Daryl stood leaning against Sawyer's cell door with his arms crossed, staring at the unconscious girl. He nearly had a heart attack when Michonne came galloping up on her horse with Sawyer slung over the animal, bleeding from the head. Sawyer had been missing for two days, left without so much as a goodbye. Made him worry about her which pissed him off.
Sawyer's mom had died the year before during the first outbreak and she never had a father so she'd been on her own when she stumbled across the prison. She had caught Rick's attention fairly quickly mostly with bad behavior but he had seen it for what it was; a way of coping with losing her only family and surviving on her own for as long as she did. Sawyer was a tough kid but still only a fourteen year old girl so Rick took her under his wing and silently claimed her as one of his. Over time Rick and Daryl had claimed each other as family, brothers actually, so Sawyer had become Daryl's family too.
Which left Daryl with the problem of Sawyer sneaking out, getting attacked by a herd of Walkers and then thankfully being found by Michonne. Usually it only took a telling off from Daryl for her to straighten up but when she did something more serious Rick stepped up and took things into his own hands, literally. Rick was gone though, had been for a few days, on a supply run with Glenn that took longer than expected. Daryl didn't know when the man would get back which meant he was going to have to do something about it himself.
Sawyer blinked up at the ceiling with blurry eyes, confused about where she was. She rolled up slowly to a sitting position with a groan as the pain in her head made its self known. As the thousand jackhammers in her head continued to pound Sawyer looked around her confused. How'd she end up in her cell? Last thing she remember was the herd of walkers she was trying to fight out of and then a horse....oh. Michonne. She groaned again but for an entirely different reason; Rick was going to kill her. Maybe she should've let the Walkers finish her off.
"Glad to see you're awake, young lady."
Sawyer glanced towards the cell door to find Hershel watching her. "I guess." She sighed. Hand roaming over a bandaged bump, she winced. "What's the damage?"
Hershel regarded her for a moment before coming into the cell to sit next to her. "Concussion, twenty-three stitches, cuts and bruises and split lip." He summarized and then stood to take the bandage off to inspect his stitched handy work. "What happened?"
Sawyer didn't plan on telling the embarrassing story but Hershel had such a way of asking people things; convincing them to answer without thinking with his compassionate ways and hushed voice. The fourteen year old dropped her gaze to her lap and huffed out a heavy breath.
"I got caught up in a herd, couldn't fight my way out so I got the bright idea to climb a tree." Sawyer paused as she felt her face heat up all the way down her neck. She bit her lip before slapping her leg in frustration. "I was climbin' up the tree, put my foot in the wrong place- the damn thing snapped and it felt like I hit every branch on the way down. Think that's when I hit my head. Last thing I 'member is seein' Michonne." Sawyer whipped her head up ignoring the pain it caused with wide eyes. "Michonne! Is she ok? Did she get out? Where-"
Hershel grabbed Sawyer's flailing arms as she shot off the rapid fire questions. "Calm down, child. She's fine. Michonne's who brought ya in."
Hershel let her arms go as she bit her lip again. "Rick's gonna kill me." The girl finally murmured.
"He's not back from his run with Glenn so I think you're safe for now." Hershel explained as he made his way towards the door to leave. "Can't say the same for Daryl though. He wants you to find him as soon as you're feelin' better."
Daryl wiped his face with the bandanna he kept in his back pocket to keep the sweat out his eyes. The fence was becoming a real bitch to keep up with all the Walkers pressing up against it. Him, Michonne and Maggie had been putting up wooden posts against the fence to try to keep it sturdy enough. Michonne nudged him and motioned with her head,
"She lives." The dark skinned woman smirked as they watched Sawyer approach.
"Not for long." Daryl growled as he picked up his crossbow to rest it on top his shoulder, using his other hand to push his hair out of his eyes.
Sawyer didn't look up much as she slowed to a stop a few feet in front of Daryl and Michonne, not really sure what to say. Michonne finally took pity on her. Sort of.
"You look like shit." She smiled. "Not as bad as you should."
Sawyer rolled her eyes. "Well thank fuck for that."
"Hey, watch yer mouth, kid." Daryl warned. "She's tha one who pulled yer ass outta the herd. What'dya say?" His blue hard stare dared her not to answer.
"Thanks, Michonne." Sawyer said seriously. Because if she ever considered anyone like an older sister it would be badass Michonne.
Michonne gave her a more genuine smile as she squeezed her shoulder. She gave Daryl a knowing look. "I'm gonna go see if Hershel needs help in the garden."
Daryl nodded after her and then leaned most his weight on one hip while glaring at the banged up young girl standing in front of him. He imagined if he ever had a daughter she'd be like Sawyer; tough, a mouth like a sailor, resilient and strong, smartass with the best of them, and a badass hunter, but with a tender giving heart he wouldn't expect a kid growing up in the shithole Walker world to have.
"What am I gonna do with ya, Sawyer?"
"Dunno." Sawyer glanced up, shrugging. "Give me a hug and tell me ya missed me?"
"I'm gonna give ya somethin' alright." Daryl threatend back. "What the hell were ya thinkin'? Goin' out there yer own without sayin' anythin'!" he shouted.
Sawyer flinched back slightly at the volume of Daryl's voice, he didn't often yell at her. "Dunno." She responded back as she ran a hand through her short hair, a habit she picked up from her surrogate father. "You and Rick haven't been lettin' me go out on my own and I'm getting rusty. I didn't...-wait, what'ya mean your gonna give me somethin'?" Sawer cut herself off as her brain caught up to the threat.
"You'll find out soon 'nough." Daryl explained as he grabbed her arm and marched her back up towards the prison. "Right now I gotta finish this fence 'fore those bastards get through. Yer goin' back to yer cell till supper and then yer gonna meet me down in the boiler room."
Sawyer dug her feet in to stop their momentum. "Why the boiler room?" She asked as her stomach felt like it dropped to the ground. The only time she was down in the boiler room was when Rick....oh no. "Darrryl." She drew out his name pleadingly.
Daryl gave her a shove towards the prison and looked back to where the fence was emitting a grinding groaning noise, Maggie desperately trying to shove the wooden poles against it. "I gotta get back to tha fence with, Maggie. Go on, git."
Dinner was a sad state of affairs. Sawyer mostly pushed her food around the plate as she stole glances towards Daryl while he ate and talked with Hershel. Her stomach churned with anxiety as she thought back to his orders to meet him in the boiler room. God, she hated that stupid place. Boiler room meetings with Rick usually didn't end well for her ass and sadly it felt like she was in there at least once a week. She didn't hate Rick for it, he was more of a real father she never had with her douche bag sperm donor, and she could admit after the fact that she probably deserved it. Luckily enough her and Daryl had never had that particular meeting, it seemed like her luck was running out.
"If I had a penny I'd give it to you for your thoughts."
"Huh?" Sawyer questioned as she looked up to Carol's understanding face.
"Looks like you got a lot on your mind. What's going on, kiddo?" She asked affectionately pinching Sawyer's cheek.
Sawyer slumped in her seat, scraping her fork through the uneaten food on her plate. "I think Daryl's gonna end me."
"It was stupid what you did, he should." Carol kind of snort chuckled as she sat across from Sawyer."It'll probably just hurt a little."
Regina quirked an eyebrow, "Is that supposed to be funny, Carol, cause you botched that one."
She wanted to ask Carol how she knew what kind of punishment Daryl was going to dish out but thought better of it. As much as the people in their mismatched family wanted to believe that they held each other's secrets they got around faster than flies on shit. Instead Sawyer sighed and pushed away from the table.
"Guess I better head down there so I don't piss him off more."
Before she could turn to walk away Carol caught her arm to give her a meaningful look. "Daryl isn't your father, Sawyer. He's not gonna hurt you. He has a hard time showing it but he loves you like you were his own. Him and Rick both do and I hope you know that. So you go take whatever Daryl thinks you deserve and don't give him shit over it."
She couldn't argue with anything Carol said so Sawyer just nodded before heading down to the boiler room.
Daryl watched as Sawyer went off in the direction of the boiler room and let out a big huff. He was about to walk into unfamiliar territory. Usually Rick took care of disciplining Sawyer except for smaller infractions, which mostly all Daryl had to do in that case was use some strong words or send her to do an extra dreaded chore. Honestly he never wanted to use Rick's particular brand of punishment on any kid since all he knew was his fathers damaging hands, but after Rick talked to him about it, reassured him more, he knew the difference. And really there wasn't a whole lot of other ways to keep a kid in line, the world was hard enough.
"Your kid thinks you're gonna kill her." Carol commented as she walked up to him.
"Yeah, well I should." Daryl grumbled as he moved his arms to the table to lean on them.
"That's what I told her."
"What kinda kid sneaks out ta just go practice killin' a bunch of Walkers? Don't make no damn sense."
"Sawyer apparently." Carol shrugged her shoulders. "She was a young kid on her own out there and somehow managed to survive, and that was after losing her mother and as piss poor as he was, her father too. She's strong as hell, Daryl. I think you and Rick forget that sometimes. You both know she gets restless staying in one spot for too long and she isn't too sure about herself and where she fits in. Killing Walkers is something she's confident in, the one thing she knows without a doubt how to do."
Daryl squinted at her, "What'dya want me to do, pat her on the back, Carol?"
"Yeah, a bit, Daryl." Carol wrinkled her mouth up into some sort of agreement as she nodded. Daryl made a noise in the back of her throat. "Listen, I'm not telling you don't punish her. She needs to know what she did was stupid. You're not good at it, Daryl, but you need to let her know how much you care for her and where she stands with you. You and her have similar upbringings, you could understand her more than you let on."
Daryl chewed on the inside of his cheek as he gave thought to what Carol said. Finally he stood up. "I hear ya. I get what yer sayin'."
Carol swept Daryl's hair off his face and smiled at him. "You can do this."
Sawyer wasn't very good at waiting, wasn't the most patient person. She'd been down in the boiler room for at least an hour, or that's what it felt like anyways. She stared at the part of her green cargo pants where they tucked into her zombie ass stomping boots. Speaking of boots, she finally heard Daryl's as he approached the room. She watched wearily as he opened the door and then closed it behind him before he walked over in her direction. Daryl looked like he wanted to be in there about as much as she did.
"Ya know what ya did was stupid, right?" Daryl asked as he crossed his arms over his chest.
Sawyer shrugged her shoulders. "I made it back alright enough."
Daryl squinted at the girl before moving closer, getting into her personal space. "Yer jokin' right? You call almost bein' Walker meal alright enough?"
"I made it back, didn't I?" Sawyer asked backing up a bit from Daryl. The glint in his eye looked like he might really end her. "I was doin' ok till the Herd caught me off guard!"
Daryl just moved closer as the girl backed away. Close enough to see the sweat popping out on her forehead. "It ain't safe for anybody out there, especially a lil girl."
Sawyer instantly tensed and got back in Daryl's space. "I ain't a lil girl!" She shouted. "I took care of myself jus' fine before I found this place. Even after my mama died and I was left with my no good daddy, even when he'd...."
Daryl grabbed hold of Sawyer in a hug as she trailed off. "When he beat the hell outta ya?" Sawyer choked off a sob into Daryl's chest as she nodded. "Yeah, I know, kid. I know."
After Sawyer got herself together; wiping at her face hastily as she stepped back out of Daryl's arms, she cleared her throat. "I'm sorry, Daryl. You're right, it was stupid."
"You know I gotta do somethin' about it."
Sawyer rolled her eyes. "I didn't think you brought me down here for a tea party, Daryl."
"You're such a smartass, kid." Daryl replied and then rubbed the back of his neck. "So how does Rick do this?"
Sawyer's mouth gaped open and she threw her hands in the air. "You want me to tell you how to kick my ass?"
"I ain't never tanned no one's hide before, Sawyer, so yeah, yer gonna have to give me the basics."
"Well I ain't ever done it either." At the pointed look Daryl gave her she conceited. "Usually Rick likes to get it over fast so I drop trou, bend over and he uses his belt."
Daryl nodded with his lip caught between his teeth. "Well git to it."
Sawyer wasn't exactly bashful and getting her ass handed to her was often enough that she wasn't embarrassed to shed clothes. Besides she trusted Rick and Daryl, knew them not to be creeps. She quickly made work of getting her belt undone and her cargo pants down to her knees. As she went towards the boiler shelf Daryl grabbed her arm to stop her.
"I ain't whippin' ya. C'mere."
Confused, Sawyer let herself be led over to a waist high counter and watched as Daryl propped his butt up on it with his right foot planted on the floor and his left thigh propped up as well.
"No way, Daryl." Sawyer protested. "I ain't goin' over your knee like some little kid."
Daryl cocked his head to the side to stare into her eyes. "You'd rather me use my belt?"
Sawyer groaned but laid herself over Daryl's thigh and resigned herself to the awful situation. "No."
Daryl adjusted her so his target was in good range. "Thought so, girl."
As Daryl stared at the gray underwear Sawyer was wearing he had a brief moment of hesitation; could he really beat this- his, kid's ass? He had an idea that Rick used his belt but he couldn't do that. Too many memories of his own father's belt and too many scars to prove it. No, his hand was hard enough.
"Uh, Daryl?" Sawyer asked. "Did you change your mind cause-"
"No." Daryl answered back as he cleared his throat. "Why am I doin' this?"
"Cause yer an ass." Sawyer huffed.
Daryl's automatic response was to smack the ass that was presented over his thigh before he even thought about it. Sawyer gave a loud ow!
Daryl smirked. "That's for callin' be an ass. You gonna answer my question or do I need ta smack ya a'gin?"
Sawyer shook her head. "Cause I screwed up and snuck off by myself and almost got ate."
"Sounds about right." Daryl agreed and then laid the first smack down.
Sawyer didn't give too much indication that the first few smacks were hurting so Daryl smacked harder. That got a reaction. Eventually he set up a comfortable rhythm and found the confidence that he needed to hurt the girl the way he was. By the time he got to twenty Sawyer was really starting to shift around.
"Not so hard, Daryl!" She complained.
"Nah, I think it's just right." He punctuated the statement with another swat. "I better never catch ya sneakin' out again, ya hear?"
Sawyer hissed loudly. "Yes! Ok, I hear ya!" she threw a hand back for a break.
Daryl aborted the swat he was about to apply. "Move yer hand."
The girl shook her head. "I get what you're sayin', Daryl. I promise."
"Good but I wanna make sure." Daryl said as he grabbed Sawyer's wrist to move it to her back. Holding her down with his grip Daryl continued the spanking. "If somethin' ever happened to you it'd kill me an' Rick. If ya haven't figured it out in that stubb'rn head of yers we love ya like yer ours."
At that proclamation the floodgate opened up, Sawyer crying in earnest. Not being able to hear the girl cry like she was Daryl finished with ten harder swats before pulling up her pants and gathering her up in his arms.
"Alright, yer ok, kid."
Sawyer wrapped her arms tight around Daryl's neck. "I love ya guys too." she cried.
"Finally." Daryl snorted. "I thought ya were so badass ya couldn't let anyone in."
The girl laughed as she pulled away to wipe her face. "You too."
Daryl shrugged and then winked. "Just don't go tellin' everybody. I got a reputation."
"Yeah, ok." Sawyer snorted but then got serious, fidgeting with her hands. "Are you gonna tell, Rick?"
"Nope. You are." Daryl shrugged. "Even if I wanted to keep it from him the whole camp knows you were missin'.
Sawyer huffed but didn't comment further on it. As they walked through the Tombs back towards their cell block Sawyer bust out laughing, startling Daryl.
"What the hell's so funny?"
"You totally made it sound like you and Rick are a couple." Sawyer laughed harder even as they heard a Walker snarl.
"Aw shit." Darly hissed as he swiped a slap to the back of the giggling fourteen year old's head. "Shut up and go."
Sawyer took the head slap good naturedly before running through the Tombs with Daryl behind her. Somehow she made it through her mom's death, her father's beatings, being out on her own with herds of Walkers and now she had two dads that loved her more than she thought possible. Maybe the world wasn't so bad.