’ yet but that was almost what they were, what you hoped they’ll become as you made a home of that prison.

“Well, if you get tired of sleeping over concrete, top bunk of my cell is free...” You said, shrugging when Daryl remained silent, before making your way towards it.

You heard Carol and Lori talking inside hers and you joined them for a bit, chatting quietly in good-mood until you all went to sleep. You felt a bit strange, being alone there without Carol huddled next to you, without the others close, it was strange how silent everything was around you. But the bed was comfortable, the most comfortable you had had in so long, the walls sturdy making you feel safer than you ever had in this nightmarish world and soon you were fast asleep.

Chapter Text

Next morning, preparations to look for the infirmary and the cafeteria began.

“You sure you want to come?” Rick asked while he rummaged through all the weapons and stuff you had found for now, pulling out everything he deemed useful.

You nodded, but couldn’t deny you were nervous, probably you would be facing more walkers hand in hand than with your gun and you still didn’t feel confident enough. But still, you wanted to help, the more you were the easier the task would be. And going with the others made you feel safer, they’d have your back. Daryl, Maggie, Glenn, T-Dog and even Hershel were going too, while Carol would stay with Lori, Beth, and Carl.

Rick gave you one of the police batons, which you hoped would help you to keep walkers far enough from you, and you nodded thankfully. There were also some vests from the riot gear that suited T-Dog, Maggie, Hershel, and Glenn.

It was the best prepared you had ever been.

Rick and Daryl were ahead, the rest of you following them, ready for any threat that you might find on your way. The corridors were absolutely creepy, lit only by the light of your lanterns, it gave you goose bumps and there were half eaten corpses scattered around that turned your stomach. Luckily, for now there didn’t seem to be any walkers close.

The place was a true maze of corridors, all looking the same, making it easy to lose your way back, but Glenn had the good idea of marking the way you were following, painting arrows on the walls with spray paint.

The group kept moving deeper into the prison, holding your breath although it still seemed to be quite clear... That was until you took a turn and bumped right into a herd of walkers that made his way purposely towards you.

You all retreated quickly but more groups of walkers seemed to appear out of nowhere, cutting you off.

You couldn’t help your scream when you almost bumped into one but you hit him hard with your baton, making him stumble away and Maggie quickly drove her knife into its skull. A new outburst of monsters separated you both and Glenn from the others as you waited for them to walk away, hiding in a closet.

“Which way do you think they went?” Glenn whispered quietly once you were able to get out.

As in cue, a heart-wrenching scream cut through the air and you rushed towards it, your eyes opening in horror when you saw the bite that had torn off some of the flesh of Hershel’s leg, and you heard Maggie’s distressed scream as she took in his father’s state.

More walkers were making their way towards you but Rick and Glenn acted quick, carrying Hershel while Daryl stood in the rear in case walkers got too close as you all retreated until you found some sense of safety inside a room where you could close the door, Daryl and T-Dog struggling to keep it shut.

“Hold him down.”

You had frozen in shock and terror for a moment but Rick’s voice got through you and you snapped back to your senses. They had laid Hershel on the floor and Daryl left T-Dog dealing with the door to help Maggie and Glenn holding Hershel down.

You rushed to take Daryl’s place on the door, helping T-dog, and between him and you, you managed to close it with a metal bar.

“Oh my god...”

You turned around in time to see Rick hack off Hershel’s leg, delivering bow after bow until he managed to do so, and you felt you might just throw up.

“We should leave now...”

A voice came from inside the kitchen of the cafeteria and you couldn’t believe your eyes when you saw four alive men hiding in it, Daryl quickly training his crossbow on them in case they were hostile and making them get out off the kitchen slowly, T-Dog and you aiming your guns at them too as you saw they were armed.

You hadn’t any time to lose though, no matter your shocking encounter, you needed to get Hershel out of there and into your cellblock as soon as possible, the tourniquet Rick had made not doing much to stop him from bleeding out. Glenn and Maggie laid him on a kitchen trolley and T-Dog opened the door, you and him making quick work of the couple of walkers than got through it before Rick, Glenn and Maggie rushed out towards the corridor, pushing the trolley, T-Dog behind them.

“Daryl!”

You called for him and he backtracked, making his way to the door without stopping pointing his crossbow at the four men, before turning around and placing a hand on your shoulder as he rushed you behind the others.

You made your way back to your cellblock, trying to go fast but quietly as not to attract any walker, pushing at any of them you found on your way. Soon you realized the men were following you too and as soon as you reached your cellblock Daryl locked the door that led to your cells.

“What are you doing?” He grumbled when he saw you’d stayed back on the hall with T-Dog and him, waiting for the strangers.

He grabbed your arm like he was about to drag you into the other room with the others but you shook him off.

“It’s not like I can do anything for Hershel and he has the others. Carol, Maggie, and Beth know more about medicine, they can help him...” You reasoned. “I’m of more help here, in case those men are not friendly...”

“Not friendly? They’re convicts, they’re dangerous, you...”

Daryl was glaring at you but before he could say anything else the men walked through the door and he turned around, pushing you behind him and aiming his crossbow at them, T-Dog and you doing the same with your guns.

One of them seemed, in fact, not friendly as he pointed his gun at you but the others made him stop, knowing they were outgunned. Their heated argument with Daryl brought  Rick back into the hall to try to calm down the situation.

It seemed those men had been isolated in the cafeteria of the prison for a long while, not knowing anything about the apocalypse that had gone on outside be, they still thought the government and everything else was standing and seemed shocked at Rick’s revelations.

It was hard to believe so you walked them outside so they could see it for themselves. Soon a fight broke out between Rick and the dangerously looking convict since they seemed to want your cellblock and you obviously weren’t going to give it to them, but he was forced to calm down when he saw Daryl’s crossbow and T-Dog’s and your guns aimed at him again.

You’d been anxious and tense during the whole exchange, afraid a real fight might just break off between the convicts and you, wondering if you might need to shoot someone, but for your relief Rick seemed to reach an agreement with them.

You’d help them clear a cellblock for themselves and in exchange, you’d take half the food of the cafeteria, and also they would never get close to your cell block, Rick threatening to kill them on sight.

       _____________________________________________________

Later that day, onnce you had secured your new food supplies in a couple of cells, Rick, T-Dog and Daryl began to get ready to help the convicts clear a cellblock. You had offered your help so they’d have another gun with them and weren’t outnumbered, even though you were feeling a bit insecure, not sure you were going to be helpful.

Rick’d wanted you to stay in the cellblock, though, he wanted you to be there for Maggie and Beth, along with Glenn, in case the worst happened and Hershel turned. Carol was busy taking care of Hershel so Rick also wanted you to keep an eye on Lori, especially worried about his wife now that Hershel was incapacitated.

You were all in Hershel’s cell, anxiously waiting for him to wake up, alive or dead, when Carl showed up proudly announcing he had found the infirmary by himself. It was something you needed, sure, but it was dangerous and reckless of him and you chastised yourself, you should have kept an eye on the kid while his parents were busy, he could have ended up worse than Hershel.

There wasn’t much time for scolding, though, the supplies he had brought allowing you to take better care of Hershel, Carol, and Maggie making quick work of it as they worked on his stump.

“Ey, I need your help with something...” Carol said to you and Glenn once she was done bandaging Hershel’s stump.

As she explained to you how she wanted to use a walker to practice doing a c-cut, you could see Glenn was a disgusted as you about the idea. She explained it was probable that Lori’d need a c-cut and how she didn’t have experience on it, just the theory Hershel had explained her.

She sunk her metal bar into the head of one of the walkers and between her and you, you carried it back inside while Glenn distracted the other geeks away from you, loudly rattling the fence.

“It’s not only that I can cut the baby if I’m not careful...” She explained as she began cutting through the dead women’s belly and you looked away, Glenn having gone back to the cellblock to check on Maggie. “I can just kill Lori...there was a chance of her dying for this even if Hershel did it...”

She sounded so uncertain, so worried, that you felt fear clutch your heart. You’d worried about Lori’s baby, about her delivering it in the middle of nowhere, but you’d never thought she could die, hadn’t known she might need a c-section.

Please, let Lori had her baby safely. Place let Hershel wake up alive. You prayed, not knowing to who, you just prayed.

“It’s okay, Carol.” You weakly tried to comfort her, squeezing her shoulder and trying not to throw up at the sight of what she was doing. “I know you can do it.”

She gave you a tight, sad smile, but said nothing, focusing on practice.

***

Back inside, you finally had good news as not only Rick, Daryl and T-Dog had come back unarmed but also Hershel had awoken, seemingly alright, and you rushed to greet him with happy tears in your eyes.

Carl proudly explained how Hershel had stopped breathing but her mother had brought him back, seeming not angry at her mother anymore, but she and Rick were nowhere to be seen, you hoped they were together, finally talking and sorting things out.

“Ey, everything okay?” You asked quietly to Daryl after leaving Hershel’s cell, letting Maggie, Beth and Glenn had a moment of intimacy with him.. “Any problems?”

“Those convicts didn’t know shit about killing geeks.” He shrugged, not looking at you. “One got bit. One of his own killed him and then tried to do the same to Rick but he killed him first.”

“Shit...”

 “Another one tried to attack us too but Rick locked him out in a yard full of walkers, they must have eaten him by now...”

He had it coming, sure, but you shuddered at the idea anyway. It seemed a lot of things had happened while you had been outside with Carol.

“The other two didn’t seem to want any trouble so we left them in a cleared cellblock.”

You stood silent, trying to digest what Daryl had said. You had known those convicts were probably not good, but you had never thought you’d be fighting against other alive people, even forced to kill them...in this world full of monsters, you’d thought you’d help each other against them...but of course, people had always been dangerous.

The idea made your mood fall and you looked down, saddened.

“We’re safe here,” Daryl told you, seeming to mistake your sadness with worry.

“I know...” You assured him in a whisper. “I just...I never thought we’d be killing people...”

Daryl said nothing, just chewed on his thumb and you both stood silent for a moment.

Killing people...you knew it had to be done, knew those two convicts were a dangerous a threat, they had tried to kill your own, but still, you weren’t sure you’d be able to bring yourself to kill them. You didn’t envy Rick’s position.

A moment later Lori and Rick came back into the cellblock and you made your way towards your leader.

“Hey, Rick...” You greeted awkwardly. “You know we’re grateful for everything you do for us, right?”

“Yeah...” He gave you half a smile, seeming amused. “What’s gotten into you?”

“Nothing, just...” You shrugged, not sure how to put into words how much you appreciate what he and the rest of your family did for you and for each other. “Thanks.”

Rick gave you a nod, still smiling, and squeezed your shoulder.

“You sorted things out?” You nodded towards Lori, hoping Rick didn’t think you were being nosy, you genuinely cared.

“I don’t know...” Rick frowned, letting out a sigh. “But we are on the way, maybe...”

“Good, that’s good.”

You squeezed his shoulder in return and you both made your way towards the hall as Carol called you for dinner.

 

A couple of days had passed since you took the prison and things were looking bright.

Having found the cafeteria, infirmary and also the armory, now you had medicines and supplies, ammo and more weapons, not to mention a good assortment of food.

All in all, it was the best your family had ever been and you all were counting your blessings.

There were still walkers in some cellblocks but not in the areas nearer to yours, and you were clearing them little by little, several fences separating you from them. The two convicts had come to beg Rick to allow them into your cellblock, his being littered with the dead bodies of his friends and acquaintances and they were unable to take them and burn them since his side of the yard was still full of walkers. You understood Rick’s negative, after what had happened with the other convicts but still, you couldn’t help but feel a bit sorry for the two men.

You had talked with Carol and Daryl about it, but they didn’t share your opinion, thinking it was too much of a risk that could cost you everything you had so hardly fought for.

“We can’t just throw people away because they’re not our own...”

You all had been strangers to each other too when you first met and were now family, sometimes you’d to take a chance on people, but it seemed none but Hershel and T-Dog agreed with you, all were too worried about the potential threat.

At least you were still allowing the convicts to stay inside the prison instead of just sending them away to a world full of monsters.

Hershel was getting better real fast and he seemed to not have lost is good humor and hopeful nature, his accident and missing leg not bringing him down at all, staying so positive it was admirable.

You had found him a couple crutches and today Carl and Beth had finished getting them ready, so now you were with them and Lori strolling around the cellblock as Hershel tested them, seeming good with them already, even cracking jokes with Carl.

Maggie, Carol, and T-Dog joined you, having finished driving into the prison the vehicles you had left outside when you arrived, hiding them from sight. You half hugged Maggie, kissing her cheek as she laughed on delight at his father improvement.

It was a good day for sure.

You saw Rick, Glenn, and Daryl greeting you from the other side of the fence still sorting things out, and you waved at them, big smile on your face. Then you saw their faces fall, eyes widening in fear at the same time you heard Carl’s shout, warning you there were walkers coming.

You turned around and saw several of them making their way towards you.

You almost froze in fear but you gave yourself a shake, quickly getting ready for the fight. You had to take Hershel out of there. Now.

You, T-Dog, Carol and Lori began shooting at the walkers as Hershel limped his way towards the cellblock, Beth trying to help him.

“Go help her!” Maggie shouted at you and you shook your head, they needed you there.

“Come on, Y/N! Beth can’t help daddy alone!”

You bit your lip but finally nodded, running towards Beth and Hershel, letting him wrap an arm around your shoulders and helping Beth walk him back inside the fences that separated the cellblock from the yard, watching in distress how Maggie, Lori, and Carl rushed into another cellblock while Carol and T-Dog ran away from the herd of walkers, looking for another refuge.

“No!” Beth screamed and you gasped in horror, you couldn’t believe your eyes when you saw T-Dog being bitten by one of the monsters, but he just kept running with Carol into another cellblock.

“You can’t go out there!”

Beth tried to stop you when you opened the gate but you pushed her away, running outside the fence, ready to follow Carol and T-Dog, shooting wildly at the walkers around. They were closing on you but then Rick, Glenn, and Daryl finally showed up, clearing the walkers of the yard, although they were stumbling towards you from other yards too, until Glenn managed to close the fence again.

“Where are you going?!”

Daryl grabbed your arm when you tried to run towards the cellblock in which Carol and T-Dog had disappeared.

“Carol is in there!” You explained, distressed. “We don’t know how many walkers are in there! And T-Dog...he was bitten, he’s with her...”

Daryl nodded, eyes on the cellblock, but before you both could make a move towards it, an alarm started blasting. That would only bring more and more monsters to you. You could already see them, making their way from the woods towards the prison. You tried not to panic, but you were terrified.

Following Rick’s lead, you all shoot at the speakers but the sound wouldn’t stop coming. You didn’t even know how that was possible, the prison hadn’t seemed to have any kind of electricity. Oscar, the prisoner, explained it must be the backup generators.

You had to rush and turn them off before it brought every single walker from the forest to you.

“Y/N, wait.” Rick stopped you. “Someone is doing this to us, if they were to show up I don’t want Hershel and Beth alone. You have to protect our cellblock.”

You bit your lip, not wanting to hide behind a fence without helping to stop this, but there wasn’t time to argue so you nodded and made your way back behind the fences as he, Daryl and Glenn ran away, following Oscar and Axel.

You kept eyeing the cellblock in which Carol and T-Dog had disappeared. The yard was now clear but you knew you couldn’t leave Beth and Hershel alone, if something happened to them Rick wouldn’t forgive you, neither would you forgive yourself. And you weren’t stupid, you knew that getting in there without backup was a suicide.

“They made it...” You murmured when the alarm stopped.

A moment later, Rick, Daryl, and Glenn came running back into the yard, asking for Lori. You jumped down the stairs, rushing out of the cellblock fence to meet them.

“Carol, T-Dog?”

“They didn’t make it,” Daryl muttered, looking down.

“What?” You were in shock, unable to process his words.

“Found T-Dog’s body...” Glenn said quietly.

“And this.” Daryl passed you Carol’s bloodstained scarf.

“No. No, it can’t be...” You shook your head without taking the scarf from Daryl’s hand, tears starting to fall down your cheeks.

It couldn’t be true. They couldn’t be gone. Carol couldn’t be gone. You should have done something, you should have gone with her, shouldn’t have let them go alone into a cellblock full of walkers.

“We’re going back!”

Rick announced distressed, he wanted to go looking for Lori, Maggie, and Carl. Before he could say another word, a baby’s cry broke through the air and you turned around to see a bloodstained, sobbing Maggie holding a baby, Carl right behind her.

Lori wasn’t there and judging by Carl and Maggie’s faces and appearance, all you knew what had happened. It was a nightmare. You closed your eyes, not wanting to see anything but Rick’s wails were breaking your heart. Carl...and that poor baby, what were they going to do?

T-Dog, Lori, Carol...you couldn’t take it anymore and you fell your knees giving up but before you could fall down to the floor, an arm held you upright and you opened your eyes to see Daryl wrapping his arm around your waist, holding you to him.

“How did this happen to us? Everything was good.” You sobbed.

“That prisoner Rick threw out,” Daryl said bitterly, voice tight with emotion. “Oscar killed him, guess those two are in our side.”

You guessed that was good, but you couldn’t be glad about anything at that moment.

Rick had fallen onto the floor, seeming totally out of himself. He was now silent and staring vacantly into the distance. Daryl let go of you, giving your arm a last reassuring squeeze, and he knelt next to Rick, trying to talk to him, trying to make him go back to his senses, but to no avail.

You went to Maggie, hugging her after she passed the baby to Carl. “I’m okay...” She whispered, but she seemed still half in shock for what you knew she’d been forced to do.

Daryl seemed to have given up on Rick for now, letting him process his pain the way he seemed to need, and was now focusing his attention in the newborn, asking Hershel what you could feed her.

You hadn’t thought about that, Lori was supposed to be there, breastfeeding her baby, keeping her safe...you didn’t have anything to feed her at all, she needed baby formula soon or she’d weaken, maybe die...you couldn’t think about something so horrible.

Daryl sprung into action quickly, determined to do anything in his hand to keep the baby girl healthy and safe, deciding to go on a run with Maggie to find formula and getting in charge of the situation as Rick was still incapacitated.

“Kid just lost his mum.” You heard him say quietly to Beth, glancing at Carl with worry. “His dad ain’t doing so hot.”

“I’ll look out for him.” Beth nodded, sounding determined.

You stole a glance towards Carl. He seemed to be holding it together better than his father, but there was something in his face, in his eyes, that brought goosebumps to your skin. What that poor kid had had to endure.

Maggie was ready to leave, having pinpointed a place in the map where she thought she might find baby formula but that wasn’t accessible by car, just by bike.

For a moment, Rick seemed to go back to his senses, but then he was picking up an axe and disappearing into a cellblock without a word, a murderous look on his eyes. You all worried for him but right now, the priority was to take care of his baby.

You went inside with Carl, Hershel, and Beth, who was holding the newborn. Miraculously, she was healthy and strong, but she was in desperate need of something to eat and you hoped Daryl and Maggie would find something and come back quick.

You sat down with them in the hall for a moment, but you were scared to hold the baby, afraid you might hurt her or made her cry. You were feeling helpless there, not knowing how to care for the newborn, so you left the cellblock, trying to find something useful to do that would clear your mind off your worried thoughts.

You could see Glenn, Oscar, and Axel digging graves but you couldn’t bring yourself to help with that, knowing you’d break down, so you made your way towards one of the fences where walkers were still piling up.

You took your knife and began sinking it into the monster’s skulls, under the jaw and up to the brain, like Daryl had taught you, focusing on your task, trying not to think in anything else as the geeks dropped dead one after the other.

“You’ve almost cleared them all.” You turned around to see Glenn walking past you on his way towards the watchtower. “We’ll burn them tomorrow.”

You nodded silently, realizing for the first time how many walkers lied dead at the other side of the fence.

“I...I’ve tried to talk to Rick...didn’t go well...” Glenn said, sounding worried. “He’s gone berserker or something, killed a ton of geeks by himself with that axe, didn’t want me close...it‘s almost like he has lost it...”

“Give him time, he’s suffering, he’ll come back...”

“We can only hope so...”

***

Night had fallen when Daryl and Maggie came back and the newborn had been crying his lungs out for a long while without any of you managing to stop her, her disgruntled cries clenching your heart as you realized the baby must be starving.

Beth and Maggie rushed to make her a bottle of formula while Daryl held the baby girl, shushing her and feeding her the formula as soon as Beth passed him the bottle, the newborn calming down as magically.

You were sure you were smiling like an idiot looking at them but you didn’t care, it was so sweet you couldn’t help yourself.

“Little ass-kicker, right? That’s a good name right?”

Daryl was talking quietly to the baby girl, suggesting names, making you all smile and laugh for the first time since that nightmare of a day had begun.

Chapter Text

You were tossing around restlessly in your bed, unable to sleep, the emotions of the day catching up with you. Everything had happened so fast you barely had had any time to process it. After your first break down, you really hadn’t had the time to let yourself really feel your emotions. And now you just felt numb.

You wrapped yourself more tightly in your blanket, even though the chill that you felt running down your spine had nothing to do with the cold. Everything around you was silent, the cell next to yours empty now that Carol and Lori weren’t there, and you were almost grateful when a baby’s cry broke the silence that had settled heavy into your heart.

You got up and walked to Carl’s cell, itching to do something that wasn’t being alone in the silence with your own troubling thoughts.

Carl was holding his baby sister, cradling her carefully and trying to shush her while Beth made a bottle. It seemed she had taken upon herself the duty of caring for the newborn and you admired her, she was almost a kid herself. But she had always been sweet and kind and she seemed to be a natural for this. You had been so terrified even of just holding the baby, sure you were going to do something wrong. But Beth cared for her almost effortlessly.

“Do you need help?” You asked, walking into the cell and standing there awkwardly, not sure of what to do.

“No, it’s okay, we got this.” Beth gave you a kind smile as she turned around, bottle already finished. She gestured to Carl to pass her the baby but Carl reached out, took the bottle and began feeding her sister himself. Taking a chair, Beth sat down next to them, staring at the baby adoringly as she drank.

You stood there for a moment, looking at them, feeling out of place and kind of useless. “Okay then..., just let me know if you need something.”

They both nodded at you and you left the cell, reluctant to go back to your own. Your gaze went to the perch in which Daryl had decided to sleep and you saw he wasn’t sleeping either. He was sitting down, arms hugging his knees, looking down. His face was hidden in the shadows but he looked totally miserable. You knew how deeply he cared for Carol and you knew how he must be feeling.

You doubted for a moment but then made your way towards him. Daryl looked up for a second when he heard your footsteps approaching but he quickly looked away, rubbing his eyes roughly.

“You need something?” He asked, still not looking at you.

“Just couldn’t sleep...” You murmured, and Daryl looked at you, making a sound of agreement before hiding his face from you again.

You sat down next to him, mirroring his posture, and neither of you said anything for a moment.

“Is the Lil ass-kicker okay?” Daryl asked hoarsely “Heard her crying.”

“Yeah, she’s fine. Just hungry. Beth and Carl are feeding her now.” You found yourself smiling. “I don’t know how you three do it. I can barely hold her right and you care for her like you have been doing it forever. You are just naturals.”

Daryl scoffed and nudged your knee with his, but there was a hint of a smile on his face. You stood to your words, the image of him holding baby Grimes, coddling her and feeding the newborn her first bottle warming your heart.

Silence fell between you again, the only sounds you could hear were the soft whispers of Beth as she talked with the baby and soon those stopped too and the whole prison seemed to sleep. You wondered where Rick was and what was he doing, and while you understood him, it still was irresponsible to leave his kids alone in such a moment. And he hadn’t even asked for his newborn...

“You think Rick’s gonna be okay?” You asked when you couldn’t stand the silence anymore. “He seems...he doesn’t seem...I don’t know.” You deflated.

Daryl shrugged but nodded. “He’ll be...eventually.”

“It’s just...it doesn’t feel real to me...” You ventured. Daryl looked at you for a second but said nothing, so you kept talking. You didn’t want to deal with the silence anymore. “I mean... we don’t even have their bodies...” You were talking about Carol especially, but saying her name felt like too much. Felt like you were making it real, felt like she was really gone and no, no, you couldn’t. “So it’s like...my brain can’t believe it. It hasn’t happened.  I don’t want to believe it.” Your last sentence came out as a whimper and you regretted bringing up the subject.

You took a deep breath, trying to get a grip on yourself so you wouldn’t become a useless sobbing mess. You wanted to be strong. You waited for Daryl to say something but he didn’t and when you looked at him your heart broke. He was hugging his knees again, hiding his face, and his shoulders were shaking.

You acted out of impulse, wanting to comfort him somehow, to make him stop hurting, and maybe get a bit of comfort yourself, as you shifted until you could curl yourself against his back, arms wrapping around his shoulders to hold him close.

Daryl stiffed immediately and you were sure he was going to push you away but he didn’t, eventually relaxing and letting you snuggle against him, closing your eyes tight to stop your own tears from falling.

“We were supposed to be safe here...” He whimpered after a moment, his words muffled as he keeps his face hidden on his knees.

You sniffed, pressing your forehead against his shoulder, unable to stop your tears. He was right, you were supposed to be safe here. After everything you had gone through during the winter, hiding and running away from place to place, the dead chasing you everywhere, the prison was supposed to be a safe haven.

And now Lori was gone, T-Dog was gone, and the woman who had so quickly become one of your best friends was gone. Three members of your family brutally gone in a place where you had felt safer than you had ever felt in this madness of a world. It just didn’t feel right. It wasn’t fair.

You almost felt startled by the mad rage you felt against that man, that prisoner who had almost but threw the walkers at you in his revenge, and you were glad he was dead. You had never wanted someone to die, never felt glad about someone’s death, but you were now. Neither had you ever felt like you could kill someone, but if the man weren’t dead already, you felt you could just shot him on sight.

Maybe Shane had been right. Maybe this new world made you dark and you had to do things you never thought you would in order to survive.

You stayed there curled up with Daryl for a long while, until you felt you had cried yourself dry, although the heartbreak and the guilt wouldn’t go away. Slowly, you pulled away from him. He averted your eyes, cheeks blushed. He had come a long way since the Daryl you had first meet at the quarry, but you knew he was still embarrassed whenever he openly showed his emotions.

You let him hide from you, knowing that he was shy a needed it, but reached out your hand tentatively, smiling when he held it, lacing his fingers with yours, making your heart beat fast.

You stayed silent for a moment but then decided to confess him your thoughts, the guilt that was eating you.

“I feel like I should have done something...I should have stayed with her and T-Dog, should have helped them...” You whispered. “But I hid with Hershel and Beth behind the fences...”

“You had to help Beth and Hershel too.” Daryl comforted you quietly but you shook your head.

“No...as soon as they were safe in the cellblock I should have run to T-Dog and Carol, I should have done something, followed them...” You squeezed your eyes close, trying not to cry again. “I could have helped them, maybe I could have prevented T-Dog from being bite...I could have been with Carol, help her so she wouldn’t, so she...but I did nothing...”

“Ey,” Daryl pulled at your hand, squeezing it until you looked at him. “It ain’t your fault.”

You shrugged, looking away, losing the battle against tears.

“It ain’t.”

You knew the convict was the ultimate responsible, that it was his fault, sure, but that didn’t mean you didn’t feel guilty and useless, you should have fought harder... But Daryl’s words made you feel a bit better, he always made you feel better, with his constant comfort and support.

You gave him a tight smile, nodding your head weakly. “Thanks...”

After a short while, Daryl gave your hand a last squeeze before letting it go and getting up. “I’m gonna keep watch, go get some sleep Y/N.”

“Do you want me to go with you?” You asked getting up too.

“Nah.” He shook his head and you didn’t pressure him, understanding he needed time alone.

You nodded and headed to your cell. You were sure you weren’t going to be able to sleep but you were so exhausted you fell asleep as soon as your head touched the pillow.

                    ***

Next time you caught sight of Daryl you were having breakfast with Maggie, sitting down on a picnic table in the porch, enjoying the fresh morning air. You were nibbling on some dry, hard biscuits that expired a couple months ago, but biscuits were a luxury neither of you was used to anymore.

“If only we had some milk to soften them in it or something.” You said as you munched.

“I can get you some baby formula if you want.” Maggie joked with a tired smile, trying to make you smile.

You knew Maggie had gone through a lot, you knew she was traumatized by what she’d had to do, even if she tried to put on a brave face. You didn’t know how she was able to do so and you admired her for it. The dark circles under her eyes told you she didn’t get much sleep last night either.

“You feeling any better?” You asked softly, squeezing her hand.

For a moment it seemed she was going to try to pretend everything was fine but then she was shaking her head and looking down.

 “I can’t get the image of her out of my mind...I didn’t want to do it but she asked and asked...And then Carl...” Her eyes watered and you pulled her into a tight embrace.

Your family had gone through so much in just a day...

You both watched in silence as Daryl seemingly appeared out of nowhere, far away from you, and walked towards the graves Glenn had dug, stopping in front of Carol’s for a moment and dropping something on it. You let out a sigh as pain clutched your heart again.

“He’s holding up okay?” Maggie asked, eyeing him with concern.

“As okay as any of us.” You shrugged and Maggie wrapped an arm around your shoulder, squeezing you to her side.

You smiled at her grateful. No matter how hard she might be having it herself, she always tried to comfort other people and she was always there for you.

Daryl made his way back to the building and you called to him as he passed nearby, reaching out to give him a couple of biscuits that he took with a nod of thanks.

“No sight of Rick still?” He asked.

“Not since my father tried talking with him. He thinks it might be better to leave him alone for a while...” Maggie tailed off.

Daryl just hummed and you could sense he was feeling a bit lost without him there. Since the farm, you had seen him looking up to Rick and following his lead, the sheriff leaning more and more on him for help on return. You knew they had got close and you were glad Daryl had someone like Rick for him now that Merle was gone. Someone who actually treated him right and valued him.

“I’m going to try and clear some of the lower levels later, see if there’s any other threat.” He said. “Any of you wanna come?”

“I’m going with Glenn to see if we can find more formula and stuff for the baby,” Maggie replied through a yawn.

“I’ll go!” You were glad Daryl asked, you couldn’t wait to feel useful again.

In the end, you took one of the prisoners with you too, Oscar. You were not sure you trusted him, but he didn’t seem to be one of the bad ones and at the very least he was alive and willing to help.

Carl went with you too and you felt uneasy about it. No matter how skilled he had become at killing the dead, he was still a kid, he had gone through hell and back, and you worried about him. But he had insisted and Daryl had said nothing about it, so you shrugged it off.

There wasn’t that much to clear, most of the geeks were dead, for real this time, and you didn’t seem to find any danger. Halfway through the level, you listened as Daryl began to tell Carl about his mother. You walked closer, wanting to hear their conversation. It wasn’t usual for Daryl to share something about his family or past. You should have guessed it would break your heart.

The image of little Daryl finding out about her mother’s passing in such a horrible way made you want to cry. And little him having trouble feeling it real because he wasn’t able to see her...it reminded you of what you had told him last night about Carol. You wondered if Daryl might be feeling that way again too.

“I’m sorry about your mom.” You heard Carl say.

“I’m sorry about yours too,” Daryl replied.

You stopped walking in order to put some distance between you and them, not wanting them to see you cry as you weren’t able to control the tears that fell down your cheeks.

You wanted to hold both Carl and Daryl tight and never let them go. After everything they had gone through, everything they had endured, and they were still so gentle and kind. Still comforting each other for their mother’s loses, trying to make each other feel better even though they were feeling miserable themselves. You admired them and were grateful they were your family now, you were totally sure they were proof there was still good in this world, because they were.

“Y/N, you alright?” You heard Daryl’s voice calling for you when he realized you were getting behind and you rubbed your eyes quickly. He frowned and walked closer, giving you a worried look.

“I’m fine, I’m fine.” You said before he could question anything, hoping he didn’t get to see your tears, and walking close to the group again.

Daryl gave you a look but nodded and his hand pressed gently on your shoulder, pushing you so you were walking in front of him as if not wanting to risk leaving you behind.

“Don’t worry Y/N, they are dead and can’t hurt you now,” Carl said solemnly, his small hand squeezing yours as you walked. It took all your self-restraint not to stop and squeeze him to you right there and then.

Right when you were about to finish, Daryl found Carol’s knife, embedded deep in the meat of the neck of one of the monsters, as if she had tried to reach the brain but hadn’t been able to do so.

You wondered if that was the one who killed her. If after that he ate her whole, as another one had done to Lori. Your stomach turned and your eyes watered again. Carl’s hand shook in your grip and you took a deep breath, trying to get a hold of yourself.

You knew you wouldn’t be able to stop if you started crying now.

“Let’s go back.” You brook the gloom silence in which your little group had fallen. “This place is as clean as it’s going to get for now.”

Oscar and Carl nodded their agreement but Daryl was still looking at Carol’s knife.

“Get going.” He finally said. “I’m going to give this place a last sweep, just in case.”

“Want me to help you?” You asked, reluctant to leave him alone there, no matter if the place seemed empty.

“Nah, it’s fine.” Daryl shook his head, his hand clutching the knife tight at his side as if he were trying to control the emotion at having found, it and you realized he wanted to be alone to mourn Carol away from the others.

You were sad he had to go through such pain alone, but knew that he needed it, needed his space and time alone to be able to deal with his feelings.

You nodded and turned to leave but then stopped, instead leaning to press a soft, quick kiss to his cheek. He looked at you, his blue eyes wide in surprise and he mumbled something you couldn’t understand, his cheeks beginning to taint red, just like yours. Pain shot through your heart and you felt dangerously close to tears as you remembered how Carol used to tease him mercilessly to make him blush like that, you two laughing at his sweet awkwardness.

He nodded awkwardly and walked away through the corridor while you, Oscar and Carl headed back up.

Chapter Text

When you got back to the cellblock, Maggie and Glenn had already left on their run for baby supplies. You headed towards the hall that had become a sort of living room for your group and found Beth there, singing quietly to Lil' Ass Kicker.

“Everything went well?” She asked, rocking the baby.

“Yeah, everything was mostly clean.” You flopped down a chair. “Want me to hold her so you can rest.” You asked unsurely, you wanted to help and of course you loved Lil' Ass Kicker, but you were rather unsure about your baby skills.

“No it’s fine, I like taking care of her.” Beth smiled down at baby Grimes.

“I can see that! You are madly good at it you know?” You said as you watched in wonder how the lil' one was already falling asleep on Beth’s arms.

“At least now there’s a thing I can be helpful at...” She shrugged, getting up and gently laying the baby girl down onto her decorated cardboard box, full of blankets.

“What you mean?” You asked, frowning.

“It’s not like I’m good at killing walkers or surviving or anything like that, Y/N...” Beth said defensively.

And you got it, you got that feeling so well...feeling helpless and like you were not good enough for this crazy new world, no matter if your toll of killed walkers kept going up and up.

“Well, you have survived this far, haven’t you? And...” Before you could finish the sentence, gunshots coming from outside startled you both and put you in alarm mode.

“Take care of the baby.” You instructed Beth as you ran to the door, gun in hand. “You’re the best caregiver.”

Once outside you watched in confusion as Rick and Carl half dragged a young black woman inside the fences, and you lowered your gun and ran to help them, no time for questions.

Once inside, Rick tried to question her but she kept writhing away from all you and glaring at you, even when Hershel tried to help her. It was obvious he mistrusted you and honestly, you couldn’t blame her, she looked like she had gone through something.

Before you could get anything from her, Daryl appeared at the door.

“Y'all come on in here. You're gonna wanna see this.”

You walked towards him, questioning him with your eyes and hoping whatever it was, it wasn’t more trouble, but Daryl just smiled at you and rushed you in front of him, pushing at you softly as he walked your back to your cells.

Your mouth opened in a silent gasp and you couldn’t believe your eyes when you saw Carol sitting on a bed. You threw yourself at her and held her tight. She groaned softly as if in pain, but hugged you just as tight when you tried to pull back.

“Poor thing fought her way into a cell.” Daryl was explaining, though you barely registered it. “Must have passed out. Dehydrated.”

 “I thought, I thought...” You babbled, tears already falling from your eyes and Carol shushed you gently, stroking your hair.

You pulled back from her, standing up and moving next to Daryl so the others could have their chance to hug her too. Your heart broke when you saw the wonder in Carol’s eyes as she looked at Lil' Ass Kicker turn into pain at the realization of Lori not being there.

“Rick...I’m so sorry...”

You couldn’t help your own tears at Carol and Rick tearful embrace and you felt Daryl pulling you to his side, arm around your shoulders, and you snuggled closer, grateful.

There was not much time for welcomes with a stranger lying on your living-room, though, so everyone went back to question her, but you stayed behind with Carol so you both could speak.

“I thought you were gone.” You whimpered and Carol hugged you again. “I thought I had lost you.”

“I thought I was gone too.” She admitted, a shiver running through her. “Right until Daryl found me.”

“He was so devastated when we thought we had lost you...I don’t think I’ve ever seen him like that, not since Merle...” You told her and she smiled fondly. “Don’t do this to us ever again.”

“I don’t plan too, sweetheart.” She said, kissing your forehead.

When you joined the others, they were already making plans and rushing around.

“What’s going on?” You asked Daryl when he passed close.

“Some Governor asshole kidnapped Glenn and Maggie.” He informed you without stopping walking and you followed him. “He has a village with plenty of people.”

“What?” You asked, confused. A Governor? An actual village of people? It sounded crazy.

Daryl just shrugged, not even looking at you as he began to get arrows ready.

“Wait...are Maggie and Glenn okay?” Panic began flooding through you as your mind caught up with what Daryl had said.

“They’ll be.” He nodded. “We are gonna get them back right now.”

“I’ll go!” You rushed to get ready, walking away from Daryl and ignoring how he scowled at you.

Not much later, you were helping Carl get some gear into the trunk of the car, kicking the dirt of the ground in frustration.

“I can’t believe Rick is taking Oscar instead of me!” You complained to Daryl when he came to help you. “Maggie and Glenn are my friends!”

“We don’t know anything about those people besides they are many and dangerous. I rather you stay here, it’s safer.”

You wanted to protest, to say that you were able to take care of yourself, but all you could do was smile as the thought of Daryl worrying about you warmed your heart. You didn’t know what to say and Daryl just squeezed your arm and walked away before you could say anything at all. You already knew Daryl cared for you, but still, hearing him voice it had made your heart beat faster

You remembered that day back at the quarry, which felt like a lifetime ago, when you had told Carol how lucky Merle was he had someone who cared about him as Daryl did and how you wished you had something like that. It seemed now you had it.

And who cared if Daryl didn’t share your stupid feelings, that silly crush, which you were still trying to fight away. You had his friendship and affection, and that would be enough.

You watched him as he said goodbye to Carol, who was cradling Lil' Ass Kicker, smiling at how concerned Daryl seemed and remembering how happy he’d been when he found her alive. At least in this, you all had been lucky.

 “Keep an eye on her,” Daryl told you as he made his way back to the car, taking you out of your daydream.

“Sure thing.” You nodded. “And you take care, okay?”  He nodded and you gave him a quick half hug before walking back towards the cellblock.

Later that day, when you were helping Hershel to organize some medicines, your mind wandered off to your best friends.

At some point during the winter, you had asked Carol if she thought maybe Daryl had a thing for her. He cared for her, was always around her and had opened up to her before to anyone else, so you couldn’t help but wonder. She had been laughing at you for a full minute.

If you had ever wondered the same about Carol, if there might be something behind all her teasing, it went away the moment she had kept laughing, seeming so amused at you that you had blushed in embarrassment, muttering excuses until she stopped.

In whatever way, it had always been obvious they loved and cared for each other deeply, and you were grateful they shared that love with you, taking care of you and keeping you going.

Suddenly Axel bumped into you, taking you out of your thoughts, and your fond, dreamy smile fell off your face.

He had been following you around all day as you helped Hershel, and even though you had considered him to be nice, by now you were tired of him. The way he looked at you made you feel uncomfortable. You had been glaring at him for a while until he finally seemed to catch the message and left you alone.

When you finished helping Hershel you headed back to your cell and found Carl and Beth in her cell, sitting down on the bed holding baby Judith. Axel sat down next to her, giving her that look you hated.

“And how old are you?” He asked, and you almost growled aloud. Beth was a kid, for heaven’s sake.

“Seventeen.” She answered, seemingly oblivious to his interest.

“That’s interesting.”

Before you could snap at him, Carol stepped in, putting him in his place while he tried to explain himself and excuse his behavior, blaming it in the lack of women in his life since he went into prison, making you roll your eyes.

“I feel like kicking him out.” You complained to Carol while you two walked outside to check on the walkers crowding close to the fences.

“Come on Y/N, he’s not bad, he’s actually nice.” Carol shrugged. “Men are men.”

“Well, you don’t see Daryl pulling shit like that.” You huffed, upset, but Carol just laughed at your outraged voice.

“You are just mad because even though I have short hair I didn’t hit on you.” She teased, making you laugh.

“That is, you got me.” You replied, your bad mood dissipating almost instantly. “You could have any men or women you wanted though, you are gorgeous!” You meant it, you had never understood how a woman like Carol had stuck with Ed.

“Shut up.” She pushed you playfully and you both laughed as you walked towards the fence, ready to keep watch at wait for your friends.

The sun went down and you grew more and more worried about Daryl and the rest of your group. By now, they must be already in Woodbury and you wondered if they were okay, if everything had gone according to plan.

“Do you think they are okay?” You asked Carol who was sat down next to you on the floor of the watchtower, looking at the road ahead of the prison.

“Course they are.” She reassured you, although you knew she was as worried as you. “They’ll be back before we know it.”

The door of the tower opened and Axel walked outside. “Ey ladies, mind if I join you?”

You rolled your eyes and shrugged, but Carol smiled at him and Axel flopped down next to her. Since their ‘conversation’, you had been wondering if Axel might be really interested in Carol, and you didn’t know what to make of it. Carol didn’t seem to mind his presence, though, and you both spent the next couple of hours listening to the ex-convict stories about life in the prison, and although you were still upset at him you couldn’t help but laugh at some of the stories. Maybe he wasn’t a bad guy after all, and reluctantly you admitted he was kind of nice in his own weird way.

“Why don’t you go sleep for a bit?” Carol asked, laughing at you when you yawned for the second time in less than a minute. “We got this Y/N.”

You were reluctant but you could feel your eyes growing heavier and you knew you were going to be useless if you went everywhere half asleep on your feet, so you nodded and got up.

“The others will have returned when you wake up,” Carol said as you made to walk into the cellblock, trying to make you smile.

You had been oblivious to the commotion that had happened inside the building so you almost jumped in surprise when you saw some people locked in the hall of your cellblock, Hershel talking with them through the door.

“What’s going on?” You rushed towards them.

“Y/N this are Tyreese, Sasha, Allen, and Ben.” Hershel introduced, doing nothing to ease your confusion. “Carl found them on the other side of the prison, they were being attacked by walkers  so he helped them and brought them here.”

“Alone?” You stared at Carl wide-eyed and the boy nodded. You weren’t sure if the little hero was brave or just reckless, but you were sure his behavior lately had a lot to do with the pressure Rick seemed to be putting on him, maybe without realizing it.

“Um...hi, I’m Y/N.” You greeted, still too dumbfounded to say anything else.

“Nice you meet you Y/N.” The man named Tyreese greeted you. He had kind eyes and didn’t look like a threat, much to your relief. “We...we just lost one of us so we have to...we are going to...”

He trailed off and you noticed the body covered with a sheet on the floor.

“Oh, yeah, yeah, of course...I’m sorry.” You said, genuinely sorry, you knew what they were going through.

You stepped back and walked away with Hershel, giving them some privacy.

“What are we going to do?” You asked him quietly.

“Me, I’m going to bed,” Hershel replied nonchalantly although you sensed he was feeling as anxious as you. “And you should do the same, you look exhausted.”

“You know what I mean.” You insisted. “They don’t seem like a threat but we can’t be sure. And you know how Rick’s being lately...I don’t see him taking them in, but if we kick them out is like we are killing them...” The idea of sending people outside to a world full of dangerous monster and even more dangerous people sat uneasily on your stomach.

“No, we can’t just send them out...” Hershel agreed with you, frowning. You knew he shared your view about the issue. “We’ll talk Rick around, he’ll understand.” He gave you a fond pat on the arm, trying to reassure you.

You nodded, giving him a small smiled and said your goodnights as he walked inside his room, heading towards yours.

It took you a while to fall asleep, your mind full of troubling thoughts about Tyreese and his group, and about Daryl and the others who weren’t still back, but finally, you drifted off into an uneasy sleep.

“Ey, sleepy head.” You woke up to Carol stroking your hair, somehow feeling more tired than before you fell asleep. “Everyone is having breakfast, I thought you might join in, get to know those new people.”

“Yeah, morning...” You rasped, rubbing your sleepy eyes. Carol chucked and you followed her, half asleep still. “I thought you said the others would be back when I woke up...” You shared a worried look with her but Carol said nothing.

Having breakfast with the new group was interesting. Allen didn’t give you a good vibe and he and his son kept mostly to themselves, you felt Rick wouldn’t trust them, but the siblings Tyreese and Sasha were really nice and you wished your group would allow them to say with you.

Not much later you were cleaning around the cellblock with Axel when the door opened and Maggie and Glenn walked in, looking like they had gone through hell and back, Hershel and Beth at their sides.

“Oh my god.” You ran to them, gasping in horror at how beaten up Glenn was. “What happened?”

Glenn just walked past you without a word. He seemed out of sorts, giving off a cold angry vibe that unsettled you. Maggie, though, let you hold her and you noticed she was shivering.

“You alright?” You ran your eyes over her, worried.

“Yeah, yeah...” She nodded, giving you a tight smile, but you saw she was close to tears. She glanced at his father and you guessed she was trying to hold it together for him. “I’m just going to...I need to...we talk later okay?” She headed towards her cell.

You noticed Michonne then, looking even worse than Glenn, Hershel already rushing to help her. You grew increasingly worried and you rushed outside, wanting to see Daryl.

Outside you only saw Rick and Carl, walking with an upset looking Carol who seemed in the verge of tears and fear clutched your heart. Why was Carol crying, where was Daryl? Was he...? No. No, it couldn’t be. You felt short of breath and you ran to them.

“Daryl?” You choked out.

“He’s alive Y/N, he’s alive,” Rick reassured you. “But he has left.”

“What?” You didn’t understand anything.

“He’s with Merle, they found him in Woodbury,” Carol explained, pulling you in her arms, but you still didn’t understand anything. Merle? Was he alive? How? And how could he be there? Was Daryl gone?

“I don’t understand...” You shook your head. “Daryl left us? It-it can’t be...he wouldn’t...”

“He did, he went with his brother,” Rick said bitterly but gave you a sympathetic look. Carol said nothing, just squeezed you tight before walking into the cellblock.

There wasn’t much time to talk about Daryl then, with Rick finding out about Tyreese and the others, and with everyone discussing how you all needed all the help you could get against the governor and what to do about him. Telling Axel that Oscar had died was hard. He seemed truly shaken and you couldn’t find any words of comfort that didn’t sound empty, so you left it to Carol. She was better at that than you.

“Merle did all this to Glenn and Maggie and Daryl abandoned us for him?” You asked quietly to Carol a bit later. You were still dumbfounded but now you were starting to feel hurt too. How could he have left you like nothing...just yesterday you had found yourself smiling at how much Daryl cared for you...it didn’t feel like that now and you fought back your tears.

“He’s Merle, and he’s his brother.” Carol shrugged, seeming more recovered than you from her initial shock but you just shook your head in disbelieve and she sighed, squeezing your hand.

Later that day, Rick, Hershel and Glenn were discussing what to do with the group of strangers and you were listening anxiously, but they didn’t seem to reach an agreement. You were getting more and more worried and frustrated so you decided it was best for your peace of mind to just leave.

You headed to Maggie’s cell to pay her a visit, she hadn’t left her room since she arrived, but stopped in your tracks when you heard Carol and Beth talking about Daryl. You hadn’t intended to eavesdrop, but now you couldn’t help yourself and you stopped to listen to what they were saying.

“Men like Merle play with your head.” Carol was explaining to Beth while she folded some clothes. “They make you believe you deserve the abuse.”

“Even to Daryl?” Beth asked, and you were wondering the same.

Did Daryl think he deserved Merle’s treatment? Just the idea made your blood boil. You remembered how he used to be totally under Merle’s thumb, doing all he said and letting Merle put him down and laugh at him. You clenched your fists, wanting nothing more than to punch Merle’s face.

And yet Daryl had gone with him, had preferred to go with Merle than coming back to you and his new family. You couldn’t help it, you were mad at him for it.

“I’m mad at Daryl,” Beth said and you were glad you weren’t the only one feeling like that.

“Don’t be. Daryl has his code.” Carol sounded serene as if she weren’t bothered, but even from the distance, you could see her eyes were wet. “The world needs men like that.”

Yes, he had his code, you liked that of him. He was a good man, one of the best. But how could that code tell him to leave all of you for someone like his brother. It wasn’t fair. But he was a loyal man, you loved that of him, and that loyalty extended to Merle too, irremediably.

Daryl put family on top of everything, on top of himself even, but you had believed you were his family now.

 “I’m mad at him too.” You walked to Carol when Beth left. “I can’t believe you aren’t.”

“Come on, Y/N.” Carol rubbed her eyes before throwing an arm around your shoulders and pulling you close. “You saw how Daryl reacted when he thought he lost Merle, you know how he cares about him.”

“He doesn’t deserve it.” You said bitterly.

“I’m not saying he does, but you know how Daryl is with family.” Carol shrugged. “He was not about to abandon his brother again, he wouldn’t forgive himself.”

“I thought we were family too.” You said, coming out as a whimper.

“I know, sweetheart, and we are.” Carol kissed your forehead. “But so is Merle, and Daryl was forced to make a decision...I don’t think it was easy. He did what he had to. Don’t be mad at him.”

“Won’t you miss him?” You asked, rubbing furiously at the tears that fell from your eyes.

“Like hell.” Carol smile was so sad it broke your heart. “You know it. But we can’t afford to think about that, we had things we need to focus on. So we need to let go, be strong and keep going.” She gave you another squeeze and then left.

You didn’t know how to do that. How to be strong and let Daryl go, how not to think about it. You couldn’t. You admired Carol and her strength, but you just couldn’t. Your heart was breaking into pieces at the idea of never seeing him again and there was nothing you could do about it.

But Carol was right and there was stuff you needed to be doing, like trying to see how Maggie was doing and how to help her. Daryl was gone but you still had friends to care for. With that in mind, you headed towards her cell.

“Hey, girl.” You greeted softly, sitting down on the bed where she was lying, facing the wall but clearly not sleeping.

“Hey.” She turned to face you, her eyes rimming red, giving you a smile you could see was forced.

“Wanna talk about this?” It was killing you to see her like that and you couldn’t help but worry at Glenn strange behavior.

“No...yes...I don’t know...”

She seemed so helpless, you didn’t know what to do, so you laid down next to her and when she didn’t complain but scooted closer, you waited for her to say something else.

“Daryl’s bother took us.” Maggie started explaining after a moment of silence. Pain shot through your heart at the mention of Daryl, but you tried to ignore it, focusing on Maggie. “He locked us in different rooms but I could hear everything he did to Glenn, he tortured him, he threw a walker with him while Glenn was tied...” She whimpered.

“My god, Maggie....” You didn’t know what to say, you were horrified. You knew Merle had always been far from good, but this? And Daryl had gone with him?

“But Glenn didn’t talk...so the Governor came to me...Told me he’d hurt Glenn if I didn’t do what he wanted... “ She shuddered. “He...He made me took off my shirt, my bra...He pushed me onto a table, bent over me...”

“Did...did he?” You didn’t know how to ask.

Maggie shook her head but tears were falling down her cheeks. Your heart was breaking for her and you felt totally enraged at that Governor man.

“I’m so sorry Maggie.” You took her hand and she squeezed it tight. “But you are here now, you are safe, everything is going to be okay.” You tried to offer her some comfort.

“It doesn’t feel like it...” She whispered.

“We’ll take care of you, we take care of each other.” You tried to reassure her, although you didn’t quite believe your words. That Governor sounded dangerous and you seemed to be his target now.

Unable to offer her any words of comforts, you just laid there with Maggie, both of you silent and lost in sorrowful thoughts.

Chapter Text

Not long after your talk with Maggie, you witnessed what you could only call Rick losing his shit, even worse than when he had disappeared into the lower levels of the prison right after Lori’s death. He had gone to announce Tyreese and his group that they had to leave, deaf to yours and Hershel’s words and to Glenn telling him you needed help against Woodbury.

As if that hadn’t been enough, Rick had soon started acting weird and yelling around, ignoring Hershel and screaming to Tyreese and the others to go and leave him and what not, although the more he screamed the more it looked like he was yelling to someone who wasn’t there. He scared the shit out of all of you, including the startled newcomers.

Unsurprisingly, Tyreese and his group flew out at Rick’s crazy outburst, running out and away from the prison so quickly you didn’t have any time to say goodbye or lend them any supplies. You could only hope they would be okay out there.

You couldn’t sleep that night, too shaken at the events of the day, your mind lost in thought. You wondered if Tyreese and Sasha were alright out there in the night. The horrifying things Maggie had told you about Woodbury and the Governor made you shiver half in fear half in rage, anxious at the thought of maybe having to face him soon. And overall, Daryl. Well, Daryl’s absence.

You couldn’t believe he was really gone. Hadn’t he given a thought about you and Carol and everyone else in his family? Not at how you may need him to survive but at how much you cared for him, how much you were going to miss him. Wouldn’t he miss you at all? You had been so sure he cared for you too, for all of you.

But now Daryl had left as if you weren’t important and it hurt, it hurt as much as the realization that you weren’t going to see him again. It felt surreal. You felt like you had been with him, with all your group, since forever, it seemed more real than your life before the end of the world.

You got up and walked out of your cell and into Carol’s next to yours, crawling inside her bed. She woke up when she felt you and let you cuddle up to her, wrapping her arms around you and shushing you quietly as you sobbed your heart out into her shoulder, eventually drifting off in her embrace, exhausted.

You woke up when you felt Carol getting out of the bed.

“Hey,  sweetheart.” She gave you a sad smile when she saw you starting to sit up on the bed. “Why you don’t try and sleep a bit longer?”

“Don’t think I can...” You rasped, rubbing your eyes. They felt puffy and hurt and you didn’t want to know how bad you looked.

“Okay.” Carol leaned over to kiss your forehead. “I’ll make some breakfast.”

“I miss him too.” You heard her say right before leaving the cell.

After a quiet breakfast, the group tense and anxious, with Rick still wandering around as if he had lost it and the threat of the Governor hanging over you, Glenn started to make plans. Your thoughts drifted from time to time to Daryl, wondering what he might be doing, wondering if he were thinking about the group he just left, if he had even cared about your at all...You dig your nails in your palm hard. Your family needed you, you needed to concentrate.

Soon, though, it turned more and more into Glenn and Hershel going back and forth about what to do with Woodbury, attack, wait, leave...You wanted to hurt the Governor for what he had done for your family, but it seemed he was dangerous so going against him might be a suicide...the only thing you were sure about was that you couldn’t leave the prison, especially not now with baby Judith. It was the safest place your group had had since the farm.

Glenn was growing more and more frustrated with everyone and with the plans or lack of it, and suddenly he was storming off to check the other side of the prison and the walkers that had probably walked in the same way Tyreese’d group had done it.

“Glenn, wait, I’ll help you.” You caught up to him when he was putting on the riot gear, ready to throw himself at the walkers.

“No, I can do it alone.” He said, totally ignoring you as he began walking away.

“But it can be dangerous.” You insisted.

“I said no, Y/N!” Glenn lashed out and you raised your hands in surrender.

“Alright, alright.” You sighed and walked away, catching sight of Rick outside the prison fences as he walked around like he were searching for something, seeming out of himself.

It seemed like half your family were going bonkers. Great.

No matter what, it was better to be ready in case the Governor attacked, so Carol, Axel and you began taking pallets and stacking them on the fences of the platform so you could duck and hide in case of an attack.

From the platform, you saw a bloodied up Glenn taking a car and storming off god knew where, while Rick was still wandering in an out of the forest. You let out a sigh. Things weren’t looking good at this moment. You wanted to put those two idiots in a line and slap them until they went back to their old selves, you needed them. And there was also certain idiot you needed but who had decided to leave you for another bigger idiot...and no, ending that train of thoughts, you couldn’t afford to think about him now.

You were carrying some more pallets but stopped before stepping through the door that led to the platform when you heard Carol laughing at something Axel was saying. Since having the revelation that Carol was, in fact, not a lesbian, Axel seemed relentlessly interested in her. At first, it had annoyed you but as you saw Carol smile at him you wondered if she was interested in him too. You didn’t think so, but who knew. At the very least, she seemed to enjoy his attention, and you couldn’t deny Axel was a fun guy if only a bit weird. You didn’t want to ruin their fun with the cloud of sadness and bad mood that seemed to follow you, so you quietly slipped away.

You found Beth in the kitchen, holding baby Judith while making a bottle for her.

“You need help?” You offered, eager to think on something that wasn’t Daryl or the dangers ahead.

“No, we are fine, we were about to see aunt Maggie.” Beth turned around to give you a smile. “See if we can cheer her up.”

“I hope you manage...” You said quietly, looking down.

“The least we can do is try.” Beth’s smiled faltered for a second but then it was back on her face, and you had to admire her stubborn positivity. “Why don’t you tidy up this meanwhile?” She asked tentatively, as if she felt you needed to busy yourself.

“Sure thing.”

You didn’t know how long you spent meticulously scrubbing cutlery clean but it was longer than you usually would, washing everything more than it was needed, focusing on the task way more than it required, trying to have your mind busy and away from unwanted thoughts

Before you knew it, Beth was there again.

“Oh, you left everything so clean now I feel bad about dirtying it again by cooking.” She pouted.

“No, it’s fine.” You shrugged. You could wash it again later...it wasn’t the most helpful thing but it was better than worry about your future or moping around. “Where’s Judith?”

“I left her with Maggie...I think she’s a bit better.” Beth smiled softly.

“That’s nice...”

You left Beth there and headed towards Maggie’s cell. You saw her from the door, feeding Judith her bottle, eyes wet but a smile on her face and your own smiled tugged at the corners of your mouth.

“Seems like all of you are better than me at this.” You said as you walked in and sat down next to her.

“It’s not rocket science.” Maggie chuckled. “Beth told me what to do, though, how to hold her and feed her properly...no idea where she learned.”

“I’m afraid to even hold her...I feel like I’m going to drop her or hurt her or something.” You took the empty bottle that Maggie passed you and let it on the chair next to the door.

“Come on Y/N, it’s a baby, not a crystal jar.” Maggie teased you, and you were glad she seemed to be feeling a bit better. “Reach out your arms.”

You did as she instructed you, and she carefully placed Judith on the crook of your arms.

“There you go...”

You were so nervous and unsure you barely dared to breathe, but Judith didn’t fell off your arms, didn’t seem hurt. Neither did she start crying his lungs out as if she hated to be with you, as you had been afraid she might do. You smiled down to her as she gurgled and reached out a tiny hand towards you.

“You don’t hate me then...” You said quietly to her. “I’m sorry it took me so long to say hi...”

You remembered how Daryl had held her that same day she was so tragically born, how he had fed her and rocked her as if he had been doing it since forever, smiling down at her and making her stop crying.

You felt dangerously close to tears and you bit your lip, trying to regain your composure.

“You okay, sweetheart?” Maggie asked you softly and you felt horrible, it was you who was supposed to comfort her. “You can talk to me.”

“Yeah, yeah, just...”

Before you could finish your sentence you heard gunfire coming from outside and you jumped to your feet, startling Judith who started crying.

“The Governor!” Maggie’s eyes were wide with fear, mirroring your own.

You both rushed outside, running into Beth who had a wild, scared look on her eyes.

“What’s going on?” She asked as you quickly passed baby Judith to her.

“Stay here!” Maggie yelled at her taking a couple of shotguns and passing one to you.

“But...”

“Beth, hide, take care of the baby.” You instructed and you rushed to the platform, dropping to the ground behind a pallet to hide from a new wave of bullets.

You looked around when the bullets stopped and saw Carol hiding behind the dead body of Axel.

“Carol!” You screamed, horrified, before more bullets forced you to hide again.

When you were able to take another peak, relief washed over you as you saw Carol was still alive and hiding, Maggie running towards her and passing her a shotgun before they both managed to hid, Carl close to them. Straining your eyes you could saw Michonne hiding behind a car but you couldn’t catch sight of Hershel or Rick, and you could just hope they were okay.

You took a deep breath, forcing yourself to calm down and jump into action mood. Still hid behind a pallet, you positioned your shotgun so you could shoot. It wasn’t easy, everything was a mess of bullets and dust and you could hear your heart beating fast, almost making your head spin. And you had never shot at an alive person before...

Focus. Focus.

The main threat seemed to come from one of the watchtowers, but the angle wasn’t right for you, so you left it to Maggie and Carol, hoping they’d manage to stop the shooter. You aimed at what you assumed was the Governor and his men, on a car in front of the prison fence’s door, but they were too far for you to make it. You saw a man walking towards Michonne’s hiding point, shooting. You aimed at him and shot but didn’t make it, your bullet hitting the ground next to him.

Damn it.

The man looked up to the platform, spotting you, but he didn’t have time to aim before you shot again. You didn’t miss this time and he dropped to the ground.

The shots from the watchtower stopped, someone having managed to kill the shooter, but that wasn’t enough to stop the attack. You needed to leave the platform and go to the ground if you wanted to help, the position of the platform preventing you from landing more shots, but before you could move the gunfire stopped.

You didn’t have time to wonder what was going on before a van drove towards the fences, crashing against the gates and opening them, stopping in the middle of the yard, a man in riot gear jumping from it. You watched in horrified surprise how he opened the doors of the van, walkers and more walkers walking off it and into your yar.

Thinking quick, you shot to the man’s leg which wasn’t protected by the gear. He dropped to the ground and a few walkers threw themselves to him, trying to chew through his protective year without much success, but keeping him down. Even if only for a moment, it’d prevent the walkers from scattering through the yard as they were entertained with the man.

The driver was inside the van still and you aimed your rifle but he quickly drove away at full speed before any of you could shot him, abandoning his partner, who was now screaming as the walkers finally began to tear off his gear.

The sound of the shots drew more walkers and you watched horrified how Hershel tried to drag himself away from them outside the fences.

“Help him!” You screamed, not knowing to whom, trying to aim but he was too far for you.

Michonne were already running to him, twirling around and cutting walkers down with her katana like a dancing samurai, and no matter the situation you were in, you couldn’t help but stare at her in admired amazement.

You let out a sigh of relief when Glenn’s car appeared, rushing towards Hershel, running over walkers on his way, and he and Michonne helped Hershel into the car. They drove back into the fences, closing the door behind them so the walkers couldn’t get in, and they began to help the others to clear the walkers of the patio. You helped too, shooting at all the walkers you could.

Your relief was short lived and you watched helplessly how Rick tried to run away from the walkers, seeming to be out of ammo, until he was backed against the fences, jaws snapping at him. You took aim but he was too far. You were still looking through the sight glass of your rifle when you saw one of the walkers fall, an arrow embedded onto his head. And then...

Daryl.

His name left your lips as a whisper when you saw him there, shooting another arrow and taking off another walker that was snapping at Rick. You had been so sure you were never going to see him again, but he was there...

And so was Merle, throwing himself at the remaining walkers that circled Rick and stabbing them wildly with a weird looking knife. You shot at the walkers on their way as they made it back into the fence and then you ran back into the building as fast as you could to meet the others.

Before you could make it outside, Carol and Maggie walked through the door and you threw yourself into their arms.

“Are you okay, are you alright?” You asked again and again, checking if they were hurt no matter they were reassuring you they were fine.

Beth ran towards them too and you let go of Maggie so she could hug her, but you kept holding onto Carol, shaking. Now that the danger seemed to have passed and the adrenaline was leaving your body, your knees felt dangerously weak and you felt like you might just fall, but Carol and you kept a hold of each other.

Then there came Glenn and Michonne, helping Hershel limp inside. Behind them was Rick, arm around Carl’s shoulders, and right behind him Merle and Daryl. The archer looked at you, blue eyes fixing on Carol and you both as you held each other, but then he looked away quickly, making no move towards you.

You didn’t know what to say, what to do, how you were feeling. You couldn’t deny you were elated to see him, relieved he was back, and you wanted to hold him tight until he’d wriggle out of your hug like an offended cat. But you were also hurt, upset with him for leaving. And he wasn’t even looking at you. You forced yourself to not look at him either. There was much to do after the Governor’s attack and you couldn’t let your feelings distracting you from it.

Soon everybody was discussing what you all should do about the Governor, and also about Merle, Glenn being particularly vocal about the last, and the older Dixon’s insights on the matter weren’t much in his favor.

Rick had locked him outside the cellblock in a corridor, but that wouldn’t silence Merle and no matter you were angry at Daryl, your heart went to him as you watched him pace around anxiously, trying to silence his brother to stop him from making things worse, but also trying to speak on his benefit. Asshole didn’t deserve it, as far as you were concerned.

“Would you please shut the hell up?” You hissed at Merle, moving close to the gate he was lying against. “Your brother is here trying to back you up and save your ass and you are making it impossible. They’re going to kick you out and he’s going to be forced to follow you again, cos you are a damn prick.” There was so much poison in your voice, no matter if it was just a barely audible murmur, that it almost surprised yourself.

It seemed you weren’t the only one tired of everyone’s bullshit and you gaped in surprise when the usually calm Hershel lashed out at Rick, calling him on his behavior as he made to wander off again. You almost clapped. You felt for Rick, of course you did, but Hershel was right. The group needed old Rick, needed every single one of you if you wanted to survive the Governor.

While everyone kept talking and discussing things, your thoughts wandered to the men you had killed today. You had left one of them to be horribly eaten by walkers as bait...you’d never thought you’d do something like that, but there you were. You’d do it again in order to protect your family without a second thought. This world ended up changing you, someone had said, you didn’t remember who, and by now you knew well how true it was.

---

You were pacing up and down the corridor outside your cells anxiously, unsure of what to do. Daryl had retreated into a cell not long ago, after yet another fight with Glenn about Merle.

You wanted to see him, you hadn’t had the chance either the courage to speak with him yet, but you weren’t sure how you were going to react. You were still a mess of feelings. You didn’t want to walk in and start yelling at him for leaving or worse, start crying, but neither wanted to act like nothing had happened, like you weren’t hurt.

The wish to see him was too big, though, so when you saw Carol walking out of Daryl’s room you headed towards it only to stop midway, suddenly nervous. What if he didn’t want to see you? What if he really didn’t care? You couldn’t bear it...

“Come on, go and say hi,” Carol told you when she reached you, an amused smiled on her face as she saw you go back and forth. “Don’t be hard on him, though.”

You shrugged, letting out a noncommittal hum, but took a deep breath and walked to the cell.

You walked through the door but stood there silent, unsure of what to say. Daryl was sitting down on the bed, absentmindedly fidgeting with one of his arrows. He looked up at you when he sensed you but quickly dropped his gaze again. You were about to leave, afraid he was purposely ignoring you, but unable to force yourself to say anything, when he scooted closer to the headboard, sitting down against the wall as if making room for you to sit on the bed too. When you didn’t move, he looked at you again, his blue eyes uncertain.

You bit your lip, fighting your nerves telling you to run away, and sat down on the bed. He was still fidgeting, spinning the arrow and you stayed silent.

“You’re mad,” Daryl muttered without looking at you.

“I...I’m upset... You left us...” There was no point lying, you wanted him to know how you were feeling, even if you were afraid of how he might react. “You just left.”

“I didn’t just leave...I found my brother again...” He said defensively, although you thought he sounded guilty too. “I had to be with him Y/N, he’s my brother, he’s family.”

“I thought we were family too.” You couldn’t help the hurt that tainted your words. “I thought you cared about us.”

“You are family, why you say that...” Daryl sounded upset although his eyes were regretful, but you just couldn’t stop being hurt.

“You didn’t stop to think how we might feel, knowing you abandoned us for Merle...and after what he did...” You insisted, unable to stop your words now that you were letting yourself talk. “Didn’t you care about not seeing us again? You wouldn’t have missed us?” Because heaven knew you had missed him as if someone had crushed your heart.

“I did.” He said, so quietly you almost didn’t hear him. “So I’m here now...”

“I’m glad you are here, I am, for real. I was afraid I wasn’t going to see you ever again, I thought...I...” You bit your lip to stop you from saying anything else, afraid of what may slip off your lips. “But I’m hurt...You left us like we were nothing...”

“It wasn’t like that.” He snapped, frowning at you, letting go of the arrow, upset blue eyes finally fixing on you. “Merle’s my brother, if it were your brother who you had found, wouldn’t have you go with him? Cos I’m damn sure you would.”

“Maybe, but not without telling you first and I don’t think I could have left you like that anyway...you are my family now. I care for you...for all of you.” You added, flustered. “And my brother is not a prick.”

“What you know...you haven’t seen him in what, eight years? You don’t know him, he may very well be an asshole.” Daryl pointed out. You knew he didn’t really mean anything by it, that he was just upset with the whole situation, but it rubbed you the wrong way.

“Yeah, yeah you are right.” You got up from the bed and paced around the small room furiously, doing your best not to cry. “I don’t know a single thing about my own damn brother, maybe I wouldn’t even recognize his face anymore. He might be as big of an asshole as his father, for all I know, yeah. You are damn right.”

“’m sorry...I didn’t mean to say it like that.” He sounded genuine and you knew he was “Was just trying to explain to you...” He trailed off, shrugging awkwardly as if he didn’t know what to say and you forced yourself to stop pacing.

You sat down on the bed again, leaning against the wall and tilting your head back, closing your eyes for a second.

“I’m sorry too, you know how I feel about it...” You tailed off but you knew Daryl would understand. He knew how you felt about your brother, knew it was a sensitive matter for you. He was the only one in your group you talked to about it. “I don’t want to argue with you.”

“It’s you who’s mad.” He was fidgeting again.

“I can’t really be, though...I’m too happy you are back.” You admitted. It was worth just for seeing the cute small smile he gave you.

You reached out your hand, tentatively, and he took it, lacing his fingers with yours, and you couldn’t help the way your heart started beating faster.

“I’m happy I’m back too,” Daryl said quietly and you could swear you saw him blush.

 “You were really that upset cos I left?” Daryl asked after a moment, his voice a rasped murmur.

His face was down, as if trying to hide. You tried not to read much into his question, though. You knew he was actually quite an insecure person, so the question didn’t surprise you as much as it could.

“Of course I was, idiot.” You squeezed his hand. “You are my family, I care for you, Daryl. Thinking I wouldn’t see you again...it’s something I never want to feel again.” It was your turn to blush now.

He smiled but quickly hid his face again.

“I didn’t want to leave,” Daryl said after a moment of silence. “But I couldn’t just leave Merle either...but after we left I was all time thinking ways of dragging him here, I wanted to come back.” He let go of your hand to start fidgeting with the arrow again. “But I knew the others wouldn’t want him to stay...but that we are here maybe they’ll accept him...”

That wasn’t going to be easy, but you didn’t want to say it in case it made you argue again, not now that he was opening up to you, so you just nodded silently. The knowledge he hadn’t wanted to leave, that he really cared for all you and had wanted to come back had made you feel better instantly, as if a weight that had been pulling you down had been suddenly lifted from you.

“I’ll make it up to all of you.” Daryl kept going when you didn’t say anything. “For leaving and for what Merle did and all.”

“You don’t need to make up anything, is not your responsibility what Merle does or doesn’t.” You frowned, hating to see Daryl being dragged down by Merle’s actions, always having to clean after him.

“It kind of is...” Daryl murmured, his fingers nervously spinning the arrow.

“No, it’s not. You gotta keep an eye on him now that you brought him here, that’s true, keep him from making trouble.” It wasn’t going to be easy and you knew it, especially not now that Rick had unlocked Merle so he could help around, everyone doing their best to keep out of his way. “But what he did with the Governor has nothing to do with you.”

“How are Maggie and Glenn doing?” He asked, looking at you with worried eyes.

“Not that good...” You replied honestly. “Glenn’s just...he’s so angry all the time I’m scared he’s going to do something reckless...”

“And Maggie...your brother did not only terrorize her and torture Glenn, but he also let the Governor humiliate her, grope her...” You were so angry at it you wanted to go and punch Merle in the face until your hand bled, but Daryl’s feelings for him stopped you from doing anything like that. And that was nothing compared with what you wanted to do to the Governor.

Daryl flinched at your words and your heart went to him, but he needed to know the truth.

“We’ll make it up to them.” He said quietly, grasping the arrow so tight his hand was shaking.

“It’s not you who has to do it.” You nudged him gently with your knee, hating to see him blaming himself again and again over Merle’s actions.

“Then I’ll make Merle make it up to them.” Daryl shrugged.

“Tell me if you need help punching him or something.” You chimed in and he snorted but gave you a smile that sent butterflies to your stomach.

“Ey, did you ran into a small group when you were out there?” You asked suddenly, Tyreese and his group springing to your mind.

Daryl frowned as if confused by your question. “Found a family trapped on a bridge, the geeks were about to eat them, baby and all.”

“No!” You gasped horrified and you were even surer you couldn’t leave the safety of the prison’s fences, no with baby Judith, no matter how big of a threat the Governor was.

“I helped them kill the walkers, they managed to leave the bridge, Y/N,” Daryl reassured you. “Merle was an ass to them though...”

“Go figure...” You rolled your eyes. “That family was lucky you were close.” As lucky as your family was to have him back. You smiled proudly at Daryl but he just shrugged.

“Why you asked anyway?”

“Carl found a small group on the other side of the prison, brought them here to save them from the walkers.” You explained. “They were nice people, Daryl, they weren’t a threat, but Rick kicked them out.”

“That’s cos Rick worries about us, he can’t just let everyone in, they could have been dangerous...” Daryl replied, but he sounded unsure.

“I know he wants to protect us, but it wasn’t like that...he...he lost it, Daryl.” You shook your head. “He began yelling at them to leave, then he was screaming to the air, to someone we couldn’t see, he scared the shit out of us. And before you arrived he was just wandering outside the prison alone like he were searching for something...It was almost like he had gone insane...”

“He’s still recovering from Lori...” The arched said quietly. “He’ll be alright soon.”

“I hope so...” You weren’t just complaining, you were truly worried about Rick. His behavior was endangering the group and you were low key angry at him still, but you cared for him nevertheless and it pained you to see him like that.  “Between that and Glenn seeming to lose it too, I couldn’t be happier you are here.”

Before Daryl could say anything, Maggie and Carl’s voices made you jump to your feet.

“Andrea, it’s Andrea! He’s outside the fences, walkers are gonna get her!”

Daryl and you rushed to join the others, stopping just to grab you a shotgun and him his crossbow, and then he was running outside with his brother and Rick while you headed to the platform.

“What the shit...” You murmured as you watched Rick throw Andrea to her knees and search her. Sure, she had been with the Governor, but he was still Andrea, your lost companion! You refused to believe he was here with the Governor or that she meant to attack you.

Rick and Daryl didn’t seem to share your thoughts though, and they dragged her inside roughly. You reached the hall in time to see Andrea and Carol hugging, and she hugged you next before pulling apart and realizing how many of you were missing...T-Dog, Lori, Shane...

Everyone was tense, eyeing Andrea with suspicion as she tried to explain herself and you hated it but couldn’t do anything about it except hope you all could reach an understatement. You perched yourself on top of the table, next to Daryl, watching anxiously as the group argued with Andrea.

“I think we should try and make an agreement with the Governor like Andrea says...” You murmured to Daryl after Rick stormed off and Andrea walked outside with Michonne. It was the only way you could see of not having to leave the prison without risking to be attacked. You weren’t that sure you could protect yourselves if Woodbury decided to attack you with all they had.

“That Governor wants no agreement.” Daryl shook his head. “He wants to kill us. And I want to kill him too.”

“Yeah, well, then maybe we’ll all end up dead.” You said gloomily before walking away.

Chapter Text

With everyone discussing what to do, you didn’t have a moment to really talk with Andrea until  later, while she her went to talk with Carol and held Lil Asskicker.

‘I’m glad you are alive.” You told her awkwardly, unsure of how to talk to her now that you had the chance, after all this time thinking her dead, after sort of having abandoned her.

“I’m glad too.” Andrea chuckled, passing Judith to Carol.

“I...I’m sorry about the farm...” You muttered, looking down. “I should have come back for you...I didn’t think you make it...”

Andrea gave you a smile.

“I never blamed you...you wouldn’t have found me, I ran away from there as soon as I could.”

You still felt guilt and stood silent for a moment while she coddled Judith.

“What are you doing with that psycho, Andrea.” You said finally said, directly.

“It’s not that easy Y/N...he’s not how you think he’s.” She tried to explain and you huffed.

“You saw what he did to Glenn and Maggie” You couldn’t believe she was that blind.

“That was Merle.” Andrea insisted as if trying to make herself believe it and you didn’t know what more you could say to her. It seemed pointless.

“I’m going to talk with Rick again. He has to see that a deal is the only solution to this.” She said before walking away.

“What do you think?” You asked Carol, watching Andrea go.

“I think we have a valuable ally inside our enemies if Andrea plays her cards right,” Carol said coldly, and you wondered what they had been talking about. “She seems close enough to the Governor to slash his throat on his sleep. I hope she takes advantage of that.”

There was a time when the thought of killing a man on his sleep while you shared his bed would have horrified you, but it seemed those days were long gone.

---

“I can’t believe Rick’s making Andrea leave!” You complained to Daryl, the two of you sitting down on top of the table together again.

“He’s not making her leave, she wants to.” Daryl pointed out.

“Well, then we shouldn’t let her!” You exclaimed frustrated. “The Governor is a sick, evil man, who knows what he’ll do to Andrea if he thinks she’s working with us...”

“Do you want us to lock her in a cell or what?” The archer shrugged. “She’s a grown ass woman, can take care of herself.”

“I know...I just...I thought she’d stay with us now.” You were worried about your Andrea’s safety in Woodbury and didn’t understand why she would leave now that she had found you again, especially to go to a psycho like the Governor.

“Andrea wants to stay in Woodbury. And she’s going to talk the Governor into making a deal with us. Rick and I talked with her again and Rick agreed on meeting with him and trying to sort it out.” Daryl gave you a small smile when he saw you beaming at him.

“That’s so good!” You were beyond happy. Rick seemed to sort of trust Andrea then, and maybe they could work on a deal and everything would be good for your group, you all would be finally safe. You had to believe it, you forced yourself to do it. The other possibility was too scary to think about it.

“I still think is not going to work.” Daryl broke your bubble of hopeful thoughts. “We gotta get ready in case he comes for us.”

You pushed him softly with your shoulder, but you knew he was right. Things had a way of going wrong lately.

You worried about Andrea leaving when the sun was already getting down, she would have to walk to Woodbury during the night, with all that it entailed. But to your relief, when you walked out to say your goodbyes you saw Rick had lent her a car. He also gave her a gun and some ammo, and you saw a glimpse of the old Rick. You hoped he will be totally back soon.

You all watched until Andrew drove off and disappeared down the road and then walked back inside.

The atmosphere inside the cellblock that night was tense and anxious. You all were silent, lost in your worried thoughts. You had talked quietly to Carol for a bit, sat down next to her close to the lit candles, but now she seemed lost in thought too. You were right there with her, wondering if Andrea was already in Woodbury, if the Governor was listening to her, if he’d agree to her plan and make a deal with you, or if your group would have to face another attack. You were grateful when Beth started singing, helping you to take your mind off everything that could go wrong for a bit.

“Andrea is trying to sort out a reunion so the Governor and I can make a deal. But we don’t know if it’ll work out and we need to prepare ourselves in case we are attacked again” Rick informed all of you before you got ready for bed. “Tomorrow at first light I’ll go out on a run to bring back supplies, gear, guns, ammo, anything I can find. I’m taking Carl and Michonne. Daryl and Hershel will be on charge of this while I’m gone. We’ll come back before dusk.”

Carl nodded solemnly and so did Michonne, but she seemed surprised.

One by one, your family retreated to their cells to sleep and so did you, but after what seemed like an eternity lying there you couldn’t get yourself to fall asleep. Too many things worried you. You weren’t as good at being positive as you wanted.

Tired of tossing and turning, you got up and walked out of the cell, hoping to clear your mind with a walk, even if it was just up and down the cellblock.

You found Daryl sitting down on the floor, facing the cell where Rick had locked his brother for the night.

“What are you doing out here?”  You asked him quietly, not wanting to wake up anyone.

“Keeping an eye on Merle,” Daryl replied, looking at you as you sat down next to him before training his eyes back to the cell.

“He doesn’t look like much of a threat right now.” Merle was lying on the bunk although in the dark you couldn’t make if he was asleep or not. “And he’s locked.”

Still, you knew Rick had told Daryl that if Merle caused trouble it would be on him, so you guessed the archer had taken it to heart. You wished he didn’t have that weight over his shoulders.

“I couldn’t sleep anyway.” Daryl shrugged.

“Yeah, tell me about it.” You yawned and lay against the railing. “My brain wouldn’t shut up about everything that might go wrong.”

“We’ll manage.” Daryl tried to comfort you, but you had the feeling he was as worried as you.

“What do you think about tomorrow’s run?” You asked in a whisper after a moment of silence.

“We need it but I’m not sure I trust Michonne,” Daryl whispered back to you. “She’s helped us...I guess will find out tomorrow if she’s really with us.”

“I trust her, I kind of like her.” You hadn’t really talked much with her, but she had given you a good vibe. She seemed so hard and rough at the outside, but even after only exchanging a couple of words here and there with her you were sure she was actually kind-hearted. Just like someone you knew.

“She wants the Governor dead, if only for Andrea. She’ll help us.” You added. “What worries me it’s actually Carl.”

“How’s so?” Daryl frowned at you.

“I know he’s good at all this surviving and killing walkers and what not, but he’s just a kid, he shouldn’t be going out on a run, especially not in a moment like this. And I feel Rick’s putting too much pressure on him.” You had been thinking like that for a while now, but hadn’t shared your thoughts with anyone. “Rick should see it.”

“Rick wants him to be strong to survive, that’s why he makes him do all this, he needs to.” The archer pointed out. “He has to be able to survive on his own in this world.”

“I know...but Carl has gone through so much...” You knew Rick loved Carl with all his heart, loved him more than anything in the world, and for that reason he behaved with him the way he did, but you wished he saw what that was starting to do to Carl. “I know he has to be able to survive and all that, but I wish he were also able to be a kid. He’s had to grow up too fast and he’s turning cold...I guess there’s no time to be a kid in this new world.” You added sadly.

“I got no time to be a kid in the old one either anyway,” Daryl said in such a quiet voice you almost didn’t hear him.

It broke your heart. You still didn’t know that much about Daryl’s life before the walkers roamed the world, but with what you knew about his family, you had no doubt little Daryl had gone through a lot too and probably hadn’t had the chance to be a little kid for long.

You didn’t know what to say, didn’t knew if Daryl had meant for you to hear him or not, so you stood silent, hoping that at least your company would bring him a bit of comfort. You hoped he knew that now he had a family who cared for him and loved him, that he wasn’t alone anymore. At the very least, he wouldn’t have to sit alone outside his brother’s cell while you were there.

You hadn’t realized you had almost fallen asleep, still lost in your thoughts about Daryl’s childhood, until you felt his hand shaking your shoulder.

“Y/N, go to bed.” He said softly.

“No, I’m fine here, I’m awake.” You said stubbornly, stiffing a yawn. You didn’t want to leave him alone. Neither you wanted to go back to toss in your bed.  But you were exhausted after the last days events and after days barely sleeping. “I’ll keep you company...” You said sleepily, your eyes already starting to close again.

Daryl snorted quietly at your words, seeming amused at you, but said nothing else. He stiffed when you rested your head against his arm, cuddling up to him, his presence always bringing you comfort, but he didn’t try to shift away, eventually relaxing and before you knew it you were falling asleep.

When you woke up Daryl was gone. You were curled up against a worn out pillow instead of him and his leather vest was laid over you. The sun was starting to come up, dim light filtering through the windows.  You could see the flickering light of a candle lighting Rick’s cell, quiet sounds coming from it as he got ready for his run.

You sat up, grimacing at your aching muscles due to your sleeping position on the floor, and put on Daryl’s vest, snuggling into it until a small chuckle coming from Merle’s cell startled you. You looked at it and saw him watching you with an unsettling smile on his face.

“What?” You asked, annoyed, getting up and walking closer to the cell.

“Have you gone all soft on my brother while I was away?” Merle mocked you. “Or it’s just he makes you all hot and bothered, umm?” He wriggled his eyebrows at you and you glared at him, feeling your face heat up as you blushed a deep red.

“Shut up.” You growled, embarrassed.

“Come on, princess, I have nothing against it.” Merle raised his hands in mocking surrender, an ugly smirk on his face. “In fact, I encourage you to bang my brother, see if you can relax him so he stops being an ass.” He chuckled and you didn’t know if you were more embarrassed or angry.

“Fuck you!” You spat, anger winning, and you turned on your heels to leave.

“Well, if you want to do both brothers, sweetheart...” He cackled.

You glared at him with daggers in your eyes, face burning. You opened your mouth to say where he could shove his good humor but decided against it, he’d just keep twisting your words to keep embarrassing you.

“Wait, wait, I actually wanted to talk with you,” Merle called after you when he saw you starting to walk away but you flipped him off without turning. “Come on, Y/N, it’s about Daryl,” he added as if knowing that’d make you stop. It did.

“What?” You growled, stopping in front of the cell’s door again.

“Look Y/N, I’m fine with you fucking my lil’ brother.” Merle began and you rolled your eyes, starting to walk away again. “But you’re making him soft and soft people die.”

“What you mean?” You asked warily.

“Don’t play coy I saw how he was looking at you.” Merle seemed disgusted. “I don’t want him getting killed just cos your sorry ass might need saving. You and your friends, that damn sheriff, had made him weak.”

You knew Daryl had changed since Merle had been gone, he had let himself care about people, so it was no wonder Merle was taken aback by it. But anyway it had nothing to do with you, it had come from him. You were sure his kind, big heart had always been in him, but with Merle around, he hadn’t had the chance to listen to it.

You chose to ignore Merle’s words about Daryl looking at you, trying to ignore the way your heart had skipped a beat when you heard them. Not the right moment. Besides, probably it was all in Merle’s head. He hadn’t cared about anyone but himself in all his life, so probably he didn’t know how caring looked like and he was twisting it all in his head.

“Your brother’s a good person. He cares, he helps people, but that doesn’t make him weak. Quite the opposite.” You jumped to defend Daryl, annoyed with Merle.

“He’s gonna get himself killed,” Merle growled. “I won’t stand here and let it happen.”

“You are gonna pretend you care about your brother now?” You snapped, angry. He was always treating Daryl like shit and now he was going to play the worried brother.

You jumped back, startled, when Merle threw himself at the door, fists clutching the bars so tight his knuckles went white.

“Shut your mouth, bitch.” He hissed. “You know nothing.”

“Everything okay, Y/N?” Rick popped his head out of his room at the sound.

“Yeah, yeah, it’s fine.” You didn’t want to turn this into anything. You were surprised by Merle’s reaction and you wondered if it might not be a play, if he cared for his brother in his own twisted way. If that was the case, then he should start showing it and stop behaving like an ass. You didn’t give him much credit, though.

Rick walked out of his room and looked from you to Merle, surveying the situation.

“Y/N, help me carry this to the car.” He said, pointing at some bags and you knew there was no point saying no.

“I know how Merle is and neither I want him here, but he’s Daryl’s bother. I don’t want any incidents involving him while I’m away.” Rick said to you once you walked outside and you blushed, ashamed. The last thing you wanted was to give Daryl any trouble. You had let Merle play with you, making you lose your temper.

While you were helping Rick, Michonne, and Carl to get everything ready in the car, you caught sight Daryl, smoking up in the watchtower and as soon as the trio got into the car, you walked up the tower’s stairs to meet him. He was leaning on the railing, watching Rick’s car drive away.

“Hey!” You greeted.

“Hey.” Daryl looked at you over his shoulder, doing a double take when he saw you with his vest, before looking at the treeline again.

“Haven’t you slept at all?” You asked, leaning against the railing and taking in the dark circles under his eyes. “Then go and get some sleep.” You said when he shook his head at your question. “I’ll keep watch.”

“I’m fine.” He rasped. “Rick wants me to take care of this.”

You knew how much it meant to Daryl that now Rick leaned so much in him, that he trusted him like that, and that he valued him and respected him. It was probably something he wasn’t used to. You had seen Daryl starting to follow him after the farm fell, looking up to him, and you felt  Rick was becoming some sort of brother for Daryl with Merle gone.

You were glad Daryl had something like that, someone like Rick, and were happy Rick had seen the good in Daryl.

So you understood Daryl’s need to take care of everything with Rick gone, it wasn’t only that he cared for all you and wanted to protect you and keep you safe, of course he wanted that, but also he didn’t want to let Rick down.

Still, he needed his rest as much as anyone and he looked like he hadn’t had much in days.

“You’re not going to be of any help if you are half asleep on your feet.” You said, and he frowned at you.

“I’m not half asleep.” He protested, but you cut him off.

“I know, but you need to sleep. You are exhausted.” You said before he could say anything. “Come on. I’ll keep watch.”

“I don’t know...” Daryl was still frowning. “Something could happen...”

“First, if something were to happen I’m sure the sounds would wake you up.” You understood his reluctance but you were starting to feel like just dragging him to bed by his ear. “And second, if I see something strange I tell you. Come on, you can’t keep watch forever, that’s why we take turns, and you are needed inside too. Don’t think you are going to get someone else to babysit Merle.”

Daryl scoffed but a small smile tugged at the corner of his lips. “Okay...” He accepted reluctantly.

“Keep it,” he said when you made to take off his vest so you could give it back to him. “You’re the one staying outside.”

“Thanks.”

Daryl nodded before finally leaving the watchtower and you watched him walk into the cellblock.

You hadn’t been sitting alone in the watchtower long, curled up in Daryl’s vest, when you heard footsteps coming up the stairs.

“Hi, angel.” Carol teased you, walking in with a steaming bowl on her hands. “I brought you breakfast.”

“Thank you! You didn’t have to.” You took the bowl and began to dig in. You’d never been a fan of oatmeal but by now you ate pretty much anything, and Carol had a way of making anything taste better.

“Is Daryl sleeping?” You asked between bites. “I told him so.”

“I figured you did.” Carol chuckled. “At first he seemed to intend to keep watch on Merle but I sent him to bed.”

“Good.” You replied, mouth full of oats.

Carol waited for you to finish your breakfast before she spoke again.

“You didn’t sleep in your cell this night...” She said nonchalantly.

“How do you know it?” You asked, surprised.

 “I woke up before dawn and I couldn’t go back to sleep so I decided to get up and do something useful. “ Carol explained. “I saw Daryl and you looking cozy in the corridor.”

You blushed at her words but didn’t say anything, hoping she’d let it go. She didn’t.

“I understand it perfectly, don’t you worry.” She looked at you with a mischievous smile. “Who wouldn’t rather curl up to strong arms than sleep alone in the small bunk of a sad cell...”

“Carol!” Your cheeks burned in embarrassment.

“I know Daryl’s fond of sleeping on the floor of that perch, but may I suggest next time you try to drag him to your bed? Way better than the floor.” Carol laughed, winking at you as she kept teasing you relentlessly.

“Stop, please.” You begged, hiding your face on your hands. “It’s not like you’re saying it.”

“Why are you blushing then.” She nudged you with her shoulder, chuckling.

“Cos it’s embarrassing!” You exclaimed, face still hidden.

You couldn’t help yourself, you wished it actually were like Carol was insinuating. But it wasn’t, and you knew better than to expect something like that. You’d been just trying to comfort a friend and keep him company.

Carol looked at you with a smirk like she could read you.

“I still don’t think a corridor’s the best place for sleeping.” She said innocently.

“Tell me about it, I feel my neck is bent in all the wrong places.” You complained.

“Really?” Carol blinked, all pretended innocence. “I’m sure Daryl’d give you a nice massage...” She began her teasing again and you chastised yourself for having made it so easy for her.

“Carol, stop!” You warned her, blushing again.

Carol laughed at you but mercifully stopped her teasing.

“I’ll keep you company. Glenn and Maggie will come in a couple hours.” She informed you.

“I thought they kept watch last night? You asked, glad Carol had changed the topic.

“Well, there aren’t many places to be alone in here beside the watchtower.” Carol shrugged. “And I feel they don’t want to be near Merle if they can help it.”

That was something you could understand perfectly.

The sun was already going down when Rick’s car finally arrived. While you helped to take out everything they had brought from the car, you sensed a change in the atmosphere you couldn’t quite pit point, like something had shifted between Rick, Michonne, and Carl, and you even caught Carl and Michonne sharing a joke. You didn’t know what was going on but smiled, it could only be good.

They had brought lots and lots of weapons and ammo, even some arrows for Daryl, and the sight of so many guns made you feel uneasy, it gave a feeling of reality and urgency to the threat you all faced that you hadn’t quite felt yet. You could just hope you didn’t have to resort to that.

When you finished sorting everything out, you saw Michonne carrying something colorful to what had become her cell. Curiosity got the best of you and you walked closer, trying to see what it was.

“What’s that?” You smiled when Michonne showed you the cat figurine. “Oh...I don’t know if I’m a fan of the color or if I hate it.”

“I think is gorgeous.” Michonne gave you that easy, genuine smile that had made you trust her even though you hadn’t known her for that long. “I like cats.” She walked into her cell and began to survey where the cat figurine looked best.

“I love cats!” You followed her inside the cell. “I used to feed all the stray cats that lived in my village.” You felt a pang of sadness you hadn’t felt in a long while at the memories of your life before. “They lived on the streets but used to follow me or come to my door for food and a cuddle. I was really fond of them...” You wondered if they were still out there, roaming through the village, hiding from the dead.

“I’d guessed you had a soft spot for strays by now...” Michonne chuckled.

“What you mean?” You frowned.

“Nothing.” She chuckled again at your confused face. “What you think?” She placed the figurine on top of one of the tiny shelves.

“Perfect place.” You nodded, grinning. “I’m gonna have to get myself something for my room.” It hadn’t occurred to you that you could decorate. This was your home. Even if it was a small thing, the cat figurine seemed to bring something to the cell.

“I’ll bring you something from the next run.”

Chapter Text

You watched anxiously as Rick, Daryl, and Hershel got ready for the meeting. You couldn’t quite shake the uneasy feeling off you.

The day before Andrea had come to tell you the Governor wanted to meet with Rick to try and make a deal, end the violence and finally solve everything. It sounded good, but your group was sceptical and there was the fear of it being a trap, no matter Andrea promised you it wasn’t. You trusted her, but not the Governor. Still, you had to give it a chance.

Rick had decided he’d take Hershel and Daryl with him, leaving you and the others at the prison to get ready in case things went wrong or there was another attack.

Merle had been very vocal with his thoughts about the meeting, demanding Rick to take him with him when the group decided to go despite Merle’s protests, but obviously, Rick declined him. Merle had been so enraged that Rick had threatened to lock him down again or kick him out and Daryl had had to drag him out of the cellblock.

“You are going to solve this.” You said to Rick before he got into the car. He nodded, giving you a small smile even though his face was still showing the anxiety and the pressure he was feeling. At least, he seemed to be almost the old Rick and you trusted he’d do what was best to your family.

Daryl was going to lead the car on his bike and you walked to him before he drove away, the engine already running.

“Be careful, okay?” You couldn’t help but worry.

“I still think this meeting is good for nothing.” He shrugged. “We have to try anyway I guess.”

“Yeah...” You didn’t know what to say. You understood where he was coming from, the Governor didn’t like the kind of person who’d leave you alone easily, but Andrea had promised he’d listen to you and try to solve this. You had to give it a try.

Things with Merle went from bad to worse as he kept going and going about Rick’s stupidity and how your family was willingly walking to their doom and what not, oblivious to all of you glaring at him and deaf to all the times you told him to shut up.

He wanted to go and ambush the meeting, taking the Governor by surprise and he didn’t care to consider that it might end up with yours getting hurt on the attack too. He seemed to be sure the meeting was a trap or that at the very least it was your only chance to end the Governor.

He was starting to make you doubt. You knew Merle’s plan was bad but still, you feared your friends had gone right into a trap. Tired of listening to Merle’s nonsense, which was only making you feel more anxious, you left the hall, looking for Carol.

You found her in a cell, sorting some clothes.

“If I keep listening to Merle I’m gonna throw all our bean cans at him.” You complained, sitting down on the bed.

“Then ignore him,” Carol said without stopping to look at you. “He annoys you because you let him.”

“He annoys me because he has a big mouth and love to talk nonsense loudly with it.” You replied.

Carol just chuckled but said nothing else and you got up to help her with the clothes.

You had just finished your task when you heard a gunshot coming from the hall and you rushed there, fearing Merle had managed to shot someone. When you got there, though, you saw the older Dixon was on the floor holding down Glenn while Maggie tried to drag him away, although the tree of them seemed kind of frozen in place, staring at Beth who was standing there, gun in hand, seemingly the one who had shot.

“What the hell...” You muttered, looking as Merle shook Maggie off him and retreated away. Beth dropped the gun and stormed off the hall, seeming about to cry.

“Hey, you okay?” You called, going after her.

“Yeah, yeah.” She nodded, but she was obviously upset, eyes wet. “Just...they were fighting and I didn’t know how to make Merle stop so...”

“You did great, girl!” You congratulated her. “What a way to stop them, well done.”

“Thanks...” Beth gave you a small smile. “I guess I took them by surprise.”

“Sure thing you did!” You laughed, nobody would have expected that from sweet little Beth. “You might as well babysit Merle from now on instead of Judith.” You teased, and the girl grimaced.

“Please, no.”

***

You couldn’t be happier when you finally heard the sound of the motorbike and the car driving closer, your friends seemingly unhurt although the look on Daryl’s face told you everything you needed to know. Soon Rick confirmed what all of you feared. There was no deal, the Governor wanted you dead.

Soon your group was arguing again about what was best, leave the prison, prepare for the Governor’s attack and fight for your home, or go to Woodbury and attack first. You had to almost chuckle at the irony of Merle and Glenn agreeing for once, along with Michonne, as they stated the only option was to attack first.

You didn’t know what to think, you didn’t want to risk anyone of your family in a fight but you were sure you couldn’t leave the prison and survive out there, you had barely made it the winter. Still, going to enemy territory sounded dangerous, but so did waiting for them to attack you with all their force...but at least you knew the prison better than them, you might stand a chance...though you were long past trying to be positive, it had only brought you disappointments.

Rick had left before deciding anything, seeming overwhelmed again, leaving Hershel trying to deal with the situation and listening to everyone’s opinions.

“How does the Governor look?” You asked, flopping down next to Daryl when Hershel went to find Rick.

“Like an asshole.” Daryl shrugged, making you chuckle. “His men weren’t really that bad though...” He added, seeming thoughtful.

“So we fight now...” You said mournfully after a moment of silence.

“Yeah...” He nodded. “I know Carol said we should leave cos we are outnumbered but we can’t survive our there with Hershel missing a leg and with Lil Asskicker.”

“I know...” You agreed with him. “But I don’t know what should we do now.”

“Rick’d come up with something...” Daryl replied but you weren’t that sure. “He’ll do, it’s just he has a lot to do now, tough decisions to make.” He added when he saw your face. “But he’ll get us out of this, he’ll do the right thing.”

You had to admire Daryl’s loyalty and trust on his friend, it only made you like him more. You could understand Rick was under a lot of pressure. Still, you felt uncertain and more scared than you wanted to show, so you had wished Rick had reassured you a bit instead of just walking away. But the man had a lot on him.

You let out a tired sigh and leaned your head on Daryl’s shoulder, half expecting he’d shrug you off, but he didn’t and you took comfort in the closeness while you waited for Rick to tell you his decision, what to do next.

***

Morning arrived but Rick hadn’t tell you any plan yet, though you saw him talking with Hershel and Daryl so you figured they might have been making plans. When you asked the archer, though, he wouldn’t tell you anything, replying evasively and telling you to wait for Rick’s orders.

You didn’t like the feeling of it, afraid they might not have been able to come up with a plan and you were all in danger. It that was the case, they should just tell you, the rest of you could also help and think something, Rick didn’t have to do everything alone. You didn’t have much time to worry about it because Merle seemed to have gotten mad, ripping open the linens and mattresses of the cells.

You rushed to him, ready to tell him off and try to stop him, telling him all the things you thought about him, but then saw Rick storming into the cellblock and decided to leave it to him. Merle probably wouldn’t listen to you and you’d just work yourself up and get angry and upset for nothing. You had been trying to follow Carol advice and ignore the older Dixon, but he was not making it easy.

You walked past Rick and out of the cellblock, right into Daryl who was outside. He saw you and tried to avoid you not very subtly and you glared at him.

“Control your brother! Fucking waste of good mattresses...” You growled at Daryl, earning you a puzzled look from the archer.

You were angry at Merle but also at yourself because you had let him anger you again without even talk to him. Daryl’s weird behavior wasn’t helping either and you tried to find Carol so you could vent to someone before you exploded again.

You found her with Maggie and Michonne, helping to prepare things in case the Governor decided to attack. You felt bad you had been so caught up in your own bubble of moodiness you hadn’t been helping them so you set up to work too and soon the hard work and the company of the other women made you feel better.

Not much later you found Daryl perched up on the picnic table of the yard, looking rather miserable and you made your way towards him.

“You okay?” You asked sitting down next to him, wondering if this had something do with Rick’s plan or lack of it.

“Yeah.” It seemed Daryl wasn’t going to say anything else but then he spoke again. “Just had a talk with my brother that didn’t go that well.”

“I can figure.” Merle was a pain for all you but even more for his brother because he actually cared for the asshole and had to answer for him. “Did you figure out why he was killing mattresses?”

“Was looking for drugs,” Daryl replied and you shook your head, letting out a sigh.

“Daryl, why are you avoiding me?” You directly asked after a moment of silence. “Why don’t you want to tell me about Rick’s plan?”

“He doesn’t want to tell anyone yet, I can’t just go and tell you...” The archer frowned.

“It’s because he doesn’t have a plan?” You were getting more worried. “Cos then he should tell us, we could think something together.”

“He has a plan...” Daryl shifted, seeming uncomfortable, which did nothing to ease your fears.

“So then why he doesn’t tell us?”

“Cos it’s not good...” Daryl finally gave up. “Cos he didn’t say the truth, the Governor offered him a deal.”

“And Rick doesn’t want to take it?” You didn’t understand.

“He wants to...” Daryl nodded. “But the deal it’s we give him Michonne and then the asshole leaves us alone. So Rick didn’t tell you cos you wouldn’t like it.”

“What?” You were confused. “The Governor wants Michonne? He doesn’t want us dead?”

“Seems he really hates the woman.” Daryl shrugged. “But I think he does want us dead.”

“And Rick is just going to give her to that psycho?!” You couldn’t believe it. The Governor would kill Michonne, would do horrible things to her, you were sure. Rick couldn’t just give her like that. “He can’t do that! We are killing her!”

“I don’t like it either.” Daryl said and you could see he was genuine, you wouldn’t believe Daryl would agree with something like that.“But Rick’s trying to protect us, it’s the only way he’s found.”

“Still, he can’t do it! She’s one of us too!” You had just spent the last couple of hours with her, messing around, trying to make each other feel better, sharing your frustrations and worries. “We can’t give up one of our own...even if she weren’t, we are sending her to her death, to torture. What kind of people are we?” You couldn’t believe your family would agree to something like this.

“I know...But I don’t think Rick will do it, tho. He neither wants to, he just feels he has to do it to protect us. But he’ll change his mind, he won’t do it.” Daryl assured you.

“He better, cos I’m not letting him take Michonne.” You weren’t sure you could stop him but you damn sure were going to try.

“Just don’t tell anyone else yet.” Daryl sounded worried again. “Give Rick the chance to change his mind, he’ll do it.”

“Alright...” You conceded. Daryl thought Rick wouldn’t do it and these days it seemed the archer was the one who understood the sheriff the most, so you hoped he was right.

You couldn’t believe Rick would do something like that. He had done some things in order to protect you, sure, and he could be cold and hard sometimes, but still... you couldn’t see him doing something like that.

Daryl gave you the smallest smile and nudged you with his shoulder, you weren’t sure if as a way of saying thank you or if to comfort you, before getting on his feet and leaving you alone on the table, lost in thought.

Later that day you were working on the fence, trying to reinforce it, when you noticed Daryl running to you.

“Ey Y/N, have you seen Michonne?” He asked, worry all over his face.

“No, why?” You looked at him warily. If he wanted you to give up Michonne to Rick, you weren’t going to do it, but you hadn’t seen her since earlier, when you worked with her, Carol and Maggie.

“Rick changed his mind, I told you he would,” Daryl said as if reading your mind. “But nobody has seen her and Merle’s gone too. He knew about the plan, told me he too knew Rick wouldn’t do it. I think he might have just taken her himself.”

“Oh, no!” Your relief at Rick’s change of plans was sort lived, fear getting a hold of you again. “What do we do?”

“Nothing.” Daryl shook his head at you. “Don’t tell anyone, I’ll find her.”

Before you could say anything else, the archer was already running away from you, rushing into the building with Rick on his heels.

You itched to tell Carol what was going on, Maggie too, but you knew Rick wouldn’t want any trouble of fight going on in the cellblock until he had solved this thing. He had changed his mind so you wanted to give him the opportunity to explain himself.

Still, when you saw Daryl got into his bike and drove off the prison, you made your way towards Rick, who was just watching him go, anxiety all over his face.

“You were really going to give Michonne to that psycho man?” You said unceremoniously.

Rick frowned at you but didn’t seem surprised you knew. “It was our chance, the only way I had to stop us from fighting. But I couldn’t do it.” He shook his head and you didn’t know if he regretted considering taking the deal or being unable to do so.

“You better couldn’t. You were going to let Michonne being tortured and killed.” You replied. “How could we live knowing that?”

“Yeah...” Rick nodded but he was still frowning. He always looked stressed these days. “And the Governor might have attacked us anyway. And now Merle might just give Michonne to him.”

You saw him looking anxiously at the road ahead of the prison.

You took on his tired and worried face and couldn’t help but feel sorry for him, for everything that had happened to him, everything he still had to endure. You may or may not argue with him a lot, may or may not agree with half of his decisions, but still, over everything, he was not your leader but your friend, and you cared for him.

“Daryl will find them. He’ll stop Merle.” You assured him.

Rick gave you a small, tired smile, wrapping his arm around your shoulders in a silent thank you briefly before he walked to your group who had gathered together at the commotion, to explain to them what was going on.

You were happy to hear everyone in your family agreed on this, giving up Michonne was not the solution, but for now, there wasn’t much you could do besides waiting for Daryl to come back, hoping he’d bring Michonne with him.

You worked on the fence for a bit, killing the walkers that were gathering outside, pushing the fences, before you retreated into the watchtower, scanning the road, hoping to see the familiar motorbike appear soon.

You had been up there for a couple of hours, your anxiety growing, when you heard footsteps running up the watchtower. You turned around to see Maggie rushing outside where you were sitting.

“I gotta show you something.” She panted, an excited grin on her face.

“What?” You were confused about what could have her smiling like that in your situation.

“Look!” Maggie sat down next to you and waved her hand in front of your face, a ring with a big diamond on her ring finger.

“Woa...you have a taste for big jewelry now? A big bold if you ask me.” You teased.

“Shut up!” Maggie pushed you playfully. “No, silly! Glenn proposed!”

“He did?!” Now you understood her dreaming smile and you couldn’t help but smile too, truly happy for your friends. “Congratulations, girl!”

“And now we are like...married?!” Maggie’s grin went even bigger if that was possible and you laughed, you could almost feel her vibrate with happiness.

“But what about the wedding?”

“Well, it’s not like we can do an actual wedding and all that.” Maggie shrugged. “So we decided, why being engaged when we can just actually be married?”

“But we are missing the party!” You complained playfully. “And the bridesmaids and all that! I want an actual wedding. You have robbed us.”

Maggie just laughed at your words, eyes bright, and you couldn’t remember ever seeing her this happy. You were glad your friends had managed to find each other and something like this, this piece of happiness and peace in the middle of such a cruel word.

“We are doing a wedding party as soon as all this shit is dealt with.” You said determinedly.

“You think this will ever end...?” Maggie’s face turned serious.

“Of course it will, you’ll see.” You wanted to see her big smile back. “And maybe you won’t have a white dress but we have that long dress we found in a car, the one which doesn’t have many holes in it...we won’t have a cake but we’ll have Carol’s biscuit and there will be no waltz but Beth can sing and we are going to party the whole night!”

“Yeah...” There was her smile again, mirroring your own. “Beth cried when I told her! She was so excited! And dad...I hadn’t seen him looking so happy in so long.”

“I’m so glad, you deserve this, girl.” You threw your arm around her for a hug and she leaned her head on your shoulder, giggling. Even if just for a moment, you let yourself have hope in the future of your family, you heart content for a short while.

You sat down together until you saw Michonne walking up the road to the prison and you both jumped to help her in, rushing down the watchtower to open the doors for her.

“Are you okay?”

“What happened?”

“Where’s Daryl?”

“Merle?”

Maggie and you shot your questions at Michonne as soon as she was safe inside and she stepped back, seeming a bit overwhelmed, so you tried to calm down and give her some space, which wasn’t easy worried as you were for Daryl. She looked like she had been through something.

“I’ll explain inside.” She said tiredly, probably wanting to tell you all at the same time and not wanting to repeat herself over and over.

Once inside everyone alternated from welcoming her back and bombarding her with questions like Maggie and you had just done.

“I found Daryl on my way here, he’s fine but he has gone looking for Merle .” Michonne began explaining after finishing a bottle of water, not doing much to ease your worries. “Merle knocked me off and tied me up, he wanted to bring me to the Governor He thought that way the Governor would forgive you and his brother would be safe. He wanted Daryl to be safe, that was what drove him.”

She looked at you when she said that, you weren’t sure why. You didn’t know if you were happy or not that Merle actually cared for his brother. Maybe he, indeed, loved him on his own, weird way.

“But at the end Merle let me go and went alone to the meeting place, he was going to try to kill the Governor’s men, maybe the Governor himself.” Michonne’s words surprised you all. “At the very least he’ll give us more time to get ready for them.”

Could it something good in Merle? You weren’t stupid enough to think he did it for any of you but for Daryl. Another proof he did care for his little brother. But he had let Michonne go, had done the right thing and it took you by surprise. Maybe there was something good in Merle after all, even if something ever so tiny.

You stomach twisted in worry for Daryl. If Merle had gone after the Governor’s men and Daryl had gone after his brother, he might be in danger, he might be fighting them right now. Or maybe he was captured, or killed...and no, you had to stop that train of thoughts. Daryl would be fine. He wasn’t stupid, he knew better than to go alone against those men. He’d get his brother and drag him back to the prison.

You shared a look with Rick and saw in his face he neither knew what to make of the situation.

“Daryl will be back soon, he’ll be fine,” Rick assured you as he walked past you.

You wanted to go and keep watch in the watchtower to wait for Daryl, but Maggie and Glenn went there first and you guessed they wanted some alone time, so you forced yourself to help Carol around, doing any task she deemed necessary, trying to keep your mind occupied.

After what seemed like an eternity, sun already going down, Rick came into the hall to tell your group that Daryl’s motorbike was approaching. You all waited anxiously until he reached the door, Maggie and Glenn opening it for him, and you exchanged a worried look with Carol when you saw Merle was not with him.

Daryl parked his bike and walked closer to the expecting group, staring at the ground as if trying to ignore your questioning eyes. When he got close enough, you couldn’t stop yourself from gasping aloud when you saw the blood that spattered his face and stained his hands. Daryl looked at you when he heard your gasp, his eyes clouded and rimmed red, but then he was looking down again as he headed towards the cellblock.

“Merle?” Rick asked before Daryl could get inside.

“Dead.” The archer muttered without looking up, disappearing inside the building.

You exchanged a pained look with Carol. No matter what you thought of his brother, your heart was breaking for Daryl. You wanted to follow him, comfort him, but you didn’t know how, and didn’t know how he’d take it.

For now, he seemed to want to be alone, having disappeared somewhere inside the cellblock. He reappeared later, when you all were having dinner, clean of blood. Carol handed him a plate and he took it but he seemed far from there, eyes vacant, and you didn’t think he ate anything at all.

When Rick questioned him gently about what had happened, he told him everything, how Merle had fought the Governor’s men, how he had given you time, but his voice sounded as if he were half lost in thought, somewhere away from there.

One by one, your family began retreating to their cells after dinner, Daryl being one of the firsts when he usually was the last, if he went to the cell at all.

Before heading to your cell, you decided to stop and check on Daryl first. You still hadn’t talked to him and you couldn’t bear it anymore.

He was sitting on his bed, seemingly lost in thought still, absentmindedly playing with a loose thread on his ripped trousers. He looked up and towards you when he heard you at the door. You opened your mouth to ask if he was okay but closed it again. Of course he wasn’t okay, but you didn’t know what else to say.

Daryl seemed to catch the sentiment because he shrugged before tilting his head as an invitation for you to come inside. You did and sat down on the bed next to him.

“I’m sorry...” You murmured, fully aware of how empty it sounded. Daryl said nothing as he kept playing with the loose thread, eyes trained on it.

“I killed him.” He rasped after a long moment of silence. “Had to. Was a walker already.”

“Daryl...” The pain in his voice was killing you. You knew that no matter what, Merle had been important for him, Daryl had always cared for his brother, and what he had been forced to do must have broken him. “I’m so sorry...”

You wrapped your arms around him and he let you pull him close, hiding his face on the crook of your shoulder.

“I know he was an ass, that he wasn’t good...” Daryl half sobbed, voice muffled against your shirt. “That he had it coming.”

“He was your brother nonetheless...” You wanted to comfort him but weren’t sure how. “And he did the right thing at the end, letting Michonne go, giving us more time...And he did what he did because he truly cared for you.”

Daryl scoffed at your words but you felt your shirt getting wet with tears.

You felt words wouldn’t comfort him and weren’t sure of what else you could say, so you just held him in silence, absentmindedly running your fingers through his hair and letting him cry his pain away.

Eventually, you felt him stop shaking but you didn’t let go, waiting for him to pull away first but he didn’t, remaining still in your arms. For a moment you thought he might have fallen asleep after exhausting himself crying but then Daryl slowly lifted his head from your shoulder, not meeting your eyes.

He did seem exhausted, eyes red and glossy with silent tears and your heart broke for him, almost hurting you physically. Your own eyes felt heavy, worn off by the events of the day, and you bit your lip, unsure of how the archer would take your next move.

You wanted him to sleep and rest but you weren’t able to leave him to mourn alone, so slowly you pushed him, ever so gently, to make him lie down on the bed. He gave you a confused, startled look that reminded you of a scared horse but let you push him down. Before he could say anything, you lied down next to him, squeezing yourself against the wall as much as possible and holding yourself tense in case he wanted you to go away.

He didn’t say anything but didn’t push you away, turning so his back was to you and you let out a relieved sigh, glad he wasn’t bothered by your company. Tentatively, you reached out your arm, gingerly wrapping it against his waist to hold him again. He stiffed at the contact and you were about to pull away when he took your hand and pulled you closer, and you couldn’t help your smile as you curled up against his back.

You fell asleep like that, holding him close through the night, waking up only when you felt him shaking with silent tears again. You kissed his shoulder, holding him tight in silence until he fell asleep again, you following him soon after.

Next time you woke up the sun was already starting to come up, dim sunbeams beginning to filter through the bars of the cell. You were still curled up with Daryl, your arms loosely wrapped around him and you felt him shifting as he woke up. He opened his eyes slowly and blinked at you confused, and then he’ was blushing a deep shade of red. He quickly pulled himself away from your arms, sitting up on the bed, his back to you, before getting onto his feet, still looking away.

You didn’t take it personally, knowing Daryl was just embarrassed he’d showed emotion yesterday night, allowing himself to be vulnerable and crying in your arms. You knew it was still hard for him to show his vulnerable, emotional side, and that it still made him feel embarrassed.

“Morning.” You ventured, sitting up.

 “Morning,” Daryl muttered, looking at you over his shoulder before quickly looking away again, cheeks red.

He shouldered his crossbow and walked out of the room without another word. You didn’t try to follow him, knowing Daryl needed his space. You could hear your family beginning to wake up so you got up and went to see if you could be of some help to anyone. There was a long, tough day ahead, and plans needed to be made.

Chapter Text

You couldn’t help but be saddened at the image of your cells emptied of your things. You had begun to feel they were yours, had thought they were becoming rooms as you made a home out of the prison...now the cellblock looked abandoned.

“Everything will work out.” Carol squeezed your hand. “We’ll be back.”

You nodded and went to help everyone to carry your things into the cars and out of the prison. The idea was to make the Governor believe you had abandoned it and gone away, just to then attack him by surprise.

You had reviewed the plan again and again. It needed to work or the Governor was sure to kill you all.

Rick and Michonne would hide inside the prison to wait for the Governor’s men to come in, along with Carol and Daryl. One group would turn on the generations to make the alarm blast, bringing all the walkers around to them, while the others would throw smoking bombs at the men, trapping them with the monsters.

Glenn, Maggie and you would stay one in each platform to shoot at the men that’d manage to get away from the walkers.

Hershel, Beth, and Carl would hide with baby Judith outside the prison. Carl had been complaining about it all the time, wanting to stay in the prison and fight, but there was no way his father, or any of you, would allow it. He had been glaring at all you all the time right until he had to leave.

You grunted under the weight of the riot vest, Maggie had tightened its straps enough to fit you, but it was still too big for you and you resented its heaviness but knew it would help you against the bullets of the Governor’s men.

It was a luck you didn’t need to move much, just enough to lift your shotgun to shoot and to duck and hide behind your armored pallets.

You were hidden now, waiting for your key to attack, the alarm of the prison. You were worried about the others inside, if they weren’t careful they could end up being attacked by the same walkers they were trying to throw at your enemies.

Soon after the alarm started blasting, you heard the panicked shouts of the men as they exited the cellblock, and you, Maggie and Glenn sprung into action. Some part of your mind thought you ought to be terrified, as you wildly shoot at the men and bullets flew back to you, but you had gone into action mood, you needed to survive, to help your family, so you aimed, shot and duck from bullets almost automatically.

After what felt like a few seconds to your adrenaline ridden self, the Governor and his men got into their vehicles and drove away from your home.

“We did it!”

You heard Maggie’s voice and you nodded, smiling to her before rushing down to meet the others.

“Everything okay?” You asked, giving Carol a brief hug, glad to see they all were alright.

“Plan worked out, good job.” Rick congratulated all of you.

“You okay?” Daryl’s blue eyes scanned you, relaxing when you nodded. “Good shooting there.”

The fight wasn’t over though, the Governor had left but he could come back, you had to follow him and attack now to end his threat completely. It was dangerous, but it had to be done, you couldn’t keep leaving in fear of him, waiting for his next attack.

Back inside the cellblock, you were elated to see Beth, Hershel, and Carl safe and sound, along with Judith, although they seemed to be in quite a dark mood. You guessed it was normal, considering what was going on.

You couldn’t make your mind about what to do with yourself now, you’d to decide between staying at the prison to help protect it in case the Governor came back or to go and chase his men, trying to finish this for once and for all. When Maggie and Glenn announced they were staying, you took your decision.

“Just the three of us then?” Daryl nodded at Rick and Michonne.

“No, I’ll go too.” You announced, grabbing your shotgun again.

“You sure?” Rick turned to look at you and you nodded.

“If he comes back, Glenn, Maggie, and Carol can hold him back so I’m going with you, I can help.” You assured.

You could fight, you had proven it and you were determined to do everything in your hand to protect your family and end this.

“Alright, we’re leaving now, just give me a second.”

Rick went to talk quietly with his son, who was again looking dark and grumpy, annoyed because he wasn’t being allowed to go to Woodbury.

“You don’t need to come, it’s dangerous.” Daryl stopped next to you, passing a bag to Michonne who was loading supplies into a car.

“I know, that’s why I need to go, so it won’t be just the three of you...there’s a lot of them...” You tried to sound sure and confident, but couldn’t help but worry, chewing at your lower lip.

“Yeah...” Daryl seemed worried too, though you knew he was eager to go fight the Governor. “Stay out of fight, okay? You have good aim, try to hide and shoot at them from away, okay?”

“Sure, boss.” You joked nervously.

He gave you that small smile of him that made your heart flutter not matter what and pat your arm before heading to his bike.

“We’ll be fine, we’ll win this.” Michonne tried lifting your spirit.

“Let’s go.”

***

You hadn’t gone far when you found the vehicles of the Governor stopped in the middle of the road, a few walkers munching on some dead bodies.

“What happened here?” You whispered after making quick work of the walkers, surveying the dantesque scene.

You let out an embarrassing yelp when you heard a loud thud on the window of the truck, a woman peeking through. Daryl and Rick made her go out, training their weapons on her, but she was alone and didn’t seem like a threat at all, she actually looked terrified.

She explained how the Governor had gone insane, lashing out against their people when they told him they wanted to retreat, shooting against them and killing them all. You couldn’t believe it. You knew the Governor to be a crazy, cruel man, but that was something else...gunning down his own people. You were horrified.

“We’ll stop him,” Daryl assured you when he noticed your troubled face.

You all rushed to Woodbury in order to check if the Governor had gone back there and to tell the people what had happened, to prevent them maybe, also to try and find Andrea. You were greeted by the bullets of Tyreese and Sasha, who seemed to have joined Woodbury, but Karen stepped in, telling them what the Governor had done and how you had helped her, so you were allowed in. The Governor hadn’t come, it seemed he had just fled away.

Tyreese and Sasha seemed to be almost in shock, they hadn’t known the truth about the Governor, just that he had taken them in when Rick had kicked them out, but soon they were trying to help you. Sasha and Karen went to tell everyone what had happened, who the Governor actually was, while Tyreese went with you to try and find Andrea.

When you found her, it was too late. She had managed to put down a walker, but not before it bit her. You stared at her in shock, desolated, but Andrea even managed to give you a weak smile after Rick told her everyone was safe, offering words of comfort to all of you.

“I’m sorry...” You sobbed. “I’m sorry I left you in the farm...” You had always felt guilty about that, about not having been able to help her and then not coming back to check if she was still there and alive. “This shouldn’t have happened...you should have stayed with us...”

Andrea reached to you, smiling.

“I told you, it was not your fault, Y/N.” She said weakly. “Don’t think about that, don’t dare feel guilty about that...it’s okay.”

“It’s not...”

She just smiled sweetly to you, reaching out to squeeze your hand, and you felt hot tears rolling down your cheeks.

Andrea wanted to end it herself but Michonne wouldn’t leave her side, totally broken hearted. Rick’s eyes were wet too when placed a hand on your shoulder and gently guided you outside of the room, following Daryl, giving the two women privacy.

Daryl was leaning on his crossbow, crouching down, his face hidden, and you knelt next to him so you could wrap your arms around his shoulders, hoping you could comfort him even if just a bit. His presence always helped you feel better and you hoped you could do the same for him. He turned around so he could wrap his arms around you too and hide his face on your shoulder. You did the same, burying your face on his shoulder as you tried to stop your tears.

You jumped a bit when you heard the gunshot and Daryl pulled away from you slowly, getting up and helping you onto your feet as you still tried to control your emotions. The door of the room opened and Michonne came out, face wet with tears.

“Come here.” You whispered, enveloping her with your arms and holding her tight.

“I can help you bury her...” Tyreese offered quietly.

 “Thank you,” Rick nodded solemnly. “You three do that while Daryl and I go find Sasha and Karen, see what the people are thinking.” He instructed, slipping back into leader mood. “Whoever wants to can come back to the prison with us can do it, we’ll take everyone in.”

You were a bit surprised by his unexpected decision but nodded with a small smile on your face. That was the right thing to do. Woodbury wasn’t safe anymore and you could offer those people help, a chance, maybe a home even. You couldn’t blame the people for the crimes of his leader, especially when said leader had fooled everyone.

And Andrea had said it, you couldn’t survive alone in this world, the more people you had helping you the better, a strong, big community was bound to have a better chance.

Tyreese carried Andrea’s body outside and helped Michonne and you to dig a grave where you buried her without much ceremony.

“I’m going to kill him,” Michonne swore, her face now a cold mask.

Back inside Woodbury, people were already leaving their homes, carrying some bags with their belongings. They were more than you had thought, even families with children, and you were glad you weren’t fighting them anymore, glad now you were offering them the chance of a home.

“They agreed to come then?” You asked Daryl, who nodded.

“I think they didn’t know what else to do, they are scared of the Governor now.”

They did look scared and a bit lost, and you felt pity for them. Looking around, Woodbury was beautiful, domestic, probably they’d had a good life there and they were now heading towards an uncertain future with their former enemies, after finding out their leader had massacred their own.

“This is good, Rick’s taken the right decision.” You smiled softly.

“Yeah...you were right. We can’t turn our backs to people just because they aren’t our own. We can help people.”

You couldn’t help your grin at Daryl’s words and you reached out your hand to him, your heart warming when he laced his fingers with yours, your worries almost melting instantly, the easy intimacy and trust you had with him making you feel immensely glad and lucky.

 “That was the last of them, we’re leaving, they’ll follow us in that bus,” Rick instructed.

“I’m gonna get some supplies at the prison and then I’ll go looking for the Governor,” Michonne informed, still decided to kill the man.

“I’m going with you,” Daryl told her and Michonne nodded, giving him a small, grateful smile. “We have to find him, he knows where we are, could attack us again.”

Your heart sank. You’d thought this was over, you thought it was the last time you had to think about the Governor, but now Daryl and Michonne were going after him. You didn’t want them to. You could understand that it was important, the Governor was still a threat, sure, but you didn’t want Daryl to go.

Not now when you felt so close to him.

Your feelings for him were still there, strong despite all your efforts to ignore them, but it was more than that and that any silly crush. His presence always managed to calm you down, to make you feel like everything was going to be alright, comforted you whenever something went bad.

 You knew he would be there for you, like he was for everyone, being the selfless person with a heart of gold he was. The fact that he was like that when the world had been so awful to him was something you admired to no end.

No matter how capable he was, how strong and resourceful he proved to be again and again, you felt totally protective of him, wanting to shield him in your arms so nothing bad could touch him ever again, to comfort him every time tragedy hit your group yet again, leaving his heart hurting no matter he tried not to show it. By now you knew him, knew his heart was gentle and fragile, and broke easier than it might seem.

Fight against it all you wanted, you loved him.

You still wouldn’t dare to make a move, though, afraid you’d scare him away, afraid of losing the closeness and complicity now you had. You had been wondering, since your conversation with Merle, if there might be something on his side too, or if Merle had been just playing with your head and you were reading too much into your closeness with Daryl.

He let you cuddle with him for comfort, held you when you needed it, seek comfort in you even, but that might be just him being your friend.

For all Carol’s jokes about Daryl being the shyest, you felt you might be out-shying him. Every time you thought about coming clear with him, telling him how you felt, it wasn’t just the fear of losing him what stopped you, but also the embarrassment. You knew he’d never laugh at you or anything like that, that he’d take you seriously, but still, every time you thought about having to confess that you liked him, your cheeks blushed in embarrassment.

You had never been good with stuff like that, confessing feelings of such kind, it embarrassed you. You were more of an action girl, showing your feelings by act instead of words. Still, you didn’t want to push anything like that into Daryl. He’d run scared and you’d lose him, and that was the last thing in the world you wanted.

“Y/N? You okay?” Daryl tugged at your hand, looking worriedly at your thoughtful face.

“Yeah, yeah.” You nodded rapidly, hoping you weren’t blushing. “Just spaced out a bit.”

Daryl didn’t seem to be content with your words, he was still eyeing you with concern and a frown in his face. He reached out his other hand, absentmindedly running his fingers through the ends of your hair as he studied your face, and you felt your cheeks heating up, your heart skipping a beat.

“You’re thinking about Andrea? She was right, you shouldn’t blame yourself about what happened on the farm.”

That wasn’t what had been in your mind but it hit close home and you looked down, biting your lip. Andrea had forgiven you, saying it wasn’t your fault, but that wasn’t enough to stop you from feeling guilty.

“You wanted us to stop her from coming back to the Governor, when he came to the prison, you were right on that too...” The fingers that were playing with your hair went up to gingerly stroke down over your cheek, stopping under your chin to gently lift your head back up. “You ain’t the one who should be feeling guilty.”

Your breath hitched when you felt his fingers trailing over your face and you allowed Daryl to lift your head, meeting his serious eyes.. All you wanted to do was to lift your own hand and run your fingers over his cheek, pull his face close to yours...

You forced yourself to pull away before you could betray yourself and Daryl pulled away quickly too, letting go of your hand.

 “No, you’re right, none of us should feel guilty.” You said, trying to regain some composure and also not wanting Daryl to beat himself about Andrea’s death, knowing he was prone to that. “The Governor is the guilty one.”

“Yeah...Michonne and I’ll find him, she’ll kill him.”

“I worry about you two...going out there and after him...” You admitted.

“We’ll be fine.”

They were strong and capable warriors, you knew, the better you had seen, together they were probably almost unstoppable but you worried about them anyway. Too many things could go wrong in this mad world.

You put on a brave face, though, giving him a small smile.

 “Come on, let’s show these people his new home.”

***

When you arrived at the prison the sun was already rising up.

“You’re really going to leave now?” You are not going to rest at all?” You asked worriedly to Michonne. She and Daryl had been up all the night and now they wanted to go hunt the Governor.

“We have to take advantage of the sun hours.” She said while helping you to take bags off the car, Rick had gone to explain the others who were these new people. “We’ll find somewhere to hole up for the nights or we can sleep in the car, we’ll be fine.”

“Alright...” It still didn’t sound safe and your eyes wandered to Daryl, who was following Rick.

Michonne followed your gaze and a smile tugged at her lips. “Don’t worry, I’ll bring him back to you.”

You raised your eyebrows at her as if you didn’t know what was she talking about but your cheeks tainted red.

You didn’t have much time to worry about your feelings for Daryl and how apparently they were obvious to some people, neither to worry about his and Michonne’s wellbeing, though. While they got ready you were busy helping the people from Woodbury to settle into the prison and getting things ready for them.

Your family seemed to accept them easily after Rick’s introduction, taking in their lost and scared faces and making an effort to welcome them.

Carol, Maggie, and Glenn had done good work at cleaning the walkers that had gotten into the prison when the Governor attacked and there were several cellblocks where you could locate the new people.

Being used to Woodbury houses and commodities, you guessed they might find their new surroundings poor and scrappy, but they seemed grateful you were taking them in.

“We’re leaving.” Michonne came to inform you when you were showing the kitchen to some people who had brought some food supplies.

You followed her outside, heading towards Daryl’s bike to find him talking with Carol a couple of meters away.

“Be careful, okay?” You told Michonne before she left towards her car to make sure everything was ready.

“You too.” You said to Daryl when he came closer and he nodded.

You were feeling shy all of a sudden, not knowing how to say goodbye, not wanting to. His presence had been a reassuring constant in your life since the farm after he grew close to Carol and you. And the world outside the prison was dangerous, even more than you had thought. You could only pray he’d be back safe.

You met his eyes, your heart hurting at having to say goodbye, and all you wanted to do was to throw your arms around his neck to pull him close and kiss him at once. But you didn’t, couldn’t muster the courage, couldn’t risk losing him to your silly crush.

You timidly reached out your arms, though, and he moved closer so you could hug him.

“Be safe here too.”

Chapter Text

A couple of days after Daryl and Michonne left, you were back at Woodbury.

Rick wanted to inspect the place from top to bottom and take back to the prison everything useful. You walked in with your weapons in hand, but the place was empty, the Governor hadn’t come back.

It wasn’t a surprise the armory was almost empty, but you found all kind of useful things, the place was a gold mine and you found so much stuff you needed several trips to carry it all back. There was enough food to feed your large population during a few weeks, along with seeds of crops you could grow.

There were lots of supplies ranging from super useful things like batteries to things you had never thought you’d see again, like a couple of walkmans and several different CDs.

You tried one of the walkmans, putting on the earphones and blinking in surprise when you heard the sound. You hadn’t listened to music, besides Beth singing, since you left home all that time ago. You didn’t think you would be able to relax enough to use it, though. You couldn’t hear the noise around you and that was dangerous, you didn’t believe you’d feel comfortable enough to listen to music through earphones not even inside the prison fences. Maybe inside your cell, though... It was a pity there weren’t any speakers, though, the music was a welcome distraction and you knew everyone in the prison would like it.

You took the walkmans and the CDs, surely someone would give them some use.

“You think Carl may like this?” Rick showed you an intricate looking construction set, with which you could make your own tiny coliseum replica.

Where the Woodbury people had managed to find something like that and why they’d decided to take it into the village, you didn’t know, truth be told the place was full of things like that, luxuries to your eyes.

“Maybe he’ll like to sharp the wooden pieces into tiny stakes.” You joked darkly but honestly, Carl wasn’t one to play anymore, just focused on being a tiny but skilled survivor, his gun always close, always ready in case any danger crept into the prison.

He refused to get along with the other kids and kept behaving like a little soldier, and Rick seemed unable to get through his son, who was almost always upset with him as he wasn’t allowed to go on runs anymore.

Rick let out a defeated sigh, his expression falling. You knew he worried sick about Carl, knew he wanted him to enjoy his last moments of childhood as much as he could, and you guessed he felt guilty for having pushed Carl to become the person he was now without even realize it.

“Maybe he’ll like it, though...” You offered, hating to see Rick’s sorrowful expression. “I say we take it anyway, hell if he doesn’t like it then it’s mine, if I can put it together I’ll have it on display in my room.”

Rick gave you a small, grateful smile, wrapping an arm around your shoulders as you went to check the next house.

In the end, after Carl disinterest, the toy went to Patrick, a boy a couple of years older than Carl. Like Carl, the apocalypse had robbed him of his childhood but he seemed to resent it more than the Grimes kid, he was more childish but very sweet, his eyes lighting up at the sight of the construction set.

You had also found other things, like sheets, towels and other household items that were very much welcome into the cold atmosphere of the prison, which was becoming not as cold anymore as the halls, corridors and cells became full with all kind of things. You were so many in there now, the place felt lived in and warm, and you found you liked it.

Several cellblocks were now full of people and the cells were being decorated with things you had brought back from Woodbury. Someone had the idea of using sheets as curtains for the doors of the cells, giving more privacy and shielding them from the sun.

Everyone had jobs, depending on their abilities, though most of you shifted between tasks, trying to learn about the ones you knew less. You usually alternated between watch duty and working at clearing the fences from walkers. They were more each day, pushing dangerously at the fences.

There were plans in the long term to create a sort of school for the few kids that now lived there, mostly to take care of the kids and teach them if only the most basic things. A couple of people volunteered to help with it as soon as the school were up and going, whenever that was, and you offered your services too if needed, though you weren’t used to teaching children that young and weren’t really keen on getting back to your teaching job.

That life seemed so long gone...

To your surprise, Carol volunteered too, seeming really interested in it, no matter how busy she already was all the time. She was always busy, coordinating lots of activities around the prison and in charge of cooking almost all the meals, helped by some Woodbury people. Sometimes she joined you when you were clearing walkers at the fences and you cherished those moments, when you had the chance to chat with her for a while as you worked. You felt a bit sad you didn’t get to talk as much with her as you used too, but in all honestly, you all were busy, trying to make this new life at the prison work.

Between Carol having little to no time and Daryl gone, you couldn’t help but feel lonely sometimes.

You missed Daryl, even more than you had thought you would. You had hoped that your feelings would ebb away while he wasn’t there, but you found yourself longing for him.

When about ten days passed without him and Michonne been back, you were so worried you felt you might just start crying. Where were they? Had they ran into trouble? Had they been attacked by the Governor? Maybe ran into a herd of walkers?

“Rick...shouldn’t we go looking for Daryl and Michonne?” You asked after finding Rick in the hall of your cellblock doing some inventory. “Shouldn’t they be back by now? Maybe something happened to them?”

Rick seemed a bit stressed lately but managed to give you a small, reassuring smile.

“They told me not to expect them for a while, they wanted to follow the Governor’s trail until they found him and it might take them several days, more than a week.” He explained, trying to reassure you. “They don’t want to lose time having to come back and then go again. But you know them, they’ll be fine.”

“Okay...” Still, you worried, didn’t think you couldn’t stop until they were back unharmed.

“Come on, help me with this.” He handed you the papers with a tired sigh. “I need to know how long this food is going to last us and when we’ll need to go on another run, besides I want to keep stored a quarter of our non-perishable food for times of need.”

“Don’t stress about it, we’re better than ever.” You assured him, patting his shoulder.

“Yeah...still, we have to be careful to make this work... A couple of the Woodbury people told me they might know a couple of places where we could go on a run, I’m going to check it with them later.”

“Good, we’re gonna be just fine.”

A couple of days after your conversation with Rick, you walked up the stairs of the watchtower, ready for your shift, and found Maggie standing there, hands on her hips, looking down at her sister talking lively with Zach, a boy around her age who had come from Woodbury.

You had seen them chatting here and there and you thought they were into each other, though neither of them had made a move yet. You couldn’t help your smile looking at them.

“What you think?” You elbowed Maggie gently.

“I think there’s definitely something going on and she’s lucky daddy hadn’t realized yet.”

“Come on! I think is sweet.” You laughed. “I think it’s good Beth has someone of her age and he doesn’t seem bad...”

“Yeah...yeah, I want her to be happy.” There was a fond smile on Maggie’s face now. “She deserves it, having friends and a boyfriend, dating and all that things she should have had...”

You wrapped an arm around Maggie’s waist and you leaned into each other, feeling a bit melancholic of all the things all of you had missed out thanks to the world ending. But you had met her and all your new family thanks to it.

“How’s married life treating you?”

“Great, it is just great!” She beamed at you. “We’ve been so busy lately, but we try to find time for each other and...I don’t know Y/N, I just love him more every day, he has become this amazing man, helping dad and Rick around and I’m so proud...”

Maggie had a dreamy smile on her face and you were truly happy for her.

“Yeah, I see how you manage to get the watchtower for you two almost every night.” You teased, winking at her.

“A girl needs her privacy.” She laughed, pushing you playfully with her shoulder.

Next day Rick asked you to go on a run with him, Carol, Sasha and another man from Woodbury whose name you still couldn’t remember, to check a place the man had located in a map.

You said yes right ahead, wanting to occupy your mind doing something useful and less monotonous than killing the walkers off the fence

The place was a cabin with a small garden, abandoned long ago, you didn’t have many hopes of finding anything there, which was unfortunate considering there weren’t any geeks around for now, it would have been such an easy run.

There wasn’t much outside the building so you all made your way inside the house after checking no walker came out when you knocked on the door.

The house seemed emptied of everything already, but a sound in which seemed to be the only bedroom of the cabin you all on guard. Carefully, you all followed Rick as he barged into the room, guns pointed in front of you.

You all froze in place when you saw a man holding a big stake in front of him, two blonde little girls hidden behind him. They had a wild, scared look in their faces and you all lowered your weapons, following Rick’s lead.

“It’s okay, it’s okay.” He said calmly to the man, raising his hands. The man looked at you with distrust but began lowering the stake. “We mean you no harm.”

For a moment nobody moved or talked, but Rick seemed to make a decision.

“I promise we’re not going to hurt you or the girls. We have a group, a safe place. Would you like to come with us? I promise we’re not bad people.”

The man looked at you in disbelieve and as if he weren’t sure it wasn’t a trap. You couldn’t blame his suspicion, after all the evil you had seen in the world. But then he looked back at the little girls with worry in his eyes, seemed to take a decision and nodded.

“How many walkers have you killed?” Rick asked.

The man seemed surprised. “I don’t know, a few of them.”

“And how many people?”

“None, I wouldn’t...”

Rick raised his hand to make him stop talking, “Okay. You’re welcome to come with us if you want.”

“Thank you. I’m sorry about this,” the man waved the stake. “These days the living seem to be more dangerous than the dead.”

You all could relate to that.

The man had a small stash of canned food and scarce supplies which he helped you take back to the cars. You all tried to talk with him and the little girls, telling them who you were, trying to show them you weren’t dangerous, that you wanted to help, hoping they would stop looking scared and like expecting you to attack them at any moment.

Before you left, Rick spotted a tomato plant and cut it to see if Hershel could grow it in the farm.

“We’re going to be eating salads in no time, hope you like your vegetables.” You said to the little girls, who were watching how Rick worked on the plant with curiosity. They gave you a small smile and you were glad they seemed to be feeling better around you.

By the time you were in your cars, the family seemed a bit more relaxed.

“This is good, we can do this, help people now that we can.” You smiled to Rick from the passenger seat of his car.

“Yeah, yeah, I guess we can.” He gave you a small smile.

That was how you met Ryan and his daughters Lizzie and Mika, who had lost her mother a long time ago. The little girls seemed to be fond of Carol, who had been sweet and caring with them since you found them and soon they were friends with all the Woodbury kids.

Day by day, that prison felt more and more like a place worth living in, not only a refugee against the dangers of the world but a true and beloved home.

If only Daryl and Michonne were there...

Another week passed without any notice from them and worry sat heavy in your stomach every day, thoughts of them having run into trouble always in your mind. And you missed Daryl so much that it almost physically hurt, so you tried to busy yourself with work as much as possible.

You were clearing walkers off the fence in the backyard of the prison, angrily sinking a metal bar into the brain of the monsters, venting your frustration and worry into that task.

“Keep that up and you are going to end up with bigger arms than Tyreese.” Carol joked.

You jumped, startled, not having heard her approach, which just made her laugh quietly at you.

“Are you in a bad mood? “She asked, passing you a bottle of water.

“Just trying not to think.” You gulped down almost half the bottle in one go. “Aren’t you worried? Daryl and Michonne have been away for a while now...”

“They can take care of themselves.”

You rolled your eyes, tired of hearing everyone telling you the same. Sure, they were the best fighters but still, the world was dangerous and they could encounter a million threats.

You made to kept clearing walkers but Carol got a hold of the bar, stopping you.

“Why you don’t let that go for a bit...” You let her take the bar off you. “There’re barely any left, Karen will put down the rest and then we’ll burn the bodies...”

“Okay...” You grimaced a bit as you noticed for the first time how sore your arms were.

“You look disgusting.” Carol chuckled a bit, looking at the walker’s blood that had spattered over you while you worked.

She poured some water into a rag and began washing your face. You smiled softly, you’ve been missing her easy affection. “Thanks...”

“Now go and change into something clean, I want you to help me with the kids today.”

“Yes, boss.” You gave her a hug and let her go to look for Karen, who was working on another fence.

You had just finished changing into fresh clothes, having spent a bit sorting the laundry, when you heard a knock on the bars of your cell. Your eyes opened wide, a big grin on your face, when you saw Michonne lifting the curtain that covered the door, smiling at your happy face.

“You’re back!” You hug her as soon as she walked in. “You’re safe!”

“Told you we would.” She held you, chuckling softly.

“Daryl?”

“He’s fine.” She assured you, noticing the worry in your voice.” He’s talking with Rick, they need to catch up, but I wanted to see you.”

You longed to see Daryl and you wanted to run and find him, but were elated to see Michonne back too, and were happy she’d decided to come to see you right after talking with Rick.

“So, you know I told you I’d bring you something to decorate your room...” She began, and you nodded eagerly. “Well, I couldn’t really find anything...but I got you this.”

With a totally serious face, she handed you a stone the size of your hand in which she seemed to have drawn a cartoonish cat face with a black marker. The silliness of the situation made you burst out laughing.

“Thank you! It’s perfect!” You replied in all honesty.

The fact that Michonne had thought of you, had taken the time to make that, had intended to make you laugh, warmed your heart and filled it with happiness. You threw your arms around her neck and held her tight as she laughed too.

“What do you think?” You place the stone the on the tiny shelve of the wall so the cat face was looking at your bed as a feline guardian angel.

“Perfect.” She grinned at you.

“So...” You didn’t want to ruin the cheerful mood but you needed to know. “Did you find him, is he dead?”

Michonne’s smile fell.

“No...we followed his trail, we tracked him, but he just sort of disappeared at one point.” She explained, anger in her voice. “We kept trying but we just couldn’t find him anywhere...”

That were bad news, but at least he wasn’t close, he might very well be dead by now.

“He must be far from here by now or probably a walker ate him already.” You tried to comfort her but Michonne shook her head.

“I came back to resupply but I’m leaving at first light, I’m going to keep looking for him, I have to...”

“Michonne...”

“I have to, Y/N.”

You nodded, she was determined, you could see there was no way and none who could change her mind, it was important to her. That didn’t mean you didn’t feel sad about it and you worried again about her going out for who knew how long.

“Come on.” She threw an arm around your shoulders to walk you out of the cell. “Let’s find Daryl, I know you’re dying to see him.” You didn’t bother trying to deny it. “And I need to talk with Rick.”

You found both men talking in the backyard. When Rick noticed you two coming, he pated Daryl’s shoulder in goodbye and gestured to Michonne to follow him inside of one of the cellblocks.

“See you later!”

You said to Michonne as she rushed to meet Rick while Daryl walked towards you, and you had to stop yourself from running to him.

“I’m so glad you’re back.” You grinned, reaching out your arms to hug him, satisfied when he hugged you back, resting his forehead on your shoulder as he let out a weary sigh.

“I was worried, you were gone for so long, I thought something had happened...”

“I lost the Governor’s track...” He pulled away from you, sounding angry at himself. Knowing him as you did, you knew he was probably blaming himself. “I tried to look for him for a while but I couldn’t find him...”

“Michonne told me the track disappeared at one point...She’s going out to look for him again tomorrow...”

Daryl nodded and your heart sank at the thought of Daryl leaving again. It wasn’t that you wanted Michonne to go out alone, that was even more dangerous, but you had missed Daryl so much, you were so glad to see him back safe, you weren’t ready to say goodbye again.

“Are you going with her?” You sounded more vulnerable that you had intended to, but you couldn’t help it.

“No.”

You couldn’t help your smile, you were so glad he was staying.

“There’s no point. The trail is cold, I’ve lost him...”

“Hey...” You reached out your hand to squeeze his, hating he was berating himself for it. “It’s not your fault, you tried, okay? I’m sure he’s far away from here now, probably he’s already dead...”

Daryl shrugged unconvinced, you knew it would take more than that to make him stop blaming himself, but he laced his fingers with yours and gave you that shy and small half smile that made your heart flutter, while his blue eyes looked over you seriously.

You chewed on your lower lip, lost in thought for a moment as you stared at him. You were so relieved he was back, you never wanted to see him go again... and he was playing with your fingers, looking at you in a way that made you wonder if maybe...

It took all your courage but you decided to go for it. You had waited way too long and your mind and body were urging you to do it, your relief at him being back and safe mixing with your longing for him and with the feelings you had been harboring for him during months.

Slowly, giving him time to stop you, you leaned forward and stood on tiptoes to press a gentle, tentative kiss to his lips. When you felt him kissing you back, his lips brushing softly against yours, your heart began beating so fast you thought it might jump out of your chest and you were so happy you felt you were floating.

It lasted barely a second, though, then Daryl roughly pulled away from you.

You looked at him with questioning, shocked eyes but he just turned around and began walking away from you.

“Daryl! Daryl, wait, please!” You called after him, following him, but he ignored you, walking faster and making it clear he didn’t want to talk with you.

You were devastated, berating yourself for being that impulsive. It felt like your heart was shattering, a lump in your throat that you couldn’t swallow.

You were supposed to smother your stubborn feelings, not to act on them. Now you were sure you had managed to ruin your friendship with Daryl, scaring him away from you and losing him.

You dig your nails into your palms, broken-hearted, angry at yourself, trying not to cry as you watched him walk away without looking back at you.

Chapter Text

You were back at the fence, viciously sinking the metal bar into the skulls of the monsters. Probably there were better ways to deal with your problems, to let out your heartache and frustration, but you didn’t care. This worked and you planned to overwork yourself until you were so exhausted you couldn’t think about anything.

“If you keep going like this, we’re not going to be able to keep up with you to burn them, they’re piling up...” Sasha pointed out, walking closer.

“I’ll go burn them myself.” You shrugged, dropping down the bar, you didn’t care what you were doing as long as it kept you busy.

“Not what I meant, and you know you can’t just go out like that, we have a process...”

You knew the procedure, some people distracted the remaining walkers, making noise, while others went out with the pickup, staking the bodies in it and carrying them to the place where you burnt them. You tried to do that once a day, but it had already been done today. By now the sun was starting to go down, and the work outside the fences was never done at night.

“Yeah, yeah, I know...”

“You should let yourself have a break, I feel like you have been there with that damn bar all day, every time I looked you were here...” Sasha was looking at you worriedly. “Y/N, are you okay? There’s something wrong?”

“No, I’m fine, I’m fine...” You lied, looking away so you didn’t have to meet her eyes.

“Sure...” It was obvious she didn’t believe you. “Anyway...Carol was looking for you...”

You nodded silently and made your way back into your cellblock. You didn’t want to talk with anyone so you tried to sneak into your room without anyone noticing, but Carol found you on the way.

“Ey, I was looking for you...” She stepped in front of you when you tried to pretend you hadn’t seen her. “Y/N! Would you wait a second?”

“Yeah, sorry, hi... you need something?”

“Would you help me make dinner?” She asked and you looked at her weird, she had never asked you to cook before as there were way better chefs in the prison.

“If you need me too...” You said unenthusiastically although sure you’d help her if she needed it. “I was actually thinking about going to bed early, I’m tired...I was just going to my room...”

“Bet you’re tired, all that metal bar plus walker workout must be challenging.” Carol joked but you couldn’t laugh and she let out a sigh. “Good lord, you’re even worse than I thought you would...”

“What you mean?”

“Well, I had an interesting talk with Daryl...”

“God, no!” You hid your face on your hands, totally embarrassed, your cheeks on fire.

It wasn’t enough you had messed up things with Daryl, he’d told Carol...of course he’d tell her, you should have guessed, she was his best friend after all...it was so humiliating you couldn’t look at her.

“It’s not the end of the world, Y/N.” Carol chuckled fondly.

“It kind of feel it is...”

You felt a lump in your throat again, dangerously close to tears which just embarrassed you more. You turned around, unable to face Carol anymore and walked towards your cell quickly, but she followed you.

“Y/N, come on...” As you slumped down onto the bed she sat next to you, looking at you with a mix of humor and kindness.

“I ruined everything...” You curled up, resting your elbows on your knees and burying your face on your palms. “I was a stupid and I scared him away from me, he was my friend and now  I’ve lost him, I messed up everything...”

“Overreacting a bit?” Despite her sweet eyes, Carol sounded amused at you. “I can’t believe you are even more dramatic than him...”

You stole a glance towards her. “What did he told you?”

“Would you like it if you came to talk to me about something, about him, just you and me and then I went and told him everything?” She chided you softly.

No, you wouldn’t, it’d bother you and it’d embarrass you, but you were too upset to admit it, so you just shrugged. Carol just smiled sweetly at you. She would never betray Daryl’s trust, or yours for that matter, and you knew it, you didn’t really want her to.

But you needed to know what was he thinking, if you had managed to ruin your friendship with Daryl for real. You gave Carol sad puppy eyes and she chuckled, patting your knee.

“Come on, Y/N, you know him, you know how he is...he scares easily with these things...”

You nodded sadly, your head down. You knew it, you knew him. You had come such long way with him, his friendship and trust so hardly earned blooming into a  and an intimacy with him that always made you feel grateful and happy, he made you feel safe like everything was going to be alright. And you had managed to ruin all that.

It was like an arrow in your heart.

“What I mean is that you have to give him time.” Carol noticed you were just feeling worse and she wrapped an arm around you, squeezing you to her side. “Don’t be sad, everything is going to be just fine.”

“If you say so...”

“I say so.” She gave you a last squeeze and got up from the bed. “I’m gonna feed people, sure you don’t want to come?”

“Sure...” You only wanted to curl up on your bed and cry.

Carol let out a sigh and bent down to press a kiss to your cheek before leaving your cell.

***

You weren’t sure of how long you had been on your bed, wallowing in your heartache, when you heard a knock on the cell’s bar.

“Yeah?”

You sat up and rubbed your eyes, trying to make yourself presentable. You looked up in time to see the curtain shifting to the side and Daryl standing at the door, looking at you with unsure eyes.

“Come in...” You said quietly when you saw he wasn’t moving.

You had a knot in your stomach but your heart was fluttering with hope. He’d come to visit you, that had to be good, right? He didn’t want to stay away from you...though maybe Carol had sent him out on pity, or maybe he had come to tell you off...your stomach was clenching with anxiety.

“You didn’t come to dinner.” Daryl walked in, placing a plate on the small table of your room.

“I wasn’t hungry.” You lied, a small smile tugging at your lips.

The knot in your belly had eased a bit, Daryl was not only talking with you but he had also brought you dinner, that had to mean something, had to mean he was still your friend, that you hadn’t ruined your friendship...

He was looking at you, your eyes puffy and rimmed red, his eyes worried, guilty even.

“Y/N...”

“I’m sorry.” You cut him off before he could say anything, before you could get more embarrassed or your heart more broken. “Can you...can you pretend that I didn’t...that nothing happened...” You looked away, blushing furiously. “Please...I’m sorry...”

You stole a glance towards him when he remained silent. He was giving you a look you couldn’t quite place, but he nodded.

“Thanks...”

As long as he was still your friend, it’d be okay if he didn’t share your silly fillings, it’d had to be....you’d be okay, you’d make it okay, you still had him and his companionship.

For a moment, both of you stayed in embarrassed, awkward silence.

“Rick wants to go on a run tomorrow.” Daryl finally spoke, leaning against the wall opposite the bed. “He reckons there’s some sort of farmhouse somewhere along the road that Michonne’s gonna follow, so we’ll go with up there with her before she leaves.”

“Are you going too?” You smiled softly when he nodded. “Neither you nor Rick know how to lay your head down, do you?”

Daryl had just arrived today and he was already leaving again the next day, and Rick hadn’t allowed himself a moment of rest in weeks either, trying to go on runs as much as possible, feeling the pressure of having to take care of so many people.

Daryl shrugged but returned your smirk, and you were glad some of the awkwardness between you two was ebbing away.

“Glenn and Maggie are coming too, you wanna join? We should be back at sundown if we leave early enough and there ain’t problems on the road.”

You nodded eagerly and couldn’t fight your smile at him asking you to go.

“Alright, I’m gonna talk to Rick, get everything ready. See you tomorrow.”

“Goodnight.”

***

You woke up to a hand shaking your elbow and you opened your eyes to find Michonne smiling at you.

“The sun is not even up...” You complained groggily.

“It will be when we reach the farm. Come on.” She tossed you a bottle of water and a cereal bar and walked out.

Ten minutes later you were in the yard, waving back at Sasha up in the watchtower as she waved goodbye to you, still a bit asleep.

Michonne was taking her own car for when she would leave the group later and Daryl would lead you on his bike.

“Are you sure you want to go on your own?” You asked Michonne worriedly.

“Yeah, I have to find him, I can’t stop, sorry...And since none of you want to come with me...”

Her tone was light and teasing, clearly joking, buts she stopped when she saw Daryl dropping his gaze guiltily to the floor.

“I’m kidding, he’s my mission, I want to go alone.” She said seriously.”Though it’d be easier and faster if I had a motorbike instead of a car.” She winked at Daryl.

“Don’t dare lay a finger on mine,” Daryl grumbled but you saw his small smile.

You smiled at their easy banter, they seemed to have become friends during their time out together, and you liked to see Daryl opening up to people.

***

When you reached the farmhouse, you couldn’t help your disappointed sigh. Both the rather small main house and the couple of barns seemed quite run down and decrepit.

“I don’t think we’re going to find anything useful here...” Maggie complained gloomily. “And it’s too close to the road, people must have raided it already.”

“We’ll see...” Rick pursed his lips and you all walked out of the car.

After a quick scoop, you only saw a couple of decrepit walkers, munching on an unfortunate, starved horse which seemed to have been dead for a while, and you made quick work of them.

There was nothing useful outside so you split into two groups. Rick, Glenn, and Maggie would look in the barns while Daryl, Michonne and you went to the house.

Daryl knocked at the door but no walkers came so you went inside, heading straight for the kitchen, coughing at the dust that covered everything.

“Were we short on knives?” You asked bitterly, finding a drawer full of cutlery among empty ones.

“There has to be something...” Michonne kept looking around relentlessly.

“Yeah, a fucking lot of rotten shit...” Daryl complained, pulling out boxes of rotten fruit.

You could only hope the others were having more luck at the barns, maybe the inhabitants of the house had stored something in there.

“Come on, let’s keep looking.”

Daryl and Michonne headed towards the stairs, intending to check the rooms upstairs but you stayed down.

“Y/N, come on,” Daryl called for you.

“In a minute...”

You walked into the living room but it was even more empty than the kitchen, ragged furniture with the drawers and cabinets already opened and empty, paper peeling off the walls.

You headed towards the only room you hadn’t checked yet, hoping it was some sort of pantry. The floor creaked as you walked in, blinking at the darkness, the room hadn’t any windows. A pang of a disgusting smell hit you and as your eyes get used to the dark you saw a pile of vegetables rotting on a corner. What a pity.

All the non-perishable food had been raided already for sure, as Maggie had said. You chuckled bitterly when you saw a couple of booze bottles on top of a cupboard.

“Are you so bad not even the raiders wanted you?”

You almost missed the small door at the side of the room. You tried to open it but it was stuck.

“I’m gonna need a bit of help here!” You called out to Daryl and Michonne.

The door didn’t seem to be locked, though, so you pulled again as hard as you could, using your foot on the wall as leverage, and the door finally gave up.

“Nah, it’s fine, it’...”

Your words were cut short when a walker lunged towards you unexpectedly and you let out a scream of shock and fear as you fell to the floor, the geek on top of you.

“Y/N” You heard Daryl’s and Michonne’s voices calling for you but you were too busy trying to keep the snapping jaws away from you.

I was taking all your strength to just keep him away but you knew you must try to hold him back just with one hand so you could sink your knife into his skull. You weren’t sure you were going to be able, though, the monster squirming against you with all its strength. Before you could try, though, the walker dropped dead on top of you and you turned your head to see an arrow embed into its skull.

Daryl yanked the corpse away from you and pulled you onto your feet.

“You okay?” He seemed almost as scared as you.

You nodded but Daryl didn’t seem to calm down, worried eyes frantic scanning you, looking for bites or scratches.

“He didn’t bite me, it’s fine, I’m fine.” You muttered, half in shock still. You had been so sure the house was free of walkers...

“There’s no more of them inside,” Michonne informed you, turning to you and squeezing your shoulder gently. “You alright?”

You nodded again but realized you were panting and shaking hard, you had been too worried struggling against the walker, trying to keep him away from you, to realize how scared you actually were and now it was hitting you as a ton of bricks.

Daryl was still holding your hand and he squeezed it, pulling you to him. You let him wrap his arms around you, snuggling to him and burying your face on his chest, listening to his heart beating fast while yours started to relax.

When he felt you were stopping shaking he pulled you away from him and you were shocked when you saw he was glaring at you.

“What were you thinking?” He growled at you.

“What?”

“You wander here alone instead of coming with us, you open the door alone and without checking first...” He began to rant, face red, and you recoiled a bit. “You were almost bitten!”

You felt still shaken by the sudden attack and ashamed you had been so careless, and all that mixing with Daryl scolding you angrily was making you feel close to tears, so you dropped your head, embarrassed.

“Calm down, she’s fine.” Michonne cut him off. “Aren’t you?”

You nodded, smiling weakly to her.

“Sorry...” Daryl muttered and you saw him close his eyes tight, trying to calm down before he followed Michonne and you into the room.

“Jackspot.”

Michonne pointed at a box with a few cans of baked beans. There weren’t many, but it was something.

There was also a riffle on the floor and you took it, checking there were still a couple of bullets in it.

“He was hiding here.” You pointed out. “I wonder how he died.”

“I don’t care, let’s get out of here.” Daryl placed a hand on your shoulder and walked you out of the room.

“Wait.” Michonne took one of the bottles of alcohol from the top of the cabinet, handing it to you. “Booze to help you forget any incident you may have had.”

You snorted but took a sip, spitting it immediately.

“God, I understand why nobody bothered taking this.” You wheezed. “Wanna try?”

You made to pass the bottle to Daryl but he shocked his head, giving you a gentle push towards the door, seeming eager to leave the house.

“No, come on, let’s go back to the cars.”

It seemed the others had had little luck too, but at least they didn’t show up empty-handed, having found a couple sacks of seeds.

“Hershel’ll like it, he wanted to grow things,” Rick said while getting the sacks into the trunk of the car.

“You sure you don’t want to come back with us?” He turned to Michonne, who shook her head.

“I’m gonna find him and kill him.”

“Be careful out there.” You hugged here. “And come back soon.”

“I will.”

With that, you parted ways, Michonne driving up the road and you turning back to the prison.

You had almost dozed off in the back seat of the car when you felt it stop.

“What happened?”

“I don’t know, Daryl stopped.”

You all get out of the car and saw Daryl looking around.

“What’s wrong?” Rick asked but the archer lifted his hand as if to tell you to stay in silence.

You heard it in a second, the screams of someone in need.

“Come on!”

Daryl ran towards the sound and you all followed him into the woods, soon finding a young couple fighting a small group of walkers, though they seemed to have some trouble with it.

You all sprung into action to help them, sinking your knives into the heads of walker after walker until there weren’t anyone left.

“Thanks.” The young woman panted, helping the man up from when he had fallen to the floor and looking at you a bit surprised. “I’m Nora and this is David.”

You all introduced yourselves and Rick gave them a look over before asking them the three questions now you knew where his test to see who you took in. You still weren’t too sure of what were the correct answers, though.

He seemed to decide they were good enough, because he explained to them who you were and offered them to come to the prison, which they gratefully accepted immediately, seeming to be out of ammo and supplies, though they still seemed a bit shocked.

That’s how you ended on the back of Daryl’s bike, Nora and David going on the back seat of Rick’s car with Glenn.

You wrapped your arms around Daryl’s waist and turned your head to rest your cheek on his back.

“Don’t fall asleep,” Daryl warned you but he turned his head to look at you with a soft smile before turning on the engine and driving away.

Chapter Text

You were in your room, stretching and trying to relieve the ache in your muscles. You were starting to feel your shoulder bruising from when you fell onto the floor with the walker on top of you.

“Hey.” You looked up and saw Daryl standing at the door of the cell, you hadn’t bothered closing the curtain.

“Hey.” You smiled at him and sat down on your bed. “How are Nora and David doing?” You asked as Daryl sat down next to you.

“They’re fine, confused though, they weren’t expecting to find something like this.”

You chuckled softly. Being used to small groups or to be on your own, a sight like the prison, with its strong fences and large population, was something hard to believe.

“I told Rick a few days ago, taking people in as we are doing...I like it, it’s good. The more we are the stronger we are against the walkers or any threat. And we can help people.”

Daryl hummed, nodding, and sitting down next to you, and for a moment neither of you said anything.

“I’m sorry I talked to you like that in the farm.” Daryl murmured quietly.

“It’s fine.” You nudged him with your shoulder playfully. “You were worried...” You ventured to say, blushing softly and looking away.

You knew he worried about all of you, he deeply cared about all of you, but still, the fact that he had seemed so scared when he had seen you in danger warmed your heart and made it flutter.

“Of course I was worried.” Daryl frowned at you as if he couldn’t believe you’d doubt it, which just made you smile wider.

“I know...thanks...”

“Yeah, well...” He got up from the bed. “Get some sleep.”

He reached out to tentatively ran his fingers over your arm, softly, his eyes following his fingers. You chewed on your bottom lip, smiling shyly to him.

His blue eyes were looking at you intently, as if he were considering something. Suddenly he snapped his hand back as if you had burned him and he turned towards the door, but stopped before reaching it, turning to look at you with nervous eyes, seeming torn.

“Daryl?”

You were confused and a bit concerned by his sudden behavior, but before you could say anything he had stopped in front of you again, bending to cup your face with his hand and bringing his lips to yours.

Ýou gasped against his lips, taken by surprise, but you placed a hand on the back of his neck to pull him close, fingers tangling on hair that was getting longer, as your heart began beating fast and butterflies fluttered in your belly. But before you could deepen the kiss, Daryl pulled away abruptly, looking at you like if frozen in place for a second and then he turned around to rush out of the door.

Like hell you were going to let him walk away from you again.

“Daryl! Daryl!” You called hushedly after him, not wanting to draw anyone’s attention to you, but he didn’t stop, walking faster.

“Hey!”

You finally caught up to him in the yard and you grabbed his arm to stop him, walking to stand in front of him.

“You can’t just kiss me and then run away.”

In the darkness of the yard, you still could make the bright blue of his eyes and the soft blush on his cheeks that matched your own. He said nothing and looked down nervously, swinging his weight from one foot to the other anxiously.

You had felt elated and hopeful when he kissed you, but now you couldn’t help the doubt that crept inside of you as you saw him hiding from you, looking so awkward.

Maybe he had kissed you out of pity, he had noticed how sad and embarrassed you had been since you kissed him, so he didn’t want to tell you off and hurt your feelings.

“Hey...” You took his hands in yours, lacing your fingers, and smiled sweetly to him, trying to make him relax. Last thing you wanted was to make him feel insecure around you. “Hey, it’s okay, I’m sorry...” Daryl looked up at you at that as if confused before looking at your joined hands. “If I made things weird kissing you...”

It was embarrassing, saying it aloud, but you forced yourself to speak.

Daryl looked at you quickly before dropping his gaze to the ground, chewing on his lower lip. His fingers were fidgeting against yours and you squeezed his hands softly, trying to reassure him.

“I liked kissing you.”

His whisper it so quiet you barely heard it, but it was enough to make your heart flutter in hope and excitement.

“Yeah?”

He nodded once, swallowing hard, his eyes glued to the floor, he wouldn’t look up to you.

“Well, that’s good...” You gathered your courage to speak, a smile tugging at your lips. “Because I really want to kiss you.”

His nervous eyes snapped back to you, though his head was still down. He reminded you a bit of a scared, nervous horse and you smiled lovingly to him. You let go of one of his hands, lifting your hand to run your fingers down his cheek and Daryl closed his eyes for a second, nuzzling softly into your touch, making you smile wider.

You stopped your fingers under his chin to gently lift up his head. You were nervous too, but tried to give him a reassuring, loving smile, hoping he’d begin to relax. Daryl let you lift his head, his eyes finding yours, but when you went to pull closer he moved away, pulling away from your touch.

“What’s wrong?”

Daryl seemed like he wanted to run away again, but he didn’t let go of your hand.

“If you don’t want this, it’s okay, you can tell me...” Your stomach dropped at the thought, but you needed to tell him.

“It’s not that...” He muttered. “I don’t know how to do this.”

He seemed almost half scared, stealing glances at you but keeping his gaze down, and so nervous it was making your heart clench. You wanted to make him feel good, to make him stop being so nervous and unsure, but you weren’t sure of how.

“Come here...” You whispered.

You cupped his face with your hand again and he didn’t flinch away so slowly, you moved your face closer until you pressed a chaste kiss to his lip. You put your forehead against his a moment, nuzzling his nose with yours, smiling softly, enjoying the moment.

When you pulled back Daryl seemed half dazzled, and to your relief he seemed less nervous too, although he was still tense and when you rested your palm over his chest you could feel his heart beating fast.

“Seems to me you do know how to do this.”

“That’s not what I meant...” He shook his head, frowning, but at least he was looking at you now.

“Then?” You squeezed his hand encouragingly. “Talk to me.”

Daryl seemed to consider it for a second, biting his lip, before speaking again.

“This...being with someone...”

You couldn’t help your grin at his words, your heart beating like crazy. Did that mean that he wanted to be with you? You couldn’t help your excitement and hope.

“But you want to?” You asked softly, not wanting to push him but needing to know.

“Yeah...” He nodded, his gaze dropping to the ground again as if embarrassed, but didn’t resist when you gently lifted his head again.

“I want to be with you.” You said, you were nervous too, shy at saying it aloud, but knowing he needed you to say it, to reassure him you wanted him, he was as insecure as you and you could see it.

You didn’t miss the small smile that tugged at the corner of his lips for a second before he looked worried again.

“I don’t want to mess up anything...”

“You’re not going to...” You assured him in a whisper, you thumb stroking his over his cheekbone lovingly. “I want you.”

You kissed him again and this time he kissed you fully, his lips opening to yours. The hand that wasn’t holding yours went to tentatively rest on your hip and you smiled against his lips in total happiness and bliss. You could barely believe it was really happening.

“You sure?” Daryl’s lips parted from yours, some of his insecurity coming back to his eyes.

You did your best not to laugh but couldn’t help the giggle that escaped your lips as you nodded, butterflies fluttering in your belly.

“I’ve wanted this for a long while, Daryl.”

Daryl gave you that lovely, shy smile that drove you crazy and wrapped his arms around your waist when you wrapped yours around his neck, standing on tiptoes and pushing your body flush with his.

Daryl closed his eyes, nuzzling your nose with his and resting his forehead against yours like you had done before. He let out a soft sigh before capturing your lips with his, kissing you now with more confidence, and you let yourself get lost in his kiss, everything around you seemed to melt away.

 

Later that evening, you had managed to sneak into your cell with Daryl without anyone noticing, or at least you hoped so, you didn’t want to start any gossiping.

As soon as the curtain fell over the door, you were on Daryl again, kissing him and walking him to your bed. You crawled over him and began unbuttoning his shirt, but stopped when you noticed the nervous pitter-patter of his fingers on your hips and how insecure he was looking.

“Are you okay?”

He nodded silently but you were about to pull away anyway, afraid he might not want this, when he sat up and began fumbling with your clothes too, until there was nothing between your bare skin and his, and his hand began to tentatively run over your body.

His eyes were still nervous when you straddled his lap but he was looking at you in awe. You smiled softly at him, running your fingers down his cheek sweetly before kissing his lips.

“You sure about this?”

You whispered, needing to be sure. He nodded quickly, his lips already back on yours, his fingers biting on your hips and pulling you even closer.

“Yeah...”

***

Later, you were both curled up in your small bed, your head resting on Daryl’s chest, feeling happier than ever and wondering how you got that lucky. Your eyes were closed but you weren’t sleeping, and you let out a content hum when you felt him running his fingers through your hair.

“I thought you were asleep.”

“Nah...” You ran your fingers over his chest, caressing it softly. “I’m about to, though.” You giggled sleepily, you couldn’t remember feeling this relaxed and happy.

You felt him shift to press a kiss to the top of your head.

“What you said before, at the yard...” Daryl rasped after a moment of silence, making you open your eyes again, this time you had almost fallen asleep. “You said you’d been wanting this for a long while...”

You nodded and looked to him, noticing he was trying to hide his face from you, as if shy.

“Why didn’t you say anything?”

It was your turn to feel shy now and you considered how to answer him for a moment, not sure of how to explain yourself and your feelings.

“I wasn’t sure you felt like me...I wasn’t sure you would want this...I thought you saw me just as a friend.”

“I thought that too for a while...” Daryl’s fingers were back at stroking your hair, making you almost purr like a cat. “I liked being with you, being friends...but I wanted to be with you not just as friends.”

You smiled and tried to lift your head to look at him but he didn’t let you, as if embarrassed by you seeing his face as he talked about his feelings. You could relate, so you let him hide but pressed a kiss to his chest.

“And I couldn’t be happier about it. But neither did you say anything.”

“I wasn’t sure of what I was feeling...” Daryl replied evasively at first, sounding flustered, his fingers tugging slightly at your hair as if nervous. “And I didn’t want to mess up things between you and me...”

“Neither did I...” You had to chuckle, you had been both so silly and insecure. “That’s why I didn’t say anything sooner, kind of regret it now.”

You felt his chest vibrate as he chuckled too.

“I wasn’t sure you would want me...” He sounded so insecure you had to look at him, a sweet smile on your face.

“How could I not want you? And I kissed you first, didn’t I?”

He moved his hand from your hair to stroke over your cheek before pulling you closer to kiss your lips.

You let your forehead rest against his. You wanted him to know how you felt about him, wanted to tell him, but the words didn’t seem to past your lips. You tried to overcome your shyness and the nerves that were fluttering in your belly, the insecurity and embarrassment that you always felt when you talked about your feelings.

“I love you.” You finally blurted out in a whisper, your cheeks burning, and you hid your face in the crook of his neck, not being able to look at him.

You felt Daryl freeze under you for a second before he began nuzzling at your hair, his arm pulling you tighter to him.

“Hey...”

Daryl lifted your head, making you look at him, his eyes soft and a smile on his face, though his cheeks were as blushed as yours.

“I love you too.”

He whispered and you grinned, allowing him to pull you close to kiss you again and shifting to crawl over him, happier than you had ever been, not even in the world before this one.

___

The first thing you noticed when you woke up was the warmth of the body next to yours and the arm that wrapped around your waist, pulling you closer, your back against Daryl’s chest, and then his lips as he pressed kisses over your shoulder.

You smiled in total bliss. You could get used to this, to wake up like that every morning

 “Good morning.” You greeted, shifting in his embrace until you were facing him and could kiss him.

“Morning.”

His lips smiled against yours before he started to pull away from you. You whined, holding him tighter and not letting him go, and he chuckled softly. Gently, she pushed you until you were laying on your back so he could snuggle in your arms, half over you, and you let out a giggle, ticklish, when he nuzzled at the crook of your neck.

“I’m going to head out hunting.”

He said, resting his head on your chest, and you let out a sigh, running your fingers over his arm.

“You never wind down, do you?”

“We have lots of mouths to feed now and we can’t eat out of cans always, and we should save them for when the game is scarce.  I’m more useful out there than in here.”

“Don’t say that.” You reached to brush his fringe away from his face. “You’re useful everywhere, you’re like the most resourceful person I’ve ever met.” You smiled when you saw his cheeks turning soft pink, and he pressed a kiss to your sternum. “There’re lots of things to do in here too...clear the walkers off the fence, keep watch, build things...”

You knew he liked better to be out, though, out of the fences and alone. Also, he was your hunter and one of the people Rick relied on the most for runs, along with Glenn and Maggie.

“You’re the best hunter, though. So bring me some squirrels.” You kissed the top of his head and felt him chuckle.

All you wanted to do was to stay snuggled up in bed with him all day, but you knew it was past time you both went to do something useful, so you loosened your grip on him when you felt him shift again, letting him move away from you and sat up on the bed.

You ran a hand down his back, gently caressing the scars, silently promising once again not to let anyone or anything bad touch him again.

“What’s that?” You saw him pointing at the cat rock Michonne had made you and you couldn’t help your laugh.

“Michonne made it, I wanted to start decorating my room.”

Daryl gave you an amused look but said nothing, getting up from the bed and starting to get ready for the day while you lazily began to do the same.

 

Later that morning, you were sorting out ammo and doing some inventory, a silly besotted smile on your face, when you heard a soft chuckle coming from the door of the storeroom.

“Well, look at that smile.” Carol seemed amused at you. “I take you sorted things out with Daryl.”

“I did.”

Carol walked into the room and you smiled at her, unable to contain your happiness.

“I’d say you did more than sort things.” She teased and you blushed but nodded.

 “Don’t start...” You warned her, a bit embarrassed

Your words only seemed to encourage her to tease you more and soon you were distracted off your inventory task, chatting and joking with her, finally enjoying a moment of joy with your friend after so many challenging weeks.

When Daryl came back from hunting, you were sitting down on one of the tables of the yard, reading one of the books you had brought back from Woodbury’s library. You looked up and saw him making his way towards you, carrying not only some squirrels but also a couple rabbits.

“Squirrel stew for dinner is it?” You asked with a bright smile.

“I wanted to bring something bigger but this is all I found.” He complained, frowning.

“It’s fine, it’s great.” You reached out your hand and he took it, lacing you fingers. “You seriously need to start valuing what you do here, Daryl.” He scoffed at your words. “Honestly, after winter I’m sick of canned beans, I don’t know what I’d do without those squirrels.” You joked, trying to lighten his mood.

He gave you a crooked smile and lifted your hand to kiss your knuckles, your smile going wider as your heart started to flutter.

“I’m gonna skin this and get it ready.”

“What a lovely image.”

“Well, you wanted them for dinner, don’t you?” He smirked and began to look for something in his pockets. “Also...if you want to get your cell full of stones...”

He handed you a tiny, black and green stone and you grinned as you took it to inspect it. It was beautiful and the idea of Daryl thinking about you, bringing you something...You smiled like a fool, looking at him with bright eyes.

“Thank you...”

“It’s just a stone...”

Daryl shrugged and smiled shyly. He looked around and bent down to kiss you, tangling his fingers in the hair at the nape of your neck, pulling you close, taking your breath away.

“I’ll see you later.” He said, seeming almost as breathless as you, when your lips parted.

“Okay.”

You smiled in glee as you watched him walk into the building. When you turned to go back to your book you saw Beth a couple meters away, holding Judith and looking at you with wide eyes before breaking into giggles, an excited smile on her face.

“Hey, I didn’t know you where there.” You greeted awkwardly.

“I’m looking for Rick, Judith wants to see his daddy, don’t you.” She bopped the little girl’s nose and she laughed happily.

“He’s with your father and Carl, they wanted to start sowing some of those seeds we found.”

You had been helping them during the afternoon, along with some former Woodbury people, to start building a channel to bring water into the prison and to the future orchard.

“Alright, thanks!”

Beth rushed away, giggling, and you looked at her raising your eyebrows, feeling she was up to something.

You tried to focus your attention back to the book but couldn’t and get up to try and find Beth. You found her in her cell, still with Judith and talking excitedly with Maggie.

“Well, you’ll be proud, I just lost a bet to my little sister thanks to you.” The older Greene told you with mocked annoyance.

“What?” You didn’t know what the sisters were up to and looked at her in confusion.

“I told her there was something going on between Daryl and you, I knew it,” Beth announced proudly.

“Yeah, well, no need to be a detective for that.” Maggie rolled her eyes. “But you both were so clueless and so bashful, I bet her that Judith would have her first tooth before any of you made a move.”

“And I told her she was wrong, I know you’d get together sooner, I could feel it.” Beth was giving you a sweet smile but you were too flustered to notice. “And I saw you kiss, I won!”

“Oh, god...”

You leaned against the wall of the cell, closing your eyes and bringing your hand to your forehead, cheeks burning. You were so embarrassed you felt you could just disappear into a hole forever.

“Hey, no! Don’t do that, that’s something to be happy about.” Beth chided you softly.

“I am happy.” You opened your eyes to look at the sisters. “But try and tell me that people betting about your love life isn’t embarrassing.”

“Well, it wasn’t exactly like that...” Maggie laughed. “But I don’t care I lost, I’m happy for you Y/N, you both deserve this.” She reached out to take your hand, pulling you to her for a hug. “Honestly, looking at you two dancing around each other and doing nothing was starting to get frustrating.”

“Well, you could have said something...” Maybe your feelings for Daryl had been obvious, since several people of your family had noticed long ago, which was pretty embarrassing by the way, but you had never been sure about him, your insecurities blinded you. It seemed it was mutual.

“Like hell I was getting in the middle.” Maggie laughed good-hearted.

“So, how are things with Daryl, then?”

Beth chimed in, seeming eager to start gossiping. You laughed embarrassedly, but it felt good...joking with your friends, sharing your happiness, it felt almost like life before the dead walked and something you all needed after the dark times you had lived during the lasts months. You didn’t think you had ever felt this happy.

“We have been together just for like a day.” You shrugged, laughing softly. “Things are like always...but better...I don’t know. He’s skinning some squirrels for dinner now.”

“This is going to sound strange, but what wouldn’t I do for a salad right now.”

“Well, your father is working on it, give him a few months!”

***

The group had taken on eating in one of the yards with several long picnic tables, no matter if the weather was hot or cold, since it was easier to settle all the people there than inside the buildings, where it felt too cramped.

You waved at Carol, who was serving squirrel stew to everyone, before sitting down on a free bench. Daryl made his way towards you, bringing a bowl of stew for each and sitting down next to you.

“Thanks.”

You could see Beth and Maggie a couple benches away, looking at you and whispering to each other, giggling. You blushed and scowled at them, trying to tell them silently to stop it.

“What?” Daryl followed your gaze to the Greene sisters.

“Nothing.” You replied evasively, which just made him frown in confusion.

“I’ll tell you later...”

Chapter Text

It didn’t take long for the whole prison to know about Daryl and you, though you had never wanted to keep it a secret, but you knew that Daryl didn’t like to attract any attention to him if he could help it, even though all the prison knew him and admired him. But he never seemed to mind your relationship being public domain and you certainly didn’t.

There wasn’t as much gossip as you had feared, people busy with their own lives, besides the well-meant teasing of Carol, Maggie, and Beth from time to time, whenever you had free time to joke around with them, which wasn’t as often as you’d like.

A couple of weeks after you two got together you were on-duty up in the watchtower, stealing glances at Daryl and Zach, who were tinkering with some kind of device they had spent the morning putting together.

It was similar to a windmill kids toy, with sturdy and shiny blades. Its purpose was to distract the walkers at the outside of the fence, bringing them wherever you wanted them as they followed the movement of the windmill, so people could safely go out to work in the fence or in anything that was needed.

You could already see walkers focusing their attention on the movement of the windmill, going towards it, ignoring everything else. You snorted. They were so dumb sometimes you had to bitterly laugh.

You smiled looking at the two men working. Zach, who was now officially Beth’s boyfriend, seemed to like to work with Daryl and was around him a lot lately, also joining you in runs. He was a good boy, fast and skillful in runs, and Daryl didn’t seem to mind having him around.

He played this game in runs, trying to guess what had been everyone’s job before the end of the world. He still hadn’t guessed correctly Daryl, Michonne, and Glenn, and you realized for the first time neither you knew what Michonne or Daryl had been.

It was a bit strange, you guessed, but also you didn’t think it was that important anymore. You all were different now, and you didn’t think much about your old job as a teacher anymore. That wasn’t who you were anymore.

You had asked Daryl, though, out of curiosity, but he had replied evasively that there wasn’t anything to tell. You had seen he was uncomfortable about it so hadn’t asked him more, not wanting to pressure him. You cared about who he was now, not who he might have been before.

A couple of hours later you were still in the watchtower when you heard footsteps walking up the stairs.

“Hey.” You greeted when Daryl flopped down next to you, leaning to kiss his lips. “You okay?” You asked, noticing his thoughtful frown.

“Yeah...” He let out a long sigh and wrapped an arm around you to pull you close and you shifted so you could look at him. “Rick doesn’t want to come to more runs.”

“What?”

It was rather unexpected, he was always trying to organize as many runs as possible, always wanting to bring more supplies and food, trying to find new places that were unspoiled.

“He wants to stay here, help Hershel with the crops. Wants me and Glenn to lead the runs.”

“You two are the best at it.” You agreed. “The crops are important too, they’re starting to grow.”

You had seen Hershel and Rick working on them nonstop, helped by Carl too, and you had checked them a few times, delighted when you saw a few of them starting to bloom.

“Between that and the meat that you bring us, soon we won’t need to rely on cans and runs.” Just a week ago Daryl had come back from hunting with a big deer who had feed you all for a few days.

“Yeah...” Daryl’s fingers were trailing over your shoulder distractedly. “He says it’s good for Carl too.”

You nodded. You had seen the change of behavior in the young Grimes, who at first had been grumpy and angry when his father dragged him to help Hershel, never allowing him to go on runs, but he seemed more content now, looking less like the cold little soldier he had become.

“Rick’s even thinking about leaving his gun.”

“Whoa...” That was even more unexpected, you didn’t think you had ever seen Rick without a gun close.

“Yeah...”

“It’ll be fine.” You reassured him, reaching to brush his hair away from his face. “I think it’ll be good for Carl and Rick both.”

Daryl nodded, leaning into your touch, so you ran your fingers through his hair again, a smile playing in your lips.

“Your hair’s getting long...I think I like it.”

Daryl shrugged but smiled. You knew he hadn’t planned on letting it grow, he just hadn’t bothered trimming it, but you liked how it looked on him and loved to play with it.

“You still have to be up here long?”

“I think Sasha’s coming in about an hour.” You weren’t quite sure about the pass of time anymore.

“Mind if I keep you company?”

You smiled at that. “Be my guest.”

You turned around so you could keep watching past the fences of the prison, your back against Daryl’s chest, nestling against him as he wrapped his arms around you, nuzzling into your hair, settling to keep watch with you.

***

Daryl’s and Zach’s windmill proved itself useful not many days later, when one of the fences almost gave up as a big group of walkers pushed it relentlessly.

It had taken a lot of you to stop them, killing walker after walker until there wasn’t anyone left. For now.

You had been supposed to leave on a run. A woman from Woodbury whose husband had been a soldier for the Governor had told you about a military spot in which his husband had died when the Governor went to bring back supplies from it and found more walkers than expected. She reckoned there might still be some supplies left in it, so Glenn and Daryl had decided it was worth a shot. They must be there by now, along with a bunch of people.

You had been ready to leave when Carol had come running to tell you about the fence and Rick had asked you to help there instead, and you accepted immediately when you saw the fence wobbling dangerously under the weight of the walkers.

Thanks to the windmill, you could distract other walkers off that fence for a bit, long enough for you to reinforce it and drive the bodies away to burn them.

By the time Daryl came back, you were exhausted but you ran to welcome him back nonetheless. He always came back safe from runs, sometimes even bringing someone new who he and Glenn decided to take in, but whenever you didn’t go with him, you couldn’t help but worry about him.

“Hey,” you threw your arms around his neck as soon as he dismounted off his bike. “Everything okay?”

“Yeah, not as many walkers there anymore.” He ran his knuckles over your cheek, taking in your tired face. “And here?”

You knew he had been worried about the fence and everyone’s safety inside the prison if it gave up.

“Fence resisted long enough for us to clear the walkers, everything is fine.” You reassured him.

He nodded, relaxing and giving you a smile before pulling your face closer and kissing your lips. You hummed in delight, standing on tiptoes, trying to pull closer but he broke away from you.

“Got you something.” He walked back to his bike and began rummaging into his bags while you watched him with curiosity.

Whenever he went on runs without you, he always managed to bring back something for you, varying from things like chocolate bars to things that you could put in your room, or just any trinket he thought you might like.

“You can’t use it to decorate the cell...but you have been wanting one of this since forever.”

Daryl turned around, presenting you with a gun silencer and you squealed in happiness, taking it from his hand to examine it. Finally! In this world, being able to shoot without making sound and bringing more walkers to you was crucial, still, you hadn’t managed to get your hands on a silencer yet. Until now. Best present ever.

“There was a bunch of them there, couldn’t find many weapons though.”

“Thank you!” You pulled him close by his vest to kiss him again. “It’s perfect! I love it. And I love you.”

“Love you too...” His cheeks were pink and he was looking down, his fringe hiding his face though you could see his shy smile.

He still tended to hide from you and turn flustered and shy whenever he said that words aloud to you, but you found it rather sweet.

You reached out to brush his hair away from his eyes so you could look at him, smiling lovingly to him.

“Guess you don’t want to practice anymore with the crossbow now, hum?”

You snorted. You hadn’t tried it in a long while, not really having the time to spare. You had begun trying it, months ago, in order to practice your aim silently and without wasting bullets. By now, you were confident you aim was pretty good. Your crossbow skills, however...

“Well, it’s still a way for not wasting bullets, as long as you can retrieve the arrows...”

He smiled softly and wrapped his arm around your shoulders, starting to walk towards the cellblock.

“We don’t have any run for tomorrow, so I’m gonna head out hunting.” He informed you. “Wanna join me?”

You looked at him surprised. Daryl never wanted anyone to go hunting with him, preferring to go alone. Rick had been the only one he had asked to go with him a couple of times, when he still had his gun with him.

“You sure?”

“Yeah, you can try with the crossbow again if you want.”

“You just want to laugh at me, don’t you?”

He chuckled but pulled you tighter to him.

***

Daryl and you went into the woods as soon as the sun was starting to rise.

You followed him silently, observing him as he tried to track any wildlife, trying not to get in the middle.

You were enjoying it, it wasn’t usual that you had the chance to be alone with Daryl like that, and it was strange not to hear the constant sounds of the prison around you, but very welcome.

Daryl turned around and saw your smiling face, a smile of his own tugging at the corner of his lips.

“What?”

“Nothing,” you shrugged but smiled wider. “I just like to be out here alone with you...”

Daryl smirked and nodded, walking closer to you and taking your hands to pull you to him and kissing you. You stood on your tiptoes so you could wrap your arms around his neck, pressing your body flush with his and giggling when he lifted you off the ground, wrapping your legs around his waist.

You broke the kiss, giggling when he pressed you against the trunk of a tree. You knew you were supposed to be hunting, but you couldn’t help yourself, you wanted to take advantage of finally having a moment for yourselves, out of the prison and alone.

“Shouldn’t we be hunting?”

“Plenty of time...”

His lips were already on yours as he lowered you both to the ground, crawling over you.

“And there’s no walkers around...”

You nodded and smiled, closing your eyes and humming when you felt Daryl’s lips on your neck and his hand brushing up your thigh, and you let your mind wander away from your duties for a while, focusing only on Daryl.

Later, you were back at following Daryl as he tracked something, you weren’t sure what, through the woods.

“Look.”

He tugged at your hand, pointing at a clear between the trees that hid you, a couple meters away, and you smiled delightedly at the sight of a couple wild horses munching on some grass.

“I guess those are the horses Hershel wants to take and tame.” You whispered to Daryl. The farmer reckoned the wild horses and pigs of the forest could be tamed for your growing farm. “It’s kind of sad...They’re free now and we want to get them between fences.”

“Yeah...”

They were useful to your group, you knew, and at any rate in the prison you could keep them safe from walkers. Still, as you saw them perk up their ears as if they had heard something and break into a gallop, running away, you felt kind of sad at the idea of seeing them caged.

“Look.” Daryl pointed at a tree not many meters away and you saw the curious squirrel that was standing in one of the lower branches, tiny nose scrunching as it sniffed the air. “Come on.” Carefully, he passed you the charged crossbow.

“There’s no way I’m able to do it...”

The squirrel was small and fast, and you were aware of your limited crossbow skills, but you took the weapon and aimed anyway. You felt sorry about the tiny squirrel, oblivious to what was about to happen, but hardened your heart and shot.

In your defense, you didn’t do that bad, but you were too slow, the squirrel jumping away quickly, the arrow sticking into the wood of the tree.

“Told you...”

Daryl smiled softly to you and passed you another arrow to recharge the crossbow, and you began struggling with it while Daryl went to retrieve the arrow from the trunk.

You had been sure you were alone there and you let out a startled gasp when you saw a man suddenly jumping from behind some trees and throwing himself at Daryl. Both men fell to the ground and you heard Daryl cursing as he fought against the stranger, who was bigger and was pinning him to the ground.

“Get off him or I shoot you!” You had managed to get the arrow in place and pointed the crossbow at him, but he was too busy struggling against Daryl to pay attention to you.

You were afraid if you tried to shoot him you may hit Daryl instead, so you aimed higher, shooting an arrow into the trunk of the tree behind them. It made the man look at you, startled, and that was all it took for Daryl to push him away from him, punching him in the face and getting up.

You ran to him, tossing him the crossbow and taking your gun from the holster of your thigh and pointing it to the man.

“Don’t move,” Daryl warned him, though the man was already on his knees, his hands raised over his head, seeming unarmed.

You stole a glance towards Daryl to check on him before training your eyes on the man again. Daryl seemed okay, just a cut on his lip from when the man had punched him, but still, you were panting and shaking in rage.

You had never felt like that before, as if a red cloud would have fallen over your eyes, and all you wanted to do was to shoot the man who had tried to hurt Daryl, your anger almost overwhelming you.

“Y/N...” Daryl placed a hand on your trembling arm, noticing the fire in your eyes. “Y/N, it’s okay.” Gently, he guided your hand down.

“It’s not...he attacked you...he could have killed you.” You realized how scared you were as you said the words.

“I’m fine.”

Daryl gave your arm a reassuring caress though he kept his eyes trained in the man, whose scared eyes were darting from Daryl to you, and he seemed relieved when Daryl made you lower your gun.

For a moment, none said anything or moved, and Daryl seemed to be surveying the stranger as if considering something.

“How many walkers have you killed?” Daryl broke the silence.

“Are you for real?” You asked him in disbelieve. “He attacked you!”

Daryl ignored you and kept going with the questioning, and you huffed but said nothing else, neither when he decided to take the man back to the prison. After all, you trusted Daryl and his decisions, even though you couldn’t understand this one, but you followed the two men with your hand in your gun and ready in case the stranger decided to attack you again.

As soon as you reached the prison, Daryl took the man to Rick for more questioning in order to decide if he’d be allowed to stay or not.

They had been at it for hours now, and by now you had almost calmed down completely. You guessed Daryl had done the right thing, helping someone who was alone in the woods. That was what you had wanted, to bring people to safety, but you had never thought you would do it with someone who had attacked you.

By now, you knew you’d do pretty much anything in order to protect your family, but the ferocity and strength of your feelings back in the woods, as you pointed your weapon to the man who had hurt Daryl, ready to shoot him, had shocked you. You wondered if you’d have done it, if you’d have been able to shoot him after he’d surrendered. You hoped not, but at that moment you had barely been able to contain yourself.

The sun was starting to go down and Rick and Daryl were still nowhere to be seen, so you went to your room to wait for Daryl, eating at the same time you walked, digging into a can of tuna Carol had tossed you when she saw you retreating into your cell early.

Letting out a sigh, you flopped down on your bed, still lost in thought. There had been a time when you’d have been horrified at the idea of taking a life in such a way and you wondered when that had changed for you. Sometime after meeting the Governor, probably, after you had learned how evil people could be and how more dangerous than the dead.

“Hey.”

You smiled when you saw Daryl lifting up the curtain of the door and walking in, sitting down on the bed.

You reached out to cup his face with your hand, gingerly running your thumb over the cut of his lip.

“Does it hurt?”

“Nah.” Daryl pressed his lips to your palm as if to prove it.

“Have you eaten something?”

“I’m not hungry.”

You began to sit up so you could give him half of the tuna can that you had kept for him, but he stopped you, crawling over you and resting his head on your chest.

“You’re okay?” You wrapped your arms around him, cuddling him close, and reached up a hand to comb your fingers through his hair.

“Just tired.”

“You and Rick have been talking for a long while...”

Daryl let out a noncommittal hum and you felt there was something off, but you didn’t want to push him, he’d tell you what was in his mind when he felt like it.

“Man we found is called Mark,” Daryl told you and you nodded silently, you didn’t really care. Just thinking about him made you tense up again. “He was with a small group, a bigger one found them, not a nice group. They tried to rob them and killed most of them when they resisted.”

It wouldn't surprise you anymore, it was how the world seemed to work now. Still, a shiver ran through you at the idea.

“That group could find the prison.”

“We’re more than them, we have the fences and the watchtowers.” Daryl reminded you and you nodded.

“Mark ran and hid in the woods, he attacked us because he mistook us for people from the group who killed his own.”

That, you could understand. You didn’t know what you’d do if something like that happened to your group, and luckily you’d never have to find it out.

“You did the right thing bringing him here.” You said softly. It was obvious that Daryl had been able to see that the man wasn’t really a bad one. He had a way of doing that. “I would have shot him.”

“Nah, you wouldn’t.” Daryl shook his head, nuzzling against your shoulder. “I know you, you wouldn’t have shot him.”

“I wanted to.”

“You didn’t.”

“Cos you stopped me.” You added honestly. “I was so angry Daryl, when he attacked you, all I wanted was to kill him.”

 “I’d want to shoot anyone who hurt you too.” He pressed a kiss to your collarbone.

“But you can tell good people from bad people. You do.” You insisted when he scoffed. “You took time to consider he might not be bad, I just didn’t care...Maybe that’s what I am now, maybe I don’t care about killing people anymore.” You added saddened. You hadn’t thought twice about killing the Governor’s men, you had needed to do it in order to survive, to protect your family, and you stood by it.

You’d stand against anyone to protect them.

“It ain’t like that, you ain’t like that.” Daryl looked at you, his serious eyes meeting yours. “But we do what we do to survive. You ain’t a murderer, you’re a survivor.”

You smiled at him, wanting to believe his words, hoping it was true. He seemed content to see your smile and dropped his head to your chest again, letting out a sigh when you began to stroke his hair again, and you felt yourself beginning to relax.

 “I’m never letting anyone hurt you.”

You whispered, securing your arms around him and cradling him protectively to your chest, feeling him hold your hand to lace his fingers with yours and press a kiss to your knuckles.

With a last kiss to the top of his head, you closed your eyes and tried to sleep.

Chapter Text

When you woke up that morning, a couple weeks after you took in Mark, you were alone in your bed. You had felt Daryl getting up earlier, pressing a kiss to your temple, but you had been half asleep.

You joined the people who were having breakfast, guessing Daryl had head out hunting, but when you made your way towards one of the fences to clear the walkers that were pushing it dangerously, you saw him talking with Rick and Hershel while the two men worked in the growing farm.

After a while, Daryl made his way towards you and you stopped sinking the metal bar into the monster's heads long enough to greet him.

“Good morning. Help me with this?”

“If you need me to.” Daryl sunk his knife into the head of one of the walkers. “But I was going to talk with Glenn, Rick wants us to go on a run tomorrow.”

“Go, I got this.” You answered with confidence. “He’s in the watchtower with Maggie.”

Sasha and Karen where clearing walkers of other fences, and later you’d collect the bodies and drive them away to burn them.

“I think me being this happy is bad for our fences.” You joked, smiling warmly to Daryl, who just seemed confused.

“What you mean?”

“Well... when I was sad, or upset, or worried, I used to let it out here, I’d spend hours here just clearing walkers.” You explained. “Now I still worry about us being safe but I’m too happy to need to vent anything here.” You shrugged shyly.

Daryl seemed shy too, but he smiled at you, moving closer and bending down to kiss you.

“Wait,” you stopped him. “I’ll stain you.” Blood had spattered over your clothes as you worked and was still fresh.

“I don’t care.” He muttered before pressing his lips to yours.

Later that day, after Sasha, Karen and you had burned the corpses, you were in the bathroom cleaning yourself of the blood and dusk, giving thanks once again for having managed to bring running water into the prison. It came from the pit outside, though you weren’t really sure how, into big gallons that you could pump to get a string of water.

It wasn’t a real shower, but it was close enough and the best thing you had had to wash yourselves since the farm.

You hadn’t seen Daryl since the morning, both of you busy, so as soon as you were clean you went out looking for him.

You found him in the yard, sitting down with Carol in one of the picnic tables. You waved at them but they seem to be discussing something important, barely noticing you, so you shrugged and let them be. You went to the backyard, sitting down to enjoy the sunset, waiting for them to be less busy.

Not much later, Daryl sat down next to you. You turned your head to press a kiss to his arm. “Everything okay?”

Daryl just shrugged and you waited for him to explain himself. He wrapped an arm around you, bringing you closer and tangling his fingers in your wet hair.

“Rick doesn’t want to lead us anymore.”

You couldn’t say it shocked you much.

He had stopped going on runs, dedicating himself to the farm he wanted to grow, had stopped even carrying his gun. He’d never been one to make decisions one-sided, but lately, he relied more and more in the others. Glenn and Daryl had been taking care of runs for a while, while Carol did most of the organization around the prison, Hershel helping her and Rick to keep things in order inside the prison, while Sasha and Tyreese had become some sort of bridge between your group and the Woodbury people, the younger sibling becoming a valuable member of the group with her multiple skills.

Still, it was a bit surprising Rick just decided to step away.

“Is he okay?”

“Yeah...” Daryl nodded, seeming a bit lost in thought. “He needs a break tho, after everything. He’s earned it.”

You nodded. The time they had spent away from fight and runs had been good for Rick and Carl, you could see it. Not only for their relationship, which had improved considerably, but also for themselves, they seemed more relaxed and happy. It’d be good for Rick to keep playing farmer for a little while longer as some sort of holidays.

“So what happens now?”

“He doesn’t want to take decisions anymore, he wants a group of people doing it now.”

You nodded, guessing where this was headed.

“So he wants to create a...a council I think Hershel called it.” Daryl frowned. “Rick wants Hershel, Glenn, Sasha, Carol and me making decisions, organizing this...”

“It makes sense.” You lifted your hand to run your fingers over Daryl’s frown, trying to caress it away. “You all had been doing it already for quite a while.”

“But Rick was still leading, it was different.” Daryl shook his head.

“It’s not like Rick’s going away, he’s still here to help.” You knew Rick wouldn’t just abandon you, even if he needed a break. “It’ll be fine.”

You could see Daryl was feeling pressured about being a member of the council, making decisions and organizing things, being in charge without having Rick at his side, leading. He’d been doing it already perfectly, though it seemed like he didn’t see it. He never seemed to appreciate what he did for the group and it frustrated you. If only he could see himself as you saw him, as everyone saw him.

You didn’t know how to put it into words, though, and knew that Daryl’d just scoff it away, as he did whenever you tried to tell him how important and valuable he was, so you hoped you could reassure him just with your presence next to him.

You moved your hand to the back of his neck, stroking the hair at his nape and he buried his face on your shoulder, nuzzling at it slightly.

“You’re gonna do just great.”

You both stayed in silence for a while, enjoying the moment of intimacy, being alone together for a little while.

Your stomach ruined the moment when it growled as you caught the smell of the dinner that was getting ready. Daryl chuckled, looking up from your shoulder, amused, and you blushed in embarrassment.

“Carol’s making dinner with some things Hershel and Rick grew and the rabbits I hunted,” Daryl explained you and your mouth watered. It seemed you wouldn’t have to eat canned beans for a while.

After dinner, Rick announced his decisions and the new council, and as you had expected everyone accepted it without much fuss.

Life kept going, your life in the prison improving as you grew both in people and in resources.

After Maggie and Daryl finally caught a couple of horses and pigs, it didn’t take long for Maggie and Hershel to be able to tame them, and eventually, Maggie even taught you how to ride. You were nothing special as a rider but you could do it without falling down, which was enough for you.

Michonne kept coming and going, never staying long as she always headed out after a few hours of rest and resupply, still looking for the Governor, taking advantage of the horses that now you had.

You didn’t know how she could still hope to find him. Maybe she needed to believe it. She always brought things back that could be useful, or just make your life better, like comics for Carl, outdated chocolate bars for all of you, things to decorate your cell... you wished she’d stop risking her life going out and finally settle into the prison, enjoying the life you had built there.

As the skills of the people who you had taken in began to improve, more of them joined you in runs, and soon you were able to go on runs to places you had never dreamt before, bigger or with lots of walkers roaming through them, not that much of a danger anymore now that you were so many.

There were accidents sometimes, of course there were, it was bound to happen with your lifestyle, but it wasn’t that often. The worse wasn’t even in a run, it was when one of the fences gave in, falling down, walkers crawling inside the prison. You all managed to clear them and put up the fence before it could get too bad, but there had been a few casualties.

Since that, bigger groups spent more time clearing the fences, so it wouldn’t happen again, and you were happy when the council, or at least Daryl and Carol, listened to your suggestions. You had spent enough time there to know a thing or two about it. Clearing fences and watch duty were your two main jobs now, though sometimes you still went out on runs, always feeling uneasy when Daryl went to one while you stayed in the prison, especially if he had to spend the night out too, which thankfully wasn’t that often, Glenn and him agreed it was safer to go on runs that weren’t far enough to have to spend the night outside.

Beth, who had the title of owner of the best-decorated room, kept a calendar of how many days had passed since the last accident. Zach had brought it to her from a run, and even though it was pretty and vintagish, the concept crept you out a bit. Still, when you walked into her room to give her back a book she had lent you, you couldn’t help your smile when you saw thirty days had come and gone without any kind of accident.

“I’m going to say bye to Zach, he’s going out for that run,” Beth told you after placing the book back in one of her shelves. “Aren’t you going to say goodbye to Daryl?”

“Already did,” you answered, but followed Beth outside.

The run was a big one. Glenn, Maggie, Daryl and you had found the place while scouting during another run. It was a quite big supermarket which was probably unspoiled, with several military tents with supplies still in them in its yard.

Problem was, it was bustling with walkers. Daryl and Glenn had spent days making a plan and finally, they came up with an idea, they would use music to make the walkers leave that area, gathering them somewhere else so you could go to the supermarket.

It worked, now you had to bring back as many supplies as possible from there, and that was what the group was going to do today.

You were supposed to go with them too, but Carol had recruited you to help clear yet another herd of walkers that was gathering outside the fences. They seemed to be endless, more and more showing up from the woods, more of them each day, pushing at rattling the fences. Daryl said the more you were, the more they were attracted to you.

You knew it was important to keep the fences clear, and though you had wanted to help in such a big run, you knew the group that was going was capable, so you hadn’t been too bothered by the change of plans.

You chuckled softly as you heard Beth and Zach talking while she helped Daryl and him to get supplies into the car, the boy telling her how important yet dangerous the run was, though Beth didn’t seem very impressed.

You gave Daryl an amused look, passing him a bottle of fuel, and he smirked at you.

“Time to go.” He announced to Zach.

“Be careful.” You kissed Daryl’s cheek as he turned on the engine of his bike.

No matter runs had been going great lately, no matter Daryl always came back unharmed, no matter you knew how skilled he was, you didn’t think there’d be a day when you wouldn’t worry when he went out, especially if you weren’t with him.

You waved goodbye to Glenn and Zach, who were sharing a car, and followed with your eyes the trail of vehicles as they made their way towards the doors. Before they could go out, though, the doors opened and Michonne galloped in.

You grinned, happy to see her back, and made your way towards her while she talked with Rick and Carl, giving them whatever she had brought back. Before you could reach her, though, you saw her talking with Daryl and then she was getting inside one of the cars to join the run.

Well, you could talk to her when she came back.

Once the vehicles disappeared down the road, you went into the cellblock to take one of the aprons you now wore when working on the fences. Someone had suggested it, tired of scrubbing blood off your clothes, and honestly it had been a great idea. It didn’t stop you from having blood disgustingly stuck in your hair sometimes, another blessing of being short, but at least now half of your scarce wardrobe wasn’t stained with blood.

On your way out you were surprised to find Maggie moping in her cell, she was supposed to goto the run too, though now you recalled you hadn’t seen her in any of the cars.

“Hey, though you were joining the run?” You greeted her from the door.

“Glenn didn’t think it was a good idea.”

Maggie was sitting on her bed, hugging her knees and looking worried. She had looked like that for a few days now, something off with her, though you hadn’t had the chance to ask her about it. You had imagined she might have had some sort of fight with Glenn, and you were waiting for her to come to talk with you if she wanted to before you asked her directly, you didn’t want to come out as nosy, and you had been sure they’d sort things out pretty soon.

“It’s everything okay?” You sat down next to her.

“Yeah...” She nodded weakly and stayed silent for a moment before talking again. “I... It’s not sure but I think I might be pregnant.”

“What?    !” Your eyes went wide with surprise. “How could that happen?!”

“You know how.” Maggie snorted.

“I mean...I thought you were careful so it wouldn’t....” You tailed off awkwardly.

“Yeah, well...” Maggie shrugged.

Another moment of silence passed before Maggie began talking again.

“At first when a week passed and my period still didn’t come I was so scared...but I don’t know... The more I think about it, the more I feel I want it.”

“You do?” You couldn’t hide your surprise and confusion at her words.

“Yeah...I didn’t plan this but I’m not unhappy about it, I think...” She nodded and gave you a weak smile. “I want a life Y/N, I don’t want just to survive. I want a life with Glenn, a family with him.” Her smile was sweet now, and you found yourself smiling too. “The moment’s never going to be perfect, but we can make it work. We can’t be too scared to live. We deserve to have lives.”

You nodded. You liked her words, her ideas, but weren’t as sure as her about it been possible. You would support her, of course, but the idea of having a baby in this world, after Lori and everything that you had gone through, was wild to you. However, you believed Maggie was right, you couldn’t be too scared to live. This was the world now, and you had to make the most of it, try to have the best life as possible in it, not only surviving but actually enjoying life.

You felt all of you were starting to do that now, little by little, as your community grew, as you were safer and thriving, the prison now a home.

“Yeah, yeah, you’re right.” You smiled at Maggie, resting your head on her shoulder, and she took your hand, squeezing it.

“Glenn...he doesn’t really think like that.” Maggie let out a tired sigh. “He’s scared something’s going to be wrong, that something will happen to me during the pregnancy or to the baby...he doesn’t know how we could raise a baby in this world...”

You could understand it, you felt the same. Probably all of you did. But Maggie’s words of hope had almost made you believe it might be possible.

“Well...your sister’s doing great with Judith.” You joked and Maggie laughed softly.

“Yeah...” She gave you a smile. “You know, this is one of the things I like about having a baby here, now. We all help with the kids, we all take care of them together as a group, no matter they’re not ours. That’s good, it’s good for them. A big family.”

You had to admit Maggie’s words were beautiful. Maggie seemed able to see such good, beautiful things, even in this world, and you admired her for it. You nodded, now with a genuine big smile on your face.

“Glenn’ll see it too, I know,” Maggie said with confidence. “He didn’t want me going on a run in case I’m pregnant, he’s already worrying about a baby we might not have.” She laughed though she seemed a bit worried still.

“You two are going to do great, I know it.” You tried to reassure her.

“My father and Beth don’t know it...nobody does. So don’t say it to anyone yet, please?”

“Sure thing!”

You smiled, happy Maggie had decided to confide it to you.

Later that day, once you were done with your job in the fence, you found Maggie sitting down on one of the tables of an empty yard. She waved at you and you went to sit down next to her.

“My period just came.” She told you with a sad smile. “And you know what? I’m kind of disappointed.”

“Oh...” You didn’t really know what to tell her. “Well, if it’s what you want, you can try again in the future...”

“Yeah...” She sighed. “Once Glenn sees that it’s possible... I know it’s possible to have a life here.”

 

Daryl, Glenn and the others weren’t back until the sun had gone down. You were in one of the yards, trying to focus your attention in a book so you wouldn’t be so worried about them, when you saw Daryl and Glenn making their way towards the cellblock. Even from afar you could see in their faces that something was wrong, so you run to Daryl.

“What’s wrong?” You asked but Daryl shook his head, placing a hand on the small of your back and gently pushing you towards your cellblock.

“Y/N!” Glenn called behind you, his face as dark as Daryl’s. “Have you seen Maggie?”

“She’s in her room.” You told him, worry clutching your stomach.

You let Daryl walk you away from the others and towards your cell, giving him worried glances as he still hadn’t said a word. You didn’t push him, waiting for him to talk.

Once inside the cell, he pulled you into a tight hug, burying his face in the crook of your shoulder. You wobbled a bit under his weight but secured your arms around him. Something really bad must have happened...

“Hey, what’s wrong?” You raised a hand to caress his hair.

“Zach...” Daryl didn’t look up from your shoulder. “Walkers got him.”

“No...”

The boy had been showing off to Beth before he left, talking about how dangerous the run could be, but that were only jokes, everything was supposed to be fine, everything had been planned thoroughly.

You felt a lump in your throat, the death of the boy hit you hard, even though you hadn’t known Zach for that long, just for some months. It had been enough to feel him part of the group, especially since he began his relationship with Beth and to help in every run. He had managed to get through Daryl, to form a partnership and friendship with him, which you knew wasn’t that easy. Daryl had appreciated the boy and so had you.

“There were walkers on the roof we didn’t know about, it gave up, they all fell in... We should have known, we should have checked...”

“Hey...” You made him lift his head from your shoulder before he could start blaming himself. “The plan was good, Glenn and you thought it through, you couldn’t know what was going to happen.”

Daryl didn’t say anything, looking at you with eyes so sad it broke your heart. You kissed his lips softly and he put his forehead on yours for a moment.

“A shelving fell on Bob, Zach was trying to help him when it happened...”

You nodded sadly. Zach had had a good heart.

“I have to tell Beth.” Daryl pulled away from you and you saw him trying to control his emotions, hardening his face.

“Want me to go with you?”

Daryl shook his head and left the cell without another word.

You made your way to the cell where Michonne stayed in the rare occasions in which she stayed in for the night. She was on the bed, studying a map.

“Hi, long time not seeing you.”

“Hey.” Michonne looked up from the map. “I’m sorry about Zach.” She reached out her hand and you took it, sitting down on the bed next to her.

“Yeah...he was a good one.” You looked at the map she had been looking. “You’re heading out again?”

“Tomorrow. I think he might have gone here.” She pointed at the map and you let out a sigh.

“I wished you stayed...”

“Once I bring the Governor’s head I’ll stay here forever.”

You didn’t say anything. You were sure the Governor was long gone, dead or just far away, Michonne would never find him. But that was not what she wanted or needed to hear, you could just hope she’d realize it eventually.

You were back in your cell, lying in your bed, when Daryl came back.

He took off his vest without a word and went to lie down next to you. He threw an arm over you, curling up with you, and used your chest as a pillow.

“How’s Beth?” You asked, kissing the top of his head.

“She’s okay...too okay.”

“What you mean?”

“She doesn’t seem to care...like she’s so used to people dying she doesn’t care anymore. Said she doesn’t cry anymore...”

You frowned.  You hoped the world wasn’t turning Beth into something harder and colder than the lovely girl she had always been. But you reckoned she was still sweet and caring most of the time. She was a true survivor now, though, and you knew you had to pay a toll for that.

“I think she just needs time to process it...” You whispered, trying to make sense of it. “She probably doesn’t want to have her heart broke, she doesn’t want to suffer anymore...”

Daryl just hummed. He rolled over, pulling you with him and you curled up against his back, wrapping your arm around his waist and resting your hand on his chest, where he laced his fingers with yours.

“And how’re you?” You ventured.

You felt him shrug but you nudged his shoulder with your forehead until he answered.

“Beth asked that too. I’m okay.” He didn’t sound very genuine and you kissed his shoulder. “Just thought we weren’t losing people anymore...I’m tired of losing people.”

“Yeah...” You snuggled closer.

Eventually, you felt Daryl relax in your arms and you knew he had finally fallen asleep. You closed your eyes and tried to do the same, his presence always comforting you, helping you sleep deeply no matter what.

Chapter Text

Next morning, you were waving goodbye to Michonne, Rick, and Carl close as they worked on the crops, while Daryl got ready to go hunting, when you heard some screams.

You looked around, startled, rushing behind Rick to find Lizzie and Mika running out of their cellblock, scared and screaming, yelling that there were walkers inside. Daryl, Tyreese, Glenn, and Carol soon joined you and you all ran into the cellblock.

What you saw in there paralyzed you with horror for a moment. Everyone was screaming and running wildly, trying to escape while several walkers attacked everyone, already munching on some bodies.

You sprung into action, shooting your gun at any walker you could, horrified when you recognized them as your own. Between your combined efforts, you all managed to get the situation under control, putting down all the walkers, but several people had died.

Daryl, Glenn, and Rick were forced to make sure those dead people wouldn’t come back as walkers, and you could see something die inside Rick as he was forced to do that again, after all the time he had spent as a farmer without killing anything.

You saw Daryl noticing it too, sharing a look with Rick and patting his shoulder, before making his way to you.

“You okay?” He ran his hands over your arms, his eyes roaming over you, checking you were okay.

“Physically? Yes.” You were far from okay emotionally, you didn’t understand how this could have happened, you hadn’t expected something like this inside your supposedly safe prison. “And you?”

Daryl just shrugged, pulling you close for a brief hug and you knew he was feeling like you if not worse. For someone so solitary, he had a connection with those people that you hadn’t yet achieved, and he knew and cared deeply for every one of them.

Together, you walked into the cell where Rick and the doctor were examining one of the corpses, trying to see how it had happened. He had no bites or wounds, nothing to explain how he had died.

Doctor Caleb and Hershel explained it was some kind of virus that made you die by choking in your own blood, which sounded beyond horrifying. Patrick had died like that too, it seemed, but the boy had been just fine the last morning. It seemed the virus acted quickly and quite unexpectedly.

It was terrifying.

Apparently, one of your pigs had died that way too, but it wasn’t clear if the pig had spread the virus to you, or quite the opposite.

You could only hope there wouldn’t be more cases, but all of you who had been in the cellblock were at risk of having been infected and should stay away from the others. You felt Daryl take your hand, squeezing it, and you squeezed his back, trying not to show how scared you were.

You sat down in the hall with Rick while the council met, trying to look for a solution. You had been invited to join them, but Rick had shaken his head without a word and you had decided to stay with him, check if he was okay. Besides, you weren’t sure you could control the terror you were feeling at the idea of the virus spreading through all the prison if you had to discuss it.

Neither you nor Rick said a word during the whole time, but you were glad you weren’t alone, even if the company was as silent and gloomy as you were feeling.

Finally you saw Daryl walking to you and you got up, rushing to him, Rick behind you.

“Karen was coughing and so was David, so we sent them to cellblock E to isolate them.” He explained. “I’m going to start burying people.”

Rick nodded, already heading out, still silent and seeming lost in troublesome thoughts. You saw Daryl give him a worried look.

“He’ll be okay...” You said, though it didn’t sound like you believed your words.

Daryl nodded, giving you a tight smile and pressing a kiss to your forehead.

“I’ll help you with the bodies.”

“No.” Daryl's voice was firm. “No, stay here, don’t get close to the bodies, alright?”

“Okay...”

***

You were at the fence, putting down walker after walker as they pushed relentlessly at it. You hadn’t gone there only to vent your worry but also because the fence was wobbling dangerously. There were more of them than you had seen since one of the fences fell, but with everything that was going on and how busy everybody was, you were the only one there.

You tried but they were too many for you and the fence was starting to give up.

“Maggie! Maggie!” You yelled, knowing she was up in the watchtower next to the fence.

She popped her head out, looking down at you and flying down the stairs when she realized your struggle.

“Hold on Y/N! I’ll bring more people.”

You sunk your bar into the head of the closer walkers, but as they fell more took their places, stepping over the bodies, the fence already bending down.

“Shit...”

Maggie came back in a second, Daryl, Rick, T-Dog, Sasha and Glenn with her and they rushed to help you, but it was a struggle even for all of you, the walkers were too many.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Sasha pointed at the half-eaten rats that lied next to the fence, as if someone had been feeding the walkers. Weird and worrying as it was, there wasn’t much time to think about it, as the fence was almost falling down.

You all tried to push it back and up again but to no avail.

“Back, come on, all back now!”

You heard Daryl’s voice and then he was tugging at your arm, pulling you away from the fence as everyone stepped back.

You noticed the last bits of light in Rick’s eyes disappear as he commanded Daryl to take the truck and wait for him outside, seemingly having come up with a plan.

You couldn’t help the whimper that escaped out your lips when you realized what was Rick’s plan, and you had a lump in your throat as you saw him throwing piglet after piglet to the walkers, drawing them away from the fences.

You sunk the bar into the heads of the remaining walkers and then threw it to the floor, letting Glenn, Maggie, Sasha, and T-Dog pull the fence back up and reinforce it, while you retreated to your cell.

You felt close to tears and you didn’t want to cry in front of them, not for some piglets after you had lost so many of your people that same morning, but you couldn’t help yourself. Too many horrible things had happened today, you felt you couldn’t keep up with everything, you couldn’t handle it.

You knew it was silly, you were going to eat most of those pigs anyway when they were big enough, but still...it wasn’t the same. You had seen them born, Rick had taken care of them since their first day of life, and seeing them squealing as the walkers devoured them had been too much.

You tried not to cry, you tried your best, but after chocking a whimper, you felt hot tears rolling down your cheeks.

“Hey...”

The curtain of the door lifted and Daryl walked in, taking in your distressed state and hugging you from behind, wrapping his arms around your middle to press your back against his chest. He kissed your shoulder before resting his chin on it, but he didn’t say anything.

“I know it’s silly...I know they were just pigs...” You whimpered, embarrassed.

“It’s not silly...” Daryl kissed your tear-stained cheek. “They were our pigs. Rick cried too...” He added quietly.

You could imagine. Rick had been the one taking care of the pigs and no matter how he tried to say they were just cattle for you to eat, you knew he had been fond of them almost as pets. He had raised those piglets. You could only imagine how he might be feeling.

“We were doing so good...” You turned around so you could bury your face on Daryl’s chest. “Everything was good...and now Zach is gone, along with a lot of us, there’s a virus we don’t know how to stop, the fence fell and, and the piglets...”

Too many bad things in just a couple of days, it felt like a nightmare. You had been feeling so safe, so content...

Daryl shushed you softly and when he felt your knees giving up he lifted you off the ground and gently lay you down on the bed.

“No...there are a lot of things to do...” You tried to lift up, but Daryl lied down next you, curling up with you and pinning you to the bed with an arm around your waits.

“Everything’s okay,” Daryl whispered, trying to reassure you. “Fence’s reinforced, there aren’t too many walkers there, Sasha’s clearing them. Carol brought dinner to Karen and David to check on them, there’s none else with symptoms. Rick’s keeping watch. You have done enough.”

“Okay...”

You took a deep breath and tried to let his words relax you. You curled up, Daryl snuggling against your back, keeping you close, his presence calming you and before you realized it, exhaustion had taken over you and you were falling asleep.

You had vivid nightmares that night, monsters tearing apart the flesh of people and animals, but every time you woke up Daryl’s presence next to you, his arms around you, calmed you down.

***

“Daryl! Daryl!”

Rick’s voice as he called for Daryl woke you up next morning, startling you.

In a second, Daryl was on his feet, rushing out the cell after pressing a quick kiss to your lips.

“What?” You asked hoarsely, but he was already gone.

Your throat felt dry, you were having trouble opening your eyes, which felt heavy-lidded, you had a pounding headache and your muscles hurt as you moved. Shit.

You tried not to panic, taking deep calming breaths, but you knew you had to find Caleb or Hershel. It took you a while to get a hold of yourself, but finally you splashed some water from your bottle to your face, opening your eyes and you dragging yourself out of bed.

You found Rick in Hershel’s cell, looking like someone had given him a beat. Or maybe he’d beaten someone, Hershel was taking care of his opened knuckles.

“What’s going on?” You rasped.

Rick looked away, taking a deep breath and biting his lip.

“I...I got into a fight with Tyreese.” He sounded regretful

“What?”

The look in his eyes when he focused them on you scared you a bit.

“Someone killed Karen and David this night...burned their bodies.”

Your eyes widened in shock and horror and you opened and closed your mouth, unable to find any words.

“Seemed someone thought it was the way to stop the infection from spreading.”

“Talking about that...I...I don’t feel that well.” You felt a lump in your throat but you forced yourself to swallow it.

Rick got into his feet in a second, looking at you in worry but Hershel walked past him, stopping in front of you, surveying you.

“Have you been coughing?” He asked, placing a hand on your sweaty forehead, and you shook your head. “Good. But you have a temperature.”

You nodded. Your eyes felt like burning and you were having problems keeping them open, feeling weak on your feet. You recoiled a bit from them, just in case, you didn’t want to infect them if you had the virus.

“Y/N...”

“I know. I’ll let myself into cellblock E.” You tried to give them a smile but you couldn’t hide how scared you were.

“What’s going on?”

You heard Daryl’s voice and turned around to see him and Carol walking down the corridor and towards the cell.

“I...I...”

“Y/N’s not feeling well.” Rick began before you could say anything, seeing you were struggling to find words. “I’m sending Caleb to cellblock E to check her.”

“What? Cellblock E?” Daryl looked at him on disbelieve, catching on what it meant.

You tried to keep him at distance but he didn’t let you, grabbing your arm to pull you close and running his fingers over your clammy face.

“She’s burning up!”

“I know, I know,” Hershel said softly, trying to calm everyone down. “But she’s not that hot and she’s not coughing, that’s good.

“Good?” Daryl scoffed, his eyes angry.

Carol was silent, looking at you with wide, wet eyes.

Everyone’s reaction was freaking you out and it was hard to stay calm. Daryl’s scared eyes were frantically roaming over you as if he didn’t know what to do, and the hand that was cupping your face was shaking. You forced yourself to hold it together.

“I’m okay, promise.” You said softly, placing your hand on his before gently pushing him away.

“Of course you are, you’re strong, she’s going to be just fine.” Hershel chimed in with a smile, sounding nonchalant, but you could see how worried he actually was.

“I’m going to the cellblock, I’ll wait for the doctor there.” You gave your friends a weak smile.

“I’m going with you.” Daryl was already grabbing your arm as you tried to walk away.

“No.”

He ignored you, walking purposely and without looking at you. You let out a sigh. You would let him walk you out and to the cellblock, alright, but there was no way he was getting in.

On your way there, you saw more people walking out cellblocks and making their way to E, looking weak and ill.

“Shit...” Daryl was looking around, worried.

“Okay, I’m getting in now.”

You took his hand off your arm, even though all you wanted to do was to snuggle with him, scared and weak as you were feeling. But you didn’t want him taking even more risks at getting infected.

“Y/N...”

“No.” You stopped him. “I’m not letting you get infected and you’re needed here. Go and help Rick.” You pushed him away.

Daryl stood silent, looking at you with wet, scared eyes but without making any move towards you, as if his strength and fight had left him. You couldn’t take it anymore so you turned around and went into the cellblock, finding an empty cell and finally breaking down, crying.

It took you a while, but finally you managed to calm down again and began helping around. You had to count yourself lucky, you were better than most of the people, most of them couldn’t stand by themselves, were delusional with fever, or were already coughing blood.

“Oh, no...”

The door of the cellblock opened and you saw Sasha walking in, her face pale and covered in sweat. She barely seemed able to stand by herself, so you went to help her.

“Hey Y/N, you look like shit.” She greeted you and you had to snort.

“That’s cos you haven’t seen yourself in a mirror.” You retorted, and she let out a weak chuckle.

“Caleb, a hand here?” You called for the doctor.

“Shit...”

Sasha and you murmured at the same time as you saw him stumbling weakly towards you, seeming to have caught the virus himself too.

More and more people were brought into the quarantined cellblock, to the point you wondered if there weren’t more people in than outside. Little Lizzie came and so did Glenn, looking so bad it made you worry sick.

It couldn’t be. This couldn’t be the end, not after everything you had gone through, after everything you’d endured and survived.

“Y/N.” Sasha’s voice was weak but she was still on her feet, helping around. She’d been talking with his brother in the room with the window that allowed you to talk with the others outside without risking infecting them. “Daryl’s there too, he wants to talk with you.”

You nodded eagerly, rushing to the room as fast as your weaken legs allowed you.

“Hey.”

Daryl’s eyes scanned you with worry and you wondered how you looked. You hoped not too bad.

“How are you?”

“I...I’m okay...” You bit your lip, not wanting to cry in front of him, that would just scare him more. He looked at you like he didn’t believe you anyway. “Things here...they’re not looking that great...doc’s sick too...”

Daryl began pacing the room anxiously and you regretted telling him anything.

“We’re going out on a run.” Daryl stopped pacing, walking back in front of the window. “To a place Hershel reckons could have the medicine we need.”

“Good, that’s good.”

“Yeah...we’ll bring it back. Everything’s gonna be just fine. Just hold on there a bit longer.”

You appreciated that Daryl was trying to reassure you, to lift your spirit, even though he was scared too. You certainly needed it. You stayed strong until Daryl left the room but after he walked out of the door you couldn’t help the tears that rolled down your cheeks. You scrubbed them roughly and went back to help with anything you could.

***

 “What in the world, Hershel.”

You had been lying on a bunk for a while, dozing off, feeling weaker, and when you walked out, the veterinarian was in the cellblock, giving some kind of beverage to the people.

“What are you doing here, you are not sick.”

“That’s why I’m here, I can help, I have to help.” She pressed a cup with the drink to your lips before you could say anything, almost choking you. “Drink this. It’s a natural remedy for the flu, you’ll feel better.”

“Alright, alright...” You gulped it down, feeling there was no point in arguing with Hershel. He had come to stay.

“I’m going to give some to Glenn now.”

“He...he’s not doing that good.”

“He’ll pull through. We will.” Hershel patted your shoulder and went to give his tea to more people.

As time passed and Daryl wasn’t back, you began to feel increasingly worried. You didn’t have a way to measure the pass of time in there, but you were pretty sure he should be back by now, the run wasn’t supposed to take that long.

“Hershel...” You limped your way to him. “Shouldn’t Daryl’s group be back by now?”

“I’m sure they’re fine Y/N.” Hershel looked up from the person he was taking care of, giving you a reassuring but tense smile. “Place must be bigger than I thought and it’s taking them more time, but they’ll be back soon.”

You nodded but your mind was full with all kind of horrible scenarios, all the things that might have gone wrong during the run...what if Daryl was hurt, what if the walkers had gotten him...

You didn’t know if it were your anxious thoughts, taking your breath away, or if you were just getting worse, but you were getting dizzier and dizzier, so you stumbled to a cell, falling down on the bed as the world began to spin quickly and everything turned black.

Chapter Text

You woke up feeling your lungs burning. You coughed, fighting for breath, and were horrified when you saw the blood droplets that splattered over your hand as you coughed. No...

“Hershel...” You rasped, walking out of the room, feeling as scared as a little girl. “Hershel...”

“I’m here, I’m here.” Hershel rushed to you, taking in your state. “It’s okay, you only spat that? Then it’s okay, you’re okay, you’ll be fine...you can breathe, can you? Everything’s going to be okay.”

He tried to reassure you, walking you back to your cell, but you stopped, gasping horrified when you saw Sasha in the cell next to yours. She was lying on the bunk, covered in sweat and shivering hard.

“She’ll be fine too...” Hershel pushed you towards your cell gently.

“I can help...”

“I know sweetheart, but now I want you to rest.”

You didn’t have enough energy to fight, so you let Hershel walk you to your bunk and tuck you in.

Next time you opened your eyes was to a chaos of screams and when you stumbled out of the cell you saw that the corpses of the people who had died had turned into walkers, attacking the others. You rushed back to the cell, falling down onto your knees as dizziness took over you. You didn’t bother getting up, crawling around the cell as you looked for your gun. You knew it must be there somewhere...

When you finally found it, you took a deep breath, trying to make your head stop spinning and got up and out of the cell. Your hand shook but you managed to kill a couple of walkers before falling to your knees again, and then Maggie was there too, somehow, shooting at the remaining walkers and you thought you saw Hershel shooting a rifle too, but the world was blurry.

The threat subdued but you didn’t have time to relax. Glenn had collapsed, sputtering blood and unable to breathe, and you tried to follow Maggie and Hershel as they rushed to help him. You were slow, stumbling against the walls, but you managed to reach them, watching anxiously until they finally, finally, got Glenn breathing by himself away.

You were so relieved and so dizzy you didn’t even realize you’d fallen onto your knees again until Hershel helped you get up.

“Y/N, you okay?” Maggie looked up from Glenn to glance worriedly at you.

You nodded, now she needed to focus on Glenn.

“I’ll help her to her bed, you stay with Glenn.” Maggie got up and placed her arm around your waist to help you walk, knowing his father couldn’t do it.  You wanted her to stay with Glenn but didn’t resist, couldn’t even if you tried.

“Daryl?” You croaked as Maggie laid you down on your bed.

“He’ll be back soon.” She gave you a tense, worried smile, her eyes filling with tears as she bent down to press a kiss to your forehead.

You didn’t even have time to worry as your eyes closed and the world turned black.

***

You tried to open your eyes when you heard someone calling your name, sounding far away, a hand stroking your hair, but your eyelids felt too heavy. You recognized his voice before you saw him.

“Daryl...”

“You’ve to drink this, darling...”

You’d recognize him anywhere, even with your eyes closed. You opened them slowly, blinking a couple of times, and saw him peering down at you with concern as he brushed away the hair that was clinging to the sweat of your forehead.

“Daryl...Daryl, you are okay...” You’d been so worried as time passed and he wasn’t back. You reached out weakly to run your fingers over his face, a smile on yours. He was there, he was safe.

Daryl took your hand and kissed it, smiling when he saw you open your eyes, and carefully he hoisted you up, his strong arm around you. He pressed a glass of something that smelled funny to your lips.

“Drink it, please.”

You took small sips, chocking a bit, but it felt shooting on your throat.

“That is...” Daryl encouraged you as you drank. “You’re okay, you’re gonna be okay...” You didn’t know if he was reassuring you or himself.

When you finished drinking the medicine, Daryl placed the glass on the table next to the bunk, and carefully, minding your weakened state, he pulled you into his lap and cuddled you against his chest, nuzzling at your hair.

“No...” You struggled but he held you tighter, trying to shush you. “You can’t be here, you’ll get sick.”

“It’s fine, It’s okay.” His fingers ran through your hair, calming you down. “And we have the medicine now.”

“Okay...”

You gave up way too easily, but you were exhausted and weak, and you didn’t want to move away from his comforting arms. You settled on his lap, snuggling against his warm chest, enjoying the way his fingers were caressing over your hair and arm, and soon you were asleep.

Daryl woke you up a couple of hours later and you groaned, you were so tired...you didn’t want to get up, you wanted to sleep...

“I know, I’m sorry, but you have to drink it again...”

You felt him press a kiss to your forehead and then he was reaching out to pour more of the medicine from a bottle into the glass. He brought the glass to your lips and you sip it easier than before.

“Are you feeling better?” Daryl ran his knuckles over your cheek, his eyes soft but worried.

You nodded, the movement making the world spin a bit but nothing that you couldn’t handle. You were weak and dizzy still, but you breathed normally and your throat was feeling less dry and swallow.

“Hershel came earlier, said your fever’s going down.”

“I’m going to be just fine.” Your words came out as a rasp but you were able to talk without chocking. Daryl swallowed hard, as if trying to hold back his emotions, and smiled back to you.

He stopped his knuckles under your chin, lifting your face, but when he tried to kiss your lips you pulled away.

“No...I’m all disgusting.”

He snorted. “Like I care.”

“I do...”

“Okay...come here.” He lay down on the bed, pulling you with him.

The world spun again but you didn’t care, letting out a happy sigh as you half laid over Daryl, curled up against his chest, your head resting on it. His arms came to wrap around you, one of his hands burying into your hair. Soon, his steady heartbeat and the soft up and down movement of his chest as he breathed lulled you back to sleep.

Next time you woke up, you were feeling almost like yourself. You felt weak and had a pounding headache, but you didn’t feel that dizzy anymore, your lungs weren’t burning and your throat didn’t hurt at all.

You were still lying over Daryl’s chest and you pressed a kiss to it. He seemed to have fallen asleep too, and you felt him stir as you moved, waking up. You reached up to stroke your fingers over his cheek as he opened his eyes, giving you a lazy smile.

“You look better.”

“I feel better.”

“Are you going to let me kiss you now?” He tried to sit up but you pulled away.

“Not until I’d brushed my teeth like a thousand times, I was spatting blood a few hours ago.”

Daryl didn’t wait for you to finish talking and before you could stop it he had already sat up and pecked your lips. You couldn’t help a giggle, pushing him down onto the bed again. Daryl smiled hearing you laugh before his expression turned serious again.

“You got me worried...”

“I was worried too...”

A shiver ran through you. There had been a moment when you had thought that was the end for you, that you were going to die right there and then of a flue. Daryl pulled you to his chest again, holding you tight.

“It’s funny...before, I was always boasting I hadn’t caught a cold in years but as soon as we get a virus here I catch it...”

Daryl didn’t seem to find it funny, he was still looking at you with concern and you caressed his face, trying to brush his frown away.

“How’s Glenn?” You asked worriedly. Last time you’d seen him he was breathing but wasn’t looking that great.

“He’s recovering slowly but he’ll pull through,” Daryl assured you.

“Good...and Sasha?”

“She’s fine, she’s going back to her cellblock. Hershel said you can too, if you want to.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, do you want to?”

“Yes, please!”

Carefully, Daryl moved away from you, getting up and scooping you up into his arms. You were about to say you were well enough to walk but stopped. It was silly but you liked the idea of Daryl carrying you to your cell, feeling safe and content, and almost like a princess. Carol would tease you non-stop if she saw you and knew what you were thinking, you knew it, but at that moment you welcomed it.

On your way out, you passed in front of Glenn’s cell. He waved weakly at you, and you were glad to see he was getting better. Maggie had fallen asleep next to him, seeming exhausted, and you smiled at the sight. Hershel came to give you a last check out, declaring you officially on the mend.

Once in your room, Daryl laid you down on the bed, sitting down next to you, still looking at you with concern.

“Are you okay?”

“I’m fine, Daryl.” You assured him, cupping his face with your hand. “I feel fine.”

He nuzzled your palm for a second before averting his eyes, turning a bit flustered.

“What?”

“I love you.”

He said it so quickly and quietly that you barely understood him, and you couldn’t help your big grin.

“And I love you too.”

This time you didn’t stop him when he bent down to kiss you.

“Hey, have you seen Carol? I want to tell her I’m okay...”

You hoped she would come to visit you, you hadn’t seen her around when Daryl took you back to your cell, and hadn’t seen her since you got into the quarantined cellblock.

“No...” Daryl frowned. “I haven’t seen her yet, Hershel told me to ask Rick but I didn’t have the time, I don’t know where she is.”

“He told me she’s fine, don’t worry, I guess she’s busy or something,” Daryl added when he saw your expression turning worried.

“Okay...go ask Rick then.” You encouraged him. You knew he wanted to and so did you.

“You okay here?” He seemed unsure.

“I told you, I feel fine.” You reassured him, sitting up and kissing his cheek.

“Okay...I’m going to help around cellblock E then.” Daryl pecked your lips and got up. “I’ll be back soon.”

“Tell Carol to come to visit me if you see her.” You told him as he left.

Daryl hadn’t gone for long when a big explosion made your cell shake, and you jumped onto your feet, scared. You rushed out of your cell, but you were the only one in your cellblock, and you ran to the yard.

There were some vehicles parked in front of the door of the prison, including a tank, and as you walked closer you recognized the man on top of the tank as the Governor. No, it couldn’t be...but there he was. Horrified, you realized Michonne and Hershel were tied up and on their knees in front of the Governor’s group.

You ran to your people, who were at the fence closer to the door, scared out of yourself, in time to see Rick walking out of the fence and door to parley with the Governor.

“Hey, what are you doing here?” Daryl grabbed your arms. “Go back inside.”

You shook your head, too shocked to say anything, but you wanted to stay with your group. Daryl let out a sigh but wrapped his arm around your shoulders, pulling you close to his side for a moment before he began to pass shotguns to all of you in case things went worse.

Rick kept trying to negotiate for what felt like an eternity and before you knew what was happening, the Governor was sinking a katana, Michonne’s you guessed, into Hershel’s neck. Your scream mixed with Maggie’s and Beth’s cries and everything turned into a mess of bullets as you all shot wildly at the Governor’s group while they shot back to you

You were so scared and shocked you felt you might just freeze or collapse, you had never experienced anything like this, and you felt still a bit weak from the illness, but it seemed your adrenaline ridden body worked on autopilot, shooting at the general direction of the Governor’s men without even bothering to aim.

The tank forced you to retreat back as it pushed through the fences.

“We have to evacuate! Get everyone into the bus.”

“We have to leave.” Daryl stopped shooting for second to look at you. “Y/N, go to the bus.”

“No way.” You weren’t about to leave him, or anyone, there.

“Get the people into the bus, now, go. I’m behind you.” He was back as shooting, walking backward away from the fence and towards you as he did it.

You bit your lip but finally nodded and ran behind Maggie and Beth, telling everyone you found in your way to get into the bus.  You stopped when you realized Daryl wasn’t following you anymore. You looked around and walked back but you couldn’t find him. You had lost sight of him trying to hide from the storm of bullets and explosions.

“Maggie!” You saw her jumping out of the armored bus. “Have you seen Daryl?”

“No, Beth?”

You shook your head and she ran in the other direction, looking for her sister.

“Are you coming?” The driver shouted at you but you shook your head and rushed away.

You tried to follow Maggie but couldn’t find her anymore, and as you turned away you saw the bus taking off. Neither Beth nor Daryl seemed to be around and you weren’t able to find them anywhere.

You panicked when you looked around and didn’t see anyone from your group, but you followed the sound of the closer explosions and gunshots until you found a dead man on the ground, an arrow embedded into his chest.

Daryl had to be close, but you couldn’t see him anywhere.

“Daryl!” You shouted, hoping he’d hear you.

He didn’t, but one of the Governor’s men did and you barely had any time to hide as he shot as you, a bullet gracing your arm. It stung but you barely noticed it, hiding behind the destroyed tank.

Every time you tried to shot at him, he shot back a storm of bullets in your direction, you didn’t have time to aim and you counted yourself lucky none of the bullets hit you. You moved around the tank as the man walked to you, shooting.

Fortune smiled at you, before he could reach you he had to stop to recharge, and you took advantage of it. You left your hiding post, aimed and shot before he had time to hide, and he dropped dead to the floor.

You couldn’t see Daryl anywhere in that yard, nobody from your groups besides the bodies on the ground mixing with the ones of the Governor’s men. There was a hole in the fence and walkers were walking in through it. You shot at them but there were more coming, you would run out of ammo, so you ran away, more and more desperate as you couldn’t find Daryl or anyone anywhere.

There were several fences down, lots of walkers walking into the yards through them, more and more walking out of the woods and towards it as the sounds and smells attracted them. You couldn’t stay there, you had to leave.

There was a small hole in a fence with fewer walkers around and you managed to crawl through it, shooting at the closer monsters. You ran and ran, hiding into the woods, shooting at walkers in your way or just pushing them away, until you reached a point between several trees where didn’t seem to be any geeks. Probably all had been attracted to the prison.

You fell to the ground, adrenaline leaving you and dizziness taking over you.  You crawled through the ground towards a tree, resting against it as the world spun around you. Every muscle in your body hurt and your arm was bleeding, but it didn’t matter to you anymore.

 You were alone in the woods again, your home destroyed and invaded by walkers, separated from Daryl and your family. It was just like after the farm fell, it was your worst nightmare becoming reality again.

You didn’t know where they were, you didn’t know where to find them or how, you didn’t even know if they were alive.

You couldn’t handle it.

You cried and cried, sobbing aloud, you couldn’t be bothered about the walkers hearing you anymore.

Chapter Text

You didn’t know how long you had spent curled up against the tree, you didn’t care, and you had lost all track of time, but you snapped back to your senses when you heard some sounds close.

At first, you didn’t care, if it was a walker then that was it, let it come, but finally your surviving instincts kicked in and you got up, walking towards the sounds with your shotgun aimed in front of you.

You blinked in disbelieve at what you saw. It was Michonne, pulling with her to walkers. She had them tied up with ropes as if it were a lash and they hadn’t arms or jaw, in a rather unsettling sight. You recovered quick from your initial shock and ran to her, ignoring the two walkers.

“Michonne!”

She looked at you as if startled and you hugged her, tears in your eyes.

“I thought I wouldn’t see anyone again...I was scared...”

Michonne wasn’t saying anything and she was stiff in your arms without returning the hug or smiling even.

A sound alerted you of a group of walkers getting close.

“Hold this.” Michonne finally spoke as she passed you one of the ropes that held a walker. “Stay close. Walk slow.”

As if it were magic, the walkers passed around you without noticing you as Michonne and you walked slowly side by side. You wondered how she had figured it out.

You walked for hours in silence and you felt more and more tired, dragging your feet, you still hadn’t recovered totally from your illness. Michonne seemed to notice and, without a word, she led you to the road where you found a car in which you could stay for the night.

Michonne tied the walkers to the doors and sat down on the driver’s seat, propping her feet up on the passenger’s, leaving you the backseat.

“Rest.”

You thought you wouldn’t be able to sleep, your heart was broken and you were terrified of walkers managing to get into the car, but you were so weak that exhaustion took over you before you realized it, falling in an uneasy sleep.

You woke up with a start when a walker hit the window of your door, trying to bite through it, but the glass was resistant. Michonne was still asleep but she seemed agitated as if she were having a nightmare, whimpering softly.

“Michonnee...”

A loud blow on her window woke her up and she looked around startled. She saw the walkers that were hitting the car and she lowered the window ever so slightly, sinking her knife into the heads of the closer monsters, and you did the same.

When there were no more walkers close, you got out of the car and you followed Michonne into the woods again.

“Why are we leaving the road?”

Silence

“Where are we going?”

“Nowhere.”

That did nothing to ease your worries.

“Shouldn’t we try to find the others?”

“The others are gone, we won’t find them.” Michonne’s voice was cold and distant, sinking your heart.

“We found each other...” You said weakly, but she didn’t even look at you.

You couldn’t just keep walking forever without a destination, you didn’t want to. You wanted to find your family, needing to know they were okay. You needed to find Daryl, but you didn’t know how or if you could do it alone. Still, you couldn’t bear the idea of never seeing him again and you even considered leaving Michonne and trying to look for him yourself, but by then a big group of walkers had surrounded you. If you moved away from Michonne’s walkers, that would be the end for you.

Maybe that would be the best, though. It’d be better than roam the woods for the rest of your life, going nowhere. At least you wouldn’t have to feel the burning hole in your heart that threatened to consume you when you thought about Daryl.

You kept walking next to Michonne though, desperate silent tears falling down your cheeks. If she noticed, she didn’t say anything.

*

You didn’t know how long you spent walking, you didn’t care, you walked on autopilot, your mind far away from there. Michonne hadn’t said a word to you, seeming lost in deep thought but now you realized she seemed to be behaving strangely.

She was looking at the walkers with confused, scared eyes that worried you, walking in circles, and before you knew what was going on, she had decapitated your two bodyguard walkers and began doing the same with all the walkers around, making them notice you.

You sprung into action, hitting at the walkers with your shotgun to keep them away, not wanting to make noise by shooting at them, and soon Michonne had cleared them all.

Then, she fell onto her knees and began sobbing aloud. You didn’t understand what was happening but knelt down next to her, pulling her onto your arms.

“I’m sorry...” She sobbed again and again and you shushed, rocking her.

“You were right...” Michonne said when she stopped sobbing, though tears were still rolling down her cheeks. “We have to look for the others. We can’t go like this, living like this....” She gestured around. “It’s no good. I lived like this for so long, so long...until I found Andrea.”

She began sobbing again and you couldn’t stop your own tears.

“I thought I had lost everything again, I thought I was alone again...”

“I thought it too.” You whimpered and you both held each other for a moment.

Then, she got up and helped you onto your feet, walking you back to the road. She was almost as skilled as Daryl at getting oriented and tracking, and you admired her for it. You hadn’t been walking down the road for long when she pointed a footprint.

“Someone was here not long ago, walking in that direction...maybe it was something from our group.”

“We’ll find them.” You nodded, though you didn’t really believe your words.

You could only hope you’d find them, you had to believe you’d find Daryl or you wouldn’t be able to keep going, but it wasn’t easy, your heart was heavy. Michonne’s presence helped, though.

You walked and walked and soon you were exhausted and weak again.

“I...I’m not sure I can keep going for long.” You admitted, embarrassed.

“There’s a roadhouse close.” Michonne pointed at it. “We can rest there.”

Once you reached them, Michonne made sure there weren’t any walkers inside and then you both walked in. You sat down on the floor while Michonne scooped around, but she didn’t find anything useful.

“Someone was here not long ago, though...”

She left you inside to scoop outside too, but through the gap of the door you saw her sitting down outside and you could hear her talking in whispers with someone who wasn’t there as she cried quietly. It seemed a private, intimate moment, so you didn’t want to snoop and you let her have her privacy.

You were glad she was back to herself though.

“Time to go.” She reached out for you when she came back and you let out a tired sigh but let her pull you onto your feet.

The road led you to an abandoned housing area and you hoped you could scavenge some food, you were famished. Over everything, though, you hoped the others were there and you wouldn’t have to look for them anymore. The more time passed, the more desperate and less hopeful you felt.

“There’s someone in there.” Michonne seemed to have caught some movement behind a curtain.

Quietly, you both walked to the house and Michonne looked inside. You were worried and shocked when you saw her starting crying, but then she was laughing too.

“What?”

“Look inside.”

You did and you began laughing too, unable to stop your happy tears as you caught sight of Rick and Carl inside. You found them, they were there...

Before you could say anything, Michonne was knocking at the door.

As soon as it opened, Carl jumped out to hug Michonne. Rick stood at the threshold, grinning but looking like he had gone through hell and back, his clothes torn and bloodied, his face all shades of purple and with open cuts.

“I’m so glad we found you...” You honestly hadn’t believed it possible.

You ruffled Carl’s long hair and hugged Rick, but then looked around, looking for the person you needed the most. You had hoped he’d be with Rick.

“Daryl...” You were barely able to formulate the question, too afraid of the answer.

“I’m sorry...I haven’t seen him...” Rick’s smile fell, his face turning dark and his eyes sad. “But I’m sure he got out of the prison fine."

“Yeah...” It wasn’t that you weren’t happy to see Rick and Carl, and Michonne, but you felt close to tears.

“We’ll find him, Y/N” Michonne squeezed your arm, giving you a weak smile.

“Sure...” You nodded but as much as you tried, you couldn’t feel that hopeful.

It was taking all your strength not to break down and you walked to the sofa, sitting down there and hiding your face on your hands, resting your arms on your knees, trying to breathe deep. Daryl couldn’t be that far, Michonne could track him... Tried as much as you wanted, it didn’t make you feel better, and you couldn’t help your tears.

“And Carol?” You asked, your face still hidden. “Did you see if she got out?” She hadn’t been at the yard during the attack, neither you had seen her in the bus...you hadn’t seen her in a couple days, now that you thought about it.

You looked up when Rick didn’t answer. He was giving you a puzzled look.

“You don’t know...” He muttered as if realizing something.

“What?”

“Carol...she wasn’t there...”

“What you mean?”

Rick took a deep breath, scaring you for a moment. “It was her who killed David and Karen, Y/N.” You shook your head, no, it couldn’t be, but Rick kept talking. “Yes, she told me. I couldn’t have her there, Y/N, I couldn’t...I drove her away, left her with a car and supplies...”

No, no it couldn’t be, you couldn’t believe Carol could have done something like that, you couldn’t believe Rick would do something like that either. You were more and more devastated, your heartbreak mixing with your anger in a dangerous cocktail.

“You just kicked her out?!” You got up, your hands balled into fists and began hitting Rick’s chest. “You know how the world is now!! She could run into a herd of walkers! A dangerous group might find her! You sent her to die!”

“Y/N...” Rick stopped you, grabbing you by your wrists, but you pulled away. Michonne made to intervene but Rick lifted his hand to stop her. “I told Daryl, she’s going to be fine, she’s a survivor...”

“Yeah, sure, I bet you care so much...” You spat.

“I do, Y/N...” Rick sounded tired but you were too angry to care. “She was my friend you know it, but she killed people, what do you want me to do...”

“Not sent her alone out there to die, maybe!” You yelled. “And you didn’t say anything? I thought you weren’t taking decisions anymore.”

“I had to do something...I didn’t know what else...”

You shook your head. You couldn’t take it anymore, couldn’t deal with it, feeling you had lost your best friend and your love in one go. Your heat had broken into pieces and there was no way you could put yourself back together.

You couldn’t deal with being in the same room than Rick and you didn’t want them to see you like that, so you rushed away, walking up the stairs and locking yourself in one of the bedrooms. You fell down onto the bed, burying your face on the pillow and crying until you felt you hadn’t any tears left.

The sun had gone down when you heard a knock on the door. You got up and opened it, finding Michonne.

“Can I walk in?”

You shrugged but walked back, letting her walk in while you went to sit back on the bed. She sat down next to you, giving you some canned meat.

“Carl had found some food before we arrived.”

You were starving, feeling weak and dizzy, so you tried to eat, but you had a lump in your throat that made it hard to swallow and the food tasted like ashes in your mouth.

“Are you feeling better?” Michonne stroke your hair gently and you shook your head. “I know it’s not my place to say...but try not to go too hard on Rick, not now that we found each other again...”

You shrugged, you couldn’t make any promises.

You barely slept at all that night, no matter you had a real bed for the first time in forever, though at some point a couple of hours before dawn you managed to cry yourself to sleep.

Next morning, you walked down to find Michonne and Carl having cereal for breakfast, and they gave you a bowl. You weren’t hungry, your stomach closed, but you knew you had to eat or you just would get weaker.

“When are we going to look for the others?”

You asked once breakfast was finished. It didn’t matter you actually weren’t that hopeful about finding the others, you needed to try or you would just break down unable to keep going.

Michonne shifted uncomfortably.

“I think we should stay here...we’re safe here, for a while at least...I didn’t find any trace of the others out there.”

“What?” You looked at her in disbelieve, how could she give up your family so easily?

You had been glad you found Michonne, Rick, and Carl, sure, but you couldn’t just stay there forever without trying to find anyone else.

Over everything, you needed to find Daryl, or at least try to. If you were honest, you weren’t sure you’d be able to find him, but you had to at least try. If he was alive, which he had to be, you couldn’t even think about him being dead, he must be looking for you too. Maybe you should head back to the prison, maybe he would be looking for you around it...you couldn’t be sure.

Michonne just looked at you with sad eyes, but didn’t say anything else and you shook your head, walking back upstairs. You weren’t going to stay there, you were going to look for Daryl no matter if you had to do it alone. Carl and Rick had already scooped the house but you went to check into the rooms anyway, wanting to see if you could find anything useful before you left.

Somehow, your new determination made you feel better, or at the very least you didn’t feel like crying all the time.

“Y/N!” Michonne called you from downstairs. “I’m going with Carl to see what we can find in the other houses, wanna come?”

“Sure!”

You rushed downstairs, it was perfect, if you were lucky you could find supplies that you needed for your journey and you could start looking for Daryl and the others today.

Rick was uneasy about staying at the house to rest, but he still looked like shit, so he gave you until noon to come back.

You went from house to house, Carl and you silent and surly, though you felt a bit bad for Michonne who kept trying to lift the mood and made you two laugh, without much success. Both Carl and you were lost in your own dark thoughts.

“I had a three-year-old son and he happened to find me extremely funny.”

You snapped back to the present at Michonne’s words. What? A son? You looked at her puzzled. She had never said a word about that. You were curious, wanting to know more, but you didn’t want to be nosy or ask her questions, if she had lost him it must be a pain in her heart that would never go away.

She didn’t seem sad talking about it though, she had a smile on her face if only a bit sad.

Carl seemed curious too, and soon he had Michonne got into a game, with her answering questions about her life before, one for each room Carl cleared, finding anything useful. You were scooping different rooms so you didn’t get to hear much, just that she hadn’t had any other kids.

You didn’t realize you had wandered away from them until you looked around and saw neither Carl nor Michonne. You backtracked and found them in a kids room on the other side of the corridor, their expressions dark.

“My father let me name her.” You heard Carl telling to Michonne. “Maybe her and Andre are together somewhere.”

In your disgruntled state, you hadn’t even realized until now that baby Judith was missing. You felt horrible. Rick and Carl must be having a hell of a time. Tears threatened to fall down your eyes, but if you began crying you knew you wouldn’t be able to stop, so you closed your eyes tight, stopping them.

It was almost noon, time to come back, but when you had almost reached the house you stopped. You had managed to gather some supplies in your bag.

“I’m leaving.” You blurted out to Carl’s and Michonne’s surprise.

“What?”

“I can’t stay here...I need to find Daryl. I’m sorry...” You hoped they’d understand it, you loved them, but you couldn’t just give up on Daryl.

“You can’t go alone...you don’t even know where to start looking...”

“I don’t care...”

Before you could say anything else, some shoots coming from the house in which you were staying caught your attention, and you saw Rick running to you, telling you to run away, a violent and armed group had gotten into the home. Of course, you couldn’t have good things.

“I’m leaving.”

You announced again once you were out of the housing area, reaching some train rails.

“Y/N, wait...you don’t even know where are you going...let’s walk together for a while, okay?”

You were uncertain. You weren’t eager to be alone again, now you were afraid you might run into another dangerous group, and you weren’t even sure of where you were.

“Okay...”

You began following the rails in the direction in which you thought the prison may be, though you weren’t sure and ended up being the opposite without any of the others telling you anything. You didn’t realize it until you found a big signal in an abandoned train, after not having been walking for long.

“Sanctuary for all. Community for all. Those who arrive survive.”

And a map attached to it.

It seemed the rails all led to that place, Terminus. If the others had seen the signal, there was a chance they’d gone there looking for refuge, and even if they didn’t see it, if they followed the rails they’d end up in that place anyway. Maybe the others would be there. Maybe Daryl would be there.

You had to believe it.

“Let’s go.”

Chapter Text

For a couple of days, you just walked and walked, stopping only to make camp to stay for the night. You didn’t sleep much, you had never felt safe enough sleeping out in the open air, and neither get to eat much, though Rick managed to catch a rabbit with his traps.

You didn’t feel the hunger or the tiredness, though, driven by the desire to reach Terminus as soon as possible.

On the second night, you found a car on the side of the road and decided to make camp there. Carl was sleeping in the back seat and you were curled up on the passenger seat though you weren’t sleeping.  Michonne and Rick were outside, keeping watch and talking quietly and you had the door of the car open in case they needed something but you weren’t paying much attention to them, lost in thought.

Suddenly, without any of you realizing it, several men surrounded you, pointing at you with their guns, one of them spotting you quickly and dragging you out of the car.

You tried to kick at him but he hit your head with the butt of his gun, making you dizzy for a moment, and you stopped struggling when he pressed a knife to your throat. You cursed when you saw another one spotting Carl, you had hoped they wouldn’t notice him.

The man who seemed the leader had a gun to Rick’s head and Michonne was held at gunpoint too. You tried not to panic but you didn’t know what to do, you were outnumbered and outgunned and you didn’t think you could fight those men.

“Joe!”

A voice that you’d recognize anywhere.

You looked around and gasped when you saw Daryl approaching. You couldn’t believe it. He was alive, he was there. You had found him.

The blade of the knife pressed harder against your throat, biting into it, reminding you of where you were and the situation. Still, you had found him, you had found Daryl. You noticed a flash of worry and fear go through his eyes as he looked from Rick and Michonne to you, and then he started talking with the man you had supposed was the leader of the group.

Daryl seemed to know him, somehow.

“These people, you’re gonna let them go. These are good people.”

The leader didn’t seem convinced at all, saying something about Rick having strangled his friend. So they were the men who had invaded the house you’d been staying in...they were as dangerous as they looked.

“You want blood, I get it. Take it from me, man. Come on” You heard Daryl saying as he threw his crossbow.

“No!”

Like hell you were going to let them touch him.

Before you could do anything one of the men had brought the butt of his shotgun to Daryl’s gut, the leader saying something about punishing him and beating him to death for being a liar. Two of them threw him against the car as they began to beat him.

You tried to kick back, to pull away from the man who was holding you, but he pressed the knife to your throat hard enough to draw blood and held you tighter.

“I don’t mind killing you first, though I rather not.” He growled into your ear.

Another one was dragging Carl kicking and screaming out of the car, holding him with another knife and throwing him to the ground, the men on top as if he wanted to force himself on him. You were horrified and felt totally helpless, you looked at Rick and Michonne, hoping they’d come up with something, but it didn’t look like it, the leader seemed about to shoot Rick and you were so horrified you could barely breathe.

Suddenly Rick sprung into action, headbutting the man, making him miss the shoot and them throwing himself at him, but the man stopped him, sending him to the ground with a punch. You cursed aloud but before you could try to struggle again, the men holding you kicked you behind the knees and shoved you to the ground.

You fell hard on your hands and knees and quickly tried to crawl away and take your gun from its holster, but the man was faster, grabbing you by the ankles and pulling you to him. You turned over onto your back and managed to kick the man on the face. He stumbled backward, cursing at you, but when you managed to take your gun he was pointing his at you already.

You weren’t sure who would be faster, him or you. You could see Carl on the floor struggling fruitlessly against the other man and you could hear Daryl being relentlessly beaten into the car, so you took your decision. If you shoot at the man and he did too, you didn’t care as long as you managed to end him too. At least you’d take one of them with you.

Before you could do anything, a horrifying scream piercing through the air and both the man and you stopped pointing at each other to look at the gore image of Rick ripping off the leader’s throat with his teeth.

You were in total shock for a moment but came back to your senses faster than the man and shot him, him dropping dead before he could even realize what was happening.

Michonne managed to shoot his captor too so you turned to shoot at one of the men Daryl was struggling against, him making quick work of the other. You heard a gurgling sound from Rick stabbing the remaining man, who had held Carl but you didn’t pay attention to it, already running to Daryl.

You threw yourself at him, wrapping your arms around his neck and holding tight to him, maybe too tight considering he had just got beaten, but he held you back just as tight, almost making you lose your balance as you rocked slightly from side to side.

“I found you...” You murmured against his chest, still in disbelieve.

After a moment, you pulled away, cupping his face with your hands and running your thumbs over his cheekbones before gingerly tracing over the swallow eye that was turning purple, the cut on his lip and eyebrow, checking his injuries.

“Are you okay?” You whispered, and Daryl just nodded silently, his eyes intent on you. “I didn’t know if I’d find you... I was so scared thinking I wouldn’t see you again...”

Your words came out as a choked whimper. You had tried to believe he’d be in Terminus, in order to be able to keep going, but deep down you had never been able to truly believe it.

But he was there now. He swallowed hard, his eyes wet, and only then you realized tears were rolling down your checks. Daryl wiped them, still staring at you silently, brushing his hand down to your neck, his fingers tainting with the blood that had poured from the cut on your throat before he tangled them into your hair.

“I thought I’d lost you.”

He murmured before pulling your face closer to place a gentle kiss on your lips before resting his forehead against yours, both of you still holding to each other as if to reassure you were real, you were there finally together again, neither of you wanted to let go of the other.

“Are you hurt?” Daryl pulled away from you just enough to check the cut of your throat, flinching slightly.

You shook your head. It barely bleed and you couldn’t even feel the pain anymore, now that you were with Daryl again you only felt elation. You pulled his face closer to yours for another soft kiss.

“We stay here for the night, let’s...let’s clean this...” You heard Rick’s voice and reluctantly turned around to look at him, Daryl wrapping an arm around you to keep you close, your back pressed against him.

Rick’s face was totally spattered with blood, making him look wild, and he was looking around at the corpses of the men. Michonne was holding Carl, who had his face hidden.

“I gotta help him,” Daryl whispered into your ear before pressing a kiss to your temple. You looked up and saw he was giving Rick a worried look.

“I go with you.” You held his hand, not wanting to let go of him.

After Rick and Michonne quickly greeted Daryl, you began checking the bodies, taking the guns and ammo and then you dragged them away after making sure they wouldn’t come back as walkers. Michonne stayed inside the car with Carl, hoping the kid would get to sleep a bit. You had placed some fabric over the windows, trying to dim the atmosphere of the car.

Daryl offered to keep watch but Rick refused, wanting to keep watch himself, seeming frantic still but lost in thought at the same time, and he also turned down Daryl’s offer to keep watch with him. Daryl had been reluctant to leave him but Rick had begun to pace around the perimeter without another word. You walked Daryl to the car by his hand, wanting to be close to him and to have a moment for yourselves.

You sat down, resting against the car, and Daryl sat next to you, wincing a bit as he did so, making you wonder how bruised he’d be under his clothes. He pulled you into his arms so you could snuggle against his chest. He nuzzled at your hair and you let out a content sigh. You still couldn’t believe you were together again. You weren’t going to let him go ever again.

You grinned at him in total bliss, but your smile fell when you saw Daryl’s dark expression and how he averted his eyes.

“Hey...” You ran a hand down his cheek, making him look at you. “What’s wrong?”

He shook his head, hiding his face in the crook your shoulder. You ran your fingers through his hair and he pressed soft kisses to your collarbone, but eventually, you made him look up at you again.

“I’m sorry...” Daryl murmured, looking down and away from you. “’’bout everything...” He looked at you for a second but quickly averted his eyes again.

“What?”

 You hated seeing him so unsure with you, he had nothing to be sorry about. You ran your fingers through his hair again, playing with it, hoping you’ll help him relax.

“Those men...I knew they were bad but I didn’t know they were looking for Rick...just someone who killed their friend...” His eyes looked guilty and he was chewing on his lower lip.

“Why were you with them?”

“They found me, told me to join them instead of killing me. Was about to leave them now but then I saw you, and they...I didn’t know what they planned to do...”

“Hey,” you stopped him. “It’s not your fault.” He shook his head and tried to pull away from your touch but you didn’t let him. “It’s not.” You punctuated with a peck to his lip, you hated seeing him always beating himself for others actions. And you still remembered how he had offered his own life over yours when those men went to kill Rick.

He looked guilty still, his eyes anxious, like he might try to pull away from you at any moment, so you held tighter to him, just in case.

“I’m sorry about the prison too...”

“Not your fault, either.”

“I stopped looking for the Governor, let Michonne do it alone, told her we wouldn’t find him, that he was gone...” His eyes were hard now but you felt him shake as if he were trying to control his emotions. “But he came back, attacked us...”

“I keep telling you,” You chastised sweetly, the hand that was playing with his hair now gently caressing over his cheek. “Not your fault.”

You could see he didn’t believe you, but you’d repeat it to him as many times as needed to make him stop blaming himself.

“I...I left you.”

“Daryl, the prison was chaos, nobody could find anybody...”

“I’m sorry...” He cut you off. “I’m sorry.” He hid his face on your shoulder again, nuzzling at it and you held him tight. You hated seeing him like that and still blaming himself, it hurt you, but you wanted to let him vent his feelings as much as he needed.

“I thought you’d have gotten into the bus, I thought you’d be safe there and I could track the bus later, I thought you had left...”

“It’s okay...” You shushed him gently.

“It’s not.” You felt him shake his head. “Then I saw Beth was still there and alone, walkers were getting close so we ran out together, kept running through the woods until there weren’t any more walkers close...”

So Maggie hadn’t found her sister... You wondered where was the younger Greene now, though probably you didn’t want to know. If only you had run in the same direction than them, maybe you’d have found them...if you hadn’t broken down and spent so long just crying instead of looking for them, maybe you’d have found them in the woods...

But at least you had been lucky enough to find Michonne, you were grateful for it, knowing you probably wouldn’t have survived without her. And you were beyond grateful you had found Daryl again. You planned to give thanks for it every day.

You kissed his cheek before he began talking again.

“Beth...she told me that last time she checked the bus you weren’t there, neither her sister nor Glenn, that’s why she didn’t get in, she wanted to find them...I thought I had left you there to die...” His voice break and the hid his face again. “Or that you escaped but I would never see you again...”

“I thought I would never see you again too...” It was being hard not to start crying. “I left alone but I found Michonne in the woods...I don’t know what would I’ve done without her...”

“I’m sorry...”

You cupped his face, making him look at you, caressing his cheeks with your thumbs. “Not your fault, okay? I wasn’t able to find you either. I don’t care if I have to say it to you every day, it was not your fault.”

Daryl turned his head to kiss your palm, nuzzling at it.

“Beth...I lost her...we were in a house but walkers got in, I told her to run but I saw a car taking her and speeding away...tried to follow them but I couldn’t...”

“A car?” That was confusing to say the least. You didn’t want to think what could be happening to Beth right now, neither wanted to talk about it with Daryl, who just nodded and seemed totally guilty about it, to say the least. “Pretty sure that wasn’t your fault either.”

Daryl said nothing, just shrugged and looked down. You knew it would take a lot to make him stop blaming himself about it.

“I’m never leaving your side again.” He was finally looking at you, his serious eyes meeting yours.

“Good.” You smiled. “Cos I’m never leaving you again either.”

You smile went wider when he pulled you closer to kiss your lips.

Daryl took a bottle of water from his bag, pouring some into a rag, and he began cleaning the blood of your neck and the cut, which had stopped bleeding. When he seemed satisfied you took the rag and the bottle to do the same to him.

“Are you sure you are okay?”

He nodded, you hadn’t expected anything else from him. You wanted to check yourself so you pushed off his jacket and vest. Daryl seemed reluctant but let you do it. You unbuttoned his shirt, not bothering to take it off, just pushing it enough so you could lift his shirt and check his injuries.

There were some cuts and bruises here and there, but it could be worse. Relieved it was nothing severe, you buttoned his shirt again but when you went to help him into his jacket again he took it to spread it over you both as a sort of blanket, You snuggled with him with a satisfied smile, holding him to your chest as he buried his face on the crook of your neck again.

You spent the night like that, neither of you talking or sleeping, just enjoying each other presence, finally together again.

When the sun began to clear at the east, Daryl pulled away from you.

“I’m going to keep watch, let Rick’s rest.”

“I go with you.”

At first, Rick seemed reluctant, but it was obvious he was exhausted, so he took your offer and went to sit down next to the car. You walked with Daryl around the perimeter, hand in hand, but noticed him shooting worried glances to Rick.

“Come on.” You pushed Daryl gently towards the car. “Go check on him.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah, go.”

You patrolled around the camp for a bit, gun in hand, letting the two men talk, but as soon as the sun was up, you all left, hoping to reach Terminus that same day.

When Daryl considered you were close enough, Rick decided it was best to keep walking through the woods so you could hopefully check the place first before they saw you, just in case it was another Woodbury or worse.

Once you reached the fences, Rick, cautious as ever, buried a bag with some of your weapons. Not seeing anyone around, you jumped the fences to Terminus. You walked around and into the building without anybody noticing you, finding a few people making what seemed to be maps and signals.

“Welcome to Terminus.” A young man called Gareth greeted you, not seeming very excited or surprised to see you.

Rick introduced all of you and then you had to lay down your weapons for them to inspect before checking you. You were reluctant but Rick nodded and you all followed his lead. Your weapons were thankfully returned to you and you followed the two men into what they called the welcome wagon.

There were plants and pots all around, similar to the ones you had had at the prison. You stopped in front of a woman who was cooking something.

You were still unsure about what to make of all of it and noticed Rick looking around warily, as if noticing something. You followed his gaze and saw a woman wearing what you were very sure was Daryl’s poncho, the one he had at the prison.

You elbowed Daryl who noticed it too, right when Rick got a hold of your guide, pointing his gun to his head and you all did the same, springing quickly into action and aiming your weapons to the people around you.

Your guide had Glenn’s watch, the one Hershel had given him. How these people had so many of your things? They tried to tell you how they had gotten them from dead people or scavenging but neither of you bought it.

Suddenly they began shooting at you and you ran, trying to find a way out, but they kept shooting at your feet, leading you right where they wanted you until you were surrounded by them.

You could do nothing but what they asked you and so you all dropped your weapons and walked into the wagon where they intended to keep you prisoner.

It was dark inside, so dark you could barely see anything at all, but soon you saw some people on the other side, walking to you. You couldn’t believe your eyes when you recognized them as the family you thought you had lost at the prison.

Them, and some people you didn’t know.

“They’re our friends, they helped save us.” Maggie quickly informed you when she saw your wary looks.

“Now they’re friends of ours.”

You nodded at Daryl’s words and went to hug Maggie, glad to had found them even if the situation was far from ideal. You were saddened at Carol’s absence though you hadn’t hoped to find her at all. At least she hadn’t seen the prison fell, at least she wasn’t there now, trapped in a wagon with who knew what intention.

Rick was far from giving up, though, and like him, you all wanted to fight back. Problem was, you were all unarmed so you spent the next hours trying to make weapons out of everything you could find, sharpening pieces of wood, making weapons of belt buckles and chains, anything, while you caught up on each other and on what had gone on after you got separated.

One thing you had all in common, both family and new friends, you were all survivors and weren’t going down without a fight.

Chapter Text

No matter how ready you were and the makeshift weapons you had managed to make, you had nothing to do against the Terminus people when they opened the roof of the wagon and dropped a smoke bomb, blinding and suffocating you.

You could barely see the people that were getting inside and grabbing you, but when you thought you saw the silhouette of one passing next to you, you threw yourself at him between coughs, stabbing at him with what was once a wing pendant Daryl had found for you on a run, you had managed to sharpen its end.

You must have hit him somewhere, even if not in the face as he was wearing a gas mask, because the man grunted and kicked you in the gut, sending you to the floor. Once you got up, the men had left, dragging with them some of your own, no matter how much you heard them trying to resist.

When the smoke dissipated, you felt a lump in your throat when you realized who was missing. Bob, Rick, Glenn, Daryl...

Daryl...just last night you had said you would never get separated from each other again and now he was once again gone, taken away from you. You felt short of breath as you wondered what they might be doing to him, beginning to panic. Would they kill them? Or worse? You couldn’t breathe.

Maggie noticed, coming closer to you and cupping your face, making you look at her, trying to calm you down.

“Y/N, Y/N, it’s okay. We’re going to get out of here, we’re going to find them. They are fighters, they’ll be okay...” She tried to reassure both you and herself.

You nodded quickly, trying to calm down. You couldn’t afford to panic now, you need a clear mind to think how to get out of that wagon and find your people.

You were all still trying to figure out how to get out when a big explosion made you fell to the floor, the ground shaking beneath you.

“What’s going on?”

None of you had an answer, but there was hope, even if small, of your people having broken free and causing it. One of the new people, Eugine, thought he might be able to open the door with some kind of battery, you didn’t really understand how. In the meantime, you all kept working on makeshift weapons. Through a small opening, you could see the outside getting full of walkers, attracted by the fire that the explosion seemed to have caused.

Good. As long as your family was safe, let them come and eat all those Terminus people.

Soon, there were gunshots outside from people trying to fight the walkers, and you could hear them pushing at your wagon, trying to get to you. If you broke free, you didn’t know how you were going to fight them without real weapons, but at least you wouldn’t be trapped there. You had to look for your people, you needed to find Daryl.

While you worked you learned that Eugine was actually a super smart scientific who was on his way to Washington because he knew a way to stop the walkers, a cure for the virus. It sounded too good to be true, though you didn’t pay him much attention either it made you as happy as it could, at that moment you were just focused on finding a way out of not only that wagon but the mess of walkers so you could get back to Daryl.

After that, if there was really a way to turn the world back to what it used to be, then welcome it was. But for now, it’d be enough just to survive.

He was finishing telling you about his job when the door of the wagon was opened by Rick. He was out there with Daryl, Glenn, and Bob, shooting at the closer walkers. You were so relieved to see them, you jumped to Daryl but there wasn’t much time, just enough for a quick half hug before you all ran looking for a way out of Terminus. You found a  gun in one of the corpses, still charged and you shot your way next to Daryl until you reached the fences, shooting at walkers and Terminus people equally.

Daryl helped you jump the fence and soon you were all running to the woods. When you were far enough, Daryl grabbed your arm to stop you, making you turn to face him.

“Are you okay?” He asked, his eyes full of concern as his fingers trailed over your hair and down your cheeks.

“I’m fine.” You assured him, pulling him close to you with your hands on his waist. “And you? I was so scared when they took you...”

“I’m fine too.” He nodded before pressing a quick kiss to your lips.

You didn’t have time to stop, though, you didn’t want to get separated from the others, and you could see Rick already turning to look at you both, so you rushed back to them.

You made your way to the place where Rick had buried your weapons and supplies, which had turned out to be quite a smart idea, since you had almost nothing now.

He wanted to come back and take out the rest of Terminus, though you didn’t think it was a good idea to go back to that hell of walkers. The Terminus people would be devoured by them anyway.

They were still discussing it when you saw Daryl’s eyes go wide as he noticed something further away and you turned around to see what it was, startled when you heard footsteps.

You couldn’t believe it when you saw Carol standing there. How could she be there, how had she found you...it seemed impossible. You didn’t care though, you had spent so much time thinking you wouldn’t see her ever again, you felt tears of happiness in your eyes.

You made your way to her but Daryl beat you, running to her and pulling her into her arms, almost knocking her over and lifting her off the ground. You half cried half laughed looking at them, it was so adorable you felt warm inside.

You hugged Carol as soon as Daryl released her. You held her so tight you thought she might not be able to breathe, but she just held you back as tight.

“How can you be here...” You half whimpered. “I thought you were gone forever...”

“I wasn’t going to abandon you,” Carol said softly, giving you a tearful smile.

You released her so the others could greet her too and went to stand next to Daryl, wrapping an arm around his waist to pull him to you, his eyes still wet, and he turned to hide his face in the crook of your shoulder. You felt your shirt get wet with tears and you kissed his temple, your own happy tears rolling down your cheeks.

Whatever Rick might have decided about Carol back at the prison was now forgotten, and you all followed her to the place where she was staying while she explained to you how she had found you. She had even managed to get some of your things from Terminus, like your gun or Daryl’s crossbow, much to his happiness.

When you reached the cabin you couldn’t believe your eyes once again when you saw Tyreese standing at the door, holding baby Judith. Tears came to your eyes again as Rick, Carl and Sasha ran to them. It was a miracle. Not even in a day you had managed to get your family back, Carol back, Daryl back. You didn’t care the pain you had gone through in the process, it was worth.

You turned to grin at Daryl, who smiled back to you, and you wrapped your arms around his neck to pull him close for a proper kiss now that you were away from danger.

Still, there was much to do and decisions to make.

Rick didn’t want to stay in the cabin, he wanted to get far from Terminus, so you barely had any time to rest before you made your way back to the road, walking without any destination on mind but hoping to find any place where you could stay.

Soon, though, you left the road again, Rick and Daryl favoring the woods, so that night you made camp in a clear without any walkers around.

You were exhausted after hours walking under the sun, but when Daryl and Carol took first watch, you flopped down next to them. You still didn’t want to get far from Daryl and you hadn’t talked much with Carol while you walked. She had been quiet and taciturn, and you guessed she was tired after everything she had done to rescue you.

But sitting down there with them, there was something different in the mood, something you had never felt before in all your time of friendship with Carol and Daryl, some kind of underlying tension you couldn’t quite pinpoint. Carol was still uncommunicative, she talked to you when you told her something, but she never tried to initiate a conversation and her answers were short and cold. Probably she was in need of a good night sleep, just like you.

Daryl was silent too, seeming thoughtful, and you could understand it. While you walked, he had told you about Terminus, who those people had been, how they had almost slaughter them to turn them into food. It was beyond horrifying and a shiver ran down your spine when you thought about it again. The world kept getting just more and more terrifying, and thinking about how close you had been to lose Daryl...

He noticed your shiver and pulled you closer to his side with the arm he had wrapped around your shoulders and you pressed a kiss to his cheek before cuddling against his chest. Carol smirked looking at you two but when you smiled back to her she was already looking away again.

Everything was silent, apart from the fire crackling, and you were exhausted so soon you were drifting off, content in Daryl’s arms. He shook you awake, though, and you groaned in complaint.

“Go to sleep, Y/N.”

“I’m fine here...” You tried to nestle again but Daryl didn’t allow you.

“No, come on, get some real sleep. You have to keep watch in a few hours.”

“Okay...”

Reluctantly, you made your way to where the others were sleeping, falling asleep in a minute. You barely woke up when Daryl came to lie next to you when his shift finished, but you noticed him placing his arm over you to pull you close to him, his forehead resting on your shoulder as he wrapped you in his arms.

You woke up not even an hour later when you felt Daryl stir against you and mutter some nonsense. You opened your eyes and realized he was still asleep. Nightmares were common to all of you, you knew, and it wasn’t the first time you had woken up to find Daryl suffering one or that you had woken up from one yourself. Waking up next to someone helped to make the nightmares go away easily, though.

He had his head rested on your chest and you saw his frown burrowing in distress. You ran your fingers through his hair, rocking him gently, hoping the nightmare would go away without disturbing his sleep. He woke up, though, looking around as if confused for a second, and you could feel his heart beating fast. He calmed down quick, nuzzling against your hand without a word before turning around, tugging at your arm so you would curl against his back, your arm around his waist, and he fell asleep again. You smiled, you were sure you’d never be tired of hold him, and soon you were asleep too.

Next time you woke up was to Maggie shaking your shoulder when it was your turn to take watch, a couple of hours before the sunrise. You felt like you had barely slept at all in the whole night and Maggie seemed regretful to wake you up. Carefully, you shifted away from Daryl, trying not to wake him up.

“I miss coffee...”

Maggie complained quietly when you sat down next to each other and you chuckled, resting your head on your friend’s shoulder with a yawn.

As soon as the sun was up, Rick wanted you to keep moving. Daryl had already left the group after talking quietly with Rick and after he pointed him in the general direction that you were going to follow. He wanted to go hunting but when he saw your worried face he assured you he’d find the way back to the group easily as soon as he was done. You knew he had done it a lot of times before, but still, you felt uneasy about him getting separated from you. However, you knew the group needed food and you also knew Daryl would have a better chance at hunting something if he was alone.

You couldn’t deny you didn’t stop being worried until you saw him back, carrying quite a few squirrels. He made his way to you, kissing your forehead, but then he went to talk with Rick, who announced you were going back to the road.

“There’s something wrong?” You asked Daryl when he went back to your side.

“Nah.”

You didn’t say anything but gave him a look.

“I thought I felt something or someone watching us last night but I couldn’t find anything, so it might be nothing...”

So Rick wanted you back to the road, just in case there was something in the woods, following you. The idea made you shiver, but after all, none had seen anything. As Daryl had said, it could be nothing.

You hadn’t left the woods yet when you heard someone screaming for help. Rick seemed reluctant but Carl was already exhorting him to help, so you all ran towards the voice.

There was a man on top of some rocks, a few walkers trying to get to him, pulling at his legs, but you all put them down quick. When the man jumped down you realized, by the way he was dressed, that he was a priest. This world didn’t stop amazing you. Poor man didn’t seem used to this kind of things, throwing up before he could tell you who he was and what was he doing there.

All the group was eyeing him warily but you almost felt sorry for him, who seemed totally out of place. Considering how Carl was looking at him, he seemed to feel the same, but his father’s eyes were hard as he surveyed the stranger, and soon he was searching him and questioning him.

Even though Rick still didn’t trust him, you all followed the priest, whose name was Gabriel, back to his church. It would be better than to keep camping in the open air. After scooping inside the building, you couldn’t find anything that made father Gabriel a threat. Still, Rick was sure the priest was hiding something and when you asked quietly to Daryl, he was of the same opinion. You trusted Daryl’s instincts about people, so you’d keep an eye on the man.

You were in need of supplies, barely having any food or water, neither you had much ammo, so it was decided you would go on a run as soon as possible.

Abraham, the man who seemed some sort of bodyguard for Eugine, wanted to start working on a minibus he had found next to the church so you could go to Washington, where the scientist would work in the cure. But even him could see that you were in need of supplies, and no matter what he said, none of you wanted to split again, you all would go together to your next destination.

Gabriel pointed you to a place where you could find supplies but which was overrun by walkers, though Rick was sure you could handle it. He took Sasha, Bob, and Michonne with him, also dragging the poor priest, who seemed about to faint at the idea.

Everyone else had their own duties too.

Tyreese and Carl would stay at the church, taking care of Judith, and also Abraham, Rosita, and Eugene, who would start working on the bus.

Tara had found a place in the phone book where maybe you could find some ammo and guns left, though she wasn’t very hopeful, but Maggie and Glenn decided it was worth a shot, so they would go with her.

You also needed to bring water from the spring close to the church and Carol volunteered to go, Daryl doing the same after she said it.

You didn’t know what to do. On one hand, you wanted to go with them, you still felt uneasy at the idea of splitting from them, you didn’t want to leave Daryl’s side.

Carol wasn’t that surly anymore and she was a bit more like her old kind and fun self, but there was still something off with her. You had never had any problems talking with her about anything, all your problems and worries, you both had shared all with each other, but now you felt unable to reach to her. She talked to you, but you never managed to have a deep conversation, she always diverted the conversation, and you were worried.

You guessed it was normal, after everything she had gone through, after Rick had kicked her out of the group, but all that was forgotten now. She was back and Rick was glad. You could understand it if maybe she was still hurt, but you wished she’d talk to you about it.

Daryl was worried too, you had caught him peering at Carol with concern quite a few times, although he was more quiet about it. You knew the friendship they shared was deep and special, though, so you hoped that maybe if he managed to talk with her alone, he’d figure out what was wrong and you could help her.

“You also think there’s something off with Carol, right?” You asked quietly to Daryl and he nodded. “You’re gonna try to talk with her while you both are out?”

“Yeah... ain’t sure she wants to talk, though.” He was biting his thumbnail as you knew he did when he was nervous.

“Still...I just want her to know that we’re here for her, nothing has changed...” You let out a sigh and Daryl laced his fingers with yours, giving your hand a reassuring squeeze. “I’m going to help Tara with that run, okay?”

Daryl nodded but looked at you with concern. “Be careful.”

“Sure thing, Maggie, and Glenn are coming too, so it’s all fine. Just...I hope you can get through Carol.”

Daryl nodded although he seemed reluctant to leave you, he was playing with your wing pendant.

“I ruined it,” you complained, the bottom of the wing now turned into a sharp end.

“Nah, you improved it.” Daryl gave your his small, half smile that you still adored

“Maybe...”

You chuckled quietly, standing on tiptoes to kiss him.

As long as Daryl and Carol were together, you didn’t feel that bad about splitting away from them, you knew they would be alright together, but still, you couldn’t help the uneasy feeling in your stomach when you left without them.

The run went well, you didn’t encounter many walkers and you even got to find some ammo hidden in a store. No guns, though.

Maggie and Glenn seemed to have become fast friends with Tara, but you didn’t feel out of place, they welcomed you in all their conversations, joking and sharing stories, and it reminded you a bit to the first runs you did alone with Maggie and Glenn, which you had almost enjoyed.

Tara was a really nice girl too, sweet and fun, though you were fairly certain you had seen her somewhere but couldn’t pinpoint where. She hadn’t been at the prison with you, that was sure. Maybe from someplace before, from your life before the apocalypse? You doubted it, that life seemed like a dream, you weren’t sure you’d recognize many faces.

You decided to ask her later.

You couldn’t deny you had fun with them, especially since the run wasn’t dangerous at all, and they helped ease your worries about Daryl and Carol. You found yourself smiling in good mood as you walked back to the church.

Glenn and Maggie were getting behind not so subtly, probably wanting a bit of time for themselves, to talk or whatever, so Tara and you walked ahead, wanting to give them some privacy.

“It’s funny,” you smiled to Tara, deciding to bring up the matter now that you two were sort of alone. “But I feel like I’ve seen you somewhere? Maybe we studied together or something.” You laughed.

Despite your joking, Tara’s smile fell and his eyes went wide.

“What? Did I say something wrong?” You were confused and a bit concerned.

“No, I...I...” She stammered, looking down, which just worried you more. “I thought you knew...” She looked back at you with guilty, scared eyes. “I...I was with the Governor...back at the prison...”

You stopped walking, shocked. Tara had been one of the Governor’s? She was so kind and nice, it was hard to believe. Probably you had seen her there but you hadn’t really paid attention to her, with everything that was going around you back then. You looked at her in disbelieve, not finding any words to speak.

“I didn’t know who he was...how he was...” Tara looked at you with wet, pleading eyes. “I didn’t know what he was going to do...I didn’t want to be there...I’m sorry...”

You raised your hands to stop her nervous words, hoping to reassure her and calm her down. She was a good one, that was clear, with a good, kind heart, a genuinely good person. You’d never think she had anything to do with the Governor’s plan. And she was one of yours now.

“It’s okay...that man deceived many good people. It doesn’t matter anymore, you’re with us now.” You patted her shoulder.

“Thanks...but when I think about what he did...and I was part of it...and then I just froze, I couldn’t do anything...couldn’t even follow my girlfriend...”

“Hey,” You wrapped an arm around her waist and began to walk again. “It wasn’t your fault.”

“I haven’t told Maggie yet, but I want to, I don’t want to lie to her...” Tara sounded worried still.

“Maggie’ll understand, I can promise you.”

You turned your head to look back at Maggie, who was walking hand by hand with Glenn a few meters behind you.

“I hope...”

Chapter Text

Once you were back at the church, Daryl and Carol were already there with several gallons of water. You rushed to them, grinning, and your smile went bigger when Carol smiled back to you.

“Everything okay?” Daryl asked you.

“Yeah, we found some ammo and I even had fun.”

You were still in a good mood, you’d had a nice afternoon with your friends, even in such a weird situation of scavenging and killing monsters, you were back with your family, you had Daryl by your side, you had a roof over your head and probably soon food too. That was all you could ask for.

“Good.”   

“And you?”

“Everything was fine...” Daryl answered, though you saw him glance briefly at Carol with worry in his eyes, so you didn’t think the conversation had gone as well as he had wanted.

“We’re going to be just fine.”

You kissed his cheek and then dropped down on one of the benches. After a night of barely sleeping and a day of walking, fighting, and scavenging, you were truly exhausted. Daryl sat down next to you and you shifted to lie down on the bench, bending your knees and resting your head on Daryl’s lap, who smiled at you.

You closed your eyes and let out a long, content sigh when he began to stroke your hair.

“Keep this up and I’m falling asleep on you.”

“You should, I know you barely slept last night.”

“I’m fine...Hey, Carol!” She was sat down on the floor next to the bench and you wanted to try and talk with her about anything, trying to coax her out of her shell. “Have I told you about the time Daryl went to shoot a squirrel but the squirrel jumped on his face and he almost shot himself? That was quite a brave rodent and...”

You stopped, letting out a huffed giggle when Daryl tickled your ribs, and you saw he was blushing.

“What? It was funny...” You grinned at him and he huffed.

“Yes, shooting yourself is all fun.”

“Okay, maybe not that part, and I said almost...” You reached up your hand to run it under his shirt, finding the scar from when he fell on his arrow while looking for Sophia and caressing it...those days seemed so long ago now. “But it’s a good story anyway and such a fighting squirrel deserves to be remembered...”

“Actually, I’d like to hear it.”

Carol crawled closer, smiling and resting her elbow next to you on the bench. You smiled and began to talk. It felt almost like you were back at camping before you found the prison, when your friendship with Carol and Daryl had kept you going, sharing stories with them whenever you made camp for the night.

You had just finished the short story when Rick and his group came back, bringing lots of supplies and food.

That night was one of the best you’d had in a while, spirits where high as you put together a big dinner from some of the cans found on the run, dinning while joking around and sharing stories, all your past suffering forgotten even if just for a little moment.

You knew you couldn’t stay in that church forever, but you intended to enjoy it for as long as it lasted. You were sitting down on the floor as you dined, sharing a plate of food with Daryl, big grin on your face, slightly away from the others.

When Abraham began with his speech about Washington, you could just hope he and Eugine were right, that the scientist could fix the world and stop the madness. He invited you to join him, but you would do whatever your family wanted, you weren’t going to split from them.

Everyone cheered when Rick announced you would join Abraham, Eugine, and Rosita on their mission. If there was a chance at the world getting better, then sure you wanted to help, though it sounded too good to be true.

 You had finished your food so you crawled between Daryl’s legs to rest against his chest, ready to cuddle for the night. He kissed the top of your head and wrapped his arms around you, pulling you close, your back against his chest.

“What do you think of Eugine?” You whispered so none but Daryl’d hear you. “What he said about stopping the monsters, going back to the world before...”

“I don’t know...if it’s true then it’s good...”

“Yeah...”

You had your doubts about the plan too, but the guy was smart and maybe there was actually a way of stopping this nightmarish world.

“Even if he can do what he said...” You turned slightly so you could face Daryl. “I don’t think the world could go back to what it used to be, not after this, not really.”

“Yeah... the world has gone to shit.”

You nodded sadly but then gave him a smile, running your fingertips over his cheekbone

“I probably wouldn’t have met you if the world hadn’t gone to shit, though...So that’s something good out of this hell, meeting you and the others.”

“Yeah...yeah, it is.” Daryl took your hand to place a kiss on your knuckles.

“I...I think it was worthy, I’d go through all of this again in order to meet you and be with you.”

Daryl snorted in disbelieve.

“You’re crazy, woman.”

“Maybe.” You chuckled. “But I mean it.”

“It was worth for me too...” Daryl said ever so quietly, placing a kiss on your forehead.

“You know...” You began talking again. “If someone offered me to go back to the world before, like nothing had happened...I’d only do it if I could take you with me. If I can’t be with you, then I don’t want to go back.”

Daryl seemed to freeze for a second and then he was nuzzling at your hair and tightening his arms around you.

“You’re the best thing I ever had, in this world or in the one before.” He whispered into your hair, keeping his face hidden.

You smiled, pulling away and shifting until you could kiss Daryl’s lips, turning to rest your back against his chest again when your lips parted, wrapped in his arms. This was the safest and relaxed you had felt in too long. You closed your eyes, letting out a content sigh as Daryl began to trail soft kisses over your shoulder and neck.

“Look.”

His whisper in your ear made you open your eyes again and you looked at the direction he had nodded his head just in time to see Carol sneaking away, probably thinking everyone was too busy celebrating to pay attention to her.

“Where’s she going?”

“Gonna find out.” Daryl began to pull away from you. “Stay here, I’ll be back in a minute.”

You were about to say you were going with him, you didn’t want to be away from him, but you thought he might want to talk with Carol alone, maybe to resume whatever conversation they had had earlier, so you nodded reluctantly.

“Don’t take long...”

“Nah, don’t worry.”

Despite Daryl’s words, you felt like you’d been waiting for him for an eternity and still he wasn’t back, neither Carol, and you couldn’t help but worry. When you felt you couldn’t take it more, you got up quietly and sneaked out.

You didn’t know where to look for them, but you ventured into the woods. You hadn’t been walking for long when you bumped into Sasha, who was pointing her shotgun at you.

“Shit Y/N, I almost mistook you for a walker...” She complained. “Have you seen Bob?”

“No...I’m looking for Daryl and Sasha, I can’t find them either...”

“I don’t like this...”

You began scooping the woods close to the church together, finding a couple walkers and putting them down quickly, but finding no signal of Daryl, Carol,  or Bob. Your heart almost leaped out of your throat when Rick and Tyreese suddenly appeared behind you.

They had noticed all of you missing too so had gone out to look for you. They were worried someone had actually been following you and had taken you. The idea scared you more than you wanted to show. Daryl and Carol were good fighters, they could take care of themselves, but people just were proving to be more and more dangerous, and you felt you could panic at the idea of someone having abducted them with who knew what intention.

Together, you looked around the woods closer to the church for a little while but couldn’t find anything besides random walkers, and eventually Rick said you had to go back.

“I’m not going back until I find them.” You shook your head stubbornly, you had just found Daryl and Carol again a couple a days ago and now they were gone again, your nightmare becoming reality again and again...You looked away, embarrassed when you noticed tears in your eyes.

Sasha stood with you and Rick let out a tired sigh but gave you a  kind look.

“We’re not stopping looking for them, I’m worried too, alright? But it’s dangerous to be out here at night, you know it...we have to go back and make a plan.”

Sasha and you looked at each other and eventually nodded, knowing Rick was right. You didn’t even know where to look for Daryl and Carol, or Bob, they had just vanished. You hoped that at least they were together.

Once in the church, Sasha began accusing father Gabriel of being guilty of your friends' disappearances, though you were almost sure he had nothing to do with that. When Rick began to angrily question him, the priest broke down and spilled his secret, how he had closed the doors of the church and let his flock be devoured by the monsters.

What an ass. Though you understand him a bit, having seen his panicked reactions to walkers, he probably had been scared to death...but still, you were disappointed at him. You pitied him as you saw him cry in regret, though.

You hadn’t had time to recover of the shock from Gabriel’s story when Glenn announced there was someone outside, someone lying on the grass, and you all run outside to find Bob there, unconscious and missing a leg. What in hell...

Several walkers were making their way to you and you cleared the closers before getting inside the church, carrying Bob, who woke up and explained to you how the Terminus’ survivors had captured him.

When he said explained how they said they had seen Daryl and Carol leave in a car, you didn’t know if you were more worried or more relieved. At least they weren’t captives of those Terminus lunatics who would devour them like walkers, but you didn’t know where they were or why they had left.

Why didn’t they tell you? Why didn’t they go back for you before they left? You knew they’d never abandon you, but still, questions and questions, fill your mind and for a moment you even doubted if maybe, maybe they might have just left without giving you a second thought...

But no, of course not, that was nonsense that your anxious brain was trying to make you believe, and you stopped that train of thoughts. They’d never do that to you, they were your family.

Something must have happened that had made them leave without time to tell anyone...which was scary. You tried to breathe deep when you felt yourself starting to panic again.

As if Bob’s story wasn’t horrifying enough, he had been bitten, back in the run for food.

Things just were getting worse and worse...you just found something good, some hope, and of course something horrible had to happen to ruin it all, to remind you of the horrible world you now lived in.

Bob passed out again so some of the others helped carry him to a more comfortable place while Rick talked with Gabriel.

You sat down on the floor, hugging your knees and hiding your face as tears rolled down your cheeks, feeling very alone, scared and helpless. You looked up when you felt a hand on your shoulder.

“Hey, you’re okay?” Rosita gave you a soft smile and you just shrugged. “Stupid question, I know... I can’t tell you your friends are going to be okay, cos you already know how this world is...” You nodded, glad she wasn’t sugarcoating it though you felt tears in your eyes again. “But remember they’re fighters and survivors...”

“Thanks...” You managed to give her a weak smile.

You hadn’t talked much with Rosita, she was almost always with Abraham and Eugine, but you decided you liked her.

She left your side to go with Abraham when he began talking, telling you it was time to leave as things were getting dangerous and he wasn’t going to risk Eugine. To your relief, Rick didn’t want you to leave until Daryl and Carol were back. You didn’t intend to go anywhere without them.

Soon, an argument about the bus broke between Rick and Abraham and at some point you thought they must just start fighting, but Glenn stopped them. You shook your head at the deal they made...Abraham would stay there with you for a day, help you, but then he’d left and he’d take Maggie, Glenn, and Tara with him.

“No...” You looked at Maggie, your eyes wet, but she just gave you a sad smile.

“It’ll be fine...”

You glared at Abraham but didn’t dare to say anything, you didn’t want to start another fight. Rosita gave you an apologetic look, she had tried to stop Abraham a couple of times, but he had ignored her.

Soon, plans were made. Rick wanted you to attack the Terminus people, though his plan was to make them believe you had left the church unprotected and once they attacked it, you would surprise them inside.

It could work.

Everybody left the church besides Carl, who stayed to take care of her baby sister, Tyreese, who was keeping an eye on Bob, and Rosita and you, in case something went wrong and a fight started at the church before the others arrived. Father Gabriel and Eugine were staying too, though in case of a fight they were kind of useless.

“Why you let Abraham be like that with you?” You asked Rosita. You didn’t like the way the redhead seemed to boss around her girlfriend and Eugine. “He kept ignoring you and talking over you...”

Rosita let out a long sigh.

“Abraham...he’s not like he seems to be, he’s actually really nice, a good one...but he gets too worked up sometimes...” She shrugged. “Eugine’s mission...it means a lot to Abraham, and I also believe it’s the most important thing we can do. But Abraham...he’s so dedicated to it sometimes he seems oblivious to everything else...I know he can come out as a rude prick, but he’s not like that...” She let out a chuckle. “Well, sometimes he is.”

“He’s breaking my family...” You growled, the idea of separating from Maggie and Glenn threatening to make you cry.

“You can come with us, all of you...it’d be better for us too.”

“I’m not leaving Daryl and Carol.”

“I know...” Rosita gave you a weak smile. “You can always come and find us later or something...”

You didn’t have time to say anything, both of you springing into action when you heard people breaking the door and coming into the church.

Judging by Gareth’s words, they seemed to have fallen right into your trap, though you hoped the others would get back soon. If things went bad, you weren’t enough there to fight those people.

You cursed when Judith began crying, giving away your location but then smiled relieved when you heard a couple of gunshots and Rick’s voice. They were there, just in time. There was silence for a while in which you could only hear the muffled voices of Gareth and Rick, and then the grunts and cries of the Terminus people as they were beaten to death.

They had it coming but still, the image as you walked out of the room turned your stomach.

You spent the rest of the night dragging the bodies away and cleaning the church. It was disgusting and you felt sick at the state of the bodies, but you welcomed the work, making it harder for your mind to wander.

Still, when the sun went up and Daryl and Carol hadn’t come back, you began to panic, worry and fear eating you. You tried to keep it together to say goodbye to Bob, who obviously hadn’t much time left, but when you had to say goodbye to Tara, Glenn, and Maggie, you broke down.

You didn’t know where Daryl and Carol were, and now you were losing them too, after just being reunited a couple days back.

Maggie held you, trying to calm you down, you gently shushing while you cried.

“It’s okay, it’s not goodbye, we’ll see each other in Washington...” She kept telling you quietly. “Once Daryl and Carol come back, you’ll come to find us and we’ll be together again...”

You weren’t sure if Maggie believed her words or not.

Once the bus left, you went to hide in a dark corner inside the church, embarrassed to have broken down and cried like that in front of everyone. As the hours passed, you were more and more worried, feeling a constant lump in your throat and finding it almost hard to breathe as fear clutched at your lungs.

Rick and Michonne tried to make you eat something, clearly worried about your state, but you could barely swallow anything, your throat was closed and your stomach was clenching with anxiety.

When the sun went down again and there was still no sign of neither Daryl nor Carol, you felt you couldn’t take it anymore. Rick had tried to reassure you, tried to tell you they’d be back eventually, but what if they didn’t? What if they had left to never come back? What if something had happened to them?

You wanted to go looking for them, but you didn’t know where, and if they had left in a car they could be anywhere. You felt totally helpless and broken-hearted.

You had been crying quietly, you weren’t sure for how long, and were having problems breathing, so you decided to walk outside, see if the fresh air helped you. On your way out of the church, you crossed paths with Gabriel, who was getting inside. He gave you a sympathetic look but said nothing.

You found Michonne sitting down on the stairs of the church and you sat down next to her. Silently, she wrapped an arm around your shoulders, pulling you close to her.

“What?” You asked when you felt her suddenly tensing.

“I heard something...” She whispered, getting up and you followed her to some trees.

Someone or something was approaching, you could hear it too now, and you placed your hand on the holster of your gun, ready for whatever new threat was coming on your way.

You froze for a second when you saw Daryl appearing from the dark but then you were running to him and wrapping your arms around his neck. He wrapped his arms around your waist, holding you tight and lifting you off the ground so you wrapped your legs around his waist, holding to him and crying on his shoulder.

“You disappeared...I was so worried...” You half sobbed.

“I know...” Daryl whispered into your hair. “I’m sorry...”

“Where’s Carol?”

You heard Michonne’s voice and you pulled away from Daryl just enough to look around. Carol wasn’t there and the look on Daryl’s eyes scared you.

“Daryl...”

He bit his lip and lowered you down onto your feet, though he kept an arm around your waist.

“Come on.”

 He called for someone, but it wasn’t Carol who came, it was a young man who you had never seen before.

“What’s going on? Who’s he?”

“That’s Noah...I’ll explain everything...” Daryl lead you back to the church, Michonne and the new boy following you.

Once inside, Daryl explained everything to all of you while Rick also filled him in on what had gone on at the church.

You listened to everything in Daryl was saying with increase worry. How he had seen a car like the one who had taken Beth, how he and Carol had followed it back to Atlanta, where they had met Noah. Apparently, he had been working in a sort of hospital where Beth was taken prisoner. She had tried to escape with him, but they had taken her back again.

Before they could help her, a car had run Carol over, the people from the hospital taking her in, and Daryl and Noah had come to tell you everything so you could help.

While you listened, all you had wanted was to curl up with Daryl, but he had been pacing around as he talked, as he usually did when anxious, but when he saw your scared eyes, he sat down on the bench next to you, wrapping his arm around your shoulder and holding you close.

“Carol...was she okay? Did you saw her?” You whimpered.

“I...I don’t know Y/N...she was unconscious...” He answered and you swallowed hard. “But Noah says they can take care of her in that hospital...we’ll go back for her and Beth...”

“Okay...”

“I’m sorry...” The look on Daryl’s eyes was a mixture of guilt and concern.

“Those people from Terminus said you and Carol left on a car, I thought you had left without me...” You bit your lip as you admitted it.

“I’d never leave you...” Daryl was frowning at you in disbelieve.

“I know...I’m sorry...I was scared...”

Daryl let out a long sight, kissing your forehead and pulling you to his chest.

“I knew something really bad must have happened and when time passed and you weren’t back I was so worried...”

“I’m here now.” He reassured you. “And we’ll get Carol and Beth back tomorrow.”

You pulled away so you could look at him.

“Whoever is those people who took them, you know it wasn’t your fault right?”

Daryl just shrugged. You knew he felt responsible for it and felt it was his duty to bring them back no matter what, which was the reason why he had followed Beth’s captors so recklessly.

You knew no matter what you said, he’d keep thinking like that, so you just leant to kiss his lips. He cupped your face with his hand, tangling his fingers in your hair, deepening the kiss, and you felt yourself begin to finally relax.

That night, you all dined in almost silence, so different from when you had had dinner all together, cheering and laughing... The only voices were Rick’s and Daryl’s as they made plans for the morrow, Michonne giving some advice from time to time.

That night, Rick took first watch and you went to sleep curled up between Daryl and one of the walls of the prison, lying over some blankets with Daryl’s jacket covering you.

Now that he was back in your arms, you were finally able to sleep.

Chapter Text

When you woke up, Daryl wasn’t there. You thought you had felt him getting up but you had been too sleepy to actually register it.

There was barely any light inside the church and you got up quietly, carefully making your way to the door, trying not to wake anyone.

The sun was barely a dim light at the east when you walked out, and you saw Daryl pacing around the perimeter. You let out a sigh of relief. You had been sure you’d find him outside, keeping watch, but still...

When he noticed you, he made his way towards you. You sat down on the stairs of the church and reached out your hand to him, pulling him to sit down next to you.

“Morning...”

“You could have woken me up.” You turned your head to place a kiss on his arm. “I’d have kept watch with you.”

“You needed to sleep.”

“So do you.”

For a moment, none of you said anything, just enjoyed each other company, your head resting on his shoulder and his arm around your shoulders.

“I was an ass to Beth.” Daryl’s voice broke the silence.

“What?”

“When we ran out of the prison together, when I thought I wouldn’t find any of you again, when I thought I lost you...” He pulled you closer and you snuggled to him. “I...I couldn’t handle it, I just wanted to give up on everything.”

You nodded. It wasn’t like you had handled it well when you thought you had lost him either.

“And I was a prick with Beth. She didn’t put up with it, though, she called me up on my bullshit.” You chuckled, trying to picture it, and there was a small, sad smile tugging at his lips. “Girl’s tougher than she thinks. She kept me going, made me almost have hope...And I lost her, those people took her...”

“And now we have found her.” You stopped him before he could blame himself any further. “And we’re going to bring her and Carol back.”

“Yeah...”

That morning you worked on the church, closing its windows with wooden planks and making a barrier of spiky metal bars at the door, protecting the building from walkers, just in case.

Once you finished, you left for Atlanta, leaving Michonne there with Carl, Judith and the priest, to protect them in case any threat made its way to the church.

“You should stay...” Daryl told you while Rick talked to his son. “Atlanta is dangerous, it’s overrun, and those people are dangerous.”

“What? No! Last time you went out without me you disappeared and I thought I’d lost you again, I’m not letting it happen again, I can’t take it...”

It hadn’t been your intention to throw that to his face, you knew it was totally unfair, and you regretted it as soon as you saw his guilty eyes. You hadn’t intended to say it like that, you knew he was worried about you, but you couldn’t watch him go again.

“I’m sorry...What I mean it’s...I don’t want us to split again, I’d worry sick. And I want to help, I need to. Carol’s my friend. I want to go with you.”

“Okay...” He nodded, though you knew he was still worried. “But don’t get far from me.”

“I’m not planning on doing that ever...”

***

Once in Atlanta, you cleared your way into an abandoned warehouse, where Rick began to make plans, according to Noah’s information. He wanted you to relay on the fact that the hospital people didn’t know you were coming, he wanted you to be quick and silent but to do anything that was necessary to bring back Beth and Carol.

Tyreese disagreed with the plan, though, didn’t want to make his way killing people. He wanted you to take two of the guards, since Noah knew where they were, and then trade them for Carol and Beth.

It could work, but it could fail too, as Rick pointed out. He still wanted to stick to his plan, though Daryl intervened, saying he agreed with Tyreese plan, it could work and none had to die. You agreed with Daryl, the image of what had been left of the Terminus people still turned your stomach...maybe this time none would have to die.

And so, Tyreese’s idea was the one Rick finally accepted.

“It’s a good plan.” You kissed Daryl’s cheek as you all began to get ready for the plan.

Noah would play bait, running as the guards chased him, bringing them to where you wanted them.

You had just managed to take those two guards without any problem when suddenly another car ambushed you out of nowhere, taking their partners and driving away, though Sasha managed to stop it, neatly shooting at the wheels.

You all ran behind the guards and you didn’t realize Daryl hadn’t followed you until you had already caught them again. You ran back, Rick behind you, and found Daryl on the floor with a guard on top of him and some half decomposed walkers around them, still trying to bite.

As you ran closer Daryl managed to push the man off him and you shot at one of the closer walkers which were trying to bite him, Rick shooting the other one before aiming his gun to the guard.

“Are you okay?” You reached out to help Daryl up, panicking a bit. “Are you hurt?”

“I’m fine.” Daryl stopped your frantic hands as you looked for injuries or even bite marks.

He laced his fingers with yours and you calmed down a bit when you saw he was okay except for some more cuts, bruises, and scrapes to add to his collection.

Rick seemed to be about to shoot the guard dead, and for all your early talk about not killing anyone, you didn’t intend to stop him. He had attacked you and had tried to kill Daryl.

Daryl, though, seemed to think different, and he let go out of your hand to reach out for Rick.

“Rick, Rick...three’s better than two...”

He managed to get through Rick, who nodded. They tied the men’s hands and took him to the others and back into the warehouse.

One of the guards seemed to want to help you, the one Noah had said was good. He talked to Rick, giving him intel about the woman who ran the hospital and how to make the plan work.

Soon you were heading out towards the hospital, ready for the negotiations to begin, taking the other two guards with you and leaving Sasha to keep watch over the other. You felt you should have maybe stayed with her, just in case, but you didn’t want to separate from Daryl and Sasha was a skilled fighter, capable of taking care both of herself and the guard, who was also tied down.

Turned out you should probably have stayed with her, as you were forced to rush back to the warehouse when Sasha called you through the walkie, telling you the prisoner had escaped.

You all waited inside, the other two guards still tied down, while Rick chased the guard with a car. When he came back, he was alone, and for a moment you worried he hadn’t found the guard until Rick told you he had been forced to take care of him, so to speak, as he wouldn’t stop running.

Daryl believed you might still be able to keep going with the plan, he still wanted to trade prisoners, and the other two guards seemed to want to help you with it, not wanting anyone else to die. They even offered to lie, so their boss wouldn’t know you had killed one of them, since that would make her stop the negotiations.

And so the plan began.

You all stood in a rooftop, watching over Rick as he negotiated with another two guards, and luckily everything seemed to go according to plan. They knew they were outnumbered and outgunned, and neither they wanted more blood to spill.

You smiled to Daryl when the guards finally told you their lieutenant had agreed to meet with you and she’d trade Beth and Carol for her guards.

Daryl and Tyreese had been right, maybe today none had to die.

You couldn’t relax though, the trade would take place at the hospital, which was enemy territory and all you knew things could turn really bad really quick, but at least you had the four guards as leverage in case it was a trap or the people at the hospital decided to attack you.

Finally, you reached the corridor that was your meeting point, lowering your guns since none attacked you, keeping two of the guards tied but letting the others walk freely in front of you to help you with the exchange.

You squeezed Daryl’s arm when you saw Carol all battered and bruised, in a wheelchair pushed by Beth, who seemed a bit scratched too but in better condition.

“It’s okay...”

Daryl whispered to you before pushing one of the guards forward and bringing Carol back in return. Once they reached you, you helped Carol onto her feet, relieved to see she was well enough to stand up, both of you holding each other for a second, before focusing your attention back to the exchange.

Beth was now walking quickly towards you, and as soon as she reached you, you all pulled closer and turned to leave. Everything had gone well, better than any of you could have expected, but still, all of you wanted to be out of there and back in the church as soon as possible.

“Now I only need Noah.” The voice of the woman who led the hospital made you stop in your tracks. “And then you can leave.”

“That wasn’t part of the deal.”

Rick stepped in front of your group, Daryl following him, but the woman ignored their words and her staff’s pleas. You were in disbelieve, why they didn’t just let the boy go? Those people were supposed to be good, to help others, yet they kept people captive against their will.

Rick and Daryl wouldn’t give up Noah, though, and for a tense moment you worried you might have to get out of there fighting after all, but then the boy was stepping up, saying he’d stay.

Your heart broke for him, he was there giving up his freedom for you, he had helped you and now you couldn’t help him back.

Then everything happened so quick you barely knew what was happening.

Beth had been hugging Noah but then she turned towards the leading woman, sinking something, some sort of tiny scissors into her shoulder, and before you could know what was going on, the woman had shoot Beth dead.

There was another gunshot and you were so shocked you didn’t register it was Daryl shooting the woman dead until she dropped on the floor.

You were in shock, shaking as you looked at Beth on the floor, you couldn’t believe it. You didn’t realize you were crying, barely noticed Carol brushing past you, reaching to Daryl, pulling him close to her and lowering his gun.

This didn’t make sense. Everything had gone well. You were about to leave. How could it have ended like this.

Still half out of yourself, you stumbled towards Daryl and Carol, who were standing over Beth’s body, their cheeks wet with tears too. You reached out to caress your hand over Daryl’s arm, feeling unable to offer him any comfort though the pain in his eyes was killing you.

He bent down to pick up Beth’s body and Carol held you close, tightening her embrace when she noticed how you were shivering.

You heard Rick’s offering the people from the hospital the chance to join you, but only Noah did. At this moment, you honestly didn’t care what they did.

You followed Rick out, or it’d be better to say that he guided you out with a hand on your shoulder, as you were still unable to process what was happening and your body didn’t seem to want to move.

Behind you came Tyreese, helping Carol walk and behind them Daryl, carrying Beth’s body in his arms. You couldn’t look at her.

Once outside, you began crying again when you saw Maggie, Glenn, Tara...all the others had arrived. You had wished you’d see them again soon but now it was a nightmare and you felt you couldn’t take it anymore when you saw Maggie fell to the floor when she saw her sister.

You stopped, didn’t feel like you could walk anymore and Rick squeezed your shoulder, letting Carol pull you into her arms before walking towards the others, Daryl behind her, carrying Beth’s body to her sister.

You couldn’t watch anymore so you hid your face in Carol’s shoulder, crying into it while she shushed you.

***

You buried Beth at the outside of the church, father Gabriel saying some words that you didn’t register while all of you stood there in silence.

Maggie kept crying quietly and you felt helpless, unable to find any words that could comfort her, you could just hold her and hope time will help her heal, if only a bit.

Beth had deserved something better, she hadn’t deserved to end like that. That sweet girl had deserved to have a good life, or at least as good as she could in this horrible world.

Every time you thought about it, tears came back to your eyes.

Beth’s loss, right when you had found her again, right after you had managed to get her back, had hit your family hard, and a dark, gloomy mood has settled over all of you. It was aggravated by the fact that Washington had proven to be a bust, Eugine was not scientific but just a smart guy trying to save his life, he couldn’t fix the world and there was no cure.

At that point, you couldn’t really care, but the last ray of hope you might have had died with it.

The church had proven not to be safe enough and there weren’t places to scavenge around it anymore, so you knew you had to leave, but with Washington plan gone, you didn’t know where.

Noah had told Rick about his home, the place where Beth had wanted to bring him back. He thought you would be welcome there and safe, and Rick decided you’d stay at the church for the night and then he’d make a run to Noah’s town. Most of the group didn’t believe the town would still be standing, and you weren’t sure Rick himself believed it, but he wanted to go and at the very least they’d come back with supplies.

He’d take Michonne, Glenn, and Tyreese with him, while the rest of you would stay at the church, waiting for them to come back.

When night fell and people began retreating into the church, Daryl volunteered to keep first watch. He’d been silent and sullen the whole time, you knew how much the loss of Beth had affected him and you were sure he was blaming himself.

He wouldn’t tell you anything, wouldn’t share his thoughts and pain with you, and you didn’t want to push him but it hurt you seeing him like this, unable to bring him any comfort.

You had sat down on the stairs of the church and he had placed his jacket over your shoulders but then he had left you there. You watched him as he paced around the perimeter, wondering if you should follow him or not, if you should try to talk with him or not, and finally deciding to let him be, hoping he’d come to you when he was ready.

You got up after a couple of hours to stretch your aching muscles after almost dozing off and then sat down again, yawning. You smiled to Daryl when you saw him walking towards you, hoping he’d join you in the stairs, but he didn’t return the smile, although when you reached out your hands to him he took them.

“Y/N, go to sleep, I’m okay alone here.”

“No, I’m fine...” You were reluctant to leave him and felt guilty for not being able to help him.

“We don’t know when will be sleeping under a roof again, come on, go.”

You bit your lip but finally nodded. If he wanted to be alone, then you’d let him be, but you couldn’t hide you were worried about him.

A couple of hours later you felt Daryl curling up next to you after his shift ended. You had almost fallen asleep again when you felt him shaking with silent tears. You wrapped your arms around him, holding him close, your heartbreaking, and rocked him in silence until he fell asleep on your arms.

When you woke up next morning, you were still curled up with him. You opened your eyes and found Daryl already awake. You reached out your hand to brush his long fringe away from his eyes.

“Hey...how’re you feeling?”

Daryl just shrugged.

“I’m here for you, you know?”

“I know...”

You let out a sigh and kissed his forehead. Around you, everyone was starting to stir and get up, and Daryl got onto his feet too, helping you up.

“Come on.”

Sasha had been on watch duty and she made his way inside when Carol went to take her place, right after Rick’s group left on their run.

“I’m going to hunt,” Daryl informed you, shouldering his crossbow.

“Okay...” You had hoped he’d stay with you but being inactive wasn’t Daryl’s thing and he still seemed to want to be alone. “Don’t take too long though...” You knew you’d be worrying about him the whole time.

Daryl ran his knuckles down your cheek, seeming to take in your sad, concerned eyes, and you lift up your hand to take his and lace your fingers.

“I won’t, I promise.” He placed a kiss on the back of your hand and let go of it, walking away from you and into the woods.

You saw Carol looking at Daryl with worried eyes. You knew she was worried about him too, and you had a chance to talk to her about it with her a bit later, when Abraham and Rosita took her place.

She hadn’t much advice to offer, though. She believed Daryl had to let himself feel his pain and there wasn’t much any of you could do about it. Still, you hated feeling so helpless, unable to do anything for him when he was hurting so bad.

“He’ll pull through...” Carol assured you, giving you a half hug. “Give him time.”

Truth to his word, Daryl came back just a couple of hours later, bringing back a rabbit. He sat down at the side of the church to skin it and you sat down next to him, silent as he worked. You hoped that, even if you weren’t saying anything or doing much, your presence would bring him some comfort.

When he was finished, the rabbit skinned and his hands cleaned of the gore, he shifted closer to you, resting his head on your shoulder and you smiled, kissing the top of his head Maybe by being there you were helping to soothe his pain, if only a little bit.

You hadn’t been like that for long when you heard some commotion from inside the church. Daryl was on his feet in a second and you followed him inside.

“What’s going on?”

“Rick contacted by radio...there was an accident,” Carol informed you without stopping what she was doing, carrying medical supplies to Gabriel’s office. “Tyreese’s hurt.”

“No...”

It was supposed to be an easy run...

“Where’s Sasha?”

“Outside, keeping watch.”

“Good, keep her there. Take Carl and Judith too.”

When they arrived, it was too late and you could only watch as they took Tyreese lifeless body out of the car, the cry that Sasha let out when she saw them breaking your heart. Daryl wrapped his arms around you when he noticed the shiver that ran through you, his face hard though you knew him enough to know he was hurting, and you turned to hide your face on his chest.

How could have things turned out like that. You had just lost Beth and now Tyreese, in the most stupid way...

It was like fate kept laughing at you.

You buried Tyreese next to Beth and again Gabriel said his well-meaning words though he didn’t manage to comfort anyone.

You got ready to stay another night at the church, but you’d left at first light. Rick wanted you to go to Washington. Even if Eugine had lied, there was still a chance of finding a safe place in the city. It was best that staying in the forest or on the road forever, going from place to place without settling down.

That was no way of living.

You spread a blanket on the floor of one of the corners of the church and went looking for Daryl. You found him sitting down on the stairs of the porch, smoking, and you knelt down next to him.

“Come to sleep.” You told him when he finished his smoke.

“Sasha shouldn’t keep watch alone.”

“I know...” She wasn’t doing good, after first losing Bob and now his brother, but she had insisted in keeping watch and she seemed to be pushing down her feelings. “Michonne’s going to stay with her. Come on.”

You tugged at his arm, getting up, and he followed you inside, lying down on the blanket with you, running his fingers through your hair when you rested your head on his chest.

“What you think about going to Washington?” You asked him quietly.

“It’s as good as anything.”

“I knew the fixing the world thing was too good to be true.”

“Yeah...”

Daryl didn’t seem very communicative still, and you let out a worried sigh, running your fingers over his chest.

 “Try to get some sleep.” He murmured to you, kissing the top of your head.

“Alright...”

You gave up on the idea of getting him to talk and nestled against him again, letting the up and down of his chest as he breathed guide you to sleep.

Chapter Text

The journey to Washington was long.

Blocked roads and herds of walkers forced you to change plans, take detours and backtrack all the time, and you were starting to run low on food and water.

Daryl went hunting almost daily, but he was barely able to bring anything back. He told you most of the animals he found were already dead, seeming to be suffering the lack of rain as much as you.

And there wasn’t any water around, all creeks and streams seemed to have dried. The situation was starting to get desperate, and you weren’t sure about how long you’d be able to keep going without water.

You were sitting down on the road, the inside of the van now an oven, after another unsuccessful run for water. All of you were silent, too tired and thirsty to do anything, waiting for Daryl, Sasha and Maggie to come back, they had gone further in hopes to find any creek that weren’t dry.

When they were back, you didn’t need to ask them, you could see it in their faces that they hadn’t found anything either, and so you were forced to go back into the van and keep going, hoping to find some water soon.

That night you didn’t stop driving, the situation was desperate enough for you to need to reach Washington as soon as possible, hoping to find supplies there.

You were in the back of the van, sat down on Daryl’s lap, finding comfort on snuggling with him despite the heat.

You were still worried about him.

He was still silent and sullen, even more than usual. You knew he was still affected by what had happened in Atlanta, Beth’s death weighed heavy in his heart, but he still won’t talk about it, won’t share his thoughts and pain with you, or anyone.

He held you, took care of you, but he wouldn’t open up to you and you didn’t know what to do about it or how to help him. You felt helpless and it hurt you to see him like that.

It only grew worse as he took in the increasingly desperate state of your group, which you knew worried him deeply, and you had caught him looking at you with concern from time to time, though you tried to reassure him you were fine, you always tried to appear more hopeful and less weak than you were feeling.

Truth was, you all were weakening fast, most at the lack of water than food, and were starting to despair.

Maggie was still mourning her sister’s death, sadness and pain clear in her eyes, but at least she let herself cry and be comforted, instead of burying her feelings.

Sasha was more like Daryl in that, if not worse, as she buried her pain somewhere inside her, didn’t share it with anyone, hardening her heart and seeming almost emotionless, though it was clear how much she was suffering deep down. None of you had any idea of how to help her, though.

You were deeply worried about your family but still, you didn’t know how to help any of them.

You let out a sigh and ran your tongue over your dry, cracked lips, though it didn’t do much to moisture them.

“You okay?” Daryl lifted your head so he could look at your face, worry in his eyes.

“Yeah, just tired.” You managed to give him what you hoped was a reassuring smile. “You?”

He nodded silently, his standard reply, and you nestled against his chest again, hoping that at some point he’d give you something more than a nod or a shrug.

“We’ll have more luck tomorrow.” You tried to reassure him. “There has to be water somewhere.”

Turned out luck kept laughing at you, and next day your van ran out of fuel. It was the second time it happened, having been almost three weeks on the road now, but the other time you had been able to find a replacement.

This time, there wasn’t any vehicle around, the road seeming deserted, and so you were forced to walk.

That just weakened you more, you still didn’t have much water and were now forced to walk under the sun with such a hot weather.

A herd of walkers began following you down the road, but they were slow enough not to catch on you. You all knew you weren’t strong enough to fight them.

Next time Daryl announced he was going into the woods to see if he could find water of food, Carol went with him, despite Daryl’s initial reluctance. You knew she was trying to talk with him too, and hoped she’d be able to reach him, since you weren’t having much luck at it.

While they way away, Rick traced a plan to take care of the walkers following you. You reached some elevation on the road with some sort of bridge, so the idea was to lure them to the edge and then let them fall down and away.

Plan was working well until some sort of madness seemed to overcome Sasha and she began sinking her knife into the walkers head, messing up the plan and forcing you all to fight as she kept ignoring all attempt to stop her.

You didn’t remember your arms being that heavy the last time you had done that, but now every time you lifted your knife and sunk it into a skull, it required all your energy, and you almost tumbled down to the floor every time a walker dropped dead and you still hadn’t take back your knife. It made you realize how weak you all were, you had never had problems taking care of a herd that small, but now it was being a major effort.

Daryl and Carol appeared back right in time to help you, and finally you were able to eliminate all of the geeks.

“Are you okay?” Daryl’s eyes checked you with worry and you nodded, panting and too exhausted to talk.

You couldn’t stop though, you needed to keep moving, and you gave Daryl a weak, grateful smile when he wrapped an arm around your waist, helping you to keep going.

“Come on.”

You had been walking for a while, though you didn’t really know for how long, it felt eternal, when you reached a group of abandoned cars in the middle of the road. You all went to check them while Daryl headed into the woods again, alone this time, making it clear he didn’t want anyone to go with him.

Carol noticed your sad eyes as you watched him go and wrapped an arm around your shoulder, pulling you close.

“Did you manage to talk to him?” You asked, leaning against her.

“Sort of...” She gave you a sad smile. “I think he listened...but you still have to give him time...”

“Okay...”

There was no food, no water, no gas, nothing in the cars, and you all sat down at the side of the road, deflated.

Daryl came back without having found anything too, and the mood just kept going down. You had seen him doing it a lot of times before, but it always amazed you how he was able to find you back when he went into the woods and you kept going. At first you worried sick, but by now you were getting used to it.

He came to sit down next to you and you gave him a small smile, trying to put on a brave face so he wouldn’t worry. He seemed to notice the worry in your eyes, because he let out a sigh and pulled you close to kiss your forehead.

Suddenly you heard some noises and growls coming from the woods and a pack of feral dogs jumped to the road, showing his fangs to you as if ready to attack. They had collars, as if they’d have been someone’s a long time ago, but were wild now and obviously as starved as you.

Daryl pushed you behind his arm and you all got ready in case the dogs attacked, but before any of you could do anything, Sasha shot them dead. They had been dangerous but still, it was hard to see, and it was even harder to skin them and get their meat ready to eat...but meat was meat and you had barely eaten in days, so you munched on them without giving it a second thought.

That night, you made camp there at the side of the road, Daryl and you taking first watch. You broke the silence when you saw him worriedly looking over your group.

 “We’ll pull through.” You assured him. “We’re strong.”

You didn’t feel strong at all when you woke up with a pounding headache, which you knew was due to the dehydration. You were scared when you looked around at the faces of your group, all of them looking weak and on your last legs.

You couldn’t keep going much longer like this.

You all stumbled down the road again, walking silently and so slow you were sure you could easily be mistaken for walkers. You all felt half dead by now.

“Thanks.” You smiled to Glenn when he passed you your last bottle of water, taking a small sip, enough to wet your lips.

Daryl refused when Glenn tried to pass him the water, you knew he was going without so it’d last more, and you could do nothing but watch in worry as he left towards the woods without a word.

At some point ahead of the road, you found several bottles of water with a note attached to them, saying they were from a friend. Rick didn’t want you to drink it, though, afraid they might have something in, though your throat felt so dry you almost didn’t care.

Before you had time to find anything about the water, you heard the rumble of thunders and rain began falling as a miracle. You smiled to Daryl in bliss, but his face was still serious, so you reached out to brush his wet hair away from his hair.

“Come on, this is good, told you we’d pull through...”

He said nothing but leaned into your touch for a second.

You all rushed to catch as much water as possible in your empty bottles, but soon the storm turned dangerously strong and Daryl led you to a barn he had found as it seemed dangerous to be outside with the heavy rain and lighting.

There wasn’t but a walker inside the barn, so you all settled in for the night.

Some of you sat down around the fire, while others slept or tried to. You had been talking quietly with Maggie for a bit, checking on her but unable to offer her much comfort, and you left her so she could sleep, or pretend to, and went to sit with Daryl next to the fire.

He was hugging his knees, silent and sullen, listening to Rick told a story about his grandfather.

“We tell ourselves that we are the walking dead.”

You couldn’t help your shiver at the end of Rick’s story.

“We ain’t them.”

 You looked at Daryl when he spoke up, a bit surprised. You made to reach out for his hand but he was already getting up and walking away, and you got up to follow him.

“Hey,” You reached out for his hand, stopping him from pacing around. “You’re right, we aren’t them.”

Daryl just shrugged but laced his fingers with yours and you pulled him close for a kiss, smiling softly when he put his forehead on yours for a moment before pulling back.

“Go to sleep, Y/N.”

You tried, but couldn’t, with the loud thunders outside and the groans of the barn as the storm hit it. Not to mention your own worries. You got up and went looking for Daryl, who was at the door keeping watch.

“I can’t sleep...”

You whispered to him, closing your eyes when he lifted his hand to caress over your cheek, nuzzling into his touch. You opened your eyes when you felt him suddenly pull away and turn towards the door.

“What?”

“I heard something...”

You moved closer to the door and your blood froze in your veins when you saw a herd of walkers coming. Daryl threw himself at the door, trying to keep it close and you ran to tell the others.

Soon you were all pushing at it, trying to keep it close while the walkers pushed it relentlessly, almost managing to tear it down, but you didn’t give up, pushing it close with all your strength.

It ended as suddenly as it had begun, with a big thunder and a bigger, terrifying thud outside. You would check it in the morning, though, right now it was too dangerous to go out, the storm one of the strongest you had ever seen, and you all were exhausted.

You sat down against one of the walls, shivering, still scared. Daryl noticed and sat down next to you, pulling you into his arms, only loosening his tight grip when you stopped shaking.

You lied down on the floor, resting your head on his tight, sure you wouldn’t be able to sleep, but when he began playing with your hair you began to relax, and soon you were asleep. You woke up not much later when you felt Daryl moving and you opened your eyes to find him tinkering with the music box Carl had found for Maggie.

“What are you doing?” You whispered, half asleep.

“Fixing it. I didn’t mean to wake you, I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay...” You had barely finished the sentence when exhaustion took over you again.

Next time you woke up, the sun was already filtering into the barn and you could hear Daryl and Maggie talking quietly. You yawned and sat up.

“Morning,” Maggie greeted you with a sad, yet sweet smile. “I’m going to keep watch with Sasha. Sleep.” She commanded to Daryl, and you gave her a grateful smile when you saw Daryl letting go of his crossbow as he actually listened to Maggie’s words.

You chuckled quietly when he pushed you until you were lying on your back so he could rest his head on your chest, and you wrapped your arms around him.

“Are you okay?” You asked, out of habit.

“Gonna be.”

That was better than a nod, and you couldn’t help your smile, holding him tight to you and combing your fingers through his hair, hoping to help him relax enough to sleep a bit.

***

When Maggie and Sasha came back, they weren’t alone, they brought a man called Aaron with them.  Daryl rushed away from you to search him while the others eyed him warily, you all had grown distrustful of strangers.

Sasha explained he had told them he had a camp, and how he wanted you to join it. The man said it was no camp but a real community, which sparked your attention. You were tired of living like that, going from place to place without settling in, always running low in food and water, running away from the monsters, hiding and scared.

None seemed to trust him, though, and you could understand it. You hadn’t had the best of luck meeting other communities.

Aaron seemed to understand it and wanted to ease your worries so he had even brought pictures of his community. Pictures, real pictures, and they had a camera...you were in awe. The closest thing you had seen was the tiny Polaroid Glenn had found.

Aaron and the pictures of the walls promised you a safe place and you moved closer to Rick to inspect the pictures while Aaron kept talking about how they need people to be stronger. It was the same as you had thought back at the prison, when you began to take people in.

You couldn’t see past the first picture, though, because Rick dropped them to the ground. He strode to Aaron and sent him to the ground, unconscious, from a punch.

“What the shit...”

You understood you all had to be cautious and distrustful, but still, the man had seemed peaceful and nothing like a threat. Michonne and you shared a look, she seemed to think like you, but when she tried to tell Rick he just ignored her, sure that you were going to be attacked by those people.

You rolled your eyes and shook your head, kneeling to inspect the pictures.

Aaron came back to his senses fairly quick, just after Daryl and Carol tied him up, and Rick began questioning him, though nothing he said would satisfy him and you were starting to get frustrated.

You were grateful when Michonne kept sharing her opinion with Rick, knowing he’d listen to her more than to you. You voiced your agreement with her and so did Maggie, forcing Rick to listen to you.

Aaron had driven there with another person in two cars, enough to take you all to their community, so in order to see if he was saying the truth, Michonne suggested some of you went to check the cars.

Maggie, Michonne, Glenn, Rosita, and Abraham would go to see if they could find the cars. You thought about going with them too, but finally decided to stay with Daryl.

Rick, still sure everything was just a big trap, wanted the rest of you to cover the ground around the barn, find somewhere safe to hide and wait in case the barn were ambushed, while he’d stay inside with Judith and Aaron.

You all split up and you followed Daryl until he found a place in the woods next to the barn, almost hidden between the trees but from which you could see the barn.

“Hey, can we talk for a moment?” You kneeled next to him when he crouched down, his crossbow trained on the barn.

“Sure.” He murmured without looking at you.

“I don’t think Rick is doing the right thing with all this...” You began and Daryl frowned at you. “I don’t think Aaron’s a threat.”

“We can’t just trust anyone who appears out of nowhere, saying he had a community and what not...”

You had known Daryl wouldn’t agree with you, not at first at least.

“I know...I’m not saying we trust him blindly, but he had every chance to attack us and he didn’t, and he brought proof...” Daryl was still scowling at you but at least he was listening. “I saw the pictures, Daryl. It’s a real place, it’s safe...”

“And why does he want us there, why coming to find us?”

“He said it, because people are resources, the more we are the easier it’s to survive...We used to think like that, we helped people, took them in our community...”

“So said Woodbury. So said Terminus.”

“I know...” You let out a deflated sigh. “But this feels different...and is not worth a shot? If we had the chance to find a safe place? Somewhere we can live? We can’t keep going like this, without a safe place, barely any water and food...we wouldn’t last long...and that...that’s not life...”

Maybe it was stupid, maybe you were naive, but you couldn’t just ignore a chance like that. It could be another trap but it could also be your chance of surviving, maybe even living...

“I know...”

Daryl left go of his crossbow and sat down next to you, reaching to lace his fingers with yours, and you smiled at him.

“I’m not sure Rick’s gonna want to, though, no matter how many proof we have...”

“He’s trying to keep us safe, can’t let his guard down,” Daryl replied, always loyal to his friend. You liked it, even if now it was a bit frustrating.

“What do you think of Aaron?” You trusted Daryl’s instincts about people.

“Dunno...we can’t trust him just cos he doesn’t seem like a threat himself.” Daryl shrugged and you knew he hadn’t even paid much attention to Aaron, he’d just sprung into action mode and done what Rick commanded in order to protect you.

“I know...but if he’s not lying...if that place’s real and they want us...we can’t ignore it without check it first.”

You knew Maggie and Michonne were with you, and you hoped they’d find the cars and managed to convince Rick, who was mistrustful even to the point of paranoia, no matter you could understand where he was coming from.

“You want to go then?”

You looked at Daryl before answering, wondering what he was hoping you’d to say, what he wanted to do, but his expression was unreadable, so you decided just to be honest.

“Yeah...if there’s a place where we can be safe and have a life, I want to go. You don’t?”

Daryl seemed to think it for a moment before nodding slowly.

“It’d be good for Carl and Judith, they deserve it. You deserve it.”

“You do too.” You reached out to cup his face with your hand when Daryl just shrugged. “You do.”

Daryl said nothing but leaned to press a kiss to your lips before focusing his attention back to the barn.

***

Michonne and the others came back after having found Aaron’s vehicles and bringing with them a lot of cans of food and drinks.

After it, it was clear most of you wanted to try your luck and go to his community, but Rick still wasn’t sure about, still believing it to be some kind of trick.

Michonne seemed fed up with him, though, so she spoke up, saying you’d go together and asking if anyone disagreed. None said anything, and you grinned to Daryl when he voiced his agreement.

Finally, Rick agreed too.

There were still more negotiations before going, since Aaron wanted to drive you to his home instead of telling you how to get there. It was understandable, at least for you, he couldn’t risk you going there and ambushing them. You might mistrust them, but they were entitled to mistrust you just the same. And in all honesty, by this point you all had done questionable things in order to survive.

Neither Rick nor Michonne wanted him to drive, and finally, they reached an agreement, Aaron would give them indications as they drove. Rick, still not trusting him at all, wanted to take detours, ignoring Aaron advice against it, those roads might not be free of walkers.

Not only that, but Rick wanted to go at sundown.

You rolled your eyes, frustrated. All of you knew how dangerous was to be out there at night, especially in roads that Aaron believed would have walkers, Aaron himself was trying to make Rick understand it...but Rick wouldn’t change his mind.

“If we get eaten right before we reach a damn safe place, I’m smacking Rick’s head in my last breath.” You complained to Daryl, tired of your leader’s stubbornness, no matter it was well meant.

Daryl said nothing but wrapped his arm around your shoulders.

There was no way of changing Rick’s mind, and so you all waited in the barn for the sun to go down.

You sat down next to Daryl, who was fumbling with his crossbow, getting it ready you guessed, though he seemed lost in thought.

“We’ll be fine.” You leaned to kiss his shoulder. “As long as we’re together, we’ll be fine.”

He nodded, giving you a small smile before turning his attention back to his crossbow.

***

Aaron had been right, driving at night through roads he wasn’t sure were clear had soon proved to be a terrible idea, as you found a big herd of walkers roaming up the road.

Glenn, Michonne, and Rick were in the car with Aaron, and you were in the RV with the others, Abraham at the wheel. You almost fell to the floor when he swerved suddenly to avoid the walkers, but Daryl held you to him.

Abraham managed to drive past some walkers, taking a smaller side road which seemed clear of walkers. In the way, you lost sight of the other vehicle but when you tried to drive back, a herd of walkers was blocking your path and so you kept going forward.

When you saw a flare up the sky, you couldn’t do much but follow it, hoping it was Rick and the others telling you where they were.

The others weren’t there, but you found a man trying to crawl away from some walkers and you all jumped out of the RV to help him, making quick work of the geeks.

The man introduced himself as Eric, the person who had gone with Aaron on his mission to find you and take you to their community, and also his boyfriend. He had a broken ankle and Maggie began to help him with it, it was clear that man was not a threat, not even if he’d have wanted to, but also he didn’t look like one. He was skittish at first, until he was sure you meant no harm, and then kind and sweet, and you liked him immediately.

You didn’t seem to be alone in that, none of the others seemed to mistrust him, and you all took refuge inside a warehouse, waiting for Rick and the others to come back. Eric assured you Aaron would follow the flare, it was their signal for when they wanted the other to come if something had gone wrong.

He had shot it, scared after Aaron him being missing for so long without contacting him, and now you only had to wait, hoping they’d be able to clear their way through the walkers.

They did, arriving while Daryl and you were on watch, and soon Rick began again with his distrust in Aaron and Eric. By now you all were sure they were no liars trying to trick you, and so it didn’t take much for Glenn to calm Rick down.

You all passed the night there and in the morning, you drove to the community.

When you reached it, you couldn’t deny you were a bit intimidated and quite impressed by its tall, sturdy walls, and how big the place seemed, even though you couldn’t see the inside.

The door opened and you all walked into Alexandria.

Chapter Text

Alexandria was...

It was...it was strange. The kind of place you’d never expected to see again, some kind of suburbian housing area that had probably been madly expensive in the world before, with big, luxurious houses, gardens and parks surrounding them, even a lake, all seemingly untouched by the madness of the world outside, all prim and proper...you looked around in awe.

Before you could settle in, you all had to conduct an interview with their leader, Deanna. Rick went first and you sat down on the ground to wait.

“This is...strange...” You said to Daryl when he sat down next to you after pacing around restlessly for a bit, and he nodded. “What do you think?”

“I don’t know...” He was frowning as he looked around and didn’t seem much happy about what he was seeing.

“It’s safe though...look at those walls. We’d be safe here...” You added.

The place was strange and confusing, but you wanted to stay nonetheless, it felt safe, with walls sturdier than the fences you had had at the prison. You hoped you were accepted and that Rick decided to stay.

You weren’t sure about what Daryl wanted, though, soon he was on his feet again, resuming his nervous pacing and you wondered if he was afraid it might be a trick and you might be in danger, or if he just didn’t like the place.

He was reluctant to be interviewed, getting all defensive when Deanna asked for him after Rick, but it was unavoidable if you wanted to be accepted, and so he went. You had wanted to go with him, sure you both would feel more at ease if you were together, but they hadn’t allowed you. The interviews had to be one by one.

You were suddenly nervous during yours, you hadn’t felt like that since you had done the one and only job interview you had done in all your life. Deanna was kind but there was no doubt about her being the leader of Alexandria, it was clear in her manners, and the easy leadership that she seemed to exude.

She had also a way at looking into you, as if she could read you and look deep into you, reading your feelings and desires, even if you tried to hide them. Or maybe it was all in your head.

You lied to her, though, when she asked what had you been in the past, you weren’t even sure why. You told her you had been a shop assistant in a village, hiding your teacher past. You didn’t like to think about it, it didn’t feel real anymore, neither you felt like coming back to your old job. It was funny, you had liked your job, but now you didn’t even remember why, or how it was to be a teacher.

“I’ve been going on supply runs for quite a while now, I can scavenge well and I have good aim. I used to take guard duty daily too, and worked clearing walkers off our fences...back when we had a place.”

You listed as your better traits when she asked you to talk about yourself, as you’d do in a job interview, though you didn’t know what kind of job you were auditioning for. You just wanted to stay behind those walls.

You almost had to laugh when she asked you if you wanted to stay in Alexandria and why. Like you could turn down a chance to live safe, as safe as you could in this world, without being hungry, thirsty and scared all the time.

You were surprised when she offered you a job, saying if you wanted to stay you’d be expected to help around. For starters, she wanted to see how well you could perform in a supply run, and you’d be joining her usual team. When you finished your interview, you headed back outside to your group, Rosita taking your place.

“How was it?” You asked Daryl, you hadn’t had a chance before, and he just shrugged. “Do you want to stay here?” You asked with baited breath.

If he didn’t want to...you didn’t know what to do. You didn’t want to force him to be somewhere he didn’t want to but you didn’t feel like going outside again, leaving the safety of the walls.

“It’s safe...”  He shrugged though he looked around warily.

“You hate it.” You whispered, looking down, trying to hide the disappointment in your eyes.

“It ain’t that...” He shifted his weight from one foot the other awkwardly, his fingers twitching as he always did when nervous “I told you, Carl and Judith deserve it.” Daryl said when you remained silent. “You deserve it.”

“We all deserve it.”

The interviews finished, everyone agreed they wanted to stay in, and you all were welcomed in Alexandria Safe Zone.

First you had to hand over your weapons and then Aaron walked you two the two houses they were giving you.

You blinked at them in disbelieve. They looked totally new and were big, the bigger houses you had ever seen, probably they had cost more than you could have ever afforded. And they were expecting you to settle in as if they were yours.

Alexandria was strange.

You walked in, looking around at the luxurious interior in awe, the big kitchen and bigger living room, several big bedrooms, bathrooms with running water...not only running water but hot water, and there was electricity also. You remembered Deanna saying something about the community being self-sufficient. You couldn’t even say a word, shocked as you were, looking at everything in open-mouthed amazement.

Daryl had stayed outside in the porch so as soon as you finished scooping around the house, you went out to join him, leaving Maggie and Glenn sitting down on an inviting couch that looked like the most comfortable thing you had ever seen. Besides those big, fluffy beds at the bedrooms.

“You don’t want to check the place?” You asked Daryl, big grin in your face. “It’s incredible, I’d never seen a house like this, not outside the tv or magazines at least...”

“I don’t care.”

Daryl didn’t look up from the possum he was skinning and you let out a sigh. It was obvious he didn’t like the place.

“They have running water, electricity...” You listed the useful qualities of the house, hoping that would draw him more.

“Hmm.”

It didn’t seem to be working that well.

“They have enough food for all of us too.”

You nodded at the possum he was getting ready. The house was stocked with food, enough cans to last you for a couple of weeks, and you had also been welcomed to go to the store where they kept food if you needed something.

“I don’t need their food.”

“Okay...”

You looked down with a lump in your throat at the biting tone in his voice. Daryl seemed to notice because he looked at you, chewing on his lip. He reached out his hand but didn’t touch you, his hands stained with the blood of the possum, and you sat down next to him in silence.

“Woah...you look so weird.” You couldn’t help your giggle at Rick when he walked out of the house with a shaven face and short hair. You didn’t remember ever seeing him with such a clean face. “In a good way, I mean.” You added when he raised his eyebrows at you.

No matter you all had decided to stay, Rick still mistrusted the place, and Daryl and Carol seemed to share his feelings. They didn’t like the idea of being separated into two groups, so you all settled together in the living room of one of the houses.

The big beds called to you, but you liked the feeling of being surrounded by your people, all close in that big living room. You felt safe and comforted. You joined the queue for the shower, you weren’t going to miss the hot water.

You tried not to stay in the shower for too long, but you hummed in delight at the feeling of the hot water pouring over your skin. That was paradise. You also had not only a toothbrush but also toothpaste...you felt you had just fallen into another reality.

You had also been given some clothes and you rummaged through them until you found a pair of trousers that fitted you if you folded up the ends and a plain tank top.

You opened the door and found Michonne waiting for her shower.

“Look. No holes, no blood stains...I feel strange.” You twirled, showing her the clothes and she laughed with you heartily. You knew she liked this place.

Back in the living room, everyone had begun settling in for the night. Daryl was sitting down on a table he had pushed against the window, looking through it. You joined him, leaning to kiss his cheek and sitting down next to him. He gave you a weak smile before turning back to look through the window again.

You jumped when there was a knock on the door but it was just Deanna, coming to check on you, seeming surprised and a bit amused when she saw you all together there. Much as you tried, you couldn’t see anything threatening vibes in her, no matter her hard manners, she was just someone who worked hard to keep her community standing.

She announced she already had a job in mind for Rick and Michonne, though she’d announce it when it was time, and she was apparently trying to figure out something that would suit Daryl and Sasha.

When she left, Daryl went back to sitting on the table and you sat down behind him, wrapping your arms around his shoulders and curling against his back.

“She doesn’t know you. Doesn’t know you’re the most resourceful of us all.” You whispered to him. You didn’t think he’d be bothered by Deanna not finding him a job, but just in case...

Daryl just shrugged without a word and you kissed his shoulder but said nothing else.

Soon everyone settled for the night, taking advantage of the couches, pillows, and blankets. Maggie, who was curled up with Glenn in one of the couches, passed you a cushion and you grabbed a spare blanket too.

You went back to the table, Daryl was still there, and spread the fluffy blanket over it, placing the cushion against the corner of the window. You sat back against it and reached out for Daryl.

“Come on.”

“Nah, someone has to kept watch.”

“No need. Walls are sturdy, door is locked, we’re safe. You have to sleep.”

Daryl seemed to consider it, reluctant, but finally he shifted closer to you, crawling between your legs to nestle against your chest and you wiggled a bit, leaning back more comfortably against the cushions. You rested your head on top of Daryl’s, securing your arms around him, and began to run his fingers through his long hair, which always managed to relax you, and soon you were asleep.

Next day, everyone went out to explore the place, besides Daryl, who sat down gloomy on the porch.

He nodded his head towards the others when you sat down next to him.

“Come on, go with them.”

“I’m fine here.”

Daryl just stayed silent and you let out a sigh.

“Why you hate this place?” You asked him softly, not sure if he’d answer you.

“I don’t hate it...” He shrugged awkwardly. “It’s just...this place is...”

“It’s weird, I know.” You nodded. “But it’s safe, it’s better than keep trying to survive out there.”

“Hmm...” Daryl was looking down again, hugging his knees, and you hated how miserable he looked.

“Hey,” You placed your hand on his arm. “If you don’t like it here, we don’t have to stay.”

His eyes snapped back at you and he frowned. “I wouldn’t make you leave this.”

“It’s not you making me do something, it’s me not wanting you to be unhappy.”

“I’m fine. We’re staying.”

He was not fine, but you didn’t want to fight or pressure him, so you let it go. You wouldn’t doubt about leaving Alexandria, as much as you hated the idea of leaving a safe place, if Daryl was miserable in it, but you honestly weren’t sure you could leave your family behind. The idea broke your heart, and you knew Daryl would never want you to make that decision. Besides, he loved them too.

“Okay...”

“Come on, go explore.”

You were reluctant to leave him there and you surveyed him, trying to see if he really wanted to be alone or if he might just think you rather go with the others.

“I’m fine, Y/N, come on.”

“Alright...” If Daryl wanted to be alone, then you’d let him, but you’d come back to him soon.

You leaned to kiss him. “I love you...” You whispered against his lips, feeling him smile.  “I’ll be back in a moment.”

You walked around Alexandria, unable to find the others, looking at all the big, perfect looking houses and the green areas. Everyone around looked perfectly normal, as if the world outside hadn’t touched them. Some looked at you warily, but mostly they just seemed curious, and a couple of them waved to you as you passed near their houses.

It was domestic, normal, and totally weird to you.

You wandered for a short while, looking for your people. Place was big, and you were about to give up and go back to the home you had been given when you spotted Carl in a garden, talking with a couple of teens.

You smiled looking at him. It was good, him getting to be with people of his age, maybe making friends...he seemed to be feeling a bit out of place, though. It seemed like all of you were feeling a bit strange in this stranger place.

You decided to go back without alerting Carl of your presence, letting him be with those boys, hoping he’d manage to make friends, but before you could leave, a man stepped out of one of the nearby houses and made his way towards him.

No.

It couldn’t be.

It wasn’t possible.

Even from afar, you’d recognize him anywhere. The blood froze in your veins and you didn’t even realize you were shaking and short of breath, your eyes wet. You couldn’t move, couldn’t do anything, as you watched your mother’s husband place his hand on one of the boy’s shoulders and talk with Carl.

You felt dizzy and you wondered if you were hallucinating. How could he be there? What was the chance? It was impossible.

Maybe you were dreaming. This Alexandria place didn’t feel real, couldn’t be real, a place like that couldn’t exist in the world anymore...sure you were dreaming everything...

You closed your eyes tight, digging your nails into your palms, but when you opened them he was still there.

And the boy...could he be? You squinted, trying to find something familiar in his features, though it had been so long since the last time you saw him as a little kid... But it must be him, you thought you noticed some similarities...

You felt you were about to faint and you watched, as if in a dream, how the boy waved goodbye to Carl and walked into the house with the man you’d never wanted to see again.

Carl began walking in your direction, frowning when he spotted you.

“Y/N...Y/N, are you okay?” You tried to nod but couldn’t and Carl seemed to grow worrier. “Y/N, what’s wrong?”

You still didn’t move, didn’t say a word, but didn’t resist when Carl took your hand and walked you back to the house. You were still in shock. You must have looked out of sorts, because when Daryl saw you he jumped onto his feet, rushing to you.

“Y/N?” He was peering at your with concern but you still couldn’t say a word. “What happened to her?”

“I don’t know...” Carl shrugged, obviously worried about you. “I found her like that on the street...”

“Y/N?” Daryl grabbed your arms, making you look at him. “Did someone do something to you?” Worry and now also anger were clear in his eyes.

You managed to shake your head and slumped down onto the stairs of the porch.

“What is it?” Daryl knelt next to you, cupping your face with his hands.

“I saw him.” You muttered, still in shock and feeling like in a dream, but now at least able to say some words. “My brother...”

Rick and Carol were walking down the street, back to the house too, and they rushed when they saw you.

“What’s going on?” Rick looked from Carl, who shrugged helplessly, to Daryl, who didn’t take his eyes away from you and was now holding your hand. “They tried to do something to you?”

You shook your head no but didn’t say a word.

“She said she saw her brother...”

 Daryl supplied and Rick frowned at you as if confused. You didn’t remember if you had ever told him you had a brother.

Carol sat down next to you, placing her hand on your forehead as if she thought you might be hallucinating from a fever. But you weren’t, and you were slowly coming back to yourself, though your heart was still pumping fast and you kept shivering from time to time. You knew what you had seen. They weren’t a hallucination, this wasn’t a dream...no matter how surreal it was.

You leaned back, pulling for forehead away from Carol’s palm but keeping your hand on Daryl’s.

“I’m okay...” You said, though you didn’t sound very convincing. “My brother...he’s one of the boys Carl was talking to...I’m sure...”

“Chris...?” Carl asked.

That was your brother’s name...you were right, it was him... you were so shocked you couldn’t even be happy, and you were scared too...

“Yes, yes, it’s him...” You said quietly, your eyes wet. “He was with his father...”

Daryl’s hand twitched in yours. You had told him enough about your stepfather and you knew Daryl didn’t harbor the best of feelings towards him.

“Did he saw you?” Carol questioned you, she also knew enough about him to not want you near him.

“No...no I don’t think so...”

“Do you want to go and talk with them? Want us to go with you?” Rick was frowning at you as if confused, probably wondering why you weren’t elated and what you were doing shivering there instead of celebrating that you had found your long-lost family.

Carol gave him a look and he seemed to see something in it, but you decided to fill him in anyway...or at least you tried.

“My mother’s husband...he’s not...he and I...we don’t...I...” You babbled helpless, knowing you weren’t making sense, feeling a lump in your throat.

“Hey, it’s okay.” Rick bent down to pat your shoulder. “Why don’t we give you a moment?” He looked at Daryl, who nodded. “Carol, Carl, I want to check the other side of this place, come with me?”

They nodded and off they went. You weren’t stupid, you knew he wanted Carol to tell him as much as she knew about what was going on, but still you were grateful they weren’t pushing you, sure you’d break down.

Daryl sat down next to you, still holding your hand and looking at you helplessly, as if he didn’t know what to do.

“I’m okay...” You tried to reassure him.

“You ain’t.”

You took deep breaths, closing your eyes, trying to get a hold of yourself. At least now you didn’t feel dizzy or like in a dream, and you knew Daryl understood you without you needing to put into words how you were feeling.

“I just don’t understand it... I thought I was hallucinating...but I wasn’t..How can it be real, though? What are the odds?”

“I found my brother again too.”

You nodded. That was true, even though all of you had thought Merle had died, he and Daryl had met again in the most unexpected place, just like you and your brother seemed to have done.

You reached out to brush your fingers over Daryl’s cheek, wondering if he missed Merle.

“My mother’s husband...” You didn’t finish the sentence, shivering again, but you didn’t need to, not to Daryl.

“He won’t do anything to you.” Daryl wrapped an arm around you protectively, pulling you to him, his eyes hard.

You couldn’t help your small smile, feeling better already. You knew Daryl wouldn’t even let your stepdad look at you the wrong way, but you didn’t want Daryl getting into trouble because of you.

Still, it made you feel better. You had him and you had a real family now, they loved you and took care of you. You were safe with them, they wouldn’t let anything bad happen to you. It was a nice feeling, it warmed your heart, feeling backed up and protected like that.

Those feelings touched you to the point that a couple of tears rolled down your cheeks again. You tried to brush them away quickly when you saw Daryl getting scared by it.

“He won’t.” He cupped your face with his hands. “We won’t let him. I won’t let him hurt you.”

“I know, I know.” You assured him, giving him a weak smile and reached to brush his hair away from his face. “I’m just happy I have you and a family that cares about me now...”

“You and me both...” He gave you a soft smile before leaning to kiss you.

“We don’t have to stay here.” He told you when your lips parted. “We can leave.”

“No.” You shook your head determinedly. “No, I’m not leaving just because he’s here, I’m not giving up this place because of him, I won’t let him take this from me...” Like hell you were going to leave a safe place just because of that prick...he wouldn’t kick you out of anywhere anymore. “And I’m not leaving my brother again...not when I might have a second chance...”

The idea scared you, though...would he remember you? Would he be mad at you? What might he think of you?

“Okay.”

Daryl wrapped his arms around and you buried your face on his chest, crying again though you didn’t really know why, your emotions and your shock at everything that had happened in such a short time taking a hold of you...finding a safe yet weird and suspiciously normal looking place, finding out your stepdad and brother were there...

Daryl said nothing, just held you close, running his fingers through your hair as he let you cry as much as you needed.

By the time Carol, Rick, and Carl where back, you were feeling better and almost like yourself again. You were still curled up with Daryl on the stairs, him playing with your hair, but your tears had dried and you were more serene and calm.

“So...what do you want to do about it?” Rick asked, directly to the point.

Daryl gave him an angry look, as if not wanting him to upset you, but you were good enough to talk now.

“Nothing for now...I want to see my brother, I want to talk to him...” You were scared he might not remember you, though. “My mother too...though I don’t know if she’d want to see me...” Your heart hurt at the idea of your mother rejecting you again. “But my mother’s husband...I don’t want to be near him...I...I’ll think something...”

“We can take care of him...” Rick said with hard eyes, and you felt Daryl nod

You almost smiled. For sure you had never been better protected and taken care of in your life.

“No, we’re not getting kicked out of here because of that prick.”

“Alright, but if he tries something, you tell us.” Rick pated your shoulder before following Carl inside the house.

“Sure boss,” You called after him, smiling. “Just...don't tell anyone yet please?”

You didn’t feel ready for everyone to know.

“Okay.”

As the sun began to go down, everyone returned to the house, all of them talking about what they had seen, the people they had met and their opinion about this strange place.

You stood in the porch with Daryl, watching the sunset.

“What if my brother doesn’t remember me?” You whispered to him. So many years had passed...you were sure your brother wouldn’t know who you were.

“Then now he can get to know you.”

“What if he doesn’t like me?”

“Why he wouldn’t?”

“I don’t know...” You shrugged. “Maybe he’s mad at me...”

“Stop it.” Daryl kissed your forehead.

“I’m scared...” You admitted.

“Don’t be.” Daryl pulled you closer to him. “I’ve got you.”

You gave him a soft smile.

“Come on, let’s find a corner to sleep in before everyone hoards all the blankets and pillows.”

Chapter Text

Next morning everyone got up as soon as the sun rose.

Some wanted to keep exploring the place and meeting people, others had appointments with Deanna, and others were already starting their jobs.

Carol walked down the stairs and you blinked at her in disbelieve.

“What are you wearing? You look like some middle-aged suburban mother of three.”

“Which is exactly how I want to look.” She winked at you. “I’m invisible here, darling, I’m going to get to know these people and see what they are up to. Gonna lure them with my casseroles.”

“You just...lost all your sex appeal all of a sudden.” You teased but Carol really did look strange like that, different.

She pushed you playfully with her shoulder and walked out of the house.

“I’ll hose you down in your sleep.”

You walked out in time to hear her saying to Daryl as she walked away. You chuckled and sat down next to Daryl.

“I’ll hold you down while she does it.”

He rolled his eyes and kept fumbling with his crossbow.

“What’re you doing?” You noticed one of his fingers bleeding and took his hand to inspect it.

“Getting it ready.”

“I’m jealous of your crossbow again...we can’t have our guns but you can have it...totally unfair.” You half-joked and Daryl gave you a small smile.

“I have to meet with Deanna’s son and his team.” You informed. “I think they want me to join them next run.”

Daryl frowned, you’d known he wouldn’t like it.

“I don’t like you going out with those people.”

“It will be fine.” You assured him, lifting his hand to your lips to kiss his knuckles. “I’ll be with Glenn, Tara, and Noah too.”

Daryl nodded, though it was clear he still didn’t like it.

“Be careful.”

It wasn’t usual for you to go on runs without him, and you knew he worried about you being out there scavenging, especially with people he didn’t trust yet.

“Of course.” You smiled at him, trying to reassure him, and leaned to kiss his cheek.

You wished he could join you. You didn’t like to be away from him and you’d worry about him, knowing how unhappy he was in Alexandria...the idea of leaving him alone there made your heart clench. Not to mention you’d feel way safer if he was with you, and it’d also ease his worries about your wellbeing.

You wondered if you could talk to Deanna about it. She still hadn’t told to Daryl what he could do to contribute to the community.

“I have to go...” You said quietly.

“Okay.”

“You’ll be okay alone here?”

You didn’t like the idea, even though Michonne had told you she’d keep an eye on him when she saw you pacing around worriedly. She still didn’t have a job and had nothing to do but keep trying to know more about Alexandria.

“Yeah...I can take care of myself, Y/N...”

Daryl gave you a small, weak smile, that just saddened you more instead of making you feel better, but you said nothing.

“Okay.”

You cupped his face and kissed his lips goodbye.

***

The dry run didn’t go well...actually, it was a total nightmare.

Right after meeting Aiden, you’d already thought him to be a cocky idiot, but you’d decided not to judge him without giving him a chance.

He was, indeed, an idiot, just like his partner Nicholas.

It all had seemed to be a big, morbid game to them, and you’d watched in horror and disbelieve as they lured a walker that had killed one of their own, wanting to tie him on a tree as some sort of wicked punishment, without allowing you to kill him, no matter the danger, until it’d almost bitted Tara and you all had stormed back to Alexandria.

Back inside, that dam cocky asshole had the nerve to say it was your fault, that you weren’t ready for gigs.

You felt your blood boil and you turned around, feeling like you could just spat to Aiden’s face, but before you could do anything an argument broke between him and Glenn, catching the attention of a group of people, including Deanna, who you could see making her way to you.

“Glenn, come on, it’s not worthy.” You glared at Aiden in disgust. “He’s not worthy.”

“Why did you let these people in?” Aiden was asking to her mother, and you snorted.

“Because we actually know what we’re doing.” Glenn retorted.

Before any of could do anything, Aiden was throwing a punch to Glenn, who dodged it easily and sent Aiden to the ground with a punch of his own. Things escalated as Nicholas tried to go against Glenn too, but Daryl turned up to stop him, pinning him to the floor.

“I said stop it.”

 Deanna was trying to stop everyone and then Rick and Michonne were joining her too.

“Daryl.”

You placed your hand on his shoulder, not wanting him to get into trouble. He shook you off but Rick managed to drag him away from Nicholas and you watched in worry how Daryl paced from side to side as if still wanting to go for Nicholas and Aiden, though Rick kept stepping in front of him.

“Rick and his people are part of his community now in all ways as equals.”

Deanna announced and you couldn’t deny you were glad she was standing on your side.

You walked closer to Daryl, taking his hand on yours but keeping your attention on Deanna, who was offering Rick and Michonne a job as constables. It seemed your people were finding their feet in that town.

You heard Daryl scoff and he shook off your hand, grabbing his crossbow and walking away fast.

“Hey!” You called after him but he ignored you. “Daryl! Wait!”

You followed him to a secluded area without any neighbors around, where he finally stopped though he kept pacing furiously from side to side, his eyes hard and angry.

“Calm down...”

“She throws us a bone we’re her lapdogs now?” He glared at you.

“It’s not like that. Rick and Michonne being constables here is important.” You tried to reason. “Give us authority.”

“Yeah, sure.” Daryl scoffed.

“It’s true...Deanna sees we’re useful...”

“I saw how you and Rick were looking at me...like I was feral...” Daryl resumed his pacing. “Like it was my fault and not of those pricks who attacked Glenn.”

“That’s not true...” You said, a little hurt. “I would never think that of you and I know you were trying to help us...but I didn’t want you getting into trouble, things were getting out of hand...”

It was a luck Deanna had backed you up, you had feared she’d kick you out for fighting against not only her people bur her son, or worse, that she’d try to punish you in any other way. But she was proving to be a good leader, Alexandria was not Woodbury, that was clear.

Daryl still seemed to think you had turned on him or something, because he scoffed again, shaking his head. You knew he felt out of place there and it was making him react like that, but still, it hurt you that he believed you could think ill of him.

“Think whatever you want.”

You turned on your heels and headed back home, feeling a lump in your throat. You didn’t want to fight with Daryl and you knew if you kept trying to talk while you both were upset, you’d end up arguing, so you just left and resisted the urge to cry.

You had been sitting down on the porch for a while, some of the others already returning to the house as the sun started to go down, when Daryl came back too.

He sat down next to you in silence and you snorted quietly when you noticed him trying to slowly scoot closer to you, not as subtly as he probably wanted. You turned your head and placed a peace-offering kiss on his arm.

“I’m sorry...” He said, ever so quietly.

“I know you don’t like to be here...” You said softly.

Daryl stayed silent for a moment and you snuggled against his arm, resting your head on his shoulder.

“I don’t fit in here...”

He finally whispered into your hair and you pulled away so you could look at him.

“You fit with us, like always. Nothing has changed.”

Daryl just shrugged and you decided to let it go for now, not wanting to push him. You snuggled closer again and he wrapped an arm around your shoulders.

“So the run wasn’t good?” He asked you and you let out a groan.

“It was a nightmare. I wonder how those two idiots manage to keep these people feed...they “ You complained. “Tara was almost bit because of their stupid games with the walkers...”

You felt his grip on you tighten.

“Deanna knows it, I think...” She had thanked Glenn for knocking Aiden’s arrogant ass to the floor. “She knows we can survive out there, that’s why she wants us here.” Looking around it was clear most of the people wouldn’t know what to do against the threats of the world outside.

“I don’t want to go out on more runs with them.” You admitted, even though you felt bad for abandoning Glenn, Tara, and Noah. “I can’t stand Aiden...I can’t work with them...”

“I rather you don’t go with them...” Daryl nodded, though you knew he wouldn’t interfere if you wished to keep going on runs.

“I’ll talk to Deanna...”

“You haven’t talked with your brother yet?”

“No...” You dropped your head, ashamed. Your fear had won against your wish to see him, no matter how happy you were he was alive and there. You felt anxious just thinking about walking up to him. “Maybe tomorrow.”

Daryl nodded but said nothing. You didn’t push him to talk when he wasn’t ready and neither did he push you.

You could hear people starting to make dinner inside and you lazily got up to help.

“Come on?” You reached out your hand for Daryl.

“In a minute.”

You nodded at Daryl, who took a cigarette out of his pocket, and walked inside.

You blinked when you saw Rick walking down the stairs wearing the sheriff uniform.

“First Carol, now you...” You said with a half amused smile as you saw him walk out, Carol following him.

“So...I take we’re staying.” Maggie brought up once everyone was back inside.

“Yes.” Rick nodded. “We should start settling in, starting tomorrow...use both of the houses, take the rooms...we’re here to stay.”

***

Next morning, you woke up when you felt Daryl moving away from you and sitting up.

“Hey...we’re you going? It’s early...” Looking around you could see some of you were already gone but others were still asleep.

“I’m gonna head out hunting.” Daryl looked around. “Also...I have to talk with Rick and Carol, we’re meeting outside.”

“What for?”

Daryl just shrugged and you frowned, wondering why they hadn’t told anyone else about that meeting, but didn’t ask anything else, guessing Daryl wasn’t probably even supposed to tell you about the meeting at all.

Whatever it was, you’ll know eventually. You just hoped it wasn’t more problems.

“Okay...be careful.”

Daryl nodded and pecked your lips before getting up and out of the house.

You got up too and began taking yours and Daryl’s things into one of the smaller bedrooms, hoping Daryl wouldn’t mind you moved his stuff in too. After all, Rick had said you should start settling in.

One on hand, you’d miss bedding down with everyone in the living room, feeling surrounded by your family and protected, but you also loved the idea of sleeping in a real bed and having a room just for Daryl and you.

You hoped he’d think the same.

On your way back to the living room, you saw Michonne in one of the bedrooms, trying on the constable uniform.

“Looking good.” You winked at her but she let out a sigh.

“Looking weird.”

“Come on, don’t be like that.” You walked in and flopped down on the bed. “This is good, you’ll have some sort of authority over this place...Deanna saw your potential, saw you’d be good at it.”

“Thanks.” Michonne gave you a weak smile and sat down next to you. “I like this place...but everything still feels strange.”

“I don’t know if I like this place or not, but I want to stay here.”

“Yeah...” She let out another sigh and got up again. “I have to go with Rick and Maggie to meet with Deanna.”

“Okay...I might see you later, I want to talk with Deanna about my job.”

“Alright. See you later, then.”

You walked back to what you guessed was now your bedroom, pacing around it, trying to get used to it and rummaging through the clothes you found in the closet.

You looked up when you heard a knock on the door and saw Carl standing at the open door.

“Hey.”

“Hey...I wanted to tell you I’m going to Ron’s place and Chris’s coming too...so maybe, if you want, you can come and pick me up later, so maybe you can have a chance to talk with him?”

You gave Carl a smile, grateful he was thinking on ways to easier you the task of getting a chance to talk with your brother, even though the idea still scared you and made you feel anxious.

“Yeah...yeah, okay, it’d be great...thank you, Carl, you’re the best.”

“See you later then!” Carl gave you a smile before turning away.

***

You were looking for Michonne and the others, your heart beating fast at the idea of going to pick up Carl in a short while. You found them walking up the walls, Sasha making her way to them.

“Hey, wait for me.”

Sasha looked at you impatiently and didn’t stop, so you rushed to her.

“I’m going to volunteer to keep watch at the lookout.”

“Then I am too.” That was your chance of freeing yourself from Aiden and his runs.

Turns out there was no lookout, nobody used it. How had this people survived for so long? As unlucky as your group had always been, this people seemed to have had all the fortune in the world if they hadn’t been attacked by herds of walkers and groups of dangerous people.

Soon, Rick and Michonne talked Deanna into setting a lookout, you needed it to protect Alexandria properly, and Deanna was still listening to your ideas, valuing your knowledge about this world.

“We’ll make shifts.”

“I’ll take as many shifts as possible.” Sasha offered quickly.

“I’d like to take shifts too, I’d be more useful there than in runs, I’m good at it.” You chimed in too. Deanna raised an eyebrow at you as if she could guess why you’d rather do that than going to runs with his son, but said nothing, turning her attention to Sasha.

“Why?”

“They’re two of our best shots,” Maggie informed Deanna, and you gave her a grateful smile. “They can do it.”

“I’m going to put Spencer on there,” Deanna informed and you could just hope her other son wasn’t a big of a useless idiot as Aiden. “I’ll consider Sasha being our primary lookout...” She was giving her a look like trying to read into her.

“And I’ll consider changing Y/N from working on runs to keeping watch too...but I want something in return.”

The smile that had begun to tug at your lips froze at that and you braced yourself for what she might want in return.

“Tonight I’m hosting a Welcome for all of you in my home. I want you all to be there.”

You snorted but smiled in relieve. So the condition to stop dealing with Aiden and getting a job you liked was attending a party. Alright then.

“I’ll be there.”

Sasha, though, didn’t seem to like the idea. You knew she wasn’t adapting well to Alexandria and she was still hurting, but she won’t open up to any of you, wouldn’t talk, and you had no idea how to help her. It seemed Deanna was to trying to figure it out too.

“I’m going to pick up your son, he’s in Ron’s house.”

You told Rick when Deanna left, Maggie with her. Deanna had chosen her to help around Alexandria, another job of importance in there for someone of your family.

“Didn’t know Carl needed help getting back to the house.” Rick seemed half amused, half confused.

“My brother will be there...”

Rick’s face went serious in a moment.

“Do you want me to go with you?”

“No, no, it’s fine, I can handle it.” Rick patted your shoulder and left with Carol, who gave you an encouraging smile.

Once you reached the Anderson’s house you paced anxiously back and forth, nervous and scared, all you wanted to do was to run away, even though you knew how lucky you were at having been gifted a second chance with your brother, and you knew you should take advantage of it.

Your heart started beating even faster when Carl walked out of the house with Chris, they waved goodbye to Ron and then Carl turned around, gesturing to you to come closer when he saw you standing at the other side of the street without moving.

You gave yourself a mental kick and walked towards them, shaking. Once there, you didn’t say anything, just stared at your brother longer than probably could be considered polite, but he just looked back at you with confused but kind eyes.

Luckily, Carl was there to rescue you.

“Chris, this is Y/N, she’s from my family.”

“Nice to meet you Y/N.” Your brother reached out his hand for you to shake.

You could just gape at him, unable to find words and with a lump in your throat. Now that you were close, you could easily recognize some of the features of the boy you had left, though he was so big now.

He didn’t seem to have any memory of you though, he was so little when you left he was bound not to remember your face...

But he was there, he was real, he was alive, standing in front of you. Here it was, your second chance, you were finally reunited after all this time.

You tried to swallow the lump in your throat, doing your best not to cry.

“Y/N, you okay?” Carl asked softly, looking at you with concern.

“Yeah, yeah...” You finally managed to speak, reaching out to weakly shake your brother’s hand. “I...I’m sorry...”

“It’s okay. We know people from outside have trouble settling in here, you all seem kind of out when you arrive.” The boy gave you a smile. “Enid’s been here for months now and it’s still hard for her.”

“Enid hates me.” Carl let out a sigh.

“She doesn’t hate you.” Chris rolled his eyes.

“You might want to tell that to her.”

You watched as Carl and your brother talked back and forth, a small smile tugging at your lips. How could this be real. You gathered your courage to speak.

“You have been here for long?”

“Yes, almost from the beginning, when we came just half the walls were up.” Your brother turned his attention from Carl back to you. “When everything started my father took my mother and I to a military camp, and eventually the military moved us here.”

Your mother...

“So...you live with your parents?” You hoped he didn’t notice how your voice wavered

“With my father...” Your brother looked down, his eyes suddenly sad, and your heart sank.  “My mother...she didn’t make it...back at the military camp, one day we were attacked by a group of those monsters...that’s why they moved us here.”

“I’m sorry...” You murmured, feeling too close to tears.

Since you had seen Atlanta overrun by walkers, all that time ago, you hadn’t expected your mother to be alive, but still your heart broke listening to your brother...you had thought she’d be there too...but now she was gone and you wouldn’t have the chance to sort things out with her.

It made you feel surer than ever about having to sort things out with your brother, though you weren’t really sure how to do it.

 “Thanks.” Your brother gave you sad smile. “Most of us have lost someone...”

“Yeah...sometimes we find people too...”

Your brother gave you a confused look but nodded politely.

“Yes, I was told you all found each other out there.”

“I was lucky.” You nodded. “Carl here is one of the most skilled people I know at killing those monsters, saved me a couple of times.”

Carl rolled his eyes at you, ducking his head in embarrassment, but your brother looked at him with admiration.

“Well, it’s was nice to meet you but I have to go back home. I’ll see you both tonight?”

“Yeah.”

Carl nodded, smiling, and you nodded too although worry and anxiety clenched your heart again as you realized your stepfather would be there too.

Your brother waved goodbye and left, and you walked with Carl back to your house.

“He’s nice...” Carl ventured.

“Yeah...yeah, he’s, isn’t he?” You gave Carl a smile, though your eyes filled with tears. “I can’t believe this is real...I’m happy I found him, I’m so happy...but I’m so scared too...”

“Hey, it’s okay...” Carl gave you a sweet smile and reached out to take your hand as you walked. “It’ll be okay.”

“Thanks...”

“You didn’t tell him who you are.”

“I couldn’t...” You shook your head. “He doesn’t know me...I don’t want to freak him out...” It was going to be a shock for the poor boy...and you’d have to deal with his father.

“You’ll tell him?”

“I don’t know...” You swallowed hard, trying to control the anxiety that threatened to take your breath away. “I think so, eventually...I don’t know how...”

“Stop worrying, it’ll be fine.” He squeezed your hand reassuringly.

“Thanks...”

You reached the house in silence.

“Hey, Y/N...” Carl stopped before getting inside his room. “I’m sorry about your mom.”

You nodded, your eyes getting wet. Carl gave you a small smile and pat your shoulder but allowed you to retreat into your room without saying anything else.

Chapter Text

Once in the privacy of your room, you couldn’t stop your tears and you rubbed your eyes furiously, trying to stop them. You called yourself an idiot. You’d known for a long while that your mother was most probably dead, there was no point crying about it again.

But even if you’d tried to stop it, there had always been that small hope in your heart telling you that your family and friends were okay somewhere. Turned out it had been true for your brother, and you must count yourself lucky for it...but your mother...

You couldn’t fight the pain that clutched your heart and the hot tears that kept rolling down your cheeks.

Had she thought about you when the world ended? Had she wondered if you were okay? Had she worried about you or maybe she hadn’t cared anymore? You’d never known, and it hurt as much as the realization of her being dead.

You shut down that train of thoughts, which threatened to make you break down, and eventually managed to get a hold of yourself, forcing yourself to stop crying and do something.

You rummaged through the clothes you had found in the closet, looking for something you could wear to the party, and found a summer dress you kind of liked. It was a change from your usual combination of the same couple of tank tops with a pair of ill-fitted leggings or jeans.

It wasn’t your size, though, but you tried it on anyway. It was too big, but you managed to adjust it a bit better knotting its straps and although the fit was still loose, it looked good enough.

You were still checking yourself in the mirror when you saw the reflection of door opening and Daryl walked inside.

“They told me you were here.”

“You’re back!”

You turned around to grin at him, happy to see him, you had feared he wouldn’t come back until the sun was down. He had stopped on his tracks, frowning at you.

“What’re you wearing?”

You had to snort a laugh, shaking your head.

“A dress, Daryl.”

He opened his mouth as if to say something else, still frowning, but stopped when he noticed your red, still wet eyes. He was at your side in two strides, cupping your face with his big hands and stroking his thumbs over your cheekbones, peering down at you with concern.

“What’s wrong?”

You took a long breath, you wanted to keep it together while you told him.

“I talked with my brother.”

“Your stepfather...” His eyes turned from worried to angry.

“He wasn’t there.” You cut him before he could worry any further. “Just him and Carl.”

“Alright...”

You noticed he was looking at you with curiosity and eagerness, waiting for you to continue, trying not to push you but wanting to know how it had gone.

“He’s nice.” You gave Daryl a weak smile and went to sit down on the bed. “Doesn’t remember me...”

Daryl sat down next to you and took your hand. “I’m sorry...”

“It’s okay...” You squeezed his hand, not wanting him to worry too much. “I’ll figure out how to tell him, when the moment’s right...”

He nodded in silence, stroking your knuckles with his thumb.

You took a deep breath before you felt ready to keep talking.

“My mother, she...” You swallowed hard, finding it hard to say it aloud. “She didn’t make it to Alexandria...”

“Y/N...” Daryl was looking at you with pained eyes and seeming a bit helpless, as if he didn’t know what to do.

“It’s okay...I already knew she was probably dead...” Your eyes were filling with tears, no matter how much you tried to stop them. “It’s just...I...”

Daryl placed his hand at the back of your head, pulling you close until you buried your face on the crook of his shoulder and held tight to him.

“I’m sorry, darling...” He whispered into your hair.

You couldn’t hold back any longer and cried into his shoulder while he rocked you gently, whispering soft words of comfort, his warm fingers caressing over the skin of your back.

Eventually, your tears stopped, but you still stayed with your face buried in Daryl’s neck, until you were sure you had calmed down enough. You kissed his collarbone and looked up. Giving him a weak smile.

“Thanks...I’m okay, really...I’ll be okay...”

Daryl gave you a nod and a small smile, caressing your check.

“I hope I don’t get puffy eyes...” You joked awkwardly, a bit embarrassed you had cried that much. “I don’t want to look like a mess at the party...”

 “Why you care what they think?” Daryl frowned.

“I don’t...not really...” Your shrugged, uncomfortable. “But I told Deanna I’d go and I want to give her a good impression, she’s considering giving me a job at the lookout instead of in runs...”

Daryl just hummed.

“And I kind of wanted to look pretty for a change...” You admitted quietly, feeling silly and blushing.

“You’re always pretty,” Daryl said quickly, looking away and blushing too.

You couldn’t help but grin and you leaned to plant a big kiss on his cheek.

“So you know about the Welcome party?”

“Hmm mm...” Daryl nodded. “Aaron told me, I found him out there when I was hunting.”

“Yeah?”

“He was following a wild horse, trying to catch it to bring it here.” He explained. “We followed it but the geeks got it before us...”

“I’m sorry...”

You ran your fingers over his cheek, knowing he was saddened about it even though he just shrugged.

“Aaron’s a good guy.”

“Yeah...yeah, I think he’s.” You nodded.

“Okay...time to move.” You got up lazily from the bed and stretched. “I have to get ready if I don’t want to be late.”

You took off the dress, placing it carefully over a chair and you put on a long shirt, already smiling at the idea of soaking in hot water for as long as possible.

You stood in front of Daryl, reaching out your hands but he didn’t take them.

“Come on, come to the shower with me.”

“Nah...” He shrugged awkwardly, looking away.

“Okay then...have fun sleeping with an eye open so Carol won’t hose you...” You joked and he rolled his eyes.

You grabbed his hands and pulled at him.

“Come on...”

You got your way in the end, getting Daryl into the shower with you.

At first, he stood awkwardly under the stream of hot water with you, but when you lathered your hands with the soap and ran your fingers through his hair, massaging his scalp, he let out a quiet, content moan, tilting his head towards your touch.

“Better than being hosed down, isn’t it?” You chuckled quietly but he just hummed with his eyes closed.

When you deemed his hair clean enough, you ran the soap bar over his dirt-stained skin and he let you do. You let go of the bar when you reached his back in order to dig your thumbs down his neck and between his shoulder blades, trying to release the knots.

“Come on, you’re enjoying this, just admit it already.” You teased when he let out another soft moan but he remained stubbornly silent, a smirk on his face.

You spent way too much time in the shower, considering you were already short of time and that the hot water supply was limited...you hoped none else in the house had to shower for the day.

You rushed to get dressed, realizing the sun was already going down and the party would have begun already. You ran a brush through your wet hair. It was longer now, reaching past your shoulders and you briefly considered trimming it. You liked how it looked now, but you didn’t have to worry about knots or things like that when it was shorter.

“What do you think, should I cut my hair again?”

You asked Daryl, holding a lock of hair jaw length. He was sitting down on the bed, back on his old clothes, ignoring the pile of clothes in the closet. He just gave you a shrug.

“Thanks for the input.” You chuckled and rolled your eyes.

You stopped in front of him and began combing his wet hair with your fingers, getting the knots out.

“Yours is getting quite long too...”

“Thought you liked it.” Daryl closed his eyes and leaned into your touch.

“I do...I’m just wondering how can you see anything through all this hair.” You giggled quietly and pushed his long fringe away from his face. “I like to see your eyes.”

You lifted his head to kiss his lips before pulling away.

“I have to go...are you coming?”

“I want to skin the rabbit I got...I’ll go later...” Daryl began fidgeting.

“Okay...” You cupped his face with your hand. “If you don’t want to, you don’t need to come, okay? I’ll be back soon.”

Daryl nodded and gave you a weak smile.

With a last worried glance to Daryl, you walked out and to the party.

You felt out of place as soon as you stepped into Deanna’s house, with all that people all dressed up and sipping fancy drinks, chatting with one another. It was the strangest thing you had seen in this so strange place that was Alexandria.

You hadn’t ever attended anything like this, not even back in the world before, and even though everyone was nice to you, you felt totally self-conscious and didn’t know what to say to them whenever they tried to talk with you.

You envied Carol’s easy way of blending with them.

Still, you tried. You thought you weren’t doing that bad, if only just coming out as a bit awkward and quiet, when you heard a voice that made your blood freeze.

“You have to be kidding me...”

You turned around and found yourself face to face with your mother’s husband.

“John...” You just managed to murmur as you already began to shake at the sight of him.

“Well, well...not even after the damn apocalypse do I get rid of you.” He murmured quietly,  chuckling humorless and eyeing you with disgust.

“Y/N?” Chris looked from his father to you as he came closer with Carl, who gave you a worried look. “You already know each other? I just met her this morning.”

“Oh, yes, of course I know her!” John gave your brother an easy smile before turning to look at you, a smirk on his face. “And you do too! Don’t you know who is she?”

“Shut up.” You spatted between gritted teeth.

“Always so rude...” Your stepfather chuckled darkly, making your blood boil. “She’s your sister, the one that left you and broke your mother’s heart, you do remember her, don’t you?”

“I said shut up!”

In another time, you’d have cowered away from him, but not anymore, no matter you were shivering and your eyes were getting wet, your heart sinking when you saw the way your brother was looking at you.

Rick and Carol had seen the commotion and they held you back when you tried to move closer to John. He was still smirking at you and you took a shaky breath, trying to calm down. You knew his game, he wanted you to lose your temper in front of everyone so he could turn everything around.

“It wasn’t like that.” You growled. “You did everything in your hand to make me leave...you kicked me out...kept me away...”

“Rude, feral, liar, you got everything, dear... And of course, all those good people dying and you still had to be kicking.” He said the last part quiet enough so the people that were starting to gather around wouldn’t hear him.

If he wanted you to lose your temper and cause a scene, he was winning, but before you could do anything, Rick had stepped in front of you.

“Shut your mouth or I’ll shut it for you.” He warned in a scarily calm voice.

“What’s going on here?” Deanna had made her way to you and was looking at all of you with hard eyes, hands on her hips.

“Nothing, we got it,” Rick said without taking his eyes away from your stepfather as they kept glaring at one another. “Don’t we?”

“Why did you take these people in, Deanna.” John took his gaze away from Rick first.

“I already said it and this is the last time I repeat it.” Deanna raised her voice so everyone could hear her and you ducked your head in embarrassment. “Rick and his people are part of this community because they know what they do out there, they can survive, and they’re going to help Alexandria not only survive but thrive.”

“You’re waiting for this one to do something useful?” Your stepfather snorted, nodding his head in your direction. “And I was thinking you interviewed the people you let in...”

“I do and as you know, the tapes are available for everyone who wants to watch them.” Deanna glared at him, standing up with every bit of authority. “And you’re talking about one of the members of our new lookout team.”

You looked at her wide-eyed.

“What?”

“What you heard.” Deanna cut John before he could say anything else. “She has experience and has proven to shoot better than you ever will.”

Your eyes just went wider and you gaped at Deanna.

Your stepfather’s face turned red but he didn’t say anything. “Alright, then.” He muttered before turning away, a hand on your brother’s back as he walked him away. You saw him walk to a woman and took her hand, leaving the house together. New partner, you guessed bitterly.

“I take there won’t be any more problems?” Deanna asked you and you shook your head, at loss of words. “Alright, come on everybody, keep celebrating.” She ushered away the people who had gathered to watch the argument.

“You’re okay?” Rick placed a hand on your shoulder.

“Yeah, yeah...thank you...” You gave him a weak smile, blinking to stop your tears. “I think I’m gonna go home.”

“Do you want us to go with you?” Carol looked at you with concern.

“No, no I’m fine.”

“Good. You’ll explain to me all about this...exchange one of these days, right?” Deanna asked you, though it was clear it was a command and not a question.

“Sure...it was true? I’m in the lookout team?”

“As soon as the lookout’s ready.” Deanna gave you a small smile.

“Thank you.”

Deanna nodded and walked you to the door.

“John can fool a lot of people, but he better remember I was always able to see through his bullshit.”

She told you before you left and you couldn’t find any words, so you just nodded with a weak smile. You wanted to go home to Daryl, finally he hadn’t come to the party and now you were grateful for it.

You were still so shaken by the events of the party and so lost in thought that when you walked past Aaron’s house you didn’t realize Eric and him were on the porch, talking with Daryl, until you heard his voice calling for you.

“Y/N, hey!”

You looked up and around, startled, and when your eyes found Daryl you made your way to him.

“What’re you doing here?”

“Aaron and Eric invited me for dinner.” Daryl seemed a bit awkward and you were a bit confused about the whole thing.

“We wanted to have you too, but you were already at the party.” Eric chimed in, smiling kindly to you.

“Y/N, it’s everything okay?” Daryl asked, noticing something was off.

“Do you want to come in?” Aaron was looking at you with worry, noticing too.

“Thanks, I...I wanted to go home...” You looked at Daryl uncertain, maybe you were interrupting something, maybe they had been discussing something important. “Or we can stay...”

“No, come on.” He placed a hand on the small of your back. “I’ll come tomorrow to work on that bike.”

“Alright, see you.” Aaron and Eric waved you goodbye.

“Bike?” You asked Daryl.

“I’ll explain later.” He was already walking away with you, the hand on your back guiding you back home.

None of you said anything until you were in your room.

“What’s it?” Daryl asked you, pacing back and forth, while you flopped down on your bed.

“My stepfather was at the party...” You said after taking a long breath. “He spotted me.”

“Did he do something?” Daryl stopped his pacing, glaring at some point at the wall behind you.

“Besides spitting bullshit, making everyone look at me like I was crazy, tell my brother who I am by turning everything around and making him hate me forever? No.” You ranted bitterly.

“I should have been there,” Daryl growled.

“Nah, you wouldn’t have liked the party, I don’t see you talking about the best way of homemaking bread...” You tried to joke darkly but his face remained serious and angry, and you reached out your hand to him. “I’m fine. Rick had my back. Deanna too.”

Daryl took your hand and sat down next to you.

“She’s allowed me to be in the lookout team...and she called out my stepfather on his bullshit, it was quite great to watch, I believe she knows the kind of man he is...I think I like her...I think I might like this place after all.”

The words left your mouth before you realized it and you glanced worriedly at Daryl. He just hummed, looking down.

“I’m not scared of him anymore.”

The realization had hit you as soon as you left the party, almost making you feel dizzy. It wasn’t only that you knew your family would have your back and that Daryl would never let anyone hurt you, you were truly unafraid of him. You had faced worse threats, more dangerous men, and won, and he was nothing but a stupid man.

“I won’t let him do anything to you,” Daryl assured you, his eyes hard.

“I know, and I won’t let him either... so, he better not piss me off anymore.”

That time you managed to get a small smile from Daryl.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do about my brother, though.” You let out a sigh and fell down on the bed, your heard landing on a pillow.

“You’ll figure out something.” Daryl curled up next to you.

“Yeah...”

You gave him a smile though you weren’t that sure, you still remembered how Chris had looked at you before his father dragged him away...and god knew what John had told him about you.

“What was that about a bike?” You reached out to run your fingers over Daryl’s cheek.

“Aaron has a garage full of motorbike pieces and a half made bike that he can’t put together.” He explained, turning to lay on his back. “He says it’s mine if I can put it together, which I can.”

“Good...that’s great!”

You smiled at him, you knew he loved bikes and he missed the one he had to leave at the prison.

“Yeah...Aaron says I need a bike cos he wants me to go out with him when he goes to recruit people...”

“What?” You hadn’t seen that coming and you were confused.

“I don’t know...said I’m good out there...” Daryl shrugged uncomfortably. “Said I can take good people apart from bad people or something...”

A smile tugged at your lips at that and you kissed Daryl’s shoulder. That was true, you always trusted his instincts about people, and you were happy Aaron had seen it too.

“It seems Aaron really can see how you are, then.”

“And...do you want to?” You asked when Daryl didn’t say anything else.

“Yeah...yeah I think so...” He nodded, glancing at you briefly before looking up to the ceiling. “I want us to stay here...but I want to be out of those walls too...” He added quietly.

You nodded. Even at the prison, Daryl had liked to be out of the fences, going out to hunt alone almost daily, and you knew he was struggling in Alexandria, you hated to see him so unhappy. The chance Aaron was giving him could be good for him and you liked he saw Daryl’s potential and worth.

Still, that didn’t mean you weren’t going to worry about it, you knew you would. You’d never liked it when he was out on runs without you, worrying until he was back safe. And if he had to be out for days...you knew you were going to miss him like crazy and worry about him like hell. But you wanted to try and support him, if it was something that made him less miserable, even if it hurt you.

“So...what does that mean?”

“I don’t know...” Daryl pulled at you so your head was resting on his chest instead of the pillow. “I guess I’ll know when the bike’s ready.”

“But you’ll be out for days...” You couldn’t hide the worry in your voice.

“Hmm hum,” Daryl nodded. “Not for too long though, I don’t think so...” He added, knowing you were worried. “It’ll be fine...worse thing that happened to Aaron was when we kidnapped him and Rick tortured him with baby food.”

You snorted a laugh at that.

“Okay...”

You were saddened at the idea of being in Alexandria without Daryl, hating to be apart from him, no matter if it was for a short while. But if that would help him feel better, if it made him happy, then you could handle it.

Daryl played with your hair in silence for a moment before talking again, and when he did it was a quiet whisper.

“It’s safe in here. There’re good people out there fighting to survive...I can bring them here into the safe zone. I want to.”

“You’re the best, Daryl Dixon, you know it, right?”

He just scoffed but gave you a small smile.

You were so proud of him, he’d always had it in him, he’d always wanted to help people, taking care of your family, bringing strangers in need into the prison. You’d fallen in love with his kind heart all those months ago.

“I love you and your golden heart.” You kissed his lips before he could scoff or say anything. “I love how you care about people and try to help them even if I hate to see you risking your life doing so.”

Daryl was looking at you with his adorable shy smile, his cheeks blushed, and you had to kiss him again.

“I love you too, Y/N.”

You left a trail of kisses from his lips down his neck and to his collarbone before sitting up to lazily kick out your shoes so you could get more comfortable in the bed and you took off Daryl’s shoes too. You took out the dress and decided to carefully hang it back in the closet.

You felt a bit silly doing so, you weren’t usually that careful with your clothes, you’d never been, but the dress was the prettiest thing you had wore in so long and were still so new, you felt bad about just throwing it anywhere.

You turned around to look at Daryl, who had sat up and lay against the headboard, watching you.

“Alexandria’s strange...having a house like this is strange...” You said, smiling softly. “But I do like having a real bedroom just for you and me.”

Daryl returned your smile, reaching out for you.

“Come here.”

You were happy to oblige.

Chapter Text

A few days later, you were on the lookout, scanning the surroundings of Alexandria. Everything seemed blissfully calm, Alexandria’s location was quite fortunate. It probably had to do with the fact that the walls didn’t allow the walkers to see what was inside and to barely hear it, so luckily they weren’t too attracted to the place.

You got a few walkers pushing at the walls, but not as many as you had gotten in the prison and they were handled with ease, the team of the lookout shot them and then the team who took care of the door and walls picked them all up to burn them daily.

You stretched and stiffed a yawn. You hadn’t gotten much sleep last night.

Daryl and Aaron had left a couple of hours ago, as soon as the sun got up. You had spent most of the night awake, worrying about Daryl already, though you hadn’t told him anything, besides the usual “be careful.”

“It’ll be fine, we’ll be back in a couple of days.” He’d reassured you, though you’d seen how eager he was to leave Alexandria’s walls.

It made you wonder if maybe he wouldn’t be happier out there than in here with you... You knew he’d never abandon you and you shut quickly the tiny voice in your head telling you that he might not come back to you this time, preferring to be away.

Still, you hated the idea of him being unhappy as much as you hated seeing him go. But if that helped him, if being out there was what he needed, then you’d be strong for him. Luckily you’d made a new friend to help you with that, someone who could understand you because he was in a similar situation, and that was Eric, Aaron’s lovely boyfriend.

Las night you’d been at Aaron and Eric’s house for hours while Aaron and Daryl got everything ready and made plans, and then just talking with them.

During the couple of days he’d been working on the bike, you’d gotten close to Eric and Aaron, since Daryl spent most of his time there with the bike, and therefore you too. You’d liked to watch Daryl work on the bike, enjoying how relaxed and content he looked, how focused on his task, and admiring his skills at putting the bike together.

You had also talked a lot with Eric, grateful when he tried to explain to you how was the job as a recruiter and to ease your worries about Daryl being okay. He understood you, though, he missed Aaron and worried about him when he was out too. It was the reason why he had decided to join him, even though he wasn’t really prepared for it. And now he was bound to miss him and worry about him again.

He’d told you that you should go to his home whenever Aaron and Daryl were out so you two could talk and keep each other company, and you were grateful for it. He was such a kind, sweet man, you were thankful Daryl had befriended him. You’d probably have dinner with him today, the first night Daryl and Aaron would be out.

By the time Daryl and you had come back home, it was late at night, and you didn’t get much sleep. You woke up early enough to say goodbye to him and go to take your shift at the lookout.

Movement next to the door took you back to the present and you watched as  Glenn, Tara, Eugine, and Noah got ready for their run with Aiden and Nicholas. You felt a bit guilty about having changed your job, abandoning them, but mostly you were happy you didn’t have to join them.

You hadn’t talked to your brother since the welcoming party, hadn’t known how. You had seen him around a couple of times, with Carl, but he always made a point of staying away from you, looking at you warily. You could only hope time would help. You knew Carl was trying to help, even though he didn’t say anything, but you weren’t sure his words about you were going to mean anything against your stepfather’s words.

You’d been avoiding your stepfather and thankfully he seemed to be doing the same. You’d had a great time one night, gossiping with Eric and Aaron about him. To your delight, they hated him too, and so you’d vented as much as you wanted.

You knew that sooner or later you should face him, or at the very least, try to make things right with your brother.

The day passed quite uneventfully, you tried not to think much about Daryl and what he might be doing. Sasha came in the early hours of the evening. It wasn’t time for her shift yet, she’d been there the whole night, but you let her be, knowing she was still adapting and needed time alone.

You got down the lookout in time to see Glenn’s car getting into Alexandria and you gasped horrified when you saw Eugine carrying a bloodied up and unconscious Tara.

“Oh my god...what happened?”

You followed them into the doctor’s office, Michonne and Rick joining you too when they saw the commotion. Not only Tara had been badly hurt, but Noah hadn’t made it, walkers had gotten him, and Aiden had died too.

You were all in shock and when Deanna walked in, asking what was going on, you couldn’t watch as Glenn told her. You rushed out, rubbing at your eyes so you wouldn’t cry.

You found Eric outside, news about the accident were spreading around, and he walked you to his home. You were grateful for his company. The accident was making you worry about Daryl even more and you missed him so much it was being hard not to cry. You wanted to curl up with him and find comfort in his arms.

Eric seemed glad to have company too, and you ended up spending the night on his couch. You didn’t feel like coming back home, back to your empty bed.

Next morning, you went home before going to the lookout. Michonne informed you Tara was better, for which you were grateful, though still unconscious. She told you Deanna was investigating Noah and Aiden’s deaths, Glenn and Nicholas blaming each other. It was clear for you who was right, but you weren’t sure Deanna would see it, considering it was her own son who had died.

Worried as you were and missing Daryl so much that your heart hurt, you welcomed the distraction of shooting at the few walkers that had gathered outside the walls. It seemed Sasha had already cleared most of them, though.

She was early for her shift again that day and you spent a couple hours in the lookout with her. She was silent though, ignoring your sad attempts at conversation, and soon you left her alone.

Not knowing what to do with yourself without Daryl there and with your family busy, and not wanting to bother Eric much after having spent the whole night at his home, you decided to sit under a tree in one of the green areas to read for a bit.

You hadn’t been at it for long when a commotion caught your attention. You ran towards the sound and found a group of people watching in horror a fight between Rick and Pete, the husband of Jessie. Both men were bloodied up and rolling through the ground, until Rick managed to pin the other down, seeming ready to kill him and pushing away anyone who tried to stop him, including Carl.

You were getting scared as he didn’t stop but knew better than to try to stop Rick yourself. He ignored Deanna too as she demanded him to stop, ranting about Alexandria’s way of living, until Michonne appeared out of nowhere and knocked him unconscious.

Rick words were right, sure, but his way of delivering it was far from ideal...Peter had deserved it, sure, you had heard enough about him to know it, but beating him to death in front of his people, ignoring Deanna and scaring all the Alexandria people, was bound to give you problems. Not to mention Deanna had just lost his son and in her eyes it was probably your people’s fault.

“Deanna’s kicking us out of here.”

You muttered darkly to Carol before making your way to your house. You didn’t want to see what would happen next.

 

Next morning you found Michonne had locked Rick in the store that was used as some sort of cell and that Deanna would hold a meeting that evening to decide what to do about him...and probably about your whole group.

You felt light headed at the idea of being kicked out of the safe zone, especially not knowing where Daryl was, and you could only hope he’d be back soon. It seemed that as soon as he had gone, everything had gone to hell and you were finding it hard to deal with everything.

Some went to pay Rick a visit but you wanted to isolate yourself in the lookout. Before going there, though, you stopped at the sort of hospital to check on Tara. Eugine and Rosita were there, looking over her. She was unconscious still, but the doctor had said she’d pull through, which was finally good news.

You spent most of the day at the lookout, leaving only to join the meeting when the sun went down. You took a seat next to Eric.

“Shouldn’t Aaron and Daryl be back?” You tried not to sound as worried as you felt.

“They’ll be back soon, don’t worry, if they can’t make it this night they’ll be here tomorrow.” Eric tried to reassure you.

You nodded without a word, Deanna had already begun talking, even though Rick and Glenn were missing, it was past time.

Some people from your family voiced their opinions and spoke in favor of Rick, though you remained silent, not sure you were good enough with words to help. You only voiced your opinion coyly as an addition to Carol’s speech. Rick’s manners and way of doing things hadn’t been good but his words had been right, he wanted Alexandria to be safe.

When everyone finished talking, it was time for Deanna.

It seemed father Gabriel had sold you, telling her your family was dangerous and would put yourselves before Alexandria’s people. Maybe you should have left Gabriel to die that day when you’d found him surrounded by walkers in the woods. Now that you looked around, you couldn’t see him anywhere...not only a traitor but also a coward. You felt your blood boil.

Maggie excused herself, seeming as upset as you, and you were about to do the same, mentally preparing yourself to be kicked out of Alexandria Safe Zone that same night, when suddenly Rick showed up, all bloodied up and carrying a dead walker that he threw at the feet of the people.

Apparently, as Rick explained panting, there was none in the lookout, though you had left Spencer there when your shift finished, and the door was open. Spencer had had the bright idea of letting Gabriel, damned he was, take care of it, and obviously the priest hadn’t bothered to do so.

What started as one of those good speeches old Rick style got out of hand pretty quickly when he began to impose himself and berate the Alexandria people for being weak and useless at surviving.

You huffed, desperate, it was like he was trying to make them not only kick you out but kick the shit out of you too. You agreed with Rick, those people weren’t ready to survive, but the timing and way of saying it wasn’t right, not if you wanted to be allowed to live there.

You wished so hard Daryl were there.

You looked at Michonne to beg her to stop Rick before the situation could get even worse, but she was staring at Rick and didn’t see you, and neither Carol seemed to pay you any attention, she was looking around worriedly, probably sharing your thoughts.

You took a deep breath and got out, gathering your courage to say something, though you weren’t sure what.

“What Rick means is...that if you have us here we’ll keep Alexandria safe so things like this won’t happen again...” You pointed at the walker on the ground although your hand was shaking, nervous and shy as you were. “We...we’ll teach you how to keep it safe, how to protect yourselves like we did out there...and...”

Carol was blinking at you in surprise but she gave you an encouraging smile, just like Eric who was still next to you. Rick was just frowning at you but he let you kept going with your talk. You had run out of ideas, though, and didn’t know what to say next.

You needn't, though, Pete the asshole husband barged into the meeting, wielding a katana as he glared at Rick.

“You’re not one of us...”

Everything happened so fast you barely registered it.

Reg, Deanna’s husband, was trying to stop Pete, but he just pushed him away...cutting his throat open in the process. You were frozen in place, horrified, but Michonne and Abraham jumped to stop Pete.

There was nothing you could do for Reg, you could only watch him die in Deanna’s arms, helpless. You felt Eric shaking next to you and you looked at him, noticing his wide, horrified eyes and his pale face. You reached out to him, squeezing his hand, and waited to see what would happen now.

Deanna gave the order and so Rick shot Peter dead.

A dark part of you thought that all of this had actually been quite convenient for your group. The walkers and Pete had shown up right in time to show Alexandria the dangers Rick had been talking about.

An innocent, good man had died, but that would probably allow your group to stay in Alexandria, and allow Rick to have a prominent position in it...you were glad and you didn’t know what to think about yourself for it. You hadn’t wanted Reg to die, but it’d been fortunate for your group. You felt like a monster thinking so, but you couldn’t help yourself.

Still, when you saw Deanna crying over the body of his husband, you couldn’t help your own tears.

Right then and kind of out of nowhere, Daryl and Aaron showed up, along with a man whom you didn’t know. You let go of Eric’s hand to run to them, him right behind you.

You threw yourself at Daryl, wrapping your arms around his neck and he held you tight, nuzzling at your hair as you rocked from side to side.

“Thank god you’re here...” You half sobbed, your face hidden on his chest.

“What happened?”

Daryl looked up from your hair to glance around but you shook your head, you didn’t want to talk about it.

“I just want to go home with you...”

You murmured and Daryl pulled away just enough to look at your face with worry, running his knuckles down your cheek.

“I need to talk with Rick...”

You nodded, though all you wanted was to leave, and you didn’t let go of his hand when he and Aaron went to talk with the others.

It wasn’t until late that night that you went home. First, Rick and a broken-hearted Deanna explained to Aaron and Daryl, and all the people who had missed it, what had happened. Then, you had to clear the bodies of the walkers out of Alexandria and also take care of Reg’s body.

There was nothing official, not yet, but it was clear Deanna was leaning on Rick and your group was staying.

Honestly, you just wanted to go home.

When you finally were back in your house, Daryl seemed to want to stay up late, talking with Rick, Carol, and the man you didn’t know, Morgan, about everything that had happened and what to do now. You listened in silence for a short while but you were more than done for the day, so soon you got up and went to your bedroom.

Daryl had followed you with worried eyes and soon he joined you in the bed. You snuggled to him, curling up against his chest.

“I missed you so much...” You whispered.

“I missed you too.” Daryl let out a tired sigh and ran his fingers through your hair.

“I was scared thinking Deanna was going to kick us out...I know you don’t like it in here, but...it’s safe...”

You felt Daryl nod.

“Yeah...the outside’s dangerous.”

“You ran into trouble?” You lifted your head from his chest to look at him.

“Right into a trap.” Daryl nodded, sounding tired. “Found some trucks of canned food but they were full of geeks, there were lots of them...Aaron and I got trapped in a car, which was what whoever built the trap wanted...”

“I hate people...”

You were listening in horror. You hadn’t forgotten the horrors of the outside, the dangers of the herds of walkers and groups of evil people, but still you were terrified thinking Daryl had been in such danger.

“Yeah...I thought it was the end for me and Aaron...only idea I could come up with was to try to lead the walkers to me, away from Aaron so at least he’d have a chance to make it...”

“What?”

You sat up and stared at Daryl wide-eyed, and he averted his eyes without saying a word.

“Daryl Dixon, you ever do something like that...” You were shaking at the idea of not only having almost lost Daryl but also him willingly risking his life like that. “You pull up something like that ever again and I...I...”

You couldn’t come up with anything to finish your threat and you sounded more tearful than threatening, your eyes getting wet.

“There wasn’t much else we could do...” He rasped. “Better me than Aaron...”

“Why?”

He just shrugged, sitting up against the headboard and looking away from you.

“Seriously Daryl, you are as valuable as anyone else or more.” He was averting his eyes from you as you talked, looking towards the wall, his hair hiding his face. You loved how selfless he was, how willing to take risks in order to help people, but the idea of him dying for it was too much.

“If Aaron came back without you I...I don’t know what I’d do.” You couldn’t believe that by now Daryl wouldn’t know how much you needed him, you didn’t know what would you do without him. “I don’t want to be here without you, I don’t want to be anywhere without you, I can’t lose you...I thought you knew...”

Your last sentence came out as a choked whimper and Daryl finally looked at you, reaching out to wipe the tears that had rolled down your cheeks.

“I know...I’m sorry...I just...I couldn’t think anything else to do...” He said quietly and you closed your eyes tight, trying to get hold of yourself. “Aaron didn’t let me, though. Said we would get out there fighting together...”

“Thank god one of you is sensible.”

Daryl snorted quietly and brushed some hair away from your face.

“I’m not sure if we’d have made it... but Morgan showed up and helped us.”

You hadn’t really talked with the newcomer, who seemed to be an old friend of Rick, but now you felt you ought to thank him.

You wrapped your arms around Daryl’s neck, burying your face on the crook of his shoulder and holding tight to him. He wrapped his arms around you, pulling you close, and kissed the top of your head.

“Even with all that...I liked being out there...I want to keep doing it...we have to.”

Your heart sank at his words and you kept your face hidden so he wouldn’t notice how it made you felt. If you’d already been worrying about Daryl going out before, now you were sure worry and fear would eat you alive every time he left, after knowing what he and Aaron had gone through this time.

You’d been so worried about Deanna exiling you and now you wondered if it wouldn’t be better to just leave instead of having Daryl being miserable there, not caring about risking his life whenever he went out, seemingly hating his life in Alexandria.

You felt a lump in your throat but managed not to cry. Daryl seemed to notice you tensing, though.

“I’ll be fine...I promise, I’ll always come back safe.”

“You hate it here, you’re unhappy here.” You said without looking up.

“It ain’t that...” You felt Daryl shifting awkwardly, though he kept holding you. “It’s...I don’t fit here...” He trailed off and you didn’t say anything. You’d told him again and again that he did, but you couldn’t change the way he felt. “But I told you already, we’re staying here.”

“But you’ll keep going out.”

Daryl just nodded.

“I could go with you...we...we can leave.”

It pained you, leaving a safe zone, but it was better than losing Daryl.

“No. I ain’t making you go out there to face all that shit again.”

“I rather do that than losing you.”

Daryl made you look at him with a hand under your chin.

“You won’t lose me. I told you, I’m always going to come back to you.”

You nodded but said anything.

“It’s true. I...I can’t settle in here. But I’m not leaving you.”

You nodded again, giving him a weak smile, but couldn’t make your heart feel less heavy. You knew Daryl loved you, he wanted you to stay safe, and you knew he was honest when he told you he’d always make his way back to you no matter how many times he went out of Alexandria and for how long.

But the world out of the safe zone was dangerous, the run had proved it once again. It seemed each day there were new and worse horrors in the world. Even if he wanted to come back, something could happen to him, he could run into trouble again and this time a stranger wouldn’t be there to help him.

You didn’t say anything else about it, though. There was no point. You couldn’t have both Daryl happy and Daryl safe inside, and he’d chosen what he wanted. You couldn’t force him to do anything else, you didn’t want to. You’d respect his wishes.

Even if it was making your heart feel heavier than ever.

“We should sleep... sun comes up in a few hours...”

You said quietly and Daryl nodded, though he was still looking at you with concern and something that looked like guilt. You hated it, you didn’t want him to feel guilty over you, but you weren’t able to reassure him, not right then.

Without another word, Daryl lied down on the bed, turning his back to you and tugging at your arm so you’d wrap it around his waist. You curled up against his back, holding him tight to you. You wished you could keep him safe like that in your arms forever.

Chapter Text

There was a quarry full of the biggest her of walkers ever near Alexandria, some trucks blocking them, but they were dangerously close to getting loose, and they would head right to you whenever that happened, tearing the town apart.

Not to mention their sounds were attracting more and more walkers.

Or at least, that’s what Rick explained to you after he came back from the outside with Morgan, making Deanna hold an urgent meeting with all the Alexandria people.

As if the events of the day before hadn’t been bad enough.

As soon as everyone arrived, Rick began to explain his plan. John was there too, glaring from Rick to you. You were sat down under the windowsill where Daryl had perched up. He followed your gaze and he glared at your stepfather.

“It’s fine.” You whispered to him.

Daryl nodded but placed a hand on your shoulder and you couldn’t deny it reassured you. You lifted your hand to lace your fingers with his on your shoulder, your eyes trained on John until he retreated to the back of the room.

Rick’s plan was ambitious and sounded dangerous, you could understand why some people were doubtful about it or directly disagreed, but it had to be done nonetheless. Deanna agreed too, she seemed to be leaning more and more on Rick.

The idea was to herd the walkers away from Alexandria. Daryl would lead them away and there would be two teams making sure the walkers followed him in case some began to scatter around, which would attract more and ruin the plan.

As soon as you heard Daryl’s role, you knew you wanted to go with him. It sounded damn dangerous, the idea of him riding in front of a massive herd of walkers made you shiver.

Rick had other plans for you though, and he laid it out before you could say anything. He still wanted you on the lookout and he wanted a team working there all the time. You were experienced and were good at it, so he wanted you, along with Rosita, keeping the other people from the lookout team on track, telling them what to do and making sure they did a good job.

You nodded your agreement in silence. You didn’t want to argue with Rick now, when Deanna was giving him more power while some Alexandria people still seemed to distrust him and disagree with him. You didn’t want to mine his authority, knowing it was beneficial for your family.

“You know I wanted to go with you, right?”

You whispered softly to Daryl, and he gave you a nod and a small, tight smile.

The rest of the day went on more planning and for the next few of days, all of you worked hard on getting everything ready.

***

Whenever you weren’t on guard duty, you helped the others out there, digging ditches, pulling up metal planks, doing anything needed for the plan to work. You wanted to help and wanted to be close to Daryl, even if you didn’t have much time to talk with him while you both worked hard, it seemed that lately, that was the only way you had of seeing each other.

You were at it now, digging under the sun, and you were truly exhausted, so you flopped down onto the ground for a small break, massaging your sore shoulders.

“Hey.”

Daryl had come closer to pass you a bottle of water that you took with a grateful smile.

“Thanks.”

You took a sip and then made to pass it back to Daryl, but he didn’t take it.  Instead, he knelt down behind you and began rubbing your shoulders, his thumbs digging into your knotted muscles and you hummed half in pain half in delight.

“You’re overworking yourself.”

“Look who’s talking.”

You had barely seen him during the last couple of days, besides when you worked next to him. He spent as much time as possible helping Rick around and working on his plan.

“You’re at that lookout for hours and hours and then you come here to keep working.”

His fingers were moving now from your shoulder up to the back of your neck and you tilted your head down with a quiet moan.

“I don’t do anything in that lookout beside sitting on my ass looking from here to there, shooting at some random walkers from time to time, while you all are out here working your asses off.”

A thought suddenly occurred to you, making you snort.

“What’s funny?”

You turned around so you could look at him.

“My first times up in the lookout, I thought Alexandria’s placement was fortunate since there were barely any walkers around.” You explained. “Turns out probably it was because they were all going to that damn quarry.”

Daryl shared your humorless chuckle and pulled you close with a hand on your neck, pecking your lips. You smiled against his lips, capturing them for another kiss before pulling away. You hadn’t had much time together since he came back from his run, with all the bad things that had happened almost at the same time.

“I can’t wait for all of this to be over. I’m worried about you, leading those monsters...”

You admitted, biting your lip. You had seen how many walkers were trapped in that quarry and it might be the scariest thing you’d ever seen. The idea of Daryl on his bike in front of them, making them follow him, clenched your stomach with fear.

“It’ll be fine. Plan’s gonna work, we’ve thought it through.” Daryl tried to reassure you.

“I should have said something when Rick said I wasn’t in the team...maybe I’m still on time...” You wanted to be with him.

Daryl shook his head.

“I don’t want you out here when all those geeks break lose.”

“Neither I want you, but you’ll be.” You retorted. “And you just said plan will work out, didn’t you? So I’d be safe...”

“Y/N...”

“Yeah, I’ll stay in Alexandria...” You let out a sigh. “Just...be careful, please...”

***

You all had come back to Alexandria when the sun began to go down, it wasn’t safe to be out there at night, especially with people who didn’t really know how to protect themselves yet.

You didn’t have to go to the lookout until the morning and you’d hoped that would mean Daryl and you would finally have the night for yourselves, but as soon as you had stepped into Alexandria he’d gone to talk with Rick and to keep working in whatever he needed.

You were still sitting down on the stairs of the porch of the house when he finally came back, hours later. When he saw you out there, he reached you with two long strides.

“Hey...what’re you doing here? I thought you’d have gone to sleep.”

“I was waiting for you...I just...I’ve been missing you...”

 “I know. I’ve been missing you too...I’m sorry...” Daryl said as he sat down next to you.

“It’s okay...”

You longed for the day you’d have time to be with him without having to worry about the future, knowing you were safe. You wondered if that day would ever come. You hadn’t felt like that since the prison, and look how that had turned out.

Daryl rested his head on your shoulder, letting out a tired sigh, and you kissed the top of his head before resting your cheek on it.

“You’re working too much.”

“Nah...”

His fingers were drumming over your thigh and you knew him enough to know something was bothering him.

“Everything okay?”

“Yeah...”

You stayed silent, waiting for him to tell you what was in his mind.

“Rick doesn’t want Aaron and me going out to recruit people anymore...said it’s dangerous to bring people in, they could be a threat...”

It was kind of hypocritical, considering Alexandria had rescued you and welcomed you in, and your group had ended up almost taking over the town...which probably just proved Rick’s point.

Still, you knew that bringing people in need was important to Daryl, and no matter that the pass of time had made you harder and distrustful of strangers, you still agreed with him, it was the right thing to do. No matter you’d hate seeing him going out to recruit people again, risking his life.

At any rate, being a recruiter with Aaron had made him happy and no matter what, you wanted Daryl to be happy.

“Well...it’s Deanna who should be deciding that, she’s the one in charge.” You said.

“Is she?”

You couldn’t really be sure. In theory, she was, but Rick seemed to be the one giving orders lately and Deanna allowed him to do so. If Rick said you wouldn’t let any more people in, you weren’t sure Deanna would disagree.

“Rick listens to you...you’ll talk him around.”

Daryl just hummed before kissing your shoulder and getting up, taking your hand to help you onto your feet.

“Come on, Y/N, you’ve to sleep.”

***

Next morning Daryl got up early, he had to go to the quarry with everyone to review the plan one last time, tomorrow was the big day. You got up too, you had an early shift at the lookout.

You found your brother standing next to the stairs that led to the lookout. You were surprised not only to see him out and about so early but also to see him there.

“Y/N? Can I talk to you for a second?”

You froze, surprised and a bit in shock. You hadn’t expected him to initiate a conversation. You still weren’t sure how to talk to him.

“Yes...yes, sure, of course...” You babbled, nervous.

“Okay...so...” He seemed almost as awkward as you. “I don’t think you are actually bad, alright?”

You just nodded, dumbfounded. You’d been worried, wondering why your brother had decided to talk to you, and relief washed over you at his words. You knew Carl had been talking about you with him, and you guessed his words had been flattering enough. You owed it to the kid, he’d made your brother talk to you and that was something you couldn’t repay.

“Whatever my father said you did... the past is in the past, can’t even remember it.”

You didn’t bother to try to explain yourself, to tell him how John was twisting everything. Speaking against Chris’ father was probably not a good idea, not now when he seemed to be accepting you, and your words wouldn’t win against his, you knew, no matter Carl’s words.

You just nodded, swallowing hard, trying to stop your emotions from overcoming you.

“But...you can’t just come here and expect me to be your brother. I don’t know you, Y/N. I’m sorry.”

You nodded, looking down so he wouldn’t see the tears that threatened to fill your eyes. You understood him, you were a stranger in his life who said she was his sister, who he didn’t remember and hadn’t seen in years.

He couldn’t turn into your brother all of a sudden.

“Just...know that I don’t hold any grudge against you just because my father does.”

You nodded again but this time looked up at him, managing to give him a smile. He didn’t hate you, didn’t think you were evil no matter what his father said, and that was enough.

“Okay...okay...I understand...” Your voice shook ever so slightly. “Thank you...maybe...maybe we could have a fresh start, get to know each other...” It was taking all your courage to speak and your nerves were almost closing your throat. “Maybe we could be friends...”

“Yeah, maybe...”

Your brother shrugged awkwardly, looking down, and you hoped you hadn’t overdone it. You didn’t want to pressure him. He didn’t really seem that enthusiastic about a potential friendship with you and you had to remember he had just met you a few days ago and not in the best way.

But he didn’t hate you and was willingly talking to you, and for now, that would have to be enough.

“Just...I just wanted you to know I don’t have anything against you...” He gave you a soft smile that had you smiling like an idiot. “See you around, Y/N.”

You walked up the stairs to the lookout with a big grin on your face, feeling like in a dream. Your brother was alive, in your same town, you’d found him after the damn apocalypse...and there was a chance of you sorting things out with him...he didn’t blame you for not having seeing him in years...he didn’t hate you...even if he never felt like your brother, you felt you had got incredibly lucky.

You couldn’t wait to tell Daryl.

***

You hadn’t been up there for long when you heard someone coming up the stairs.

“Hi, Y/N.” Richard greeted.

“Hey.” You raised your eyebrows at him, confused by his visit, his shift wasn’t until the evening.

“I was wondering...” He began, looking a bit unsure and flustered. “If we could change shifts...I might have a date with Helen this evening...”

He looked very shy and you couldn’t help your chuckle. You weren’t Richard’s friend, you didn’t even know him much, but you knew him enough to know he was a good one.

“Yeah, sure.”

It wasn’t like you could expect to spend your evening with Daryl, he’d probably be talking with Rick about tomorrow’s plan until late at night. You couldn’t wait for all this to be over so you’ll have more time together...until he inevitably left on a run or to recruit people again.

You felt you barely saw him since settling in Alexandria.

“Thank you, Y/N.” Richard beamed at you.

“Enjoy your date.”

On your way back home you found Deanna and Maggie making their way to the front door, carrying some shovels and talking about their plans for a farm.

“Do you need help with it?”

“We got it, Y/N,” Maggie patted your shoulder, giving you a small but kind smile. “Go home, I know you’re not sleeping much.”

“None is.”

“Then go and get some rest,” Deanna commanded you.

“Okay...”

Back home you found Carol cooking something in the oven. You couldn’t deny the sight was still strange, not only electricity and an oven but also so many kinds of food, you were eating better than ever and all the neighbours wanted to get Carol’s recipes.

She was getting quite the reputation as a chef.

“Smelling good! I’m happy finally I’m going to be at home for lunch.”

“Then you’ll do the dishes.” Carol retorted with a smirk.

“Okay, fair.”

You chuckled and sat down in one of the couches of the living-room, intending just to rest for a bit without really sleeping.

“Y/N!” Carol’s hushed but urgent voice startled you from your slumber and you jumped to your feet.

“What?!”

“Be quiet!” Carol warned you. “There’re men in Alexandria, I saw them through the window...they’re armed, they’re killing people.”

“Shit...”

How could that have happened? Alexandria had walls, people keeping watch.

“Come on, we have to do something.” Carol tossed you a gun.

“I’ll help.” Carl rushed to join you.

“No, you have to stay here, protect Judith,” Carol instructed.

“Okay...”

You followed Carol outside, ducking and hiding from view. You could see several men armed with machetes and guns running around, and the bodies of some of your people.

“Shit, no...” You spotted one of them walking up the street that led to your brother’s house. “I have to go.”

Carol nodded, there was no point trying to argue with you about it.

You took the backstreet, trying to stay hidden but moving faster than the man, and you reached the back garden of your brother’s house. Carefully, making sure there were no men around, you made your way to the back door, knocking on it quietly but insistently.

“Y/N?” Your brother seemed confused as he opened the door. “What’s going on?”

“It’s your father in here?”

“No, he’s working.”

“Damn...”

No matter how you hated John, you’d hoped he could protect your brother.

“Okay, come on, we gotta go.” There was no way you were going to leave your brother alone there while those men raided Alexandria.

“What?” He was still looking at you in shock.

“Come on, Chris!” You didn’t want to be harsh but there was no time. “A group of men got into Alexandria, they’re killing people.”

As in clue, one of them turned around the corner, probably alerted by your voices, and he spotted you. He raised his blood-stained machete but lost time smiling wildly to you and you aimed at his head and shot him dead.

“Come on!”

You tugged at your brother’s arm. He was petrified, looking at the scene wide-eyed, but he recovered quick. You both rushed back to your house, staying out of sight, finding a man in your way that didn’t see you until it was too late and you’d already shot him.

“Carl! Open the door!”

When he did, you found Enid was there too and you pushed your brother inside.

“Stay there,” you instructed. “Take care of each other.”

You didn’t wait for their answer, already running towards some screams. There was a man stabbing one of your neighbours, seemingly having the time of his life and he didn’t have time to get up before you shot him.

Those men were crazy...

You couldn’t do anything for your neighbour but to aim at his head and close your eyes as you shot, your stomach clenching, and you forced yourself to swallow the lump in your throat.

You kept going and when you turned a corner your heart jumped out of your throat as you found yourself right in front of one of them.

“Y/N, it’s me.”

Carol uncovered her face when she saw you aiming your gun.

“Shit, Carol, you scared me to death...”

“They won’t see me coming.” She didn’t even stop walking. “You check the streets at the back.”

You nodded and kept going with your mission.

***

The attack didn’t last for that long, but it felt eternal. Several of your people had died, you didn’t know how many yet.

“Hey.” You found Carol smoking on a porch. “You alright?”

“Yeah...” She shrugged.

“That was a clever idea.” You pointed at her appearance. “Besides, you look kind of hot like that.” You teased weakly.

She snorted but gave you a small smile.

“I’m going to check on the kids.”

On your way there you found Aaron sat down on the ground of an empty street, surrounded by bodies and looking devastated.

“You okay?” You asked worriedly. “Where’s Eric?”

“At home, locked and safe,” Aaron said without looking up. “Look.”

He handed you what you recognized as the Alexandria pictures.

“That’s how they knew about this place. They found my backpack.”

“Hey,” You stopped in front of him. “It wasn’t your fault.”

“It was.”

You let out a sigh, knowing there was no point in trying to argue with him. It was one of the things he had in common with Daryl.

“Come on,” you reached out your hand. “I have to check on the kids and then we should find Deanna...”

“Get going.”

“Alright...”

With another sigh, you left Aaron alone.

Before you reached your house, you found your brother walking down the street and you rushed to him.

“Everything okay? Where’re you going?”

“Yeah...I’m going to look for my father...”

“Oh, sure...alright...everything okay at the house?”

“Yeah...Enid left though...”

You frowned, wondering where the girl might have gone, but you were too busy to give it much thought. If all the kids were safe, then it was fine.

“Okay then...I’m going to try to find Deanna.”

Your brother nodded and turned to leave, but he looked back at you.

“Thank you, Y/N.”

You found Deanna and Maggie back inside the walls, close to the gates, surveying the situation.

“Y/N, you alright?” Maggie ran to you.

“Yeah...there’re many dead, though...”

Maggie nodded, face strained, and glanced at Deanna who looked half horrified half dumbfounded.

“It’s that...” You pointed at a burnt body on the ground.

“Richard.”

“God...” You shivered at how close you’d been to end like that.

“How we didn’t see them coming?”

“Place’s big, too many dead angles...we should have more lookouts...”

You felt beyond guilty, you should have been on watch, maybe you should have been able to see the men and give the alarm...or maybe you’d have ended up dead too.

“We should start burying the bodies...”

You nodded and turned around. Your eyes opened wide in surprise when you saw Michonne making her way to you, and Maggie and you rushed to her.

She explained what had happened at the quarry, how the walkers had gotten loose before time and everyone had been forced to spring into action and carry on with the plan, but the herd had divided, some of them coming to Alexandria following the sound of a honk. In return, you told her what had happened in Alexandria, the brutal attack of the men.

Anxiety clenched your stomach as you wondered where might Daryl be now and if he was okay. Michonne didn’t know, the last time she saw him he had left to lead the walkers away with Sasha and Abraham. You felt Maggie was right there with you, Michonne had gotten separated from Glenn too, though he had said he’d signal his position as soon as he could.

Before any of you could do anything, you heard Rick’s voice from outside the walls.

“Open the gates!”

The sight was horrifying. Rick was running in front of a massive herd of walkers, the biggest you had ever seen outside that quarry. He made it inside on time and the walkers dispersed around, pushing at the walls and doors.

“Hey, I’m glad you’re okay.” You gave Rick a quick hug. “Carl and Judith are fine, don’t worry. Have...have you seen Daryl?”

“Not after he left to lead the walkers away...but don’t worry, they’ll take a detour and come back.” Rick patted your shoulder, trying to reassure you. “We have to keep this place safe in the meantime.”

“Okay...”

You were still worried sick, thinking about everything that could have gone wrong but you forced yourself to not panic and help around, reinforcing the walls. That wasn’t enough, you had to think a way to draw the walkers away, and when the others came back they’d need a clear path to the door. But for now, it would be enough to keep them out of the town.

You were still working around Alexandria, trying to keep your mind occupied so you wouldn’t worry that much about Daryl that you’d break down, when you caught sight of Maggie and Aaron sneaking to the back side of Alexandria, carrying a big bag.

“Hey, where are you going?” You asked when you caught up to them.

“To find Glenn,” Maggie answered without even stopping.

You knew it was dangerous and a bad idea, you should stop them, but you didn’t. You wanted to find Daryl too.

“I’m going too, I have to find Daryl.”

Aaron led you to what seemed the entrance to the sewers and you all got inside.

Maggie believed Glenn had to be trapped, hurt, or worse, dead, since he had told Michonne he’d signal you where he was. Her words made you almost cry. On his side, Aaron kept blaming himself, even though it wasn’t his fault, but you couldn’t find any words of comfort, not at that moment.

When trying to open a ladder you were suddenly attacked by a couple of walkers, and what should have been an easy kill turned almost deadly as the walker’s flesh kept tearing apart in your hands, preventing you from holding them away, their jaws snapping way too close to your faces.

You managed to finally put them down, though you were all more than a bit startled.

All your efforts proved to be for nothing, when you reached the end of the sewer you were in the middle of the massive herd of walkers that surrounded Alexandria. You could try to clear your way through them and then ran, but there was a big chance you’d end up devoured.

Aaron seemed to want to try your luck and you couldn’t make your head about it, you couldn’t decide...you wanted to find Daryl though maybe Rick was right and he was on his way back right now, and going out there was potentially a suicide.

Maggie surprised you with his negative to go, seeming to give up, also asking you and Aaron not to go too.

“I’m pregnant...” She finally announced shakily.

“Maggie...”

You knew that was what she had wanted, a family with Glenn...but now Glenn was maybe gone and Maggie blamed herself for not having been with him.

There was nothing you could say, no comfort to offer and you couldn’t do anything but hug her, Aaron joining your hug too until you three made your way back up to Alexandria.

That night you stayed up at the lookout with Aaron and Maggie, neither of you talking much, just hoping to see your friends coming back.

Eventually, Aaron left when Eric came looking for him but Maggie and you stayed there, there was no way you were going to be able to sleep that night.

Chapter Text

When the sun came up, Rick joined you two up at the lookout, trying to comfort you with words about how Glenn, Daryl, Sasha and Abraham would be back when you less expected it. You couldn’t tell about Maggie, but even though you appreciated the effort, he didn’t manage to make you feel much better.

All you did that day was keep working on reinforcing the walls so they would hold the walkers, while you tried to think a way to draw them away before it were too late.

While you worked, you saw Rosita trying to train some of the Alexandria people, your brother between them. There was still a lot of work to do with them, but at least they were trying.

“Look, the balloons, it has to be Glenn!” You heard Maggie’s voice from the lookout.

“Yeah, yeah!” You grinned at her. “I see it!”

You were watching the balloons float, wondering if Daryl would be with Glenn, when a loud, horrible sound of something breaking pierced through the air. You saw in horror how the tower of the clock broke in half and fell onto the wall, breaking it and allowing the walkers to get in.

“They’re too many!”

Someone yelled, you didn’t know who, the voice mixing with the screams of terror as more walkers than you’d ever seen made their way into Alexandria. The people who had gathered around began to run away and you didn’t know what to do.

“Come on, we have to get everyone into safe places...And we need weapons!”

You nodded, a bit in shock, and ran behind Michonne. When you turned a corner you saw your brother and his father walking up, probably coming to see what the sound had been. You saw their eyes opening wide in terror when they saw the mass of walkers approaching and you ran to them.

“Come on! We gotta hide!”

Your brother nodded but your stepfather just frowned at you.

“Why should do I what you say?”

“Right, okay, be walker’s food for all I care.” You rolled your eyes and turned to your brother. “Let’s go!”

“Dad! She knows what she’s doing! Come on!”

You shot a couple of walkers that had gotten too close and reached out to take your brother’s hand, starting to walk away quickly, dragging him with you. Your stepfather grumbled something and began following you.

Your mind was reeling, you didn’t know what to do, where to go, what place could be safe enough. You could try to go to a house but a herd so big could probably tear apart the doors eventually. The store where the food was kept, with its metal door, sprung to your mind.

You led your brother and stepfather there, shooting your way. The walkers were slow but they were too many, they were everywhere and they were getting close. You stopped running to shoot at some of the monsters that were closing the street but turned over when you heard your brother shriek.

A couple of walkers had gotten too close and you began sinking your knife in the skull of one, letting your stepfather deal with the other, but John gave the walker a push that sent it straight to you, making you fall to the ground with the geek on top of you.

“Y/N!”

You barely registered Chris screaming your name, busy trying to keep the snapping jaws and the claws of the walker away from you, struggling under it until you managed to sink your knife under its chin and up to his brain when your brother managed to grip the monster’s hair and keep his head steady for you.

“What the hell man?” You spat to John, fuming, after pushing the corpse off you and getting to your feet.

“An accident.” He simply replied.

“Yeah, sure...”

The growls of the closer walkers reminded you that there was no time for that now and you holstered your knife in favour of the gun again, shooting at every walker that got too close or closed your path to safety, trying not to look back at the sea of walkers that were slowly but surely following you.

By the time you reached the store, you were low on ammo but you had enough to shot the walkers that gathered around the door. You tried to pull it up but it was locked.

“Open the door! Please, it’s Y/N! Open please!”

The walkers were closing on you when finally, finally, the door opened, revealing a terrified Olivia hiding inside.

As soon as you all were safe inside, you locked the door again. There was a regular door at the other side which was being relentlessly pushed by the walkers and you all pushed a couple of heavy shelves against it to prevent them from getting in, though you weren’t sure for how long it would last.

“Everyone okay?”

None said a word, just shrugged or nodded, and you fell to the floor, trying to catch your breath.

You didn’t know how long you spent hiding in here but you were growing more and more restless. The sun had almost gone down when you felt you couldn’t take it anymore. You couldn’t just hide forever, the walkers weren’t going to leave and eventually they would tear apart all your defences. They would tear apart the whole town.

“I’m going out.”

“What?” Your brother looked at you wide eyed.

“They’ll kill you...” Olivia seemed terrified.

“I’ll clear my way through them...I have to do something...”

You picked up a metal bar that you found on the floor and chuckled darkly, remembering all the time that you spent clearing walkers off the fences of the prison. That better proved useful now. And you had thought back then that there were a lot of walkers behind the fences...that was nothing compared to this.

“Do you have a plan?” Chris asked.

You bit your lip, considering it. You wanted to find Rick and the others, see if they had come up with something and then do something together, but that could hardly be called a plan.

“They...they’re drawn by sound...maybe if I can reach the outside, find a car and honk, maybe I could bring them there and away from here...”

You knew that the plan was poor and probably nonsense. For starters, reaching the outside without being devoured was almost impossible considering how many walkers were inside Alexandria and even if you managed to do it, not all the walkers would follow the sound of the honk, they were too attracted to Alexandria, with all the people inside.

But it was the best thing you came up with and you hoped you could find Rick on your way.

“I’m going too.”

You blinked in disbelieve when you heard your stepfather’s voice.

“They’re gonna tear through that door sooner or later.”

He picked up another bar and you were about to say no, not after the shit he had pulled before, but then let out a sigh and nodded, you were going to need all the help you could get, even if it was from him.

“Take this.”

You passed the gun to your brother, just in case, though you hoped he wouldn’t need it. There was barely any ammo left in it and the walkers were too many anyway.

“Come on.”

Your stepfather nodded and you went to the back door.

“As soon as we’re out, you push the shelves back in place.” You instructed Chris and Olivia before turning to John. “I clear the ones at the left and you at the right.” You instructed. “And you try something again, this bar goes up your ass.” You hissed the last part only to him.

With that, you went out into a sea of walkers.

It was even worse than you had thought, no matter how many walkers you cleared there were more and more, surrounding you, they were everywhere, and you had to admit you were lucky you had someone with you. You had wanted to go to the sewers and try to go out through it but it was proving impossible, there were too many walkers.

“Look!” You pointed ahead of the street, where Rosita and Spencer were fighting off the walkers too. “Come on!”

You turned around and saw a group of walkers had surrounded John. It’d be so easy, to just let them keep going and devour him...but you were already bringing your bar to the skulls of the closer walkers. You didn’t know if that made you a good person or an idiot, you didn’t care.

Once that threat was eliminated, slowly you cleared your way to Rosita and Spencer.

“Any plans?”

“Not really...”

You kept going, clearing paths through the mass of walkers, but they seemed endless.

Suddenly, there was a big explosion and the lake seemed to light up in flames, walkers snapping their attention to it. And behind it, on top of a truck, there was someone...was it Daryl?

You turned around to ask but there was no time, more walkers were on you again, but at least now you had Rosita and Spencer there too.

Besides, the walkers were getting drawn to the fire and ending up on flames, bless were their mindless brains. Still, not all of them went there and you had to keep your work at clearing the remaining walkers.

As you cleared paths you could see other Alexandria people doing so, and you also spotted some of your own. Rick and Michonne were a bit ahead, putting down walker after walker. Closer to the wall you could see Maggie, Glenn, and Enid, also Abraham and Sasha, and then...Daryl.

Relief washed over you as you saw him there and alive, all you wanted was to run to him, but there were still too many walkers. He saw you too, giving you a nod of acknowledgment before he went back to killing walkers.

You kept working on it and eventually, with all your combined efforts, you managed to end all the walkers.

You dropped the bar and ran to Daryl, who wrapped his arms around you as soon as you reached him, holding you tight, so tight you almost couldn’t breathe but you didn’t care, and you tumbled backwards under his weight.

“God, I was so worried...” You said, voice muffled against his chest.

You were standing on tiptoes until he lifted you off the ground and you wrapped your legs around his waist, holding to him, you had no intention of letting him go anytime soon. He didn’t seem to want to release you soon either.

Your hand felt something sticky on his back and when you looked up from his chest you found your fingers tainted with blood. You dropped your feet back to the ground, letting go of him, you wanted to check his wound, feeling scared again.

“I’m okay.” Daryl stopped you, taking your hands on his, noticing your worry. “It ain’t a bite or a scratch, it was from a knife.”

Before you could ask anything else he bent down to place his forehead against yours.

“I was so scared, Y/N.” He murmured. “I heard the honk from Alexandria and Rick said there were shots too...”

You reached up your hand to comb your fingers through his hair as he spoke.

“I wanted to turn the bike back...I did...but I had to keep leading the walkers away...”

“It’s okay...if the whole herd had come to Alexandria, I don’t think we would have made it.”

“And then when I came back and I saw all those walkers inside...”

You cupped his face on your hands and kissed his lips softly. “We’re okay...” You whispered before kissing him again.

Another gentle kiss and you finally let go of him, you wanted to inspect his wound. The blade had pierced through one of the angel wings of his vest, into his shoulder, and it was still bleeding.

“Sasha said it needs stitches.”

“Yeah.” You nodded and took his hand on yours. “Come on.”

“Everyone okay?”

You looked around at your bloodstained family and most of them nodded, panting, but Rick shook his head.

“Carl...” He muttered.

Your stomach sank in fear and Daryl’s hand tightened his hold on yours.

“Is he...”

“He’s alive.” Michonne provided, Rick seemed out of sorts. “But he was shot...Denise’s working on him.”

“Oh, god.”

You all looked at each other in shock before rushing to follow Rick and Michonne towards the doctor’s.

“Check on Chris.” You turned to say harshly to your stepfather, who was still around, before following the others.

Almost all the survivors gathered at the outside of the doctor’s, even if they weren’t hurt, wanting to be together, finding comfort in each other.

There were so many people missing, you suspected most of them had died and as everybody checked on each other, it was confirmed it was true for most of them. Alexandria had lost so many people in two days, first with the attack of the men, then with the walkers.

Jessie had died, along with her two sons, Michonne confirmed. And Deanna, Deanna had died too. That hit the Alexandrians hard, and you too were saddened about it. She had been a good woman, that one.

Rick went straight to Carl’s bed. To your horror, the boy had lost an eye, although he was stable but still unconscious and Denise couldn’t guarantee when he’d wake up. The new doctor was sweet and gentle and you felt for her, she seemed worried and stressed having to check on so many people while trying to save a boy so seriously injured.

She had done a good job with Carl, though, and the boy was strong, so you had to be hopeful he’d wake up.

As the doctor checked the injured people, Sasha and Abraham told you how they had encountered a group of men, working for someone called Negan or something like that, who had threatened them but they had managed to overpower them.

One of them had stabbed Daryl, though, and the wound finally had needed stitches, but it wasn’t severe and Denise finished stitching him quick. You handed him a shirt but before he put it on you pressed a kiss on his shoulder, over the wound, giving thanks for him being okay, both of you.

Through the door, you saw Olivia, John, and Chris arriving too. You wanted to check on your brother so you walked outside, Daryl taking your hand to follow you, and were surprised when you saw your brother already making his way to you.

“You’re alright?” You asked.

“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine...thank you.” Chris nodded, giving you a smile that made you smile back like an idiot. “She helped me get to a safe place but then left to help others.” He explained to Daryl, who hummed, a small smile tugging at his lips a he looked at you proudly.

“Hey, I wanted to tell you...” Your brother turned nervous and your smile fell. “What happened...that walker...my dad, he swears it was an accident...we’re sorry...”

You weren’t that sure but you’d decided it was best to let it go so you just nodded silently. You didn’t want to start anything over it or to argue about it with your brother, not when you were making progress with him, not after the hell of days you had had. And certainly not with Daryl tensing next to you at Chris’ words.

“What? What accident?” Daryl asked, frowning as he looked from your brother to you. “Y/N?”

Your brother arched his eyebrows at you and you shook your head, making Daryl frown deepen.

“Well, thanks again, really.”  Your brother said before walking away. “Hope Carl gets better soon!”

“Y/N, what happened?” Daryl demanded again, turning your attention from you to your stepfather, who was looking at you both cautiously. “What did he do?” He growled. “I-”

He was already trying to walk towards him but you stepped in front of him, your hands on his chest.

The Alexandrians had just lost a lot of their people in a couple days, including their leader, they had had enough and you didn’t want to cause more trouble by getting into a fight with one of their own, Rick already had enough on his plate as it was.

The day had been bad enough.

You could pretend it had been an accident, if that was what John wanted, but he already knew you weren’t taking any more of his shit and that along with the way Daryl was looking at him, you hoped it would keep him in line for now on.

 “An accident.”

You said to Daryl firmly, holding him back, but you could almost feel him vibrate with anger and for a moment you thought he was going to push you to the side and go to your stepfather.

“Please, I don’t want to start anything...” You told him softly. “Not now. And he already knows what would happen if any other ‘accident’ like that were to happen.”

“It won’t happen cos I’m gonna make sure.”

Daryl tried to brush past you but you didn’t let him and he didn’t want to push you so he stopped. He was still glaring at John, you could feel him shaking under your palms, but he looked at you, taking in your tired face, and took a step back.

“If he does something, if he tries something, I-“ He began, fuming, but you cut him off.

“I know. He knows. He won’t.” You assured him. “I threatened him already, by the way.”

“You should have done more than threaten him.” Daryl growled. “I...I should-“

“Daryl.” It seemed like he was about to try to go for John again so you took his hands to stop him. “No. He’s not worthy.”

Daryl took a deep breath, and nodded.

“Besides, I think it gave me points, me saving the day and helping my brother while his father made a fool of himself...” You half joked.

“Yeah?” Daryl was averting his eyes from John to look at you, you knew he was still angry but he was trying to calm down and you squeezed his hand gently.

“Yep...I think we could be friends, maybe?” You told him, trying not to get your hopes too high, just in case. “He can’t see me as his sister but...I think we’re good.”

Daryl kissed your forehead and wrapped his arms around your waist, turning you until your back was pressed against his chest. You couldn’t see his face but you knew he was glaring at John again, who seemed uneasy and was walking away.

You didn’t want to give him any other thought, didn’t want to let him upset you or Daryl, so you ignored him and let out a content sigh as you leaned back against Daryl, who pressed a kiss to your shoulder. You closed your eyes, finally beginning to relax and noticing how truly exhausted you were.

There wasn’t time to rest, though. The sun was already coming up and there were a lot of things to do. You had to take care of the bodies, burning the walkers and burying your people, and you also had to sort everything the walkers had tore apart, and it was especially important to fix the wall.

None was saying anything but you were all sort of expecting Rick to step in as a leader now that Deanna was gone. He was still with Carl, though, you couldn’t imagine what he was going through, and so Maggie was the one who started listing what needed to be done and how, backed by Michonne.

Before any of you left, though, Rick came to announced Carl was awake. You were all elated, wanting to check on him and say hi, but you knew you had to give space to the kid, who was still very weak.

“I knew he was strong.”

You said to Rick and he gave you a tense but grateful smile.

Nobody rested that day, you were al busy taking care of everything. The wall was in need of deep work, not only the part that had been destroyed but Maggie and Rick also wanted you to reinforce everything and build lookouts at every side.

You’d work on it during the following days, though, for now the goal was to get the wall repaired enough so that no more walkers could get in.

You were working on the wall, avoiding the task of burying the bodies of your people. Daryl was on there too, carrying some wooden planks, it was obvious his wound was bothering him though he wouldn’t say anything, but you went to help him anyway.

A couple of street’s away from where you were working, you saw Glenn, Enid and your brother working on one of the houses the walkers had gotten into, trying to repair the broken door. You smiled looking at them work.

Daryl noticed, looking at you with a small smile of his own. “I’m glad you sorted things out with him.”

“There’s still a long way to go, though...”

You couldn’t expect him to be your friend or brother just because you had gone through two attacks together, but at least now he seemed to trust you.

“He helped me kill a walker, held it for me.” You grinned at Daryl. “And I think I should properly introduce you to him...” You teased, wrapping an arm around Daryl’s waist and you felt him stiffen.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea...” He muttered.

“How’s that?”

“He won’t like me.”

“That’s silly.”

“It ain’t...” Daryl sounded defensive and he pulled away from you.

“Don’t be like that.” You pushed him gently with your shoulder. “I’m sure he’ll think you’re pretty cool...”

Daryl snorted, rolling his eyes, but didn’t resist when you laced your fingers with his and you decided to let the matter go for now.

The sun had almost gone down by the time the wall was repaired enough and Alexandria was clean. There was still work to do in the town, but you’ll work on it during the following days, all together.

You were lucky Sasha offered to take night shift at the lookout, you were dead on your feet.

“Come on, let’s go home.”

You place a hand on Daryl’s arm, he was still working on reinforcing the walls. You were glad when he turned to look at you and nodded, you hadn’t been totally sure he would, wondering if he’d rather keep working even longer, no matter he was tired too.

Once in the house, you saw Glenn and Maggie were already there, snuggled together in one of the couches and seeming half asleep. Glenn waved at you groggily.

“Why don’t you go to bed?”

“I wanted to wait for Rick, gotta talk to him...” Maggie murmured though she sounded more asleep than awake.

“He’s gonna stay with Carl at the doc’s.” Daryl provided.

“Alright, bedtime is it then...” Glenn said but none of them move, seeming too comfy and too tired.

You chuckled, waving goodbye to them and taking Daryl’s hand to walk up the stairs.

You were totally exhausted and ready to collapse on the bed but first you headed to the shower, glad when you managed to get Daryl in with you. You felt like you could stay under the spray of hot water forever, contently letting Daryl gently wash you, but he turned off the water sooner than you’d have liked, though you knew you shouldn’t spend too much hot water.

“Come on, you’re falling asleep in here.”

Your bed had never looked so lovely and comfy before, and you flopped down onto it with a tired sigh. Daryl followed you, crawling over you and using your chest as a pillow.

“Does it hurt?” Gingerly, you brushed your fingertips over his tender wound.

“Nah...”

“I’m so glad you’re okay...” You held him a bit tighter against your chest before lifting your hand to ran your fingers through his long hair. “What happened out there?”

“Nothing...”

Daryl shifted in your arms as if uncomfortable, and you knew something was bothering him, but you decided not to push him about it, not for that night at least, you both had earned your time to rest and relax, and you knew he’d tell you sooner or later.

“Inside here... damn, it was hell...”

Even though you were half asleep, you felt you needed to talk about it, get it out of your system. Maybe that way it wouldn’t come to haunt you in nightmares.

“I’m sorry I wasn’t here...”

Daryl lift up his head to look at you and you ran your knuckles over his cheek.

“Not your fault.”

He nuzzled against your hand before resting his head on your chest again and you began combing your fingers through his hair again, it always helped you relax.

“First with the attack of those men and then the herd of walkers...I thought it might very well be the end of Alexandria.” You admitted. “And I killed so many people, those bastards who attacked us...and I killed one of our own too...”

“How’s that?” Daryl looked at you again, frown burrowed in confusion, and you kept your fingers tangled in his hair.

“He was dying, one of the Wolves had stabbed him, I had to do it...”

You swallowed hard, you hadn’t realized how all that had affected you until know that you finally had a moment to think about it.

“Y/N...” Daryl shifted over you until he could kiss your lips softly. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry you had to go through that.”

“It’s okay.” You tried to reassure him, giving him a weak smile. “I’m okay...We’ll be.”

Daryl hummed and pressed a kiss to your collarbone before burying his face in the crook of your shoulder.

“I killed a bunch of people too...blew them up.” He told you, voice muffled against your skin. “The ones that tried to stop us on the road.”

“They had it coming.”

“Yeah...”

“I guess that’s how we survive now...” You kissed the top of his head.

“I guess...”

***

You woke up when the first rays of sun filtered through the window. It was time for your shift at the lookout and you tried to get up without waking up Daryl but he stirred when he felt you moving, tightening his hold on you and blinking his eyes open.

“Go back to sleep.” You pecked his lips before getting up.

“Nah...” He was already sitting up. “I’m gonna check on Rick.”

“Okay.”

From the lookout you saw Alexandria wake up, people going out and about, doing their jobs, working on repairing Alexandria. You smiled when you saw Daryl making his way up the lookout.

“How’s Rick?” You asked when he reached you.

“Finally sleeping.” Daryl sat down next to you. “Doc said Carl should be back at home in one or two days.

“Good, that’s good.” You grinned, glad to have good news. That kid was strong, you knew it, he could get over everything. “You’re gonna help with the wall?”

Daryl nodded, looking down at the wall. There were some people working there already, following Maggie’s instructions.

“Hey...” You noticed something for the first time, you hadn’t really had time to realize it the day before. “Where’s your crossbow?”

Daryl shifted as if uncomfortable.

“I lost it.”

“You lost it?”

He nodded in silence and you knew there was something wrong.  He stayed silent for a minute and you waited, as patiently as you could, for him to feel ready to tell you what was really going on.

“Aaron wasn’t right, I don’t know the difference between good and bad people, I don’t know shit.” He finally said bitterly.

“What you mean? What happened?”

“Rick was right, we shouldn’t go out looking for people...” Daryl shrugged, looking down as if embarrassed and you worried, wondering what was going on.

“I found some people in the woods...I thought they needed help, there were people hunting them.” Daryl finally explained. “I helped them, even after they attacked me at first, like an idiot, and they turned on me, took my crossbow and my bike.”

“Daryl...”

You knew how much he loved his crossbow and bike, and you knew he must be berating himself for having tried to help someone who betrayed his trust. That was what must be hurting him the most.

“I’m sorry, love.” You whispered and leaned against his arm but he shrugged you off.

“I made a fool out of myself. I was an idiot.”

“No, don’t say that, that’s not true...you did what was right, it’s not your fault you ran into some assholes.”

Daryl had the best heart, someone was bound to take advantage of it sooner or later. Still, you hated that someone was making Daryl feel like that and you wished you could find them and kick their asses until they came on their knees to apologize to him.

“I should have known how they were...”

You let out a sigh and pressed a kiss to his shoulder but said nothing, you knew there was no point telling him it wasn’t his fault, he never believed you.

“I ain’t going out recruiting people no more.”

“Not everyone’s bad, you were right when you said there are good people out there who need our help...”

“Nah, Rick was right. It ain’t my problem.”

“Okay...”

You didn’t pressure him anymore. You knew he was upset and hurt, and he had reasons to be. He’d probably change his mind eventually again.

“I gotta go help with the walls.”

“Alright...”

You reached out to lace your fingers with his, giving his hand a squeeze, and smiled when he lifted your hand to kiss your knuckles.

“I forgot...Aaron asked me if we wanted to go to his and Eric’s place when your shift ends.”

“Sure! Pick you up when Rosita came for her shift?”

“Yeah...”

He gave you a weak smile, pecked your lips and left.

Chapter Text

As time passed, life in Alexandria came back to normal...or at least, what you could call normal.

The community had come together to work in the rebuild of Alexandria, not only his walls and buildings but also its spirit, everyone did what they better could and soon the place felt safe again.

The tensions between your people and the people from Alexandria were ebbing ever so slowly and you found yourself calling some of them your friends more and more, feeling like the original Alexandria people were your people too now. You knew you weren’t the only one feeling like that.

As the wall reinforcement was finished, more lookouts were built too, and more people took shifts at them so the surroundings of the settlement, its walls and door, were always guarded. Luckily, none had attacked you again, and the walkers that stumbled towards your wall were easily eliminated with the sniper rifle that you had at the lookout.

Supply runs were a thing again too, and you went to runs from time to time, though you spent most of your time in watch duty, looking over Alexandria. You couldn’t deny you liked it. You liked the view over Alexandria and its surroundings, a beautiful sight even in the middle of the apocalypse.

You liked your friendly competitions with Sasha whenever you two had to shoot at walkers on the other side of the wall. You liked your talks with Rosita when you two were up there together, talking about life now, about life before, letting your guards down and letting yourselves been vulnerable for a change.

What you didn’t like was all the time that you spent away from Daryl.

He joined as many runs as he could, and when he wasn’t on a run he spent most of his time out of the walls hunting. He hated hunting without his crossbow but did it anyway. You knew he was doing better, he didn’t hate life in Alexandria as much as before, but still he didn’t seem totally comfortable in it, still he wanted to go out as much as possible.

You missed him and worried about him, but didn’t say anything, confiding only to Rosita sometimes, late at night at the lookout, when Daryl was away, the other woman listening to your insecurities and down moments, trying to bring you up but jokingly telling you what an idiot you were.

You wouldn’t say anything to Daryl, though, he always came back seeming happier, and that was what mattered. Still, you couldn’t help but miss your days together at the prison, which seemed the happiest you had lived.

He still wouldn’t go back to recruiting people, he still felt like what happened in the woods with that Dwight man was his fault, still berated himself and felt like a fool. You hated it, but nothing you said got through him, so you had ended up letting the matter go but you knew it was still something that bothered him.

The rest of your family was doing better too.

Rick didn’t seem that on edge and wild anymore. He was now leading Alexandria, nobody had tried to dispute it, and he seemed to be doing good, people trusted him. He leaned on Maggie and they both were keeping Alexandria going, getting over the horrors of the past. Michonne kept him on track too, unafraid to call him out on his bullshit, and both of them had become quite a great team

In little more than a month, Carl had totally recovered. He had to wear a gaze over his eye but that was nothing compared with how worse it could have been. He didn’t complain and you admired the boy and his strength and resilience.

You were elated he and your brother seemed to be friends, glad both boys had someone of their age, and also happy it gave you more opportunities to be with your brother. Your relationship with him was getting definitely better. He may never see you as a sister, you had come to terms with that, but at the very least he had a good relationship with you.

You knew it was taking a toll on his relationship with his father. John still despised you, and he wasn’t taking well the friendship Chris was developing not only with Carl but with your group, and therefore with you. Still, he couldn’t do much about it, but you knew Chris’ relationship with his father was a bit strained, and you hated he might have problems because of you.

For your side, John hadn’t given you any more trouble, he mostly ignored you. If not your threat, then the way in which Daryl glared at him whenever he saw him seemed to be working to keep him away.

You knew Rick was keeping an eye on John too, though, making sure he didn’t nothing to you or your brother, and apparently he was behaving good enough. He better, or you’d hunt him down in a second.

 

As you settled in the lookout for your shift, you saw Chris, Carl and also Enid, practicing their aim outside the walls of Alexandria, but close enough so you could keep an eye on them, making sure they didn’t run into any problems. You aimed, a bit startled, when a couple of walkers stumbled towards them, but the kids made quick work of them.

Carl still had his good aim, no matter he was missing an eye, the boy was a powerhouse. You still didn’t know Enid much but you knew enough to know she was also a true survivor. You were proud your brother was getting better at it too.

“Better come back, sun’s going down!”

You yelled at them. They turned their heads to you when they heard your voice. They were far enough they probably couldn’t make the words, but still they knew what you were saying. Same old. Not wandering outside after the sunset.

Almost at the same time they got into Alexandria, a van drove up the road and inside too. You beamed at the sight, it was the one that had gone to the last run, Daryl was finally back home.

He had been out in that run for four days, one of the longest, and you had missed him badly. You had tried not to worry about him, Aaron, Tara and another Alexandrian were going too and they had already said it’d take them a few days. But still, late at night, alone in your bed or in the lookout, your worst fears had flooded your mind.

You watched them unload the van, longing to run to Daryl but, you didn’t leave the lookout, mostly because you wanted to be responsible with your duty rather than because you thought someone might attack you.

Still, you were starting to get impatient when you saw Daryl disappear further into Alexandria carrying stuff without coming back. You guessed he was talking with Rick or Maggie about the run. You feared he might not come to greet you, but he always looked for you whenever he came back from outside.

Finally, when the sun was nothing but a dim light down at the west and everything was dark around you, you saw him making his way towards the lookout.

“Hey.”

He greeted you with that half smile you were sure would send butterflies to your stomach forever. You beamed at him, reaching out with grabby hands to beckon him closer.

“Come here.”

He smiled wider and you threw your arms around him as soon as he sat down next to you, holding tight to him.

“God, I missed you. So much...”

“I missed you too.” Daryl murmured, nuzzling at your hair.

You pulled away just enough to look at his face. “Everything okay?”

“Yeah, all fine.”

Daryl smiled at you and you ran your fingers over his cheek, smiling softly and studying his face, which turned into a scowl when he noticed you looking at him intently.

“What?”

“Nothing...” You shrugged, smiling wider. “I just like to see you happy like this.”

He huffed, rolling his eyes but the corner of his mouth quirked into a smile.

“I know you like to go out there.”

“Yeah...I miss you, though...” He added quietly, looking down and away from you.  “I know I haven’t been acting like it... I know I ain’t been here with you much but I do miss you.”

He was still looking down as if embarrassed at being saying all that aloud, and not knowing what to say, you cupped his face with your hands, lifting it up to kiss his lips.

“Maybe you could come to the next run?” He asked you when your lips parted.

You smiled, glad he wanted you with him, glad he seemed to miss you as much as you missed him. Part of you had feared he might eventually just become disinterested in you as time passed, as he spent more time out and away from you, maybe he’d realize he liked it better to be away than with you.

You knew it was silly and Rosita had straight smacked you in the head when you had confided it to her, and you knew Daryl loved you, but still...lately he had seemed so much happier out there than in with you...yet, whenever he came back to you, cherishing you, you realized how stupid your fears actually were.

“Yeah, yeah maybe.”

Daryl smiled softly before catching your lips with his again.

“You have to be here the whole night?”

“Yeah...” You let out a sigh. “Night shift is it today.”

You didn’t mind it much when Daryl was away but now that he was back, all you wanted was to go home with him.

“Okay, I’ll stay here with you then.”

He was already settling up next to you and you couldn’t help your smile. It warmed your heart and flooded you with relief that he wanted to spend time with you and keep you company, but you shook your head anyway.

“Nah, I don’t think you got much sleep during that run, did you?” You cupped his face and gingerly run your thumb over the dark circles under his eyes. “Go home, sleep.”

“I’m fine.” He grumbled stubbornly.

“Okay then...” You couldn’t deny you loved to have him next to you. “But I want you to rest anyway...so come here.”

You patted your thigh and he seemed reluctant for a moment but finally curled up next to you, resting his head on your lap, letting out a soft, tired but content sigh and you smiled down to him.

“Tell me about that run.”

He did and you listened to him as you watched over the walls of Alexandria and beyond while you played with his hair, glad to have him back with you, and telling him in return what you had been doing in Alexandria while he was away.

Eventually, as you felt him relax more and more, you stayed silent and tried not to move much, still with your fingers combing through his hair, coaxing him into sleep. He did seem exhausted and you knew he tended to overwork himself, so you were glad he was getting some rest.

Daryl didn’t wake up until almost the sunrise. You felt him stir on your lap and then he was blinking his eyes open.

“Damn...didn’t mean to fall asleep...” He muttered, turning his face to nuzzle against your stomach slightly. “Sorry...”

“I wanted you to rest.”

“You still have to be here for long?” He asked as he sat up and stretched.

“No, Rosita should be coming soon.”

You didn’t have to wait long until you heard footsteps walking up the stairs and then Rosita’s voice.

“Morning Y/N, I bring coffee but you should get your ass into bed...Hey, hi there!” She stopped when she saw Daryl, a smirk on her face. “Hope he didn’t distract you from your duty?”

“Of course he didn’t.”

You rolled your eyes but smiled while Daryl just grumbled something unintelligible, blushing and quickly getting up to his feet and looking anywhere but towards Rosita as he rushed towards the stairs.

“What do you plan to do today?” You asked Daryl once you both walked out of the lookout.

“Dunno...help Rick around if he needs anything...”

“I could go with you...” You offered though you had to stifle a yawn.

“Y/N, you were all night keeping watch.” Daryl placed a hand on the small of your back and began walking you home. “Let’s get you to bed.”

“Alright...just for a short nap though...”

***

Next day, Daryl was already itching for going outside the walls, no matter he had just come back. You guessed by now you should be used to it.

Glenn was working on planning a run, although he wasn’t sure if for today or tomorrow. Daryl didn’t join him, though, he decided to go out hunting instead and when he asked you to go with him, knowing you had most of that day free, you knew he asked for your sake, he always said he hunted better alone.

He might love to be outside, wanting to be outside Alexandria all days, but he still took care to show you he wanted you and wanted you to be with him, and you were grateful for it. It helped you quiet your silly fears that sometimes crept to the back of your mind about him not being happy in Alexandria with you anymore, about him leaving forever.

As you thought about all that while you walked with Daryl through the woods, you couldn’t help but smile fondly at him. Daryl caught you staring, noticing your smile and he arched his eyebrows at you with an amused smirk on his face though he seemed a bit confused. You shook your head before he could ask anything and he threw an arm around your shoulders, pulling you to him while you walked.

“I’m glad you’re here.”

It took you hours of silently tracking and stalking, while you tried not to be a nuisance for Daryl, but finally he managed to hunt a big stag. For all his annoyed grumbling about having to hunt without his crossbow, he had killed him with one clean shot of the riffle.

“Stop complaining,” You told him, pocking at his side where you knew he was ticklish. “Crossbow, riffle, knife, you’re good with anything.”

He looked down, embarrassed, letting his long hair hung over his face.

“I’m not good at keeping my crossbow and bike from assholes

“Daryl...”

You let out a sad sigh. He wouldn’t stop beating himself, though it was only you who he talked with about it. You wished you knew how to take that burden off his shoulders, how to chase those bad feelings away from him.

“Had it coming for being a fool.”

“Stop it.”

He had turned away from you so you wrapped your arms around his waist, pressing yourself against his back.

“It’s true.”

“It’s not.”

Daryl let out a sigh but let it go, turning to look at you and wrapping his arms around you. Your arms sneaked up to his shoulders until you tangled your fingers on the hair at the back of his neck.

“How fast do we have to take that buck back to Alexandria?” You asked, earning a puzzled look from the archer. “Just saying...we haven’t had much time together and alone lately, had we?” You murmured before bringing his lips to yours.

 

That night, all Alexandria got together to dine on roasted deer.

You smiled as you looked at the people gathering, chatting with each other and finally seeming to begin to relax back into their lives again. Your brother had been talking with Carl, who had baby Judith on his arms, but he made his way towards you when he spotted you.

“Hey, Y/N,” He greeted and you grinned at him, elated he’d approached you. “Thanks for the deer, way better than canned meat.”

“Yeah, and you haven’t had to live on canned beans.” You joked. “But you should thank him,” you nodded your head towards Daryl, who was next to you and slightly behind, still feeling awkward and out of place in those gatherings. “I did nothing but follow him. He’s the one that can track and hunt anything.”

You felt Daryl nudge you softly with his shoulder and looked at him in time to see his cheeks blushing and you couldn’t help your smile.

“Well then, thank you, Daryl.”

“’s nothing...” Daryl shrugged awkwardly but gave your brother half a smile.

“Chris!”

You heard your stepfather’s voice and saw him looking at you warily from away.

“Gotta go...” Your brother rolled his eyes. “See you later.”

“Everything okay there?” Daryl nodded his head towards John as your brother made his way to him.

“Yeah...I don’t think he likes Chris being this friendly to us...”

Daryl hummed, frowning as he looked at them.

“Have he tried anything?”

“No,” You assured him, shaking your head. “He knows Rick’d kick him out.”

“Good...”

You watched as your brother and his father talked back and forth until Chris turned on his heels and made his way back to Carl.

“He’s a good kid...”

Daryl wrapped an arm around your waist, pulling you close, your back against his chest, and pressed a kiss to your shoulder.

“Yeah, yeah, he’s...”

You nodded and you both stood in silence for a moment, until you took Daryl’s hand to pull him with you towards the fire where the meat was being roasted.

“Come on, let’s get some food, you hunt that buck after all...”

***

Runs kept going almost daily, though they weren’t too long, usually the groups were out for a couple days. There was a longer one planned, way longer, possibly weeks. The group was going further away than usual to try and find new places.

It wasn’t still decided who would join the run, though you knew Tara would. Glenn wasn’t going, he didn’t want to be far from Maggie for so long, which was understanding considering her state. You couldn’t help but hope Daryl wouldn’t want to go either, you didn’t want him to be out and away from you for so long, and to your relieve, he hadn’t said anything about it for now.

It was a badly needed run, though. Things in Alexandria weren’t too bad yet, you still had food and a good amount of supplies, but you knew you needed to find more and you were in badly need of finding new places to raid.

Maggie had confided you her worries about Alexandria running low on food in not too long, and in the few runs you had gone with Daryl, you had seen how most of the places were empty of stuff. She wanted to keep working on the garden, her future farm, canned food was bound to run out sooner or later, but for that she needed something to plant.

On your last run with Daryl, Tara and Aaron, you had tried looking for seeds to bring back, but it seemed that someone had arrived earlier to every place you went.

Rick was worried too, he didn’t show it in front of the people, just close friends, not wanting to bring their morale down or to worry them, that would cause trouble. He went out on runs daily, trying to find anything, and always took Daryl with him.

Daryl, on his side, was beyond glad to have the chance to go out daily. You knew he also liked the fact that he went out with Rick. With how busy Rick had been since settling in Alexandria, you knew Daryl had been missing his friend, so you knew he was happy to spend time with him out there, even though he wouldn’t say it aloud.

Every time he came back he joined you wherever you were, at the lookout, at bed, on the porch of your house, it didn’t matter. He’d settle down next to you and tell you about the run, no matter most of them turned to be fruitless, about what he and Rick had been up to that day.

He always sounded happier and more relaxed than he had done in a long while, making your heart swell with happiness, glad he was feeling better, glad he was happier.

You couldn’t help your small smile as you saw the archer getting ready for that day’s run, noticing how excited he seemed. You teased him sometimes, jokingly complaining about him spending more time with Rick than with you and how jealous you were at the thought of him dumping you for Rick eventually.

He always turned so grumpy and flustered, you couldn’t help it, and to his dismay, you had managed to get Carol teasing him too, just like in the old days.

You were about to open your mouth for one of your teasing remarks when he turned towards you, frowning at a piece of paper where it was written what the people of Alexandria needed him to bring back if he could, before passing it to you.

“You know what this means?”

“Some soda drink I think.”

“I mean the line before it...”

“No idea...”

“I’ll ask Denise.” Daryl frowned at the paper again before folding it. “Rick and I leave soon.”

You could hear Rick talking with Michonne at the room at the other end of the corridor, probably getting ready too.

“Okay, I have to go to the lookout, Sasha has been there for the night.”

“I’ll walk you there.”

You waited for him to take his backpack and then you both walked towards the lookout as Alexandria began to wake up.

Once in there, you stood on tiptoes to kiss Daryl's lips.

“You two have fun.”

“You want me to bring you something?”Daryl gave you his half smile as he ran his knuckles over your cheekbone.

“Not really.” You shrugged. “Though you know chocolate’s always welcome...and also try not to jump on Rick, I know he’s looking really tempting lately with those cute curls growing back...”

Daryl huffed, blushing and rolling his eyes, and you giggled softly.

“I’ll see you later.”

Chapter Text

When the sun went down and Daryl and Rick weren’t back, you grew increasingly worried. It was a short run, they should be back...What if they had run into trouble?

“Stop worrying, they’re fine!” Rosita punched your arm playfully.

It was her turn to keep watch but you were at the lookout anyway, looking at the road ahead, waiting for the car to show up.

“I’m sure they decided to go further than they had planned or found more stuff than they thought.”

“Yeah, maybe...”

Still, you didn’t relax until you saw a car speed towards Alexandria.

“Told you so!”

You heard Rosita chuckle as you rushed up and ran down the lookout to meet them.

You frowned in confusion when you saw them dragging an unconscious and tied up man out of the car and began to carry him towards Denise’s place.

“What...who’s that?” You asked them, panting a little, when you reached them.

“A prick who tried to steal from us,” Daryl told you.

“Knocked his head.” Rick finished.

Both men struggled to carry the unconscious one into Denise’s and after the doctor inspected him, she informed you he should be recovering soon, it was nothing severe, and therefore the man was locked into an empty house that served as an improvised jail.

You raised your eyebrows, a smirk playing on your face, when you saw Daryl leaving the man a glass of water and one of Carol’s cookies.

“Denise said he might need it if he wakes up...” He shrugged awkwardly.

“I said nothing...”

Rick left the man a note explaining the situation and then left towards home, seeming exhausted. Daryl looked tired too but he sat down on the stairs in front of the door of the house turned jail to keep watch, and you sat down next to him.

“What happened?” You asked, taking his hand and lacing your fingers.

“We found a truck full of food but that damn asshole appeared out of nowhere and stole it from us,” Daryl growled. “We caught up to him...I got him...but the damn truck ended up at the bottom of a lake.”

You blinked a bit confused, trying to figure out how all that could have happened and how in the world the truck had met such an end, but you didn’t ask any further, knowing Daryl was frustrated and upset about the whole thing.

“Aw...well, that sucks...” You lifted his hand to place a soft kiss on his knuckles before leaning your head against his shoulder.

“Yeah...that truck was perfect...” Daryl was still scowling but you felt him relax a bit.

“If there were chocolate on it, I’m going to kick that man’s ass.” You joked, trying to light the situation a bit.

You knew Rick wanted to talk with the man, he believed he had a group and therefore had some questions for him. And as the man had ended up hurt in whatever skirmish he and Daryl seemed to have had, Rick had felt they had to bring him to Alexandria to help him.

You smiled softly. For all their tough exteriors and their big talk, Rick and Daryl were always doing things like that. Rick seemed to lose his way sometimes, like when you arrived in Alexandria, but he always found his way back, he was a good man, like Daryl. Daryl himself had told you so, months, and months and months ago, back when you barely knew either him nor Rick.

Still, you were sure none would ever have a heart as big as Daryl, no matter he tried to hide away from it sometimes.

Daryl arched an eyebrow at you as he noticed your dreamy smile, at odds with what you had just said, but smirked.

“Got you something...wait...”

You watched as he got up and left towards the car, coming back with his backpack which seemed slightly wet and quite stained.

“What happened to it?”

“One of those sodas the doc wanted spilled in it,” Daryl grumbled and you couldn’t help your chuckle.

“Looks like today wasn’t your day, love...”

You teased and he rolled his eyes, letting out a huff but giving you his crooked smile. He rummaged into the backpack until he took out a chocolate bar of your favorite brand that he passed to you. You squealed as you took it and opened it carefully, it had broken into pieces and you didn’t want to drop anything.

“Just when I thought I couldn’t love you more!” You grinned to Daryl, who ducked his head down with a smirk of his own. “And this’s what I call a balanced dinner.” You joked as you passed some of the chocolate pieces to Daryl.

You sat there for a little while, sharing chocolate, until someone came to look over the prisoner. Daryl had been out all day, he deserved time to rest, but he still seemed reluctant, so you pulled at his hand until he got up.

He didn’t seem to want to go home though, as he began to walk aimlessly, still with his hand in yours. You didn’t say anything, though, just followed him in silence to wherever he wanted to go, your fingers laced together. He didn’t seem to have a destination in mind as he just wandered around for a while until he walked you both into one of the green areas of Alexandria. He sat down on the grass, his back against the trunk of a tree and you did the same, snuggling to him.

From far away you could see Maggie working on the farm she wanted to grow. It was late at night, but she had taken on working on it after the sun went down so the weather wasn’t too hot and she hadn’t to work under the sun. You smiled as you saw Glenn making his way towards her, probably to try and get her to go back home with him. You knew he worried when Maggie worked too much, and she was a hard worker, pregnant or not.

You felt Daryl’s fingers trail absentmindedly over your arm and you knew there was something on his mind, something else he hadn’t tell you, but you didn’t say anything, waiting for him to be ready to share his thoughts and worries.

“When we were out there...Rick said I was right...” He began quietly. “When I said we should look for people, take them in...”

You pressed a kiss to his arm and smiled softly to him.

“You were.”

“Nah.” Daryl shook his head stubbornly. “Look what happened today with that man.”

“We don’t know if he’s really bad, maybe he was just trying to feed his group too...though I can’t forgive him for losing good chocolate.”

You joked but Daryl’s face was still dark, you knew he still beat himself about what had happened weeks ago with Dwight.  He shook his head again.

“Last time I tried helping someone out there...you know what happened...” He murmured. “If Rick knew...”

You let out a sigh. Daryl hadn’t really told the full extent of what had happened to anyone but you, he was ashamed and blamed himself, and nothing that you said to him could change that. You knew it had hit him hard, having his trust betrayed like that, being fooled like that by that asshole.

“There can still be good people out there, Daryl.” You said softly, running a hand down his stubbled cheek. “You can’t think everyone’s bad just because you stumbled into a prick once...”

Daryl was still looking down, though he nuzzled against your palm before shaking his head again.

Before any of you could say anything else, you heard some commotion and saw Maggie and Glenn running towards the improvised jail. Daryl was on his feet in a second, running towards them with you behind.

“What’s going on?”

“Prisoner’s run away!” Denise announced. “I came to check on him and he’s gone. Window at the back’s open...”

“Shit...”

Daryl cursed under his breath and ran towards your home, sure the man had headed there. You didn’t know what else to do so you followed him, Glenn and Maggie behind you too. You stumbled into the house to find the man on the stairs, looking oddly calm as Carl pointed a gun at him. Michonne and Rick were there too, half dressed, and you raised an eyebrow at the sight before pointing your gun at the man...no time for that now.

In a couple of minutes you were all sitting down on the kitchen table, in such a civic meeting that honestly surprised you a bit, but in a good way.

Rick had been right, the man, Jesus, belonged to a group...but not only a group, an actual settlement like Alexandria, which traded with other communities and he wanted to trade with you...you couldn’t deny it intrigued you. Not to mention the fact that there seemed to be more settlements out there, Alexandria wasn’t the only place...you were so amazed you didn’t have words.

There was no time to lose as Jesus offered to take you to his community so you could see with your own eyes what he was talking about, so as soon as the sun began to clear, you all rushed to get ready.

Once you had everything you needed you made your way to the RV, getting yours and Daryl’s bags in it before heading towards him as he finished checking the motor of the vehicle.

“What’s that?” You pointed at a plastic bag pocking out of his pocket.

“Doc gave it to me...she made it...” Daryl took it out of his pocket, frowning at the bag, and you saw it was some kind of oatmeal cake.

“Aw...” You smiled, that was really nice of Denise. The girl was sweet and you were happy she had befriended Daryl, not caring if he seemed shy and surly around her most of the time. “That’s sweet.”

“It is,” You said again, pocking at Daryl’s belly when he just shrugged awkwardly. “And I’m jealous, none does that for me...not even Carol makes me cookies anymore, she gave all them to everyone else....” You joked.

“We can share...are you ready?” Daryl placed a hand on the small of your back to guide you back into the RV.

“Yeah, but wait...”

You looked around to make sure none else was listening and broke into a tiny giggle which made Daryl arch an eyebrow at you.

“What?”

“Rick and Michonne...what do you think it’s going on?” You let out another giggle. “Are they together?”

“Maybe.” Daryl just shrugged but a playful smile tugged at the corner of his mouth.

“That was unexpected...”

Daryl just shrugged again as if it weren’t that shocking to him and you shook your head in disbelieve. But of course, he and Rick were like brothers.

“Anyway, I hope they’re happy, they deserve it.”

“Yeah...” Daryl nodded. “Come on, we have to go.”

You nodded and followed him into the RV. Carl waved at you goodbye, holding baby Judith and making her wave too, and also your brother was there too.

Much to yours and Rick dismay, both boys had teamed up to try and convince you to take them with you, wanting to see the new settlement. They hadn’t complained when you denied them, though, accepting it, probably they weren’t expecting you to say yes anyway.

You didn’t know if to be happy at their friendship or worried at what antics they might get up to together. At any rate, you grinned in happiness at them as you waved goodbye to them.

You found yourself almost enjoying the trip to Hilltop, Jesus’ home.

The journey was quiet and calm as some of you tried to get some rest while others looked through the windows, the sky blue and not a single walker or threat on sight.

You saw Michonne and Rick holding hands while he drove. You elbowed Daryl, making him notice it, and he rolled his eyes at you but smiled softly before going back to look out through the window. You leaned against his chest, closing your eyes, a content smile on your face.

“Yo, Rick, was going on?”

Daryl’s voiced startled you and you opened your eyes, you hadn’t realized you had almost fallen asleep cuddled up in his arms.

Of course, something had to go wrong.

There was a car crashed at the side of the road, some walkers stuck in it, and Jesus rushed out of the van in worry when he realized it was one of his. You all followed Daryl as he tracked what you hoped was Jesus’ people into a building, but he and Rick still mistrusted Jesus and thought it might be a trap, and so Jesus was forced to stay outside, handcuffed and with Maggie and you pointing your guns at him, while the others went looking for his people.

“I just...I don’t really think he’s a bad guy...” You whispered quietly to Maggie without taking your eyes or gun off Jesus.

“Yeah, maybe...” Maggie whispered back without looking away from Jesus. “Can’t be too careful, though.”

You nodded at her words.

It didn’t take the others long to come back but for you, it felt like an eternity and when you finally saw them walking out of the building you let out a relieved sigh and lowered your gun, letting Jesus rush towards his friends, handcuffed as he was, before Rick released him again.

Soon you were all back into the RV heading towards Hilltop. Jesus’ friends had been trying to bring medicines back when some men had attacked them, and they were totally grateful for your help, even though they were still pretty shaken.

Looking at them as they talked with your people, you couldn’t help but think they were good guys. You stole a glance towards Daryl but his face was unreadable. You knew that since his accident with Dwight, it was hard for him to trust people at all.

You reached Hilltop without any more trouble and as you jumped out of the RV you looked around with curiosity. They had walls surrounding the settlement, not as big as Alexandria’s but strong and protective nonetheless.

There were two men on top of the wall keeping watch with what looked like spears, which soon were trained on your group, who aimed their guns at them in return. It took a bit of convincing from Jesus side, but finally Rick agreed to come in.

You placed a hand on Daryl’s arm, noticing his tensed muscles. You knew he didn’t like that, didn’t trust those people and he was still clutching his loaded crossbow as he followed Rick. Gently, you guided his arm down, you didn’t want more problems.

“It’s okay...”

You said softly but he didn’t say anything, just let you lower his weapon and kept walking with a scowl on his face, looking around warily.

As you walked inside, you couldn’t help but be impressed by the place. There were animals around, cows and chickens, and also gardens with fruits and vegetables, and even what seemed like a smithy. So that’s how they get their spears...There were also several trailers neatly parked inside, with people obviously living in them.

But what impressed you the most was the big house standing in the middle of the settlement.

You listened intently as Jesus explained to your group things about the place and how they had put it together. You learned that the impressive house was called Barrington House and it used to be a living history museum.

Jesus walked you inside and you gaped at it, looking from the antique furniture to the decoration, but it was the big, gorgeous staircase what caught your attention the most. You wanted to walk it up, see the other rooms, check everything, but you knew it wasn’t the right moment.

You walked to Daryl, a smile on your face.

“This place’s amazing, right?”

He just hummed, looking around, still frowning.

Gregory, the man in charge, didn’t give you the best first impression. As soon as Jesus introduced you to him he demanded you cleaned up before talking to him. Place was hard to keep clean, or something like that.

You didn’t know if you were amused or angry at him, but certainly he didn’t have your respect neither your trust, and judging by the faces or your group, even of Jesus, you knew you weren’t the only one feeling like that.

Still, you all decided to play nice, letting Jesus guide you up the stairs to where you could clean up as best as possible. You all let Maggie wash first so she could go talk to Gregory, she was good at all that diplomacy and dealing with people and leader things, firm but understanding, and certainly, she was the most qualified for this alliance business.

After her, you all took turns trying to get more presentable, whatever were Gregory’s standards.

You chuckled softly as you ran your fingers through Daryl’s hair as he sat in front of you, easing the knots away, combing it as best as possible with your fingers although it stayed wild anyway. You couldn’t deny you loved it, though.

“What?”

He’d had his eyes closed as you ran your fingers through his hair but they snapped open when he heard you laughing.

“Nothing...I just don’t know how you can see at all...”

You chuckled again, pushing his fringe back and away from his face, holding it with your hand so it wouldn’t fall over his eyes again. It had gotten so long, it was always on his face.

“I see fine...” He grumbled.

“I don’t know...” You couldn’t help but tease, cocking your head to the side as you studied him, holding his fringe up with your hand in a messy, tiny pigtail. “I can’t have you getting hurt because your hair’s not letting you see properly...I might have to tie up your fringe like that, like if you were a yorkie...” You couldn’t keep talking as you burst in giggles.

“Don’t you dare...”

Daryl growled at you with a smirk on his face, shaking his hair away from your grip and pulling you roughly onto his lap. He ran his fingers through your hair as you had done to him, pulling some locks away from your face and holding them at the nape of your neck.

“Looks good on you though...”

He said quietly and you hummed at the feeling of his fingers stroking your hair. You smiled at him. He had been so tense since you arrived at Hilltop, mistrusting the place and the people, you were glad you had made him smile even if just a little bit, no matter he was still on edge.

You nuzzled against his hand, enjoying his gentle touch but it ended all too quickly as he carefully shifted you up off his lap and got up. You knew he was itching to do something, to know what was going on.

“Come on.”

You followed him back to the hall where your group was anxiously waiting for Maggie to finish her negotiations.

When she walked out Gregory’s office, it was evident things hadn’t gone well and you all couldn’t hide your frustration as she explained how he had refused all her deals. Jesus tried to reassure you, telling you Hilltop wanted to trade, that he’d talk to Gregory, but it didn’t do much to help you feel better.

Before any of you could say anything, though, there seemed to be some kind of commotion and you all followed Gregory and Jesus out, and you watched in surprise and horror how a man, someone from Hilltop who had just returned, stabbed Gregory.

Rick jumped to stop the man and their fight ended with him cutting the man’s throat. You looked around at the horrified looks on the faces of the people around you and knew there was something more going on, something you didn’t know anything about.

Negan.

That was a name you had already heard, the men that had attacked Daryl, Sasha and Abraham a while back seemed to have been his, and it seemed somehow they were messing with Hilltop too.

Pretty soon everything turned into a mess as the Hilltop people aimed their weapons to your group while yours did the same, and you didn’t know what to do but quickly moved next to Daryl, taking your gun out of your holster too just in case.

Luckily, Jesus stepped in the middle, deescalating the situation once again, and soon you were all back at the hall again, trying to make sense of this mess.

Gregory’d pull through, and you weren’t sure if you were happy about it or not, at any rate you didn’t care about it.

What you care about was that Negan man, and you listened to Jesus as he explained how he was the leader of a group called the Saviors, how they had begun demanding things and threatening Hilltop as soon as they settled, even beating to death a young boy of Hilltop to prove their point.

And so, Gregory had made a deal. Half of their stuff would go to the Saviors and they wouldn’t attack them.

“Why don’t just kill them?”

Daryl voiced aloud what probably all your group was thinking. You had dealt with men like that before. Anyway, Jesus words, the idea of those men beating a kid in front of their people until he died, made you shiver.

Jesus explained how most of the people of Hilltop didn’t know how to fight, how the Saviours always came on big groups of even twenty man, but Daryl kept pressing it.

“Now, hold up. So they show up, they kill a kid and you give them half of everything?” He accused, “These dicks you just got a good story, the bogeyman, he ain’t shit.”

Abraham agreed with him, explaining how he and Daryl had taken out one of his groups and before you knew what was going on, Daryl was telling Jesus you would kill Negan and his men in exchange of Hilltop trading with you. Rick voiced his approval and so, it was settled, Jesus would go tell Gregory.

While Jesus and Gregory talked, you sat down next do Daryl on the porch.

“I don’t like this...” You admitted.

“It’s our way to trading.”

“It’s dangerous...”

Walkers didn’t worry you as much as men did these days.

“We’ve fought other people before.” Daryl shrugged.

“Yeah...but...you heard what Jesus said...”

The story was still lingering on your mind. You already hated those Saviors without knowing them, but were also afraid of them and what they could do.

“Yeah, they did well at scaring these people, that’s how those pricks get what they want, by scaring others while they’re not so tough...they just pretend cos they can’t do shit by themselves...”

Daryl told you but it didn’t do much to comfort you. You had fought people before, yes, bad people, and one of them had destroyed your home, the prison, a place where you had been truly happy. You didn’t want that to happen again now that you had a new home.

Still, you needed the deal and those people needed to be stopped so they couldn’t intimidate and hurt more people...it worried you, though.

Daryl let out a sigh, noticing your worry, and wrapped an arm around your shoulders, pulling you close to him.

Another meeting between Maggie and Gregory, and the deal was settled.

Chapter Text

You were back on the road heading towards the Saviors’ settlement.

Most of the Alexandria people had been nervous and distraught about the whole thing but they had finally accepted it was necessary, and some of them had joined you.

You were all crammed inside the RV, a big group, and though the proximity of your friends usually made you feel better, you were feeling anxious and worried about what was about to happen, especially because you didn’t know exactly what was going to happen. That only made you more afraid.

You knew you weren’t the only one feeling like that, everyone was tense and silent. Daryl looked at you, biting his thumb as he studied your face, you knew he could read you. He didn’t say anything, though, just turned back to look through the window.

“Hey, you alright?”

You quietly asked to Rosita, who was looking through the other window with a hard face and harder eyes, nothing like the woman who had shown up at your doorsteps a couple days ago with broken-hearted tears rolling down her cheeks.

Abraham had dumped her, she had explained you without going into much detail while you both sat down on the porch. She had been totally head over heels with Abraham and she had been devastated, you had never seen the strong woman like that, and you had tried to comfort her as best as possible, though you didn’t know if you had succeeded.

After that day, though, you had never seen her crying again and she seemed to have hardened her heart, though you knew she was suffering. Everyone knew what had happened, Abraham was not discrete, but Rosita had been lashing out against anyone who tried to approach her about it, so nobody brought it up anymore.

“I’m fine, Y/N.” She answered curtly.

“Just...” You let out a defeated sigh, hating to see her like that. “Know that I’m here for you...”

Rosita’s facade faltered for a second, his eyes turned vulnerable before she swallowed hard, giving you a nod.

“We have to focus on the plan, nothing else matters now.”

Honestly, first part of the plan was madness to you, and you pursed your lips in disgust as Jesus and Rick studied three severed heads from recently killed walkers, trying to decide which one looked more like Gregory. That was your excuse to get into the Saviors’ place.

They wanted Gregory’s head and you hadn’t any other plan, and Jesus had told you the guards may not know how Gregory really looked, but still...

“I don’t know if this is more disgusting or stupid...”

You grumbled to Daryl, who looked at you and seemed at loss for words to comfort you. You knew you were been mean, though, you couldn’t help it with your nerves on edge, and knew you were worrying him, so you gave him a small, apologetic smile. He squeezed your shoulder gently before going back to scout around the perimeter.

It was night when you finally arrived at the building where the Saviors were settled, leaving behind Maggie and Carol to keep watch at the RV.

Maggie had been pissed to be left behind, she wanted to be helping in the front line, but you were relieved. She was pregnant, for heaven’s sake. She was so strong and brave, such a fighter, people tended to forget about her condition, but still, it was time she stopped being in danger for once.

You were hidden behind some bushes, next to Rick and Tara, your heart beating so hard you thought they might be very well hearing it. You were waiting for Daryl’s signal and as minutes passed you grew more anxious, wondering if he had run into trouble, until you finally heard his whistle and you all rushed towards the front door of the building where Daryl waited for you, a dead guard on the ground next to him.

“Okay?”

You asked, your heart still beating fast no matter he nodded reassuringly to you.

As soon as the other guard walked out, bringing the Hilltop man they had abducted, your people jumped on him, finishing him quick, and you walked silently inside.

You followed Daryl through the corridors, both of you making sure to stay close to each other, moving as silently as you could. Opening door after door, you found sleeping men, totally unaware of your presence, and one by one your group began to sink their knives into their heads, ending them in silence.

You felt sick to your stomach. You hadn’t expected it would affect you that much.

They were bad people and you had killed your good share of bad people, of people who had attacked you and threatened you. You would kill anyone who was a danger to your group without hesitation, you’d done it before.

But still, looking at those sleeping men, oblivious to everything...they were bad but they didn’t look like it when they slept, you didn’t know them, they hadn’t done anything to you.

You forced yourself to replay again the story Jesus had told you about them, to think about the group that had attacked Daryl, one of them stabbing his shoulder. It made you mad but when you lifted your knife, hovering it over the head of the sleeping man, you couldn’t bring yourself to sink it into his head.

Your hand trembled and you swallowed hard. Daryl noticed, he was right next to you in the room, after having ended the man that slept on the other side. He turned towards you, placing a hand over the one that held your knife so you wouldn’t have to do it.

You shook your head imperceptibly, you had to do it, it was your duty, it was what you had gone there to do. You had to be strong, you had to remember why you were doing it. You didn’t let Daryl pull your hand away, and with his still over yours, you sank the blade into the man’s head.

You let out a shuddered breath, trying to be quiet, as you pulled your knife back, feeling like you might just throw up. Daryl looked at you, chewing on his lower lip, before you turned on your heels and left the room, heading towards the next.

It was all going smoothly, if you could call it that, until an alarm started blasting, followed by gunshots. Daryl pulled you behind his arm and you both ran, trying to find your people, getting in the middle of some gunfire between Michonne and Rick, and some Saviors.

“Shit!”

Daryl pushed you behind him and you two took cover behind a corner, aiming and shooting every time the other men stopped to recharge until the threat was subdued. It kept going like that, you four trying to push forwards, shooting Saviors in your way, hiding from their gunfire while you heard more gunshots from somewhere, knowing that the rest of your people were fighting too.

It ended in victory for your people. Or at least, you all were alive and unharmed, while the bloodied up bodies of your enemies lied on the floor. You wondered briefly while you didn’t feel happy about it, you even had found weapons and supplies too.

Before you could give it much thought, you had to move again. Time to come back home.

You didn’t realize how long you had spent in there until you went out and noticed the sun rising up. You were bound to be exhausted, but you just felt numb. You waved to Jesus like in a dream as he got into a vehicle to drive his men back to Hilltop, and you all got ready to make your way back to Carol and Maggie.

You couldn’t wait to be back home.

You felt the comforting touch of Daryl’s hand on the small of your back, guiding you, but you all stopped on your tracks as you heard the rumble of a motorbike and turned to see a man riding one, trying to escape.

In a heartbeat, Rosita had shot at the wheels with perfect aim, making him fall down, and Daryl was on him on a second, pinning the man to the ground as he delivered blow after blow to his face. You ran to Daryl, aiming your gun at the man on the floor, recognizing the bike as Daryl’s, Rick following you suit.

“Where’d you get the bike?”

Daryl demanded, though it wasn’t like the man could speak with him still punching him.

“Lower your guns.”

A voice suddenly spoke through a walkie that had fallen next to the man, startling you all. “All of you, lower your weapons right now.”

You all did as instructed, looking around, trying to see from where you were being watched but to no avail. Rick took the walkie, talking to the voice, trying to find out what was going on. You exchanged a scared look with Daryl, your heart in your mouth as you heard their words.

They had Carol and Maggie.

You heard their voices as Maggie and Carol confirmed it was true and you felt close to tears. Glenn was frantic, and with good reason, as he raised the man to his feet, helped by Daryl, their guns pointed to the man’s head as Rick tried to work a deal.

It didn’t seem to work and the woman on the other side of the walkie left you all hanging.

“Fuck!...Fuck!...”

Glenn had finally lost it, seeming totally out of himself, cursing and kicking the dirt off the floor. You could understand him perfectly, you were so scared for Maggie and Carol that it was hard to breathe, and if it were Daryl on their place...no, you couldn’t even think it.

Rick cursed aloud too, glaring at the walkie, trying to speak to whoever was that woman, but there was no reply.

“We gotta...”

Glenn couldn’t even finish his sentence, looking around frantically, his eyes a mixture of anger and fear.

“Hey, come on, man...” Daryl approached him slowly, carefully placing a calming hand on Glenn’s shoulder, stopping his pacing. “We’ll find them, yeah?” He tried to reassure his friend even though you knew he was scared too. “We’ll track them, alright?”

Glenn nodded quickly, swallowing hard, though his eyes were still frantic as he looked around.

“Yeah...yeah, come on...” Rick nodded, trying to sound more at ease than he was probably feeling.

You all followed Daryl as he tracked through the forest the people that had abducted Maggie and Carol. From time to time, Rick managed to talk with the woman, though she still didn’t seem too keen on his deal. Bt the time she seemed to agree, Daryl was positive you were close.

Next time a voice came through the walkie, it was not the woman but Carol telling you where to go, making you all look at each other with eyes wide in surprise. Soon, black smoke was rising up the sky.

“Shit...” Glenn hissed. “Come on!”

You all run until you found the building you’d been looking for and when you opened the door you were greeted by the sight of Carol and Maggie standing there free, safe and sound, though looking truly shaken.

“You all right?”

Daryl muttered to Carol, pulling her into a hug when she shook her head. You gave her a concerned look, you had never seen her looking like that, seeming so fragile and broken, and you wondered what had happened in there.

“Hey...”

You whispered to Maggie, who was in Glenn’s arms, reaching your hand towards her. Maggie gave you a weak smile, taking your hand and squeezing it.

“I’m okay...” She reassured you softly before letting Glenn walk her out.

Rick was talking with the prisoner and Daryl let go of Carol to go back him up, so it was your turn to hold her now. She let you wrap your arms around them, but didn’t say a word while you listened to Rick and the man exchanging words.

So, that man was Negan. It was...it wasn’t what you were expecting but well, Daryl had been right, they weren’t as tough, they were just bullies scaring people around to have their things instead of working themselves.

You barely flinched when Rick pulled the trigger, ending Negan for good.

The journey back to your vehicles was silent. Everyone was exhausted and not in the mood to talk about what had happened or to celebrate your victory, the slaughter of Negan and his men, which assured your trading deal with the Hilltop.

Daryl patched up the wheels of his newly found bike as best as possible and drove it back towards the group’s RV, and everyone began getting inside, eager to leave the place. You stood awkwardly outside, not sure of what you were supposed to do now, get inside the vehicle with all the others or go with Daryl on his bike. He was giving you an unsure look too.

“Don’t need to come with me, I know you’re tired...”

You shook your head, walking purposely towards him and swinging your leg over the bike, sitting down behind him and wrapping your arms around his waist, pressing yourself against his back.

You both had barely spoken a word in the whole day and you were still pretty shaken about the events of the day, but as always had been, being next to him gave you comfort. Daryl placed his hand over yours for a second, his thumb running over your knuckles, before placing it back on the handler and turning the engine on.

You liked to ride on his bike, it made you feel safe, weird as that might sound, you liked the feeling of almost been flying, the air flying around you as he sped up, all while being snuggled to him, though the rumble of the bike and its movement made you feel a bit drowsy sometimes...and Daryl had been right, you were worn out and the day had left you feeling like all the energy had left your body, so you were bound to feel sleepy.

The ride back home was long and at some point you felt yourself leaning more and more into Daryl so you tried to straighten yourself but eventually you let your forehead rest against his shoulder, closing your eyes even though you kept your tight hold of him.

“You good?”

Daryl asked you over the sound of the bike and the air, turning his head ever so slightly for a second to check on you.

“Yeah.”

You nodded but you felt him slowing down the bike as if he were afraid you might fall down so you ran your hands under his jacket to grab the front of his shirt, your arms even more tightly around him, making him notice you weren’t letting go.

He nodded but didn’t speed up as fast as he usually would. It wasn’t like the RV could go that fast anyway, but you knew he was doing it for you.

The sun was going down when you finally reached Alexandria. Everyone had questions but you all were too tired to answer to most of them and you found yourself lashing out at a couple of people without meaning to. You regretted it instantly, they were only worried.

“Shit, sorry...”

You muttered, ashamed, when you noticed your brother taking a couple of steps back. He had come to check on you and you had ruined it...he didn’t seem to hold it against you, though, he gave you an understanding nod.

“Are you alright?”

“Yeah, I guess...” You shrugged, failing to pretend you were fine. “I mean, we won, so...” You let out a sigh. “It’s just I’m dead on my feet.” You hoped you never had to tell your brother what you had done that day...you couldn’t...

“I can see that.” Your brother gave you a small smile that you couldn’t help but return. “I’ll see you in the morning, gonna go lend some comics to Carl after breakfast.”

You all headed home besides Rick and Maggie, who stayed behind to tell the Alexandria how the threat had been eliminated and what was going to happen now.

You walked into your room and flopped onto the bed with a tired sigh, face down.

“You okay?” Daryl asked you quietly, sitting down next to you.

“Yeah...” You turned your face to the side so you could look at him. “Just tired.”

Daryl nodded, letting out a hum. His eyes darted to the door before coming back to you.

“You want to check with Rick, right?”

Daryl nodded again, looking almost guilty, so you tried to give him a weak smile.

“Come on,” You nudged him. “Go.”

“It won’t take long,” Daryl assured you before disappearing out of the room.

With a tired sigh, you forced yourself to get up from the bed and headed towards the bathroom for a quick shower, you needed to take the dirt, sweat, and blood off you. You didn’t even bother to wash your hair, you just stood under the spray of hot water.

When Daryl came back, you were already curled up on your bed though wide awake. You hadn’t been able to fall asleep, every time you closed your eyes you saw the sleeping men on the beds, felt your knife sinking into their brains, the sick sound...

You shuddered, and you were relieved to see Daryl back as he made his way towards the bed without turning on any light, as if not to wake you up. The moment you felt him get into the bed you rolled over to half lie over him, your head on his chest. Daryl wrapped his arm around you, running his fingers through your damp hair.

“You ain’t okay.” He murmured.

You stayed silent for a couple of seconds before shaking your head weakly and whispering a no.

“What’s it?”

“Those men we murdered...”

You didn’t know how to explain it, you weren’t even sure of what you were feeling. You had killed people before without any remorse and you’d do it again for your family. Still, you were hunted by what you had done today and you couldn’t really say why.

“They ain’t the first we kill...”

You knew Daryl was right, you thought the same, but you couldn’t help yourself.

“I know...”

You shrugged helplessly and Daryl held you tighter, feeling your distress but seeming at loss for what to say.

“It’s just...” You began again, trying to put into words your feelings without much success.” I don’t know...it feels different...they didn’t come for us, didn’t attack us, it didn’t feel...I...I don’t know...” You tailed off helplessly.

All the other times, when people had come for your family, you had been ready to take them down, but this time it had felt cold in a strange way that made a shiver run down your spine.

“They attacked Sasha, Abraham and me,” Daryl reminded you. “Attacked the Hilltop too.”

“I know...” You hated the idea that he might be thinking you didn’t care about him being attacked by them, it wasn’t that. “But...they didn’t look...they just...they were asleep...I don’t know, Daryl, I don’t know what I’m feeling or why I’m feeling like this, all I know it’s that I can’t help it even though I hate it...”

You swallowed hard, blinking quickly as you felt dangerously close to tears.

“Hey...” Daryl lifted your head gently, stroking his thumb over your cheekbone. “It’s okay...nobody wanted to do that, nobody liked to do it.” He let out a tired sigh and you wondered how he was feeling about it, what were his thoughts. “But we had to.”

You nodded weakly and Daryl looked at you with concern but let you pull away from his hand to rest your head on his chest again.

“I’m sorry you had to do it...”

“We all had to.” You whispered, running your fingertips gingerly over his chest, trying to distract your mind. “And you know I’d kill anyone who threatens you or our family.”

It had never affected you like that before, though. You hated how weak you had felt at that moment, right before you killed the man when you thought you weren’t going to be able to do it.

 “I still wish you hadn’t...you should have let me...I...”

You silenced him by pressing your lips to his. You didn’t want to hear it, didn’t want to think about it anymore, it was over and you only wanted to forget. Probably not healthy, but you didn’t care.

“I really don’t want to talk about that right now.” You murmured against his lips, one of your hands sneaking up to tangle your fingers on his long hair. “I want to forget it...I don’t want to think...”

Daryl looked like he wanted to say something, to argue maybe, you knew he was worried and confused, but then he gave in, burying his hand in your hair and pulling you close, his fingers brushing roughly against yours, allowing your mind to wander somewhere else.

Chapter Text

True to his word, Jesus made sure Gregory kept their part of the deal and so the trading between Hilltop and Alexandria began, providing you with fruit and vegetables, even seeds and a cow and chickens that at first none of you knew where to place until Maggie, always the farmer girl even after all this time, stepped in.

Alexandria’s pantries were full again and your trading deal with Hilltop allowed you to relax about food going low for a while, and so things began to look bright for your community again, no matter most of you were still hunted by your own inner demons.

*

“Stop it,” Carol warned you when she saw you pouting and giving her puppy eyes again. “Don’t be such a kid, I’ll be just a couple streets away.”

“But...”

You began, but she silenced you with a look, taking a bag with her stuff and walking away towards Tobin’s house.

She had been in a relationship with Tobin for a while now, longer than you had even known, going back to even before you faced the Saviours, and now she was moving to his place. She had already been spending most nights there anyway, she was more in his house than in yours, but it was getting official now.

 You knew you were being a kid but you hated seeing her going away...even if you only had to walk past two streets to visit her.

The only people that remained in that house, one of the two that Deana had given you when you arrived in Alexandria, were Michonne, Rick, Carl, Judith, Daryl and you.

Maggie and Glenn had moved to their own house after surviving the herd that had ripped through Alexandria. It was normal, they wanted their own home and privacy and they were going to have a baby...so you guessed it was normal Carol wanted to live with Tobin too. 

That had you thinking about Daryl and you, wondering if, as a couple, you were supposed to get your own place too. Or maybe, now that Michonne and Rick were a thing, they wanted the house for themselves and wanted you and Daryl to go.

You didn’t know what to think...you had gotten used to having your family around. You loved to have your own private room for Daryl and yourself but enjoyed the fact that the others were there too, though the idea of having a place that was only Daryl’s and yours sounded quite nice too...you didn’t know what you wanted.

You looked at Daryl, who had been watching your argument with Carol without saying a word. Did he ever think about such a thing? Not that he spent that much time at home to begin with. He had never made any noise about getting a house just for you two, though, and you wondered if you should ask him or not. The idea made you nervous somehow.

“She’s right, you’re being a kid.”

Daryl said when he noticed your eyes on him and you huffed, sitting down on the stairs of the porch.

“I just don’t know what she sees on him...” You grumbled, knowing fully well how silly you sounded and hating it, but you couldn’t help yourself.

“Yeah, well, she likes him...” Daryl shrugged, sitting down next to you. “You don’t want her to be happy?”

“Of course! But I didn’t think Carol would go for someone like him, I think she would...I don’t know, it’s not what I was expecting...he’s...he’s not...” You shrugged, not sure how to explain it.

“You jealous or what?” Daryl raised an eyebrow at you, an amused smile playing at the corner of his mouth.

“No.” You nudged him playfully. “Just missing the cookies already...”

And missing your friend too. You felt Carol had been slipping away from you slowly but surely for a while now in a way that you couldn’t explain.

“I have to go check with the doc,” Daryl told you, getting up. “I think she wants me to go on a run near here.”

“Alright.” You gave him a small smile, reaching out your hand which he took and squeezed gently. “Be careful.”

“Try not to glare at Tobin much while I’m not here.”

He joked before he left, making you huff but let out a chuckle.

You were about to get up when you saw Rosita making her way to you as if she had been waiting for you to be alone.

“Hey,” She greeted, flopping down on the stairs next to you.

“Hey, you okay?”

“Yeah...just, I have the morning free, didn’t really know what to do with myself.” She shrugged, trying to sound nonchalant. “Want to do something...”

“Well, I have to go watch over the door, you can keep me company if you want, and also Daryl’s going on a run, you’re still on time if you want to join.”

You offered, maybe being outside Alexandria could do Rosita some good.

“Sounds good.”

Rosita nodded but she didn’t get up, seeming to be mulling something over.

“I...I don’t think Abraham ever loved me.” She finally blurted out, looking away, her dark eyes focused somewhere ahead of the street.

“Hey, come on, don’t say that...”

“It’s true...he...before he left he told me...he told me he’d thought I was the last woman on earth...” Rosita’s voice break ever so slightly and she bit her lip, trying to stay strong. “Guess that’s why he was with me...” She chuckled bitterly though you knew she was close to tears.

“I doubt he meant it...”

You offered, though you were mad at Abraham for saying such a thing to Rosita, was he dumb or just heartless. Rosita just shook her head in silence.

“Anyway he was an idiot for saying something like that and he was a bigger idiot for letting you go, he should have counted himself lucky you were with him!” You began to rant, anger taking over you. “You’re smart, resourceful, caring, strong, a fighter...and damn you’re pretty hot too...he was a dumbass for not seeing it!”

You stopped your rant when you hear Rosita laughing, though a couple of tears escaped her eyes.

“Damn Y/N,” she wiped her tears. “You know how to woo a girl.”

“I just didn’t like him saying such bullshit to you...” You mumbled, your cheeks heating up in embarrassment.

“Well, thank you.” She gave you a sad but grateful smile. “I’m starting to think it’s kind of a pity you’re Daryl’s...” She teased you before she began chuckling again and you nudged her until she stopped.

“Yeah well, you know Michonne and I have this poll going on about when Rick and Daryl are going to dump us and run away together, so you’ll have your chance then.”

You teased back and she let out another laugh, though you could hear the sadness in it.

“I’m fucking Spencer, by the way.”

“What?!” You gaped at her.

“He’s kind of hot.”

“He’s kind of dumb.”

“Yeah, well...” She shrugged. “But he’s not bad for scratching an itch.”

You scrunched your nose and Rosita chuckled again before turning serious.

“I just...I didn’t want to be alone...”

“You could have whoever you wanted, seriously.”

“Yeah, well...the one I want has decided he doesn’t want me no more, so...” She said sadly, getting up. “Gonna find your boyfriend and join that run, and also tell him to be careful and treat you right so I don’t steal you from him.” She joked.

“Don’t you dare!”

Rosita gave you another sad smile before her hard, cold mask went on again and she went looking for Daryl. You got up to and made your way to the door.

You hadn’t been there for long when an old pickup made its way to it, Daryl, Rosita, and Denise in it.

“Be careful and don’t do anything stupid. Come back before the sun goes down and all that.”

You warned after opening the door for them.

“We will, don’t worry.”

Denise told you and Rosita and Daryl glared at her through the rear window, obviously unhappy about the inexperienced woman going with them. You leaned over to kiss Daryl’s cheek.

“Stay safe and don’t be mean...”

You whispered into his ear, making him grumble something you didn’t catch before pecking your lips goodbye.

 

You were still at the door when they came back and you rushed to pull it open when you saw they weren’t slowing the car down.

“What the hell?!”

You asked in panic, Abraham had joined Daryl and Rosita and all them were carrying out of the car an unconscious Eugine, whose side was bleeding.

“What happened?!”

“We were attacked...there’s no time, Y/N, he was shot!” Rosita explained you frantically as you followed them towards the doctor’s place.

“Where’s Denise?”

The look Rosita gave you froze the blood in your veins.

“No...”

Everyone had seen the commotion and soon Rick was in the doctor’s, asking what had happened, along with Michonne, Carol, Maggie and Glenn, all seeming worried out of their minds. Abraham explained all while Rosita worked on Eugine and you tried to help her as best as possible, doing what she told you.

Daryl was silent the whole time, didn’t acknowledge anyone, his gaze lost. It worried you and you couldn’t wait to go to him, but for now, Eugine needed you.

So you hadn’t ended the Saviours or Negan, and now they were seeking revenge. A shiver of fear run down your spine and you looked at Daryl for reassurance, but his eyes were still away from you, his gaze vacant.

Rick took a group with him, going back to the place where everything had happened, but Daryl stayed behind.

When Rosita finished patching up Eugine, saying it had been only a grace, you made your way to Daryl.

“Hey...” You said softly, taking his hands and lacing your fingers. “You okay?”

Daryl shrugged and took his hands back from yours, turning away from you without a word. You tried not to take it to heart, knowing he was upset and hurting, but you felt close to tears.

Rick came back without bringing good news, only the body of Denise. Nobody was in the mood for talking and Daryl, Carol, and you took care of burying Denise while Rick and the others went to make plans for the attack that all knew was bound to happen soon.

As you helped Daryl and Carol, you felt silent tears rolling down your cheeks. God, Tara wasn’t even there, she had gone on a run, what were you going to tell her when she came back? You longed to go to Daryl or Carol for comfort, though they needed some comfort themselves, but they seemed to be holding you at distance.

When you finished your work and Carol left, you walked towards Daryl, wrapping your arms around him. He didn’t hold you but bent to rest his forehead on your shoulder. It lasted only a second, when you placed your hand at the back of his head he pulled away, walking away without a word.

That night, you stayed up until late with Rick and Michonne in your living room, making plans and talking about what you think was going to happen now.

Daryl didn’t join you and you knew he was out in the porch, so when Rick and Michonne went to their room, you went out to join him. He was playing with a keychain and when you walked closer you saw the name Denise on it.

“Daryl...”

You whispered, wrapping your arms around him and resting your head against his back but he shrugged you off and began pacing around.

“It was Dwight.” He said before turning to look at you with eyes so angry and sad that it broke your heart. “Killed her with my own crossbow, with my damn arrow!”

“I’m so sorry...”

You knew how much he was hurting and you tried to reach out for him again, but he kept pulling away from you and pacing angrily around.

“I should have killed him!”

Yes, he probably should, now you were sure of it. Not that you were going to tell him. But still, you loved that the first instinct of Daryl when he found new people was to help them, not to attack them, no matter if it had turned bad in Dwight’s case.

He’d probably get angrier if you told him something like that now, though, so you didn’t. Still, you couldn’t just stay silent when he was hurting like that, when he was sad and upset, breaking your heart.

“Daryl, this was not your fault...” You whispered to him, moving closer to rest your hands on his chest.

“Stop saying that, you know it’s not true!” Daryl yelled at you, roughly pushing your hands away and pulling back.

You gasped softly and couldn’t help but take a couple of steps back as your eyes began to fill with tears when his angry voice yelled at you. That was not how you’d have wanted to react but you couldn’t help it.

Daryl was looking at you with wide, shocked eyes, seeming froze in place. You took a deep breath, trying to calm down to no freak him out more, but before you could say anything Daryl had turned around and stormed away from the house.

***

Next morning as you climbed up the lookout for your shift, your brother followed you and sat down in silence next to you. He had never done that and you realized you must be looking as down as you were feeling. You wondered if maybe Carl had heard you arguing with Daryl last night and he had told Chris to go keep you company, hoping it would help you feel better.

Daryl...you hadn’t talked with him since last night and it was killing you.

As if you had summoned him, you heard the rumble of his motorbike approaching and saw him speeding up towards the door, stopping and jumping out of the bike to yank the door open.

“What’s he doing?”

Your brother asked and you didn’t answer, already rushing down the lookout but by the time you reached the door, Daryl was gone.

“Why you let him go?!”

You snapped at Rosita, who was keeping watch over the door. Daryl wasn’t thinking straight after Denise, you knew it, and you were scared out of your mind thinking he had rushed to do something dangerous that could get him killed.

“It looked to you like I could have stopped him?” She snapped back at you before letting out a sigh and grabbing your arm to walk you towards the car in which Glenn and Michonne were about to follow Daryl. “Come on, I know where he went.”

Rosita guided you to the place where the attack had happened but there was nothing there besides a few walkers munching on some recent corpses, so you all walked into the woods, hoping to find Daryl’s trail. It seemed you were on the right path, an arrow whistled and sank in the trunk of a tree next to Rosita, startling you all.

“Watch the hell out, asshole!” Rosita yelled at Daryl as he approached you, furiously yanking the arrow off the tree.

“I did!” Daryl snapped the arrow from Rosita’s hand. “You shouldn’t have come!” He glared at the group and seemed to realize for the first time you were here, his eyes opening wider before he turned around to storm away.

“You shouldn’t have left!” Glenn retorted before Daryl could go far.

Daryl looked at him, pacing back and forth before he began to tell them everything that had happened with Dwight, the story behind their first encounter, that until now only you had known.

“...put a gun to my head, tied me up...” He was saying bitterly, you couldn’t remember the last time you had seen him so angry. “I even tried to help him...”

You wanted to say something, wanted to reach out to him, to stop him and bring him back home with you, to stop him from hurting and from doing something stupid, but you couldn’t find your voice, couldn’t force your body to move. You could just watch helplessly how he turned around to leave again.

It was once again Glenn’s voice what stopped him.

“So you think it’s your fault?”

“Yeah, I know it is.” Daryl nodded, getting in Glenn’s face, who didn’t back down.”I’m gonna do what I should have done before.”

“What, for her?” Glenn snapped again. “She’s gone, man. You’re doing this for you.”

Daryl glared at Glenn and for a moment you were afraid they were going to start fighting, but Daryl just shook his head and turned to walk away again.

“Man, I don’t give a shit.”

“Daryl!” Glenn followed him, stepping in front of Daryl so he couldn’t storm away again while you were still frozen in place. “We need to figure this from home. Our home. We need you, and everyone there needs us right now.”

“We’ll square it, I will,” Michonne assured him, walking closer too. “I promise you. Just come back.”

“Daryl...” You whispered weakly, almost a whine, unable to find more words, you could only look at him with pleading eyes, but Daryl was looking anywhere but towards you.

He stopped his pacing for a hopeful second, his eyes looking over the group before finding you, but then he was averting his eyes again and shaking his head.

“I can’t”

“Daryl!” Glenn called after him.

“Man, I can’t”

“I can’t either.” Rosita snapped and began following Daryl.

You kicked yourself into moving too, you couldn’t just watch Daryl go away like that, you couldn´t leave him. You heard Glenn calling your name and you gave him an apologetic look before rushing towards Rosita.

You understood Daryl’s and Rosita’s motivations but you were certain it was an awful, reckless idea. You needed to bring them back home, so you walked past Rosita and towards Daryl.

“Daryl...Daryl please...”

He stopped on his tracks and turned around, seeming to realize for the first time that you had followed him.

“Y/N, what are you doing?” He hissed, scowling at you. “Go back, now!”

“Come with me then.” You pleaded and Daryl growled but you stood your ground. “I’m not leaving you.”

He bit his lip for a second but shook his head, hair falling over his eyes wildly. “Take her back with Glenn and Michonne!”

He demanded to Rosita, who shot him an annoyed glare, but before neither her nor you could say anything, you noticed Daryl’s eyes open wide, his head snapping to the side as if he had heard something.

“What...”

You began but he shook his head fast and held a finger to his lips, worry replacing the anger on his eyes when he looked at you. You three hide behind some bushes just in time, a few men walking down a path dangerously close to you.

You followed them from distance, hiding behind bushes and trees, and saw how they were joined by other men who, to your horror, had captured Michonne and Glenn. They had tied them up and gagged them, and they pushed them to the ground before leaving again.

You three raised your weapons, ready to go help them, but when they spotted you they began to shake their heads as if trying to tell you something, but it was too late.

“Hi, Daryl.”

You turned your head in time to see a man, who you guessed was Dwight, pointing his gun to Daryl’s head, two other men doing the same to Rosita and you, forcing you to lower your shotguns.

You felt your heart stop when Dwight pulled the trigger, you couldn’t even scream, too shocked to do anything for a second, but then you were growling, throwing yourself at him, not caring about the guns aimed at you, seeing red.

You felt the butt of a shotgun hit the side of your head hard, and everything turned black.

Chapter Text

When you opened your eyes everything was still dark around you, until your eyes got used to the dim light that filtered through some holes on the wall of wherever you were. You sat up and in the dark you made the silhouettes of your friends.

Daryl.

He was there too, some sort of blanket thrown over him and you rushed to crawl to him, hissing at the pain on your head that almost dizzied you. Rosita was next to him, applying pressure to his shoulder, where he had been shot, and you gasped in horror when you saw him all covered in blood. He looked at you with hazed eyes and you took in his shivering form, his pale skin, covered in sweat, the dark purple under his eyes.

It scared you to death.

“Hey...” Your eyes roamed over him, checking his state, and you cupped his face, running your fingers over his burning cheeks, feeling like you could just start crying. “Hey, how are you?”

“I did the best I could, considering we have nothing,” Rosita informed you bitterly, her eyes darting between fear and anger. “But we have to patch him up.”

“What do we do?! How do we get out of here?!”

You turned to frantically ask Glenn and Michonne but they said nothing and in the dark you couldn’t see their faces, so you turned to look back at Daryl, your hands still cupping his face.

“You okay?”

He rasped, voice weaker than you had ever heard it. You hadn’t ever seen him looking so weak and it was killing you.

“You are the one asking me if I’m okay?” You almost snorted, a tear finally escaping and rolling down your cheek.

“You took a hell of a blow to your head,” Rosita informed you, pulling away from Daryl, seemingly unable to do anything more for him.

Daryl lifted a shaky hand to touch the side of your head and you let out a pained whimper when his fingers found the point where you had been hit. When Daryl pulled his hand away you noticed blood over his fingers but you couldn’t care.

“I’m sorry...” He began but you shushed him. “I’m sorry I yelled at you...” He murmured, voice barely audible, ignoring your attempts at shushing him.

“It’s okay.”

“It ain’t. I shouldn’t.” He shook his head weakly. “I’m sorry... I’m sorry...”

You said nothing, just shushed him again, stopping his whispered apologies and swallowing hard, trying to stop your tears. You wrapped your arms around him gingerly, minding his injured shoulder and guiding his head to rest on your chest. He buried his face at the crook of your neck and you tangled your fingers in the hair at the back of his head, holding his shaky body to you.

“I’m getting you out of here.”

You whispered to him though you were in total despair, you didn’t know what was going to happen, how to escape. All of you seemed to be feeling the same helpless, all of you going through every emotion between fear and anger.

Suddenly the door was yanked open, bright light blinding you. You held Daryl tighter to you, flinching at his soft whimper when you pressed his shoulder but trying to shield him from whatever was going to happen now.

Strong hands grabbed you hard, pulling you away from him and onto your feet. You tried to struggle, hissing curses to the men but to no avail, you all were roughly thrown to the ground. Your anger was quickly replaced with fear when you looked around.

Rick, Carl, Aaron, Sasha, Abrahan, Eugine, Maggie...they were all there too, on their knees and looking as terrified as you. And Maggie...your eyes opened wide in horror when you saw her writhing in pain, hand over her belly, her skin grey and sweaty.

“Maggie!”

Glenn called to her in despair and he tried to go to her, but a man roughly threw him onto his knees too.

It had to be a nightmare.

“Let’s meet the man.”

A nasty looking man with a sick grin told all of you before knocking at the door of the RV parked in front of your group.

“Pissing our pants yet?”

You heard a voice coming from the darkness of the vehicle and then you saw the man when he stepped into the light. He was tall and your eyes immediately went to the bat with some sort of spiky thing wrapped around it that he rested nonchalantly over his shoulder.

He was smiling and talking as he looked over you, though you didn’t really register his words until he approached Rick and introduced himself as Negan, the Negan, this time for real.

“You’re so gonna regret crossing me in a few minutes.”  He threatened before suddenly smiling again. “Yes, you are.” He kept talking and you gasped when he guided the bat towards Rick but he only used it to lift his head. “It’s really simple. Give me your shit, or I will kill you.”

Negan backed away from Rick before he began pacing up and down your line again, smiling as if everything were normal and giving you all a speech about who he was, how the world worked and what he expected from you.

You didn’t believe a single word when he said he didn’t want to kill you, that he wanted you to work for him. You looked at Daryl, weaker and weaker at your side, at Maggie who was trying hard not to whimper aloud...you dig your nails into your palms, feeling too close to tears.

“But, you killed my people, a whole damn lot of them, more than I’m comfortable with. And for that, you’re gonna pay.” Your eyes snapped back at Negan. “So now, I’m gonna beat the holy hell outta one of you.

You gasped aloud as he waved his bat over Rick’s face and heard a chuckle from a man behind you, but you were too scared to glare at him and couldn’t look away from Negan.

“This, this is Lucille. And she’s awesome.”

He began to pace again, looking at all of you as if trying to pick one and you couldn’t help your shivers of fear. You didn’t think you had ever been so scared.

You whimpered when he stopped in front of Carl but after a couple of words Negan was back at pacing before stopping in front of Maggie.

“Jesus. You look shitty. I just should put you out of your misery right now.”

You whimpered again, tears rolling down your cheeks. Glenn tried desperately to go to her but what stopped by Dwight, Daryl’s crossbow pointed at Glenn’s head. God, how you wanted to kill that man.

Glenn was dragged back to the line, begging, which made Negan smile wider. You were so furious you almost forgot about your fear. At least until his smile disappeared and he began nonchalantly swinging his bat again.

“Alright, listen. Don’t any of you do that again. I will shut that shit down, no exceptions.”

Rick had been silent the whole time, right until Negan pointed his bat at Carl again, putting together that he was his kid.

“Just stop this!”

“Hey...don’t make me kill the little future serial killer.” Negan warned him as if it were a sick joke. “Don’t make it easy for me, I gotta pick somebody.”

“I simply cannot decide...” Negan was walking up and down your line again. “I got an idea.” He smiled, chuckling.

It had to be a nightmare.

“Eine...meenie...miney...moo...” His bat stopped in front of the face of each of you at each word. “catch...” In front of you, “a tiger...” In front of Daryl, “by...his toe...” It couldn’t be real. “If...he hollers...let him go...” This couldn’t be happening. “My mother...told me...to pick...the very...best one...” Your heart was beating so fast you barely could hear anything over it, you felt like you were going to faint. “And you...are...it.”

His game finished as he stood in front of Abraham.

“Anybody moves, anybody says anything, cut the boy’s other eye and feed it to his father. And then we’ll start.” Negan warned you. You were wrong to think you couldn’t be more scared.“You can breathe, you can blink, you can cry...hell, you’re all gonna be doing that.”

In a blink of an eye he had sunk the bat hard into Abraham’s head and your screams mixed with the other’s around you.

“Ho! Ho! Look at that! Taking it like a champ! Damn!”

Negan kept beating and beating and you tried to look away but couldn’t. You felt like you were going to throw up, felt you were going to faint but you did nothing of that, just kept staring in horror until Abraham’s head became unrecognizable. Even then Negan kept beating and beating.

“Look at this! You guys, look at my dirty girl!” Negan’s eyes went from his bat to Rosita, who was sobbing quietly, looking down and shaking in shock.

“Lay your eyes on this.” He pointed the bat at her face and you shivered. “Oh damn...where you...were you together? That sucks...” He taunted her. “But if you were, you should know there was a reason for all this...so take a damn look.” You didn’t think Rosita would be able to do it even if she wanted.

“Take a damn look!”

Negan yelled at her and your eyes closed, thinking the worst was going to happen again. You snapped them open when you felt Daryl suddenly moving.

“Daryl!”

You called, reaching to him, but