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A Demon's Fate

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Chapter One

 

Daryl Dixon trudged through the forest, his gaze pinned to the ground, searching for footprints. He raised his gaze as birds called from the trees. Why couldn’t the girl stay put like she was told? Grumbling, he continued on his way, searching for any signs of the girl. Truth be told, he didn’t really care if he found the girl or not. He was only out here to get away from all of them.


Why the hell am I still with them anyway? He could’ve left them a long time ago. Hell, he should have. Something kept him from leaving, but the reason eluded him. Maybe he felt sorry for them. Even with their leader, Rick, they still didn’t seem to have their shit together. Especially when Rick was at odds with his right hand man, Shane.


Daryl smirked. He had an idea of what had the two at odds. He’d seen the looks Shane gave Rick’s wife. If the entire situation weren’t so tragic, he’d laugh his ass off.
He shook his head and chuckled to himself. Maybe he stayed for the entertainment he received. Running around, trying to keep one step ahead of the walkers. It was hilarious.


The world going to hell had caught him off guard. One minute, he was causing terror in some poor unsuspecting victim, the next his brother grabbed him and shoved him into a truck. Not knowing what the hell was going on, he’d followed Merle until they came across this group at a quarry. Merle’d ordered him to lay low and continue to pretend to be human until the time was right to act. Course the dumbass went and vanished on him, leaving him with these humans.


“Jackass.” Daryl growled. Now he had to keep up the stupid charade when he really wanted was let lose with his powers. There were so many people to torment, so many minds to break. It aggravated the hell out of him that he couldn’t do a damn thing about it.


A twig snapped to his right and he paused, his crossbow raised. He listened, straining his hearing.


“Sophia?” He called.


The bushes rustled in front of him and he aimed his weapon. Hissing filled the silence and a walker stepped out of the bushes, it stared straight at him and picked up its pace.


“Damn it.” Daryl looked around as he took a step back, wanting to put enough distance between him and the walker. Noticing no one was around; he turned his gaze back to the creature. He smiled as his vision turned red. Here was something to take his frustrations out on.


He waved his hand and the creature flew backward, slamming into a tree. It snarled at him as it struggled against the bark. He smirked as he cocked his head to the side. He shouldered his weapon then sent a bolt of lightning at the writhing corpse.


The walker dropped to the ground and struggled to its feet. It stumbled toward him, but he sent it flying back into the tree with a wave of his hand. A ball of fire ignited in his right hand and he flung it at the creature, engulfing it in flames. It tumbled to the ground as Daryl stalked toward it. He knelt beside it as it pushed itself up.
“Don’t give up, do you?” He smirked and raised his right hand. He shoved his taloned hand into the walker’s head, smashing it up against the tree. Blood splattered on the tree and his face from the force of the blow. He blinked some of the black liquid out of his eyes, wiping the rest off his face as he stood. He took a couple of deep breaths as a sense of calm washed over him.


Daryl turned away from the corpse, looked up into the sky and figured he better head back to the farm. The sun would be down soon and he didn’t want to miss the evening’s entertainment.

Wiping the last bits of skull and blood from his face, Daryl trudged up to the camp. The sun hugged the horizon and he smelled the evening meal roasting in a large pot over the campfire. His stomach growled and he picked up his pace. He headed for his tent he’d set up a few feet from the others gathered around the campfire. He glanced at who manned the cooking and his blood rushed through his veins.


Carol lifted the lid of the pot and stirred the stew. She looked over her shoulder and smiled at him, sending his pulse racing faster. He didn’t know why his body reacted to her the way it did. She wasn’t his type. She was a mouse, scared of her own shadow.


When he’d first laid eyes on her at the quarry, he’d seen her as an easy target to torture. He’d entered her mind the first night to turn whatever dreams she had into nightmares. He’d been stunned to learn she was already having a nightmare. He’d learned quickly where her nightmares came from. It surprised him how he’d reacted. He’d wanted to beat her husband senseless and show Ed what real torment was all about.


He’d watched her after that. He didn’t know why. He made sure he was close by for whatever reason. He sensed something in her, something that drew him to her. He didn’t know what it was, but it was powerful.


“It’ll be ready soon.” Carol said in her soft voice. It wrapped around him, called to him. He fought to resist the pull. He nodded then headed for his tent.


Daryl left his tent a few minutes later in a clean sleeveless shirt. He’d dumped some bottled water over his hair and face in hopes of cleaning himself up. He grabbed a nearby chair and plopped down into it.


Carol came over a moment later and handed him a bowl and spoon. He stared into the bowl as the scent of roasted meat and potatoes drifted to his nose. He breathed it in and his stomach growled again.


He looked up, but Carol turned away and handed another bowl to Andrea. A sense of disappointment at her walking away twisted him in knots, but he forced it away. He didn’t need to deal with this. Not now. He picked up the spoon and dug into his food. His gaze roamed toward her, though.


She climbed up to the roof of the RV where Shane sat and handed him a bowl. Daryl sighed and turned his attention back to his food. He really shouldn’t be looking at her or showing any interest in her. Humans were good for only one thing; torturing. What was it about this woman that made him want to do anything, but harm her?
He shook his head and finished off the bowl. He placed it by the pot then headed toward his tent.

Daryl woke the next morning to birds singing and voices whispering. He pushed himself up on an elbow and glared at the silhouettes standing outside his tent. He couldn’t make out what was being said, but he didn’t care. He fell back onto his makeshift bed and stared up at the ceiling. He flung an arm over his eyes and tried to catch some more sleep, but the singing birds became too loud. A moment later, the smell of eggs cooking drifted toward him.


Grumbling, he pushed himself into a sitting position and ran a hand through his hair. He’d rather stay in his tent for the rest of the day than see any of them. They annoyed the hell out of him with their dilemmas and sentiments. As much as he didn’t want to admit, though they were growing on him. That pissed him off more than anything.


Scrambling out of his sleeping bag, he opened the tent and climbed out. The two who’d stood by his tent had left. He ruffled his hair and headed toward the center of camp and the source of the smell.


Carol pushed a spatula around in a skillet, a flash of yellow against black as he drew closer.


“Daryl.” Rick’s stern voice caught his attention.


He stared at the man as he closed the gap between them. “What?”


“You going out again today?” Rick asked, placing his hands on his hips.


Daryl eyed the man. “Yeah. Why?”


Rick looked behind him, shifted on his feet then turned back to him. “I’m coming with you.”


Daryl scoffed. “Like hell you are. You can’t track worth shit and I don’t want to have to keep my eye on you as well as walkers.”


Rick ran a hand through his hair and sighed. “I just think there’s a better chance of finding her with more people.”


Daryl bit his lip, knowing Rick was right and hating every second of it. He narrowed his eyes at the sheriff. “What about your son?”


Rick sighed and shifted on his feet again. “He’s doing better thanks to Shane.”


“So you need a little distraction.” Daryl sneered and turned to leave.


“I need to find Sophia. It’s because of me that she’s lost out there.”


Daryl glared at Rick. “I don’ need your help. Better on my own.”

He turned to leave again, but Rick grabbed his arm. He wrenched it out of the grip and narrowed his eyes at the sheriff.


“I’m coming with you whether you like it or not, Daryl.”


Daryl sneered and curled his hands into fists. He turned away as the world around him flashed red. It wouldn’t do him any good if Rick saw his eyes glowing. He didn’t want to deal with all the questions the sheriff would ask. Course, the man would probably just shoot him, not that’d it’d do much except piss him off. Either way, he didn’t want to deal with how humans reacted to him.


“Fine,” he growled, facing Rick. “Keep up and keep your mouth shut.”


Rick nodded, stepping back. “I’ll be ready in an hour. I need to talk to Lori first.”


Daryl scoffed and waved his arm at the man as he walked away. He doubted Rick really cared about Sophia, he just wanted to relieve whatever guilt he felt. He shook his head and went to retrieve his crossbow from his tent.


Then why the hell you looking for the girl? The darker part of himself asked. Why’d you care?


His gaze fell on Carol’s back as she spooned some eggs onto T-Dog’s plate. It was more than just wanting to get away from these people for a while. It was more than having something to do along with hunting for their food. He just didn’t want to admit it to himself.


“Morning, Daryl.” Carol greeted him as she went back to the campfire. “Want some eggs?”


He smirked as he grabbed a plate from the pile near the campfire. “Going out again today, could use some something.”


She nodded as a small smile played on her lips. “You shouldn’t be out there alone.”


Daryl looked at her through his lashes. “I’m not. Rick’s joining me.”


She spooned some eggs onto his plate. “You don’t sound too thrilled about that.”


He dug into the eggs, not caring if they burned his mouth. “I’m not. Better on my own. He’ll make too much noise.”


Carol gave a short laugh and his dick reacted. His breath caught and he coughed to cover it up. Damn it, what was she doing to him? How could this skinny timid woman cause him to react so strongly toward her? It annoyed him to no end.


She looked up at him and placed a hand on his arm. Her hand burned him, sending jolts of electricity racing through his body. His jeans grew uncomfortable and he bit the inside of his cheek to keep from taking her. He doubted the others would take kindly to him ravishing her.


“I know you’ll find her.” She whispered as she squeezed his arm.


Struck speechless by the brightness of her eyes and her words, he nodded. She smiled and went back to dishing out the eggs to the rest of the group. He watched her as emotions he shouldn’t feel rose within him.


“Goddamn it.” He grumbled, spun on his heel went to find a quiet spot to finish his breakfast.

Daryl stalked through the forest, his crossbow held loose in his hands. He kept his eyes out for any sign of the girl and his ears straining for signs of walkers. He’d learned a while ago walkers were heard first before being spotted. It didn’t help, though that most of the noise came from Rick trudging behind him. He growled and glared at the sheriff.


“How the hell can I hear anything when you’re back there stomping through the leaves?”


Rick glared at him. “I’m not in the mood to argue with you, Daryl. Deal with the noise.”


He stopped and faced the sheriff, waving a hand out toward the forest. “You’re going to bring every walker around down upon us if you keep kicking the leaves.”


Rick stepped closer, getting in Daryl’s face. “Excuse me for not being as quiet as you. I wasn’t trained for stealth.”


Daryl narrowed his eyes and growled. “Then why the hell are you out here?”


Rick sighed and ran a hand through his hair, looking away. “I need to do this. I need to find her.”


“Then be quiet. Soft steps. You’re not raking leaves.”


Rick smirked, but Daryl shook his head and turned back around. Taking a deep breath to ease back his temper, he led the way through the forest.

Daryl stepped out of the rundown house and called out Sophia’s name. Rick came around the side of the house and shook his head. Daryl sighed and kicked at a rock. What he wouldn’t give to run into a walker right about now. He curled his hands into fists as he paced.


“She’s not here.” Rick said, coming up beside him.


Daryl bit his tongue before replying. “She might have been. Saw a makeshift bed tucked in a closet. Small enough for her to fit in.”


“You think she might have come this way?”


Daryl looked at the sheriff, squinting in the bright sunlight. He nodded then continued to pace.


“Let’s head back.” Rick said, patting him on the shoulder. “We’ve made some progress, I think.”


Daryl growled at the touch, but said nothing. Rick stepped away, heading back into the forest. He turned to follow, but something white and green caught his attention. He raised his hand to block the sunlight and bring the colors into a form. A rose bush sat on the edge of the property and a thought formed in his mind before he could stop it. He headed for the bush and knelt before it.


“Daryl!” Rick’s voice called back to him.


Daryl gritted his teeth as he stared at the roses. “Be there in a minute, I gotta take a piss!”


“Sorry.”


Daryl rolled his eyes and snatched a blossom from the bush. He rolled the stem between his fingers as images of Carol’s sweet face appeared in his mind. His heart thudded in his chest as he rose to his feet. He knew he needed to give this to her. She worked herself to the bone for the others and he knew it was to give her something to do other than worry about her daughter.


I’m an idiot. He chastised himself. I should be reveling in her misery. Instead, I want to give her a damn flower.


Shaking his head, he tucked the flower into his back pocket and trudged into the forest.

He stepped out of the RV as a turmoil of emotions raged inside him. He shoved his fingers into his hair and paced near the vehicle. She’d cried when he showed her the flower and told her that story. A wave of confusing emotions rose within him along with the elation at seeing her in tears. The confusing emotions caused him to leave in a hurry. He didn’t know what to do with these new emotions. He didn’t know what caused him, but he knew they appeared when ever she was near. Whenever he thought about her.


“Something wrong?”


Daryl stopped pacing and glared at Dale. The old man tested his patience to no end. He was too observant for his own good. He’d caught Dale staring at him with a strange expression on his face several times after he’d arrived at the quarry. Daryl always wondered if the older man knew what he really was.


Daryl looked at the door to the RV and sighed. He stared at his feet as he fought back the emotions rolling around within him.


“Carol all right?” Dale asked as he stepped closer.


Daryl stepped away from the man, narrowing his eyes. “She’s fine. Crying up a storm in there; worried about her little girl.”


“You didn’t find her?” Dale took another step toward him.


Daryl shook his head, glanced again at the door. “No.”


He walked away before the man asked him anymore or got too close. He looked back and watched as Dale entered the RV. He grumbled to himself and headed for his tent. Maybe he should head back out there, find something for dinner. He needed to get away for a while anyway. All these emotions, ones he’d never felt before were about to take their toll on him. It was too overwhelming, too new. He didn’t want to care about any of these people, but he feared he might end up caring too much. Carol’s presence did something to him and it both terrified and intrigued him. He didn’t know what to do about it, didn’t know if he could or how.


Daryl grabbed his crossbow from the tree it leaned against and headed toward the forest. If nothing else, it might help clear his mind of these feelings and get back to being himself.

Chapter Text

Daryl stared at the river, his thoughts churning with the rushing water. He came out here to think, but all he thought about was searching for that little girl. He ran a hand through his hair and spun on his heel in a huff. Even when he wanted to be alone, the damn woman and her offspring crept into his mind.

He trudged through the forest, frustration mounting. He doubted he’d get far enough away from her and not feel her tugging at him.

A snap of a twig brought him out of his thoughts. He stopped and stared into the bushes. He narrowed his eyes as he raised his crossbow.

A walker stumbled out of the vegetation and he smirked. Just what he needed, a punching bag. It snarled at him and stumbled toward him, tripping over its own feet. It caught its balance and continued toward him.

“Pathetic.” He growled and sent a bolt of lightning at the creature. It jerked for a moment then collapsed to the ground. He fired an arrow into its head, reveling at the blood oozing from the wound.

He yanked the arrow from the skull and rearmed his weapon. Movement to his right caught his attention and he raised his crossbow. A squirrel scurried up a tree trunk in front of him and he smiled. He aimed at the animal and fired. The squirrel didn’t move anymore. He stalked toward the tree, ripped the arrow from the squirrel and stuffed it in his back pocket. Not enough to feed the rest of the group, but it was a start.

He looked up at the sky and blinked at the brightness. He still had enough time before the sun set to find some more. Hopefully, he’ll also find some kind of trace of Sophia.

Maybe I should head back to that house and pick up the trail from there. She obviously isn’t around here anywhere.

Scoffing to himself, Daryl continued through the forest.

An hour later, he meandered his way back toward the camp, squirrels stuffed into every pocket he had. He dropped them on the picnic table a few feet away from the main camp and took out his knife. He grabbed a squirrel from the pile and started skinning it.

“You didn’t have to do that.” Carol came up to him. “Hershel has enough food for all of us.”

Daryl looked up at her and saw the gratefulness in her striking blue eyes. The emotions he’d fought against came roaring back and he bit hard on his bottom lip. He turned his attention back to the squirrel and ripped the blade through the skin.

“Need variety.” He said as he pulled the skin off the animal. “How often do you want to eat the same thing every night?”

Carol sighed and sat across from him. Her nearness both ruffled his feathers and caused his dick to stir. He knew about attraction, seen it often amongst humans, but he’d never experienced it before himself. He raised his eyes and studied the woman across from him. She stared at him with both wariness and gratitude. She smiled at him and he narrowed his eyes.

“What?” He snapped as he chopped the squirrel into smaller pieces.

Carol shrugged. “I wanted to thank you for the flower and story.”

Daryl shrugged and continued chopping. “You were starting to mope. Can’t stand moping.”

In a flash, she grabbed his arm, startling him. He glared at her and tried to wrench his arm out of her grasp. She held tight and his heart pounded in his chest. What was she thinking?

“Thank you, Daryl.” She whispered, a stark contrast to the iron hold on his arm. “It means a lot to me.”

He searched her eyes and watched as tears welled within them. He bit his lip and nodded. She smiled and stood.

“I’ll cook these when you’re done.”

He watched her leave, stunned into silence. He shook his head and went back to his task. She intrigued him and tested his patience. She was vulnerable, but he sensed an inner strength buried within her. Her grip on his arm proved it. He doubted she knew how strong she really was.

I’m not going to tell her. He grabbed another squirrel and repeated his task. Let her figure it out herself.

Daryl looked up from his task and watched the bustle of activity around him. Rick headed up to the farmhouse as Andrea stepped out onto the porch. Because of his son, the sheriff entered and left the house several times a day.

Daryl shook his head. Hershel should install a revolving door.

The slam of a car door brought his attention to Shane as he returned from the shooting range with his small group. Andrea left the porch and headed toward the deputy. Daryl shook his head and returned to his task. It seemed he’d walked right into a soap opera with all the drama happening around him.

He pulled the skin off the final squirrel and glanced around again. Carol had started the campfire and a slight chill filled the air. Rick stepped out of the house and strolled across the yard back toward the camp. Lori followed behind him. She called out to him, but Daryl couldn’t hear what she said. It probably had something to do with Carl.
Daryl finished preparing the squirrels, dumped the pieces in a bowl Carol had brought over earlier and carried it over to her.

“Here.” He said, shoving the bowl against her shoulder.

Carol looked up at him, saw the bowl and took it from him with a smile. His stomach clenched at the sight and he looked away, uncomfortable with the rising emotions.
“You’re welcome.” He snapped and headed for his tent.

****

Daryl stood over Carol as she slept. The moon shone through the window of the RV, bathing her in silver light. He narrowed his eyes as he placed a hand on the wall beside him. It’d be so easy to enter her mind, her dreams, torment her as she tormented him.

The fingers of his right hand became claws as he dragged his hand down the wall. He’d tossed and turned in his tent for hours. The moment he closed his eyes, her face appeared before him. Her words of compassion and gratefulness echoed in his mind. She irritated and aroused him, bringing up emotions he’d rather not have.

“Damn you.” Daryl whispered, his voice a low growl. “You’re making me fuckin’ care.”

“What are you doing?” An accusing female voice snapped behind him.

He spun to face Andrea staring at him with narrowed eyes. She looked at Carol’s sleeping form them back at him. She placed a hand on her hip and cocked her head to the side. “You going to answer me?”

Daryl glared at her as his hands curled into fists. “You her babysitter?”

Andrea scoffed and rolled her eyes. “You’re standing over her like a damn pervert, Daryl. What am I supposed to think?”

His lip curled into a sneer and he pushed by her. She grabbed his arm, pulling him to a stop. He yanked his arm from her grip, fighting the urge to knock her on her ass.
Andrea took a step toward him. “What were you going to do?”

“Nothing. I was checking up on her.”

Andrea smirked. “Yeah, right. You don’t strike me as the caring type.”

“I’m lookin’ for her damn kid, aren’t I?” He snapped, waving his hand at her. “I even brought her a damn flower to cheer her up. Don’t tell me I don’t care.”

Andrea smiled and folded her arms across her chest. “The big bad hunter really does have a heart.”

Daryl scoffed and shoved open the RV’s door. He didn’t need to explain himself to her or to anyone. Let them think whatever the hell they wanted. He didn’t care about them anyway.

Liar. He scolded himself as he headed for his tent. You care about her.

“Shut up.” He growled as he kicked at a rock. It flew through the air and collided with a tent. A startled yelp exploded from within and Daryl smirked.
The tent flap opened and Glenn’s rumpled head pushed through. He rubbed his eyes and noticed Daryl walking by.

“What the hell, man?” Glenn snapped.

“Shut up, the rock didn’t hit you.” Daryl snarled as he stalked passed. He spotted an extra shadow within the tent and shook his head. Humans and their damn hormones.
“Rock? You’re throwing rocks?”

“I kicked it.” Daryl called over his shoulder. “Go back to sleep, Glenn.”

A female giggle floated to his ears and he rolled his eyes. He slapped his tent flap to the side and tumbled inside. He rolled over onto his back and stared up at the ceiling. Sighing, he tossed his right arm over his eyes.

Images of Carol floated into his mind and he groaned in frustration and annoyance. His groin strained against his jeans, making him uncomfortable. He adjusted himself and tried to force the visualizations from his mind. Her smile appeared before him and his breathing increased. His mouth grew dry and his pulse raced.

I can’ take this anymore. Daryl growled and unzipped his jeans. He reached in and gripped his erect cock. His breathing grew shallow as he closed his eyes and pictured Carol.

She stood before him, surrounded by billowing white curtains. Her smile brightened her face as she opened her arms to him. Her clothes disappeared with a wave of his hand. His gaze raked over her revealed form and he licked his lips.

In two strides, he closed the gap between them and into her arms. She wrapped her arms around him, pulling him against her. She buried her fingers into his hair, racking her nails along his scalp.

With a low growl, he took her mouth with his, shoving his tongue between her lips. She whimpered into the kiss and he rocked his hips against her. She gasped and he deepened the kiss, exploring her mouth with his tongue.

She whispered his name, sending fire rushing through him. He moved her backward as he kissed and licked up and down her face and neck. A wall prevented them from going any further and he took her mouth once again. He lifted her left leg, wrapping it around his hip and thrust up into her. She gasped and he groaned as he felt her walls tighten around him, welcoming him inside. He held still, reveling in the sensation.

Daryl rested his head in the crook of her neck as her fingers played in his hair. He nipped and licked her shoulder up her neck to her jawline. He took her mouth again, sucking on her lower lip as he pulled out then thrust back in. He groaned, the feel of her around him close to overwhelming him. It didn’t matter the entire encounter happened in his own mind, the desire he felt was real and it threatened to undo him.

His right hand moved up and down his erection at a faster pace as his vision self pounded into his representation of Carol. She moaned his name as her nails raked against his back. He hissed as chills sliced down his body at the sensation. Her other leg rose and wrapped around his hips as he increased his pace, thrusting into with wild abandon.

His breathing grew ragged and sweat beaded on his body. His vision Carol cried out as she shuddered around him. He bucked into her twice more before he exploded deep inside her.

Daryl breathed heavily as he lay still in his tent. He opened his eyes as his heart rate returned to normal. The fog of desire left his brain and he lessened his grip on his deflating cock. He grumbled as he felt the stickiness over his hand.

Cursing, he sat up, pulled his red rag from his jeans and wiped the evidence of his indiscretion off his hand.

Realizing his seed spilled all over the front of his jeans, he reached for his backpack tucked into a corner of his tent. He bumped into his crossbow, knocking it over. He cursed again and dragged his backpack toward him. He rummaged through it and pulled out a clean pair of jeans. He shoved the soiled pants off his hips and down his legs and tossed them to the side. He pulled on the clean pair, stuffing himself inside and zipping up.

He ran his hands over his face and drew in a deep breath. What the hell was he going to do? He couldn’t act on the desire he felt for her. She wouldn’t accept him, especially when she found out what he really was.

Daryl lay on his back and flung his arm over his eyes. Why’d he have to be attracted to her? Being attracted to a human was bad enough. To be attracted to a human like her could doom him.

I’m so screwed.

****

Carol stepped out of the RV, her arms full of clothes. She headed across the campground to where Lori stood preparing the clothesline for their laundry.
“Morning,” she greeted the other woman.

Lori smiled at her then stepped aside to gather her own laundry. “Another day of slapping clothes against rocks.”

Carol shrugged. “Better than sitting in the RV thinking.”

Lori placed a hand on Carol’s arm. “You can’t give up hope. We’ll find her.”

Carol lowered her gaze and sighed. She wanted to believe her little girl would be found, but each day with no results tore at her resolve and hope. She knew the longer it took to find Sophia, the less likely they’d find her alive. She ran a hand through her short hair as she felt her eyes sting with tears.

“I just want her found.” She whispered as she raised her eyes to Lori. The other woman hugged her and a sob escaped her.

A throat being cleared startled her and she stepped out of Lori’s hug and turned to face Daryl. She stared at him as he held out a pair of jeans. He wore a clean long sleeved brown shirt and a pair of brown pants. He returned her gaze with narrowed eyes. Her breathing quickening, she took the garment. He nodded and walked away. She watched him, her gaze raking over him.

“I wouldn’t look at him too hard.” Lori said from beside her. “He’s dangerous.”

Carol blinked at turned her attention to the woman. “What gives you that idea? He’s out there looking for my daughter.”

Lori shook her head and headed for the creek they washed their laundry in. Carol hurried after her, wanting to know what Lori meant. Did she not like Daryl? Daryl hadn’t done anything to warrant Lori’s wariness.

Lori stopped on the other side of the RV and sighed. She looked at her then at Daryl, who headed into the barn holding the horses.

“Andrea saw him standing over you last night.” Lori said as she leaned against the RV. “She asked him why he was there.”

Carol’s eyes widened and her mouth fell open. He watched her sleep? A cold chill went through her. She looked at the barn where Daryl disappeared into as her heart thundered in her chest.

“He told her he was checking up on you, but she didn’t believe him.”

She shook her head and looked back at Lori. “Maybe he was.”

Lori shrugged and continued toward the creek. “Just be careful of him, Carol. There’s something about him that terrifies me.”

Carol didn’t know what that’d be. Daryl was standoffish, had a tendency to glare at people or snap at them if they pissed him off. Despite his hostility, she hadn’t seen anything that’d made her fearful of him. If anything she wanted to get to know him, wanted to know the person behind the façade he showed everyone. Giving him the benefit of the doubt and becoming his friend was the least she could do for him.

Chapter Text

Daryl looked down at the river below from the perch on top of the brown horse. He guided the animal along the edge of the ravine as he scanned the water for any sign of Sophia. Each day that passed made it harder to keep hope alive they’d ever find the girl. He needed to find something or the search would be called off, leaving a distraught Carol. She was barely hanging on as it was. If she lost her daughter…

I can’ think like that. Not with her.

He shook his head and urged the horse into a faster pace. He looked down at the river again and spotted something laying next to a fallen log. Narrowing his eyes, he brought the horse to a stop. Is that…?

Daryl slid off the horse and hurried down the ravine, splashing in the shallow water. He strolled to the object, floating in the water and picked it up. Hope surged within him as he stared at Sophia’s doll. A smile touched his lips as he stuffed it into his pocket and climbed back up to his horse.

I’m going in the right direction. She shouldn’t be too far.

He climbed back onto the horse and continued followed the river, keeping his eyes peeled for more signs. Maybe she was down there somewhere, huddled in a small cave or under the roots of a tree. If nothing else the doll should bring the others hope to not give up the search. He knew Shane wanted to give up the search, wanted to concentrate more on getting the people prepared to defend the farm. Daryl shook his head. What did that matter when there was a little girl lost in the woods?

They all have their own problems to deal with. They can’t focus on Sophia.

The horse grew restless and started dancing, stepping to the side and back. He narrowed his eyes and tried to get the animal back on track.

“Whoa. Easy.”

He spotted the snake crawling on the ground then the horse reared up. He fell off the animal’s back and tumbled down the ravine, hitting every rock and tree root on the way down. He slammed down onto his back as the world spun around him. The scent of blood reached his nose and he groaned.

The world stopped spinning and he blinked up into the trees. He gritted his teeth and forced himself to sit up. A stab of pain shot up his side and he looked down to see his own arrow sticking out of his mid-section. He closed his eyes and cursed his stupidity. He looked up at the wall of vegetation, dirt and rocks and sighed.

Only way out of here.

Shaking his head, he waded through the water in search of his crossbow. He spotted Sophia’s doll floating a few feet in front of him and grabbed it, tucking it back into his pocket. A large stick floated to his left and he snatched it and poked through the water until he hit something solid. He reached into the water and pulled out his crossbow.

Daryl scanned the ravine, knowing the only way he could get out of here was to either climb or fly. Climbing would take awhile and flying would ruin his clothes. Not that he cared, but he didn’t want any of the others knowing what he was. He sighed and ran a hand through his wet hair.

“Climbing it is.” He slung his crossbow over his shoulder, tested the stick for weaknesses then headed toward the earthen wall.

Pain in his side reminded him of the arrow still protruding from him. He tried to ignore it as he climbed up the ravine. He looked down to gauge how far up he was and groaned. He was only half way. He looked up and took a deep breath to force himself to climb higher.

I should’ve flown. Would’ve been faster.

Daryl stopped to catch his breath. This is stupid. I should be able to climb this damn thing even wounded.

He shook his head and adjusted the crossbow on his shoulder. He dropped the stick and reached up to grab the tree root sticking out from the ground above him. He pulled himself up as pain shot through him. He lost his grip on the root and his heart dropped to his feet and he tumbled back down the ravine.

****

Daryl opened his eyes to blurred vision. He groaned and tried to focus his sight. His head throbbed relieving him of the pain in his side. He tried to blink the blurriness away, but nothing came into focus.

Must’ve really hit my head.

The cool water lapping against him reminded him he was still in the river. He tried to force himself to get up, but his body wouldn’t have it. His side ached and his back let him know it hurt, too.

“You need to get your ass up, Daryl.” A voice he didn’t think he’d ever hear again pushed through the pain filled fog of his brain.

His sight focused on a figure standing over him. He blinked as his brother smiled down at him.

Just what I need, a hallucination.

Daryl shook his head, trying to get the vision out of his mind. Merle knelt beside him and chuckled.

“Takin’ a siesta, brother?”

“You ain’t here, Merle.” He whispered. “Piss off.”

“No can do, little brother. You need to get up. Why are you even out here?”

Daryl stared up at the trees, noticing his sight still blurred. He turned his gaze to Merle as he shifted from blurriness to clear. He shook his head, trying to clear it.

“You know why.”

Merle scoffed. “You tryin’ to impress that widow?” He grabbed Daryl’s chin, forcing him to look at his brother. He tried to yank his jaw from his Merle’s grip, but his body refused to move.

“Why don’t you pull that arrow out of your side before it heals around it?”

“Shut up.” He tried to growl, but it came out a whisper. “Why you even here, Merle?”

Merle smirked. “To remind you of what you really should be doin’, boy. You should be searching for me instead of tryin’ to fill that widow with your seed.”

Daryl blinked at him. “We went back for you and you weren’t there.”

“Yeah, I had to cut off my own hand to get away from those biters at the door waiting to get in. And whose fault was that, Daryl?”

“Yours.” Daryl yanked his chin from Merle’s grip, but the action caused his head to spin. He closed his eyes and groaned.

“Naw, it was your sheriff friend. I’ve seen how acclimated you’ve been getting’ with the lot of them. Growin’ soft there, little brother. Why aren’t you terrorizin’ ‘em like we planned?”

“Go to hell, Merle.”

“It’s time for you to get up, Daryl.” Merle grabbed his leg and started tugging at it. “Get up and do what you’re supposed to do!”

Daryl looked down at his leg as something strong pulled on it. His sight finally focused on a walker lifting his foot to its mouth.

Shit! Daryl waved his hand and the corpse flew away from him to splash into the water. The walker climbed to its feet and Daryl looked around for his crossbow, his heart pounding in his chest. Where the hell is it?

He spotted it a few feet to his right and he scrambled for it as the walker shuffled toward him. He grabbed his weapon as another walker stumbled out of the bushes. Daryl narrowed his eyes at the creature. It hurried toward him, snarling and reaching for him. The other drew closer, hissing.

He yanked the arrow from his side, gritting his teeth against the pain, and loaded his crossbow with it. He aimed at the advancing walker and fired. The arrow hit the creature in the forehead and it went down.

The remaining walker growled and closed in on him. Snarling, Daryl sent a wave of lightning at the walker. It burst into flames and dropped to its knees. His lip curling, he waved his hand and the corpse went flying up into the trees. It collided with a trunk and broke into pieces, falling to the ground in ashes.

Daryl collapsed onto his back, breathing heavily. He closed his eyes. Screw it. I’m flying out of here.

Forcing himself to sit up, he unbuttoned the brown shirt he wore and took it off. He climbed to his feet and wrapped the shirt around his waist. He glared up at the ravine then looked down at his wounded side. He wiped away the blood and smiled as the wound closed itself up.

He picked up his crossbow, reaching behind him to check to make sure the doll was still there. Satisfied it was still there, he took a deep breath and looked up at the wall. The skin of his back stretched out, ripping the tan tank top. It fell in tattered pieces into the water and floated away on the current. He flexed his black as night feathered wings as a sense of liberation and power came over him. He small smile crept along his lips.

Daryl leapt into the air, flew far enough to clear the ravine then landed. He sighed in relief as his wings drew back into his body. He unwrapped his long sleeved shirt from his waist and pulled the garment on. He buttoned it up as he made his way back to the farm.

He slung his crossbow onto his back and looked behind him. Merle leaned against a tree, his arms folded against his chest. He nodded at Daryl, a smirk gracing his face.

****

Carol aimed her gun at the beer bottle, imagining it to be Ed’s head, and pulled the trigger. The bottle tumbled back off the wooden fence and she blew out the breath she’d been holding.

“Nice shooting.” Shane said from his position beside Lori. He nodded to her then turned his attention back to the Rick’s wife.

Carol smiled and looked behind her. Daryl stood off to the side, chewing on his thumb. He nodded to her then turned and disappeared into the forest. She sighed and turned back to the fence. He was out there looking for her daughter everyday, barely taking anytime for himself. Doubt at ever finding Sophia crept up into her mind and tears welled in her eyes.

She raised her gun and fired another shot into a soda can. She missed and in frustration at the entire situation, she growled and raised her hand to toss the gun.

“Hold up there.” Rick said, grabbing her arm. “We don’t throw guns.”

Carol sighed and relaxed. She nodded and Rick released her arm.

“Something bothering you?” Rick asked. “It can’t be because you missed.”

Carol shook her head. “I don’t know if we’ll ever find Sophia.” She looked behind her toward the forest Daryl had disappeared into. “Daryl should’ve found her by now.”

She stared at the gun in her hand as the tears she’d tried to hold back burned trails down her face. Her grip tightened around the handle as despair rose within her.

“You can’t give up.” Rick placed his hands on her shoulders and she looked up at him. Gunfire echoed around them, but all she heard were Sophia’s cries as she tried to get away from the walkers. She closed her eyes and rested her head against Rick’s chest.

“What if we never find her?” She whispered, her throat tightening. “What if Hershel forces us off his property?”

Rick wrapped his arms around her. “I won’t let that happen. This is the safest place for us right now and the closest place where Sophia might be.”

Carol wiped her eyes and pulled away. She nodded and handed the gun back to Rick. He looked at it then raised an eyebrow at her.

“I need to find Daryl.” She took a deep breath and headed into the forest. She hoped she’d find him before he got too far way.

She trudged through the vegetation, kicking leaves as she went. She didn’t want him to mistake her for a walker or dinner, but she also didn’t want to startle him.

“Daryl!” She decided the best way to keep from getting shot was to yell for him.

Carol ducked under a low hanging branch, her gaze scanning for a sign of him. A twig snapped and she froze, her heart pounding. She stepped closer to a tree as she looked to where the sound came from, prepared to duck behind it.

Daryl stepped out of the bushes, crossbow pointed at the ground. His gaze fell on her and she swallowed. He narrowed his eyes and headed toward her as he slung his weapon over his shoulder.

“What the hell are you doin’ out here?” He barked. “Don’t you know there are walkers out here?”

Carol pressed herself against the tree as she stared into eyes of blue fire. He stopped in front of her as his gaze raked over her. Her pulse pounded in her ears as she looked him over, taking in his unruly brown hair, his bare arms and the tattered brown shirt covering his chest. Her mouth watered and her fingers itched to touch him, but she held herself in check. He didn’t like to be touched and she wasn’t bold enough to give into her impulses.

“What’d you want?” Daryl growled, taking a step toward her.

Her eyes flew back up to his. His blue eyes darkened and heat pooled in her core. This had been a mistake. She shouldn’t have sought him out. She didn’t even know why she’d followed him into the woods.

Carol pressed herself more against the tree behind her and searched for a way out. Lori had been right, there was something dangerous about him, something dark below the surface. She needed to get away from him and back to the safety of the camp.

Still, she was drawn to him. She couldn’t explain it. She sensed the good in him. He wouldn’t be out here searching for her daughter if he was a heartless bastard like Ed.

“I wanted to join you.” She blurted, her palms sweating.

Daryl scoffed and stepped back. He shook his head and stared at her, his gaze roaming up and down her. She shivered under his scrutiny. What did he see? Did he see a woman who couldn’t take care of herself? Did he see a concerned mother?

“Go back to camp.” He growled. “I don’ need to worry about you, too. You’ll probably trip over something and crack your head open.”

Carol smiled and cocked her head to the side. He tried to hide it behind a gruff exterior, but he cared. She closed the gap between them and his eyes widened.

“What the hell?” He took another step back. “What’re doin’?”

“Thank you, Daryl.” She whispered as her hand hovered near his chest. “I want you to know I appreciate what you’re doing. It’s more than what her daddy ever did.”

He shook his head and looked away, but she caught the blush on his cheeks. “Nothing Rick or Shane wouldn’t have done.”

Carol smiled and took another step closer. “I know. You’re every bit as good as them. Every bit.”

She felt the heat radiating off him. He stared at her as he narrowed his eyes. She watched them darken and her breathing increased. How bold could she be with him? Would he let her touch him? Should she?

She placed a hand on his chest and felt the muscles twitch. He hadn’t pushed her away. Carol smiled, taking it as a sign. She held her breath as she rose up and pressed a kiss on his cheek. She stepped back, watching his reaction.

Daryl blinked, shook his head and spun on his heel. He stalked through the forest and she watched him leave. Of all the things she expected from him, walking away hadn’t been one of them. She took a deep breath to calm her nerves. Clearly, she’d caught him off guard and he didn’t know how to react.

Shaking her head, she hurried after him.

Chapter Text

She’d kissed me! She’d fuckin’ kissed me.

Daryl still felt her lips on his cheek. It burned and his blood rushed through his veins. He needed to get away from her before he had his way with her. He doubted she’d like that. She didn’t seem the type to enjoy being ravished by someone she barely knew.

He ran a hand through his hair and cursed. He’d felt her touch and wanted more. What the hell was he supposed to do now?

“Daryl, wait!” Her voice sent a shiver rippling through him and he sighed.

He stopped and closed his eyes. Did she know what she did to him? Probably not or she wouldn’t temp him right now.

Leaves and twigs crunch under her feet as she closed the gap between them. His sight turned red as irritation and arousal warred within him. He took a deep breath to calm himself as he turned to look at her.

She slowed her pace, her eyes flicking left and right. Was she nervous? Looking for walkers?

“What?” Daryl asked as she stopped in front of him.

Carol raised her gaze to him and wrapped her arms around herself. “Be safe out there.”

He raised an eyebrow then smirked. “Don’t worry. I can take care of myself.”

She nodded and reached a hand out again. This time, he stepped back. He didn’t need this temptation at the moment. If she touched him, he wouldn’t be able to stop himself this time. Her face fell and she lowered her hand. His stomach turned and he berated himself. He shook his head and spun on his heel, heading back toward the camp. He heard her footsteps hurrying after him, but this time, he didn’t stop.

Daryl lowered his crossbow off his shoulder and halted at his tent. He watched as Carol hurried into the RV. She didn’t look at him once. Did he upset her somehow? He sighed and ran a hand over his face.

I should’ve just stuck to tormenting humans. It’s so much easier than this.

He still didn’t know why he wanted to be around these people, let alone help them. He stared at the RV door, debating on whether to talk to her or let it go.

“You’re staring at that door awfully hard.” Dale’s voice startled him and he glared at the man. Dale raised his eyebrows. “Something wrong?”

Daryl shook his head and lowered his gaze to his crossbow. He didn’t know what was wrong. All he wanted was to get himself under control and figure out why he felt drawn to her. What was it about her that he couldn’t get her out of his mind?

“Daryl?” Dale’s concerned voice broke through his thoughts.

He turned his attention to the man who stared at Daryl as if he could read his thoughts. He certainly hoped the man couldn’t read his mind. It’d probably give the human a heart attack.

“Something happen between you and Carol?” He tilted his head toward the RV, his brown eyes searching his face.

Daryl flicked his gaze to the RV then back to Dale. He sighed and slung his crossbow over his shoulder. “I have no idea.”

He stepped around the man, but Dale grabbed his arm, stopping him. He glared, fighting the urge to send the man flying across the camp.

“She’s vulnerable.” Dale warned. “Don’t take advantage of her.”

Daryl narrowed his eyes and took a step closer to the man. “I’m not. If anything, she’s taking advantage of me.”

Dale’s eyes widened and he released his grip on Daryl’s arm. “What?”

Daryl smirked and adjusted his crossbow. “She was gettin’ handsy on our way back here from the range.”

Dale’s mouth dropped open and he blinked, turning his gaze back to the RV. He shook his head and looked back at Daryl. “She’s being thankful. You’re the only one still looking for Sophia.”

Daryl shrugged and turned away. “She should save the thanks for when I do find her.”

He hurried across the field, casting glances at the RV. A sense of longing flowed over him and he picked up his pace until he entered the forest. Once inside, he took a deep breath, letting the musty scent of dead leaves and bark soothe him.

Feeling more in control, he trudged through the forest, heading for the river. He hoped to travel further this time. He wouldn’t give up until he found Sophia. He hated seeing the defeated expression on Carol’s face each time he came back empty handed. It perplexed him, but he wanted to do all he could to reunite her with her daughter.

Maybe I should talk to someone about this.

He shook his head and berated himself. What are you thinking? Who the hell would you even talk to? They’d probably laugh at you.

Daryl growled. They’d regret laughing at him. No one laughed at him. People feared him.

Focus. You’re looking for Sophia.

He pushed all thoughts away and put all his energy on his search.

****

Daryl returned after dark, sweating and angry. The campfire snapped and popped as he walked by. He didn’t hear the greetings of those around the fire and he didn’t care. He stomped toward his tent, slapped the flap aside and flung his crossbow inside. It smacked the wall on the other side and clunked to the ground.

“Didn’t find her?” Glenn asked behind him.

Daryl’s sight turned red and his hands curled into fists. He closed his eyes and took several deep breaths, trying to calm himself.

“What’s it look like?” He snarled, not turning around.

“What happened out there?”

He sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “I should’ve found her by now.”

Glenn patted his back and his irritation grew. He gritted his teeth as he forced his rage down. It wouldn’t do him any good if he lost his temper now.

“Don’t be too hard on yourself.” Glenn said. “Rick and Shane haven’t found her either.”

Daryl smirked. He doubted those two were really searching for Sophia. The two seemed to be more concerned about vying for Lori’s affections. He shook his head and looked at Glenn.

The young man smiled at him. “Carol and Lori cooked dinner for Hershel. Why don’t you join us?”

Daryl blinked at Glenn. Did he hear the guy right? They wanted him in their presence? He shook his head. Maybe Carol convinced them to ask him. He smirked, thinking of his little mouse sticking up for him.

“Carol put you up to this?”

Glenn shrugged. “We’ve seen what you’ve done for her. For all of us. Besides, you’re part of the group now and it wouldn’t do for you to be out here by yourself.”

Daryl narrowed his eyes. “I don’t mind being by myself.”

Glenn smirked at him. “Yeah, I bet. Come on. Food’s getting cold.”

Glenn dashed off toward the house and Daryl rolled his eyes. He did prefer to be by himself, especially after his recent failure in his search of Sophia. His stomach growled and he sighed. Guess his stomach had other plans. Running a hand through his hair, he followed Glenn.

“See?” Glenn laughed. “I knew you couldn’t stay away.”

“I’m hungry, Glenn, not interested in the company.”

Glenn scoffed and jumped up the steps to the porch. “Keep telling yourself that.”

Glenn flung the door open and hurried inside. Daryl stepped onto the patio and the scent of ham floated to his nose. His stomach growled again and he pulled open the screen door and entered the house.

“Daryl.” Rick greeted, getting up from the couch. “I’d expected you to stay out there.”

Daryl shrugged. “I got the feelin’ no wasn’t an option.”

He looked over at the dining table where Carol and Lori laid out plates and utensils. Carol looked up from her task and smiled at him. He returned her smile then looked at his feet. Why did she twist him into knots? He was a goddamn demon of fear, he shouldn’t let this woman get under his skin.

“Glenn can be persuasive.” Rick said with humor in his voice.

Daryl raised his gaze and watched Carol finish up setting the table. His stomach growled again as Carl came down the stairs wearing his father’s hat. He hurried toward the large table, but Lori placed a hand on his shoulder and directed him to a smaller table off to the side. Carl started to complain, but Shane led the boy to the smaller table.

He turned his attention to Rick, but the sheriff spoke with Hershel. He couldn’t hear what the two discussed, but by the way the sheriff placed his hands on his hips, Daryl didn’t think it was about the weather.

“Daryl?” Carol’s voice tugged him and he turned his attention to her. She smiled at him as she motioned for him to sit. Lori and Patricia stepped out of the kitchen with plates of food.

For a moment, he stared at her, taking in the way the light form the kitchen cast a warm glow over her. She wore a floral short sleeved blouse and well worn beige pants. He wondered if her bastard of a husband forced her to wear such boring clothes. He wanted take all those clothes he’d seen her in and burn them.

He sighed and strode toward the table, taking a seat across from Carol. He stared at her through his lashes as she placed some ham on her plate then passed it to the person beside her. She looked at him and he held her gaze, fighting the urge to invade her mind. He wanted to know what she thought, how she felt when she looked at him. Actions might speak louder than words, but thoughts told the truth. He wanted to know how she really felt about him. Did she really desire him or was it only gratitude she felt?

She swallowed as a slight blush graced her face. His mouth grew dry and his fingers itched to make more of her blush. She averted her gaze and took the plate being handed to her.

Daryl sighed and took the platter of ham from Andrea. This is going to be a long dinner.

****

Daryl leaned against the railing of the porch as his gaze wandered over the farmland before him. The door behind him opened and slammed closed. Footsteps hurried across the porch. He looked over his shoulder and saw Glenn race toward the large barn on the far side of the farm. He shook his head and smirked.

And I thought I was horny. Daryl sighed as he leaned even more against the railing. The only difference was Glenn found a willing partner. He doubted Carol wanted him the same way. He folded his arms against his chest and returned to watching the camp.

He pushed himself from the railing and jumped down the steps as the door behind him opened again. He looked behind him and saw Maggie dashing for the barn. He scoffed and continued strolling across the yard. Maybe he’ll give them nightmares later when they drift into dreamland.

Daryl headed for his tent when he heard the door to the RV click close. He stared at the door, his thoughts in a whorl. If nothing else, he wanted to be near her again, let her presence wash over him. He needed to get her out of his system then get as far away from here as possible.

Who are you kiddin’? She wouldn’t be out of your system.

He sneered and stalked toward the RV. One way or another, Glenn and Maggie wouldn’t be the only people having a little fun.

A hand grabbed his arm, pulling him to a stop. He glared at the person, but the grip didn’t loosen.

“Leave her alone.” Lori whispered to him. “She doesn’t need you leering at her all night.”

Daryl yanked his arm from her grip and narrowed his eyes. She took a step back, but anger, not fear, shown in her gaze. It angered him even more.

“What’s it to you?” He growled as he pushed his mind into hers. What did she fear and could he risk manifesting it before her? It didn’t take him long to find what she feared.

Lori narrowed her eyes. “Carol’s my friend and I won’t let you hurt her.”

“I’m not going to hurt her.” The words were out before he even thought about them. He blinked as he stared at her, caught off guard by his own admission. He shook his head and ran a hand through his hair.

“I know what you are.” Lori whispered, taking a step closer to him.

Daryl narrowed his eyes as he looked at her. Did he hear her right? Very few people were able to perceive what he was. Was she one of them? “What?”

“You’ll use her then discard her as if she were nothing.” Lori bit out. “I’m not going to let you do that to my friend.”

He shook his head as relief rushed through him. She didn’t know he was a demon. “You don’t know anything. I wouldn’t dream of doing that to her.”

“What’s going on here?” Rick asked, coming to stand beside Lori.

Lori sighed and ran a hand through her hair. Daryl watched her, his hands curling into fists. He raised his gaze to Rick as he placed an arm around Lori. The sheriff squinted at him as he brought his wife closer to him.

“It’s all right.” Lori said, putting a hand on Rick’s chest.

Rick raised an eyebrow. “Are you sure? It looked pretty heated.”

Daryl scoffed and rolled his eyes. If she didn’t want to tell Rick, he wasn’t going to. He turned on his heel and strode for his tent. He glanced at the pair as he realized how close he’d been to being exposed. What if Lori did know what he was, but didn’t want him to know? What if someone else here knew what he was, but hadn’t confronted him about it? He didn’t want to think about it. If someone did know what he was then they also knew how to kill him.

That’s the last thing I need. Someone carrying that damn dagger, just waiting to use it.

He stopped at his tent and looked around at the others. He needed to know if one of these humans knew what he was. The fastest way to do that and not give himself away was to enter their minds. The easiest way to do that was enter their dreams. He ran a hand over his face and stepped into his tent.

Looks like I'm going to be busy tonight.

Chapter Text

Daryl stood on the top of the RV and looked down at the camp gathered around the trees. He raised his gaze to the house were the farmer and his daughters slept. He narrowed his eyes and returned his attention to the camp. One of these people was a danger to him. They knew what he was. He needed to find who this person before they decided to end his existence.

He closed his eyes and sent his mind out to the nearest sleeping human. He entered Andrea’s mind and smirked as he stepped into a wet dream with Shane in a car. He chuckled as he turned the day time scene into night and added a few walkers to attack the passionate couple. He watched as the walkers neared the vehicle as the two struggled to disentangle from each other.

Daryl shook his head and left the dream and Andrea’s mind. She wasn’t a threat to him.

He dipped into Lori’s dreams. They were filled with arguments and fear for her son. She was worried for Carol and how she reacted to him. They had talked about him when they were cooking dinner tonight. Unbidden, anger rolled up inside him a this new found knowledge, but he tamped it down. He needed to concentrate on his search. He couldn’t be distracted.

He left Lori’s mind and entered Rick’s. His dreams were a jumbled mess of walkers, Carl, Lori and trying to keep his people on the farm. He delved deeper, but all he found was a person trying his best to keep his family together. Daryl scoffed, a little disappointed. The sheriff fit the persona of a demon hunter. Appearances really were deceiving.

He entered Shane’s mind and found the same amorous dream as Andrea. He shook his head and pushed further and saw him arguing with Rick about Sophia, arguing with Dale about guns and Andrea. He created a Lori clone to appear beside the car as Shane had sex with Andrea, then left the man’s mind.

Daryl touched Glenn’s mind next, but only found him dreaming of Maggie and a walker filled barn. He stopped. What? The barn has walkers? Why would there be walkers in the barn? He shook his head and left the human’s mind. And I thought my dreams were weird.

He opened his eyes. He took a deep breath as he ran a hand through his hair. He shouldn’t be tired. Entering people’s minds and dreams didn’t wear him out. It was the easiest thing in the world for him to do. He glared at the tents then the house. The demon hunter was using their powers against him.

You’re not going to stop me.

Daryl took a deep breath to calm himself and closed his eyes. Whoever this person was, they were weak in the ability department. A full blow demon hunter would’ve been able to keep him out of people’s minds. Was this person new to their powers or were they waning?

One way to find out.

He sent his mind into Beth’s dreams, but only found her thinking of her mother and life on the farm before the dead decided to take a stroll. He left the blonde’s mind and entered her sister’s. He raised an eyebrow as he found her dreaming of arguing with Glenn about a barn full of walkers. This again? He delved deeper and found a woman falling for the young man. His stomach turning, he left Maggie’s mind and her desires.

Hershel’s mind and dreams were occupied with life before the world went to hell. He pushed deeper, but only found thoughts of his daughters, his dead family and friends and the farm.

He left the vet’s mind and drifted into Dale’s. He saw the older man arguing with Shane about Andrea and that the deputy should leave. He pushed further into the human’s mind and saw a younger Dale fighting a woman with glowing red eyes. Daryl’s heart stopped as he watched the scene before him. The young Dale held a black dagger which glowed purple. He swung it at the woman, slicing her arm. She screamed, grabbing her arm and flew away.

The younger Dale turned and narrowed his eyes at Daryl. He pointed at him and Daryl blinked. Thinking the man meant someone else, he looked behind him. No one was there.

“Get out of my head, demon.” The younger man bit out. “You don’t belong here.”

Daryl narrowed his eyes as his as his surroundings blazed red. “I go where ever the hell I please.”

Dale raised his hand. “Leave!”

A blinding white light exploded around him. His stomach dropped and pain blasted up his back. He opened his eyes and looked up at the sky. He shifted his gaze to the RV, his heart pounding in his chest. He pushed himself into a sitting position and took several deep breaths to calm himself. He ran a hand through his hair.

I’m going to have a little talk with Dale.

****

Daryl climbed out of his tent and the scent of eggs greeted him. His stomach growled, but he ignored it. He needed to find the old man and have a little chat. He had to know if the man still possessed the dagger and if he planned on using it. He didn’t like the idea of such a weapon so close to him along with a demon hunter willing to use it.

He spotted the man leaving the RV and his hands curled into fists. He strolled toward the man, but Carol grabbed his arm, stopping him. He stared at her then she shoved a plate into his hands. He looked at the pile of eggs then at her.

“You’re not going out there again on an empty stomach.” She said as her hand reached up. She stopped before her fingers touched his face. She turned away and prepared another plate.

He stared at her back and his stomach growled again. He closed his eyes and sighed. She was right. He shook his head and sat in the lawn chair on the other side of the fire.

“Here.” Carol stood in front of him, handing him a plastic fork. “Stop using your fingers.”

Daryl looked up at her. A smile graced her face. He took in her red sleeveless shirt and his mouth watered at what might be hiddden underneath the garment. Thankfully, his plate hid his reaction to his thoughts of her. He smirked as he took the utensil.

“Thanks.”

Carol turned on her heel and went back to the campfire. He watched her as she pushed the eggs around on the skillet. Why was it always her that did the cooking? Did anyone else know how to cook eggs? He shook his head and dug into the scrambled eggs.

Daryl watched Dale as he took a plate off eggs from Carol. He needed to get the man alone, out of earshot from the others. He doubted the man had enough power to stand against him, but he wouldn’t let his guard down. He’d confront the man, show him who he was dealing with and demand to know where the damn dagger was.

He didn’t want the knowledge of it being so close to him hovering over his head. Searching for Sophia required all of his concentration. That was all that mattered.

Carol shoveled more scrambled eggs onto his plate and he raised an eyebrow at her. She shrugged, but he caught a twinkle in her blue eyes before she turned and went back to the fire. He shook his head and adjusted his position on the chair. He dug into his second helping as thoughts of taking off that blouse drifted into his mind.

“There are walkers in the barn.” Glenn’s voice cut through the calm discussions around the campfire.

Daryl looked up, his fork hovering over the eggs. He glanced around the group as everyone stopped what they were doing and stared at Glenn.

****

Daryl glared at the barn as Rick tested the padlock and chains holding the doors closed. He narrowed his eyes as he watched the sheriff returned to the gathered. Heated words floated to his ears, but he ignored them. It seemed fate was trying its damnedest to keep him from finding that little girl. First, he needed to take care of the demon hunter, now there was a barn full of walkers. Not to mention his growing attraction to the little girl’s mother.

He could easily take care of the walkers, but the others would know what he was then. Setting a bunch of walkers on fire without the use of a lighter or gasoline might not sit well with any of them. He ran a hand through his hair.

“We can’t leave.” Carol’s voice pushed through his thoughts. “My daughter is still out there.”

Daryl turned his attention to the arguing group. Carol stood beside him as she pleaded with the others. He looked at her then at the others. Where they planning on leaving? With the girl still out there? Anger rose within him at the thought. He was supposed to be the cruel one here. He was a damn demon after all. How could they leave a little girl to save their own hides?

Shane raised his hands up and stepped toward Carol. “Look, we have to think realistically here. She might be dead or-”

Carol turned away, wrapping her arms around herself.

“What are talkin’ about?” Daryl put himself between Carol and Shane. “I found her doll two days ago.”

Shane shook his head and stepped in front of Daryl. “That’s right, Daryl. You found a doll.”

Daryl sneered as he narrowed his eyes at Shane. What right did he have of belittling his attempts at finding Sophia. The man sure as hell wasn’t doing anything. He’d given up.

“You don’ know.” He snapped, flinging his arm at the man.

“What would happen if you did find her, Daryl?” Shane yelled. “She’d probably run the other way when she saw you all methed out and covered in walker blood.”

Daryl charged at Shane, but Rick stepped between them before he could hit the man. He glared at the sheriff.

“We’ll deal with this later.” Rick announced, looking at each member of the gathering.

Daryl heard banging behind him and he turned to see the barn doors pound against the restraints. He narrowed his eyes and curled his hands into fists. The restraints held, but for how long? He needed to find that girl before they all packed up and left.

A hand rested on his arm and he turned his attention to Carol. She offered him a watery smile and his heart flipped. He sighed and closed his eyes. The warmth of her hand soothed him, calmed his anger. How was she able to do that? With just a touch, his temper retreated.

She squeezed his arm then let go. He watched her follow the others back to the camp. He shoved his fingers into his hair as he realized he was now on a deadline. He knew Rick would attempt to convince the others to stay, but if he didn’t find the girl soon, it wouldn’t matter whether they stayed or left. He’d be the one leaving, knowing it’d be only a matter of time before Dale decided to kill him.

“Damn it.” Daryl growled as he stalked after the group. He had to get back out there and search then deal with the demon hunter.

He stalked across the yard, snatched up his crossbow by his tent and headed toward the forest. He didn’t know where to start his search, but he knew stepping into the woods would cool the ire he still felt.

“Daryl, wait!” Carol’s voice tugged at him. He stopped and turned to face her. His gaze roamed over her features, her worried eyes and the way she cross her arms against her chest.

She took a deep breath and held his gaze with hers. “You can’t go out there again.”

He narrowed his eyes at her. It wasn’t that long ago when she shoved a plate of food in his hands and told him to eat up if he was going out again. He took a step toward her. “What?”

She shook her head as tears filled her eyes. She avoided his gaze, then looked back up at him. “Shane’s right. What if you don’t find her. What if she’s already dead? What if you get hurt?”

He already got hurt, but she didn’t need to know that. He watched as a tear left her eye and trailed down her cheek.

“I can’t keep doing this.” She continued. “I don’t know if she’s even alive.”

He stared at her as she stood before him, tears silently making their way down her face. She didn’t want him searching for her daughter? How could she give up hope like that? What if she were the one lost? Would she want people to give up on her just because a few hours had passed? He shook his head and turned away from her.

“I can’t lose you, too.” She whispered behind him.

His heart tightened at the words, but the anger rising within him squelched the softer budding emotion. He turned to face her, his eyes narrowed. She watched him, her arms still folded across her chest. He took a step toward her, but she didn’t move. Her gaze roamed over his face as if searching for something other than the anger he felt. That was all she would get from him at the moment.

“Stupid bitch.” He growled as he brushed passed her.

If she didn’t want him searching for her child then who was he to argue? He had better things to do anyway. He had a hunter to confront and maybe put an end to. The way he felt, he might just kill the guy out right. The old man wasn’t a match for him anyway.

****

Daryl found the old man attempting to hide the duffle bag full of guns. He placed them up against a large tree and take a deep breath.

“I know you’re there.”

Daryl smirked as he closed the gap between them. “I don’ care. Wasn’ bein’ silent to sneak up on you anyway.”

Dale turned to face him and Daryl smiled as his sight turned red. The old man gasped and looked away.

“What’s the matter, old man?” Daryl sneered as he stepped closer. “Thought you were a demon hunter. Lost your touch?”

Dale adjusted his rifle on his back and shook his head. “I’m surprised you haven’t tortured the entire camp by now. Why are you hiding what you are? Your kind isn’t known for restraint.”

Daryl held out his right hand and flames ignited around it. “I’m not hiding now.”

Dale backed into the tree, his eyes scanning the forest. He then stared at him as he fumbled with the rifle on his back. He aimed the gun, but Daryl chuckled.

“You know that’s not going to do a damn thing.”

Dale cocked the rifle. “No, but it’ll hurt like a son of a bitch.”

Daryl narrowed his eyes and the flames turned to lightning. “Where’s the dagger, Dale?”

Dale blinked then averted his eyes as if he had done something he shouldn’t.

“I lost it.” Dale whispered, not looking at him. “I lost it in a fight with a demon. The demon escaped and I knew then I should retire. I was getting too old for that life anyway.”

He raised his eyes then narrowed them. “I thought I left that life behind me and now you show up.”

A sense of relief flooded Daryl. He lowered his hand and allowed a small smile to curve his lips. The dagger was gone, lost on some long ago battleground. Even if someone did find it, they wouldn’t know what they had. It was probably gathering dust somewhere, locked away in a case or safe. He chuckled to himself and shook his head.

“Good thing you lost it, old man.” Daryl said. “I might have killed you otherwise.”

“Carol’s influence is growing on you.” Dale mentioned as he slung the rifle back over his shoulder. “You would’ve killed me whether I had the dagger or not.”

Daryl narrowed his eyes and growled. The old man was too observant for his own good. His sight turned red, but Dale didn’t back away this time. “You no nothing, old man.”

Dale smiled and shrugged. “I know more than you think, demon. You’re different. Any other demon would’ve tortured these people until they died. Any other demon wouldn’t have bothered to search for a little girl.”

Daryl smirked. “The day’s not over, yet.”

Dale shook his head. “You’ve had days, Daryl. Hell, you could’ve done something back at the quarry, but you didn’t. You haven’t and I doubt you will. You care. In all my years of hunting demons, I’ve never seen one care about humans.”

Daryl scoffed and backed away from Dale. He didn’t need this right now. He waved his hand, sending Dale stumbling back into the tree behind him.

“Keep your opinions to yourself.” He spun on his heel and stalked back to the farm.

“It’s the truth, Daryl.” Dale called back to him.

“Shut up.” Daryl snarled. He passed Shane on the way back, but he continued on his way, not wanting to talk to anyone else at the moment.

Dale’s words echoed in his mind, feeding the growing anger rising within him. He needed to hit something, tear something apart. He didn’t care what it was. He looked toward the barn and his hands curled into fists. He could take his anger out on the walkers inside; take care of two problems at once.

Daryl shook his head. It wasn’t worth the trouble it’d bring upon him. He’d find something else to take his anger out on. Maybe Shane once he got back.

He stalked through the camp, casting a glance at the RV as Carol stepped out of it. She spotted him then averted her gaze. His sight turned red and his lip curled into a sneer. That’s how she wanted to play it, then fine. She didn’t have a hold on him, no matter what Dale said. If he wanted to tear the camp apart, he could very well do that without hesitation.

Grumbling, he headed away from the camp, away from the farm. He headed for the lake he’d found the other day while checking the perimeter. Maybe the cold water would ease his temper. Something needed to.

A cluster of white caught his attention and he paused. He squinted at it then he strolled closer for a better look. He couldn’t stop the smile form creeping across his lips at the sight. A rose bush in full bloom sat near the lake. He reached out and ran a finger over the soft petal of one flower. A sense of renewed hope filled him and he knew he had to show Carol. Maybe it, too, could bring her some much-needed hope.

Chapter Text

Daryl watched as Carol reached out and touched the petals of a rose. A gentle smile curled her lips and a sense of calm came over him. He chewed on his bottom lip as Dale’s words echoed in his mind. He pushed them down as far as he could. He didn’t want to think about how right the man might be. How could one woman influence him in such a way? He shook his head.

“I’m sorry about earlier.” He said as he shuffled his feet. Damn it. Why are you acting like this? You’re a demon, not some shy school boy talking to his crush.

She looked at him, the smile still on her lips. She shrugged and turned her attention back to the roses. “You wanted to look for Sophia. I just wanted to ask you why?”

He looked at her then at the roses. He’d wondered that himself many times. Why was he spending all his time searching for a human child? Why did it mean so much to him? He was a demon, he shouldn’t care. In fact, he should be making things worse for Carol. Any other demon would’ve seen her as the perfect target. Instead, he wanted to do everything possible to bring her child back to her.

He shrugged. “Truth is, I’ve got nothin’ better to do.”

“We’ll find her.” Carol whispered as she touched the petals. “Thank you, Daryl.”

Warmth flooded his face and he looked away. What was it about this woman that triggered him to do anything for her? Was she some siren in disguise, a witch? He’d never behaved like this around any other humans. It unnerved him that a human held so much power over him. He didn’t like it one bit, but he didn’t know how to stop it.

He whispered as his gaze roamed over her, his breathing growing ragged. They were far from the farm. They were alone. His fingers itched to touch her. His cocked jumped at the idea of burying deep inside her. He wanted to make her feel something other than worry and grief. The rising desire caught him off guard. He stomped it down before he acted on the impulses.

“Let’s get back.” The words came out thick with need. He cursed himself and hoped she didn’t hear the arousal in his voice.

She nodded and turned away from the rose bush. She looked at him, optimism swelling in her eyes. His gaze dropped to her lips and his breath quickened. What would it be like to kiss a human? Were her lips as soft as they looked? What would she taste like?

“It’s beautiful here.” She said. “Maybe I can bring Sophia here.”

He nodded as he tore his eyes from her face. He shouldn’t even think about kissing her or doing anything else with her. She was worried about her daughter. She didn’t need to worry about him having his way with her on top of it. Besides, she was human and he was a demon. He doubted she’d even be able handle his passion. Pushing down his longing, he turned and led the way back to the farm.

****

Daryl walked beside Carol as they made their way across the yard to the farm house. He narrowed his eyes at the gathering of the group around the porch. They milled about the porch without a care in the world. There was a little girl still out there and these people acted as if they were at a family reunion.

“What’s going on?” He asked, trying to keep his annoyance from showing in his voice.

Lori looked at him as she placed an arm around Carl. She narrowed her eyes at him, but he didn’t care. It wasn’t any of her business if Carol was with him or not. She didn’t have a say in what Carol wanted to do.

“Why are you just sittin’ here?” He barked. “Sophia’s still out there.”

“It’s been days, Daryl.” Lori said, stepping closer to the railing that separated him from the gathered group. “Rick’s looked for her. Shane’s looked for her.”

Daryl looked at Carol and his annoyance turned to anger. Why was she saying this? Wouldn’t she want people to keep looking if it were Carl out there? He glared at the woman, fighting the urge to show her how right she was about him.

“We got us a damn trail!”

He turned around and saw Shane hurrying up to the house. Daryl raised an eyebrow as he noticed the shotgun the man carried. With the duffle bag slung over his shoulder, Shane held a determined expression on his face. He looked behind Shane, but didn’t see Dale.

“No more of this standing around. It’s time to take back this farm. Are you with me?” Shane held out the shotgun to him and he took it.

The walkers in the barn. Figures. The man had been bellyaching about it since they learned about it. Even taking to watching the damn thing instead of searching for Sophia. He stared at the gun then at Shane. The man was a loose canon, even more than himself.

“What is this?” Lori asked as she hurried down the steps, Carl in tow. “Hershel said no guns.”

Shane dropped the duffle bag to the ground and brought out a rifle. He turned to Glenn and held it out. “Are you willing to protect what’s yours?”

Glenn nodded, but his eyes reflected confusion and worry. He looked at Maggie as she argued with Shane about guns on the farm.

He ignored her and handed a gun to Carl. “You take this and you protect your mom. Can you do that?”

Carl took the gun and nodded.

“Shane, what’s going on?” Lori asked.

Shane took out his shotgun from the bag. “There’s walkers in the barn and Rick wants us to act like everything’s fine. I say we clear the threat from the barn before they break out of there and kill us.”

Daryl looked at Carol and unease washed over him at the fear he saw in her eyes. She stepped closer to him.

“What is that?” Shane asked.

Daryl turned and saw Rick and Hershel stepping out of the woods. He squinted and lifted his hand up against the bright sun. Was Rick leading a walker?

“What the hell is that?” Shane took off toward the barn.

Aw, hell. Here we go. Daryl ran after him. Shane shouted at Rick as they drew closer. Rick yelled back. Daryl narrowed his eyes as he stared at Hershel and Rick leading two walkers on leashes. He raised his shotgun at one of the walkers. Was that how the barn became full of these things?

Rick and Shane shouted at each other as the rest of the group gathered around them. Daryl looked behind him and saw Carol. He stepped closer to her, putting himself between her and Rick’s leashed walker.

“Hershel, would a human be able to walk away from this?” Shane shot the female walker Hershel held. It stumbled back, but continued to hiss and snarl. “That’s it’s heart.” He shot it again. “That’s it’s liver. Why’s it still coming?”

“Brother, do not do this.” Rick yelled.

“Why is it still coming?” He shot it again and the walker continued to growl.

“That’s enough.” Rick shouted.

Shane stalked toward Hershel and his walker. “You’re right. That is enough.”

He shot it in the head and it dropped to the ground. Hershel stared at it as he let go of the leash.

Daryl looked from Rick and Shane. Tension and fear filled the air and he realized he didn’t need to do anything to this group to create terror. They did it all themselves with their distrust of each other. He closed his eyes and breathed in the anxiety. It was too easy, though. With walkers only feet away, these people were ready to jump at their own shadows. All he had to do was give them a little push. His narrowed gaze roamed over the others, touching each mind for a moment. He shook his head. He didn’t like it easy. Easy fear was different, it tasted terrible. He preferred to create the fear himself, not have it hand delivered to him such as now.

Shane pounded on the barn doors, bringing Daryl out of his thoughts. He watched in stunned silence as the doors swung open. Shane backed away, drawing his gun.

Shit. Daryl strode forward as the walkers filed out of the barn. He took aim and shot one in the head. Gunfire echoed around him as the others gathered around Shane and turned the barn into a shooting gallery.

The walkers dropped with ease, but they kept coming out of the barn. He had a hard time keeping track of the creatures as they rushed toward the group. He took aim at one and shot it in the shoulder. It stumbled back, but didn’t go down. Growling, he aimed again and shot it in the head. It joined the growing pile in front of the barn.

How many are in there?

He stopped to reload as the air filled with the scent of gun smoke. He raised his weapon again, took aim and fired. The walker collapsed to the ground and silence reined.

Breathing hard, Daryl looked around at the others. They stared at the barn and the pile of bodies. Rick stood still, his leashed walker at his feet. The sheriff looked at him and he saw sorrow in the man’s eyes. Sorrow for what? It couldn’t have been for the walkers.

Crying brought his attention to Hershel and his family. Maggie and Beth held their father, tears streaming down their faces. He turned his attention back to the pile of bodies. Looked like Shane did what Daryl couldn’t. He tormented these people to the point of tears.

Congratulations, Shane. You’re more of a demon than me.

A soft hiss came from the barn and he raised his gun. What the hell? Was there another one?

His heart pounded against his ribcage as he stared at the darkened opening of the barn. He shuffled his feet, debating on getting closer or staying put.

Come on. He growled. Show yourself.

A small figure stepped from the darkness into the light. Dressed in a blue shirt with a rainbow decorating it, the walker shuffled toward them. His stomach dropped to his feet and a chill he’d never felt before ran up his spine. The little girl stared at them and her lip curled in a snarl. She made her way through the bodies as if she were taking a morning stroll through a park.

“Sophia!” Carol’s voice brought him out of his stupor. Her footfalls raced forward and in one motion he dropped his gun and grabbed her as she ran by him.

She cried out and fell to the ground. He went with her, holding her against him. She reached toward the walker and he tightened his hold on her. She cried out as the creature ambled closer to the group.

He tried not to breathe in her scent of fear and roses as it flowed over him. He tried not to feel elated at having her in his arms. This wasn’t a moment to revel in, but he couldn’t help it. She was in his arms, held against his chest. He’d dreamed about her, imagined her writhing underneath him. He’d wanted her in his arms for weeks. His body reacted to her and it was difficult to tamp it down.

Stop it, goddamn it. This isn’t the time.

Daryl shifted into a more comfortable position. Carol continued to cry in his arms as they watched Sophia shuffle toward them. He wanted to pick Carol up, carry her far away from this scene, away from the walker. How long had Sophia been in that barn? Did he waste his time searching for her when she was here the entire time? Had he give Carol false hope? Had he been fooling himself into believing he could really be something more than what he was?

Rick stepped forward, gun drawn. He towered over the little girl as he aim for Sophia’s head. The girl stopped in front of him and snarled up at him. The gunshot split the silence, sending Sophia’s head snapping back. Blood exploded from the back of her head and she tumbled to the ground.

Silence washed over the group again, broken only by sobbing. Daryl closed his eyes and rested his head against Carol’s. What was he going to do now?

He drew a deep breath and helped Carol to her feet. She pushed away from him, hitting him in the arm. She spun on her heel and rushed toward the RV. He watched her go, a sense of loss washing over him. The others chased after Hershel as he walked with his daughters back to the house. He ran a hand through his hair and looked at the corpse of the little girl he tried so hard to find.

Rage filled him and his sight turned red. He snarled, spun around and sent a bolt of lightning at the barn. It struck the door, leaving a black scorch mark on the wood.

Worthless piece of shit. You tasked yourself with findin’ a little girl and you couldn’t even do that? What good are ya?

He roared in anger and aguish. Anger because he dared to do something other than torment people like he should’ve. Anguish because he actually began to care about Carol and he didn’t want to see her in so much pain. Growling, he kicked the shotgun, sending it clattering across the dirt.

You shouldn’t have even bothered. He stalked toward the camp, kicking anything in his way. You should’ve kept to the plan and tortured all these people until they died. You’re a fuckin’ demon. You shouldn’t even be around humans. You should be terrorizin’ them, not makin’ friends out of them.

Daryl looked up and found himself staring at the door to the RV. He closed his eyes and sighed. Even when he was angry with himself, with everything, he couldn’t stay away from her. He pulled opened the door and stepped inside.

She sat by the window, staring out it as if waiting for something. His heart clenched as guilt rose within him. He tried to tamp it down as he drew closer. Carol looked up at him, tears in her eyes. She offered a small smile, but he didn’t deserve it. He didn’t find her daughter in time. She turned her attention back to the window.

He pushed himself up on the counter across from her and watched her. What was she thinking? Did she blame him? Did she hate him? He could answer those questions himself by slipping into her mind. He couldn’t bring himself to do it, though. He didn’t want to invade her privacy. Instead, he sat with her, offering a silent show of support and he hoped some comfort.

The door opened and he glanced over as Lori stepped into the RV. She looked at him, her eyes widening. She blinked as if deciding to continue forward or not. She pulled her gaze from his and looked at Carol.

“We’re going to have a funeral for Sophia and Hershel’s family.”

Carol shook her head and waved Lori away.

Daryl narrowed his eyes. “That’s your daughter.”

Carol looked at him, tears streaking down her face. How could she not want to go to the funeral? What was wrong with her?

“That wasn’t my daughter.” Carol said as she turned back to staring out the window. “That was some thing. My little girl died cold and alone in the woods.”

Lori sighed and left the RV, closing the door behind her.

Daryl glared at Carol. He really did waste his time searching for that girl. He wasted his time even being here. She didn’t want to be comforted. She’d rather wallow in her sorrow, pining away for a girl who never even had a chance.

Fine then. He gritted his teeth to keep from snarling. I’m through wasting my goddamn time here.

He jumped down from the counter, took one last look at Carol and stormed out of the RV. Let her be alone then. See if I care anymore.

He stalked over to the camp, casting glances at the others as they made their way to the make-shift graveyard. His heart clenched at the thought of what Sophia must have gone through being lost and alone in the woods. How long had she been out there before a walker attacked? Had it been a day or an hour?

He shook his head. Stop it. It’s over. Done with. Why’d you even care?

He grabbed his crossbow, slung it over his shoulder and took down his tent. He didn’t need to be around these humans anymore. It wasn’t worth it. Why was even bothering? These people meant nothing to him. He sure as hell didn’t mean anything to them.

I’ll go to the little girl’s funeral, but that’s it. I’m done.

****

Daryl trekked across a large field when he spotted the remains of a chimney sticking out of the ground. He picked up his pace, glancing behind him to see how far he’d gotten from the farm. He squinted in the sunlight. He saw the tree line separated the field from the farm. He couldn’t see the farmhouse. Good. He was far enough away from them.

He tossed his tent to the ground and swung his crossbow off his shoulder, placing it against the brickwork. He looked over the quiver and saw he only had two arrows left.

He sighed. Can’ hunt with only two arrows. Gonna hafta make more.

Daryl stepped away from his weapon, making a mental note to search for some good enough sticks to use later. He unraveled his tent and set to work putting it up.

His gaze rose to the tree line. Wonder how Carol is holdin’ up? Did she go to Sophia’s grave?

He shook his head. Not my problem anymore. Hell, none of them are my problem. I should cut my losses and leave them all. Might do it tomorrow. Nothin’ keepin’ me here now.

Chapter Text

Daryl dragged his knife against the stick, sharping it to a point. His body relaxed with the repetitive motions, but his mind still reeled from Sophia’s death. He didn’t know if he’d ever get it out of his head, but he’d embraced the anger it caused, letting it wrap around him like a blanket. He needed to be angry to keep away from the humans.

I shouldn’ have let myself care to begin with. What the hell was I thinkin’?

He shook his head and started working on another twig. He turned it between his fingers, feeling the roughness of the bark. It amazed him how something so easily broken could also be strong and sturdy. Carol’s face full of anguish appeared before him. The force of the guilt rising within him caused him to gasp. He closed his eyes, pushing the emotion away. He drew his blanket of anger tighter around him. He didn’t want to deal with this right now. He couldn’t.

“Daryl!”

He growled at the voice, his fingers wrapping around the half finished arrow. He opened his eyes and glared at Lori as she ran up to him. What the hell does she want? Thought she didn’t like me.

He turned his attention back to finishing the arrow, hoping she’d get the hint and go away. He didn’t want anything to do with these people anymore. Their issues weren’t his. Not anymore.

“Rick and Glenn went after Hershel.” Lori said, standing in front of him. Guess she didn’t take the hint. “They aren’t back, yet and Beth is in some catatonic state. She needs her father. Will you go look for them?”

Daryl glared up at her then back to the stick. “Go after them yourself. I’m through looking for people.”

“How could you be so selfish-”

Daryl snarled and leapt to his feet. “Back off, Olive Oil! I was out there every damn day lookin’ for that little girl, so don’t talk to me about not getting’ my hands dirty.”

Lori gaped at him, then narrowed her eyes. She opened her mouth to speak then closed it. He stared hard at her, holding back the rage threatening to break free. He so wanted to enter her mind and bring forth her greatest fear. He didn’t know why he held back. She’d been a thorn in his side ever since he’d shown any interest in Carol.

“Why don’t you run back to the others and tell them how dangerous I am.” He growled, stepping closer to her. “That’s what you’re good at.”

Lori’s eyes widened and she backed away. She spun on her heel and raced across the field. Daryl shook his head, grabbed another stick and sat down. He took a deep breath in an attempt to bring himself back under control. He pushed the blade harder across the twig, trying to find the calm he’d felt earlier.

What’s it matter to me if Rick’s lookin’ for Hershel? Why is it my problem? It’s not.

****

Carol stood by the dining table as she listened to various voices around her. She placed her hands on the back of the chair before her, debating on whether to sit down or pace. It hadn’t been a day since they buried her daughter and they were in the midst of another disappearance. This time, though they knew where Hershel was. She closed her eyes and leaned against the chair, wishing it was Daryl. He’d been there for her through it all offering to comfort her. He wasn’t here now and his loss weighed upon her.

The door opened and she looked up, all conversation ceased. Lori stepped into the room, apprehension and anger blazing in her eyes. Carol knew then she’d went to talk to Daryl. No one else caused the woman’s anger to flare as much as him.

“Daryl’s not going to look for Rick.” Lori snapped. Her gaze fell on Carol. “I’m surprise that self-centered bastard even bothered to look for your daughter.”

Carol’s eyes widened and her mouth worked, but nothing came out. What the hell did Daryl say to Lori to cause so much anger? She shook her head and stepped closer to her in an attempt to soothe her. Lori scoffed and ran up the stairs.

Carol blinked. She shouldn’t have been stunned at Lori’s words. She’d made it clear she thought something was sinister about Daryl. She just didn’t believe Lori would let her animosity toward him surface in front of everyone.

She looked at the others. “I’ll talk to Daryl.”

Andrea held out her hand to stop her from leaving. “Let’s not poke the tiger further.”

Carol narrowed her eyes and shook her arm from Andrea’s grasp. “I need to find out what’s wrong with him. This isn’t like him.”

Andrea smirked. “Oh, I believe it is.”

Carol stared at her. Not her, too? Why were they so afraid of Daryl? He’d nothing but try to comfort her and look for Sophia. He deserved more than this aversion. “You can’t stop me from going to him.”

“No, but I can discourage you.”

“You’re still worried about finding him standing over me?”

Andrea sighed and folded her arms against herself. She looked around as the others filed out of the house. She took Carol’s hand and led her deeper into the living room until they stood by the windows.

“He wasn’t just standing over you, Carol.” She whispered. “I heard him.”

Carol blinked at her. Her heart pounded in her chest. What was Andrea trying to say? “What’d he say?”

“He said you were making him care. He said it in such a way.” She waved her hands as if searching for the words. “Like he was pissed. It was as if he didn’t want to care at all.”

Carol squinted at Andrea. She knew Daryl cared. He’d proven it by trying to find her daughter. He tried to keep her hoping he’d find Sophia even when every one else gave up.

“He cares, Andrea. It might not seem like it right now, but I know he does. He just needs someone to remind him.”

Andrea shook her head and opened her mouth to speak, but Carol raised her hand. She took a breath, trying to keep the unexpected rise of anger from taking over. It was bad enough Lori despised Daryl for unknown reasons, but she’d put her foot down before someone else bad mouthed him because they didn’t understand him or refused to get to know him because he was short-tempered.

“I’m going to talk to him.” Carol said as calmly as she could. “He’s a part of this group whether you or even he likes it or not.”

Andrea’s lips twitched. “Don’t let him know you stood up for him. He might explode.”

Carol laughed. “I won’t tell him if you won’t.”

Andrea shook her head. “Not a problem. He might bite my head off.”

Carol giggled and headed for the door. The fading light sent her pace into a run. She needed to get to him before night fell. She hurried across the field, the ruins of the chimney within sight. As she drew closer, she spotted his tent. She slowed her pace, her lungs burning from the run.

Daryl stepped from behind the chimney, a quiver full of arrows in his hands. He slung it over his shoulder and picked up his crossbow. He took a step and spotted her. His eyes narrowed and he set his crossbow against the bricks.

A twinge of fear crept up inside her. His eyes blazed a blue fire she recognized all too well. Her pulse raced in her veins, throbbed in her ears. He was angry and her presence only fed it.

I need to tread carefully.

Daryl’s eyes narrowed. “What the hell do you want?”

Carol took a deep breath. “Lori said you didn’t want to look for Rick.”

He sneered. “She can look for him herself. He’s not my goddamn responsibility. None of you are.”

He grabbed his crossbow, slung it over his other shoulder and headed for the forest.

Sensing he was slipping away, Carol stood in front of him, blocking his path. He glared at her.

“Don’t do this.” She whispered. “Don’t pull away, not after everything you’ve done for this group. For me. You’ve earned you’re place.”

She placed her hand on his chest and a jolt of heat and electricity surged up her arm. He jumped back, cursing. He’d felt it as well. She stared at her hand, tremors running up and down her spine. Her heart banged against her chest as she turned her gaze to him. He stared at her, breathing ragged. What the hell was that?

“Why don’ you go back to the others and leave me the hell alone!” He yelled and stalked away from her.

She watched him go, stunned by the jolt from putting her hand on him. She’d touched him before, but this was different. It was powerful, something she’d never felt before. She stared at her hand, flexing the fingers. Whatever happened caused him to flee. She’d seen the confusion in his eyes, but he’d covered it with anger and lashed out.

She curled her fingers into her palm and watched his retreating back hurry across the field into the forest.

“Interesting.”

****

Daryl stalked through the forest, irritation preventing him from concentrating on the tracks he followed. Still reeling from the jolt he’d received from Carol’s touch, he couldn’t concentrate on anything else. He’d never felt anything like it, a sensation that sent him stumbling backward. He didn’t know what it meant and it both terrified and enraged him.

Get a grip. He chided himself. You won’ be seein’ her anymore after tonight. You’ll be long gone before any of them even think about you again.

He grinned to himself. Maybe I’ll leave them all a goin’ away present. Give them all nightmares as I ride out of here.

A brownish streak flashed in front of him and his attention focused on the squirrel as it bounded away from him. He watched as it climbed a tree a few feet in front of him. He raised his crossbow, aimed and fired. He lowered his weapon and strode toward the pinned animal. He yanked the arrow from the squirrel and stuffed tomorrow’s meal in the small bag slung across his back.

He looked up into the trees as a cool breeze blew across his face. He had an hour before the sun set and all he’d found was one squirrel.

I need to pick up the pace. Need to stop thinkin’ about Carol and what happened.

He shook his head in an attempt to clear it. He stalked through the forest, forcing his mind on the task at hand. Usually, hunting calmed his mind, put him at ease. Instead, the silence allowed his thoughts to wander to a place he didn’t want to go. With each passing day, it became harder to force her face out of his mind. Soon she’d be all he thought about and he couldn’t have that. He couldn’t let his guard down, not for a moment. Not with a demon hunter so near.

Daryl blinked against the setting sun as he aimed his crossbow at the fourth squirrel. He fired and he smiled as the animal let out small squeak. He yanked the arrow from it and stuffed it in the bag to join the others. Bag full of squirrels, he made his way back to his camp.

He built a campfire more to help him see what the hell he was doing than for any warmth. The cold didn’t bother him any, but he couldn’t very well gut a squirrel in the damn dark. Fire blazing, he took one of the animals out of his bag and got to work. The air soon filled with the copper tang of blood and he tossed the unwanted parts into the fire. He licked the blood off his fingers, closing his eyes as the taste filled his mouth.

A twig snapped on his right and he shot to his feet, crossbow at the ready. He narrowed his eyes as a figure stepped into the light of his fire.

Carol stepped around the campfire and stood in front of him. She looked at the pile of gutted animals by his feet then at him. He lowered his weapon, set it against the bricks beside him and sat back down.

“Back for more?” He picked up the animal he’d dropped and stabbed it with his knife. “Thought I told ya to leave me alone.”

What was her deal anyway? What mattered to her so much that she’d brave the darkness to bother him? What the hell did he owe her?

“Lori’s missing.” She said, stepping closer to him. “We think she went after Rick.”

“Goody for her.” He jerked the knife down the small body, almost shoving the blade through the squirrel’s back. “Not my problem.”

Carol sighed and knelt in front of him. She placed her hands on his right knee and looked up at him. The heat and electricity of earlier returned, ripping through him. His breath caught and he heard her gasp. He stared at her, fighting the instinct to throw her off him.

“I’m not going to let you pull away.” She whispered, the heat from her hands rushing through him. “You’re part of this group. Please, Daryl.”

He narrowed his eyes as the anger returned, thrusting away the strange feelings her touch had woken inside him. He stood, sending her tumbling into the dirt. He turned from her, wanting her to leave. She brought back the emotions he wanted to forget, didn’t want to feel. Why couldn’t she leave him alone? What was he to her anyway?

“You’re a real peach, lady.” He sneered, turning to face her. “You have a death wish or somethin’? Comin’ here in the dead of night? Forgot there were walkers about?”

She blinked at him and he stalked toward her, his eyes narrowed. She didn’t back away and that infuriated him even more.

“Want to end up like Sophia?” Daryl snarled as he waved a hand at her. “Want to end up with a bullet in your skull?”

Carol gasped and tears welled in her eyes. He glowered at her, wanting her to flee, get as far away from him as possible. If terrorizing her accomplished it then so be it. He pushed into her mind, searching for what she feared most. He knew what’d it be, but he entered her mind anyway.

She stared at him as if offering herself up to him as some sort of sacrifice. Tears traveled down her face and he advanced on her.

“You’re not my problem. Sophia wasn’t mine.” He shouted. “Why couldn’ you just keep an eye on her?”

He stopped as he found what he searched for in her mind, something he hadn’t expected. A vision of him lying in a pool of his own blood appeared before him. He blinked and tore his mind from hers. He stared at her as he backed away. Was that why she was here pestering him to no end? Did she really fear he’d die if she wasn’t around?

Her words from a couple days ago echoed in his head. She didn’t want to lose him. What made her believe she had him to begin with? Why did he matter so much to her anyway? He hadn’t done anything for her. He’d screwed up in finding Sophia.

She wiped at her eyes and looked away. “Yeah.”

Daryl looked at her, his thoughts racing. She cared about him, but why? She should’ve cut all ties with him the moment they buried Sophia. Any smart person wouldn’t want anything to do with him after he’d failed so enormously. Yet, here she was trying to convince him to come back with her. He shoved his hands into his hair and turned away from her. All these emotions were too much. She brought them all back after he’d buried them deep inside him.

He turned back around and saw her retreating back across the field. He took a couple steps after her, but stopped. Other than the ones from the barn, there hadn’t been a walker in this area in awhile.

She’ll be fine. If she was able to come here without getting’ attacked, she can make her way back just fine.

Daryl sighed and sat hard on the ruin of the chimney. He placed his head in hands as a vision of Carol’s horror appeared in his mind. He couldn’t leave now. Not after all that happened with Sophia. He couldn’t do that to her.

“Goddamn it.” He whispered into the darkness.

****

The next morning, Daryl paced outside the farm house. His words to Carol echoed in his mind. He hadn’t slept thanks to her fear for him appearing before him every time he closed his eyes.

He glanced at the door, knowing she was in there right now talking about the boy Rick had brought back with him from retrieving Hershel. He didn’t care about the meeting or the boy, but Carol had wanted him to come back to the group. Maybe doing so would keep Carol’s revelation from invading his mind.

Growling, he hurried up the steps and yanked open the door. His gaze fell on Carol sitting amongst the group. She looked up at him and his pulse raced. Did she remember what he’d said to her? Did she still want him around after last night?

She smiled at him and relief washed over him. She wasn’t upset with him. He nodded at her as he stepped to the side out of the way of the door. He folded his arms across his chest and half listened to the others argue about this new dilemma. He watched Carol, still not understanding why she was so afraid of losing him. He could ask her, but it’d reveal what he was. Her fearing for him was bad enough. If she actually became frightened of him, it’d tear him apart.

Enough.

The scraping of chairs against wood brought him out of his thoughts. Carol walked by him and he stared at her, taking in the clarity of her eyes, the soft curve of her lips. Her gaze penetrated the wall he’d hastily built back up. She raised her hand to touch him, but he spun around, shoved the door open and hurried down the steps.

He stalked across the yard, heading back to his camp. That was a fuckin’ waste of time.

“Daryl” Rick’s shout halted him in his tracks.

Almost away from here. He sighed and turned to face the sheriff.

“Somethin’ you want?” Daryl bit out.

Rick rubbed his hand over his mouth as he closed the gap between them. He looked around as the others dispersed. He placed his hands on his hips and cleared his throat.

“I need you to talk to Randall.” He said, keeping his voice low. “I need to know if his people are coming back for him and how many.”

Daryl narrowed his eyes. “Why can’ you do it?”

Rick ran a hand through his hair and shuffled his feet. “I can’t. What needs to be done is something I can’t do. To get him to talk and spill what I need to know will take more than a simple chat.”

Daryl waved his arm toward the retreating group. “Get Shane then. I’m sure he’d love to take his frustrations out on someone.”

Rick shook his head and stepped closer to him. Daryl forced himself to stay put. If this man wanted to intimidate him, he’d have to work harder.

“Shane will go too far. I need information. Think you can get it without killing the kid?”

Daryl wanted to laugh. Rick wanted him torture the kid for answers. If Rick only knew what he was capable of, he wouldn’t be asking him to do this. He scoffed.

“Will you do it?” Rick asked, tilting his head to the side.

“Sure.” Daryl answered. “I’ll get your answers.”

Rick nodded and pointed toward the barn. The very barn that housed Hershel’s walkers. The very barn that’d held Sophia. His eyes narrowed and his sight turned red. He didn’t want anything to do with that damn barn.

“He’s in there. Do what ever you have to, just get the information.”

A half cocked grin spread across his face at the idea of taking his own frustrations out on Randall. He wouldn’t kill the kid, but he’d made Randall wish he would.

Chapter Text

Daryl stepped into the barn pulling the door closed behind him. Sunlight filtered through the cracks in the door and from the large window in the loft. He strode further into the dimness and heard chains rattled. He looked to his right and saw the prisoner sitting on the floor, a long chain reaching out behind him to a hook on the wall. The jean jacket and tan pants looked too big for the skinny kid.

Randall looked up and scrambled to his feet, hope written all over his face. “Are you going to let me go?”

Daryl narrowed his eyes at Randall. He sensed something off about this kid. His skin crawled. I’ve been around humans too long.

“No such luck.” He said as he took off his vest and jacket. He tossed them onto a chair behind him.

Randall shuffled away, looking him up and down. “What are you going to do?”

Daryl smiled. “Need some information and you’re goin’ to give it to me.”

Randall took a step backwards. “I didn’t do nothing. Just let me go.”

“You ain’t goin’ nowhere.” Daryl took a step closer. “When I’m through with you, you’re goin’ to tell me your mother’s name just to make it stop.”

His sight turned red and Randall screamed. The fear pouring from the young man filled his being. He closed his eyes and breathed it in. This was what he lived for. This was why he even existed. Finally, he could be what he was and no one will be the wiser. He opened his eyes and raised his hand. Randall lifted off his feet, struggling against his binds.

“Please, don’t.” Randall begged. “I don’t know anything.”

Daryl glared at the boy through his lashes. “Don’ lie to me. You know more than nothin’.”

“I’m not.” Randall whined. “I haven’t been with them long. I just found them a few weeks ago.”

Daryl waved his hand and Randall flew backwards into the wall. He lowered his hand and the boy dropped to the floor. In two strides, he stood over Randall. Randall scrambled away from him, but the wall stopped him from going any further.

“Who are your friends and where are they?” Daryl barked. “Answer me.”

Randall shook his head, his eyes wide as if he realized what he’d said. He looked around him and tried to get to his feet. Daryl slammed his fist into the boy’s face, sending him back down.

“I don’t know.” Randall spit blood from his mouth. “I swear.”

Lightning gathered around Daryl’s hands. The boy shot to his feet and tried to get away from him, but Daryl sent a wave of lightning to the fleeing prisoner. Randall cried out and fell to the floor, lightning sparking over his body.

“I can do this all day.” Daryl stalked toward Randall, grabbed the back of his shirt and flung him across the barn. Randall crashed into the wall then dropped to the floor. “I doubt you can.”

Randall shook his head as he pressed himself against the wall. “You can’t kill me. You need information. You said so yourself.”

Daryl shrugged. “I can make it up. They won’ know the difference.”

Randall continue to shake his head. “Let me go. Please. No one is coming for me. I swear. I barely knew them.”

Daryl narrowed his eyes as he pushed his mind into Randall’s. He moved through the boy’s memories, searching for what this worm feared the most. It didn’t take him long to find it. He smiled as he removed himself from the creep’s mind.

“How many are there?” He asked as he took a step back. Darkness gathered around his right hand as he glared at Randall.

“I don’t know.” Randall stared at Daryl’s hand and the boy’s breathing hitched. “What are you doing?”

He laughed. “I warned you not to lie to me.”

Randall blinked then looked down at his legs as dozens of large black spiders crawled up them. He shrieked and kicked at the creatures. He climbed to his feet and stomped on the animals.

“Get them away!” More spiders scurried toward him and he backed away.

Daryl lifted his hand and Randall rose up off the floor. Randall ceased kicking and stared at him, eyes wide.

“How many are there and are they coming for you?” Daryl asked.

Randall shook his head. Daryl sneered and waved his hand, sending Randall hurtling back into the wall. Flames ignited in his hands as he stalked toward the boy, hanging in the air. Randall kicked at him, but he side stepped the movement.

He flung a fireball at the young man’s head. Randall flinched and tears poured from his eyes. Daryl smiled and tossed the other fireball at the opposite side of Randall’s head.

“Stop!”

“Tell me what I want to know!” Daryl snarled.

“I don’t know anything.” Randall cried.

“That’s bullshit.” Daryl waved his hand and Randall dropped to the floor. The spiders darted toward the boy and he scurried away from them. Their eyes glowed as red as Daryl’s and the scent of urine filled the barn. Daryl chuckled.

Randall climbed onto his knees and shuffled away from the spiders crawling toward him. He looked up at Daryl, licking his lips.

“I’ll tell you what you want to know. Just get rid of these things.”

Daryl scoffed, but waved his hand. The creatures vanished and Randall sighed, slumping against the wall.

“Speak or I’ll find somethin’ worse.”

Randall bowed his head and took a deep breath. “There’s thirty of them.”

Daryl took a step toward Randall. “Where are they?”

Randall looked up at him. Lightning gathered around his hands and Randall scooted back into the shadows. “I don’t know. They might not be where I left them anymore.”

“Where’d you leave ‘em?”

He flung a bolt of lightning above the boy’s head. Randall burst out of the shadows and dashed away as far as the chain allowed. He jerked to a stop and Daryl backhanded the boy, sending him stumbling to the floor. Daryl’s fingers became talons as he sank down to Randall’s level. He slashed the boy’s left pant leg, exposing the stitched up wound.

“Don’t.” Randall grabbed Daryl’s shoulder to stop him. It earned him a backhand across the face. Blood sprayed from the boy’s mouth.

“Where are they?” Daryl flicked his talons at the scab.

“A few miles from here.” Randall cried. “Please, don’t.”

Daryl climbed to his feet and glared at Randall. He got what he wanted, but he wasn’t satisfied. He still didn’t know if Randall’s group would come for him. He doubted it, but he knew Rick would want the information. He paced the floor as restless energy built within him.

“You’d fit right in with my group.” Randall said as he caught his breath.

Daryl stopped and glared at the boy. “What makes you say that?”

Randall smiled as he looked Daryl up and down. He shuffled into a more comfortable position and tilted his head to the side. “My group likes to torture people, too.”

A cold chill spread over him. Images of Carol being tortured by Randall’s people flashed in his mind. His fingers curled into his fists as he narrowed his eyes.

“Yeah. You’d be welcomed.” Randall climbed to his feet and stepped closer to him. “Let me go and I’ll take you to them. We can get out of here and be with people just like us.”

Daryl sneered. “People like us? What the hell did you do?”

Randall smiled. “A group of five of us went out one day to hunt and we came across this man with a couple of daughters. Real sweet looking, too.”

Daryl’s stomach rolled as he took a step back. He didn’t need any more details. He could picture exactly what happened.

Randall licked his lips as if he was about to take a bite of a piece of chocolate. “We beat the father into submission and made him watch as some of the men had their way with the daughters. Then we killed him, let him turn and he attacked his daughters.”

Daryl’s sight turned red and Randall scampered backward, his eyes wide. He slashed his clawed hand across the boy’s face as images of Carol’s frightened visage appeared in his mind.

****

Daryl strode from the barn to the camp where the others waited for his news. His gaze fell on Carol, her arms wrapped around herself. His stomach churned with thoughts of Randall’s people attacking her. He didn’t want anything to happen to her and a surge of protectiveness washed over him. The sensation caught him off guard and his pulse throbbed in his ears.

Rick stepped forward, blocking his view of Carol. He blinked as he focused on the sheriff.

“Did he say anything?”

Daryl scoffed. “There’s thirty of them. He wasn’t forth coming of where they are except to say they were holed up somewhere a few miles from here.”

Rick ran a hand through his hair and placed his other hand on his hip.

“If they come across us, they’ll kill the men and make the women wish they were dead.” Daryl finished.

“We need to take care of this right now.” Shane snapped.

Rick raised his hand. “Fine. Let me talk to the others.”

Shane nodded and followed Rick deeper into the camp. Daryl glanced back at the barn as Randall’s words about joining that group rose in his mind. He didn’t shy away from the knowledge he was nefarious, but there were things even he wouldn’t do. Course, he could let loose on those criminals and enjoy it just as much.

“What’d you do?” Carol’s voice brought him back to the present.

He looked at her, her arms folded across her chest and her pretty mouth turned down in a frown. Her brow furrowed as she stared at him. Her gaze drifted to his hand and he glanced at it. It was covered in blood and he sighed. She’d know sooner or later he wasn’t who she thought he was or wanted him to be.

“We had a little chat.” He held her gaze, knowing she didn’t believe him. It went further than a little chat.

She narrowed her eyes and shook her head. She turned away and marched across the camp. He stared after her as she headed back toward the RV.

Grumbling, Daryl stalked back toward his camp. He heard footsteps behind him and he glanced behind him and scoffed. Dale hurried up to him. He didn’t stop, but slowed his pace to allow the old man to catch up.

“You didn’t use your powers, did you?” Dale asked in a low voice.

“What’d you think?” He narrowed his eyes at the demon hunter as he tightened his hold on the strap of his crossbow.

“Did you kill him?” Dale’s wide eyes brought Daryl to a stop.

“Would it make a difference?”

Dale glanced at the camp then back to him. “You know it would.”

Daryl looked at the RV as Carol’s disappointed face appeared in his mind. He closed his eyes and turned away.

“No. I didn’ kill the kid.” He answered.

Dale visibly relaxed and sighed. He nodded and clapped Daryl’s shoulder. It took all he had not to lash out at the hunter. He scowled at the man, but Dale smiled and walked away.

What the hell was that all about? Daryl shook his head continued on his way to his camp.

“Daryl!”

Daryl stopped and closed his eyes. What now?

He turned as Carol rushed toward him. Annoyance and desire rose within him as he watched her close the gap between them. His hands itched to hold her and his mouth watered with thought of tasting her. His dick strained against his jeans with the need to bury himself inside her.

She stood before him and he breathed in her scent, taking it inside him. He stood still as his gaze roamed over her. He wanted to take her away from here, hole up somewhere away from all this. Protect her from al the dangers waiting out there to rip into her soft flesh. His eyes fell to her lips. He chewed on his bottom lip to keep from grabbing her and kissing her senseless.

“Why do you let Rick treat you like this?” Carol asked as she stepped closer to him.

Daryl squinted his eyes at her. “Treat me like what?”

“Like you’re nothing more than some henchman, willing to do whatever the leader says. You’re better than that. You’re more than that.”

Daryl blinked at her. What was she getting at? He wasn’t better than anyone. He was a damn demon. He was worse than all of them put together. Hell, the only thing that made him better than Randall was the fact he wouldn’t rape someone. If she knew of all things he’d done, of what he really was, she’d faint dead away.

He turned away from her to continue on his way, but she grabbed his arm. A jolt of heat and electricity ripped through him and he flinched, yanking his arm from her. He glared at her, his heart pounding in his chest.

“What the hell is that?” He snapped, taking a step toward her. “That’s the third goddamn time it’s happened. What is it?”

Carol shook her head and backed away. “I don’t know. I thought it might be static build up, but it shouldn’t keep happening.”

Daryl paced in front of her as he ran a hand through his hair. There was no way it was static electricity, not with the way it coursed through him as if he’d been struck by lightning. He stared at her as she wrapped her arms around herself. She watched him with a calmness that unnerved him.

“What do you expect from me?” He growled, not liking the way she scrutinized at him.

“To act like the man I know you are, Daryl.” She took a step toward him, her hand outstretched. He backed away, glaring at her.

“You know nothin’ about me.”

She smiled. “I know what you’re not. I know you’re not someone who’d torture a defenseless boy.”

He barked a laugh. If she only knew how much he enjoyed torturing Randall. She wouldn’t stand in front of him, begging him to be a decent human. She tilted her head to the side, studying him. His burned and itched under her gaze.

“I’m not who you think I am.” Daryl whispered as he looked away. He stared at his blood stained hand and curled into a fist.

Carol took the hand in hers and he looked at her. She ran her fingers over the skin and small jolts of electricity danced over his flesh. He shuddered, but didn’t pull away.

“I know you’d do anything to help us.” She whispered as her fingers traveled up his arm. “I know you care. You can’t hide that from me. I can see you, the real you.”

He narrowed his eyes and backed away from her. How could she see what he really was and not run screaming in the opposite direction? Her touch left his arm and he fought down the urge to wrap his arms around her to compensate for the absence. She sighed and pulled the cardigan she wore tighter around her. A cool breeze blew across them, but he ignored it.

“You’re living in a fantasy world.” He snapped. “Yes, I tortured that kid. Is that what you wanted to hear? I tortured a kid to get information for Rick!”

He strode toward her, closing the gap between them. She looked up at him, but held her ground. “You want to know what he said? His group came across a father and his daughters. They raped the girls and killed the father, so he’d turn and attack them.”

Carol gasped and covered her mouth with her hand. He scoffed and paced away from her. He turned back around.

“You worried about me torturing that kid? After what he’d done? What he might do if his group ever comes here looking for him.”

Carol shook her head and reached out to him, but he spun around away from her touch. “I’m not worried about that.”

Daryl curled his hands into fists, pushing down the images of Carol being raped. He closed his eyes and tried to get his breathing under control. A warm hand ran up his back, chasing the images away.

“I’m worried about what it’d do to you.” She whispered, turning him to face her. “I’m worried you’d think that was all you were good for.”

She cupped his face in her hands and his blood raced through his veins. He stared into her blue eyes and saw the determination within them. She ran a thumb over his lips and he took in a sharp breath.

“Don’t go down that path.” Her hands slipped from his face down to his chest. “You’re more than somebody’s muscle. You risked your life to find my little girl. I don’t want you to through that away just because you don’t know how you fit into this group.”

Daryl closed his eyes and rested his forehead against Carol’s. He itched to embrace her, to do what he wanted to do since he first laid eyes on her. Her hand rested on his chest and he wondered if she felt his heart banging against it. He wanted her so much, it hurt. He lifted his hands, but stopped short of touching her.

“Carol!” Lori’s voice shattered all desire he felt.

Shit. Here comes the cold water.

He lifted his gaze, narrowing his eyes at the woman as she raced up to them. Carol stepped back from him and turned to greet Lori.

“Something wrong?” Carol asked.

Lori looked from her to Daryl, her eyes narrowing as she stared at him. He glared back. She blinked, cleared her throat and turned her attention to Carol.

“Maggie kicked Andrea out of the house and I need some help in the kitchen.”

Daryl scoffed. “What for? Can’t wash dishes yourself?”

Lori scowled at him and took Carol’s arm. “I’m cooking dinner if you must know, Daryl.”

Daryl rolled his eyes. “Can’ do it yourself?”

“Daryl.” Carol placed her hand on his arm and he looked at her. She smiled at him. “It’s all right. I want to help.”

Lori cast one last withering glare his way and led Carol back toward the house. He watched her go, both glad and annoyed Lori interrupted them. He sighed and shoved his hands into his hair.

I came close to kissin’ her. The thought rushed into his mind. I wanted to kiss her.

The desire returned full force, hitting him so hard he couldn’t breathe. He wanted her like he’d never wanted anything before.

How does a demon woo a human?

Chapter Text

Lori led Carol up the steps and into the house. The screen door banged closed, echoing through the house. Lori took a deep breath and stopped in the doorway between the kitchen and the dining room. She ran a hand through her hair and turned to face Carol.

“What’s wrong?” Carol asked as she straightened her cardigan.

“You need to stay away from Daryl.”

Carol sighed and folded her arms across her chest. “I already went over this with Andrea.”

Lori shook her head. “I’m serious, Carol. He’s dangerous. You saw the results of what he did to Randall.”

“Only because Rick asked him to.”

Lori waved her hand and turned away. Carol sighed and pulled out a chair from the table and sat down.

“I know you’re grateful to him for searching for your daughter, but you need to keep away from him.”

Carol blinked then shook her head. “Why? What has he done that makes you believe he’s dangerous?”

Lori strode toward her and knelt in front of her. She took her hands and squeezed them. “It’s a feeling I have. Every time I get within a foot of him, this sensation comes over me. I can’t explain it, but I know something’s wrong with him.”

Carol stared at her. “What feeling?”

Lori sighed and stood, stepping away. “My stomach ties itself in knots and a chill comes over me. It only happens when I’m near him and only him. It doesn’t happen with anyone else.”

Carol looked at her hands as they twisted amongst themselves. “I don’t feel that when I’m with him.” All she felt when she was near him was the need to comfort him, to keep him from pulling away. She also felt the need to touch him whether he wanted her to or not.

“It’s just gratitude, Carol.”

She looked at Lori and shook her head. “It’s more than that. I’m drawn to him. When I touch him, there’s this jolt of electricity that passes between us. I can’t explain it.”

Lori stared at her as if weighing her words. She ran a hand through her hair and paced the floor.

“He’s not like Ed, Lori.” Carol put in. “He might be irritable, but he’s far from what Ed was.”

The screen door squeaked open and Rick stepped into the room. Lori stopped pacing and went to the sheriff, embracing him. Carol watched the pair and her heart clenched. She wished she had a marriage like that. Despite everything that happened between them, they still loved each other. Tears welled in her eyes as memories of her own terrible marriage filled her mind. She looked away, biting her finger to keep from crying.

“Shane and I are going to take Randall eighteen miles from here and let him go.”

“Why does it always have to be you?” Lori asked. “Why can’t you send someone else?”

“I’m the one that brought him here.” Rick answered. “I’m responsible.”

Lori sighed and stepped from Rick. Carol watched them as memories of her saying similar words to Daryl not too long ago. Her breath caught in her throat, catching Lori’s attention. The younger woman raised an eyebrow, but didn’t say anything.

“Do what you need to.” Lori whispered to Rick. “Just be careful.”

Rick kissed Lori’s forehead then left the house. Lori placed a hand over her mouth then ran it through her hair.

Deciding to give Lori some time alone, Carol stood from the chair. She needed to talk to Daryl. She needed to know what these emotions concerning him were gratitude or something else.

“I’m not done with you.” Lori said.

Carol faced Lori, an eyebrow raised. She suddenly felt like a teenager sneaking out to be with a boyfriend her mother disapproved of. She tilted her head to the side and placed a hand on her hip.

“You’ve made it clear you don’t want me anywhere near Daryl.” Carol growled. Where had that come from? “I’ve made it clear that he’s not who you think he is. I’ve felt it.”

Lori shook her head and stepped closer to Carol. “I know what I feel, Carol. He’s placed himself as far from us as possible. Maybe you should take the hint and stay away from him.”

Carol shook her head. “I don’t know what to tell you. He’s not a threat to me.”

“Isn’t that how things started with Ed?”

Carol narrowed her eyes. “He isn’t anything like Ed. He’s better.”

Lori opened her mouth, but Carol spun on her heel and shoved the door open. She stomped down the stairs, ignoring Lori calling for her. She didn’t look back as she trudged across the yard toward Daryl’s camp. How dare Lori believe Daryl was anything like Ed? How could she think that? What was her deal with Daryl anyway? She didn’t know him, didn’t bother to take the time to get to know him.

I’m a grown woman. I can talk to anyone I want.

“Carol!”

She blinked and stopped at the tree line separating the farm from the field. She turned, narrowing her eyes at Dale. She blinked as the man walked calmly, but with purpose toward her. What did he want? She looked back at the tree line and sighed. Did he want to talk to her about Daryl as well?

“Going to see Daryl?” Dale asked as he came up to her. He looked through the tree line, his fingers drumming over the butt of his rifle.

“Yeah.” Carol answered. “I need to ask him something?”

Dale looked at her, his brown eyes didn’t hold the fear and worry Lori’s had. Instead, they held the same kindness they always had. She relaxed.

“I should warn you away from him.” Dale turned his attention back to the tree line.

“Not you, too?” Carol’s hand curled into fists. What the hell was wrong with Daryl that everyone wanted her to stay away from him?

Dale smiled and shrugged. “I said I should, but I’m not going to.”

Carol shook her head. “What?”

“He is dangerous, but nothing like your husband.”

Carol folded her arms across her chest. “I know. I tried to tell Lori that, but she doesn’t believe me.”

“It’s because all she can sense is the darkness within him.”

Carol stared at him. “What are talking about?”

Dale sighed. “It’s a bit hard to explain without sounding like a fantasy novel, but I will say that she has a certain ability. I felt it when we first met. She doesn’t know she has it.”

“What ability?”

Dale scratched his head and adjusted the rifle on his back. “Everyone has something called an intuition. That feeling you get telling you not to go somewhere or be near someone. She might even think that’s what it is, but it’s more than that. She can sense evil.”

Dread rose within Carol. She looked toward the tree line and placed her hand on her stomach as it twisted into a knot.

“She’s psychic?” She looked back to Dale.

He shook his head. “No. I’ve met a few people like her. They were even able to repel evil after years of training. Some even learned the power to trap and control such beings.”

Carol shook her head. “I can’t believe any of this. You’re telling me Daryl’s evil and that’s why Lori wants me to stay away from him? After everything he’s done for us?”

Dale shrugged. “You have an ability as well, Carol.”

“Oh, come on!” Carol flung her arms out and paced away from Dale. She couldn’t take this. It was bad enough the dead walked the earth, now there was magic. She ran her hands over her short hair and turned to face Dale. Did he have powers, too? Did Rick? Andrea?

Dale stood by the trees, watching her with a calm expression, waiting. She sighed and stepped toward him.

“What can I do?” She asked in a soft voice. She really didn’t want to know. If she had an ability why didn’t it help her with Ed? Why did it manifest itself now?

“Your power isn’t simple to explain, but I know it has an effect on Daryl.”

She blinked and took a step back. She narrowed her eyes. “Effect on Daryl?” Was that what the electric heat was about? Was it coming from her? Was that the reason he searched for Sophia? No. The strange jolts happened after.

“He’s calmer around you.” Dale answered. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Carol looked at her hands. She didn’t want to think the only reason Daryl did anything for the group was because of her. It sounded like mind control and she didn’t want to take over Daryl’s mind. Might as well ask.

“Am I controlling him?”

Dale’s eyes widened and he shook his head, waving his hand across the air. “Not even close. He has a mind of his own and there’s no way you can force him to do something he doesn’t want to do. You can’t control a mind like his.”

“Then explain the jolts we feel every time I touch him.”

Dale blinked at her then narrowed his eyes. “What jolts?”

Carol sighed and looked over at the tree line. A cool breeze blew through the leaves. A figure strolled across the field toward the farm and her heart picked up its pace.

“It started after Sophia’s funeral. I went to talk to Daryl to try to convince him to come back. I touched him and an electric heat shocked us both. It happened again today.”

“He felt it?” Dale asked, taking a step toward her.

She nodded. “I don’t know what it is. I don’t know why its happening.”

Dale chuckled and placed a hand on her shoulder. “It’s your power, Carol. With training, you’ll be able to control it and weld it.”

Carol shook her head. “What is it?”

“You’re a witch, Carol.” Dale answered. “A powerful one. It’s only occurring now because you’re no longer under Ed’s influence. He kept you from knowing your true potential.”

Her mouth fell open as she stared at Dale. First Lori was some kind of psychic and now she was a magic-user. Did she wake up in some alternate world where everyone held magic abilities? She placed her head in her hands and took several deep breaths.

“It’s all right, Carol.” Dale patted her back. “I know it’s a lot to take in, but it’ll be all right. I’ll train you.”

“What’s goin’ on here?” Daryl growled.

Carol raised her head to Daryl. He’d changed into a gray shirt under his jean jacket and vest. His wet hair clung to his head and images of him shirtless pouring water over himself flashed into her mind. Her breathing increased and she gripped her shirt in an attempt to get herself under control.

His narrowed gaze flicked from her to Dale and back again. Anger and suspicion rolled off him and she knew she needed to calm him before he lost his temper. She reached out, taking a step toward him. He backed away, staring at her hand.

“It’s all right.” She said in a calm voice. “We were just talking.”

His gaze of blue fire flicked up to her and she held her breath. He turned his glare to Dale and her heart pounded against her chest. He narrowed his eyes and his right hand curled into a fist.

“Daryl.” Carol snapped.

Daryl turned back to her and grasped the strap of his crossbow. His gaze raked over her as if undressing her with his eyes. Her breath caught and her stomach fluttered. Heat pooled in her center as images of him moving over her flashed in her mind.

Daryl blinked and the vision vanished. He scoffed, hoisted his crossbow on his shoulder and stalked across the yard. Carol watched him go, wanting to go after him, but her feet refused to move.

“Go after him.” Dale stepped around her. “Just remember my offer to teach you.”

Carol nodded to him and took off across the yard after Daryl.

****

Daryl trekked across the yard, not stopping at the camp. He looked at the activity in the camp and saw Lori glaring at him. Her arms were crossed over her chest. She directed her attention to something behind him and Daryl turned. Carol raced across the yard toward them. He looked back at Lori, who shook her head and headed into her large tent.

Daryl rolled his eyes and continued on his way. Footsteps hurried toward him, but he ignored them. He knew who they belonged to and if she wanted to tag along, he wasn’t going to stop her. Out of all of them, he tolerated her company the most.

“Thought you’d be in the kitchen helpin’ Lori.”

“Didn’t happen.” Carol’s voice was soft, almost a whisper. He stopped and stared at her. She folded her arms across her, tugging the cardigan tighter around her. The urge to rip it off her and gaze at what lay beneath rose within him.

“She wanted to warn you away from me again.” He tore his gaze from her and stalked toward the forest. He should’ve known that was the reason Lori rushed up to them earlier.

Carol sighed and stepped in front of him, stopping him. He stared at her, blinking. What was she doing? She looked up at him, her gaze roaming over his face. He stood still, his breath caught in his throat.

“I do what I want.” She whispered as she raised her hand. His heart pounded as his gaze fell to her palm, reaching for him. Not wanting to get shocked again, he grabbed her wrist. She gasped, but didn’t pull away.

“What are you doin’?” He asked, his voice rough with pent up need. “Why are you here? What do you want?”

Carol reached up with her other hand and placed it on his chest. Heat and electricity surged through him and he took in a quick startled breath. He dropped her right wrist and shoved her away from him. She stared at him, her mouth open.

“Why is that happenin’?” He growled, fighting back the instinct to retaliate.

“Dale told me I have powers.” Carol stepped toward him.

“Powers?” He narrowed his eyes. What was she talking about? Was she another demon hunter just now coming into her abilities? No. Demon hunters always came into their powers when they were young.

She smiled and raised her hand. He took a cautious step backward. Red lightning wrapped around her hand and his heart stopped. His eyes widened as his breathing came in short bursts.

“He told me I’m a witch.”

Shit. I should’ve realized it sooner. Magic-users and demon hunters always seemed to be in the same vicinity. A person couldn’t find one without running into the other.

She looked at him and the lightning disappeared from her hand. She closed the gap between them and ran her hands up his chest to burying themselves in his hair. His hands went to her waist as his gaze fell to her lips.

“You can run as far as possible from me, but I’m not going to let you get very far.” Carol played with his hair, sending sparks dancing down his back. “You’re stuck with me.”

He chuckled. “You sure you want to be anywhere near me?”

The fingers of her right hand brushed down his face. He closed his eyes, reveling in the sensation of her touch.

“I’m sure, Daryl. There’s nowhere else I’d rather be.”

He pulled her against him, bringing a gasp from her. He smiled as he ran a finger down her face and over her lips. She sighed and pressed herself flush against him. He groaned as her heat bumped against his erection. His fingers skirted down her throat and over her shoulder. He pulled her hand from his hair and placed kisses against her palm. Her breath hitched, sending heat coursing through him straight to his dick.

“Daryl.” She sighed his name.

He growled and nuzzled her neck, licking and kissing his way up her jaw to take her lips with his. She gasped and he thrust his tongue into the waiting warmth. She moaned and relaxed against him. Her arms went around his back, pulling him closer to her. His tongue explored every inch of her mouth as his hands slipped down her back and cupped her rear. She gasped again and removed her mouth from his.

She stared at him with wide eyes, her breathing ragged. “We need to stop. I can’t.”

She stepped back out of his arms. He blinked at her, his desire for her still burning hot. What was she going on about?

“Stop what?” He asked, stepped toward her. “We barely got started.”

Carol held up her hand and he stopped. He growled low in his throat. He didn’t like being threatened.

“This is happening too fast. I need to think.”

He narrowed his eyes. “What’s too fast about it? We’ve been dancin’ around each other for days.”

She shook her head and wrapped her arms around herself. She took a deep breath and turned away from him. Anger boiled within him, curbing any desire he felt. Was she playing games with him?

“I’ve never felt anything like this before.” She whispered, forcing him to step closer to hear her. “This desire is so strong, it frightens me.”

The anger vanished with those words. Her feelings overwhelmed her. Images of her deepest fear appeared in his mind and he sighed. He doubted pushing him away would alleviate such a fear. He placed a hand on her back and she looked at him, tears welling in her eyes. With his other hand, he brushed away a tear.

“I’ve never felt anythin’ like this, either.” He kissed her forehead, wanting to do so much more.

She smiled and placed a hand on his chest. “Then we shouldn’t rush this. You mean too much to me to have some quick roll in the hay.”

He chuckled. “The barn’s occupied at the moment.”

She laughed and cupped his face in her hands. She pressed her lips against his and heat rushed through him once again. He curled his hands into his palms, wanting to tear her shirt off and plunder what he found underneath.

“Be careful out there.” Carol whispered against his skin.

Daryl scoffed. “Don’ worry about me.”

She smiled and ran her fingers through his hair. “I can’t help it. I don’t want to see anything happen to you.”

His heart swelled at her words. He stared into her eyes and saw the truth within them. No one ever said anything like that to him, let alone meant them. He rested his forehead against hers and let the words sink in. She cared and it shook him to his core, threatened to tear down the walls he’d built.

He placed a finger under chin, lifting her gaze to his. He pressed a soft kiss on her lips, forcing himself to hold back. He pulled away and stared into her dazed eyes. He smiled and stepped back. He didn’t say anything as he adjusted his crossbow, glanced at her once more time then proceeded into the forest.

Chapter Text

The sun had begun its decent when Rick and Shane returned bruised and bloody. And they still had Randall with them. Daryl shook his head and chuckled to himself. He would’ve had the problem taken care of yesterday if it weren’t for Rick and his conscience. He leaned against the porch railing and watched as Rick led Randall back to the barn. Shane stomped away, cast a glance at the house, then headed toward the camp.

Daryl twirled a bolt in his hand as his gaze roamed over the camp. Everyone prepared for the night to come. Shane climbed onto the roof of the RV and sat on the lawn chair. Andrea stepped out of the RV followed by Carol. His gaze lingered on her as the memory of how she tasted on his tongue flooded back to him. His groin jumped to attention and he groaned at the sudden need of her.

I can’ keep this up. He shoved himself from the railing and stalked across the porch. I can’ keep using my hand every time my dick springs to attention when she’s around.

He glared at Andrea as she stepped onto the porch. She raised an eyebrow at him and placed her hand on her hip.

“Something wrong, Daryl?”

“Thought you got kicked out of the house.”

Andrea scoffed and looked behind her as Carol walked up the steps. She turned her attention back to him. “I’m not barred from dinner.”

She yanked open the door and went inside. He watched through narrowed eyes as Carol stepped closer to him. The heat from her body wrapped around him, engulfing him in an embrace that caused his cock to strain against his jeans. He took a step back, bumping into the wall of the house. He closed his eyes and groaned. The arrow slipped from his fingers to clatter on the porch.

She’s going to be the death of me.

Her fingers danced feather light across his chest. He opened his eyes, his breathing increasing.

“Thought you wanted to take things slow.”

Carol smiled, a slight curving of her lips. “I didn’t say I was going to stop touching you.”

He didn’t want her to, but they were in full view of anyone who wanted to look their way. To prove his point, T-Dog and Glenn waltzed up the steps. Glenn stopped as T-Dog continued on into the house. He stared at them, blinking. Daryl straightened, clearing his throat as he stepped to the side.

Carol turned as Glenn’s face turned red. The young man mumbled an apology and hurried into the house.

“Sorry.” Carol whispered. “I forgot we’re out in the open here.”

Daryl smirked. His camp was away from nosy eyes where they could take their time and explore each other to their hearts’ content. He didn’t want to rush her, though, didn’t want to scare her off. He’d take things as slow as she wanted, even if it killed him.

“Better go inside.” He whispered. “It’s getting cold out here.”

Carol smiled as her fingers fluttered up his arm. His breath caught and he held back the urge to pull her into his arms.

“You should come in, too. I hate thinking of you all alone out there.”

“You can join me.” The words were out before he could stop them. He stared at her. Her eyes widened at the implication. He waited for her to shove him away, yell at him for going against her wishes. Instead, she stepped closer, but didn’t touch him. She looked over toward the camp as Dale and Rick headed for the house. She sighed and stepped back.

“Why don’t you come back to the camp?” She asked instead. “You’re one of us.”

Daryl stared at his feet, shaking his head. “I need to be away from others. I’m not the type-”

“Daryl.” Rick called as Dale stepped into the house.

Daryl closed his eyes. “One of these days we’re gonna have a conversation where we’re not interrupted.”

Carol laughed, patted him on the chest and headed into the house.

Daryl folded his arms across his chest and leaned back against the wall. He leveled his gaze at Rick as the man strode toward him.

“What?” He asked, fighting the urge to tear into the man for the interruption.

“We have a bit of a situation.” Rick ran a hand over his face and sighed.

“I figured. Saw you return with Randall. Didn’ find a place to dump the kid?” He pointed at Rick’s bloodied face. “Have a fight with Shane?”

Rick stared at him then nodded. He placed his hands on his hips and paced the limited space.

“What’d you want from me?” Daryl asked, not wanting to know. He’d much rather be doing other, sexual things than be Rick’s errand boy.

“I need your help with Randall.”

Daryl scoffed and pushed himself from the wall. “Want me to torture him some more?”

He pushed by Rick and the sheriff followed after him down the steps. “No, but we need to get him off this property and far away.”

“Thought you tried that already.” He snapped as he stalked back across the yard.

“I still think it’s a good idea. I want you to go with me.”

Daryl stopped and faced Rick. He stepped toward Rick, his eyes narrowed. “Not happenin’. Take Glenn. Hell, take Dale. Anyone but me.”

Rick smirked and shook his head. “We ran into walkers out there, Daryl. I need someone I can count on to have my back.”

Daryl stared at Rick, searching for signs the sheriff was joking. He didn’t find any. “And you think that’s me?”

“I know Glenn can shoot, but he froze out there once already.” Rick tilted his head to the side. “Besides, he has other things to think about.”

“And you think I don’?” Daryl growled as his eyes narrowed to slits.

Rick glanced at the house then back to him. “I need you on this, Daryl.”

He paced in front of Rick. He didn’t want to go anywhere with Rick. It wasn’t because of Carol, either. He just didn’t want to be around humans for longer than necessary.

I knew I should’ve stayed away. I shouldn’ have let her talk me into comin’ back. Damn it!

“We’ll start bright and early tomorrow.” Rick said as if he knew how Daryl would answer.

Daryl glared after Rick as the sheriff headed back toward the house. He curled his hands into fists and his sight turned red. He growled low in his throat and debated on sending the sheriff a shock to the system. He shook his head, snarling to himself. He had an audience anyway. Shane still sat on the RV and would’ve seen him send a bolt of lightning at the sheriff. He didn’t need to add to his growing list of problems.

He ran a hand through his hair, spun on his heel and strolled back toward his camp. Maybe a good night’s sleep would clear his mind of this entire day.

****

Daryl woke before the sun rose. He crawled out of his tent and breathed in the crisp early fall air. A chill breeze ruffled his hair, bringing goosebumps to his skin. He strode toward the ruined chimney, grabbed his jacket and pulled it on. His gaze fell on the tree line blocking his view of the farm house. Rick and the others would still be asleep. Maybe he’d take care of the Randall problem before any of them knew what happened.

He grabbed his crossbow, slung it over his shoulder and strode toward the barn. Ending the miserable creep’s existence might just be what he needed to put himself back on track. Scare the kid to death and be done with it. They all wanted the twerp gone and he doubted they cared how the kid left.

The sky turned pink and light blue as the sun peeked over the horizon. T-Dog yawned as he trudged toward the barn, carrying a plate of food. He blinked at Daryl as they both stood in front of the barn.

“Morning.” T-Dog scratched the back of his head. “What’re you doing here?”

“Rick wants me to help him with taking this creep away from here.”

T-Dog shrugged and put his code into the padlock. He pulled open the door and stepped inside. Daryl followed into the dim area. His gaze fell on the empty space where Randall had been chained up. T-Dog dropped the plate and raced out of the barn, calling for the others. Daryl stepped toward the chain and picked it up, turning it over in his hands.

How did you get out of these?

He dropped the chain and left the barn. The others raced out of the house and the campground, gathering around T-Dog. Daryl strolled toward them, his gaze scanning the area for signs of Randall. He doubted the kid got out of those chains by himself. Unless he had a way to pick the lock and kept the little secret to himself.

Should have tortured him longer.

“We have to search for him.” Rick said, running a hand through his hair. “We can’t have Randall wandering around on the farm.”

“Why don’t we just let him go?” Lori asked, placing an arm around Carl. “He’ll leave the farm and we don’t have to see him again.”

Rick shook his head. “We can’t take the chance he’ll meet up with his friends and bring them back here. He knows Maggie, which means he knows where this place is.”

Glenn looked at Maggie and stepped closer to her. He wrapped an arm around her, bringing her into him. Daryl’s gaze went to Carol, who stood near Lori, a hand over her mouth. She looked over at him and he saw the fear in her eyes. A surge of protectiveness rushed through him and he stepped toward her.

“Rick!” Shane’s shout disrupted any further discussion. “Randall’s gone.”

Shane hurried up to them as Rick met the deputy half way. Blood ran down his face from a wound on his nose and he breathed heavily.

“Little punk got the drop on me.” He said. “He took my gun and ran off into the forest.”

Rick placed a hand on the man’s shoulder. “Did you see where he went?”

Shane shook his head, took a deep breath then shook his head again.

“How’d he get the drop on you?” Daryl asked, narrowing his eyes. Something about this didn’t sit well with him.

“He snuck up on me. I wasn’t paying attention.”

Daryl scoffed.

“We don’t have time to argue.” Rick said. “We have to find Randall. Daryl, Glenn, you’re with me and Shane.”

“No.” Carol stepped forward. She looked at him then back to Rick. “If he’s armed-”

Rick raised his hands to her. “We’re all armed. He can’t get the drop on all of us.”

Carol looked at him, tears welling in her eyes. The fear he sensed within her should’ve exhilarated him, but all he wanted was to wrap his arms around her instead. He stepped toward her. “He’s right. Don’t worry. We’ll be back before you know it.”

Tears fell down her face as she shook her head. She reached for him, but Lori pulled her back and led her toward the camp.

Rick sighed. “Let’s go. I want this guy found before he leaves the property.”

“It’d be better if we split up.” Shane suggested as they marched into the forest. “Find him faster.”

“Go idea.” Rick nodded and pointed. “Glenn, you and Daryl take the left while Shane and I try the right. Meet back here in an hour.”

“Right.” Glenn nodded and headed down a path in the opposite direction of the sheriff.

Daryl took the lead, his eyes focused on the ground, searching for footprints. He held his crossbow down, but ready to shoot at a moment’s notice. He kicked some dead leaves aside in case the footprints were underneath.

“So, you and Carol?” Glenn asked, a smile in his voice.

Daryl glared back at him, remembering how he caught them in an near intimate moment. Glenn’s smile fell and he cleared his throat.

“It’s none of your business.” Daryl snapped, turning his attention back to the ground. “We’re takin’ it slow.”

Glenn snorted and Daryl rolled his eyes. “So slow you’ve stopped?”

Daryl sneered and turned to face the younger man. Glenn took a step back, blinking. “We kissed yesterday. Why do you even care?”

Glenn shrugged. “I see the way she looks at you. She nearly flipped her shit when you decided to set up camp on the other side of the world. And I see the way you look at her.”

Daryl scoffed and turned around. “You need to mind your own business.”

“What can I say, I’m a romantic.” Glenn chuckled. “Besides, I think you’re both good for each other.”

Daryl sighed, but didn’t say anything. Glenn sounded too much like Dale and it annoyed the hell out of him. He forced his attention to the forest floor, but didn’t see any footprints. He growled and stopped.

“I don’ see a damn thing.” He grumbled. “He didn’t go this way.”

“Seriously?” Glenn asked.

Daryl stared at him, but didn’t say anything. Sighing, he headed back the way they came. He didn’t believe the kid had left the farm, but to get a better idea of which way Randall went, he needed to start at the beginning. He hoped the kid didn’t circle back and return to the farm. He didn’t want to think what’d happen if he came across the camp.

Stop thinking that. He scolded himself. Carol’s in good hands. Besides, all that gun training they went through has to count for something.

A twig snapped to his left and he froze, raising his hand for Glenn to do the same. He lifted his crossbow and turned in the direction of the sound. His gaze searched the area as he crept forward.

“What is it?” Glenn whispered.

Daryl didn’t answer. He narrowed his eyes and stepped forward, being careful not to step on a leaf or stick.

A figure stumbled between the trees. A soft snarling reached his ears. He hadn’t seen a walker for weeks. Where had this one come from? Where there others?

The snarling grew louder as the walker stepped out from behind a tree. It glared at them and Daryl recognized it at once.

“It’s Randall.”

“What?” Glenn stepped closer.

The walker snarled and stumbled toward them. Daryl aimed his crossbow and fired. The arrow hit the creature in the forehead, sending it falling backward. He stared at the walker as he lowered his weapon. He scanned his surroundings, searching for another walker. His ears strained, but only birds singing and the wind filled the silence. When and where did Randall come across a walker? Where was it now?

Daryl sighed and shouldered his crossbow as he trudged toward the body. He knelt beside Randall and checked over the body, searching for bite marks. He lifted the kid’s shirt, turned him over, even looked up a pant leg, but came up with nothing.

“He wasn’t bit.” He said, sitting back on his heels. “His neck is broken, but that’s it.”

“If he wasn’t bit, how’s he a walker?”

Daryl shook his head and stood. “You’re askin’ the wrong person. Let’s go.”

He stared at the body, a sense of unease twisting his stomach.

****

Daryl strode across the yard as Glenn raced toward the house. He shook his head at the eagerness of the young man to reunite with Maggie after a couple of hours in the woods. He held the same need to reunite with Carol, but he paced himself. He still didn’t understand these emotions and didn’t want to rush into something that might backfire on him later. After centuries of feeling nothing, but hatred and anger, these affectionate sentiments were still strange and new to him.

He opened the door and stepped into the house to find the group gathered around a worried Lori. He raised an eyebrow as he strode into the living room.

“Found Randall.” Daryl mentioned as he gazed at the gathering.

“Is he back in the barn?” Andrea asked, rubbing Lori’s back.

“He’s dead.” Daryl answered. “He was a walker.”

He received their attention then. They stared at him in various degrees of shock.

“He wasn’t bit.” Glenn said. “He died from his neck being snapped.”

The blood drained from Lori’s face at the implication. She ran up to him, worry in her eyes. Daryl narrowed his.

“Rick is still out there with Shane and now Carl’s gone.” She said, tears welling in her eyes. “Please, go find them.”

Daryl bit back the urge to growl. He didn’t want to search for people, he’d had enough of that with Sophia. He looked passed Lori into Carol’s pleading eyes. She stepped behind Lori and placed her hand on the other woman’s back. He bit the inside of his cheek and nodded. How could he deny Carol anything?

He turned his attention back to Lori. “I’ll go look. Probably headin’ back here as we speak.”

Relief flooded Lori’s face. “Thank you.”

He scoffed and spun on his heel, heading for the door. He yanked it open and stepped out into the late morning air. He stopped on the porch as movement in the distance caught his eye. He lifted his hand to block out the sun and squinted at the uncountable mass.

“What the hell?”

The door banged open behind him. Footsteps and voices announced the presence of the others joining him.

“What is it?” Carol asked behind him.

He pointed toward the figures moving across the field toward the farm. “Unless we’re expectin’ an endless supply of company, I think we’re about to be over run.”

Chapter Text

Dale hurried across the yard from the RV, carrying the gun bag. He slid to a stop as the group raced down the steps to him. He dropped the bag and handed out guns, glancing back to the nearing mass of corpses every once in a while.

“Anyone have a plan?” Glenn asked as he stared at those around him.

“Aim and shoot.” Daryl answered as he took a revolver from Dale.

“There’s so many of them.” Maggie said, worry in her voice. “How are we going to get them all.”

“I’m not losing my farm to these things.” Hershel said as he pushed his way through the group and aimed his shotgun at the coming mass.

“We need to find Carl and Rick.” Lori put in.

Daryl rolled his eyes and placed the gun in his pants. “If they’re still amongst that mass, they might head for the barn to escape.”

Lori looked toward the barn then back to him. He sighed. Gunshots echoed around them as the group spread out to protect the house.

“Stay here.” He growled. “I’ll find your damn husband.”

Lori nodded as Carol placed an arm around her. He jumped over the railing and headed for his motorcycle. He started it and raced across the yard, shooting corpses who came to close. He pulled up to the fence and saw more walkers meandering around in front of the barn. Some went inside and a moment later, a fire ignited. He narrowed his eyes as the fire ate at the dried wood of the structure.

Daryl took out a couple more walkers as the RV pulled up behind him. He looked over and saw Dale driving. He stared at the hunter then pointed to the barn.

“Someone started that fire.” He said. “It could be Rick.”

Dale nodded and drove toward the barn. Daryl pulled away from the fence and drove off. Vehicles drove around the yard, but it seemed more walkers replaced the ones that’d fallen. There were too many. They were going to lose the farm. He shook his head.

I can take care of this entire mess, but they’d all know then.

He kicked at a walker, sending it flying backward into a few more. What was the point? The farm was lost, why bother fighting for it. He sent a ball of fire toward a group of walkers and smirked as they burst into flames. Shouts, gunfire and growling surrounded him as he sped across the yard.

He drove down the dirt road a little ways then pulled to the side. He watched as the fire consumed the barn, reveling in the destruction.

I could easily cut my ties now. Daryl thought as he placed his hands in the pockets of his jacket. Hell, they probably wouldn’t even notice I’m gone.

One person would. Another part of him reminded him. He closed his eyes as his heart clenched. Carol would notice he was gone. Every time he wanted to pull away from the group, she always convinced him to come back. Even now. He couldn’t leave her. The part of him that wanted her, cared about her, wouldn’t let him.

He took a deep breath as he opened his eyes and watched the barn be engulfed by flames. Screams came to his ears and he narrowed his eyes. Those screams were close.

What the…? Daryl scanned the field before him as the screams came again. He spotted a few walkers lumbering in a direction away from the farm.

“Help!”

A jolt of recognition tore through him at the voice. Carol. His heart raced as he started the bike and sped toward her. He refused to let anything happen to her if he could help it.

He saw her leaning against the fence, looking behind her at the walker inching closer to her. She saw him and headed into the road. He slowed the bike, eyeing the corpses with malice.

“Get on.” He barked. “I ain’t got all day.”

Carol didn’t waste time climbing on the bike behind him. She placed her hands on his hips and a jolt of heat flooded his body. He sucked in a breath and tried to ignore his growing arousal as he sped off down the road. He kicked a walker that came to close, sending it stumbling into the fence.

Her hands moved up his sides and wrapped around his stomach, bringing her closer to his back. He grit his teeth to keep his mind on the road ahead. He drove through a gathering of walkers, dodging the ones that tried to reach for them. He turned a corner and breathed a sigh of relief that the road was clear. He picked up his pace, trying to ignore the heat spreading through him as Carol rested her head against his back.

The crisp chilly air slapped his face, cooling his burning blood and waking him up. He spotted a car up ahead and he narrowed his eyes. It was Shane’s green Hyundai. He pulled closer and came up beside it. He raised an eyebrow as he saw Glenn driving. The younger man smiled and rolled down the window.

“We’re heading back to the highway.” Glenn mentioned.

Daryl nodded and motioned for Glenn to go ahead. Glenn rolled the window back up and drove forward. He shook his head and mentally shrugged.

Guess I’m not gonna be rid of these people.

He placed his left hand on Carol’s wrapped around his waste. He felt her press her lips against his back and heat shot through him straight to his groin. He groaned and she smiled against his back.

Daryl followed Glenn back to the highway. They were joined by T-Dog with Beth and Lori. He pulled up to the red and white truck where Hershel and Rick waited with Carl. He looked around, but didn’t see the RV. A twinge twisted in his stomach. What had happened to Dale?

“Andrea went down trying to save Carol.” Lori’s voice broke into his thoughts.

“Anyone see what happened to Dale?” He asked as he prepared to go back. He had to find out what happened. He should’ve helped the old man instead of taking off. Guilt rose inside him and it surprised him. He still wasn’t used to the feeling and he didn’t know how to deal with it.

“Walkers climbed into the RV.” Rick answered, placing a hand on his arm to stop him.

Daryl sat back on the bike and ran a hand over his face. How the hell could he allow walkers to get him? He was a hunter. He fought demons for crying out loud. Walkers shouldn’t have been a problem. He closed his eyes as guilt tore at him.

I should’ve stayed and helped. I could’ve done something. Goddamn it.

“Where are gonna go?” T-Dog asked, breaking into Daryl’s thoughts.

“We need to get away from the herd.” Rick said. “Right now we need to find a place to stay for the night.”

“Let’s get off this highway.” Hershel remarked. “We’re vulnerable here.”

Hissing and snarling proved his point as a walker shambled toward them. Daryl glared at it and brought his crossbow up. He aimed and fired, sending the bolt straight into the creature’s forehead. The head snapped back and the walker fell to the ground. Another one shuffled behind it.

“Hershel’s right.” Rick agreed. “Let’s get off the highway.”

Car doors opening and closing followed by engines starting filled the air. Daryl revved up his bike as Carol climbed on behind him. She wrapped her arms around his waist as he pulled up behind the line of cars. He took a last look at the lone walker as it stumbled over the fallen one. He shook his head and peeled out.

Where the hell are we gonna stay?

****

Night had fallen and the group huddled around a campfire in the middle of a walled in area. A waterfall bubbled in the distance, the only sound other than the crackling fire.

Daryl leaned back against the wall, eyeing the gathered group. They’d separated into smaller groups. Lori sat with Carl while Hershel and his family plus Glenn sat near the fire across from Lori. T-Dog took up watch as Rick paced the area.

Carol handed him a bottle of water and sat down next to him. He took the bottle, staring at her with narrowed eyes.

“Don’ ya want to be by the fire?” He asked as he twisted the cap off. “Warmer over there.”

She gathered her cardigan tighter around her and moved closer to him. “I’m fine.”

He took a long pull on the water, keeping his eye on her. Rick’s words echoed in his mind and he didn’t doubt they echoed in everyone’s mind. They were all infected by whatever caused the dead to rise. At least, all the humans. He doubted the virus or whatever it was could survive in a demon’s body.

“Can’t believe Rick kept that from us.” Carol whispered to him as she leaned against him.

Daryl shrugged. It really wasn’t his place one way or another what Rick did or said. He wasn’t in Rick’s confidence anyway.

“He did what he thought was right.” Daryl said as he twisted the water bottle in his hands. “He didn’t think we should know.”

“Wouldn’t you want to know about something like that?”

He looked at Carol, stared into her eyes as they roamed over his face. He sighed and turned his attention to the fire before he ravished her in front of everyone.

“I wouldn’t.” He answered as he brought the bottle to his lips. “Wished he’d kept it to his damn self.”

“At least we know how Randall became a walker.” Carol whispered.

Daryl shook his head. He didn’t care about that. What he cared about was Carol becoming one of those things. Now they had to be even more careful. It wasn’t just a bite anymore. It didn’t matter how they died now. They’d all turn. He wrapped an arm around Carol and pulled her tighter against him. He didn’t want her to turn, didn’t want to be the one to put her down. He doubted he’d be able to stand it if something happened to her.

I’m gonna make sure you stay alive. He vowed. If it’s the last thing I do.

He barely heard the argument between Rick and the others, his focus on the fire crackling in front of him. He pressed a kiss on top of Carol’s head as she snuggled more into him. He didn’t care about anything at the moment, except keeping Carol close to him. Everything would sort itself out in the morning.

****

A bitter cold the next morning sent Carol into T-Dog’s truck. He reluctantly allowed it, not wanting her to catch a cold. He made sure she was warm and safe in T-Dog’s hands before he strode toward his bike and started it.

The freezing wind slapped him in the face as he led the way down the road. He didn’t know where they were headed, but he knew they needed to find some place to hole up for the night. He’d also need to stop to hunt if they were going to eat any time soon.

He missed the warmth of Carol pressed against him, making him feel even colder as he sped down the road. At least, the coldness kept his libido at bay for the moment.

Honking blared behind him and he glanced back. He sighed and pulled to the side of the road.

What the hell is up now? He groused as he turned off his bike and climbed off.

Rick climbed out of the red truck with a map in his hand. He motioned for him to join him as T-Dog and Glenn climbed out of their vehicles.

“What?” Daryl bit out.

“We need some supplies.” Rick answered as the other two joined them. “There’s town up ahead we need to check out.”

He spread the map on the hood of the Hyundai and pointed to the town. It was three miles up the road.

“What kind of supplies do we need?” Daryl asked as he ran through a checklist in his mind. They had water and some food, but not enough to last another day. They also needed ammo and more weapons. Not to mention gas if they were to continue in these cars.

“We need medicine.” Rick answered. “We weren’t able to get anything from the farm.”

“Need to get prenatal vitamins for Lori if there are any.” Hershel mentioned.

Rick nodded and Daryl glanced at Lori sitting in the truck. He looked back at Rick, who kept his gaze on the map.

“We’ll get what we can.” Rick said as he folded up the map. “It shouldn’t take long to get there and hopefully we won’t have to deal with walkers.”

“Maybe there’ll be some houses we can spend the night in.” Glenn offered. “It’s going to be dark soon.”

Rick sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “Yeah.”

Daryl narrowed his eyes. The man didn’t want to stay in the town. He wanted to continue on, drive them until they couldn’t go any further. That wasn’t the best idea even if it did keep them ahead of the herds. He opened his mouth to put in his own two cents when Rick turned and walked away.

“Let’s go.” Rick barked as he yanked open the truck’s door and climbed inside.

Daryl sighed, shook his head and stalked toward his bike. He climbed on and started it, revving it to push out the dark thoughts creeping in on him. He led the way down the road, the frigid wind whipping around him and chilling his lungs.

An eerie silence greeted him as he drove into the town. He glanced down the streets to the sides, but didn’t see any walkers. A knot twisted in his stomach as he pulled to the side and cut off the engine. He plucked his crossbow from the bike and slung the weapon over his back.

Closing doors shattered the silence and he winced. If there weren’t walkers before, the noise would surely bring some. He turned and strode toward the others as they gathered around the red truck.

“Here’s the lists of what we need.” Rick said as he passed out pieces of paper to him, Glenn and Hershel. “Spread out and don’t forget to check the houses.”

“What about the rest of us?” Carol asked.

“T-Dog and I are going to clear one of these houses to spend the night in. The rest of you stay in the cars.”

Carol stepped toward him and placed her hand on his chest. “Be careful.”

Daryl stared into her eyes and gave into the urge to touch her. He ran a finger down her face as his gaze slipped to her lips.

“Always am.” He whispered then pressed a soft kiss on her lips. He stepped away before he gave in to more urges. He nodded to her, adjusted his crossbow on his back and headed down the street. He glanced back at her, noticing as Lori placed an arm around her. They both stared at him, one with narrowed eyes and the other with concern. He shook his head and continued down the street.

He yanked open the door of a pawn shop and stepped inside. The bell above the door dinged, reverberating in the silence. Shuffling and snarling came from behind one of the shelves in front of him. He raised his crossbow and stalked toward the sound. He stepped to the side and the walker came into view. It turned toward him and gnashed it lipless teeth as it shambled forward. It raised its tattered arms, snarling.

He fired the arrow and the walker dropped to the floor. He went through the store, moving toward the back, searching for more dangers. He flung open a door on his right, but found the room empty. He sighed and lowered his weapon.

Daryl headed back to the front of the store and headed for the counter. He grabbed a hand basket and stepped behind the counter to rummage through the ammo boxes. He dropped them into the basket, filling it to near overflowing.

He placed the basket on the counter and looked around for something larger to hold more. He spotted a duffle bag tucked into the corner of a shelf. He grabbed it, zipped it open and dumped the boxes into the bag. He went back for more, grabbing some guns as well and shoving them into the bag.

He spotted some arrows for his crossbow and grabbed them. He yanked some beef jerky off a shelf on his way out of the store.

Hershel and Glenn headed toward him from the other side of the street. He bit into a piece of jerky as he held out the open package to the others. They smiled and grabbed a piece.

“Found anything?” He asked around a mouthful.

“Painkillers and vitamins.” Hershel answered. “Bandages and antiseptics.”

“I found some more water.” Glenn answered as he held out a plastic bag. “As far as food goes, though I only found cookies and potato chips.”

Daryl sighed as he stared into the bag. “I’ll go out to hunt later.”

“Good, cause this sucks.” Glenn closed the bag and headed back to the others.

“It’s going to get colder.” Hershel put in. “Are you sure you want to be out there in this?”

Daryl looked at the older man. “Yeah. I’ll be fine.”

He slung the duffle bag over his shoulder and followed Glenn to the truck. The cold didn’t bother him. It kept him alert and he knew the group needed something more sustainable than chips and cookies. Even if all he found was a bunch of squirrels.

He strode toward Carol and handed the bag to her. She looked at him then at the bag.

“It’s guns and ammo.” He answered. “Some jerky, too. I’m gonna need to hunt, though.”

She blinked at him. “Now? It’s getting dark and colder.”

He smirked. “Glenn only found cookies and with Lori pregnant, we’re going to need meat. I’ll be fine.”

She shook her head, but he raised his hand and placed a finger over her lips.

“I’m used to it. Don’ worry.”

She sighed and nodded. “You’re going to do it anyway.”

He kissed her forehead. “Stay near the others.”

“What if we find a place to stay in before you get back?”

He lifted her chin to stare into her eyes. She offered him a small smile and his heart melted at the sight. He pressed a kiss on her lips.

“I’ll find you.” He whispered then stepped away from her and headed in the direction of the woods.

Chapter Text

Carol stood at the window of the house Rick and T-Dog were able to clear out, watching for signs of Daryl. Night had fallen and he hadn’t returned. She pressed her palm against the chilly window and stared into the darkness.

Lori’s reflection appeared behind her and she sighed. She knew Lori didn’t like Daryl, even though her feelings for the man were unfounded. She couldn’t get the other woman to comprehend what she felt. She doubted Lori would ever understand.

“He probably took off.” Lori grumbled beside her. “Left us all behind to starve.”

Carol closed her eyes. “He wouldn’t do that.”

“How’d you know?” Lori snapped, but made sure only she heard. “I told you what I feel from him. You can’t tell me you don’t feel it.”

Carol leaned against the wall and faced the other woman. “I do feel something dark from him-”

Lori’s eyes flashed. “Then you know you should stay away from him. He’s evil. He could hurt us, kill us.”

Carol shook her head. “Then why hasn’t he?”

Lori blinked then looked away, deflated. “He scares me, Carol. He could turn on us.”

Carol placed her hand on the other woman’s arm. “He hasn’t and he won’t. He’s proven to me, to all of us, that he cares.”

Lori shook her head. “I can’t stop sensing that darkness in him. It terrifies me. I have nightmares about him and what he might do.”

Carol stared at her, blinking. She didn’t know how to convince Lori that Daryl wasn’t going to hurt any of them. There’d been many opportunities for him to do so, but he hadn’t. She ran a hand through her short hair and sighed.

“I don’t know what to tell you, Lori.”

“I know you care about him, but just be careful.”

Lori stepped away and took her place beside her son. Carol turned back toward the window as she pulled her cardigan tighter around her. Where the hell was he?

A dark figure moved against the darkness of the night. She narrowed her eyes and leaned closer to the window. The shadow didn’t move like a walker and she let out a breath.

“I see him.” Carol announced, relief flooded her body. She stepped from the window and headed for the door.

“Carol, wait.” Rick shouted.

She turned toward Rick, her hand on the door knob. “It’s Daryl.”

Rick climbed to his feet, drawing his gun. “I’m not taking any chances there might be walkers out there.”

Carol said nothing as she pulled open the door and stepped out onto the porch. She waved her hand, hoping to get Daryl’s attention. They kept the house dark so as not to draw attention to themselves. She wanted to call to him, but she knew if there were any walkers about they’d hear her and head for them.

The figure picked up its pace, heading straight for the house. She recognized the stride and she smiled. She stepped from the porch, but Rick grabbed her arm.

“Keep your eyes open.” He whispered as he stepped beside her.

She nodded, her eyes darting for the darker shadows between buildings. Her ears strained to hear the signs of walkers, but only crickets filled the silence.

“Found some squirrels.” Daryl said as he closed the gap between them. “Hope you’re hungry.”

“I think they’re getting tired of chips.” Rick holstered his gun.

“Good.” Daryl stepped by them and into the house. Carol followed after him as he strode through the house and into the kitchen. He dropped the string of squirrels, already skinned and gutted onto a table.

“I found some canned vegetables we can use for a stew.” She said, leaning against the back of a chair.

Daryl shrugged as he took out of large knife and began cutting the animals into smaller pieces. She sighed and went through the cupboards to find a pot large enough to make a stew in.

“Does the stove work?” Daryl’s soft voice startled her. She looked at him, but he kept chopping the squirrels.

“No. We’re going have to make a fire.”

“It’ll bring walkers.” He reminded her.

“We’ll have to chance it, cause I don’t think they’ll want to eat those raw.”

He snickered and she raised an eyebrow at him. He didn’t look at her, but she saw the smirk gracing his face. Her heart skipped a beat and she forced herself to turn away. She drew in a deep breath to calm her warming body, but it didn’t work.

Stop it. There are others in the next room. They’re hungry and you’re here drooling over Daryl. Focus!

Carol sighed and continued her search. She brought down the vegetables she found, setting them down on the counter. She searched through the lower cupboards and found a large pot. With a whoop, she pulled the pot out and placed it on the counter. Heat pooled behind her and her breath caught. She turned her head as Daryl dropped the pieces of meat into the pot. Her mouth grew dry and she licked her lips as the heat traveled down to pool in her center.

He looked at her and she saw an answering heat in his darkening eyes. She reached out and placed her hand on his chest. He sucked in a breath and more heat circled her core. She stepped closer, her breathing quickening as she stared into his eyes. Her gaze dropped to his lips.

“Carol.” Lori snapped, forcing the two to step back.

Carol sighed as the other woman stepped into the kitchen. Lori glared at Daryl, who narrowed his eyes. She raised a flashlight sending the beam into his eyes. He snarled and turned away from the brightness.

“Lori.” Carol scolded as Daryl stalked out of the room.

“Thought you might need some help.” Lori said as she placed the flashlight on the counter, sending its light over the cans and pot.

“We were fine.” Carol snatched one of the cans away from Lori and rummaged through the drawers to find a can opener.

“Just trying to protect you.” Lori said as she leaned against the fridge.

Carol shook her head. “I don’t need protecting from Daryl.”

She breathed a sigh of relief as she found a can opener. She got to work on the cans, dumping them into the pot.

“I beg to differ.”

Carol narrowed her eyes at Lori. “What’s it going to take to prove to you that he’s not going to hurt me or any one else here?”

Lori sighed and pushed from the fridge. She took the device from her and got to work on the last can. Carol stepped back, crossing her arm against her chest.

“I know you care about him. He’s helped to protect this group, even goes out and hunts for us. I just can’t shake this feeling something’s evil about him.”

Lori dumped the last can into the pot and Carol, lifted it off the counter. She carried it to the back door, stepping carefully down the steps.

“Need any help?” Glenn asked from the doorway.

Carol smiled up at him. “Gather sticks for the fire?”

Glenn nodded and hurried down the steps and into the backyard. Carol placed the pot onto the ground then cleaned up a place for the fire.

Lori knelt beside her. “I only want to protect you, Carol. After Ed-”

“I don’t need protecting from Daryl.” Carol said, continuing to clear a place for the fire. “He’s not going to hurt me. He isn’t like Ed, not even close.”

Lori sighed and Carol hoped that was the last of it. She didn’t want to argue about Daryl. She wished Lori would be happy for her instead of trying to warn her away from the only person who made her feel wanted.

Glenn returned, dropping the sticks and twigs onto the ground. Carol gathered them into a pile then held her hands over the pile. She closed her eyes and heat gathered in her palms. Glenn gasped and she opened her eyes. A fire crackled in front of her.

“Cool.” Glenn chuckled. “When you’d learn to do that?”

Carol shrugged and placed the pot on the fire. “Would you believe recently?”

Glenn shook his head and scratched his head. “Dale told me some of us have powers, but I didn’t expect one of them to be you.”

Carol raised an eyebrow at him, but he smiled sheepishly at her. “Don’t underestimate me.”

Glenn blushed. “Hell, no. I want my food cooked, not my butt.”

Carol laughed and Glenn grinned.

****

An hour later, the group gathered in the living room, bowls of squirrel stew in hand. Lori and Carl sat on the couch while Rick sat on the floor between them. Hershel and his family had taken the chairs from the kitchen and placed them across from the couch. Carol leaned her back against the wall beneath the window. She looked over at Daryl, who decided to sit on the steps away from the group, but still close enough to hear conversation if he so inclined. Her heart ached that he still wanted to separate himself from them.

I’m going to have to work harder at convincing him he’s a part of this group.

T-Dog sat beside her and leaned in close to her. “What’s he grumpy about?”

Carol glanced over at Daryl as he stabbed his fork into the bowl. She sighed and pushed at the food in her own.

“Lori caught us in the kitchen.” She whispered. “She was a little more forceful about wanting him away from me. She shone a flashlight in his face.”

T-Dog snickered and she narrowed her eyes. “It’s not funny.”

T-Dog shook his head and leaned back. “No, but it explains his black mood.”

“I just wish she’d let it go.”

“She’ll change her mind eventually.” T-Dog patted her leg. “All it’ll take is him saving her life and then she’ll believe.”

Carol sighed. “I hope it doesn’t come to that. I’m afraid she’ll try to hurt him just to keep him away from me.”

T-Dog scoffed. “How? With what?”

She stared at him, blinking. “She can shoot him.”

“I doubt it’ll come to that.” T-Dog climbed to his feet and headed into the kitchen.

Carol stared into her bowl. The image of Lori shooting Daryl flashed in her mind and she closed her eyes, gripping her fork. Her breath caught and she forced the image away. She looked over at Daryl and saw him gazing at her. The heat from his stare sent a wave of liquid fire pooling in her core. Her breathing increased and the grip on her fork lessened until it slipped from her fingers. She brought her hand up to clutch the edges of her cardigan. She licked her dry lips.

Keeping her gaze, Daryl stood and stepped down the stairs. He strode toward her and stood over her, holding out his hand.

“Your bowl.” He grumbled.

She blinked, her heart pounding against her ribs. She handed him her bowl as she struggled to breathe. He took the bowl and strode across the living room into the kitchen.

Carol took in large breaths to fill her lungs again. She closed her eyes as her skin burned. She wished the shower worked, cause right now she needed something cold to alleviate the fire rushing through her veins.

****

The upstairs held three bedrooms. The Grimes family took one while Hershel and Beth took another. Maggie and Glenn took the third, leaving the others to fight over space in the living room.

“I’ll take the couch.” Carol announced, dropping her blanket onto the sofa.

She felt Daryl’s gaze on her back and she tried not to let it affect her, but her body refused to listen. She looked at him over her shoulder.

“I’ll take watch.” He growled and stalked outside.

She sighed and spread the blanket over the cushions. “He’s going to be out there all night.”

“No, he won’t.” T-Dog said. “I’ll relieve him in a couple hours.”

She shook her head and sat heavily on the couch. She ran her hands over her face. “He’s pulling away again.”

“We just lost the closest thing we’ve had to a home in a long time.” T-Dog said as he spread his blanket on the floor. “Give him time. He’ll come around.”

“I need to talk to him.” She stood, but T-Dog stepped forward, taking her arm.

“Give him time, Carol.” T-Dog pressed. “He’s not going anywhere.”

Carol stared at the door leading to the front porch. She feared Daryl would pull away to the point where she couldn’t bring him back. She didn’t want him to leave, either mentally or physically.

“I can’t-” Tears stung her eyes.

“You can.” T-Dog squeezed her arm. “You will.”

She wiped at her eyes and pulled her arm from T-Dog’s grip. She drew in a shuddering breath and nodded. She needed to trust Daryl to come back to her on his own terms. She couldn’t force him to do what she wanted.

“All right.” She whispered as she turned toward the couch. “I’m too tired to argue.”

T-Dog chuckled. “You know I’m right.”

She stuck her tongue out at him and he laughed as he settled onto his blanket. She smiled to herself and crawled onto the couch, keeping her eye on the door.

****

Daryl leaned against the railing as he watched Carol climb into T-Dog’s truck. The cold air bit at his face, keeping him alert as his gaze traveled to others in the group. They piled their belongings and supplies into the vehicles and climbed in. He strode toward his motorcycle and climbed on, starting it and revving it up. He looked back to the other, waiting for the signal to go. Rick nodded and Daryl turned and raced out of the town.

He glanced at the level of fuel in his tank and sighed. Still need to find gas.

They hadn’t come across a car pile-up in awhile nor a gas station. They needed to find something soon or they’d end up walking. He doubted some of them would last in this weather.

He kept an eye out for cars or gas stations as he led the group down the highway. He didn’t know where they were going or if any of them had a destination in mind.

We can’t keep going from place to place. We need to find somewhere that’ll hold up. Maybe another farm.

He didn’t know where’d that’d be, but he hoped they’d find it and soon.

The wind whipped through his hair, stinging his eyes and slapping his face. He blinked the tears the wind caused and he spotted three cars sitting on the side of the road. He breathed a sigh of relief and slowed his bike. He waved his hand and pointed to the cars on the side of the road. He pulled to the side and stopped near one of the cars. He climbed off the bike and opened one of his saddle bags. The others came to a stop and Rick climbed out of the red truck.

“Gettin’ some gas.” Daryl said as he popped one of the tanks open. “I have less than half a tank.”

“Good idea.” Rick said. He turned and headed back to the truck.

Daryl placed one end of the tube into the tanks of the car and sucked on the other end until gasoline flowed. He quickly stuffed the tube into the tank of his bike to fill it.

“Did you sleep all right?” Carol asked.

He blinked at her, not expecting her to be out here. “It’s cold out here. Why don’t you go back into the truck.”

She rubbed her hands over her arms and leaned against the car. He stared at her then shrugged. If she wanted to freeze, it wasn’t his place to tell her otherwise. He pulled the tube from the tanks then shoved the tube back in the saddlebag.

“I slept fine.” He answered as he closed the lid.

“Are you all right?” Her soft voice sent a shiver up and down his spine. He looked at her. What kind of a question was that? She looked away and he saw the wetness in her eyes. He narrowed his own and took a step toward her.

“Why you askin’?” He growled low.

She cleared her throat and turned her tear filled eyes to him. The urge to comfort her rose within him and his fingers twitched with the need.

“I’m worried about you.” She whispered as she reached toward him.

He grabbed her hand and pulled her closer to him. She gasped and his gaze fell to her lips. It grew difficult to control his breathing as he held himself from kissing her. They were in broad daylight and the others were mere feet away. Someone could come by and shine a flashlight in his eyes again.

“You don’ need to worry about me.” He whispered as he fought to keep his breathing under control. “I’m fine.”

“Then stop pulling away.” She caressed his face and a shiver spread through him. He closed his eyes and leaned into her hand.

“I’m not.” His voice sounded hoarse to his ears. “I don’ like bein’ crowded.”

Her thumb brushed his bottom lip and he drew the digit into his mouth. She gasped and he smiled. He flicked his tongue against her thumb, watching as her eyes darkened and her mouth fell open.

“Let’s go.” Rick’s voice broke the spell and Daryl stepped back from her.

“Better get back.” Daryl whispered.

She nodded and hurried back to T-Dog’s truck. He watched her, taking in the way her pants hugged her rear. His dick strained against his jeans, making them uncomfortable. He groaned in frustration and climbed onto his bike. He shoved his hands into his hair as he gritted his teeth against the need to bury himself in her. He was only torturing himself with this taking it slow shit. If it’d been anyone else, he’d already screwed her and went on his way.

She ain’t anyone else. She’s ain’t even a damn demon.

Daryl started his bike and headed down the highway. She wasn’t some quick lay to relieve a need. She was in his blood, in his dreams, under his skin. He cared about her, wanted her to be safe, even from him. He doubted a quick lay would end his need of her. He knew his desire for her would grow until it overwhelmed him.

We’ll see about that. Next little place we hole up in, we’ll just see.

Chapter Text

The sun began its slow decent into the trees when they found a farm house sitting off the highway, tucked into a grouping of oak trees. Daryl drove up to the front porch, his eyes scanning the area for walkers. He killed the engine and climbed off, grabbing his crossbow. The others filed out of the vehicles, guns drawn.

“Spread out.” Rick ordered as he pointed with his gun to the separate buildings scattered on the small land.

T-Dog and Glenn hurried toward the small barn, while Maggie headed for a work shed across from the barn.

“Daryl.” Rick strode toward him with Carl behind him. “You’re with me.”

Daryl nodded and followed the sheriff into the house. Rick headed upstairs with Carl. Daryl raised his crossbow and crept down the hallway on the first floor. He pushed open a door on his right to be greeted by a small walker. It turned toward him, its yellow eyes speckled with blood. It hissed, gnashing its teeth in a desiccated gray-brown face. It shuffled toward him, its childlike arms raising.

Daryl narrowed his eyes and released a bolt into the creature’s forehead. It dropped to the ground and he stepped further into the room, checking a closet tucked into a corner of the room. Empty.

He left the room and continued down the hall, checking a room on his left. A body lay in the bathtub, blood spraying the walls above its head, a gun resting in the corpse’s lap. He shook his head, backed out of the room and closed the door.

Won’ be usin’ that room.

Loading his crossbow again, he resumed his search. The hallway opened into a large dining room with a rectangle table ready to sit six. Dust covered the dark brown surface with a broken candelabra resting in the center. The chairs were tossed as if someone tried to keep something from following them.

A walker dressed in only tattered pants had tripped over a chair and lay over it, struggling to get up. The thing looked half starved, its ribs poking through its taunt skin. It reached up toward him and he shot an arrow into its head. It stopped moving and he yanked the bolt from the temple and reloaded.

He left the dining room and stepped into a kitchen. The place looked picked through with cupboard doors standing open, revealing themselves to be empty. He pulled down a box of crackers and sighed.

Footsteps alerted him to the presence of others. He looked up, setting the box down on the counter.

“Upstairs is clear.” Rick said, gazing at the kitchen.

“Found two.” Daryl answered as he threaded his arm through the crossbow’s strap. “One guy shot himself in the bathroom.”

Rick nodded and ruffled Carl’s hair. “Go tell the others, its safe to come in.”

Carl nodded and raced out of the room.

“There’s four bedrooms upstairs.” Rick remarked, coming closer to him.

Daryl eyed him. “I’ll make sure Carol gets one of them. She doesn’t need to sleep on the couch again.”

Rick nodded and placed his hands on his hips. “Lori wants me to keep an eye on you.”

Daryl rolled his eyes and headed into the dining room. Rick grabbed his arm before he went any further. He glared a the sheriff.

“You gonna tell me to stay away from her, too?” Daryl snarled, taking a step toward the man.

Rick shook his head. “I’m not going to tell you what to do. I sure as hell ain’t getting between you two. What Carol does is her business.”

Daryl narrowed his eyes. “Then why tell me?”

Rick shrugged. “I will keep an eye on you. She’s been through a lot and you’ve been there every step of the way. She’s latched onto you.”

“She ain’t a child.”

Rick took a step back, his hands raised. “Like I said, what she does is her business, but I don’t want her to regret that decision.”

Daryl rolled his eyes. “I ain’t gonna hurt her.”

Rick nodded. “See that you don’t.”

His lip curled and he took a step closer. “That a threat?”

“No, Daryl. I’m not threatening you. I just don’t want to see her hurt.”

“I care about her.” The words were out of his mouth before he could stop them, but he refused to take them back. He meant them and he wanted Rick to understand that. “I ain’t gonna do anythin’ that’ll hurt her.”

“Then we’re good.” Rick said. “I’ll let her know she can have one of the bedrooms before someone take it.”

Daryl scoffed. “I’ll head up there now before they do.”

Rick smirked and Daryl shook his head and left the room. He hurried up the stairs as the others filed into the house. He strode down the hallway toward the back of the house. He opened the last room on his left and stepped inside.

A window over the bed was open, letting in the cold air. He tossed his crossbow on the bed and slammed the window shut, locking it. He looked around the room, noticing how small it was. The bed was a twin, barely enough room for two. The red bedspread looked old and worn, but otherwise intact.

Across from him, a small dresser rested against the wall, stuffed animals lined up on top of it. He strode over to the dresser and picked up one of the raggedy animals. He turned it over, one floppy ear drooped over to rest over his hand.

“Rick sent me up here.” Carol’s voice caressed him and he closed his eyes as he placed the rabbit back on the dresser. “Said you wanted me to have a room.”

He turned and rested his gaze upon her. She stood in the doorway, looking around at the small space. She stepped into the room and her eyes fell on his crossbow laying on the bed.

“You’re going to be in here, too?” Carol looked at him, a tinge of hope in her voice.

Daryl shrugged and stepped closer. “I’ll take the floor. Bed’s too small.”

Carol smiled, a blush reddening her cheeks. “It’ll be cozy.”

Daryl scoffed and pulled his crossbow off the bed. “One of us will have to lay on the other.”

His face burned as images of him moving over her appeared in his head. His cock pressed against his jeans and he hoped she didn’t notice. He cleared his throat as he moved toward the door.

“I wouldn’t mind.” Her voice brought him to a stop. He stared at her as his jeans grew more uncomfortable.

She looked at him, her gaze raking over him and he forgot to breathe. When did she get so bold?

“You what?”

Carol smiled and closed the gap between them. She ran her hand over his chest and electricity surged through him. He drew in a breath as his heart rate picked up. He stared into her eyes, watching them darken. He pulled her against him as his gaze fell to her lips.

“You sure?” He asked, his voice a growl. “Do you know what you’re getting’ into?”

She ran her fingers into his hair and brought his head down to hers. “I’m sure.”

He groaned as his lips fell to hers. His hand roamed down her back to cup her rear. She gasped and his tongue dove into her mouth to dance with hers. She moaned into the kiss, sending his blood boiling. He deepened the kiss as his hands moved up to push the cardigan off her shoulders.

Carol pulled back, breathing heavy. She rested her head on his chest as her arms wrapped around him.

“They might realize we’re not down there.” Carol whispered between breaths.

Daryl placed a kiss on her head and rubbed her back. He didn’t care if they were missed or not. He didn’t answer them and neither should she.

“Let them wonder.” He growled.

She looked up at him, her eyes searching. “Lori will come up here.”

He sneered and released her, stepping away from her. Lori barging in on them was the last thing he wanted. The woman would probably flip if she caught them. He ran a hand through his hair and motioned for Carol to leave the room.

“I’m sorry to dump the cold water.” She said, placing her hand on his chest.

He took her hand in his and kissed her fingers. He watched as her lips parted on a sigh. “You’ll just have to make it up to me, later.”

She shuddered and he smiled. He pressed a kiss into her palm them released her. He followed her out into the hall, letting his gaze wander over her form. She would definitely make it up to him later.

He trailed after her down the stairs and through the corridor. T-Dog and Glenn shuffled down the hallway, the body from the bathroom between them. He pulled Carol to the side to let them pass.

“They’re all in the dining room.” T-Dog motioned with his head down the hall.

Once the two were out of the way, Carol took the led down the hall into the dining room. The group were gathered around the table, minus one walker. The chairs had been placed back on their legs.

Rick paced the floor while the others sat around the table. Lori looked up and narrowed her eyes at him as he followed Carol into the room. Daryl glared back as he leaned against the wall closet to the doorway. Carol placed her hand on Lori’s shoulder, getting her attention. She sat beside the other woman and whispered something to her. Lori deflated and sighed.

Rick strode toward him. “You’re going to need to hunt again.”

Daryl shrugged. “Fine by me.”

“I’m going with you.”

Daryl stared at Rick. “What? Why?”

Rick sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “I need to discuss some things with you.”

Daryl pushed from the wall to face the sheriff fully. “I thought we already discussed that.”

Rick sighed again and looked at Lori. “She wants me to make sure you don’t go anywhere near Carol.”

Daryl rolled his eyes. “You’re going to let her-”

“I’m not letting her make me do anything.” Rick said through gritted teeth. “We’ll discuss it later.”

Daryl narrowed his eyes and took a step closer to Rick. “I’ll tell you right now, you ain’t stoppin’ me from bein’ anywhere near Carol. Neither you or Lori.”

Rick nodded. “Let’s get going then before we lose all the daylight.”

Daryl looked over at the table and noticed Carol watching him. He nodded toward her, not wanting her to worry about his exchange with Rick. She offered him a small smile and he followed Rick into the hallway.

Let’s get this over with.

****

Daryl kept his gaze on the ground as he stepped over small piles leaves and twigs. He held his crossbow down, but armed, ready to shoot anything whether walker or game. The setting sun spread its rays through the trees, dotting the ground with light. A chill breeze blew through the colorful leaves, the only sound in the forest.

“Lori thinks you’re evil.” Rick blurted from behind him.

Daryl barked a laugh. It’d be just his luck this group had another magic-user. Did anyone else have some kind of power? “What the hell gave her that idea?”

“She has this ability to sense evil.” Rick answered with a sigh. “It terrified her at first, but she’s used it to help people. Keep them from getting into danger. It’s part of her nature. She can’t help it. She’s afraid you’ll do something to Carol.”

Daryl spun, spearing Rick with a glare. “I told you, I won’ hurt her. Far from it.”

He wanted to do something else to her which went against his own nature. He needed her like he needed air to breathe. He couldn’t deny it anymore and he refused to allow someone else to deny what he wanted.

“Are you evil?” Rick asked, placing his hand on his gun.

Daryl narrowed his eyes. “Has Lori ever been wrong?”

Rick shook his head. “No. Are you saying she’s wrong about you?”

“She needs to keep her nose out of other’s business.” Daryl snarled and spun on his heel. He stalked through the forest, his stomach churning and his heart throbbing in his ears. He heard Rick call his name, but he kept going. If even one of them knew what he was…

Stop it. They can’t hurt you. They’re down a demon hunter and he didn’t even have his weapons with him. They wouldn’t even know how to hurt me.

He couldn’t chance it. He’d have to leave, find someplace else, find another group to torment.

And don’t fall for one of them this time.

Daryl stopped as the thought settled into his mind. His breathing became ragged. He closed his eyes and ran a hand over his face. He’d fallen for Carol.

Goddamn it.

“Daryl.” Rick shouted as he stepped on a twig and kicked some leaves.

Daryl sighed and leaned on a tree. He stared at Rick as the other man placed his hands on his knees and drew in large gulps of air.

“Would it matter if I was?” Daryl asked.

Rick raised his head then straightened. He ran a hand through his hair as the silence grew heavy between them. “I trust you. You haven’t shone any ill will toward any of us. You could’ve killed any of us by now, but you haven’t.”

Daryl scoffed. “It doesn’t matter to Lori. She keeps looking at me as if she wanted to kill me.”

“I’ll talk to her.”

Daryl barked a bitter laugh. “Carol’s talked to her. I don’t think its getting through.”

“She’s just worried about Carol.”

Daryl shook his head and pushed from the tree. “Forget it. Don’ matter. Let’s get dinner. We’re wastin’ daylight.”

He trudged through the forest, wondering if he’d have to sleep with one eye open tonight.

****

Rick hurried into the house as Daryl rested his crossbow against the wall of the house and sat on the porch. He began cleaning and preparing the rabbits for dinner. He stared at the door, every once in a while as he skinned the animals. He wanted, yet didn’t want Carol to come through the door to join him. He wanted her company, but he didn’t want her to be out here in the cold. The temperature had dropped several degrees while he and Rick hunted. He didn’t doubt it’d get colder as the night wore on.

After skinning the animals, he stood and headed into the house. Raised voices greeted him and he looked up the stairs, listening. He smirked and shook his head as he stepped into the kitchen where Beth and Maggie helped Carol prepare dinner.

“Brought the main course.” He said, holding up the skinned rabbits.

Beth gagged and Maggie looked away. Carol pointed to the cutting board on the counter. Daryl tossed the rabbits on the board and brought out his knife.

“Lori and Rick are arguing.” Carol said as she peeled a carrot.

“I know what about.” He said as he chopped up the rabbits. “I’m gettin’ a bit sick of them wantin’ us to stay apart.”

“Don’t let it get to you. You’re going to do whatever you want anyway.”

Daryl smirked. “Damn right.”

Carol smiled at him and his heart skipped a beat. He wished they were alone at the moment, so he could show her what he wanted to do. A clearing of the throat had him turning his attention back to chopping the rabbits.

“We’re going to need light.” Maggie mentioned. “How many flashlights do we have?”

Carol giggled and Daryl rolled his eyes, remembering the last time a flashlight interrupted them.

“What’s so funny?” Beth asked.

Carol shook her head. “Nothing. I believe there are flashlights in one of the duffle bags in the dining room.”

“Great.” Beth hurried out of the room.

“What pot do you want these in?” Daryl asked as he gathered the pieces into his hands.

Carol pointed to a pot resting on the stove. “That one.”

“The stove works, but we don’t have light?” he dumped the meat into the bubbling water.

“I’ just grateful I don’t have to cook in the freezing weather tonight.” Carol remarked as he turned to face her.

“Might have to add an extra blanket to the bed.” He watched her reaction and wasn’t disappointed when she smiled.

“Found them.” Beth said as she stepped into the kitchen. She turned one of them one, hitting Daryl in the face with the beam of light. He snarled and turned away, blinking back the brightness.

“Goddamn it.” He growled, his sight turning red.

“Sorry.” Beth whispered.

Grumbling, he shook his head as his sight returned to normal. Carol and stepped closer to him, her hand on his arm. He relaxed and stepped away from the stove. Beth set a flashlight on the counter.

“I think I’ll set the table.” She said and left the room.

Maggie cleared her throat. “Think I’ll help her.”

“I’m all right.” Daryl said, stepping from Carol. “Just caught me off guard.”

“Why don’t you set up some more lights in the dining room.” Carol suggested as she ran her hand up and down his arm. “Let them know you’re not pissed at them.”

He scoffed and kissed her forehead. “Peace keeper.”

She giggled and turned back to the pot. “When it comes to you, always.”

****

Daryl felt eyes upon him as he sat across from Carol at the dining table. He didn’t have to look at her to know the angry gaze came from Lori. He sighed and tried not to let his anger take over. He focused on the plate in front of him and let the scent of the cooked food, ease his temper. His stomach growled and he dug in.

“We need to find a permanent place.” Rick said, sitting at the head of the table. “We can’t keep going from place to place getting low on supplies along the way.”

“I’m all for that.” Daryl said, raising his soda can.

“Where could we go?” Glenn asked. “What place wouldn’t be overrun like the farm?”

Rick shook his head. “I don’t know, but there has to be a place.”

“We can look at the map.” T-Dog put in. “There has to be somewhere we haven’t been, yet.”

Rick nodded. “We’ll stay here a couple of days. It’s secure enough, off the road. I’ll study the map and figure out where to go. Tomorrow, Glenn and I will look for supplies. We’re gonna need to stock up before we go anywhere.”

“Then I better find a deer.” Daryl put in.

Rick smirked. “Don’t go too far. I’m going to need you here while Glenn and I are on the supply run.”

Daryl blinked at Rick. Did he hear right? Rick wanted him here to protect the group? Rick trusted him enough for that? He was struck speechless and all he could do was nod. His gaze fell to his food as strange emotions raced through him.

He raised his gaze to Carol and saw her smile at him. His heart clenched at the sight, knowing she understood Rick’s implication as well. It was a large step for the sheriff, putting him in charge. It was a big step for him as well. He’d only had himself to worry about. Now he had an entire group to watch over and keep safe.

“Are you sure, Rick?” Lori asked.

Daryl narrowed his eyes at Lori. Course, she wouldn’t go for the idea. She didn’t trust him with Carol, what made any of them think she’d trust him with the entire group.

“Yes, I’m sure.” Rick snapped. “I need someone I can trust to watch this group and he’s more than capable.”

Lori shook her head. “Why don’t you believe me?”

Rick sighed and Daryl looked at the rest of the group sitting around the table. They all stared at their food. This was a conversation better said in private.

“We’ve been over this, Lori.” Rick said, dropping his fork on the plate, it clattered in the silence. “Have you ever thought you might be wrong about it this time?”

Lori shook her head. “I’m never wrong, Rick.”

“Daryl’s in charge tomorrow.” Rick stood, glaring at his wife. “Whether you like it or not.”

Rick stormed out of the dining room, but the tension in the room remained.

****

Daryl closed the door and rested his head against it, closing his eyes. He’d felt Lori’s glare upon him all during dinner after Rick left. The man hadn’t returned until the dishes were cleared off the table and Lori had headed up stairs. He’d discussed tomorrow’s details with Rick while T-Dog and Glenn took watch outside.

“I don’t know if we’ll be able to last two days in these cramped quarters.” Daryl pushed from the wall and strode across the room to the bed. “Lori looks ready to explode.”

Candles sat on the top of the dresser, casting a warm glow over the room. Carol sat under the covers, propped up on the single pillow. She’d found a pair clean peach colored pajamas and put them on. She smiled at him.

“You’re going to be in charge tomorrow. You can prove to her how wrong about you she is.”

He scoffed as he kicked off his boots. “I could save a dozen kittens from trees and she’d still glare at me as if I killed all the kittens.”

Carol laughed and the sound tingled his skin, setting him on fire. He stared at her as she grinned at him. Her eyes widened and her mouth fell open.

“Daryl.” She whispered.

He slipped his sleeveless shirt over his head and tossed it to the floor. He worked on his jeans as he stepped closer to the bed. Her gaze dropped to his hands and his dick twitched and pressed against his jeans.

“You don’ know how long I’ve wanted you to myself.” He growled as he pushed his jeans down his legs. Her eyes widened as she stared at him. She gasped and raised her gaze to his face.

Her mouth worked, but words didn’t form. He smirked as he crawled onto the bed toward her. He slipped under the covers with her, his gaze falling to her lips. He took her mouth with his as his hands roamed down her sides. They glided under her pajama top to cup her breasts. She gasped and his tongue dove into her mouth, exploring every inch. She moaned into the kiss as her hands ran through his hair.

Daryl removed her top, exposing her to him. His gaze roamed over her body as she tried to pull the covers over her. He grabbed her hands, stopping her.

“Don’ cover yourself up.” He growled. “You’re beautiful. I want you.”

Carol’s eyes welled with tears and his heart tightened. For a moment, he wished Ed wasn’t dead, so he could kill the bastard himself for hurting her.

He released her hands and took a breast into his mouth. She arched into him and her hands clutched at his head. He swirled his tongue around the flesh, then suckled it deeper into his mouth. She gasped and her nails dug into his scalp. He kissed and nipped his way to her other breast, taking it into his mouth.

“Daryl.” His name came out on a sigh.

He growled, releasing her breast and taking her mouth again. He pulled her pajama pants down, using his foot to push the bottoms the rest of the way down. He deepened the kiss as he slid a finger inside her. She gasped into his mouth and her hands gripped his arms. She reached down to remove his hand, but he whispered into her ear.

“Wait.” He pulled the finger out then pushed it back in. She trembled against him and her breathing quickened. He placed gentle kisses over her face as he moved his finger inside her. He inserted a second finger and she arched upward. He chuckled, loving the way she opened for him, baring herself to his gaze. He watched as she became a different person before his eyes. It was like watching a caterpillar become a butterfly.

Daryl kissed her as he removed his fingers. He rose up over her, positioning himself at her entrance. She stared at him, licking kiss swollen lips. She cupped his face with her hands. He slowly entered her, watching as her eyes darkened and her mouth opened on a quiet gasp.

He groaned as her walls wrapped around him, trembling as he pushed deeper inside her. He panted against her neck as he held himself in check. She was human, he doubted she’d be able to handle demonic love making. He’d have to take it easy on her. He didn’t want to break her if he let himself go.

Carol buried her fingers in his hair and kissed the skin behind his ear. He shuddered at her touch and rose up to look at her. He locked gazes with her as he pulled halfway out then pushed back in. She closed her eyes on a moan and the sight urged him on. He pulled back out and thrust back in as her legs wrapped around his waist, pulling him deeper inside her. He moaned as her walls tightened around him as he increased his pace.

This, right now, was better than any dream his mind could come up with. He was finally inside her warmth and it was the best thing he’d ever felt. He knew he wouldn’t be able to give her up. He’d lost his heart to her and now his very body was hers as well.

Carol cried out and her nails dug into his back. He kissed her as she rode her orgasm. Her walls throbbed around him, gripping him as he slid in and out of her. He cried her name into her mouth as his seed exploded inside her.

Chapter Text

A click brought Daryl from a restful sleep. He opened his eyes, but saw only darkness. A warm body pressed against his right side, an arm rested over his stomach. He moved his head and pressed a kiss on Carol’s forehead. He didn’t hear the sound again and figured it was someone opening a door across the hall.

A blinding light shone in his eyes and he blinked at the brightness, raising his arm in an attempt to block the light. White hot pain exploded in his chest, bringing him fully awake. He screamed and swung his free arm at his attacker. His fist collided with a head, sending the person stumbling back. A body fell to the floor and he stumbled out of bed, slamming into the wall, white spots dancing in his vision.

He pressed himself into the corner as a flashlight rolled, spreading its beam at his feet. A couple feet from him, a black shape struggled to get up. Warm blood spread over his chest contrasting with the cold wall along his bare back. He fought against the instinct to attack, knowing he could easily kill the person.

“Daryl!” Carol scrambled from the bed, banging into the dresser.

Candlelight replaced the darkness, revealing his attacker. Lori wiped blood from her mouth as she climbed to her feet. Her dark hair fell in tangles around her shoulders and she wore only a long sleeved shirt. She glared at him as she took a step toward him, picking up the flashlight off the floor.

He looked down at the weapon she used to hurt him. A carving knife protruded half way out of his chest. Blood pooled around the wound and trickled down his body. He grabbed the handle of the knife, gritting his teeth against the pain as he tried to pull the blade out.

“I’m going to kill you.” Lori sneered, raising the flashlight.

“Lori?” Carol’s surprised voice brought attention to her.

Lori narrowed her eyes at Carol, who stood with the bed sheet wrapped around her. “Since none of you will listen to me, I’m taking matters into my own hands.”

Daryl tried to get to his feet, but pain shot through him. He closed his eyes and breathed through the pain.

The door sprang open, banging against the wall. Rick barged into the room, gun drawn. He wore a pair of jeans and his hair stuck out everywhere. He blinked as he took in Lori standing over Daryl while Carol stood on the other side of the bed, her eyes wide.

“What the hell is going on in here?” He strode toward Lori and grabbed her arm. “Lori?”

“She stabbed me.” Daryl growled through gritted teeth.

“What the hell?” Rick yanked her back. “Lori?”

“He’s evil, Rick.” Lori snapped, wrenching her arm from his grip. “I’m trying to protect our child. Protect this group.”

Rick looked at Daryl with an apologetic expression on his face. “I’ll get Hershel.”

“No.” Lori grabbed his arm. “Let him die. He deserves to die.”

Rick wrenched his arm from her grasp then pulled her with him out of the room. “Hershel! Daryl’s been stabbed.”

Carol hurried around the bed and knelt beside him. Her shaky hands reached for the knife, but he stopped her. She stared at him, tears welling in her eyes.

“You’ll get blood all over you.” He breathed.

Carol shook her head. “Let me help you.”

Hershel rushed into the room, taking in the scene before him. His gaze rested on Carol and his expression softened.

“I’ll take care of him, Carol.” He said, helping her to her feet. “Beth, get my bag and some towels.”

Carol grabbed some clothes off the floor and used the bed sheets to block anyone’s view of her as she got dressed. Daryl pushed himself further into the corner, gasping at the pain. He glared up at Hershel, wanting the older man to leave. He could take care of this himself. Hell, he could pull the knife out and heal in a matter of minutes. There were too many people in the room who’d notice if he did so now.

“Let me take a look at that.” Hershel said as he knelt in front of him.

“It’s a goddamn knife in my chest.” Daryl snarled.

Hershel ignored him as he removed Daryl’s hand from the handle. Beth returned with a brown bag and a stack of fluffy white towels.

“I’m going to remove it.” Hershel said. “Try to stay still.”

Daryl took several deep breaths to calm his racing heart. He looked up and saw Carol staring down at him from the bed. He reached toward her and she clutched his hand. Tears slipped down her cheeks as she squeezed his hand.

Hershel grasped the handle of the knife and pulled. Daryl gritted his teeth as pain shot through him. He cried out, shutting his eyes as more warmth spread over his chest. He took in gulps of air, fighting through the agony.

“Beth, the towels.” Hershel ordered.

Daryl opened his eyes as the blonde pressed a white towel to his chest. Hershel rummaged through his bag, bringing out gauze, bandages, and a needle and thread.

“I’m going to need you to get on the bed, Daryl.” Hershel said, turning back to him. “I can’t do this with you sitting up.”

Daryl nodded, took a deep breath and pushed himself to his feet. He gasped and stumbled onto the bed. Carol called his name and helped him the rest of the way onto the bed. She covered his lower half with the sheets as he concentrated on breathing.

“You’ll be fine.” Carol whispered, brushing his sweat drenched hair off his forehead.

He blinked up at her, his breathing ragged. “You tryin’ to convince me or yourself?”

She smiled and pressed a kiss on his wet forehead.

“Hold him still, Carol.” Hershel ordered as he bent toward the wound. He took a towel and wiped the blood from the wound. He blinked, looked at Daryl then at the wound.

Daryl glared at Hershel as the old man looked at him again. He shook his head, not wanting Carol to know there wasn’t a wound there anymore. He didn’t want Carol to be suspicious of him or think Lori might’ve been right.

“Carol, why don’t you and Beth check on Lori.” Hershel suggested. “I’ll finish up here.”

“Will he be all right?” Carol asked as she shifted out from under Daryl.

Hershel nodded and smiled at her. “He’ll be fine. I’ll give him something for the pain.”

Carol nodded and motioned for Beth to follow her. They closed the door, leaving him alone with the vet. Hershel straightened and put his things back in the bag.

“What the hell are you?” Hershel snapped. “I’ve never seen a wound heal so quickly.”

Daryl pushed himself into a sitting position, readjusting the blankets over him. “You’re surrounded by people with powers and you’ve never come across someone who could heal themselves?”

Hershel scoffed and closed his bag. “I’ve seen people heal others just by touching them. But what just happened with you? No.”

“Don’ tell anyone else.” Daryl warned, narrowing his eyes. “They don’ need to know.”

Hershel blinked at him. “Why not? You can heal yourself.”

He shook his head. “They’d start askin’ questions I can’ answer. It’s better if they don’ know.”

Hershel narrowed his eyes. “What are we going to do about your already healed wound then?”

Daryl rolled his eyes. “Place a bandage on my chest.”

Hershel sighed and opened his bag again. “They’re going to find out, Daryl. One of these days, they’re going to know.”

Daryl stared at the wall across from him as his hands curled into the bed sheets. He knew Hershel was right, but he wanted to put off that day for as long as he could. “It ain’t gonna be today.”

****

Daryl woke to someone stroking his hair. He opened his eyes and gazed up at Carol. Sunlight streamed through the window, bathing her in a golden glow. She smiled down at him, but her eyes were clouded. He reached up and cupped her cheek. She closed her eyes and leaned into his touch.

“I’ve never been so scared.” She whispered. “I thought you were going to die right in front of me.”

He ran his thumb across her bottom lip then pulled her down to kiss her, running his tongue along her lips. She opened for him and his tongue tangled with hers. Electric heat surged through him, causing his dick to rise. He pulled back, gasping for breath.

“It’ll take more than a kitchen knife to kill me.” He remarked. “You don’ need to worry about me.”

She shook her head and kissed the inside of his palm. “I can’t help it. I don’t want to lose you.”

He held her gaze with his. “You won’. I promise you that.”

She ran her finger over the bandage Hershel had taped to his chest. His muscles twitched under her touch and a shiver skipped along his spine. He wanted her again and if he hadn’t been recently stabbed, they’d never leave this bed. If he wanted to keep his abilities secret from her, he couldn’t. She’d know then and there that he wasn’t wounded. Then the questions would come. No, he’d have to wait as much as it annoyed him.

The door opened and Rick poked his head in. He looked from Carol to him then opened the door wider.

“How are you doing?”

Daryl pushed himself into a sitting position. “I’ll live.”

“Good. Maggie’s cooking breakfast for everyone before Glenn and I head out.”

“How long will you be?” Carol asked, her voice trembling. Daryl looked at her, knowing the reason for the concern.

She thinks Lori might try to kill me with Rick gone.

Rick seemed to understand the underlining question and sighed. He ran a hand through his hair and shrugged. “I’ll try to be back before nightfall. I warned Lori to stay away from Daryl. She’s locked herself in the room for the time being.”

“She can stay there.” Daryl growled, narrowing his eyes.

Rick shook his head. “Try not to burn the house down while I’m away.”

Daryl laughed as Rick left the room.

Warm arms wrapped around him and Carol pressed a kiss to his temple. He rested his head against her chest, listening to her heart beat in his ear.

“We can stay in here.” She whispered as she stroked his hair.

He took her hand resting on his arm and turned it over, placing gentle kisses in her palm. She sucked in a breath and his dick twitched. He closed his eyes, wanting so much to bury himself inside her.

“It wouldn’t do on my first day of being in charge to stay in bed all day.”

She smiled against his hair. “Guess not.”

He squeezed her hand then released it, pushing himself from her.

“I washed your clothes.” Carol informed him as she pointed to the dresser behind her. “I also found some in one of the other bedrooms.”

He looked at her, an eyebrow raised. Did she sleep at all last night? She sat on the bed, fully dressed in a pair of tan cargo pants and a brown shirt underneath a white cardigan. She looked at him with red-rimmed blue eyes. No, she didn’t sleep at all last night.

“You didn’ have to.” Daryl said as he strode around the bed to the dresser. He grabbed the clean clothes she’d found and pulled them on.

She shrugged and climbed off the bed. “I couldn’t sleep. I was so worried about you. I needed to watch you in case… In case I needed to wake Hershel.”

He pulled the black long sleeved shirt over his head then pulled her against him. He kissed her long and hard with as much passion and life he could put into it. When he pulled back, they were both gasping for breath.

“You don’ gotta watch over me.” He whispered, his voice gruff in his ears.

Carol caressed his face. “I know, but I was so scared last night. There was so much blood.”

“Stop.” He shook his head and kissed her again.

“Breakfast!” Maggie’s shout broke them apart.

Carol laughed as Daryl growled.

“Has a set of lungs on her.” He stepped from Carol and headed for the door.

****

Glenn kissed Maggie for a good five minutes as Rick waited patiently by the green Hyundai. Hershel stared at the couple with a smile on his face while Beth rolled her eyes and went back inside.

Daryl leaned on the railing on the other side of the porch twirling an arrow in his hand. Carol sat on the porch swing behind him while T-Dog joined the gathering, drinking from a water bottle.

“Damn, they still at it?” T-Dog asked.

Maggie and Glenn separated then, laughing. They looked at T-Dog, who shrugged and took another swig of water.

“You be careful.” Maggie said as she straightened Glenn’s shirt.

“I can handle myself.”

She patted him on the chest. “I know you can. I still worry.”

Daryl looked behind him at Carol and she blushed, but kept her gaze with his. She reached out toward him and he took her hand. She tugged him and he sat beside her on the swing.

“Cozy.” He whispered as he squeezed her hand.

“Romantic.” She leaned into him, resting her head on his shoulder.

“Let’s go, Glenn.” Rick shouted as he opened the driver’s side door. “At this rate, we won’t be back until tomorrow.”

Glenn kissed Maggie once more then hurried toward the car and climbed inside. Rick nodded to the group and got in the car, pulling away and heading back toward the highway.

“We should see what else this place has to offer.” Hershel suggested, looking at him. “If we’re going to stay another day, it’d be in our best interest to search the area.”

Daryl nodded and climbed to his feet. “I know this place has clothes. It might have medicine as well. I’ll search the barn, see what it has.”

Hershel took a step toward him. “You going hunting?”

Daryl stared off into the distance, knowing he should. They didn’t know how long they’d be on the road once they left this place. They also needed meat for tonight.

“Yeah, but not until they get back.” He answered, turning his attention to Hershel. “Rick put me in charge and I ain’t gonna let him down.”

Hershel nodded and patted his arm. “You’ll do fine. I have faith in you.”

Hershel headed back into the house and Daryl stared after him. Warmth spread through him and it grew difficult to breathe. He stumbled back, leaning against the railing. No one had ever said that to him before, no one had treated him as if he was worth anything before.

“Are you all right?” Carol wrapped her arms around him.

Daryl shook his head, taking in deep breaths. He couldn’t speak, his throat tightening.

Carol helped him back to the porch swing. She placed her hands on his face, forcing him to look at her. “Are you in pain? Is it your wound?”

He shook his head and drew in large pulls of air. He closed his eyes, forcing himself to calm down. He looked up at her, her eyes wide and filling with tears. He cupped her face as her hands rested on his chest.

“I’m fine.” He forced out. He wiped the tears from her eyes and pressed a kiss on her lips.

Carol pulled back and his breathing returned to normal. She searched his face and he knew he had to explain the sudden attack.

“No one’s ever put their faith in me before.” He croaked. “No one’s ever trusted me before.”

She sat beside him and rested her head on his chest. She traced lazy circles over his shirt, causing his skin to tingle. He pressed a kiss on the top of her head as he held her closer to him.

“You’ve proven yourself to this group, Daryl.” Carol whispered. “You’ve earned your place.”

Daryl stared off into the distance, his gaze falling on the barn. He still didn’t know how to handle the trust and acceptance from the others. He’d been on his own for years, relying only on himself, only trusting himself. Even after teaming up with his brother in the last few weeks before all hell broke loose, he still depended only on himself. To have people rely on him took some getting used to.

“I’m gonna check the barn.” He whispered as he pulled away from her. “See what it has.”

“I can go with you.” Carol offered as she stood.

Daryl shrugged. “I’m not gonna argue.”

She smirked at him and he shook his head, jumping off the porch. He marched across the yard, his eyes scanning the surroundings for signs of walkers or any other danger. Carol’s footsteps hurried behind him. A chill raced up his spine and he stopped. Carol looked at him, her brow furrowed.

“What is it?”

He looked behind him back at the house. A figure stood in a second story window. He narrowed his eyes and the curtain fell back over the window.

“Nothing.” He growled as he resumed his trek toward the barn.

****

Daryl stood on the porch as the sun began to set. Rick and Glenn had returned an hour ago with medicine and supplies. The search of the house had turned up some extra pain pills and food. His own search of the barn turned up nothing, but a walker Carol had dispatched herself. His hunt for food had provided a couple of rabbits and a squirrel. All in all it was a productive day.

He worked on his crossbow, keeping his eyes out for any trouble coming their way. So far only birds dared tread on the property. As much as he knew they needed this down time, he couldn’t wait to get back on the road. He couldn’t abide sitting around doing nothing. A bored demon was a dangerous demon and this group provided too much temptation.

The door opened and Carol stepped outside. She smiled at him as she strode toward him.

“Dinner’s almost ready.” She said, placing her hands behind her back. “You did good today.”

Daryl scoffed and focused on his crossbow. “I didn’ do anythin’.”

Carol placed a hand on his shoulder. “You gave them something to do and it paid off. We have enough painkillers and gauze to last awhile.”

He shrugged, feeling his face warm. Compliments were another thing he wasn’t used to.

Carol on the railing in front of him. “What is it going to take to get you to believe me about your worth?”

Daryl sighed and swung the crossbow over his shoulder. He looked at her and saw the emotions racing through her eyes. He ran his thumb down her cheek and over her lips. She closed her eyes and flicked her tongue at the digit. He sucked in his breath and gritted his teeth against the surge of heat rushing through him.

“I believe you.” He whispered, trying to keep the arousal he felt out of his voice. “I just ain’t used to it.”

She smiled at him and stood, cupping his face with her hand. She leaned toward him and pressed her lips to his. He closed his eyes and ran his tongue along her lips. She moaned, opening her mouth to him. He pulled her into him, letting her feel his erection pushing against his jeans. He thrust his tongue into her mouth, exploring every inch.

The door to the house opened, breaking into his sex fogged brain.

“Dinner’s ready.” Beth’s voice had them jumping apart. She stared at them, blinking. “Sorry.”

Daryl growled as he stomped to the other side of the porch. He shoved his hands into his hair as he drew in gulps of air. Too bad this place didn’t have a cold lake he could jump into.

“Thank you, Beth.” Carol said, her voice calm and polite. “We’ll be in shortly.”

The door closed and Carol’s footsteps drew toward him. He placed his hands on the railing and lowered his head, trying to control his raging desires. Her hand ran up his back, sending sparks dancing over his skin. He closed his eyes and groaned.

“You go in.” He said, his voice husky. “I’ll be a minute.”

His blood burned and if Carol didn’t head inside now, he wouldn’t be responsible for his actions. He looked at her, his gaze raking over her.

“I could slap you.” Carol offered with a shrug.

Daryl blinked then laughed. “No, thank you. I’ll deal with it, but don’ expect a restful sleep.”

She smiled and ran her hand down his chest. “I’m counting on it.”

Chapter Text

The next morning came with a drop in temperature. Daryl stepped onto the porch, pulling on his jean jacket and vest. He swung his crossbow over his shoulder and stepped off the porch. The cold breeze slapped him in the face, waking him fully.

“Daryl.” Rick’s voice brought him to a halt. He turned to face the other man. What the hell does he want? He’s too damn noisy to join me on the hunt.

Rick strode toward him. “How’re you doing?”

He pointed to Daryl’s chest and Daryl looked down. He shrugged as he raised his gaze. “Fine.”

“I’m sorry for what she did.” Rick offered. “I didn’t think she’d do such a thing.”

Daryl sighed and ran a hand through his hair. He wasn’t in the mood for this. He wanted to kill something. Tamping down his instinct to torment people was causing his skin to itch and his temper to rise. He needed to hurt something soon or he’d take his frustrations out on the very people who’d come to trust him.

“Don’ worry about it, Rick.” Daryl said, shifting from foot to foot.

“There isn’t an excuse for it.” Rick continued, placing his hands on his hips.

“She’s tryin’ to protect the group.” Daryl said. “She believes I’ll do somethin’.”

Rick narrowed his eyes. “You’ve done the opposite. You’ve done a lot for this group.”

Daryl looked away, his face on fire. He doubted he’d ever get used to these compliments. Hell, he’d probably never get used to being around humans.

He cleared his throat. “I’m gonna find some food.”

“Don’t take too long.” Rick advised. “We’re leaving in a couple of hours.”

Daryl turned and headed across the yard and into the forest. He shrugged his crossbow off his shoulder and armed it. He breathed in the chilly air, taking it into his lungs. He closed his eyes and listened to the wind rustle through the remaining leaves on the trees. A few birds sang, filling the silence with their songs.

Feeling a sense of calm, he stalked through the forest, his gaze scanning for signs of walkers or food. His thoughts drifted to Carol and how she felt in his arms and around his cock as he made love to her last night. It’d amazed him that he’d brought tears to her eyes and it wasn’t because he’d done anything wrong. It’d been the most beautiful experience she’d ever had. He’d wondered how anyone could’ve treated her so badly that having sex with a demon was a celestial encounter.

She’d opened up to him after that, telling him how Ed had treated her, even when she was pregnant with Sophia. He’d wanted to protect her even more, which stunned him. He’d never wanted to protect anything in his life and here he was promising Carol that very thing. She’d cried again and he’d made love to her again, slow and gentle.

A twig snapped, bringing him out of his thoughts. He raised his crossbow, searching his surroundings. Hissing came from behind a tree and he stepped to the side, bringing the walker into view.

Clothed in a torn and bloody jogging suit, the walker limped toward him on a broken leg. Dried blood ran down its front from a ripped wound in its neck and shoulder. It reached toward him, snarling.

“Ain’t you a mess.” Daryl growled and lowered his weapon. He stared at it, watching as it drew closer to him. Lightning gathered around his right hand and he sent it flying at the walker. It hit the creature in the chest, sending it stumbling into a tree. He smirked as the corpse struggled to right itself. He sent another bolt, watching as it jerked on its feet. His sight turned red as his bloodlust grew.

“Picked the wrong person to walk up to.” He snarled as he flung another wave of lightning at the creature. It jostled against the tree, its arms still reaching toward him.

He dropped his crossbow, stalked toward the walker and swung his clawed hand at the creature’s head. Black blood sprayed back onto him and splattered the tree. The walker hissed and snarled as it tried again to reach for him. Claw marks tore its face open and blood ran into its eyes, but it still came for him.

“Pathetic piece of shit.” Daryl rammed his fist into the walker’s head, breaking through the skull and colliding with the tree. He yanked his fist back out and the walker dropped to the ground. He stared at his blood covered hand as the rage dissipated. He closed his eyes, taking in deep breaths.

Feeling calm again, Daryl picked up his crossbow and continued searching for food.

****

He arrived back at the house with five squirrels and a rabbit. The rest of the group packed the vehicles as he stepped into the house. He stuffed the animals into one of the saddle bags of his bike then headed into the house.

Maggie and Beth rummaged through the kitchen, searching for things to take. Glenn hurried down the stairs, his arms full of clothes.

“Leave any?” Daryl asked.

Glenn didn’t stop. “These fit me.” He headed out of the house without another word.

Daryl shook his head and headed up the stairs. He entered the room he and Carol shared and saw her opening drawers. She turned and gasped.

“Don’t sneak up on people.” She said as she tossed a pair of jeans onto the bed.

He smirked and strolled toward her, wrapping his arms around her. He kissed her, deep and thorough until they were both gasping for breath.

“I don’t know why we can’t just stay here.” Carol asked as she rested her head on his chest.

He sighed. “A herd of walkers could take this place, too. Rick wants to find someplace better defended.”

“I don’t know if we’ll ever find that.”

He pulled her tighter against him and pressed a kiss on her head. He breathed in her scent, closing his eyes as he let it fill him. He didn’t want her to give up hope, but he didn’t know the words to convince her. He didn’t even know if they’d find a place. Was it even out there?

“We better go.” He said instead. “They’re packing the cars.”

Carol sighed and stepped from him. She picked up the jeans and handed them to him. He took them with a raised eyebrow.

“Thought you might like another pair.” She smiled. “I found a couple shirts, too.”

His face warmed. “You didn’t have to.”

She shrugged and turned back to the dresser. “You need more clothes, Daryl. The ones who have nearly rags.”

He looked down at himself and saw the holes in his gray pants. The tan plaid shirt he wore had a hole near the bottom, showing skin. He scoffed and tossed the jeans she’d handed him over his shoulder.

“I can patch them up.” He said as he grabbed the two shirts on the bed.

“I’ll patch them up.” She said as she turned with a bundle of clothes in her arms. She looked at him with a smirk.

He rolled his eyes. “I can do it. Done it before.”

“I don’t mind. Besides, it’ll give me something to do in the evenings.”

He stepped toward her and placed a finger under her chin. He stared into her eyes, watching as they darkened. His gaze dropped to her lips as they parted.

“I can give you something to do in the evenings.”

She licked her lips and his dick jumped to attention. He lowered his head, taking her mouth with his. She opened for him on a moan and he thrust his tongue into her mouth to dance with hers. He took the clothes from her arms and tossed them onto the bed then pulled her against him.

Carol buried her fingers into his hair as she deepened the kiss. He groaned as his hands moved down her back and slipped under her shirt. She sighed into the kiss, driving his need higher. He bucked his hips into her and she gasped. His fingers glided over the skin near her breasts as she arched into him.

“You ready?” Rick’s voice broke them apart.

“Goddamn it.” Daryl snarled, glaring at the man. “Don’ you knock?”

Rick leaned against the door frame, his arms folded over his chest. He held Daryl’s gaze as if catching people in the act of making love were a common occurrence.

“We’re about to go.” Rick clarified. “You ready?”

Carol sighed and gathered the clothes off the bed. “We’ll be down in a minute.”

Rick nodded and left the room.

“Prick.” Daryl growled as he ran his hand through his hair.

Carol laughed. “Don’t worry about it. Maybe we’ll find another house and can pick up where we left off.”

Daryl scoffed. They’d be lucky to find another house this size out there somewhere. Hell, they’d be lucky to find anything at all that wasn’t crawling with walkers.

“Keep hoping.” He growled as he stalked out of the room with his bundle of clothes.

****

Daryl brought up the rear as they traveled down a back road littered with leaves and the occasional corpse. He drove over a walker that crawled too close to his bike. He didn’t bother to look back to see if it was dead.

They’d traveled down the road for a couple of hours and his face felt as if it’d frozen in the chill air. They hadn’t come across anything that even resembled a place to hole up for the night. The sun hung high in the air and his stomach growled, having passed up breakfast for a quick start on the road.

Need to stop soon or I’m goin to get worse than cranky.

The suburban pulled to the side of the road and Daryl let out a sigh of relief. He slowed the bike and followed the vehicles into a rest area parking lot. He parked the bike and turned off the engine. He opened his saddle bag and brought out the rabbit. He cleaned and gutted the thing in record time then carried it to one of the grills scattered around the area.

“You sure you want to cook that now?” Rick asked, coming up to him. “We’re not going to be here long.”

Daryl didn’t look at him. “I’m starvin’.”

He tossed the critter on the cold grill, stuffed some nearby twigs and leaves into slot and took out his lighter. He lit the kindling and watched the flames lick and dance around the rabbit.

“You gonna share?” T-Dog asked from a table across from him.

Daryl shrugged as he flipped the rabbit over. “Might save a leg.”

“He’s starving.” Rick remarked.

He narrowed his eyes at the officer, but the man stepped away heading back to his wife and son. Daryl turned his attention back to the rabbit.

“Oh, good.” Glenn joined T-Dog at the table. “I’m starving.”

He looked at the two, giving them a withering glare. Neither one seemed affected by his growing annoyance. He hadn’t expected others to be as hungry as he was.

“Should’ve brought out a squirrel.”

An hour later and minus one rabbit, they were back on the road. Daryl brought up the rear again, not in the mood to lead the group. His gaze fell on the truck in front of him and the person inside. He stared at the back of Carol’s head, wishing she were riding with him. He longed to feel her arms around him and his fingers itched to touch her again. She turned to look out the back window at him and his heart thundered in his chest. She smiled at him and heat rushed through him.

He tore his gaze from her before he crashed his bike into the back of T-Dog’s truck. He shook his head and took in a deep breath of the cold air.

I’m never gonna get her out of my system.

He didn’t think he wanted to, though. She intrigued him. She was the opposite of everything he was. She was compassionate where he was cruel. He was hot-tempered and she was serene. She was a human and he was a demon. Despite all of that, he was drawn to her, wanting her as he never wanted anything before. He didn’t understand his attraction to her or her to him. It was uncanny, yet the most real thing he’d ever felt.

I’m goin’ soft. That’s got to be it.

He didn’t believe it, but he didn’t have another explanation for his desire for Carol.

****

The moon climbed up the sky when they found another rest area to sleep for the night. He grabbed his tent from the bed of T-Dog’s truck and hiked up the hill away from the others. He pitched his tent under a pair of trees. He headed back down to his bike and pulled out two squirrels to cook.

“You don’t have to sleep so far away.” Carol said, walking beside him. “It’s Hershel’s farm all over again.”

“You can join me.” Daryl remarked. “Even brought another squirrel for ya.”

Carol looked over her shoulder and Daryl followed her gaze. Lori leaned against the suburban, watching them. He narrowed his eyes and fought the urge to bring out her worst nightmare. He turned away and continued to his tent.

“You don’ have to.” He grumbled as he sat by his tent. He brought out his knife and began cleaning the animals.

Carol knelt in front of him, bringing his attention to her. He couldn’t see her expression, but he sensed her worry. As far as she was concerned her worst nightmare almost came true. He didn’t want to tell her regular weapons couldn’t harm him. He didn’t want the questions that’d come with it. He also didn’t want her to get some notion that he was invincible when he wasn’t.

That damn dagger is still out there. And there’s no tellin’ when we might run across a demon hunter.

“I don’t want to give her another reason to come after you.” She whispered, touching his arm. “I want to be with you, but I can’t put you at risk.”

He scoffed and pulled away from her. “You can’ let her dictate what we do.”

“She might kill you next time. I can’t…” She wiped at her eyes and his heart clenched at how scared she was for him. “I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

He sighed and pulled her into his arms. He kissed her temple as he rubbed her back. “All right. We’ll placate her for tonight, but next time, you’re mine.”

She gasped in his arms and he smiled.

****

Daryl stood in the middle of a living room as sobs floated down from upstairs. His stomach rolled as he realized she still dreamed of the time Ed ruled over her. His hands curled into fists as determination rose within him.

I’m gonna make sure she dreams something else from now on.

He raced up the stairs, taking them two at a time. The sobs grew louder, leading him down the hallway to a white door. He pushed it open and saw Carol sitting on the floor of a large bedroom. She wore a white blouse and tan pants that were one shade darker than the carpet. Two open windows let in a cool breeze, fluttering white curtains. Sunlight poured in bathing her and the large bed be hind her in a golden glow.

Her sobbing stopped and she turned toward him. Tears tracked down her face and her mouth opened on a gasp. She blinked as she pushed herself to her knees.

“Who are you?” She whispered as she climbed to her feet. She backed away from him, her eyes searching the room.

Daryl held up his hand as he stepped into the room. “I’m here to help.” He kept his voice calm as he drew closer to her. He could easily make her remember him. This was a dream after all and he could do whatever he wanted, but a part of him didn’t want to manipulate her that way. He was a master of nightmares, but for the first time in his life he wanted to turn a nightmare into a pleasant dream. One she’d remember.

She narrowed her eyes. “I don’t know you.”

He smiled and reached out to her. “My name is Daryl. I heard you cryin’ and came inside to see if you were all right.”

She wiped at her eyes and turned from him. “You should leave. My husband could come back any minute. He has a violent temper.”

He scoffed and drew near. “Mine’s worse.”

She blinked at him, the last of her tears spilling over her cheeks. He placed a hand on her face and wiped at her eyes with his thumb. She shuddered at his touch and his mouth grew dry.

“Daryl.” She breathed his name, leaning into his touch.

“I’m gonna make your nightmares end.” He growled. “I’m gonna give you somethin’ else to dream about.”

She opened his mouth to speak and he pulled her into him, taking her mouth with his. She stiffened and her hands went to his chest to push him away. He ran his tongue over her bottom lips and she gasped. She pushed him and he pulled back.

“Don’ fight me.” He whispered. “I ain’t gonna hurt you. I’m ain’t like him.”

Truth be told, he was much worse, but for the life of him he wouldn’t dream of hurting Carol. He wanted to do the exact opposite.

She relaxed in his arms and he pressed a kiss on her lips, her forehead and flicked his tongue at her earlobe. She gasped and arched into him. He smiled as he drew the lobe into his mouth. She moaned as her hands went into his hair. His hands roamed over her back as his lips trailed kisses along her neck.

His hands slipped under her blouse and ghosted over her skin. He skimmed along the edge of her bra and around to the back. He undid the garment, releasing her breasts. He pulled her blouse over her head, tossing it to the floor. Her bra followed as his gaze fell to the revealed flesh. He licked his lips as he fought to control his breathing.

Daryl pulled his shirt over his head, letting it drop to the floor. He nipped at her lips as his hands kneaded her breasts. She moaned, arching into him. Tongues danced as he backed them into the bed, tumbling upon it. He deepened the kiss as he bucked his hips into her. One hand dug into his hair as the other dragged over his back. He shuddered as his release threatened to spill into his jeans. He groaned as he forced himself to slow down. He pulled away from her and took in a deep breath. She ran her hand over his chest and electric heat jolted through him.

He looked down at her and saw the trust and desire in her eyes. His heart tightened at the sight and he knew then he’d do anything for her. He’d kill anyone and anything to protect her. It was then he realized he had lost himself to her. He loved her. If a demon could love.

He caressed the side of her face and she closed her eyes. He took a breast into his mouth, swirling his tongue around the nipple. She dug her nails into his head, but he didn’t stop. His hands worked on undoing her pants. He released her breast to yank her pants down her hips and off her legs. He threw them across the room and took her other breast as his hand slipped into her panties. He slipped a finger inside her and she bucked her hips, crying out. He laughed then suckled on her breast as he slid his finger in and out of her.

“Daryl.” Carol gasped as her fingers pulled at his hair.

Daryl kissed and licked his way back up to her lips. He slipped another finger inside her as he kissed her, deeply, passionately. She moaned as her hips matched the slow rhythm he set. The sounds she made caused his blood to pound and his dick to strain against his pants. If he didn’t bury himself in her now, he’d regret in more ways than one.

He tore his mouth from hers and fumbled with his jeans like a virgin teenager. He growled at himself, wanting to rip the jeans apart. The zipper finally slid down and the button separated from the hole. He shoved the garment down and off his legs.

He knelt over her, his gaze roaming down her body. His gaze fell on the dark curls at the apex of her thighs and he realized she’d taken her panties off while he struggled with his jeans. His breathing increased at the sight and he doubted he’d be able to hold himself in check much longer.

Carol reached out to him and he fell into her arms. She kissed him as he positioned himself at her entrance. Her tongue entered his mouth, exploring his mouth, dancing with his tongue. He moaned into the kiss and pushed inside her, burying himself to the hilt. She tightened around him, drawing another groan from him.

He rolled them over until he was on his back. She stared down at him, eyes wide. He placed his hands on her hips and pushed up into her. She closed her eyes, tilting her head back. His hands cupped her breasts as her hips rocked into him. She placed her hands on his chest as she set the tempo. He watched as her mouth opened slightly and all anxiety and tension disappeared from her face. It was the most beautiful sight he’d ever seen. He exploded inside her as everything around him shattered.

Chapter Text

Eight Months Later

 

 

Daryl led the way into the two story house, his crossbow raised. Footsteps spread out behind him and entered different room as he kept going straight down a corridor. At the end of the corridor waited a battered semi white door. With his left hand, he opened the door and was greeted with a gun in his face. His heart leapt into his throat then recognition hit him as he stared at Rick. He sighed and lowered his weapon.

“Clear this way.” Rick said as he lowered his gun.

Daryl nodded and turned from the door. He strode back down the corridor and headed up the stairs. He opened the door to the first room he came to and saw an owl perched on the back of a chair. He mouth watered at the sight. It’s been days since they had anything to eat thanks in part to the harsh winter. He hadn’t even seen so much as a deer all winter. This bird was a sight for sore eyes and stomach. He aimed his bow and fired. He smiled as the bird dropped to the floor without a sound. He snatched it up, yanked his arrow from the animal and headed back downstairs.

Rick held the door open for the others to enter. Daryl’s gaze fell instantly on Carol as she carried thick blankets and a bag of their clothes to be washed. They hadn’t been able to stop anywhere during the winter to wash their clothes. Walkers had grown numerous and most of the house they’d found had been overrun or not habitable. This house was the first they’d found that looked promising.

She smiled at him and he nodded, holding up the bird he shot. Her hand went to her stomach as her expression changed to one of appreciation. He followed after her and sat in a chair as Carl sat on the floor, carrying a can of dog food. He grimaced at the sight and focused on plucking the feathers off the bird.

I ain’t eatin’ dog food. Daryl shook a blood stained feather off his finger.

Metal slammed into stone and Daryl jumped, staring at Rick, who stood near the cold fireplace. Carl knelt on the floor, a can opener in his hand, but the can was gone.

Rick opened his mouth, but T-Dog whistled and grabbed his crowbar. He nodded toward the window, pointing out a group of walkers shuffling across the yard.

The group gathered their things and headed out the front door. Daryl glared at the creatures, his sight turning red. He wanted to destroy the things and prevent the group from having to head back out in that mess. Who knew when they’d find another house they could stay in. The risk to him was too great, though.

Shaking his head, he slung his crossbow over his shoulder and headed out the door, leaving the owl behind.

He jumped on his motorcycle and followed the caravan away from the house and the illusion of safety.

****

Two hours later, the caravan pulled to the side of the road. Daryl sighed and killed the engine. He climbed off his bike and joined the others. They spread the map across the hood of the Hyundai. He barely listened as they discussed where to go next. As far as he was concerned, there weren’t very many places to go unless they wanted to leave the state. Walkers were everywhere, gathering in larger numbers. As much as they talked about needed to find someplace defendable against them, they kept coming up empty. He didn’t believed they’d find such a place. They hadn’t so far.

He looked over at Carol and not for the first time, he thought of taking her away from all this. He could do it. He could fly them both far from here, find somewhere walkers weren’t numerous. Every time he thought about it, though, doubts of how she’d react to him then crept into his mind. She’d fear him, hate him and he wouldn’t be able to stand it.

Daryl pushed the thought from his mind and armed his crossbow. Rick stood beside him, hands on his hips.

“While everyone’s washing their panties, why don’ you and I go hunt.” Daryl said, lifting his crossbow. “See if we can’t find somethin’.”

Rick nodded. “Good idea.”

“Owl didn’ exactly hit the spot.” He mumbled as he followed Rick into the forest.

“I wanted to thank you for saving Lori from this walkers the other day.” Rick said. “I know she’s not your favorite person.”

Daryl eyed him askance. “She’s part of the group, plus she’s pregnant. I don’ care what she thinks of me, I’m no gonna let someone from this group die.”

Rick nodded and patted him on the back. Daryl winced, still not used to having anyone other than Carol touch him.

Truth be told, he hadn’t hesitated when he saw those walkers attack Lori. It’d surprised him as much as it had surprised her when he came to her rescue. She hadn’t said anything, but he saw the gratefulness in her wide eyes. All he did was nod and lead her back to the group. From that day on, she looked at him differently. She was still wary of him, but the hatred and fear had vanished from her eyes. In its place was curiosity. He didn’t know if that was worse.

“She’s not going to have the baby on the road.” Rick reminded him. “We need to find somewhere we can defend, someplace we can make a home.”

“I’m with you on that.” Daryl answered as he gazed at the ground, searching for tracks. “I don’ think any of us can take another month or even another week go from house to house. The questions is where can we go? We’re runnin’ out of places on that map.”

Rick sighed and ran a hand through his hair. They reached a gap in the tree line and he stopped, his hands on his hips. Daryl came to stand beside him to gaze out at the ruins of a large prison. Walkers shambled about in the yards, but his spirits soared at the sight.

“What’d you think?” He asked, almost dreading to hope.

“We get rid of those walkers and I think we found the place.”

Daryl nodded, trying to keep his giddiness at bay. “Let’s go tell the others then.”

It didn’t take them long to liberate the yard from walkers. It’d amazed Daryl, even awed him how a small group of humans took out so many walkers in an hour. He’d been more impressed with Carol and how she handled the rifle. There hadn’t been much in the way of weapons training while they were on the run, but the time they were able to get in, she was there, wanting to contribute.

He couldn’t keep the smile off his face as he watched her jog across the open field, laughing. It’d been so long since he last heard her laugh. He missed it and his heart tightened with both melancholy and joy. Being on the road had lessened his time with her and the winter had made even more difficult as they were all stuck in vehicles or huddled together in abandoned buildings. Any intimacy was put on the back burner.

Now, he could have her all to himself once again. He looked at the prison and pictured the many rooms hidden within. There wouldn’t be an lack of privacy for him and Carol to be alone together. He couldn’t wait.

Night fell and the group huddled around a campfire, the first one in a long time to be lit. He paced on a bus that’d fallen to its side, watching them. A dark figure paced near the chain link fence where a dozen or more walkers stood trapped. He shook his head and turned his attention back to the field.

A soft plunk caught his attention and he looked down. A bowl sat at his feet and a hand waved at him. He reached down and helped Carol up onto the bus. She picked up the bowl and handed it to him.

“I know you haven’t eaten all day.” She said as she wrapped her arms around herself. “If I don’t being you something, you won’t eat at all.”

She knew him so well. Almost too well. Sometimes he wondered if she saw right through him, to what he really was hidden beneath. He pushed the thought aside and dug into the food, stuffing it into his mouth with abandon.

“How’s little Shane?” Daryl asked, wanting something to distract himself from the dangerous path his thoughts were leading him.

Carol smiled at him. “Be nice. He’s done a lot to keep this group together. To get us here.”

Daryl scoffed. Yeah, I didn’ do a damn thing, I just sat on my ass the entire time.

He looked over at her and saw her rubbing her shoulder. His jealousy of Rick disappeared to be replaced by concern for Carol.

“What is it?” He asked, popping the last of the food into his mouth.

Continuing to rub her shoulder, she looked at him. “The rifle. It has a bit of a kick.”

Daryl set the bowl down on the bus and licked his fingers. He motioned for her to turn around. He placed his hands on her shoulder and massaged the muscle there. Electric fire shot through him and he paused, watching her. She leaned into his touch and he swallowed. It’d been so long since he touched her, since he held her. He took a deep breath to calm his racing heart and continued the massage. She moaned softly and his blood rushed straight to his dick.

Shit. Daryl stopped the massage before he ravished her in front of everyone.

“Better get back.” His voice sounded gruff to his ears and he didn’t doubt she heard it.

She smiled at him, a mischievous glint in her eyes. “Kinda romantic. Want to screw around?”

Daryl blinked at her, his dick pressing against his jeans. He wanted nothing more than to do just that and he had a feeling she knew it. With the rest of the group so close by, though, he thought better of it.

He snorted. “Stop.”

“It’s a nice night.” She said, turning toward him.

“I’ll go down first.” He said as he squatted down.

“Even better.” She said, laughter in her voice.

He closed his eyes and gritted his teeth as images of him pleasuring her with his tongue appeared in his mind.

“Stop.” He bit out. I’m gonna take you right here and now if you don’ quit it, woman.

He light laughter teased his senses and making his jeans even more uncomfortable. He didn’t think he’d be able to hold himself back much longer.

Daryl jumped down to the ground and turned and held his hands up toward Carol. With bowl in hand, she sat on the edge of the bus and pushed herself off. He caught her, electric fire shooting through his arms. He stared into her eyes, her fingers dancing over his arms. His breathing grew ragged as his gaze dropped to her lips. Her tongue licked her bottom lip and he bit back a groan.

“Daryl.” She whispered as her hands moved up his arms.

He walked her back into the bus and pressed his lips to hers. Her arms wrapped around him and she flicked her tongue at his lips. He opened for her and she thrust her tongue into his mouth. He moaned, wanting to do more, needing to do more. His hands roamed down her back and cupped her rear. She gasped and he pressed her into his arousal, letting her know just how much he wanted her.

Carol pulled back, kissing the corner of his mouth then his forehead. Her hands ran down his chest, sending jolts of electricity flowing through him.

“You have know idea how long I’ve wanted to kiss you.” She whispered as her fingers played in his hair.

He smirked. “About as long as I’ve wanted to kiss you.”

Making love to her in her dreams only went so far and he ached to make love to her for real. He knew she enjoyed them. She’d woken each morning with a deep blush on her face every time she looked at him. The blush turned him on, knowing she desired him.

She gave him her best sassy smile. “Maybe we can find a nice private cell once we get inside.”

He laughed and stepped back. “I think everyone is gonna want a nice private cell, especially our two love birds.”

Carol giggled. “Think we can give them a run for their money?”

Daryl smirked. “And then some.”

He kissed her forehead and stepped back. She ran her hand over his chest, holding his gaze with hers as she strode by him. He watched her, his blood on fire for her. She smiled at him and his breathing increased. He growled as he followed her around the bus and down the field. At this point, he’d be good with a private closet away from the others.

Musical voices greeted him as he and Carol joined the others. He glanced at Carol, who wrapped her cardigan tighter around her, a small smile on her face. He groaned to himself, hoping they didn’t expect anyone else to join in. He wasn’t one for singing.

Motion caught his attention and he looked up and saw Rick joining them. He squatted next to Lori, handing her his bowl. She plucked a piece from the bowl and leaned back on her hands.

Daryl turned his attention back to Carol, who had stepped closer to him. The heat from her body wrapped around him, building the heat growing within him. He closed his eyes, his fingers itching to hold her against him. It frustrated the hell out of him that he couldn’t touch her. Carol feared what Lori would do to him if she so much as saw them flirting.

It shouldn’t matter what Lori thought. Daryl scowled. It ain’t none of her business.

The girls stopped singing and Rick started speaking. Daryl barely listened, his gaze floating back to Carol as she stood beside him. They finally found a place to make their own, a place that’d keep the walkers at bay. A place where he could build a life with Carol.

The thought startled him and he shifted on his feet, his heart pounding. He’d never thought of settling down before, never thought of being with anyone before. He’d always been a solitary person, even with his brother. He loved being alone, keeping to himself and doing what he wanted. Now, he added a person to the equation of his life and he couldn’t think of his life with Carol.

Blood rushed in his ears as he looked Carol and he realized the truth of those thoughts. If anything happened to her, he didn’t know what he’d do. She’d been such a large part of his life in these past several months, he couldn’t picture it without her. Where ever she was, he wanted to be.

She looked at him and his world tilted. Did she feel the same way? Did she wanted him to be part of her world, her life?

Rick walked by him followed by Lori. He sighed and pulled off his poncho. At least he didn’t have to deal with that train wreck. He spread the poncho on the ground and motioned for Carol to take a seat.

“What about you?” She asked as she sat on it.

Daryl shrugged and settled in beside her. “Slept on worse.”

“We can share.” Carol offered, laying down on the poncho, facing him. “It’s big enough.”

Daryl looked at her as she scooted backward, giving him some room to lay down beside her. He sighed and positioned himself beside her on the poncho. He lay on his back, forcing his gaze to the stars.

“I don’t bite.” Carol whispered, laughter in her voice.

He snorted. “I bet you do.”

She smacked him and the corner of his mouth lifted. He looked over at her and her eyes danced with mirth. His jeans grew uncomfortable and he raised his right knee up to relieve some of the pressure. Not that it’d do much good.

She rested her hand on his chest and he sucked in a breath. Electric fire surged through him and he suddenly wished they were the only people in the field. He placed his hand over hers and squeezed it.

“This place is ours.” Carol’s voice floated to his ears. He turned his attention to her as she scooted closer to him. “We finally found a place to call our own.”

He brought her hand up to his lips and he pressed a kiss on her knuckles. Her lips parted on a sigh. He drew her closer to him, pressing her body against his side. He kissed her temple and she snuggled tighter into him.

“Get some sleep.” Daryl whispered to her. “Tomorrow promises to be a long day.”

****

Daryl stabbed a walker in the temple and kicked it away from the small group. It fell to the ground as the five of them moved in a tight formation deeper into the courtyard. His eyes darted for the next creature who dared to get too close.

Adrenaline surged through him and he fought the instinct to set all these creatures on fire. He forced himself to fight as a human would, but it grew more difficult as they made their way through the prison yard.

Calm down. He warned himself as he charged a nearby walker and shoved his blade into its forehead. You can do this.

The bodies piled up until they were at a side entrance to the prison. Rick called for him and he hurried to help the former cop to close the gates to the final group of walkers. He took several deep breaths as he stared at the trapped corpses.

“Let’s clear the inside.” Rick said as he wiped the blade of his knife on his pants.

Daryl nodded, took one last look at the walkers and followed the others inside.

He slipped his crossbow off his shoulder and armed it. It was cooler inside the dark building, quieter as well. An eerie quiet. The hairs on his arms and the back of his neck stood end.

Rick took the lead and headed up a flight of stairs to an observation tower. A moment, he came back down, a bundle of keys in his hand. He tossed another ring of keys toward him, which he caught.

Goody. I get to play warden. Daryl thought as he turned the ring over in his hand.

Stuffing the keys into his back pocket, he raised his crossbow and followed Rick and the others deeper into the prison. Flashlight guided the way in the pitch black tunnels, lined with rusted steel doors. Most of them hung on hinges while others were locked tight.

Glenn spray painted the walls, pointing in the direction they’d come from. Good idea. He didn’t want to get lost in this maze of death and darkness.

Hissing echoed in the quiet halls and he tensed. He aimed his crossbow toward the noise and he stepped closer to Rick.

“Up ahead.” Rick whispered, pointed down the corridor.

Daryl nodded and led the way. A beam of light revealed a long dead prisoner, its jumpsuit torn and its hair hanging in tangled strings. It turned and snarled at him, shuffling toward him. He fired the arrow, striking the creature in the eye. It fell to the ground, but more waited in the wings.

“Back up.” Rick ordered and Daryl backed away. The corridor was too narrow for them to fight this group of walkers.

Rick took the lead again and headed down a different corridor. A group of walkers shuffled into view from the opposite direction and Rick skidded to a stop, causing Daryl to run into him.

“The other way.” Rick shouted and turned the group back around.

Daryl gritted his teeth as he glared at the corpses. He could take care of this problem in less than a minute, but he wouldn’t. He didn’t want these people to look at him differently. It frustrated and angered him.

Merle’s laughter echoed in his ears. Why don’t you take these walkers out, little brother? What’s stopping you?

I don’t want them to fear me.

Merle snorted. You’re a demon, boy. They’re suppose to fear you.

Daryl shook his head as he raced down the corridor after the others. You wouldn’t understand. You left before you got to know them.

You’re getting’ soft, little brother. Next thing you know, you’ll be on a leash, obeyin’ what ever they tell you to do.

Daryl snarled. I’m not on a damn leash. I do whatever the hell I want!

Merle laughed. Really, Daryl? When was the last time you made sweet love to that woman of yours?

Shit. Merle was right. He’d allowed Lori and her condemnation to squash every opportunity to have sex with Carol.

Something shoved him up against a wall, scattering his thoughts. His crossbow slipped from his fingers and he blinked into the decaying face of a walker. He gathered enough of his thoughts to put an arm between him and the corpse. The creature drew closer, snapping its jaws. Narrowing his eyes, he shoved the walker from him and drew his dagger from its sheath. He stabbed the creature in the head and stumbled back into the wall as the walker tumbled to the floor.

“Daryl!” T-Dog’s voice brought his attention to the others. Deep in his thoughts, he’d fallen behind. He picked up his crossbow then raced to catch up to the others.

“In here.” Rick pushed him into a small dark room and Rick closed the door.

Daryl slid down the wall and closed his eyes as he caught his breath. Screw Lori and her disapproval. Once we clear this place, I’m gonna take Carol and fuck her senseless. Hell, might even do it in front of Lori. Might show her a thing or two.

The others stood up and the door squealed as Rick pulled it open. Smiling to himself as images of Carol beneath filled his mind, Daryl climbed to his feet and armed his crossbow. He followed the others back out into the hallway, his eyes out for walkers. He couldn’t wait to get back to Carol and prove to her there were things stronger than fear.

Chapter Text

Daryl sat on the top step of the stairs as the others filed in to the cell block. He twirled an arrow in his hand as his gaze wandered over to Carol. She stared at all the cells, her eyes wide. She held her blanket wrapped belongings tighter to her chest and stepped closer to Lori.

He sighed and climbed to his feet. He didn’t blame her for being uncertain of the place, but she didn’t have anything to fear. He headed down the steps and Carol turned her gaze on him. She smiled at him and his heart skipped a beat. He offered her a small smile as he drew near.

“Tomorrow, we’re gonna try to clear some more of this place.” He mentioned as he took the bundle from her arms. “Try to find the commissary and armory.”

Carol nodded and cleared her throat. Her face turned red and he narrowed his eyes. The blush looked adorable on her, but he knew the reason her face burned. He leveled a glare at Lori.

“What?” He growled.

Lori averted her eyes and tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. She cleared her throat and headed up the stairs.

“She doesn’t know about you anymore.” Carol whispered. “You saved her life, but she can’t shake the feeling of darkness from you.”

Daryl sighed. “We need to stop doin’ this dance we’re doin’.”

Carol blinked at him. “What dance?”

He looked at the others as they filed into the cells, laying claim to new territory. He realized there wouldn’t be much in the way of privacy and any conversation anyone had would be within ear shot. His interest in Carol wasn’t a secret, but he knew she valued her privacy. He wouldn’t call Carol shy, but he understood her need not to have her life laid out for all to see.

With this in mind, he motioned for her to follow him. He led her to a corner underneath the stairs. He leaned back against the wall, keeping on eye on the others. They continued moving their belongings into their cells.

“Daryl?” Carol’s concerned voice brought his attention to her. A crease formed between her eyebrows as she looked at him.

“This dance we’re doin’ cause of Lori.” He whispered. “It can’t continue. We shouldn’ let her dictate what we do. It ain’t none of her business.”

Carol sighed and folded her arms against her chest. She stared at the floor and took a deep breath. Daryl watched her, his pulse pounding in his ears. Would he want to hear what she had to say? Would he even like it? Could he listen to her if she told him to stay away from her? Should he?

“Lori could have the baby any day now.” She looked at him as she took her belongings from him. “I need to put my focus on her.”

Daryl narrowed his eyes. “She warned you away from me again last night, didn’ she?”

Carol sighed and placed her hand on his face. He closed his eyes as electric heat flowed through him. He shuddered at her touch as a wave of desire crashed into him.

He took her hand and tugged her closer to him. She gasped, placing the bundle between them. He growled, holding her gaze as he pressed a kiss on each knuckle.

She licked her lips and warmth flooded him. His erection strained against his jeans and he knew if he didn’t have her right now, he’d explode.

“Daryl.” The warning in her voice dumped cold water on him.

“I want you.” He whispered, taking the bundle from her arms and dropping it on the floor. He pulled her against him, pressing her into his pelvis.

“Please, Daryl.” She placed her hands on his chest, ready to push him away.

He rested his forehead against hers and breathed in her scent. Frustration replaced his desire as her worry seeped into his brain. How could he get it through to her that he didn’t care what Lori did or said? Carol didn’t have anything to worry about. Lori couldn’t hurt him, no matter how or what she tried.

“Wait just a little longer.” Carol whispered, running her hands over his chest. “Once she has the baby, she’ll be focused on it more than us. She won’t even notice us then.”

Daryl placed her hands on the sides of her face and stared into her eyes. He saw within them how much she wanted him, how much she cared about him. His breathing grew uneven as the realization hit him. She wanted to protect him, keep him safe. He would’ve laughed if he didn’t know the reason for her trepidation. Waking up to him bleeding in bed had shaken her to her core. She didn’t want it to happen again. He didn’t know how to convince her it wouldn’t.

“All right.” He kissed the corners of her mouth. “We’ll wait until she has the baby.” He pressed a kiss to her lips. It took all he had not to ravish her then and there.

He stepped back, releasing her. Carol licked her lips and he groaned. He picked up the bundle and tossed it to her. He headed back up the stairs where he’d placed his belongings. He watched her through hooded eyes as she climbed the stairs after him. She smiled at him as she walked by him.

“Not taking a cell?” She asked.

Daryl shook his head as he tossed a pillow he’d taken from a cell onto the floor. He didn’t want to spend a night in one of those cramped rooms. He wasn’t claustrophobic, but he didn’t want to be reminded of darker times. Times when he was younger and his world was darker, full of death and blood. He pushed the thoughts away before they fully formed, grabbed a blanket and plopped down on the mattress he’d brought out from a cell.

“You can share with me.” Carol offered as she stood over him.

He looked up at her. “Too much of a temptation.”

She snorted and turned from him. “Suit yourself.”

He rolled his eyes and turned over on his side. They both knew he wouldn’t be able to keep his hands to himself if they shared a cell. He’d be all over her the moment he stepped inside. She wanted him to be safe, yet she kept offering herself to him at every turn. It frustrated and annoyed the hell out of him.

Make up your damn mind, woman.

****

Daryl aimed his crossbow at the convicts as the others wheeled Hershel into the cell block. He narrowed his eyes as he pushed into their minds, trying to find what they feared the most. He wanted to get rid of these people. He didn’t trust them, didn’t want them anywhere near Carol.

The leader of the convicts aimed his gun at him, but Daryl ignored him.

“Why don’ you turn back around and leave.” He growled. He itched to use his powers on these people, but T-Dog hid in a corner right behind him. He wasn’t in the mood to explain himself if one of these convicts happened to go flying across the room.

“Why don’t you leave.” The convict with the gun snapped. “This is our house now.”

“No, it ain’t.” Daryl pushed further into the man’s mind. Everyone feared something, no matter how deep they buried it. “We cleared the walkers out of this place while you hid. It’s ours.”

The convict stepped closer, gun raised. “How many people do you have in there?”

“Ain’t your concern.” Daryl didn’t move from his position. It took all he had not to rip the man’s head off. He fought down the urge to set them all on fire. They were too close to the others; too close to Carol.

“Why don’t you back up.” T-Dog ordered as he came out of his hiding place.

The convict’s eyes widened and he backed up, hands raised. Daryl pushed from the table as the prison door to the cell block opened. Rick strode into the room, his arm resting on his holstered gun.

“How’s Hershel?” T-Dog asked.

“Out cold.” Rick answered, taking in the convicts before them. “Carol and Lori are trying to stop the bleeding.”

“What’d we do with them?” Daryl asked as he lowered his weapon and placed it on the table.

Rick sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “Let’s talk it over with the others.”

Daryl snorted. “What happened to this not being a democracy?”

Rick scoffed. “I didn’t say anything about not taking advice.”

Daryl rolled his eyes and grabbed his crossbow off the table. He slipped his arm through the strap then motioned toward the door leading outside. He didn’t wait for permission and strode toward the door, glaring at the lead convict as he walked by. He shoved the door open and stepped into the sunlight.

Daryl strode across the courtyard, stopping once he reached the Suburban. He leaned against it and closed his eyes. He drew in a deep breath as he forced himself to relax. He’d wanted to kill those convicts. It’d been easier for everyone if he had. Now, they had to talk about how to deal with them.

He ran a hand through his hair and paced. He didn’t want to talk about dealing with the convicts. They’d bring nothing but trouble, he could feel it. Especially that leader. He’d seen the darkness in the man’s eyes. He’d seen it in the mirror many times before. Nothing good would come out of letting these convicts live.

“Daryl?” Carol’s voice broke through his thoughts. He turned and saw her furrowed brow. He took in her deep red sleeveless top and wrapped head. He wanted to rip the top off her and kiss every inch of her.

He cupped her face in his hands and took her mouth with his. He pressed her against the Suburban as he thrust his tongue between her lips. He didn’t care if anyone say them, he didn’t care if anyone happened to pass by. All he cared about was her and this moment.

He left her mouth and trailed kisses up her jaw to her ear. She shivered against his hold and his dick strained to reach her.

“I can’ take this anymore.” Daryl whispered into her ear as he placed his hands on the Suburban near her head. “I need to bury my cock inside you or I’ll go insane.”

He flicked his tongue at her earlobe and a low moan escaped her. He looked at her as she placed her hands on his chest. Her eyes darkened and electricity surged through him.

“No one’s ever talked to me like that.” She whispered. “Not even Ed.”

He smirked as he ran a finger down her face and across her lips. “I’m through talkin’.”

“There you are.” Rick stepped around the Suburban.

Carol ducked under Daryl’s arm and he groaned. He shoved from the vehicle and faced Rick. Rick cocked his head to the side as he looked from Daryl to Carol.

“Interrupt something?” A small smile played on Rick’s lips.

“You know you did.” Daryl growled as he stepped around Rick.

“Sorry.”

“No, you’re not.” Daryl snapped.

T-Dog, Glenn and Maggie soon joined them and all amorous thoughts left him. He leaned against the vehicle as the others gathered. His gaze never roamed far from Carol as thoughts of how to get her alone filled his mind. What he said to her was true. He wasn’t all talk and he didn’t want to be all talk. He wanted her and he’d be damned if he was going to wait until Lori had her baby. That could be days away or another month.

Ain’t no way I’m waitin’ another month.

First though, they needed to deal with this convict problem. If they weren’t going to kill them, he wanted them out of the building. Let them take their chances out on the road. His group survived it, he didn’t see why the convicts couldn’t.

“We could clear out another cell block.” Maggie suggested. “We don’t see them, they don’t see us. Keep away from each other.”

Rick sighed and ran a hand through his hair. He paced away from the group and stared off into the distance. Daryl watched him, itching to take his frustrations out on the convicts. He could deal with this problem in no time and be down with it. If he was on his own, he would’ve killed all these convicts without blinking an eye. He looked over at Carol and knew he wouldn’t hesitate if it was her and him. He’d do anything to protect her, anything to keep her safe.

Maybe I should train her to use her powers. In case she’s ever without a gun or bullets.

Rick turned to face them. “All right. Daryl, me and T-Dog will help them clear out a block.”

Daryl pushed himself from the Suburban. “Let’s go talk to them, then.”

****

Daryl stared up at the ceiling as he lay on his makeshift bed. Trying to clean out another cell block had been a disaster. Two of the convicts were dead and another ran off. Fed up with the whole thing, he’d wandered back on his own while T-Dog and Rick finished up.

Carol and Lori were still working on Hershel when he returned. His legs carried him up the steps where he fell onto his bed and stayed there. He was worn out he didn’t even notice Lori or Carol come up the stairs to their cells.

Now, though, he was wide awake and staring at the ceiling. His thoughts wandered back to the convicts and how the whole situation went from bad to worse.

I knew I should’ve taken care of them myself. Would’ve saved us all this shit.

He wasn’t worried about the two in the other block. He knew they’d keep to themselves. It was the one that’d ran off he was worried about. If he hadn’t been eaten by a walker, that twerp could come back and hurt any one of them. He could find a way into C block and do some damage.

I should hunt him down and deal with him before he kills someone.

Daryl sat up and stared into Carol’s cell. He didn’t want anything to happen to her. He didn’t want her to be caught out there alone where Andrew might come across her. He ran a hand through his hair and sighed.

I have to go after him. End him before he ends us.

“You’re still awake.” Rick’s voice floated up to him from the bottom of the stairs.

“Yeah.” He answered, too tired to be snarky. “Keep thinkin’ about that guy that ran off.”

Rick came up the steps and leaned on the railing. He folded his arms across his chest and leveled a gaze at him. Or Daryl thought he did. It was hard to tell in the dark even with the light from the moon filtering in.

“I chased him to a small courtyard where a bunch of walkers were. I shut the door on him. He couldn’t escape that, Daryl. Don’t worry about it.”

Daryl shook his head. “I can’t shake this feelin’, Rick. It’s gonna come back to bite us in the ass.”

Rick sighed. “I’ll check that courtyard tomorrow then. Give you some peace of mind.”

“I’ll check it myself.” Daryl offered. “You have enough to worry about.”

Rick nodded. “Thanks. I count on you a lot, don’t I?”

Daryl snorted and brought his legs up to his chest. “Not any more than the others.”

“That’s where I think you’re wrong.” Rick squatted in front of him. “I wouldn’t put in one else in charge of this group. I wouldn’t trust anyone else with the lives of these people.”

Daryl’s breath left him and he closed his eyes. The man was crazy for putting him in charge of anything. If he knew what he truly was… He shoved the thoughts aside. No one here had changed more than him. He’d proven himself to these people and Rick saw it as did Carol. He ran a hand over his face as he fought the racing emotions.

“I just wanted to prove I could be a part of this group.” He winced at the thickness in his voice. Hell, he was getting soft. He needed to kill something before he forgot what he really was.

“You are a part of this group.” Rick said as he stood. “You didn’t have to prove anything, Daryl. Carol put her trust in you and that was enough for me.”

Daryl shook his head, still not believing Rick’s words. After everything he’d done to this group and to others, he doubted he’d ever stop trying to prove himself. He wanted to prove he was good enough for Carol. He doubted he’d be able to, but he wanted to try.

He stared at the door to her cell and his heart ached to be with her.

“She’s all I think about.” Daryl whispered as he stared at his hands. “Hell, I even dream about her.”

Rick chuckled and sat beside him. “Yeah, it kinda shows. I think everyone knows.”

Daryl scoffed and stretched his legs out in front of him. “Great. There goes my tough guy image.”

Rick slapped him on the back. “You’ll always have a tough guy image. Hell, you still scare me sometimes.”

Daryl smiled to himself. If he could still scare the big bad former cop then he didn’t have to worry about going soft. He could protect this group with his abilities and they didn’t have to realize what he was. He’d take care of Andrew and sate his bloodlust at the same time.

“Thanks.” He said. “Gotta take care of my image.”

“Get some sleep, Daryl.” Rick said, climbing to his feet. “We still need to find the commissary and check on the administration building.”

Daryl nodded and watched Rick head back downstairs. His gaze traveled to Carol’s cell as Rick’s words settled into his brain. Even if he didn’t need to prove himself to her, he still had to prove he was good enough for her. He knew he shouldn’t care what the others thought of him, but if Lori could cause Carol to fear for his safety, he didn’t want to find out what the others would do if they didn’t want him within an inch of Carol.

He lay back down on his bed and closed his eyes. He’d need sleep to deal with the wayward convict and any other issues that came his way. He wanted to be prepared for them and not caught off guard. He’d been caught off guard by Lori, but this time, he wanted to be prepared for any thing the others might throw at him.

Chapter Text

Daryl opened the door to the small courtyard Rick had seen Andrew run out of. A few walkers shuffled around the space, but he didn’t see the convict. A couple walkers turned toward him.

“Damn it.” He growled. He waved his right hand and sent two of the walkers into the chain link fence.

He held his hand out to another and it stopped its forward movement toward him. He raised his hand and the walker rose into the air. It struggled against his hold. His sight turned red and curled his hand into a fist. The walker’s head caved in, blood oozing out of its eyes.

His sight returned to normal as he lowered his hand and the walker dropped to the ground. The remaining walkers climbed to their feet, but he slammed the door closed and headed back down the hall. He hadn’t seen any remains of a body. The convict was still out there.

I need to find this guy before he does some damage.

He strode back into C block and saw everyone gathered near Hershel’s cell. Carol wrapped Hershel’s leg and Daryl watched her work, a sense of wonder washing over him. He’d watched her during their time on the road, learning from Hershel.

Daryl leaned against the wall and watched her work. He couldn’t help, but wanted her more. It went against his destructive nature, but he didn’t care. She opened a part of himself he thought didn’t exist, showed him things he didn’t think were possible. His brother would think him soft, but he didn’t agree. It made him more dangerous. If anything happened to her, no one would be safe from his rage.

He pushed himself from the wall and headed outside. He blinked against the brightness of the sun as he strode through the courtyard. He spotted the others moving the cars, but he didn’t join them. He needed to find Andrew.

He strode close to the fence, keeping his eye out for movement that wasn’t a walker. The prison was large, allowing for an unlimited amount of places to hide. The convict didn’t count on Daryl being the one hunting him. He smirked as he sent his mind out, searching for the convict. If he could find Andrew’s mind, he could find the convict.

Maybe even give him a scare.

“Daryl!” Rick’s voice interrupted his search. He growled low in his throat as he turned toward Rick.

The man headed up the hill. He ran a hand through his sweat drenched hair as he stepped into pace with Daryl.

“Need somethin’?” Daryl asked.

“We’re moving the vehicles inside the fence.” Rick answered. “Thought you might want to help.”

Daryl shrugged. Helping move the cars wouldn’t hinder his mental search for Andrew.

“Not a problem.” He replied as he adjusted his crossbow on his shoulder. He looked ahead of him and saw two figures strolling toward the fence. He narrowed his eyes and raised his hand to block out the sun. The two remaining convicts dared to leave their cell block.

“I’ll go see what they want.” Rick motioned down the hill. “You deal with the vehicles.”

Daryl nodded and glared at the convicts. He didn’t know what they wanted and he didn’t care. What he cared about was finding the one that got away. He still had to be in the prison somewhere. Sneering, he turned and headed back down the hill. He sent out his mind again, touching each and every living person within the walls of the prison.

He touched Carol’s mind and warmth flooded him. She was frantic, but determined. He entered her mind and mentally caressed her, hoping to calm her. Her mind relaxed, but continued to worry about the blood loss.

Daryl left her mind and continued his search for Andrew. Glenn climbed out of a silver truck and headed over to him.

“What are they doing out?” He asked, nodding toward the convicts.

Daryl glanced over at them then headed for his bike. “Don’ know. Don’ care.”

“I don’t like the idea of them so close by.” Glenn said, chasing after him. “We should’ve just let them go.”

Daryl climbed onto his bike. “I don’ like it either, but it’s already been decided.”

He started the engine, revving it up to block out anything else Glenn had to say. He smirked as Glenn glared at him, crossing his arms against his chest.

“You’re an ass.” Glenn shouted over the bike.

“Can’ hear you.” Daryl yelled back and sped by Glenn to join the line of vehicles behind the fence.

****

Daryl opened the door to the small courtyard where Andrew had vanished. He snarled as the remaining walkers shuffled toward him. He flung a fireball at the nearest creature and watched with a dark smile as the thing burst into flames. He flung lightning at another and it jerked in place from the jolts. It tumbled to the ground as another walker shambled toward him.

How the hell could he not find one simple mind? It shouldn’t have been difficult. The only reason he couldn’t find Andrew was because the guy was dead or too far away. If he was dead, where the hell was his body? Even if he’d been eaten by a walker there should’ve been something remaining.

Frustrated, Daryl grabbed a walker and flung it into the wall behind him. He shoved his clawed hand into the creature’s back, grabbed its heart and ripped it out. Fire burst around the organ and he flung it at another walker shuffling toward him. He turned back to the walker in front of him in time to jump back from the thing’s gnashing teeth. He slashed his claws across the creature’s face then slammed his foot into the walker’s stomach, sending it stumbling back into the wall.

Burning flesh filled his nose as he shoved his talons into the walker’s face far enough to reach the brain. He yanked his hand out and the corpse slumped to the ground without a sound. Breathing hard, Daryl turned, taking in his handy work.

Corpses lay scattered in the small courtyard, some still on fire. He breathed in the aroma, letting it sate his bloodlust.

I’ll find that son of a bitch. He can’ hide forever.

Finally calm, Daryl strode toward the door, but it was closed. He narrowed his eyes as he debated ripping it open. He tossed the thought aside. He didn’t have to rip it off the wall. He raised his hand, closed his eyes and concentrated. A surge of power sparked through him as he envisioned the other side of the door. He pictured the door handle and focused on it turning. A click sounded in the silence and he smiled. Creaking filled his ears and he opened his eyes as the door swung open.

He stepped back into the prison, closing the door behind him. He strode down the corridor, his footsteps echoing off the walls. He sent his mind out one last time, but only found the thoughts and feelings of his group.

I’ll search the damn forest tomorrow. He turned a corner and entered C block. The squeak of the cell door rang through the silence.

Lori stepped out of the Hershel’s cell and strode toward him. He closed the door and prepared himself for her onslaught.

“Guess we need to oil the hinges.” She whispered.

Daryl stared at her then at the cell. “No kiddin’.”

He stepped around her, but she grabbed his arm. He glared at her then at her hand. If this was another of her attempts to keep him from Carol, she was in for a world of hurt.

Her nails dug into his skin. “She needs to concentrate.”

His gaze flew up to her face. “What?”

Lori sighed and released his arm. “She’s trying to heal Hershel.”

He blinked. He knew that already. He’d watched her place gauzes on the stump earlier. Why would she need to concentrate for that? Static rippled through him and the hairs on his arms stood up. A small smile curved his lips.

“She’s using her powers.” He spun on his heel and strode toward Hershel’s cell.

“Don’t distract her.” Lori grabbed his arm once again.

Daryl said nothing as he watched Carol. A golden glow illuminated her face and spread over Hershel’s leg. A crease formed between her closed eyes and sweat beaded across her forehead. He’d never seen anything more beautiful. At that moment, he wanted to take her in his arms and bury himself inside her. He didn’t care if others were near by or even watched.

The glow vanished and Carol fell back into Maggie’s arms. Daryl wrenched himself from Lori’s grip, pushed his way passed Carl and dropped to his knees beside Carol.

“She’s all right.” Maggie said as she rubbed Carol’s arm. “She just passed out.”

Daryl took Carol’s hand in his and squeezed it. “I’m here.”

She opened her eyes and stared at him. A smile graced her lips as she squeezed his hand.

“I healed him.” Carol whispered. “I healed Hershel. He was bleeding so much.”

“You need to rest now.” Maggie ordered.

Maggie helped Carol to her feet and Daryl backed out of the cell to let them through. He followed them up the stairs and to Carol’s cell. He leaned against the cell door as Maggie helped her into bed.

“Thank you.” Maggie whispered as Carol lay down.

“I had to try something.” Carol remarked. “I’m just glad it worked.”

“Get some sleep.” Maggie patted her arm then joined him at the cell door. “Did you know she could do that?”

Daryl shook his head. “No. She told me she had powers, but I didn’t think she could heal.”

He didn’t know what she was capable of other than sending jolts of electricity through him. He wanted to find out, he wanted to help her harness those powers and protect herself. Sighing, he pushed from the cell door and strode down the stairs.

First, he needed to find Andrew and put an end to him. If nothing else, he had to find the body.

He stepped into the common area and sat at the table. He placed his head in his hands and took in a deep breath. The scent of cooking food drifted to his nose and he looked up to see Beth stirring in a large pot.

The door on his left opened, letting in the setting sun. Rick, T-Dog and Glenn stepped inside.

“Carol healed Hershel.” Maggie greeted them with a large grin on her face. “He’s going to be fine.”

“That’s a relief.” Glenn said as he hugged Maggie.

A body plopped itself down in front of Daryl, bringing his attention to it. Lori stared at him and he raised an eyebrow.

“Somethin’ you want?” He fought to keep from growling. Being so close to giving birth, he didn’t want to upset her or somehow send her into labor. It wasn’t easy, though. After all she’d done to him, it was difficult not to bristle whenever she was near.

Lori stared at her hands and he gritted his teeth to keep from snapping at her. He took a deep breath to calm himself and focused on Carol. Thinking about her always seemed to put him at ease.

“I want to know that you’ll protect this baby.” She whispered, bringing his attention back to her.

He narrowed his eyes. “What kind of question is that? Of course, I will.”

Lori looked at him, her gaze searching. “You confuse me, Daryl. I sense this darkness coming off you, but you go out of your way to help us. You’re a walking contradiction.”

He scoffed and folded his arms across his chest. “Want to keep you on your toes.”

Lori shook her head and sighed. “You fight along side this group. You save my life. You saved Carol’s. Yet, I can’t deny what I sense from you. What are you?”

Daryl stared at her. He knew if he told her, she wouldn’t hesitate to tell Rick or Carol. He couldn’t have that. As much as he tried to deny it, he wanted to be a part of this group. They gave him what he didn’t think he needed, a sense of belonging and acceptance. It had changed him and he knew if they found out what he was, they’d take it away.

“You don’ want to know.” He growled. “Trust me. You’re better not knowin’.”

He got up from the table before she forced the issue. He headed up the stairs and strode toward Carol’s cell. He leaned against the cell door as he gazed upon her.

You can’ ever know what I am. I can’ lose you. I’d be worse than I am now if that ever happened.

He closed his eyes as images of fighting Carol and the others flashed in his mind.

“You’re not human, are you?” Lori’s voice broke into his thoughts.

Goddamn it. He growled as he turned to face her. “Let it go, Lori.”

She narrowed her eyes as she folded her arms across her chest. Ice rushed through him as he realized she’d continue to badger him until she got an answer. His hands curled into fists as his pulse pounded in his ears.

“Are you worried I’d tell Carol?” Lori nodded toward the bed. “Is that it?”

Daryl sighed and ran a hand over his face. If he had a worst nightmare, this would be it. He leaned his head back against the metal bars and glared at Lori.

“I ain’t gonna tell you.”

Lori took a step toward him. “I’m going to get it out of you, one way or another, Daryl. You might as well tell me now.”

He snorted and pushed by her. What game was she playing at now? She’d never get anything out of him, no matter how much she threatened him. What could she do to him anyway?

He headed down the steps and out the door. The cool evening air greeted him, cooling his temper. He closed his eyes and breathed it in, letting it soothe him. He strode across the courtyard toward the fence, separating the yard from the field. He stared at the expanse of grass, letting his gaze wander.

Gravel crunched behind him and he sighed. He turned, leaning back against the fence as Rick strode toward him.

“Not in the mood, Rick.” He bit out.

Rick raised his hands. “Not here to talk about your spat with Lori.”

Daryl scoffed and cross his arms against his chest. “Then what?”

Rick stood beside him and stared out over the field. “I need you and Glenn to scope out that town we went through a couple weeks ago. See if there’s anything worth scavenging.”

“What supplies are we running low on?”

“Medical supplies.” Rick answered. “I know Carl found the infirmary, but there was only a month’s worth. We’ll need more.”

“Carol can heal.” Daryl put in.

“I still want to be prepared, especially with the baby coming.”

Daryl pushed from the fence. “I’ll head out bright and early then.”

Rick placed a hand on his shoulder. “Thanks.”

Daryl nodded and headed back inside. The others sat at the tables eating whatever Beth had concocted from the supplies. He caught Lori staring at him, but he continued on into the cell block. She could stare at him all she wanted, but he wouldn’t tell her the truth he was a demon.

He hurried up the stairs and to Carol’s cell. He stepped inside and knelt beside her bed. He ran a finger over her forehead and down her cheek. She stirred, but didn’t open her eyes. He pressed a kiss to her lips then her forehead.

“You really care about her, don’t you?”

Daryl bit back a growl and stood. He scowled at Lori as she stood in the doorway to the cell. She ran her hand over her pregnant belly as she stared back at him.

“Took you this long to figure it out?” He snapped, trying to keep his voice low.

Lori looked at Carol’s resting form then back to him. He narrowed his eyes, daring her to wake Carol.

“No, I just didn’t want to believe it.” She whispered.

“I ain’t answerin’ your question, so don’ ask.”

She sighed and stepped away from the door. He sneered and strode out of the cell. He marched to his make-shift bed and plopped down onto it. He gathered his blankets and shifted onto the bed.

“I’m going to get an answer out of you someday, Daryl.” Lori stood over him, but he didn’t look up.

“No, you’re not. You have no idea how stubborn I can be.”

Lori laughed. “I think I do.”

He snorted as he lay down, covering himself in the blankets. He stared up at her as she stood at the foot of his mattress. If she really thought she knew his stubbornness, she didn’t know him at all. None of them did.

Lori sighed and stepped around the bed to kneel beside him. He raised an eyebrow at her. She placed a hand on his arm and he tensed. He stared at her, ready to defend himself.

“I want to trust you.” She whispered. “I want to trust you with this group, with my child. I’ve seen how you fight for us, protect us and I’m grateful for that. I want to trust you, but I can’t. I don’t know what you are, but I know you’re not human.”

“You can trust me.” Daryl sat up and faced Lori. “I will fight for this group, protect them with my life. I’ll protect your child, Lori. But I will never tell you what I am.”

Lori released his arm and ran her hands over her face. She sighed and wiped her eyes. He hadn’t realized she’d been crying. He grumbled to himself and lay back down.

“You will tell me.” She hissed at him.

Daryl closed his eyes and turned over onto his side away from her. Let her think what she will, he knew better. He’d kept the truth from them for this long and he’d continue to keep it.

Chapter Text

Carol watched from the courtyard as Daryl and Glenn climbed into the silver truck. She took a deep breath and tried to convince herself Daryl could take care of himself. Her nerves had other ideas, though. Since they left the farm, she’d never been apart from him. It felt strange and unnerving.

Gravel crunched behind her and she sighed. She rested her head against the fence as the truck’s engine roared to life.

“He’s not human.”

Carol stared at Lori. “Who’s not human?”

Lori nodded toward the truck and Carol narrowed her eyes. She didn’t like the implication.

“Daryl’s not human.” Lori placed her back against the fence. “He didn’t deny it, either. He won’t tell me what he is, though.”

Carol shook her head. “He’s not human?”

Lori looked at her and placed a hand on her shoulder. “He’s afraid of you finding out. He cares about you. I saw it in his eyes.”

“Then why are you telling me this?” Carol blinked at Lori. Is she still trying to get me away from Daryl?

“I thought you should known that he’s keeping this from you.” Lori sighed and looked at her hands. “He doesn’t want you to know. He won’t tell me what he is and I very much doubt he’ll tell you.”

Carol watched the truck drive through the last prison gate and down the road. She didn’t know what to make of what Lori told her. She didn’t know if she could believe it. She wanted to believe he’d never lied to her, but keeping the truth of what he was from her was close enough. She sighed and looked at Lori.

“He didn’t deny it?” Carol’s voice cracked and she took a deep breath.

Lori shook her head. “He refused to say anything else.” She took a step closer. “It’d explain what I sense from him.”

Carol fought the urge to roll her eyes. “You’re still on that? He saved your life.”

Lori blushed a bright red and she looked away. “I’m not denying that and I’m grateful, but I have to think of my child.”

“Daryl won’t hurt your baby.” Carol narrowed her eyes. “He’ll protect it like anyone else in the group.”

Lori sighed and ran her hand over her stomach. “I know.”

“Then why are you so worried about him not being human? Why should it even matter?”

Lori’s eyes flashed. “Because I want to know what he is. I want to know what my family has let into this group.”

Carol’s stomach twisted into a knot as ice water sliced down her spine. She placed a hand over her mouth as she backed away from Lori.

Lori reached out and grabbed her arm. “You need to find out what he is, Carol. He’ll talk to you.”

“What makes you think he’ll tell me?”

Lori’s eyes softened and a wisp of a smile curved her lips. “He loves you, Carol.”

Carol’s breath left her and she stared at the spot the truck had been. Tears welled in her eyes as her heart sped. Daryl loved her. A smile broke out over her lips and a laugh escaped her. She felt as if she could walk on air.

“Daryl loves me?” Carol stared at the blurry image of Lori.

Lori shrugged. “Anyone can see that, but I sensed it.”

Carol wiped her eyes then looked down at herself. She grabbed the bottom of her beige shirt and sighed. Even after finding her confidence and being in a relationship with Daryl, she still wore clothes Ed had demanded she wear. She needed to build a new wardrobe.

“You need to get him to tell you what he is.” Lori reminded her.

She narrowed her eyes at the other woman. “Why, so you can figure out a way to kill him?”

Lori’s eyes widened and she stepped back. “No!”

“You want the others to kill him?” Energy gathered around her hands, sparking and tingling. She curled her fingers into her palms as she stepped closer to Lori.

Lori shook her head. “I just want to know what the hell he is.”

“If the others know he’s not human, they won’t let him stay. Hell, they might not even let him live.” She took another step toward Lori. “Do you want him out of my life so badly, you’re willing to risk his death? Do you want to do that to me?”

Lori bumped into a stone bench as she stared at Carol’s hands. Carol looked at them and saw gold lightning dancing around her fists. She blinked and shook her hands, getting rid of the lightning. She stared at Lori as the other woman trembled.

Carol wrapped her arms around herself. “Sorry.”

Lori sat hard on the bench and took in a large gulp of air. “I don’t want him dead, Carol.”

Carol opened her mouth to reply, but movement from her right caught her attention. She looked in that direction and saw several forms shuffling into the courtyard. Ice cold fear wrapped around her and squeezed.

“Walkers.”

Lori stood as the creatures headed toward them. She took out her gun and fired, hitting one and attracting the rest to her.

“There’s too many of them.” Carol grabbed Lori’s arm and pulled her toward the nearest entrance.

She spotted Maggie, Hershel with a new pair of crutches, and Beth. She waved her arm to get their attention. “Walkers!”

Their eyes widened and they attempted to head back to the door. Lori stopped and fired again. A walker went down, causing another to trip over it.

T-Dog raced toward her, his eyes wide. He carried a riot shield with him and a baton. Black blood coated his head and arms. She blinked at him as the man heaved in a breath.

“Someone opened the gate over there.” He pointed behind him with the baton. “Walkers got out. I killed two of them, but they got out.”

“We have more coming this way.” Lori shouted as she fired off another shot. “Where’s Carl?”

“Last I saw he was with his dad.” T-Dog scratched his forehead.

Carol’s heart raced as she looked around them. They were flanked by two groups of walkers. Maggie and Beth were helping their father to the fenced in door as two walkers shuffled toward them. She stepped toward them as she raised her hand.

“Beth, walkers!” Gold lightning flew from her hand and struck a walker in its chest. It stumbled back as Beth turned to fight off the other walker.

Carol stared at her hand then at T-Dog, who shrugged. A smaller group of walkers ambled came up behind him. She grabbed his arm, flung another bolt of lightning at the group, and pulled him toward the nearest door.

“Carol!” Lori shouted as she headed toward Maggie’s group.

“Get inside.” Carol shouted as T-Dog slammed his baton into a corpse’s head.

She held her hand out as a walker reached for her. It stumbled backward, tripping over its own feet. Laughter escaped her as she followed T-Dog back into the building. He pulled the door shut, plunging them into darkness.

“I suppose you don’t know how to conjure light?” T-Dog asked, breathing hard.

Carol shrugged and held out her hand, palm up. She closed her eyes, willing herself to concentrate. A ripple surge through her and she opened her eyes. A small ball of light hovered in the air before them.

“Damn.” T-Dog whispered. “Why’d you hide that?”

Carol smiled. “I didn’t even know I could do it.”

“Let’s find our way back to C block.” T-Dog took the lead down the corridor, the light illuminating their way.

They turned a corner and the light revealed two walkers in the middle of the hall. The creatures turned toward them and hissed. T-Dog swung his baton, connecting with the head of the nearest corpse. Blood splattered the wall and the walker spun around and fell to the ground. The remaining walker stepped over its companion and snarled.

“Move.” Carol pushed T-Dog to the side and sent a fireball through the air. It smashed into the walker, lighting its head on fire. It didn’t stop its pursuit.

T-Dog pushed the creature with his shield and shoved it into the wall. “Go!”

“What about you.” Carol shouted as she stepped over the fallen corpse.

“I’ll be right behind you.”

T-Dog beat the trapped creature in the head. “Go!”

Carol raced down the corridor, hoping T-Dog would catch up. She didn’t know her way around this part of the prison and she feared getting lost. She didn’t want to wander in this maze forever.

She turned a corner and ran into a walker. She fell backward and landed on her butt. She glared up at the creature as it turned toward her, gnashing its teeth. Her heart raced and she scooted backward, out of its reach. She hit the legs of a person and she looked up.

Her small ball of light revealed rotten teeth and gray mottled eyes. A scream escaped her and she forced herself to her feet and ran back down the corridor toward T-Dog. The corpse she lit on fire snarled at her as T-Dog scrambled to his feet. Another walker stood over him.

Anger welled inside her, burning through her veins. She narrowed her eyes and held her hands out. The walker in front of her flew backward down the hall. It collided with the one in front of T-Dog and they both flew down the hallway. Bones snapped and flesh squished as the walkers slammed into a wall at the end of the corridor.

Carol turned and waved her hand at the two walkers shuffled toward her. They flew back down the hallway to collide with a wall.

T-Dog held his hand against his shoulder as he pushed himself to his feet. His breathing grew ragged as he leaned against the wall.

“You’re bit.” Carol said, reaching for his shoulder.

T-Dog stepped out of her reach. “We need to get to C block. I know the way from here.”

“I can heal that.” Carol insisted as she reach for his shoulder.

T-Dog shook his head. “No time. Need to get you to C block.” He picked up his baton and pointed down the hall. “This way.”

Carol followed him as worry rose within her. She knew she could heal the wound, get rid of the infection before it spread too far. T-Dog, though was set on getting back to their part of the prison. She wouldn’t be able to heal him then. The infection would’ve spread through out his body by then. If she wanted to heal him, she’d have to do it now.

They turned the corner and Carol reached for his shoulder. A walker came out of the darkness and grabbed hold of T-Dog. He slammed the baton on the creature’s head and pushed it into the wall.

“It’s that way!” T-Dog hit the walker again. “Go. Now!”

“Not without you.”

T-Dog shook his head. “It’s too late. Just go!”

Another walker came out of the darkness and grabbed T-Dog. It bit into his arm and Carol flung a fireball at the creature. It burst into flames, but turned its attention to her. It growled and shambled toward her, its arms reaching for her. She stumbled backward, caught her balance then turned and ran.

Where the hell did these walkers come from? How did they get in?

She turned another corner and slammed into a walker. It hissed at her and she stabbed it in the eye with her knife. She kicked it, lost her balance and fell backward, hitting the wall behind her. The air left her lungs as she slipped to the floor. She shook her head and looked up. The walker she lit on fire fell to the ground, but the one she stabbed ambled toward her. She pushed herself to her feet and raced down the hallway. She leaped over the fallen walker and kept going.

Carol turned a corner and found more walkers standing around. The ball of light caught their attention and they stared at her.

Can’t go that way. She turned around and went back down the corridor. She couldn’t keep doing this. Eventually, she’d run out of places to go. She needed to find a place to hide, wait them out. She tried a door on her right, but it was locked. Growling, she tried the one on the left side of the hallway. It too was locked.

Damn it. She continued down the hall, trying various door as the growling and hissing behind her increased.

Fear twisted her stomach and clouded her mind. All she thought about was getting away, hiding. Images of Ed’s angry screaming face appeared in her mind. She shook her head to erase the image, but it turned into Ed as a walker, hissing and snarling.

Carol cried out as she yanked open a door. She stepped into the darkness and sank to the floor. She closed the door, but it wouldn’t stay closed. Covering her mouth to muffle her heavy breathing, she extinguished the light. She remained still as the walkers shuffled around in the hallway.

She closed her eyes as hot tears stung her eyes. For the first time in months, she felt as she did when her little girl disappeared; afraid and hopeless.

****

“Think we got enough stuff?” Glenn asked as they pulled through the gates of the prison.

Daryl glanced into the back of the truck and scoffed. “If we didn’, Rick can go back there and get it himself.”

Sacks of various medical supplies and food filled the bed of the truck. The pharmacy they found had been ransacked, but they were able to find what they needed. They’d searched through houses for the rest. The small grocery store hadn’t been as plundered. They took that to their advantage and grabbed some things not on the list.

He didn’t believe anything was left in that town now. He shook his head as he faced forward. The truck bounced to a stop and movement in the courtyard caught Daryl’s attention. He squinted up at the enclosure as he leaned forward. Muffle gunshot reached his ears and his pulsed sped.

“What the hell?” He climbed out of the truck and grabbed his crossbow from the bed. He climbed up the hill toward the second gate, his gaze trained on the commotion in the courtyard. It was then he saw the walkers.

“Hurry, Glenn, walkers.” He shouted down as he armed his crossbow. He raced toward the gate, taking stock of where everyone was. Hershel and Beth and locked themselves in a caged walker-free area. Bodies of walkers lay scattered around the ground. Rick and Carl stood in the middle of the courtyard, firing at the remaining walkers.

“Where are the others?” Daryl asked as he fired an arrow at a walker sneaking up behind Carl.

Rick slammed the butt of his gun at a walker that got too close. It crumbled to the ground at Rick’s feet. He looked up at Daryl, sweaty hair dripping into his eyes. He pointed to the door behind him.

“I saw Maggie and Lori head inside.”

Daryl scanned the courtyard. “What about Carol?”

Rick shook his head. “Don’t know. Maybe she went inside.”

Dread filled Daryl as he hurried toward the door. He yanked it open and stepped inside. It was dark, but all he thought about was finding Carol. He armed his weapon and hurried down the corridor.

A hand grabbed his arm, pulling him to a stop. He turned, glaring at Rick.

“You’re not going down there by yourself.” Rick hissed. “There might be walkers.”

Daryl yanked his arm out of Rick’s grip. “I ain’t afraid of walkers.”

“That’ll get you killed.” Rick whispered. He turned on his flashlight and stepped around Daryl. “We do this the smart way. Follow me.”

Daryl growled, but followed Rick down the corridor. He could use another set of eyes searching for Carol. Going through these tunnels half-cocked might not get him killed, but he it wouldn’t help him find Carol. He needed to find her. He didn’t want to think about what he’d do if he didn’t.

I’ll find her.

Like you found Sophia. Merle’s voice chided.

Shut up. I’m goin’ to find Carol.

Merle laughed in his head. Daryl pushed Merle to the back of his mind and focused on keeping on eye out for walkers. Footsteps padded behind him and he spun, aiming his crossbow at the intruder.

“Whoa.” Glenn raised his hands and took a step back. “Easy.”

Rick aimed his flashlight at Glenn, who blinked. “What the hell are you doing here? Where’s Carl?”

“The courtyard’s clear. Carl, me, Axel and Oscar finished wiping out the walkers out there. Carl went back inside to find Maggie and Lori.”

Daryl smirked. “And you thought to join us for more walker killin’ action.”

Glenn shrugged. “Thought you might need the help.”

“Thanks.” Rick said with a nod. “Keep an eye out for Carol as well. She’s down here somewhere.”

Daryl closed his eyes. He didn’t care how many walkers he had to go through to find Carol. He wasn’t going to give up until he found her.

I ain’t gonna leave her down here.

“Let’s go.” Rick took the lead, his flashlight and gun aiming into the darkness.

Chapter Text

Squelch

The arrow embedded itself in the walker’s forehead. The corpse fell face forward, but more hissed and snarled as they stumbled over the body in an attempt to reach them.

Daryl reloaded his crossbow as Rick and Glenn stepped around him and down another hallway away from the walkers. He followed after them, aiming his weapon back down the hallway in case the creatures were able to get over the body.

The scent of copper filled the air and Daryl turned around to see Rick and Glenn had stopped. He lowered his weapon as the two aimed their flashlights at a pile of fresh remains.

Daryl pushed his way through them. He stared at what appeared to be a freshly eaten body. Dread filled him as his heart raced with each step he took. The mid-section had been eaten out, the intestines splayed over the edges of the gaping wound. The corpse was too large to be Carol. He moved his beam up the body to the face, but the features had been chewed away. All he had to go on to identify the body were the clothes and the size. He sighed and turned to the others.

“It’s T-Dog.” Daryl mentioned as he looked around for walkers. There wasn’t a sign of Carol and he grew more anxious. He stepped around the body and continued down the corridor. He didn’t care about the walkers anymore, he wanted to find Carol.

Please be alive.

“Daryl!” Daryl ignored Rick’s shout as he turned down another corridor.

The beam of light caught the glint of an object lying in the middle of the floor. He picked it up and his heart sank. Black blood coated the blade of the knife belonging to Carol. He waved his beam around in an attempt to find more signs she’d been here. All the doors lining the hall were closed, but that wouldn’t stop him. He straightened and tried to the door closest to him. He yanked it open and shone his light into the blackness.

Nothing.

“Shit.” He slammed the door, not caring if the noise brought walkers or not. He stalked down the hall and tore open another door. Again nothing.

He gritted his teeth, fighting back the urge to call out her name. He shouldered his crossbow then tried to open another door. It wouldn’t budge even with his strength. He glared at it then kicked it.

Angry and terrified at what he might find inside, his sight turned red and he waved his hands. The door came off its hinges and flew down the hall, banging against the wall before it slammed to the floor. He aimed his flashlight inside the room, but found nothing. He roared and flung a fireball into the blackness.

“Daryl!” Glenn blinded him with his flashlight. “What happened?”

He glared at Glenn as he clenched his fists. “I have to find her.”

He couldn’t lose her. She was the only thing keeping him grounded. She’d kept his sinister urges at bay by offering him something no one had before; love. If he ever lost her, there’d be nothing keeping him from killing every single human here.

“We’ll find her.” Rick stepped toward him and placed a hand on his shoulder. It took everything he had not to rip the human’s arm off. “She couldn’t have gone far.”

Daryl closed his eyes and drew in a deep breath. He pictured her, her smile, her laugh and the way she talked to him as if he was the only thing that mattered. His breathing hitched and he stepped away from Rick. He ran a hand through his hair as he calmed himself.

“Something tore this door off its hinges.” Glenn stood over the door Daryl had ripped off. “Something else is down here with us.”

Rick took the led once again. “We’ll worry about that later. Focus on finding Carol.”

Glenn nodded and raised his weapon. “Right.”

Daryl followed the two, his gaze scanning the floor for anything else Carol might have dropped. He hoped she was leaving him a trail to follow. He didn’t want to think something dragged her away, forcing her to drop her weapon. He closed his eyes and pushed the thought away.

She’s alive. She’s down here somewhere. I can feel it.

Rick and Glenn turned right down another corridor, but a strong sensation beckoned him to the left. He aimed his beam of light down the hall then looked behind him at the other two. He opened his mouth to tell them, but thought better of it. They were heading back to C block where it was safe. They’d end the search until the next day. He didn’t want to wait that long. He wanted to find her, bring her back safe and sound.

Letting his light lead the way, Daryl headed down the corridor. The pull grew stronger and he picked up his pace. Walkers didn’t accost him for which he was thankful. He didn’t want anything stopping him from reaching his goal.

“Carol.” He whispered into the darkness. “You down here?”

More doors lined the corridor and he growled. More door for him to force open. He stood in front of one and attempted to shine his beam through the grimy small window. The beam bounced back into his eyes. Frustration mounted and he turned from the door. He kicked the cell door behind him and it creaked open. His pulse stopped as he stared at the door slowly swinging open.

“Carol.” He pushed the door further open and shone his light inside.

Nothing.

He flung the door closed and it bounced against the doorframe and squeaked open. He shook his head and continued his search.

He neared the end of the hall and he growled, wanting to hit something. None of the door were unlocked so far and those he could see into were empty. He glared at the one of his left and attempted to open it. It wouldn’t budge.

“Goddamn it!” Daryl snarled and spun around to face the last door. He flung it open and ducked as a fireball zipped toward his head. He banged his chin against the floor, biting his tongue in the process. He swallowed blood as he pushed himself to his feet.

“Daryl?” Carol whispered as she crawled into the beam of light on the floor.

She looked up at him, her eyes wide. He blinked down at her, afraid he’d conjured her in his exasperation. He knelt beside in front of her and caressed her face. She closed her eyes and leaned into his touch. His heart skipped a beat as her warmth spread from his fingers down his arm.

“I found you.” He whispered as he gathered her in his arm. “I found you.”

She wrapped her arms around him as he lifted her up. He spun on his heel and carried her back down the hallway. He didn’t care if he forgot his flashlight. All that mattered was he had Carol.

****

“You found her.” Maggie pushed open the gate to C block. “Where was she?”

“Holed up in a cell.” Daryl answered as he carried her to her cell. He lay her down on the bottom bunk and sat beside her. He wrapped his arms around her, not caring if anyone saw. He stroked her face and hair then searched for any bite marks.

“I’m fine.” She said. “Just tired and hungry.”

“Beth’s cooking.” Maggie whispered behind them. Maggie sniffed bringing Daryl’s attention to her. She wiped at her eyes and turned away. She’d been crying and he doubted was because of Carol.

“What’s wrong?” Daryl asked.

Maggie shook her head then drew in a deep breath. A baby’s wail split the silence and Carl strolled behind Maggie with a infant in his arms. He looked from the boy to Maggie.

“Lori?”

Maggie shook her head and stepped away. He turned his attention to Carol as tears filled her eyes. She wrapped her arms around him and buried her face in his shoulder. He stroked her back as the sobs shook her body.

He looked over at Carl again as the boy attempted to keep the baby quiet.

“What happened?”

Carl looked up, his eyes dark and haunted. “I shot my mom. I had to.”

****

Daryl sat on the steps in the common room and gazed at everyone around him. The ate in silence, broken only by a quiet sob. Rick had disappeared, putting him in charge. He shook his head as he stared into his bowl of food. They needed supplies for the baby. Maggie knew where to find some and Glenn offered to go with her. It was fine with him. His main focus was tending to Carol.

She sat on the step at his feet, shoveling food into her mouth as if she hadn’t eaten in a week. His lips twitched at the sight. He didn’t care as long as she was safe. He nudged her back with his foot and she looked up at him, a brow raised. She smiled at him and smacked his foot.

“Glad you found me.” She whispered as she pushed herself up to sit beside him. “Thought I’d be down there forever.”

“I would’ve stayed down there till I found you.” He leaned into her, basking in her nearness. “I wouldn’t have given up.”

She smiled and nudged him with her shoulder. “I know you wouldn’t.”

Glenn cleared his throat, getting his attention. “Maggie and I are heading out. We should be back before lunch.”

Daryl nodded and he watched the two leave. The door closed and he stared into his bowl.

“Maybe I should go instead.” He pushed the food around.

Carol touched his hand and he looked at her. She caressed his face and he closed his eyes. It still didn’t feel real that he’d found her. He half expected her to vanish if he opened his eyes or turned around. He didn’t know if the feeling would ever go away or how to make it go away.

“You need to be here.” She whispered. “They need your level head and quick decision making.”

Daryl shook his head and stood. “I don’t feel quick with the decisions right now.”

She climbed to her feet and took the bowl from his hand. She headed down the steps and returned the bowls. He sighed and ran a hand through his hair. He didn’t know what he was doing. He wasn’t a leader, far from it. He was a loner, only relying on himself and not caring about the well-being of others.

His gaze fell on Beth as she cradled the baby in her arms. To have someone relying on him to keep them safe and alive was a new sensation. He’d done it when they were on the farm, but all he did was make sure everyone had something to do.

Now, he had to protect them from the walkers still in the prison and keep a baby alive. The group knew what they had to do, but they still looked to him for the decision making. He sighed and left the common room.

He didn’t want to be responsible for them. He shouldn’t be responsible for them, but Rick had lost his mind or so Glenn had said. He understood that, though. He’d have lost his mind if he’d found Carol dead in those tunnels. Course, he wouldn’t have taken off. He’d have killed everyone around him.

A warm hand caressed his back and he turned to find Carol standing before him. He gazed into her crystal eyes and calm settled over him. Wanting to touch, to let himself know she was real, he ran his hands up and down her arms.

“You’re in my cell.” Carol whispered as she ran her hands up his chest. Electric fire sparked through him, jolting his senses. He smiled at her as he pulled her into him.

“Guess that proves where my mind is.” He buried his face in her hair and breathed in her scent. He took it deep inside him, filling his being with her nearness. “I thought I lost you.”

She pulled back and stared up at him. Her eyes traveled over his face as she caressed his face. He drew in a shuddering breath as more sparks traveled over his skin.

“You didn’t lose me, Daryl.” She whispered. “I’ll never leave you.”

He closed his eyes and rested his forehead against hers. Hearing those words signified everything to him. It amazed him how much this human woman meant to him. Her very being turned everything he’d ever known on its head. She’d humanized him and he didn’t care.

“I love you.” He whispered, staring into her eyes. “You mean more to me than my own life. I’d kill for you. I’d die for you.”

Carol shook her head as tears filled her eyes. “Daryl, I love you, too. More than anything, but you don’t have to die for me. I’d rather you live. I couldn’t stand to see you hurt.”

He wiped the tears from her eyes then kissed her. He pulled her flush against him as his tongue searched out hers. She buried her hands in his hair as his hands roamed down her back to cup her rear. Fire coursed through his veins as his heart pounded against his ribcage. He deepened the kiss as his hands moved up and slipped under her shirt. His fingers skimmed up her sides to her bra.

She pulled back, her eyes dark and her breathing ragged. “We don’t have any privacy in here.”

Daryl stared at the cell door. Anyone passing by could look in and see them. He really didn’t care, but he knew Carol did. He sighed and looked around the small space for a way to give them privacy. His gaze landed on the top bunk.

“Take your top off.” He kissed her then yanked the bed sheet off the mattress.

He spread the bed sheet across the cell bars, blocking anyone from looking in. Course, they could still hear them, but he didn’t care. He’d had enough of holding off his need to bury himself in Carol. He’d always done what he wanted, why stop now.

Screen firmly in place, he turned and cast his gaze upon Carol. She stood before him in her underwear and his breath caught. It’d been months since he’d laid eyes upon Carol’s flesh. He’d eased himself with her in dreams, but nothing compared to the real thing. His cock strained toward her and he groaned at the pain.

“I can’ wait no more.” He growled as he stepped toward her. “I need you.”

She smiled at him and wrapped her arms around him. He pulled her against the bulge in his jeans and she gasped. He devoured her mouth as her fingers worked on unbuttoning his shirt. She pushed the garment off him then ran her hands over his chest. He sucked in a breath as he watched her admire him. She licked her lips and he groaned as his arousal bordered on painful.

She flicked her tongue at a nipple and he knew he had to be inside her. With a low growl, he yanked her panties down her legs and lifted her into his arms. He nuzzled her neck as he held her up against the wall.

“Daryl.” Carol laughed as her nails racked up his back.

He rocked his hips into her, rubbing the bulge in his jeans against her center. He groaned long and low as the flames in his blood licked at him.

He lowered her to her feet as he took her mouth once again. The flames soared higher as his tongue danced with hers. He undid his jeans and shoved them down his legs to pool at his feet. He cupped her rear and pulled her against him, the head of his dick rubbing between her legs. She gasped and he lifted her off her feet once again. She wrapped her legs around him, still plunder his mouth with her tongue. He pushed her up on the wall and thrust up deep inside her. Her walls welcomed him, spreading as he filled her. He groaned, every nerve in his body throbbing, weakening. He tore his lips from hers and gazed into her eyes. The color darkened to sapphire and he fell into them, tumbling as the waves of desire washed over him.

He moved inside her, building a slow rhythm. As much as he wanted to lose himself inside her, he wanted to take his time. He wanted to savor the feel of her around him. He wanted to watch her explode in her desire for him. No one needed him at the moment, so he could ease them to the edge.

Giving himself over to the moment, he buried his face in her neck. He breathed in her scent, taking it inside him, savoring it. Her nails drug over his back as her soft moans urged him on. He chuckled as he kept with his sedate pace.

“I ain’t gonna hurry.” He whispered in her ear. “I want this to last.”

He pulled out and slid back into at a snail’s pace. She growled and thrust her hips against him as if demanding he fill her. He flicked his tongue at her earlobe then sucked it into his mouth. She arched into him and he shoved himself back in. She moaned his name and tilted her head back against the wall.

“You’re evil.” Carol whispered, bringing a soft laugh from him.

You have no idea, darlin’.

Daryl reclaimed her mouth as he carried her from the wall to the bottom bunk. He lay her down upon it and then covered her with his body. He nestled between her legs, the head of his cock poised at her entrance. He kissed her slow and deep, his tongue thrusting in and out of her mouth. She buried her hands in his hair as his hands roamed down her body.

Everything around him vanished, but her. His entire focus was on her and giving her pleasure. He wanted her to remember this, for neither had any idea of when they could be together like this again. There was a baby to feed, people to protect and walkers to get rid of. All of them could take up his time with her, but for now, he pushed it to the side. Carol was his focus now and nothing would stand in his way.

In one thrust, he filled her and her moan sent electric fire coursing through him. He savored her walls around him as he trailed kisses along her jaw. He suckled the flesh where her neck met her shoulder and she arched into him. He swirled his tongue around the flesh then sucked it deep into his mouth. She moaned and bucked her hips into his.

He pulled out and shoved back in, hitting the end of her channel. She gasped and he repeated the motion, loving the sounds she made.

“You’re so beautiful.” Daryl whispered as he pressed a kiss to her lips. “I love the sounds you make.”

She smirked at him. “Less talking, more thrusting.”

He chuckled and moved off her to his left side, staying buried inside her. He lifted her leg and hooked it over his hip. He started his sedate pace, slowly pulling out of her and sliding back in. He watched as she closed her eyes and lay back against the mattress. Her mouth fell open as she moaned low and long with each thrust. His heart swelled as he watched her. She truly was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen.

“I wasn’ lyin’ about dyin’ for you.” Daryl whispered as he pushed harder into her. “You mean that much to me.”

His stroked grew shorter, harder as he drove them both toward the edge. He pulled her leg higher onto him, driving deeper inside her channel. Her walls gripped him, tightening as he pounded into her. Their moaned filled the small space and he didn’t care if anyone heard. He wanted them to know Carol was his.

Carol shattered around him, her walls throbbing around his cock. She clutched his arms as threw her head back in ecstasy. He slid in and out of her at a rapid pace as her cries washed over him. His moans became no more than grunts as he drove himself over the edge. His sight turned red as he shot his seed into her channel.

Chapter Text

Carol rested her head on Daryl’s chest and listened to his heart beating. It soothed her, calmed her nerves. She played with the hairs on his chest as she thought about being stuck in that cell. It’d felt like a life time as she waited inside, waited for a walker to come through. All she’d thought about while she was in there was Daryl. She hadn’t doubted he’d come for her, but she fretted over the when. How long had she really been in that cell? She didn’t want to contemplate.

Stop thinking about it. He saved you. You’re with him now.

She sighed and snuggled deeper in his embrace. She kissed his chest and he tightened his hold upon her. She smiled as she ran her hand over his chest. He was warm, solid, alive. She narrowed her eyes as his words came back to her. In the heat of passion, she hadn’t thought about them, their meaning. She’d believed his love for her was so strong, it overwhelmed him and he said what the only words he thought could explain it. Now, though, she knew their implication at it frightened her.

She propped herself up and looked down at him. Her gaze roamed over his sleeping form and her heart clenched at how beautiful he was. She stroked the side of his face as tears stung her eyes.

“I don’t want you to die.” Carol whispered as her throat tightened. “Not for me, not for anyone.”

The make-shift curtain moved and Beth poked her head inside. Her eyes widened and she stepped back.

“Shit.” Beth gasped. “Sorry.”

Carol’s face flushed, but she pushed it aside and cleared her throat. “What is it?”

Beth’s shadow fidgeted. “Maggie and Glenn are back with some formula. It’ll last a couple of days, but we’re going to need more.”

Carol sighed and climbed out of bed. Reality had crashed in on them once again. She grabbed her clothes and pulled them on. She shook Daryl’s shoulder and he jerked awake. He blinked at her then narrowed his eyes.

“What is it?” He gazed around the cell then sighed when he saw Beth’s shadow. “Back to bein’ leader, huh?”

“Yep.” She kissed him then pulled away.

Daryl grumbled as he climbed out of bed and pulled on his clothes. Her fingers itched to run over his skin and feel him inside her, but she pushed the thought away. She turned away and pushed the curtain open. Beth averted her gaze, a bright blush forming on her cheeks.

“Sorry.” Beth whispered.

Carol smiled and patted the girl on the shoulder. “Don’t worry about it. I’m sure you’ve walked in on Glenn and Maggie once or twice.”

Daryl scoffed as he stepped out of the cell fully dressed. “Walked in on them, my ass. We all heard them once or twice back on the farm. Hell, even off the farm.”

Beth laughed and her stance relaxed. “They’re all waiting in the common room.”

She hurried in that direction, leaving Carol alone with Daryl. She looked at him, taking in the way the sleeveless gray shirt hugged his chest. The V of the garment spread wide, revealing a large portion of his chest to her gaze. She licked her lips and reached for him.

He caught her wrist and yanked her against him. He stared at her as he trailed a finger along the side of her face. She shivered and leaned into him.

“Does it make me horrible that I’d rather we go back into my cell and make love instead of going to the common room?”

He chuckled and kissed her leisurely. Her core ignited and burned hot for him. She gripped his shirt, not wanting to let him go. She thrust her tongue into his mouth, tasting him, exploring his warmth. She slid her tongue along his and he groaned.

He pulled back as he drew in a deep breath. “I’d want nothin’ more, but Rick has gone insane and that puts me in charge. It wouldn’ be very leader like to ignore them when they might need me.”

Carol smirked. “Look at you, big bad scoundrel stepping up.”

He shook his head and turned away from her, but she saw the blush creeping along his cheeks. Her heart warmed to the sight, knowing he didn’t want anyone to see him going soft. Problem was as much as he wanted to continue to be the outsider, they’d accepted him a long time ago.

I just wish he’d see it.

She sighed as she followed him into the common room. She glanced back toward her cell and heat pooled in her center. She still felt him thrust into her and her face burned from wanting more. She ran a hand through her hair and forced her thoughts from her desires. She needed her wits about her if she wanted to help Daryl be a leader. Not that he really needed her help in the decision making. He needed her help in keeping him from losing his temper.

****

“You found some formula.” Daryl leveled a gaze at Maggie and Glenn as they sat at the center table in the common room. The rest of the group crowded around the table, each looking at him as if he held all the answers.

Glenn sighed and sat back in his chair. “We found enough for a few days, but we’re going to need to search for more.”

Daryl gritted his teeth and ran a hand through his hair. Carol placed a hand on his arm and his mounting frustration eased. He let himself relax under her touch. They looked to him now and it wouldn’t do well if he raged in front of them all.

“Any ideas of where we could find more?” He let his gaze rest on each of them as he waited for an answer.

“There’s a plaza a few miles from here.” Beth offered. “I saw it when we went by that area. There was a baby store that didn’t look ransacked.”

A collective sigh of relief washed through the room. Daryl’s lips twitched as he realized the others couldn’t come up with a location. He shook his head and bit his lip to keep from laughing.

“Great.” He said as he looked at the group again. “Who wants to go on run?”

Maggie stood. “I know where the one Beth’s talking about. I can take someone there.”

Glenn pushed to his feet. “I’ll go with her.”

“Good. Gather what you’ll need. You’ll leave tomorrow.”

A cell door creaked open and Rick stepped into the common area. He appeared haggard, his hair in a mess and his shirt dirty and caked with black blood. He gripped an axe in his right hand, it too covered in blood. His haunted gaze settled on each person in the room then landed on Daryl.

Rick stepped toward him. “The baby?”

“Bein’ takin’ care of.” Daryl answered. “I’m sendin’ Maggie and Glenn out to get some more supplies for her.”

Rick nodded and ran his hand through his hair. He looked at the gathered as if trying to decide what to say. He patted Daryl on the shoulder then turned away. He strode back through the door, closing it behind him.

Daryl shook his head and sighed. Looks like he was still in charge. He gazed at the others, who stood as if waiting for his orders. His regarded Oscar and Axel, who had become apart of their group even though they took up residence in another cellblock. He nodded toward them and they straightened.

“See if you can’ find this armory then take Carl and head back into the tombs. Make sure there ain’t anymore surprises waitin’.”

Axel stepped forward. “What about Rick? Ain’t he down there doing just that?”

Daryl shook his head. “He ain’t lookin’ to prevent surprises.”

Oscar nodded. “Right.” He grabbed Axel’s arm. “Let’s take care of what the crazy man missed.”

Daryl smirked as the two left the area. He then turned to the remaining people. Hershel and Beth stared at him, waiting for him to tell them what to do. He ran his hands through his hair and sat at the table.

“You’re doin’ what you need to be doin’.” He told them.

Beth nodded. “I’ll fix the baby’s formula.”

Carol came up behind him and ran her hands down his chest. He closed his eyes, giving into the sensation. He titled his head back into her body and she pressed her lips against his.

“She’s going to need a name.” Hershel mentioned.

Daryl opened his eyes and stared at the vet. “Ain’t my problem.”

“With Rick running around down in the tombs, we’re all going to need to take care of the baby.” Hershel sat across from him and stared him in the eyes. “That means we all get to name her.”

“Why don’ we let Carl name her.” Daryl rumbled. “She’s his sister.”

Hershel shrugged. “I always liked the name Patricia.”

Daryl smirked.

“Jacquie.” Carol put in, sorrow coating her voice. “Or Andrea.”

Daryl sighed and ran a hand over his face. They were the names of the woman they’d lost getting here. He stared at his hands, not liking the sorrow that crept into his being.

“How about Judith.” Carl’s voice cut into his thoughts.

He looked up and saw the boy standing at their table. The sheriff’s hat still didn’t fit the kid’s head, but he couldn’t image Carl without it. It’d become apart of Carl, like the crossbow had become apart of him.

“Judith.” Daryl looked at Hershel, who smiled. He looked up at Carol, who patted his chest.

“I think it’s perfect.” She said.

Carl nodded. “Judith it is then.” He nodded, turned and hurried to join Oscar and Axel.

“Anythin’ else?” Daryl asked Hershel.

Hershel smiled and shook his head. “I think that’s all for now.”

“Good.” Daryl pushed himself to his feet and led Carol back into the cellblock.

He pulled her into her cell and pulled the curtain down to cover the door. He took her top off and tossed it to the floor.

“Can’t wait for round two, I see.” Carol smiled at him as he undid his jeans.

“I’m gonna spend every time I have with you.” He pushed his jeans down his legs and pulled her against him. He stared into her eyes and saw worry darken them. “What?”

She stroked the side of his face, sending fire igniting within him. “Is something wrong?”

He raised an eyebrow as he searched her face. “What?”

“You act like you’re never going to see me again.” She whispered. “Are you all right?”

He cupped her face and stroked her cheeks with his thumbs. Loving words wouldn’t ease the fear he saw within her gaze. He realized she needed to know the truth.

“When I thought I lost you I realized how limited our time is. I want to spend every wakin’ moment with you. I want to be the first person you see in the mornin’ and the last person you see at night.”

Carol’s eyes filled with tears as she smiled at him. “Oh, Daryl. That’s the most beautiful thing anyone’s ever said to me.”

“I mean it.” He whispered as he slipped a bra strap off her shoulder, revealing her breast to his gaze.

He walked her back against the bunk beds as he massaged a breast with his hand. He flicked his thumbnail against the nipple and she arched into him. He growled low and took her other breast into his mouth. She moaned and buried her fingers in his hair, holding him there. He pulled her bra off her breasts to give him better access to her mounds. He swirled his tongue around a nipple as his hands moved down her body to her jeans. She tugged on his hair and he licked and kissed his way up her body to claim her mouth.

Waves of heat washed over him as he pushed her jeans off her legs. He deepened the kiss as her hands fumbled with the closures of his jeans. Urgency rode him as he tore his mouth from her and shoved his jeans down his legs. He kicked them to the side then backed her onto the lower bunk.

He lowered himself between her legs as he devoured her mouth, tasting her sweetness. He thrust his hands into her hair as he deepened the kiss, wanting to merge with her, become one with her. His need for her ate at him, demanding he make her his until they were both spent and sated.

Without warning, he rammed himself deep inside her and she gasped into his mouth. He growled as he pulled out and shoved back in. Her nails raked up his back as he pushed her into the mattress with each hard thrust.

His hands moved from her hair down her sides and under her rear. He dug his fingers into the soft flesh as he pounded all his fear, doubts and anger into her body. She withstood it all, taking it and soothing him at the same time. He buried his face in the crook of her neck as he increased his pace. His thrusts grew shorter and faster as he raced toward the edge, building the flames that licked at him, urged him on to set them both on fire. He moaned in her ear as his name fell from her lips, sending him soaring ever higher.

Carol arched into him, bucking her hips against him as she cried out. Her nails dug into his back, but he didn’t feel it as he slid in and out of her at a rapid pace. He covered her mouth with his in a soul searing kiss as she rode her orgasm.

Daryl tangled his hands in her hair as her walls throbbed around his cock. He couldn’t hold back any longer. He thrust himself deep inside her and let loose his sperm, his fears and his anger from his body.

He collapsed on top of her as her hands stroked up and down his body. He fought to calm his breathing as he tried to remain still. He didn’t want to move; didn’t want to leave her warmth. Her walls clenched around his cock and it twitched. Unlike humans, he didn’t need to wait a couple of minutes to become hard again.

“I’m gonna stay right here and make love to you the rest of the day.” He breathed.

She kissed the side of his head. “You know you can’t. The group’s going to need you sometime today.”

He groaned and pulled out of her then rammed back in. She gasped and he chuckled.

“How about round three?” Daryl nibbled on her earlobe.

She laughed and pushed him off her. She shoved him onto his back and straddled him. She grabbed his cock and positioned it at her entrance. She locked gazes with his and heat roared through him. His breathing increased as she lowered herself upon him. He gritted his teeth and dug his fingers into the bed sheets at his sides. She leaned over him and flicked her tongue at his earlobe. He shivered and wrapped his arms around her.

“My turn to be on top.” Carol smiled as she rocked her hips forward and he groaned.

****

Daryl stepped out into the large courtyard outside C block and strode toward the fence. He curled the fingers of his right hand into the chain link and stared out across the field. He saw movement in the tall grass and recognized the messy dark hair. Rick wandered through the field like someone in a trance.

Daryl sighed and leaned his back against the fence. He lit a cigarette from a pack he’d found in the administration building and took a drag. He blew out the smoke and stared at the prison before him.

Still can’ believe this is home. He flicked ashes to the side and took another pull. How long is this one gonna last?

He wanted it to last forever. Needed it to last, cause he knew this group wouldn’t be able to survive out there. Not with a baby. Not with a crazy man leading them.

Daryl shook his head and turned back to watch Rick wandered around in the field. He didn’t think he’d be able to survive much longer without going insane himself. His leadership skills only went so far. He didn’t want to be leader permanently. His temperament didn’t mesh well for such a job.

“He still out there?” Hershel’s voice broke into his thoughts.

“Yep.” Daryl blew out a stream of smoke. “What the hell’s he doin’?”

Hershel sighed. “Chasing ghosts.”

Daryl stared at the vet. “Ghosts?”

“He thinks he heard the phone ring in another part of the block. Said, he talked to people that might be in a safer place.”

Daryl raised an eyebrow. “The phones don’ work here. Phones don’ work anywhere.”

Hershel nodded. “Yeah. I’m hoping he’ll come out of it, but he keeps getting worse.”

Daryl looked back at Rick, who’d strolled through the trees outside the safety of the fence. He scanned the area further out, but didn’t see any walkers. He shook his head and leaned against the fence.

“Have any sedatives?”

Hershel stared at the prison. “I think I might have something better.”

Daryl scoffed. “A blow to the head?”

Hershel chuckled. “No. I think I’ll take his mind of his troubles. He needs to focus on something other than his grief. Maybe turning this place into a true home will do that.”

Daryl ran a hand through his hair and pushed from the fence. “As long as it gets him out of Crazy Town, I’m all for it.”

“Tired of being leader?” Hershel asked.

Daryl narrowed his eyes and stepped closer to the vet. “I ain’t cut out to be a leader.”

“Seems to me you’re doing just fine.”

Daryl snorted and flung the cigarette to the ground. He stomped on it and strode back into the prison.

Chapter Text

Daryl strolled through the halls leading deeper into the prison. He followed the route the walkers took back to where they entered the prison. He knew they had to have been lured inside and he cursed himself for letting it happen.

I should’ve kept lookin’ for Andrew. He smacked his palm against the wall. This wouldn’ have happened.

He lowered himself to the ground and ran his finger through a blood stain near the door. He brought it to his nose and sniffed. The blood wasn’t human, but whatever had been place here was enough to draw the walkers in.

I ain’t givin’ up until I find him. Daryl spun on his heel and stalked down the hallway. The man had to still be here, waiting for another opportunity to attack. He needed to get to Andrew before he came up with something else, something worse.

He turned down another corridor and spotted a walker scraping at a door. He narrowed his eyes and slowed his pace. Fire ignited around his hand and his sight turned red. Snarling, he flung the flames at the creature at it lit up. Engulfed in flames, it turned and shuffled toward him. It raised its hands and opened its mouth, revealing rotten teeth.

Daryl stalked toward the walker, his hands shifting into talons. He swiped at the creature, taking its head off. The body dropped to the ground and the head bounced off a wall and rolled down the hall. He followed it until it rolled to a stop. The head snapped at him, its mottled eyes glaring up at him. He smirked, raised his foot and brought it down. The crunch brought of a smile of satisfaction to his lips.

He turned to the body still engulfed in flames. He raised his hand and a wave of ice flowed from his fingers, covering the body. He strode back down to the body and opened the door.

Andrew charged at him, and slammed into him. Daryl stumbled back and into the wall. He shoved Andrew off him, but the man sliced at his arm. Pain sliced through him and he grabbed his arm and glared at Andrew.

“You let them in.” He growled, his heart pounding.

Andrew shrugged, bouncing on his feet. “Pay back.”

He swiped the make-shift dagger at Daryl’s face, but he grabbed Andrew’s arm in mid swing. Andrew’s eyes widened.

“I’ll give you pay back.” Daryl growled as images of Carol running from walkers flashed in his mind. He narrowed his eyes and sent his mind into Andrew’s. He searched out what the man feared most, pushing past all defenses as if they weren’t even there. A wicked smile crossed his lips.

He released the man’s arm and stepped back. Andrew blinked at him then narrowed his eyes. He lifted his arm to take a swing, but his gaze fell on the knife. His eyes widened and a scream ripped the silence. He dropped the knife and stomped on it.

“What did you do?” Andrew shouted. “How?”

Daryl chuckled then raised his hand and the knife rose from the ground. Andrew screamed again and backed away. He slowly moved his hand and the knife drifted toward Andrew’s head. The man shook his head, backing further away. The wall stopped him from going any further and he slid down the wall, staring at the weapon.

“Get it away from me.” Andrew whimpered as the smell of urine filled the corridor. “Please. Stop.”

Daryl snorted. “You tried to kill these people. You tried to kill Carol. I ain’t stoppin’.”

The knife hovered in front of Andrew’s face as tears escaped the man’s eyes. Daryl wanted to listen to the man’s pleas, but he knew he needed to get back to the others. He didn’t want to them to know he was down here, torturing someone. He wanted to get back to Carol more than anything.

Sighing, he push his hand forward, sending the knife into the man’s eye. Andrew screamed and Daryl shoved his hand forward, sending the weapon into Andrew’s brain. The man stilled and the corridor grew silent again.

Daryl grabbed Andrew’s legs and dragged the body into the cell he’d burst out of. He pulled the body into the center of the room then stepped out into the hallway and grabbed the remains of the walker. He brought them to the center of the room and dropped the corpse onto Andrew’s body. He left the room and slammed the door closed.

I need a shower.

Taking a deep breath, Daryl headed for the showers. He didn’t want Carol to smell death upon him if he could help it. The last thing he wanted was her asking questions he couldn’t answer. Telling her he killed Andrew wouldn’t be a problem, but telling her how would be.

Course, he could lie about how he killed Andrew, but that never led anywhere good. Telling one lie led to another until he couldn’t remember which lie he told when. She’d find out the truth anyway which would make things worse for him. Best not to say anything at all.

Ten minutes later and smelling less like death warmed over, Daryl joined the others in the common area. The scent of dinner wafted to his nose and he breathed it in. His stomach growled and Carol laughed.

“Work up an appitite keeping us in line?” She asked as she sat at a table.

He shook his head and sat across from her. “Searching for how those walkers got in.”

Carol’s face fell and she averted her eyes to the bowl in front of her. She sighed and pushed the food around.

“I don’t want to talk about that.” She said as she looked at him. “When I close my eyes, I find myself in that cell again.”

He reached across the table and grabbed her hand. He ran a thumb over her soft skin. “We won’ talk about it then.”

She smiled and his heart skipped a beat. He’d do anything to keep that smile on her face. It brightened his day and gave him something to hope for. He brought her hand to his lips and brushed her knuckles. She shivered and blood rushed to his groin.

“We’re heading out.” Glenn’s voice brought him back to reality. He sighed and sat back in his chair.

“Good.” Daryl nodded up at Glenn and Maggie. “That baby eats a lot.”

Glenn chuckled. “We should be back before dark.”

“If you find anything else useful out there-”

“Grab it.” Glenn finished. “Will do.”

Glenn and Maggie headed out the door and Daryl ran his hands over his face. What the hell was he doing? This wasn’t what he should be doing at all? The urge to leave this all behind rose up within him. He wasn’t used to this and it exasperated him. He shouldn’t led these people. He should be tearing into them, torturing them. He should revel in their screams, not fear for their well-being.

He opened his eyes and stared at Carol. It was all because of her. She’d had changed him. Showed him there was something else out there instead of terrorizing people. She turned him from tormentor into a protector. The implication made her more powerful than him and it frightened him. Was he getting soft?

“What’s wrong?” Carol looked at him, concern in her crystal eyes.

Daryl shook his head and pushed himself to his feet. “I’m gonna check on Rick. See if he knows food’s ready.”

Carol grabbed his hand, stopping him. “You’d tell me if something was wrong, right?”

He sighed and ran his fingers through her hair. “I’m still gettin’ used to this leadership shit. I ain’t the type to lead anythin’ cept myself.”

“You’re doing fine, Daryl.” She rose to her feet and cupped his face with her hand. “Don’t be hard on yourself. You’ve come a long way since the quarry.”

He wrapped his arms around her and rested his forehead on hers. “Sometimes I just want to leave. Leave all of this behind.”

She stroked his back, sending liquid heat coursing through him. He breathed in her scent, taking it deep inside him.

“You’d leave me behind?” A mixture of surprise, anger and fear filled her voice.

He sighed and kissed her forehead. Pulling back, he stared into her eyes. “I’d take you with me.”

She shook her head. “We wouldn’t last very long out there on our own, Daryl.”

“I’ve been on my own before.”

“Not like this.” She curled her fingers into the front of his shirt. “Randall showed us walkers aren’t the only danger we have to worry about.”

The fear and worry in her eyes ate at him. He knew he’d be fine out there on his own. Nothing could hurt him out there or in here. It wasn’t the same for her, though. Everything could hurt her. He’d have to be on guard, protect her at all costs. He knew she could use a gun, but bullets were limited.

He pulled her against him and kissed her head. “I ain’t goin’ anywhere.”

Carol sighed. “It’s all right to feel overwhelmed, Daryl. It’s normal.”

He chuckled. “Ain’t nothing normal these days.”

Carol pressed her lips against his and his breath caught. He closed his eyes, cupping her face to hold her in place. He ran his tongue along her lips and she opened for him. She relaxed into him as he deepened the kiss, exploring her mouth with abandoned.

“Get a room.” Beth shouted behind them.

Carol laughed as she pulled away. She straightened his shirt then patted his chest. “Go check on Rick.”

He smirked. “Rather get that room.”

“You can’t hide in our cell every time you have to be leader.”

Daryl knew she was right, but he didn’t have to like it. He would rather spend his time with her, but he couldn’t. He was the leader until Rick rejoined them. He didn’t know how long that’d be, but these people needed him.

“Fine.” He sighed. He signaled Hershel to join him, figuring he might need the man’s guidance on what to do next. He kissed Carol one last time then followed the vet out the door.

****

Carol paced the walkway in front of the cells of the second floor, Judith in her arms. She held a bottle to the baby’s mouth and the child drank the formula greedily. She scanned the lower level and saw Beth headed for the stairs. They’d all taken to taking care of the Judith, but it seemed her and Beth were the ones doing the most. She didn’t mind, though. It brought back memories of the time she took care of Sophia. Those were better memories she wanted to hold onto.

“How’s she doing?” Beth asked as she stood beside her.

Carol smiled. “Greedy little thing.”

Beth laughed and held out her arms. “I’ll take over.”

“You get to change the diapers later.” Carol handed the baby over to Beth.

“Thanks.” Beth held Judith in her arms and placed the bottle back in the baby’s mouth. “Heard you talking to Daryl.”

Carol sighed and leaned back against a cell door. “Don’t take it seriously. He’s never be leader before.”

“He can’t leave.” Beth snapped in a harsh whisper. “We need him. Rick’s in no condition to lead anything.”

“He knows, Beth.” Carol leveled a gaze at the younger woman. “He’s not going anywhere.”

Beth sighed and bounced the baby in her arms. “He thought about it, though. Thought about leaving all of us to our fate.”

Carol ran a hand through her hair. It terrified her that Daryl even considered leaving them. She understood he was scared of leading them, scared of screwing up and making things worse. He didn’t see the good he’d done so far and she didn’t know how to make him see it.

“We can’t do this without him.” Beth continued, not saying anything Carol hadn’t thought before.

“We won’t.” Carol let the determination into her voice. She looked at Beth, hoping her words convinced the girl. “He’s staying.”

Beth raised an eyebrow. “What happens when you can’t convince him anymore?”

Ice water sliced through her and she closed her eyes. She hoped it wouldn’t come to that, but she doubted once he finally decided to leave, his love for her would stop him. She didn’t want to tell Beth that, but the hardened of the younger woman’s eyes proved she didn’t need to.

Beth didn’t say anything. She cooed at Judith then headed back down the stairs. Carol sighed and pushed from the wall. Daryl had been outside for an hour.

Maybe I should go outside and see what’s going on. She didn’t like being kept in the dark even with things like Rick’s mental state. Maybe I can offer my help. If I could heal Hershel’s leg, maybe I can heal Rick’s mind.

She headed for the door when it flew open. Rick burst into the common area carrying a dark-skinned woman, her hair in dreadlocks. Blood dripped on the floor as he hurried across the room. Carol’s eyes widened and she went to them.

“What happened?” She asked as Daryl and Hershel entered the room.

Rick placed the woman on the ground. “She came up to the fence. The walkers didn’t even know she was there.”

“She’d been shot.” Hershel put in as he clopped toward the gathered group. “I need to take the bullet out.”

The woman opened her eyes and looked at all of them. She narrowed her eyes then reached for the sword resting in front of her. Rick kicked it out of her reach.

“We’re not going to hurt you.” He said in a calm voice, completely different from the crazy mood he’d been in for the past few days.

The woman’s gaze drifted over each of them as if weighing their worth. Her dark gaze rested on Daryl. She glowered at him and her lip curled into a sneer.

Carol raised an eyebrow and looked at Daryl. He leaned against the wall as he scowled at the woman. What the hell was going on? Did they know each other?

“We can take the bullet out.” Rick continued, his voice calm.

The woman forced her gaze to Rick. “Fine.”

Rick nodded and motioned for the others to leave.

“Beth, get my kit.” Hershel rolled up his sleeves. “Carl, find a gurney to put her on.”

Carl nodded and left the room. Beth gathered the things needed for the surgery and placed them on a table.

Daryl stalked by Carol and she saw the darkness in his blue eyes. A chill slid down her spine and she followed after him.

“What was that all about?” She asked as she closed the door separating the common area from the cells. “Why did she look at you as if she wanted to kill you?”

He turned his dark glare to her and she stopped. Her pulse raced as the chill turned frigid. He stepped closer to her as his eyes grew darker.

“You don’t want to know.” He growled as he closed the gap between them. “You don’t need to know.”

It grew difficult to breath as she stared into his gaze. She drew in a breath as the world narrowed to only him. A part of her mind screamed at her to stop asking questions. She’d never been afraid of him before, but the darkness radiating off him terrified her. Lori had warned her about his darkness before. Was this what she meant?

Daryl spun away from her and the darkness released its hold on her. She took in gulps of air as the world returned to normal. She stared at his back as he hurried up the stairs and into a cell. She slumped against the wall and slid down to the ground. She wanted to go after him, demand to know what the hell happened, but she couldn’t face him. She didn’t want to be the focus of his darkness again.

Carol placed her head in her hands. What the hell have a I gotten myself into? What if Lori had been right and he’s evil?

Chapter Text

Daryl stared at the bottom of the bunk above his head. He knew he couldn’t stay in this cell, but he’d damn sure try.

Never thought I’d see another hunter so damn soon.

It was just his luck, too. He’d finally grown comfortable with his feelings for Carol and acceptance from these humans only for another hunter to show up. This woman could ruin everything he’d worked for with a few words. He closed his eyes and sighed.

I’m screwed. I can’t kill her, it’d only make them suspicious.

What’s worse is I scared the hell out of Carol. The fear had rushed from her in waves and it tore at him to know he did that to her. He hated himself for terrifying her even as he reveled in it. He ran a hand over his face and cursed himself.

I should go to her. Explain myself. Not that he’d give anything away. He couldn’t. She didn’t need to know the strange woman was a hunter and he was her target. He’d hold on to that truth for as long as he could.

Not that the woman would consider it. She’d probably attack me the moment she saw me.

Daryl pushed himself into a sitting position and saw a shadow fall over the floor. He looked up at the visitor.

“What?”

Rick stepped into the cell. “Moving? Thought you wanted to be with Carol.”

Daryl sighed. “I needed some space to think. I scared her.”

Rick placed his hands on his hips. “Don’t worry. She’ll bounce back, Daryl. She’s strong and she cares about you.”

He hoped so. He hoped he hadn’t damaged their relationship. The fear he sensed from her had him worried. That kind of fear wasn’t easy to come back from.

“I came in here for another reason, though.” Rick remarked. “I need your help.”

Daryl climbed to his feet. “With what?”

Rick ran a hand through his hair. “The woman saw Glenn and Maggie get kidnapped.”

A cold chill slid down Daryl’s spine and his pulse throbbed in his ears. He’d sent them out for supplies. He should’ve gone with them. He could’ve prevented them from getting captured.

“Who has them?” Daryl growled, his hands curling into fists.

“Some town called Woodbury. Michonne will show us. We’ll leave now and be there by nightfall.”

Daryl nodded, fighting the guilt rising within him. “We’ll get them back.”

Rick looked at him. “It’s not your fault for them getting captured. Don’t put this on yourself.”

Daryl shook his head. “I should’ve gone with them.”

Rick narrowed his eyes. “You were needed here. We don’t blame you, Daryl.”

Daryl pushed pass Rick and headed down the stairs. Platitudes wouldn’t help the guilt twisting his gut. Getting them back would and he’d make sure they were in one piece.

Carol stood in the doorway to their cell, tears welling in her eyes. His heart sank into his knees as more guilt rose within him. He ran a hand through his hair as he stepped toward her.

“I’m sorry for earlier.” He whispered as he closed the gap between them. “I…”

Carol placed a hand on his face and he shattered. He yanked her into his embrace and devoured her mouth. She buried her fingers in his hair and he pressed her hips into his. His tongue danced with her as fire surged inside him. He wanted to forget everything around him. He wanted to bury himself deep inside her, let his passion for her take over.

Carol pulled back and licked her kiss plump lips. “You’re forgiven, but you will tell me what that was all about.”

He sighed and placed his forehead against hers. He didn’t want to tell her. He wouldn’t tell her. She didn’t need to know he was a demon, born to torment humans. She’d run the other way or worse, try to kill him. It’s what they all did when they found out what he was. This time, he’d make sure none of them knew.

“Fine.” He whispered as he stroked her back. “When I get back.”

Carol kissed him then stepped out of his way. “You better.”

He snorted and stepped inside to grab his crossbow. He slung it over his shoulder and let his gaze roam over her. His need for her overwhelmed him, but Glenn and Maggie needed him even more.

“I’ll see you when I get back.” He kissed her one last time then followed Rick to where the woman and Oscar waited. The woman glared at him, her hand resting on the hilt of her katana. He stared at it as the urge to attack her rushed through him.

“Michonne knows where Glenn and Maggie were taken.” Rick announced. “She’ll take us there and we’ll get them back.”

“I know how to get in without them knowing.” Michonne mentioned, not taking her eyes off him. “We’ll go in that way.”

Rick nodded. “We’ll take one vehicle and stop a mile from the compound. Let’s go.”

Rick led the way out of the door and into daylight. The sun had gone behind the building, casting long shadows across the prison. Daryl followed Rick down the hill to the green Hyundai. A hand on his arm brought him to a stop. Oscar stepped by him, continuing down the hill.

“I know what you are.” Michonne whispered in his ear.

Daryl barked a laugh. “No shit. I know what you are, too.”

Michonne stepped in front of him and drew her sword. Daryl narrowed his eyes, but didn’t make a move.

“You really want to do this here?” Daryl asked, his voice low. “You really want to explain to them what’s going on?”

She twirled her weapon, her legs spread apart, ready to fight him. “I’ll tell them what you are.”

He snorted. “As if they’d believe you. You’re a stranger and I’ve been with them for months. They know me. They don’ know shit about you.”

Her eyes widened. “Months? And you haven’t tried to kill them?”

He shrugged and folded his arms across his chest. “They grew on me. I even searched for one of their kids.”

She stared at him, but didn’t relax her stance. “You’re kidding?”

Daryl sighed and stepped passed her. “Ask ‘em.”

He strode down the hill, but she wasn’t done. She hurried toward him and he braced himself for her strike. It didn’t come.

“Do they know what you are?”

“No.” He growled. “And they ain’t gonna know.”

She stepped in front of him. “You can’t hide what you are from them for long. They’ll find out.”

His sighed flashed red as he stepped closer to her. “They won’ find out if I can help it. You ain’t gonna tell them.”

She raised her chin. She wasn’t afraid of him and it annoyed the hell out of him. “They’ll figure it out, demon. What then? You’ll kill them all?”

Daryl didn’t want to think about it. He hadn’t lied when he said this group had grown on him. They allowed him into their group, accepted him, even respected him. He’d never had any of that before and it brought forth emotions he didn’t think he had.

“I’ll leave.” He whispered and continued down the hill.

****

Crickets sang from the trees and a cool breeze revealed the air of the stifling heat of the afternoon. Daryl knelt behind an abandoned car and stared up at the rested steel wall of Woodbury. Rick knelt beside him.

“No guards here.” Rick whispered.

“Exactly.” Michonne replied. “We can get in through here. Come on.”

Rick followed Michonne and Daryl followed him. He looked up at the wall. He could fly over it in complete silence and find where Glenn and Maggie where kept without anyone being the wiser. He gritted his teeth as he forced the idea away. He couldn’t be that reckless now. It’d only give Michonne a reason to attack him and the others to mistrust him.

“Through here.” Michonne slipped between a space between the walls and Daryl smirked at the ease. These people were either lazy or complacent in their security.

“I don’t like this.” Rick remarked, looking at him. “It can’t be this easy.”

Daryl shook his head. “This is just gettin’ in. Say that once we get where they’re bein’ held.”

Rick sighed and slipped through the space. Daryl slipped his crossbow off his shoulder and squeezed through followed by Oscar.

“Which way?” Rick asked.

Michonne padded on silent feet down the alley. Rick upholstered his gun and chased after her. She skidded to a stop behind a building and opened a door. She motioned for them to hurry inside which Rick did. Daryl ducked inside the building and allowed his eyes to adjust to the darkness.

He found himself in a small room with cleaning supplies scattered on shelves lining the walls. Rick stepped through a curtain leading into another room. Rick pushed a tattered cloth curtain back from a window and peered outside.

“The streets are clear.”

Daryl armed his weapon. “We need to know which building they’re being kept in.”

“Someone’s coming.” Rick announce and hurried away from the window. He ducked through the curtain.

Daryl sighed and stepped through the curtain with the others. He didn’t want to hide. He saw no reason to. He knew they needed to stay hidden. The quickest way to get their friends back was through stealth. The less who knew they were here, the better for all.

The door squeaked open and Daryl raised his crossbow.

“I know you’re in here.” A male voice called out. “You aren’t supposed to be in here.”

Footsteps crept along the wooden floorboards and Daryl looked toward the others. He searched the man’s mind, but Rick grabbed the man and pulled him into the room with them.

“Where are our friends?” Rick growled, aiming his gun at the old man’s head. “You kidnapped two of our people, where are they?”

The man shook his head as Oscar pushed him to his knees. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Daryl sensed the tension in the air and he reveled in it. He closed his eyes, taking it into his being. It traveled through him, calming him, but it awakened the darkness within. His grip on his crossbow tightened and he stared at the man on his knees. He pushed his mind into the human’s, searching for what he feared most. He tore pass the man’s current fear even as he loved the taste of it.

“Our friends were kidnapped by someone in this town and brought here.” Rick continued. “Where were they taken?”

The man shook his head again and Rick lowered his gun and turned away. He shoved his hands into his hair as he paced.

“We need to go.” Michonne put in. “He doesn’t know anything.”

Rick turned back to the man and hit him across the head with the gun. The man slumped to the side and Daryl blinked as his mind slammed back into his head.

“Tie him up.” Rick spoke to Oscar then took a step to Michonne. “You have any idea where they might be you better speak now.”

Michonne’s gaze scanned each of them, stopping on Daryl. He narrowed his eyes at the woman as his fingers twitched on the grip of his weapon. He’d be happy to end this hunter’s miserable life; all Rick had to do was give the word.

“I have an idea.” She said, turning her gaze back to Rick. “I’ll take you there.”

Rick nodded and motioned for the woman to take the lead. Michonne headed for the front door and took a peek outside. She opened the door and stepped outside.

Daryl stepped beside Rick. “Say the word and I’ll put her down.”

Rick shook his head. “We don’t kill the living.”

Daryl scoffed and headed outside. If the people of Woodbury didn’t have any qualms of kidnapping others, he doubted they had any qualms about killing the living.

He scanned the deserted street as he kept to the shadows. Where was everyone? Had they locked themselves behind closed doors once the sun went down?

He looked back at the large wall where two dark figures stood watch. They appeared to be the only people out at this time. Daryl shook his head and hurried to catch up to the others.

A town like this would’ve been an easy target for someone like him. If he’d been by himself and not searching for friends, he’d terrorize this town. It was towns like this he used to terrorize before the end of the world; before his brother dumped him at the quarry and disappeared. Where the hell was Merle anyway?

“Here.” Michonne whispered as she pulled open a metal door. “I’ve seen people come in and out of this building several times before.”

“What do you mean?” Rick asked.

Michonne looked at each of them then sighed. “I’ve seen the Governor and his flunkies come in and out of this building for days. None of the residents even go near this building.”

“That sounds suspicious.” Oscar remarked.

Michonne nodded, drew her sword and stepped into the building.

“Be on guard.” Rick said and slipped into the darkness.

Daryl followed in after, his crossbow raised and at the ready. He didn’t hear anything except their footsteps. That didn’t mean anything, though. For all he knew, an entire army could be waiting somewhere in this building and they wouldn’t know until it was too late.

He sent his mind out, searching for familiar and unfamiliar minds. He touched a mind so familiar, he almost froze. His breath caught and his grip on his weapon slipped. He fumbled for his weapon, catching it before it dropped to the ground.

“You all right?” Oscar asked behind him.

Daryl drew in a deep breath, forcing himself to be calm. It’s not him. This town would be screaming their heads off if he were here.

Merle loved nothing more than terrorizing towns, even more than Daryl. It was his favorite pass time and he wouldn’t pass up an opportunity like this. He ran a hand through his hair then raised his crossbow. “Fine. Let’s go.”

Voice reached his ears and they slowed their pace. Rick pressed his back against the wall and the rest followed suit. Daryl looked to Rick, waiting for the next move.

“We go in three.” Rick whispered as he pulled a smoke bomb from a pocket in his jeans.

Daryl closed his eyes and calmed the excitement growing within him. Finally, someone to torment without worry. His lips twitched at what he planned to do to these people. He wouldn’t have much time to fully enjoy it, but it should be enough to make them think twice about kidnapping someone again.

Rick counted to three then tossed the smoke bomb into the next room. He fired his gun into the smoke and blood filled the air, followed by a groan.

Daryl smiled as he strode into the room, his eyes scanning for the difference between the captured and the captors. He grabbed the shirt of a person on their knees and pulled them out of the room. His mind slammed into the mind of one of the captors, searching for fear. It didn’t take long to find it and a moment later, screams filled the room.

He tore off the black bag over the rescued and Glenn looked up at him.

“Get up.” Daryl snapped and helped him to his feet.

“Maggie?” Glenn asked as Daryl untied him.

“Rick’s gettin’ her.” He pushed the beaten and battered Glenn toward the door.

Footsteps and shouting hurried after him, followed by gunfire. He didn’t turn around, but kept pushing Glenn down the hall. Neither of them could afford to stop.

“Go.” He snarled and shoved Glenn harder.

“I’m going.” Glenn growled. “Quit pushing.”

Daryl sneered as he fought the urge to bring out the human’s worse fear in order to make him go faster. He should save it for the townspeople.

“Daryl!” Rick called behind him. “Slow down.”

Daryl chanced a look behind him and saw Rick racing toward him. He spotted Maggie, wearing Glenn’s shirt. He blinked then looked back at Glenn. One of the man’s eyes was swollen shut from a recent beating. He narrowed his eyes as rage rose within him. Whoever done that would pay.

“What the hell happened?” He growled.

“We need to go.” Rick pushed by him and yanked open the door. “Someone heard that and will be coming.”

He could take care of anyone stupid enough to come after them, but he knew they needed to get Glenn and Maggie out of here. He bit his cheek to keep from snarling as he followed the others out the door.

“Keep to the shadows.” Rick headed across the street, back the way they came.

The guards on the wall were gone and his senses rocketed to high alert. He scanned the town as he ducked behind a wall with the others. The street was silent, not a soul moved.

“Where the hell are they?” He peeked around the corner, but saw nothing, not even shadows.

“Where’s Michonne?” Rick asked, getting his attention.

“I thought she was behind you.” Oscar said.

Daryl breathed a sigh of relief. If the hunter didn’t want to stick with them, he wasn’t going to shed a tear. Maybe she cut her loses and vanished back to where she came from.

“We need to get out of here.” He reminded them. “Before they find us.”

Rick nodded and pulled out another smoke bomb. “Make for the exit.”

Shouts echoed behind them, followed by rushing feet. IF they didn’t leave now, they’d all be caught and this little rescue attempt would be in vain.

Daryl shouldered his crossbow and grabbed Oscar’s gun. “I’ll create a diversion.”

Rick stared at him. “I’m not leaving anyone behind.”

Daryl shook his head. “Get them out of here. I’ll be right behind you.”

Rick took a step toward him. The concern and admiration in his eyes unnerved Daryl. “You sure?”

“You won’ even notice I’m gone.”

Rick sighed. “All right, but once we’re safely outside, you follow. You got that?”

He smirked as he raised the gun. “Got it.”

Rick activated the smoke bomb and tossed it into the street. More shouts filled the night air followed by gunfire. Daryl pushed himself from the wall and fired at the shadows, giving the pursuers someone to shoot and allow the others to escape.

“Come on, Daryl.” Maggie shouted at him. He didn’t look at her, but continued to fire back at their pursuers. He watched Rick kneel behind a fallen bench and fire back. A scream rang over the gunfire and he knew they couldn’t stay here much longer.

“Go!” He shouted to Rick as he stepped closer.

Stop being stubborn.

Rick shot a few more rounds then rushed toward the exit. He didn’t look back, keeping his gaze focused on the shadows moving within the smoke.

He kept firing as he stepped backward toward the exit. Bullets sprayed around him, hitting the metal behind him and the ground in front of him. He chanced a glance behind him and saw the others had made it out. A body lay on the ground, but he didn’t have time to contemplate it or mourn. He needed to get out.

He turned back to the pursuers and fired. His gun clicked and he released the mag and stared at it. He tossed it to the side as his sight turned red. He grinned as lightning sparked around his hands.

The smoke began to dissipate as gasps and murmurs floated toward him. Five shadows shifted in front of him, guns aimed at him. He chuckled to himself as he took them in.

“Thoughtless humans.” He growled as he raised his hands. “You never learn.”

Pain shot from the back of his head and stars exploded in front of him. He turned his head to face his attack, but all he saw was a large fist rushing toward him. More pain erupted through his head then darkness.

Chapter Text

“What the hell are we going do with him?” A male voice broke through Daryl’s foggy brain. Worry and anger coated the voice, stimulating Daryl’s instinct to cause others’ suffering.

“He attacked us.” A cultured southern drawl answered. “The people are frightened and want to know who instigated this assault. We’ll give them him.”

Daryl opened his eyes to darkness. He shook his head, but the darkness remained. He blinked then the scent of decaying cloth filled his nose. Light filtered through the fabric over his head. He raised his hands, but they were bound behind his back. He tested the strength of the bindings and received stinging pain through his wrists for his trouble. What the hell did they coat the ropes with?

“He’s awake.” The first man remarked.

“Take the bag off.” The cultured voice said. “I want to see him.”

The bag lifted from his head and he blinked back the brightness. Coldness seeped through his jeans and his vision cleared. He looked around the room, taking in the dull grey concrete floor and wooden walls. A single bare light bulb hung from the ceiling.

Two men stood in front of him, one Hispanic and the other a tall dark haired male with white gauge over his right eye. He narrowed his gaze at the man, but received a smile in response. He must be the leader of this place, the Governor Michonne mentioned.

“Let me guess.” The man stepped forward under the light. “You’re here to rescue Glenn and his little girlfriend.”

Daryl smirked as he stared into the Governor’s gaze. The darkness within him flared to life, itching to be let loose. It swirled and ebbed as it sensed similarities in this man. He chuckled to himself, realizing this man didn’t have a clue what knelt in front of him.

The man raised an eyebrow. “What’s so funny?”

Daryl shook his head. Let him wonder. He’s find out soon enough. Not able to hold back the grin, he stared up at the man.

“Are you here for Glenn and the girl?” The Governor asked. “Is that why you attacked us?”

Daryl snorted. “You already know the answer to that.”

The Hispanic backhanded him. Daryl glared at the man, but received a punch to the face in response.

“Martinez, that’s no way to treat our guest.”

Daryl laughed. “You’re pathetic attempts at torture won’ work.”

The Governor stared at him. He squatted in front of Daryl and cocked his head to the side. Locking gazes with the man, Daryl licked the blood from the cut on his lip.

“Pathetic?” The man narrowed his eyes and punched him. “My home was attacked, my people terrorized-”

Daryl barked out a laugh. “You think that was terrorized?”

He fell onto his back. His laughter rang through the small room and tears stung his eyes. Pain exploded from his stomach through his body. He coughed and curled in on himself.

“Want some more?” Martinez shouted. “Keep laughing.”

“Take him to the arena.” The Governor snapped. “Let the people see justice done.”

Rough hands grabbed Daryl and yanked him to his feet. He glared at the taller man, wanting nothing more than to unleash all his powers on this place. The Governor didn’t flinch from his gaze, but all it did was bring a smile to Daryl’s face. Let the man think he had the upper hand. He loved bringing people who thought they ruled the world to their knees. The rush it brought was powerful and intoxicating.

“I can see the resemblance.” The Governor placed his hands on his hips. “He thought nothing could hurt him either.”

Daryl narrowed his eyes. “What the hell are you yappin’ about?”

The Governor smiled and unfastened the sheath at his hip. He pulled a black blade from the scabbard and held it up for him to see. The dagger glowed purple and the blood rushed from Daryl’s face. He backed away, his gaze frozen on the weapon.

“Where the hell did you get that?”

The Governor smirked and twirled the dagger in his hand. “Found it in the library here. Beautiful blade, don’t you think?” He ran a finger over the dagger. “The sharpness, the unique designs etched into the blade. I’ve seen nothing like it before. I wanted to know who created it and why. I didn’t believe this was created for art.”

He strode closer to Daryl. “Imagine my surprise when I learned what this is used for. Works wonders on biters, but this has a true purpose.”

“Get that away from me.” Daryl growled as his vision turned red.

“And there he is.” The Governor chuckled and paced back. “This was created to kill demons, powerful ones. I didn’t think such creatures existed until I came across one.”

Daryl narrowed his eyes and struggled against his bindings. “You ain’t usin’ that on me.”

Martinez snorted. “He’s not talking about you, dumbass. He’s talking about the other one.”

The Governor dug the dirt out from under his nails. “He won’t stop talking about you, Daryl. Wanted to look for you, even got a search team together.”

Daryl’s heart stopped as the words seeped into his mind. His breath caught and it grew difficult to breathe. His brother was here? Merle had been here the entire time.

“Where is he?” Daryl marched toward the man, but Martinez aimed a gun at him. “Where’s Merle?”

The Governor smiled. “You’ll be seeing him soon enough. Place the bag over his head. Let’s get this over with.”

Martinez snatched the bag off the floor and strode toward him. Daryl growled and kicked at Martinez. The man jumped back a second too late. The foot caught Martinez in the arm, but he continued to hold the bag.

The Governor grabbed Daryl’s arm and held the black blade close to his face. “Merle told me what this does to you, so if you don’t want to experience a slow agonizing death, I suggest you let Martinez put the bag on your head.”

“I’m gonna kill you.” Daryl snarled as he stared at the dagger. “I’ll bring forth every goddamn fear you have.”

The Governor chuckled. “Merle threatened me, too, now he works for me. He loves it.”

“You ain’t gonna tame me.”

“We’ll see.”

The Governor shoved him forward and the sack slipped over his head, blocking out the light.

****

Daryl stumbled forward as The Governor droned on about loyalty and safety. He chuckled to himself at the hypocrisy. The man hid his true self from his own people. If the chips were down, he doubted the Governor would lift a finger to help any of his people.

The bag lifted off his head and he glared at each and every person gathered around him. He smelled the bloodlust and fear oozing from every human around him. It filled his very being and he breathed it in. His lips curved into a smile as his gaze wandered over them. The urge to bathe in their fear grew and he wouldn’t bother to hold back this time. The temptation was too strong and he refused to deny himself the ecstasy terrifying this town would bring.

The Governor continued to taunt the people around them as Daryl’s gaze fell on a tall figure standing a few feet in front of him. His heart pounded in his chest as recognition hit him. He held himself still, not wanting to give away his shock at seeing his brother.

Merle paced between Martinez and another man who held his crossbow. So that’s where it went. He either didn’t notice Daryl or didn’t want to acknowledge him. It hurt a bit, but he ignored it rubbed at his now unbound wrists.

His gaze roamed across the gathering once again and he narrowed his eyes. He’d get them all back for capturing him and his brother. He’d have his own justice.

“Ya’ll know me.” Merle broke into his thoughts and he focused is attention on his brother. He raised his right hand, now a metal covering over a stump. A flash of memory at finding his hand raced through Daryl’s mind. He shoved it aside as he concentrated on sending his mind into every single human brain gathered around him.

I’m gonna get us out of here. They’ll know not to mess with demons.

“I’ve proved my loyalty to this town, time and time again.” Merle continued. He charged toward Daryl and slammed the metal stump into his head.

Fire and light exploded in Daryl’s mind and he spun around. He caught his balance and backhanded Merle across the face. Snarling, he followed it up with a kick to the groin.

Merle swung his leg and it collided with Daryl’s right leg. Pain lanced through him and he dropped to his knee. He pushed himself to his feet and grabbed Merle by the throat. His vision turned red as he strangled Merle. Merle punched him in the stomach then stomped on his foot.

“What the hell are you doin?” Daryl snarled.

“Nice to see you too, baby brother.” Merle shoved his hands into Daryl’s chest, knocking the wind out of him. He released Merle and stumbled. He fell onto his back and Merle punched him in the face, twice.

Enough of this. Daryl growled as lightning gathered around his hands. If these people want a fight, they’d get one. One they’ll remember forever. He sent lightning straight into Merle’s face. Merle screamed and covered his face, staggering backward. Daryl scrambled to his feet and flung more bolts at his brother. The lightning wrapped around Merle and electrocuted his brother until he fell to his knees.

Daryl closed his eyes and sent his mind into the townspeople gathered around him. A smile curved his lips as he searched their minds for their worst fears.

“Daryl!” Merle’s voice pierced his mind. “Stop.”

Screw that. These people will know true terror. He opened his eyes and darkness wrapped around his hands, swirling like a black cloud.

“What the hell’s going on?” The Governor stomped toward him, but a scream ripping through the crowd stopped him. “What the…?”

Daryl smiled as he spread his arms out. More screams swelled through the crowd and people jumped up; some brushing at their arms while others stomped their feet. Other clambered over each other to get away.

He chuckled as people flowed out of the stands, shrieking. He locked gazes with the Governor, who unhooked his scabbard and drew the dagger. Daryl narrowed his eyes and sent his mind into the Governor’s. People raced by him screaming and shouting. He ignored them as he narrowed his concentration to the man in front of him.

“Daryl!” Merle’s voice resonated on the edges of his mind, but he didn’t acknowledge him.

The Governor stalked toward him, the dagger raised. Merle charged toward the man and shoved him to the ground. The dagger bounced across the ground out of the man’s reach.

A smoke bomb landed in the middle of the arena, releasing smoke into the air. Merle grabbed him and shook him bringing him out of his focus.

“We have to go, Daryl.” Merle shouted in his face. “Now!”

He released him and raced out of the arena. People continued to scream around him and he wanted to bask in it. The Governor scrambled toward the dagger and Daryl snarled. He flung a fireball at the dagger and the Governor stared at him. Daryl spun on his heel and followed after his brother.

He yanked his crossbow from the hands of its captor and raced down the street. He passed Rick and Maggie with barely a nod. He caught sight of his brother at the wall and picked up his pace. Gunfire blasted behind him, but all his focus was on getting to the exit. He’d worry about what those two saw later.

“Come on!” Merle pushed open the wall, making it easier for him to squeeze through.

Once outside, he caught his breath, taking huge gulps of air. He turned as Rick and Maggie squeezed through the wall. He nodded to them and Rick patted him on the back. He knew then the two didn’t see his fight with Merle. He closed his eyes in relief and slung his crossbow over his shoulder.

“What are we standin’ around for?” Merle snapped as he strode toward them. “We have to go!”

He took off into the forest and Daryl shrugged then followed after him. The screams and shouted continued on behind him and he cursed his luck. He’d finally terrorized a town for the first time in a long time and he didn’t get to enjoy any of it.

Maybe I’ll come back later and give them some nightmares. No sense in letting such a opportunity slip through my fingers.

He chuckled to himself as excitement grew within him. He’d feed on those people’s fears and maybe even create new ones. They’d soon learn there was more to fear than walkers. They’d discover being behind a wall wouldn’t keep them safe. Their worst fears would only be the beginning.

Daryl burst through the forest and saw Glenn scramble to his feet beside the Hyundai. He pointed at Merle as Rick came around the vehicle.

“What the hell is he doing here?” Glenn snapped. “You were supposed to go back for Daryl.”

“He helped us escape.” Rick put in.

Glenn shook his head. “He beat and tortured me.”

Daryl looked from Glenn to Merle, who leaned against the car. Merle shrugged and pushed from the vehicle.

“What’d you want me to say?” Merle chuckled and spread his arms around. “Sorry?”

Glenn scoffed and shook his head. “We’re not taking him back with us.”

The rising sun brighten the area around them and Daryl saw the evidence of the beating Glenn received. His stomach clenched and his fingers curled into his palm. It surprised him how sickened he became seeing what his brother did to his friend. He narrowed his eyes at Merle, the urge to punch him rising.

“Glenn’s right.” Rick put in. “We can’t trust him.”

Daryl’s lip curled into a sneer. “What?”

Rick shook his head. “We can’t trust him.”

Merle shrugged. “I’m gonna take a leak. You kids talk amongst yourself.”

Rick grabbed Daryl’s arm and strode away from the Hyundai, Maggie and Glenn followed.

“What are you sayin’?” Daryl yanked his arm from the former cop’s grip. “We’re gonna leave my brother behind? Again?”

Rick sighed and ran a hand over his face. “He beat Glenn and shot Michonne.”

Daryl raised an eyebrow and glanced at Michonne. The hunter leaned against the car, staring at them. He narrowed his eyes and turned back to the others. He didn’t trust Michonne. He didn’t trust any hunter.

You trusted Dale. A part of himself reminded him. He shook his head. Only because the man didn’t want to attack me. He wasn’t in the game anymore. This woman is in the prime of her life and has a trigger finger.

“He’s not coming with us.” Rick repeated.

Daryl growled. “But you’ll take the Last Samurai?”

Rick looked at her then shook his head. “We’re going to give her some supplies and send her on her way.”

Daryl scoffed and shook his head. He finally found his brother and they wanted to turn him loose. He couldn’t do that. He’d tried to find him, even went back for him, but he was gone. He didn’t want to lose his brother again, not so soon after finding him.

“If you won’ let Merle come with us, then I’m done with you.” Daryl turned from them and headed back.

“Daryl.” Rick called after him. His footsteps pounded the ground as Rick hurried after him. “You can’t go.”

Daryl stared at Rick. “I ain’t leavin’ my brother again.”

Rick grabbed his arm, pulling him to a stop. “We need you, Daryl. You’re apart of this family.”

“No Merle, no me.” Daryl replied even though it tore at him. They had become a family. He didn’t want to leave them, but he couldn’t leave his brother. Merle might talk tough, but Daryl knew his brother had grown weak. He doubted Merle even used his powers any more. It was up to him to protect Merle from himself or he’d crawl back to the Governor.

He turned from Rick and ran into Glenn. He blinked at the human surprised at his quickness.

“What about Carol?” Glenn asked, a spark of knowing lighting in his dark eyes. “You sure you want to leave her?”

His heart clenched at the thought of leaving her. He tightened his grip on the strap as images of her filled his mind. He took a deep breath, steadying himself.

“She’ll understand.” He pushed by Glenn as he headed toward the forest. He spotted Merle leaning against a tree, waiting.

“You can’t leave.” Rick grabbed his arm again, pulling him to a stop. It took all he had not to shove Rick away. He understood their need to keep him with them, but blood would always be thicker and he had an obligation to his brother.

“I’m done discussin’ this.” He growled.

“I know you want your brother, but we need you.” Rick spoke as if he hadn’t heard Daryl’s words.

Daryl shook his head. “If you ain’t gonna let him come with us then there ain’t no us. Simple as that.”

“You’ve been without him for months, Daryl.” Glenn put in. “You don’t need him.”

Daryl glared at him. “He needs me.”

“Think about this, Daryl.” Rick stepped in front of him, blocking his path.

“I have. Now move.”

“Let him go.” Michonne sauntered toward them. “He’s made up his mind.”

“He’s family.” Glenn snapped. “We fight for family.”

Daryl closed his eyes and ran a hand over his face. They weren’t making it easy. He could knock them all out with a wave of his hand and be on his way, but he’d grown attached to them and didn’t want to hurt them. He sighed and cursed himself for getting soft. If he didn’t do something now they continue to get in his way in their ill-advised need to keep him with them.

They won’ let you go. They’ll do this all day and you’ll let them.

He growled and shoved by the two. He ignored their calls to stop as he headed into the forest. This was for the best, for all of them. He looked back at them, their mouths opened and their eyes wide. His heart sank into his stomach, but he ignored it. Merle put his arm around him as they marched up the hill and away from the humans.

Chapter Text

Carol paced back and forth behind the gate with Carl as they waited for Rick’s return with Maggie and Glenn. She glanced down the road every now and then as she fought the growing worry. She knew Daryl could take care of himself, but none of them knew what awaited in Woodbury.

“They’ll be back.” Carl offered, his voice confident.

She smiled wishing she had his confidence. Since starting a relationship with Daryl, this had been the first time being apart from him. Memories of sitting in the dark cell floated into her mind. She felt the same then as she did now. Lost and alone.

Stop it. Carol scolded herself. You’re stronger than this. He’s fine. He will be back.

She sighed and turned from the fence. She needed to focus on something else or she’d go insane. She looked at her hand then spotted a walker shuffling into the fence further down the line.

“See that walker there.” Carol nodded toward it.

Carl pushed his hat up and looked in the direction she pointed. “Yeah.”

She smiled. “Keep your eyes on it.”

Carl stared at her and she raised her hand. A golden light wrapped around it and Carl’s eyes widened. He turned back to watch the walker. She flung the light at the creature. The light narrowed into the form of a spear and struck the walker in the head. It slumped to the ground and Carl turned with a goofy grin on his face.

“That was awesome.” He shouted. “We won’t have to worry about bullets anymore!”

Carol snorted. “I wouldn’t go that far. I can’t be everywhere at once.”

An engine rumbled in the distance and Carol’s heart fluttered. Her stomach flipped as she and Carl hurried toward the gate. The green Hyundai raced down the road toward the gates. Carl slid the first gate to the side as the car slowed to a crawl. She pushed the second gate to the side as the vehicle rolled by her. She slid the gate closed and raced to the side of the car.

Glenn and Maggie filed out of the car along with Rick. She looked into the back of the Hyundai as Carl raced toward his father. Daryl wasn’t in the backseat nor was he in the front.

Where the hell was he?

Her stomach twisted into a knot as a cold chill raced up her spine. She clutched her stomach as a wave of nausea rippled through her.

“Carol.” Rick grabbed her arm, bringing her attention to him. Tears stung her eyes as she stared at him. “Daryl’s fine.”

Relief flowed over her, but it didn’t make her feel better. If he was alive why wasn’t he here?

“Where is he?”

Rick cleared his throat and looked at Glenn and Maggie. They both were beaten and her heart went out to them. The urge to take away their pain washed over her, but her concern for Daryl kept her from going to them. She needed to know where he was.

“We ran into his brother.” Rick squeezed her arm.

She narrowed her eyes. “What?”

Rick’s gaze held concern and anger, but his voice was soft. “He left with Merle. We tried to stop him, but he didn’t want to come back with us.”

Carol blinked as her stomach sank. After everything they’ve been through, Daryl left her? Left them? “Daryl’s gone?”

Rick sighed and pulled her into a hug. She buried her face in his shoulder as the realization slammed into her. She closed her eyes as tears rolled down her cheeks. He left because of his brother. Had he even cared about her? About any of them?

Stop it! She admonished herself again. You know him better than that. You’d have done the same thing.

Not like this. Not without a goodbye.

“It’s all right.” Rick whispered as he rubbed her back.

“Daryl’s gone.” Her voice cracked with the grief and anguish she felt. Daryl might be alive with his brother, but it felt as if he’d died in Woodbury. He wasn’t here with her. He wasn’t here to hold them together, keep this group safe. What would they do now?

“I’m sorry.” Rick stepped back, his own eyes full of remorse. “I know you loved him. We tried to get him to come back with us.”

Carol nodded as she wiped her eyes. “Merle’s his brother. Family comes first.”

“We’re his family, too.” Glenn snapped.

Carol stared at him, anger darkening his eyes. She stepped toward him and touched his face. He gasped, his eyes wide. A golden glow spread over his face, shrinking the bruise and bump around his eye. The swollen lip returned to normal.

“There.” Carol whispered. “Good as new.”

She wiped her eyes as she trudged up the hill toward the prison.

****

Daryl leaned against a tree as his brother relieved himself a few feet away from him. He looked his crossbow over, checking for damage and dirt. He needed to take his mind off Carol. A part of himself reprimanded him for leaving her, demanded he return to her.

I can’. They won’ let Merle anywhere near the buildin’. This is how it has to be.

Leaves crunched behind him and he pushed from the tree. He turned as he swung the crossbow over his shoulder.

“Still pinin’ for those humans, baby brother?” Merle asked, a wicked gleam in his eyes.

Daryl scoffed. “No.”

“They didn’ seem to want to let you go.” Merle cocked his head to the side. “How’d you get them to accept you, boy? Did they even know what you are?”

“No. They never found out.” Daryl answered, glaring at Merle. “Did the people of Woodbury know?”

Merle laughed and slapped him on the back. “Hell, no.”

“The Governor seemed to know.”

Merle shrugged. “He was the only one.”

Daryl narrowed his eyes and stepped closer to his brother. “He had the damn dagger, Merle. He showed it to me, threatened to use it on me.”

Merle ran his good hand through his hair. “Leave it in the past, Daryl. It’s over. We’re back together and can get back to what we do best; give people nightmares.”

Daryl shook his head. “You didn’ give any of those people nightmares, did you?”

Merle looked away and Daryl grabbed his arm, forcing his brother to look at him. He yanked his arm from Daryl’s grasp.

“He warned me not to.” Merle looked away again then punched a tree trunk. “He threatened to use the dagger if I did.”

“You never used your powers, did you?” Daryl growled. “You were that human’s pet, weren’ you?”

Merle glared at him, his eyes glowing red. “Do give me that, boy. You were those people’s pets, too.”

Daryl barked a laugh. “Just because they didn’ know what I was doesn’ mean I never gave any of them nightmares.”

Merle blinked. “What?”

Daryl shrugged and strode away from his brother. “I entered their dreams several times, Merle. I used my powers when they weren’ lookin’.”

“You gave them nightmares?” Merle’s footsteps crunched behind him.

“In the beginning.” He answered. “Then they grew on me.”

“You got soft, too.” Merle chuckled.

“I didn’ get soft.” Daryl snarled, glaring at his brother. “I used my powers.”

“Lucky you.” Merle raised his good hand and sparks jumped from it. “He kept me on a tight leash. Even when I lead a group out for supplies, I was watched. I didn’ get to use mine.”

A sense of sorrow built within Daryl. It wasn’t good for a demon to stop using his powers. They atrophied like an unused body part. Still, Merle could’ve found a way to use his powers.

“You were more of a pet than I.” Daryl told him, holding his gaze.

Merle snorted and picked up his pace. “Let’s vow never to get involved with humans again.”

Daryl followed him, but he couldn’t speak that vow. He refused to tell him about Carol. He didn’t want his brother to know he fell in love with a human. He’d never hear the end of it. He also feared Merle would do something to her to get back at him for some past affront or anything else Merle could come up with. Even when he wasn’t with her, he still wanted to protect her, keep her safe.

“We’re gonna find the first human group and lay waste to them.” Merle said, spreading his arms out. “We’re gonna be what humans fear, not these puny walking corpses.”

Daryl shook his head. The humans weren’t afraid of the walkers. They fought them or at least his group did. He saw the walls at Woodbury and how the people hid behind them. It brought back memories of when he was younger. That’s how humans lived thousands of years ago when demons roamed the planet. They were what humans feared then.

“Livin’ humans are scattered.” Daryl offered. “It’ll be a while before we come across anyone.”

“Don’ worry, little brother, we’ll come across humans sooner than you think.”

Daryl rolled his eyes. Being full of himself was one sure sign Merle was returning to normal. His powers might not come back, but his personality and temperament were on their way.

“Food should be the first thing we look for before showin’ off.” Daryl snapped as he slipped his crossbow off his shoulder.

Merle chuckled. “If you say so, little brother. If you say so.”

****

Carol placed a blanket in the make shift cradle as Beth bounced Judith in her arms. She didn’t want to think about Daryl leaving her, leaving this group. She didn’t want to hurt and worry. It didn’t help that everywhere she looked reminded her of Daryl, even Judith reminded her of him. She drew in a deep breath and fluffed up the blanket.

“It wasn’t right for Daryl to leave us.” Beth mentioned as if reading Carol’s mind. “We need him.”

Carol sighed. “He did what he thought was best.”

“Not for us.” The anger in Beth’s voice wasn’t lost on Carol. Anger and loss boiled within her, waiting to be released. She kept it down, though for all their sakes. This group didn’t need another person losing their minds.

“How can you stand there and not want to hit something?” Beth continued.

Carol smiled. “Because it won’t do anyone any good. I want him back more than anything, but I’m not going to be the one to take his brother away from him.”

Beth shook her head. “We’re weak without him.”

Carol couldn’t argue that. With Rick on the brink of insanity, Daryl stepped up and took the lead. Now with him gone and Rick on the edge, they were adrift. Glenn would have to step in and she didn’t know if the kid was ready.

We need you, Daryl. Now more than ever.

She took Judith from Beth and placed the baby in the makeshift crib. She smiled down at the baby as Judith cooed and giggled. Memories of Sophia as a baby floated into her mind and tears stung her eyes. She sniffed and tickled the baby. Judith grinned and squirmed some more. Carol laughed as the memories faded into the back of her mind. She hoped she wouldn’t have to do that with memories of Daryl. She wanted him to return to her, but she didn’t know if he would.

****

It didn’t take long to find humans at all. A group of them were fighting off walkers high up on a bridge over looking a river. A gunshot went off, echoing through the air. Daryl stared, debating on whether to help them or make things worse for the humans. His instinct was to make things worse, but the part that’d been around humans for too long demanded he help them.

“Well, looky there.” Merle smacked him on the shoulder. “Told we’d find humans.”

Daryl didn’t say anything. Instead, he slipped off his crossbow and headed up the hill toward the bridge.

“Hey, don’ hog all of ‘em.” Merle shouted after him. “Leave me some!”

Daryl scrambled up the hill and hurried across the bridge to the group. He armed his crossbow and aimed at the walkers trapping two of the humans on the bed of a truck. He let the arrow fly and it struck a walker in the head. It tumbled to the ground as Daryl armed his crossbow.

Another walker had a woman trapped in a car. Her screams inticed him, arousing the part of him that thrived on torment. He shoved it down as he took aim.

The man with the gun shot the walker blocking their escape. It fell to the ground and the men jumped off the truck. Daryl fired his arrow, striking the walker clawing at the car.

He raced across the bridge toward another walker shuffling toward the group. He swung his weapon at the creature’s head, sending it over the bridge into the river below. Merle sauntered toward the car with the woman. A baby cried from within and Daryl groaned. There was nothing Merle loved more than terrifying babies. He always said their screams were like music to his ears.

Damn it. The men stood off to the side aiming the gun at Merle as he slowly stalked the car. He ran his hand over the top as he peeked inside.

“Merle.” Daryl shouted as he marched toward his brother. “Leave them alone!”

Merle narrowed his gaze at him. “You’ve hung around humans too long, little brother. You forgot what it’s like to spread fear and chaos. Forgot how it tastes and feels.”

Daryl aimed his weapon at Merle. “I forgot nothin’. Back away from the car.”

Merle glared at him, his eyes glowing red. “This is are chance, Daryl. Get back into the swing of things, you and I. You gonna pass it up?”

“Back away from the car.” Daryl snarled. “I ain’t gonna tell you again.”

Merle raised his hands and took a step back. His heart pounded in his chest, the thrill of the fight still coursing through his veins. It also angered him he had to threaten his brother. They’ve gotten in fights before, but nothing like this. He knew he could take his brother and it angered and saddened him at the same time.

“Get your things and get out.” He ordered the humans. He kept his gaze on his brother as he heard footsteps scramble behind him. The car started and rubber peeled as the human sped away from them.

Merle sighed and lowered his arms. “You let them get away.”

“Yeah.” Daryl slung his crossbow over his shoulder and headed back down the hill.

“Where you going?”

Daryl didn’t answer, but he heard Merle’s footsteps crashing through the vegetation after him.

“You’re goin’ back to them ain’t ya?”

“It’s where I belong.”

Merle grabbed his arm, bringing him to a halt. “Your place is with me.”

Daryl wrenched his arm back. “You don’ get to say that. You could’ve joined us at anytime, but you didn’.”

Merle sighed. “The Governor’s men found me before I could catch up. They took me to Woodbury.”

Daryl shook his head. “You could’e left at anytime.”

Merle narrowed his eyes. “So could you. Don’ put all this one me, boy. You’re just as much to blame as me.”

Daryl turned on his heel and headed through the forest. He knew he could’ve left and searched for his brother. Truth was, the humans had grown on him. He felt connected to them, a sense of family he’d never felt with his own. They didn’t make him soft, though. If anything, they made him stronger. Sometimes it terrified him to know he needed those people as much as they needed him. He doubted he knew what to do without them.

“You know they won’ let me in.” Merle reminded him.

“I’ll make them.” Daryl snapped.

“I tried to kill that hunter. I shot her.”

Daryl raised an eyebrow. “That was you? What about usin’ your powers?”

Merle sighed. “I had a couple of humans with me. I killed them to cover up the reason she escaped.”

Daryl scoffed and picked up his pace. “She knows what I am.”

“She’ll tell the others, Daryl.” Merle warned. “She’ll try to kill you.”

“Me and her already had that discussion.” Daryl smirked. “She won’ tell anyone what we are and she won’ try to kill us. Not that she can. She doesn’ have the dagger.”

“You’re insane.” Merle grumbled. “Those humans really mean that much to you? You really care about them that much to live with a hunter?”

Daryl shrugged as he ducked under a low hanging branch. “I’ve already put up with one in the group. She shouldn’ be much of a problem.”

Merle growled. “I knew that old man with the RV was shifty.”

Daryl laughed and for the first time since this whole issue with Merle started, he felt elated.