Daryl shifted in an effort to become more comfortable on the patch of hard ground that he had selected to be his bed that night. He could see Rick’s silhouette highlighted by the moon as he stood watch on the wall that surrounded them. Around him, the soft sounds of the rest of the group sleeping soundly provided him an unexpected moment of comfort for him. While he wouldn’t truly admit it to himself, and certainly not to the others, they had become something of a family to him, regardless of how messed-up and dysfunctional it was. And yet, something was missing. Or someone.
The persistent gnawing sensation in the pit of his stomach had been making him uneasy since the highway. It was a sickeningly familiar feeling, the very same one that had plagued him during his search for Sophia, the one that returned when he turned his thoughts towards his missing brother. He couldn’t save that girl, didn’t even know if he was still alive. But he couldn’t fail her too. They needed her too much.
He sat up quickly and rolled the kinks out of his stiff shoulders and neck. Beside him, Carol muttered something in her sleep and rolled over, brushing her arm against his leg. Daryl forced himself not to shy away from the unwelcome contact too fast, he didn’t want to others to wake up just yet. He stood up as quietly as possible and slung his crossbow over his shoulder. Carefully dodging the slumbering bodies spread around the fire-pit, he made his way over to where Rick was vigilantly keeping watch for walkers.
He scrambled up the wall and came to rest beside the ‘retired’ cop, sweeping his eyes through the trees at the side of the road, staying sharp for any sign of stumbling movement. They remained silent that way for a few minutes, long enough for Daryl to become comfortable with the silence.
“Couldn’t sleep?” the question came in a raspy whisper. Daryl made a small sarcastic noise and turned on the wall to survey the other side of the road.
“Ain’t slept since this shitstorm started.” He replied, lightly running his finger down the fletching of one of his arrows.
Rick hummed in agreement, “I hear that,” he glanced in the general direction of Lori and Carl for a quick moment before turning back to his surveillance, “Nobody’s getting’ much sleep these days.”
Daryl tensed as a dark shape darted out of the trees and scurried across the road, disappearing into a thicket of bushes on the other side. He kept his eyes trained on the area it had emerged from, only relaxing again when nothing unwelcome followed.
“Lost too many people today.” Daryl mumbled, more to himself than to his companion. He sensed Rick step closer and tensed involuntarily, his hunter’s senses heightening at the presence behind his back.
“Andrea’s smart, she can take care of herself,” Rick replied to the observation. Daryl caught the underlying ‘if she’s alive’ and shuffled restlessly. He grunted in acknowledgement tracked the movement of the dark shadow from before as it emerged from it’s hiding place in the bushes. Raising his crossbow, he loaded an arrow and quickly fired at the creature, barely waiting to see if it fell before he was back on the ground and moving swiftly and silently towards his kill.
He lifted the possum by its tail and retrieved his arrow, feeling a fleeting moment of pride at the clean kill. He saw Rick nodding appreciatively as he headed back to the camp, dropping the dead animal out of the way to be cleaned in the morning.
He returned to his place on the wall just as Rick stifled a yawn. “I’ll take over,” he murmured, his tone leaving no room argument. Rick hesitated only for a moment before nodding his acquiescence and jumping off the wall, landing with a soft thud on the loose soil. Daryl watched him lean over Carl and pull the flimsy cover they had found in the back of one of the cars further up his chest. He turned his attention back to his duty before the other man laid beside his wife and pulled her closer; he did not need to be witnessing that shit, he told himself.
Before long, Rick’s deep snoring joined the symphony of sounds the rest of the group were making in their sleep. Daryl grimaced and reloaded his crossbow; if the dead weren’t already up and walking, the noise Rick alone was making would be enough to make them crawl out of their graves.
He walked slowly along the top of the wall, expertly dodging where it was crumbling in places, and kept his eyes moving in a constant sweeping arc around the perimeter. A quick glance at the horizon told him it couldn’t be far off dawn. Perfect, he didn’t want to be walking around in the dark.
He stood silently as he waited for the sun to rise, not once letting himself lag in his self-assigned duty. He knew they wouldn’t be able to stay there long, not with the number of walkers around, walking aimlessly in the direction they had last head noises. They may be slow, but it was only a matte of time before they caught up to them again. What happened at the farm proved that. Staying was not an option.
The first sounds of movement within the camp came just as the sun began to peek through the trees. He didn’t move until he heard someone trying to climb the wall; quiet curses and feet scrabbling against the rock drawing his attention. Glenn gave Daryl a meek smile when he turned and helped to haul the young Korean up the rest of the way.
“’Bout time you woke your ass up.” He said brusquely, helping Glenn to get his footing on the wall before moving away.
“Sorry? Was it my turn to be on watch?” Glenn asked around a yawn, rubbing the remnants of sleep from his eyes.
Daryl plucked one of his arrows off his crossbow and examined the fletching, holding it away from it and peering down the line of the feather. “Nah, just thought it would be a good idea fer someone to be awake ‘fore I left.” He replied. Out of the corner of his eye he caught the sharp turn of Glenn’s head.
“You’re leaving?” He asked incredulously, “Why?” he glanced apprehensively towards the rest of the people sleeping below them and chewed on his lower lip. Daryl returned the arrow to its holder and met Glenn’s questioning gaze.
“Imma goin’ to find her.” he responded, unsurprised when Glenn’s dark eyes widened.
“Who, Andrea?” Daryl remained silent and flicked his eyes away from Glenn. “Are you crazy?” he hissed, stepping closer to the southerner, “You heard what Rick said, if she’s not dead she’s somewhere else, you’ll never find her!”
Daryl felt his irritation rising as he listened to the young man sprouting reasons why he shouldn’t go, and yet the only thought that was in his head was that she was out there, by herself. He couldn’t fail her too. Not the way he failed Sophia.
“I ain’t leavin’ her behind,” he said gruffly, putting an end to Glenn’s tirade. Glenn sighed in resignation and lowered his head, adjusting the ever-present baseball cap.
“Rick won’t let us stay here, how will you find us?” Glenn whispered, his gaze shooting over to the man who was curled on his side next to the long extinguished fire-pit.
“Y’let me worry ‘bout that, China.” Daryl replied, slinging the strap of his crossbow over his shoulder and checking all of the arrows were secure. Glenn swallowed nervously as the other man jumped to the ground and collected his bags, quickly checking he had everything he would need while he was gone.
Daryl attached the bags to the back of his motorcycle and wheeled it slowly to the edge of the camp, only stopping to nod once at Glenn watching from the wall before continuing down the road, back towards the highway.
He walked quickly, constantly keeping his eyes open for any walkers that might have stumbled this far through the woods, the weight of his crossbow giving him a small amount of comfort hanging by his side.
He waited until he was a good distance away from the camp before he climbed onto the motorcycle and brought it to life, the familiar loud growl of the engine adding another layer of reassurance and comfort as he sped down the deserted roads, dodging the occasional stray walker that appeared in his path. He could only hope that Rick would have enough sense to move the rest of the group early, before they got trapped and that noise of his motorcycle would draw any other walkers in the area away from the camp.
By the time he reached the highway, Daryl was cursing himself for not stopping long enough to eat. He snorted at the thought, they didn’t have any food anyway, just the possum from during the night.
He slowly weaved the motorcycle through the graveyard of deserted cars, aiming for where they had left supplies for Sophia. If there was anything that hadn’t already been taken by other survivors, he might as well make use of it.
Everything was exactly the way that they had left it after leaving the farm, and Daryl felt his heart sink. Andrea hadn’t been there. She hadn’t gotten away from the farm. At least not that way.
The more he thought about it, the more the idea strengthened his resolve to find her. Without giving much thought to it, he ate the rest of the supplies that had been left on the car for Sophia, keeping half his attention on his surroundings while he inspected the cars that had been abandoned.
He spotted the blue truck that T-Dogg and Andrea had been using during the walker attack, the one T-Dogg had stupidly left behind after they met up again. He smiled grimly to himself and pulled the driver’s side door open, minutely happy to see that the keys were still in the ignition. He started the engine and grinned when the fuel gauge indicted there was nearly half a tank left. More than enough for what he’d need.
He loaded his motorcycle onto the bed of the truck and dropped his crossbow onto the passenger seat. With one last look around, he set the truck in gear and drove back to the place they had once considered a haven.