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Silent, fast, and lethal

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You joisted awake, heart beating hard, sitting up and grabbing your knife, looking around wildly. You were sure you had heard a walker getting trapped on the wire around your little camp, making the top cans you had attached to it rattle. You thought you’d even heard its growls. But it’d only been a nightmare. With a sigh, you got up and began to get your scarce things back into your backpack and to untie the wire to take it with you.

You didn’t stay for more than a day at the same place since you lost your camp three days ago, or maybe four. You were starting to lose the track of time. That had been your second camp. The first was a military one, at the beginning of everything, that was overrun by walkers. The people that had survived had taken you with them and after a couple of months on the run, setting camps here and there, you all found a nice spot deep in the woods to set a camp. The area was secluded and not many walkers stumbled into it, there was a stream close and rabbits were abundant. Life was good. Now you knew good things never lasted in this world. Your people were gone, and your nice camp was gone too.

A group of walkers had seemed to come out of nowhere, the bigger group you’d ever seen. You all had fought hard, had fought your best, but it was for nothing. They were too many, and they had overpowered you. You’d taken a look at your fallen friends and at the monsters, and you’d run away from there.

So there you were now, still in the woods, but you knew you couldn’t keep going like that. You were in badly need of supplies and shelter, but you didn’t know where to find them. And if you were honest, you weren’t sure you knew how to leave the woods. You didn’t have a map or a compass, and you were feeling rather lost.

Trying not to despair, you went to check the trap you had settled, finding it had caught a rabbit. You gave thanks to the friend who had taught you to do that, dead now, you would be starving by now if she hadn’t. You hang the rabbit to your belt for later and began walking, the same direction you’d been following for the last couple of days.

You’d been walking for a while through the woods when you heard some voices and noise coming from ahead. You didn’t know what to do, but finally you decided to check it. It could be dangerous, but it could be your chance at finding shelter too. You crouched down and approached, hiding into some bushes, moving silently, in case the people weren’t friendly.

You were pretty good at hiding and sneaking around, at moving without making noise or being noticed, you’d always been. You started doing it as a game when you were a little girl, playing hide and seek, or catch with your friends and also to spy on your parents, soon you were good at moving pretty quickly too. In your teens, it had helped you to sneak in and out of the house without your parents noticing it. As an adult, it came in handy when you began working as a private detective…fancy title to say that you followed and sneaked on people, taking compromising pictures of them for their scorned partners. It wasn’t glamorous, but it paid rent.

Little did you know back then that now it’d be a life savior skill.

From your hiding spot, you saw a young asian man and a young woman with big green eyes on their knees, gagged and with their hands tied to their back. Two men were pointing their guns at them while others went through what you guessed were their bags, full of supplies.

You knew that kind of men. Raiders, murderers, you had encountered people like that before, some even had tried to steal from your people, a couple of times men like that had shown up in your camp, threatening you, but they had never come out of it unharmed or even alive. You’d never been the one to stop them, though, you’d never faced men, only walkers, but you needed to help that couple before the men killed them. You weren’t sure how to do it, though, you only had your knives and they had guns. They’d shoot you on sight.

You thought quick, took a deep breath, and jumped into action. You took a stone and threw it away, making sure to stay hidden. The men looked towards where it had landed, startled by the noise and the rustle of the bushes. When they looked away again, you threw another stone to the same place. The men looked towards the bushes again and that time you saw them talking between them before one of them went to check.

You moved silently, still hidden, until you got behind the man. You only had trained to do this with walkers, but you hoped it’d work the same with men. You made sure the other men weren’t looking and you acted quick, sinking your knife into the man’s throat while placing your other hand over his mouth to keep him silent. You held him and made his body lie silently onto the ground, hidden by the bushes, and you moved away again just in time, the other two men looking around and noticing their friend missing.

They moved towards where the other man had disappeared and you waited for your moment. You moved around them, hidden and silent, until you were behind them without them noticing you. Once again you sank one of your knives into the throat of the closer one. The other turned to you and went to aim his gun, but you were fast, thanks to months of training, and you stabbed him and cut his throat before he could shot you.

You looked at the bodies. It was the first time you killed people, and you tried not to overthink it. You thought you should be feeling something, though, but you didn’t. Turning around, you went to the tied up couple, who were looking at you with wide, shocked eyes. “I’m going to help you”, you told them, but before you could go to them you hear someone else coming. Moving fast, you hid again behind a tree just in time to see a dangerous looking man approaching, a crossbow aimed in front of him, wild long hair falling over his eyes as he rushed towards the tied couple.

You thought he was one of the men who was going to kill the couple and so you left your hiding spot quickly but silently, making sure to get behind his back, and raised your knife.

The couple began shaking their heads and making noises that sounded like ‘noes’ through their gags, and so you stopped before stabbing him. Maybe this man wasn’t one of the bad guys? That made the man turn around and he seemed startled to find you there. He was fast too, dropping his crossbow and grabbing your wrist, trying to make you lower your knife. Shit, maybe you should have stabbed him. You lifted your free hand to try to punch him but he grabbed your arm and you only managed to scratch his face, his grip on you strong. He shoved you onto the floor, you landing on your knees, and he grabbed his crossbow before you could react.

“Don’t move!” He shouted to you, moving to free the couple but without stopping aiming at you.

“She helped us!” The woman said as soon as she was ungagged, the man next to her nodding. “Killed the men who got us.”

The man with the wild hair looked from the corpses of the men to you, lowering his crossbow. The woman reached her hand to you and reluctantly you took it, getting up.

“Thank you for saving us.” She told you, giving you a smile, noticing that you were nervous. “I’m Maggie, and this is Glenn, that’s Daryl. We were out scavenging and Daryl’d gone hunting when those men ambushed us.” You just nodded, silent, trying to decide if they were good people or not.

“Are you alone?” Glenn asked you softly and you nodded. “You don’t have a camp or anything?”

“My camp was overrun a couple of days ago…don’t think anyone else made it…” You shrugged, feeling a lump in your throat as you were forced to remember it. They looked at each other, seeming to be able to communicate without words, before looking back at you.

“How many walkers have you killed?” Daryl asked you, out of the blue.

“Quite a few, I don’t know, why you care?” You looked at him weirdly.

“And how many people?” Glenn asked, and you guessed if it was a code or something. You were too tired to care.

“Those three.” You nodded to the dead men.

“Why?” It was Daryl again, and you rolled your eyes.

“Wasn’t evident? To help your friends.” You shrugged.

They looked at each other, seeming to have another of those silent conversations, and then Maggie nodded.

“We have a place,” Glenn began to explain. “A prison, but it’s a home. We live in there, it’s safe, it’s good. We’re a big group, we take in people who need it. You could come and join us, if you want.”

You probably should have thought it for longer than you did, you didn’t know those people and you could be running right into a trap, but you were painfully aware of how much you needed their help. Besides, they didn’t seem that bad. You nodded and it was settled, they began walking you to their place.

On the way there, Maggie told you a bit more about their community and the prison, but you were impressed anyway when you saw it, with the tall fences protecting it, the sturdy walls, the gardens and amount of people that you could see through the fences. It seemed impossible that a place like that could exist. Glenn noticed your wide, surprised eyes and he smiled, patting your back as they walked you into the prison.

You had to wait in an empty cellblock, in what they called a room but was pretty much a cell, while they talked to Rick, their leader. You’d caught a glimpse of him, he seemed serious and a bit dangerous, but not like a bad guy. You hoped. You took a deep breath, trying to stay calm while you waited.

Maggie came back alone, though you noticed Daryl following her not far. She gave you a smile and you relaxed a bit. “Rick said you can stay. We told him you saved us, that you’re a good one,” she said and you nodded, grateful. “We also told him how you sneaked on those men and on Daryl even, you’re skilled, you’ll be a big help on runs.”

“Thanks.” You murmured, blushing a bit.

“Let’s get you settled, okay?” Maggie patted your shoulder reassuringly. “I’ll show you around, get you some things.”

You thanked her again, you had lost most of your stuff when you ran away from your camp. You remembered the rabbit you had hanging from your belt and you handed it awkwardly to Maggie. At least you got something for those people who were taking you in.

“We’ll use it for tonight’s stew.” Maggie smiled kindly, taking the rabbit. She nodded at Daryl to get closer, noticing he was around, and gave him the rabbit, which he tied to the string he carried around his shoulder and in which he’d tied a few squirrels. He looked at you, but didn’t say anything and he walked away.

Maggie showed you around, and you were amazed at everything they had in that place, the food they grew, their running water. Incredible. You’d gotten pretty lucky. He introduced you to some people as you walked, and it was a bit overwhelming but they were all kind and nice to you. Finally, Maggie walked you to a cell which was to become your very own room. You couldn’t believe it.

“Thank you, really.” You told Maggie as you flopped down onto the bed, bouncing on it. When was the last time you’d sleep on a mattress? Before the apocalypse for sure.

“Do you need anything else?” She asked you kindly, and you shook your head, Maggie had already done enough. “Alright, I’ll leave you to rest for a bit, you can wash if you want, and feel free to use those clothes.” She pointed at the pile that someone had left you over a small bedside table.

“Thanks,” You said, genuinely and still a bit overwhelmed.

“See you for dinner in a couple of hours.” Maggie squeezed your shoulder softly and left you to get used to your new room and the place.

You were going through the clothes you’d been given when you heard a knock on the bars of the cell. You looked up and found Rick standing at the door. You’d been surprised at the leader of this place not talking to you personally, but you guessed he’d trusted Maggie, Glenn, and Daryl, and he’d wanted to give you time to settle down. It seemed it was time to speak now.

Your talk with Rick wasn’t long. He was inquisitive, but not suspicious, firm but also kind. After a few questions, some talk about each other, he welcomed you in, and also invited you to join a group that was going on a run in a couple of days.

Once it was time for dinner, you walked to the area where people were gathering and joined the queue. Two people were serving bowls of stew, and yours was handed by a woman with short, gray hair.

“Hi, you’re the new one, right? I’m Carol.” She greeted as she served the stew.

“Yeah, I’m Y/N, nice to meet you. Thanks for the stew.”

“Thanks for the rabbit, we used for the stew along with some Daryl squirrels.” She told you, and you nodded before leaving so the next person could have his stew.

You looked around at the long tables, people already sitting down. You saw Daryl was eating too, though not there but sat down on the stairs that led to another cellblock, and you thought he was looking at you. You waved at him shyly and he gave you a nod, dropping his gaze to the ground.

Maggie waved at you, signaling you to join her and pointing at an empty seat next to her, Glenn at her other side. Once you sat down she introduced you to his family, his father Hershel and her little sister Beth. They were all nice and kind, taking you in without any fuss, and you felt more than welcomed.

You ended up eating two bowls of stew after they told you it was okay, you hadn’t realized you had been starving until then. After dinner, you helped clean up everything and then you went back to your new room. You light up some candles to illuminate it and sat down on the bed, staring at the wall. You felt…you felt weird. This place was beyond nice, the people were nice, but it felt a bit surreal. And you still couldn’t believe you’d lost your people. That couple of days on the run, concentrated only on surviving, hadn’t allowed you to come to terms with it, and the reality of it all hit you now.

You hugged your knees to your chest, sniffing a bit. You were grateful for this place, you had gotten lucky. You just wished your people had gotten lucky like that too. None of you had ever imagined that such a big herd of walkers could show up out of the blue in your camp. But judging by the walkers you had seen at the outside of the prison fences, they seemed to be drawn to groups of people, and they were more and more each passing day.

You heard a noise close and you looked up, startled, before reminding yourself that you were safe behind fences and walls. It was Daryl, looking at you from outside the cell, and he muttered a sorry and turned around.

“No, wait.” You called after him, rubbing your eyes quick. “Come in.” Daryl seemed hesitant, but finally he walked into your cell, looking at the ground before looking up at you, and then back at the ground. You were waiting for him to say anything, but he didn’t. “You wanted something?” You ventured.

Daryl looked at you, seeming to think it for a couple of seconds before pointing at your arms. “I’m sorry about that.”

You didn’t know what he was talking about, but when you looked at your arms, you noticed some bruises had formed from when’d had grabbed you hard. “Oh…it’s nothing. You thought I was one of the bad guys who was going to kill your friends.” You shrugged, giving Daryl a weak smile, he shouldn’t feel guilty about it. He still seemed serious, chewing on his thumbnail as he looked at your fresh bruises. “Hey, I almost stabbed you after all.” You half-joked.

“Yeah. You’re good, almost got me.” Daryl nodded, and you thought he kind of looked impressed, making you blush. “I didn’t notice you.”

“I’m sorry about that too.” You pointed at the scratches you’d left on his cheek.

“Ain’t nothing. You thought I was going to kill Glenn and Maggie.”

“Yeah…”

For a short moment, none of you said anything, Daryl looking at the floor awkwardly, and you looking at him with curiosity. You hadn’t thought he’d go to apologize, you hadn’t expected it or needed it. He’d seemed dangerous to you at first, and although you were pretty sure he must be a skilled, lethal survivor, you now thought he seemed kind too, in his awkward way, and rather shy, something that you hadn’t imagined the first time you saw him. You waited for him to say anything else or leave, silent.

“You hunt?” Daryl finally asked without looking up from the floor, taking you by surprise.

“Uh…no.”

“And the rabbit?” He finally looked at you.

“Oh!” Now you realized why he was asking. “No, I caught it with a trap. You hunt, don’t you?”

“Hmm hmm.” Daryl nodded. “I could show you where you could set a trap, if you want, we got a lot of people to feed now.”

“Okay, thanks.” You nodded, and sighed sadly as you thought about the friend who had taught you that and who you’d seen devoured by walkers. You teared up again and you rubbed your eyes, embarrassed.

“You okay?” Daryl asked you, his tone soft and understanding even though he seemed very awkward.

“Yeah…” You nodded. “Just…my people…the ones I lost. They taught me everything I know. How to set traps, what kind of berries and mushrooms you can eat, how to use the knives, everything I know. Yet they’re dead and I’m alive. It’s stupid.”

You would be dead by now if it weren’t for them, who had taken you with them and turned you into a skilled survivor. First one of them had noticed your skill at moving silently, and she had encouraged you to train with her daily, until you were silent as a shadow so walkers wouldn’t notice you, moving quicker than you had ever done. Another one had trained you with the knives, which you had never used before, several hours each day, until you became rather good with them. Then you started to train on sneaking on walkers to put them down fast and silently, embedding your knives into their skulls before they even turned to look at you.

Your friends had taught you everything you knew about survival, they had made you what you were now, yet they were gone and you were alive. It didn’t make sense. It wasn’t fair.

Daryl looked at you, seeming like he didn’t know what to say. “I’m sorry about your people.” He muttered looking away from you again. “But you shouldn’t feel guilty about surviving.”

“Yeah…” You gave him a weak and sad but grateful smile, and Daryl reached out to give you the most awkward, soft pat on your shoulder ever, but you knew he was trying to be comforting, and you were grateful.

You looked at him as he left the cell, tugging a piece of fabric that hung over the bars until it covered the door like a curtain, giving you privacy. You changed clothes and got into the bed, wrapping yourself with the blankets and sheet, finding hard to believe that you were lying down on a real bed, pillow and all.

Your mind was still full of memories of your dead friends and images of them being attacked by the walkers, and you were sure you weren’t going to be able to sleep, but you were so exhausted after three days barely sleeping, and you felt so safe now, that as soon as you closed your eyes you fell fast asleep.

Next day you kept getting used to the new place and the new people. You knew it would take you a bit to learn all the names, and even more to get to know all of those people, but all in all, they seemed nice and you knew you had been lucky to find them.

After lunch, Maggie and Glenn told you about the run they had planned for the next day, and to which you had been asked to join, if you wanted to. It was to a supermarket that they pointed to you in a map, and they hoped it hadn’t been raided yet, at least not completely. You’d be going early in the morning so as to be back before the sun started to go down. Besides Maggie and Glenn, Rick and Daryl were going too, and also Sasha, who was now at the watchtower, and Michonne, a woman whom you didn’t know yet because she’d been out and had arrived yesterday, late at night, when you were already asleep.

Once Maggie and Glenn explained you everything about their runs, how they worked, and everything you might need, they left you alone and you wandered through the prison yard. Everyone seemed to have chores or a job to do, and you wondered what might be your place there from now on.

You stopped when you saw a woman training with a katana a bit ahead of you. You watched her, mesmerized by her movements and her skill, she was graceful yet lethal, and you didn’t think you’d ever seen anything like that before. You couldn’t help but stare. She stopped when she noticed you, smiling and approaching.

“Hey, you must be the new girl, I’m Michonne.” She greeted.

“Hi, I’m Y/N.”

“Nice to meet you finally, Maggie won’t stop talking about you yesterday when I arrived, saying you’re good with knives and that you saved her and Glenn, that you sneaked on Daryl without him noticing you and what not.” Michone laughed softly and you blushed a bright red at her words.

“I’m not half as good as you are with that katana…” You shrugged, self-conscious.

“Being training for a long while now, and I guess you too.” Michonne gave you another easy smile that helped you feel better. “Rick must be really eager to see if what they say is true, though, he hadn’t gone out on a run in a while now.” She chuckled.

“Well…I hope I won’t disappoint…”

“I’m sure you won’t.” She patted your arm. “Want to train with me for a bit?”

“Yeah, yeah, okay.”

Michonne and you ended up training for longer than any of you had planned, her with her katana and you with your knives. It was fun, and she was fun too, and you found yourself having quite a good time. Both of you ended up the training session panting and sweaty, and you still found it hard to believe that they had running water to wash without having to go to the river, almost like a shower. You weren’t going to lie, you loved it.

That night, though, as you tried to sleep, everything came back to you. Your friends. Your camp. The walkers. The three men you had killed. Every time that you closed your eyes, there were they. You turned and tossed, knowing that you needed to rest for tomorrow’s run, you tried to think on anything else, tried keeping your mind blank, but it was for nothing.

With a frustrated sigh, you got up. Throwing a shirt over your tank top, you decided to go for a walk around the yard. It wasn’t usual that you could walk at night on the open air knowing that you were safe, that you hadn’t to worry about walkers. You hadn’t been wandering through the yard for long when you heard a voice calling you.

“Hey”

You looked around in the darkness and you saw someone sat down on one of the tables, smoking, and soon you realized it was Daryl.

“Hey” You approached him.

“You okay?”

“Yeah…” You nodded and sat down at the other end of the table. “You couldn’t sleep either?”

“Ain’t tired,” he shrugged.

“You should rest, we have a run early tomorrow.” You said awkwardly, not sure of how to make conversation.

“You too.”

“Yeah…”

Without looking at you, Daryl reached out to pass you the cigarette. You’d never been one for smoking, at least before the world ended, but you took it anyway, muttering thanks and taking a drag before passing it back to Daryl.

“Can’t stop seeing them, every time I try to sleep. My friends.” You said quietly after a little while of silence. “I wonder if I’ll ever stop thinking about the ones I lost. I feel they’re always in my head.”

“You won’t,” Daryl replied, as quietly as you, reaching out to pass you the cigarette again. “At least I didn’t. But it’ll feel different.”

Of course, he had lost people too. Who hadn’t. You looked at him but his expression was unreadable, face half hidden by the darkness and his long hair. You were curious, but you knew better than to ask him about his losses. Nobody liked to think about that. You didn’t want to remind him, and neither did you want to keep thinking about yours.

“Can’t stop thinking about the men I killed either.” You murmured. “I hadn’t killed anyone before.” At first, you hadn’t felt anything, which had unsettled you a bit, but now the fact that you’d killed people, alive people, weighed on you, especially because of the lack of remorse, you still didn’t feel anything of that. Maybe after putting down so many walkers, now you didn’t care about killing people either, maybe murder was now second nature to you. You didn’t know what to say to that.

“You did what you had to,” Daryl replied.

“Did I?” You thought that trying to talk would have been useless, but maybe you could have done something else. “I could have tried and leave them unconscious or… I don’t know.”

“No. They’d have killed you. Probably Glenn and Maggie too. I know men like that.”

“I guess…I just…I don’t know…I don’t feel anything, no remorse, nothing. Maybe I can kill people like nothing now, maybe that’s just what I am, what I’ve become.”

Daryl looked at you at that, frowning. “Ain’t that, you had to do it, told you.”

You nodded, you weren’t sure if you were convinced, but you appreciated Daryl’s words. You passed him the pretty-much-finished cigarette back. “Have you ever killed someone?” You ventured to ask, wondering if it might be too personal.

“Yeah.”

You bit your lip, unsure about keep pressing it. “What happened?”

Daryl didn’t answer. Instead, she stubbed the butt of the cigarette on the stone table and got up. “We gotta sleep.” You nodded and got up too. Daryl walked you to your cellblock, which you weren’t expecting, as if wanting to make sure you were actually okay, before leaving towards his own.

Back in bed, you kept tossing and turning for a bit, but you felt it was easier to relax and eventually, you fell asleep.

Chapter Text

Next morning you left for the run as the sun was getting up, taking two cars and a bike which seemed to be Daryl’s. Once you all arrived at the supermarket, which was bigger than you’d thought, Glenn laid out the plan for the run. You would divide into two groups, each one going to a different area of the supermarket, and inside the groups, you could go in pairs if you needed to cover more ground.

You all walked into the supermarket together, putting down the walkers that were there. You weren’t sure there wouldn’t be more roaming in the place, but for now, it seemed clear enough. You were in the same group as Rick, Daryl, and Michonne, and you four headed towards the area Glenn told you.

You were looking for certain stuff, but also you took anything else you might find useful, though most of the aisles had been raided already. At some point, you heard some quiet banging coming from some doors ahead, and Michonne and Daryl decided to go check it, see if there were walkers inside, while Rick and you kept checking the camping area aisles.

You noticed two walkers munching on a corpse, you weren’t sure if human or not, in one of the aisles, its backs to you. With a knife on each hand, you approached them silently without them noticing you, until you sunk your knives into their heads. You hadn’t noticed another one, a shelve had hidden it and it reached out to grab you, but you acted quickly, stabbing it in the eye before it even touched you. Another one was approaching from an aisle, but it was slow and soon your knife was in his head too.

You could see Daryl and Michonne ahead too, putting down the walkers they had found behind the door. You were worried they had decided to open it just the two of them, but they seemed to be good on their own, and so you turned your attention back to your aisle, but there weren’t any more walkers. You could see three more approaching a few corridors away, attracted by the noise, and so quietly you moved around the aisles until you were behind them, swiftly putting them down.

“They were right. You’re good.” You turned around and noticed Rick’d followed you, and he was looking at the walkers before looking at you and nodding. You just shrugged, murmuring thanks, before checking on Michonne and Daryl.

They were putting down the last remaining walkers, Michonne with her katana and Daryl with his knife. They were skillful and they made and good team, walkers falling down at their feet as nothing as they fought back to back, almost as if it didn’t take them any effort.

Once all the walkers were dead, you saw Michonne grinning at Daryl, almost as if she’d had fun. Daryl smirked, reaching out to clap her shoulder, Michonne placing her hand on top of his as they both turned towards the cleared door. Yeah, they seemed to be a pretty good team…

“Come on.” You felt Rick nudging you and you followed him towards the door too.

The door led to a corridor that you four followed until it divided in two. The corridor that went to the right side seemed to go to an emergency exit door, and three walkers were there munching on another body. You took a knife on each hand and approached them quietly, putting down two, and the third fell down onto the floor with an arrow into his forehead. You turned around to nod at Daryl and give him a smile, and he nodded back.

Following the other corridor to the left, you all found another closed room, but when you opened the door, there weren’t walkers inside. It seemed to have been used to store cans of food and it was almost untouched, and so you left it carrying several boxes of cans, which helped to lift everyone’s mood. A couple of trips were needed to gather all your haul inside the cars, and according to Glenn, you all should be more than happy with the run.

Back at the prison, you were busying yourself organizing the cans of food when Michonne joined you and began helping you.

“Maggie was right, you’re really good with the knives and I saw you sneaking on those walkers without them noticing you,” Michonne began to say. “You’re really good at it, Rick said so too.”

“Thanks,” You muttered, a bit awkwardly, feeling yourself blush. “You all are good too.” You’d seen them, they were not only skillful at putting down walkers but also at moving around, knowing where to check for supplies and everything as if they had done it a million times before, and their runs seemed to be perfectly organized and thought through. “Daryl and you make a good team.”

“Yeah, we do.” Michonne nodded, smiling softly as she went through the cans.

“Are you two together?” You didn’t know what made you ask or why you cared, or if it might be too personal and you were seeming nosy.

Michonne stopped what she was doing to look at you, blinking before she started laughing and laughing. “What?! No!” She kept laughing, seeming thoroughly amused, and you shrugged, feeling very awkward.

“Just thought you worked good together and you seemed close.” They were a perfect team, had each other back, seemed to really know each other and be close, and they both were pretty attractive people, you didn’t think it was such a silly idea.

“We are.” Michonne nodded, still smiling amused. “But it’s not like that. He is family.” She smiled fondly. “I know that maybe when you first meet him he might seem…well, closed. Daryl’s gone through stuff. But he’s a good man, one of the best you’ll ever meet.”

You nodded in silence. You didn’t know Daryl much but when you’d talked with him, he’d seemed nice enough, in his own quiet, shy way. He’d checked on you and made sure you were okay since arriving at the prison, so it was easy for you to believe Michonne’s words.

“We have gone through stuff together.” Michonne’s smile faltered, a frown appearing on her face for a couple of seconds, and whatever that stuff was, you knew it wasn’t good. “We spent some time alone out there, so I guess that’s how we ended up working good together, and we got to know each other well.” She was smiling again, though you thought there was sadness behind it, and you wondered what might have happened.

“So you two were together out there before finding the prison?”

“No, Daryl has been here from the beginning, with Rick, Glenn, Maggie, Hershel, Beth, Carl, and people they lost. I joined them a bit later. We got trouble, back then…”

“What happened?”

Michonne let out a long sigh, but she sat down in the table next to the boxes of cans, and she began to speak. She told you about Woodbury, Andrea and the Governor. About first meeting Rick’s group. About fighting with them against the Governor and how he’d gone against his own people, and how Rick and the others had taken in the Woodbury people. How she and Daryl had gone out for weeks and weeks to try and find the Governor and how they’d failed, but how she kept going out, trying, never staying in the prison for long, and how probably she’d leave tomorrow again. You listened to it, quietly, once again seeing how hard that people had had it too, but enjoying being able to learn a little bit more about those people who were becoming your friends.

Later that day you were walking around the prison yard, unsure about what to do with yourself, when you saw Carol and Daryl sat down on top of one of the tables. Carol was grinning and laughing as she said something. Daryl said something too, nudging Carol with his shoulder, which made her grin wider. She noticed you and waved at you, signaling you to join them. You felt like intruding, but you went to them.

“We were talking about you,” Carol told you, making you feel a bit awkward and nervous, while Daryl looked at the ground. “About the run, how Rick said you were as good as they said, he was impressed with how good you were with the knives and how silent you can move.” You knew it was something good, but it still made you feel rather self-conscious. “Daryl is impressed too, you know, saying your knife skills are so good, not to mention you managed to sneak on him, not everyone can do that…”

Daryl looked at Carol at that, frowning and blushing, and he nudged her with his shoulder, pushing her off the table, which just made Carol chuckle. Daryl seemed rather awkward and uncomfortable, looking down again, and you were feeling just the same.

“It’s not that impressive…” You murmured, shrugging.

“I haven’t gone on a run in too long, maybe I’ll join you on the next, see it by myself,” Carol said and you just shrugged again. “Anyway, I have to go get dinner ready, I’ll leave you two alone.”

She chuckled, looking at Daryl who still seemed a bit grumpy, and she reached out to wrap an arm around his shoulders to forcefully squeeze him to her and press a quick kiss to his forehead. Daryl broke away, grumbling something you didn’t catch, but you noticed his small, fond smile as he looked at Carol walk away. You got the feeling those two were close too.

“Good friend?” You asked, sitting down at the other end of the table.

“Family.” Daryl nodded, looking down again. “She was just messing around though, she does that.” He muttered.

“With everyone talking about me…I kind of feel like they’re making fun of me or something, I don’t know…I know it’s not true and that they mean well, but I can’t help it. It’s embarrassing.” You admitted, blushing.

“What? Nah, it ain’t that.” Daryl looked at you, frowning. “We just ain’t used to bring in people skilled at fighting, most of the people who came from Woodbury had never had to fight walkers or nothing.” He explained, training his eyes back to the ground. “And you good at it, you got skill.”

“Thanks…” You said quietly. “But you all are really good at it too, with your runs and fighting the walkers and all. And I’d never seen anyone shooting a crossbow before, and you’re impressive with it. I don’t think I saw you miss. I bet you never miss.” You joked awkwardly.

Daryl looked at you with a small, crooked smile. “I do miss sometimes.”

“Yeah? I’d like to see that.” You joked, chuckling quietly.

Daryl didn’t say anything for a little while, but you noticed him stealing glances at you through the corner of his eye. “Maybe then you could come hunting with me if you want, I might miss the target.” He told you quietly without looking at you, surprising you.

“Really? I know nothing about hunting…”

“Just thought you could be good.” Daryl shrugged, eyes still trained on the ground. “Cos you move silently and all that, animals wouldn’t hear you come… but you don’t have to, it’s okay, whatever.”

“I think I’d like to, if you really don’t mind.” You liked to learn new skills and you felt like you’d like to know Daryl more, you were kind of intrigued by him, he seemed like an interesting guy.

“Okay. I’ll tell you next time I go.” Daryl looked at you, the corner of his mouth twitching into a tiny smile, before dropping his gaze down again. “I’m gonna go help Carol.”

“Alright.”

That night you were once again walking around the yard as you found yourself unable to sleep, haunted by memories, and again you found Daryl smoking on top of a table. You walked towards him, sitting down at the other end of the table, and without a word, he passed you the cigarette.

Daryl’s eyes were trained forwards towards the darkness beyond the prison fences and the walkers that rattled them, and you stole a glance at him, wondering what he might be thinking about and why he was yet another night out there alone. You didn’t ask, though, he didn’t seem talkative and he didn’t strike you like the kind of guy who liked to share his mind. You were still intrigued by him, though, and by the fact that he didn’t seem to mind you joining him, but you were glad about it too. It helped to keep the memories at bay. Even in the darkness, you could see the marks that your nails had left on his cheek.

“Do those hurt?” You asked him and Daryl turned his head to look at you confused. “The scratches I meant.” You pointed at his cheek.

“Nah.” He shook his head and his eyes darted to your arms, covered by your shirt, but you knew he was thinking about the bruises. “Do those?”

You shook your head and gave him a small smile. Daryl looked guilty anyway, and you didn’t know what to say. He nodded softly and looked forwards again. For a little while you both stayed there in silence, passing the cigarette back and forth, until it ran out.

“Gotta get up early to go hunting tomorrow,” Daryl suddenly said out of the blue, getting up.

“You meant it? Taking me with you?”

“Yeah…if you want to, you don’t have to or nothing. It’s okay if you don’t come. Don’t need to.” He shrugged without looking at you as he began to walk.

“No, I’d like to.” You rushed to say as you followed him back to the prison.

“Alright.” Daryl nodded, looking at you for a second, the corner of his mouth twitching into the smallest smile ever. “We leave when the sun begins to rise.”

“Okay!”

*

Next morning, you almost didn’t wake up on time to join Daryl, and you weren’t sure if he would have waited for you or not. He hadn’t gone to wake you up, but Carol had, also bringing you a cereal bar for breakfast and telling you to get ready quick and join Daryl.

Daryl had been silent the whole time as you followed him through the woods, and you weren’t sure of where he was going or how he decided where he wanted to go. Sometimes Daryl looked at you through the corner of the eye, other times it seemed like he’d forgotten you were there, but he always checked you were following him.

He looked around as he walked, until suddenly he stopped, totally still, and you almost bumped against his back. He pointed at a tree and you saw a squirrel there on top of a branch, he quickly aimed his crossbow and shoot.

“Impressive!” You said as Daryl went to retrieve the arrow and the squirrel, and he shrugged, seeming a bit uncomfortable. “I knew you never missed,” you joked once he came back, and he snorted but smirked.

“And I told you I miss sometimes.”

“You’d have to prove that.” You teased and you began following him, biting your lip as you considered sharing something with him. “I think I’d have no aim, I can’t shoot guns or nothing.”

“Seriously?” Daryl stopped to look at you surprised and you nodded, embarrassed. You’d only learned to use knives, since you’d only had a couple of guns in your old camp, and they were barely used anyway.

“I never had a gun or nothing and we didn’t use them at my camp so as not to attract walkers.”

“You could get a silencer or something, but there ain’t many.” Daryl frowned as if thoughtful. “But you should learn anyway, you’re gonna need it and not only to hunt. We got some spare rifles and guns at the prison, they’ll give you one and someone will train you.”

“Thanks,” you said quietly and Daryl nodded once before he began walking again. You wondered if maybe he’d be up to teach you himself, but you didn’t ask, afraid of maybe bothering him. Maybe you could ask someone else, like Maggie.

At some point, after Daryl got some more squirrels and also a rabbit without you seeing him miss a shot, you both heard a rustle and as you approached the sounds you saw a group of walkers.

“What do we do?” You asked Daryl quietly, both of you crutching down. “Do we hide until they go or do we put them down.”

“Dunno…” Daryl frowned, looking from you to the walkers and back to you, seeming unsure.

“They aren’t too many, we put them down.” You decided and began to move to surround them in silence, still keeping yourself down and hid in bushes.

Daryl got up, aiming his crossbow and loosing an arrow. One of the walkers dropped dead while the others turned their attention to him, which helped to distract them from you. Silently but quickly you moved to circle the walkers as they began to approach Daryl while he shot another dead. You reached the monsters and began to sink your knives into the heads of the ones who had their backs to you until they noticed you. Daryl joined you with his knife and soon all the walkers were dead.

You smiled to him, nodding at a work well done while he retrieved his arrows. “We aren’t a bad team.” You said proudly but shyly. You did think you didn’t work bad together, maybe it wasn’t like when he worked with Michonne or the others, but you hadn’t done bad.

“Yeah,” Daryl nodded, looking at you with a small, half smile. “Come on, let’s keep hunting.”

“You keep hunting. I do nothing. Can’t shoot, can’t track…” You let out a sigh. “Don’t even know why you’d want me to come…” Daryl said nothing, just shrugged while looking down, pulling at his fingers. “It’s not that I don’t like it, though.” You rushed to say, afraid he thought you were complaining and he wouldn’t take you with him anymore. “I’m enjoying it. Would want to do it again, if you want to…even though I’m not doing much.”

Daryl still didn’t say anything, just nodded and began walking again. As you followed him, this time he began to point things at you, little changes on branches, leaves and on the ground, as if he were subtly trying to teach you how to track, or at least show you what he could see and notice.

It was hard to learn, so hard no matter you did your best, and by the time you walked back into the prison, you didn’t think you had been able to notice anything yourself. You had to think you’d eventually learn, though, if Daryl kept taking you with him, which you hoped he would.

Back at the prison, you followed Daryl into the kitchen area where he began to get his kills ready. You took one of the squirrels and began cleaning it too, finally glad to have something you could do, you’d cleaned enough pieces at your camp. You both hadn’t been working on it in silence for long when you were joined by Carol.

“Seems like you two had a good hunt,” she said and you nodded and smiled to her while Daryl just grunted, not looking up from the rabbit he was working on. “Did you have fun?”

“Yeah, it was good.” You answered. “I didn’t do much though, but we put down some walkers and Daryl hunted all that. I tried to learn something about tracking but it’s hard…don’t know if I’ll manage…”

“Have you been teaching her?” Carol asked Daryl who still didn’t look at her.

“She needs a gun or a rifle, and training,” Daryl said instead of answering. “She can’t shoot.” You blushed, mortified, but nodded at his words.

“Really? Did you survive that long without shooting? You must be really good with those knives.” Carol blinked at you and you just shrugged, feeling more and more embarrassed. “I’ll get you a rifle so you can keep going hunting with Daryl and he could teach you to shoot.”

“There ain’t no group training anymore?” Daryl asked and you wondered if he didn’t want to train you himself. It made you feel more disappointed that you thought you would, wondering if maybe he hadn’t liked much to spend time with you. You didn’t like how the idea made you feel.

“Yes but it’s on the mornings while you are hunting, and if you’re going to keep taking her with you…” Carol shrugged, looking at Daryl, and he just grunted without looking up from the rabbit.

“It’s okay, I can’t hunt, so…” You shrugged, feeling self-conscious and stupid at having thought Daryl wanted you to keep going with him when you had done nothing today. “I’ll join the training, thank you.”

“Okay…” Carol frowned but didn’t say anything else. “Do you want help with that?” She pointed at the squirrel and you nodded.

“Yes…actually, if you could just finish it for me…I just remembered I had to ask Maggie something.” You half lied, suddenly feeling like you wanted to be out of that kitchen. Carol looked at you, frown still on her face, but muttered a sure, and after thanking her you rushed out.

You did go to talk to Maggie who was with Glenn on the watchtower, asking them to count with you for all the runs as your contribution to the community, which they accepted so eagerly that made you feel a bit better about yourself. You spent the next hours until dinner up there with them talking as they explained you their system of watches and then just getting to know each other a bit better. They were friendly and nice, helping you feel a bit better.

During dinner, though, as you caught sight of Daryl sat down with Carol and Rick a few seats ahead of where you were sat down with the Greene’s, your self-deprecating thoughts were back, and as soon as you finished your stew you excused yourself for the night and went to your cell.

You light some candles to allow you to read a book Beth had lent you, hoping to lose yourself in it, and sat down on your bed. You read for a couple of hours, hearing everyone go back to their cells and every lantern and candle was eventually turned off.

That was usually the moment in which the other two days you’d tried and failed to sleep, ending up going to the yard, but tonight you didn’t feel like maybe finding Daryl there, you didn’t want to feel like a disappointment again and so you kept reading, hoping the blanket that hung over the door of your cell would stop the flicker of the candles from bothering the people trying to sleep. After a while, you heard a quiet knock on the bars of your cell.

“Come in,” you answered quietly, wondering who could be at that hour.

For a couple of seconds, nothing happened and you began to wonder if you had imagined the sound, but then the blanket lifted and Daryl took a couple of steps inside, looking at you and then to the ground. He had an old fashioned looking hunting rifle on his hand, and he held it out for you.

“Thanks.” You sat up and reached out to take the rifle, feeling a bit surprised Daryl had gone there to give it to you.

Daryl only nodded and turned to leave, lifting the blanket again, but he stopped before getting out. For a second he didn’t say anything, but then he spoke without turning to look at you.

“So… you don’t wanna go hunting nomore?”

It took you aback. It was you who had thought he didn’t want you to go anymore, disappointed at your lack of knowledge. While you had been with him in the woods you had felt like he didn’t think you were a bother, you had thought he was even teaching you how to track, but then when Carol had joined you in the kitchen…

“I thought…” You didn’t know how to put it into words and you shrugged, embarrassed. “It’s not I don’t want to…”

“So?”

“I thought you didn’t want me to. Cos I can’t shoot or track or nothing.” You shrugged.

“Ain’t easy, you ain’t gonna learn in just a day,” Daryl said, still without looking at you. “You put down those walkers and you moved in silence, didn’t scare the game away or nothing…”

“So you don’t mind me joining you?” You ventured, daring to feel a bit more hopeful.

“If you want to.” He shrugged.

“I do.” You nodded and you couldn’t help your smile as he nodded too. Daryl turned his head to look at you, the shadow of a smile at the corner of his mouth.

“We’ll leave at the sunrise again tomorrow.”

“Okay.” You’d miss shooting practice but you felt you rather go out with Daryl. He nodded too and made to leave, but you called after him. “Hey Daryl,” you didn’t feel like trying to sleep, knowing memories haunted you. “How long it took you to learn to track and hunt and all that?”

Daryl seemed hesitant but finally he walked back into the cell, leaning his back against the wall in front of your bed. “Lots and lots of months. More than what it took me to learn to work the crossbow and shoot at things.”

“And how’s that you began learning?”

You both kept talking for a little while, Daryl telling you about how his uncle had got him his first crossbow and taken him hunting with him when he was a little boy. You told him about how you began sneaking around as a kid as a game until you became quite good at it, and you also told him a bit about your job. Time seemed to fly as you shared little things about yourself with each other, and it was late at night when Daryl finally left. You were bound to be sleepy in the morning, but you didn’t regret it. You kind of liked it, getting to know more about him. There was more to him that what could be seen at first glance, and somehow, you felt you wanted to know it all.

Chapter Text

As you had predicted, after having been awake for the most part of the night, you were beyond sleepy when you went out hunting with Daryl, but as you walked with him through the woods and Daryl began pointing things at you, as if he were actually making an effort to try and teach you something, you felt fully awake, paying total attention to it.

It seemed today you weren’t going to see him fail a shot either, and you couldn’t help but watch him and admire the way in which he moved with such confidence and skill, as if he belonged in those wood, noticing everything around him, every little track, movement, and sound, how quick and skilled he was at aiming his crossbow in a second without never miss the shot.

He had several squirrels attached to his belt when you reached a clearing and Daryl stopped, looking around without saying anything to you. He took a piece of charcoal out of a pocket and draw an x on a nearby tree before rummaging into his bag, taking out something else and walking to you.

“It’s a silencer for the rifle.” He said as he took the rifle you had been carrying, placing the silencer on it. “I borrowed it. Thought you might want to practice or something.”

“Thanks…” You were taken aback but you gave him a grateful smile as you took back the rifle, looking at it and then at the mark on the trunk, feeling rather unsure. “I don’t think I can even hold it right.”

“Try to aim.”

“Okay…” You lifted the rifle and aimed but didn’t shoot, waiting for Daryl’s instructions. He approached you and reached out as if to reposition your arms but he didn’t touch you, seeming unsure and hesitant. “Told you, the bruises don’t hurt or nothing,” you told him, wondering if it was that.” He just nodded and then you barely felt his hands on you as he guided your arms ever so gently.

“That is, aim and shoot.”

You did your best, but you failed the shot. “Ouch,” you groaned as you felt like the rifle had kicked your shoulder quite literally.

“That’s normal. You’ll get used to it and you’ll get better.”

“Thanks.” You gave Daryl another shy smile, glad he was encouraging you instead of seeming disappointed at you.

“Come on, again.”

You spent quite a while there, missing most of the shots, though each time you hit the target, Daryl made you try further away. Eventually you stopped, you didn’t think you could handle to keep shooting with the pain you were feeling in your shoulder.

“It kind of feels like a waste of bullets…” You murmured.

“No, you missed but you hit it sometimes too.”

“Those were wasted bullets too.”

“How you wanna learn then?” Daryl frowned.

“I know, just…we’ll run out of ammo eventually.” And it wasn’t like you could make more, you didn’t think so.

“Yeah, but we still have plenty of that and you gotta learn,” Daryl shrugged as if it wasn’t a big deal. “We’ll get more ammo in some runs.” Eventually, though, you knew the nearby places would run out of ammo too, but you didn’t say anything else about it.

“It’s difficult to find arrows?” You asked, pointing at his crossbow.

“Don’t know, I make them.” Daryl began walking again and you gaped at him before you began following him again.

“Whoa! That’s really impressive!” He didn’t stop surprising you with his knowledge and skill, but Daryl just shrugged at your words without saying anything or looking at you.

It kept going like that, when neither Daryl or you had to go to a run, he kept taking you with him to the woods whenever he went out hunting, kept telling you some things about tracking and helping you practice with the rifle. You’d kept complaining about being wasting bullets and so since the third day Daryl had you trying to shoot at the squirrels and rabbits he found, which you missed most of the times, doing nothing to ease your feeling of being wasting bullets. More often than not you ended up leaving it to Daryl, or else you’d have barely anything for eating to bring back to the prison. When he seemed to think you were feeling down or beating yourself, Daryl told you that you were improving, and you guessed you were, but you couldn’t really see it.

The first time you managed to hit a squirrel you couldn’t believe it yourself, gaping as you looked from your rifle to the squirrel in disbelieve. You couldn’t help your grin when Daryl smiled to you, clapping your back before going to pick up the squirrel. It took you several times to be able to shoot anything again, though.

Despite your self-deprecating thoughts every time you missed a shot or weren’t able to track anything yourself, you enjoyed being out there with Daryl, and you were glad he still seemed to want to take you with him. Day after day, you were more impressed with him and you liked more and more to spend time with him, he was a nice guy and an interesting one, even though you still didn’t know much about him. You felt like you wanted to know him better, and so you tried to talk with him every time you were together, but although he wasn’t rude, he wasn’t talkative either. You felt he knew way more about you than you knew about him, with him barely getting to share anything about him, but you didn’t let it discourage you.

You still joined him some nights for a smoke too, quietly sharing your mind with him, even though he usually didn’t say much, but you felt like he listened to you. You liked it. And so as days passed, you felt Daryl and you were becoming good friends, and slowly you started to feel more integrated into that new community, getting to know everyone a bit better. You still had your lost friends and community on your mind every night when you tried to sleep, and you didn’t think it’d stop hurting, you didn’t think you’d ever stop thinking about them and missing them, but slowly, the pain was becoming more bearable.

“Still can’t sleep?” Daryl asked you one night when you flopped down next to him on the table.

“It isn’t easy to fall asleep.” You shrugged. “But I don’t mind it. I like this, you know, being out here at night talking to you when everything is quiet…” You told him shyly, feeling a bit silly, but it was true, you looked forward to going hunting with Daryl or to share a moment alone with him at night.

You wonder what he might think, if he enjoyed it too or if he just tolerated you. Most times you thought he liked to sit down with you too, but sometimes you couldn’t help but fear he might be tired of you by now. He never said anything about it, though, and that night wasn’t an exception.

He turned to look at you, though, soft smile on his face, and you couldn’t help your own. Maybe Daryl did like to be your friends and have you around after all.

About a month and a half after Daryl took you out hunting with him for the first time, you were once again walking with him through the woods, this time him following you as you tried to track something yourself. You thought you had found a trail and you had been following it, but for a little while now you’d been unable to pick it up again, and no matter how much you tried, you couldn’t find it again. Finally you stopped, deciding to admit it, and turned to face Daryl, looking down in embarrassment.

“I lost the trail…”

“I know.” Daryl nodded, not seeming mad.

“So why you didn’t say anything?” You looked at him confused.

“I wanted to wait for you to realize it yourself.” He shrugged.

You let out a frustrated sigh. “I made you lose your time.”

“Nah, come on.” You followed Daryl to the point where you had lost the trail, still feeling like you’d made him waste his time. “See, this is where you took the wrong turn, you should have gone through there. Come on, try again.”

Once you both made your way back to the prison, you hadn’t hunt anything, though you had practice your aim and it hadn’t been too bad. On his side, Daryl had a couple of rabbits hanging from his belt. You stole glances at him as you walked until he caught you.

“What?”

“Nothing, just…” You looked down, blushing in embarrassment, not sure about how to put your thoughts into words. “Thank you for not getting mad when I can’t hunt or track or nothing.”

“Ain’t like that.” Daryl shrugged. “You’re learning.”

“Yeah well, I know I’m pretty much a disappointment, so-”

“You ain’t that.” Daryl stopped you.

“Yeah, well, ask my parents.” You chuckled bitterly.

Daryl looked at you but didn’t say anything, and you both walked into the prison in silence before heading to clean the rabbits and got them ready to stew. That night, though, as you joined Daryl on top of a table as you always did, you picked up the conversation again.

“You’re a good teacher, you know?” You said shyly and quietly, and Daryl scoffed. “You are, you got patience.”

“I ain’t that patient.” Daryl shrugged. “But you ain’t as bad as you think, you got skill.”

“Thanks…” You whispered, ignoring the way in which your stomach did weird twirls at his words, the same way it did sometimes when you looked at him. You rather didn’t acknowledge it. “I guess…don’t know…I guess I always knew I was a bit of a disappointment to people, like to my parents and all that, so…” you trailed off, feeling embarrassed and silly at being sharing that with Daryl.

“Why you think that?” Daryl asked you after a couple of seconds of silence.

“They told me.” You shrugged, trying to sound like you didn’t care even though it still felt like a dart to the chest even after all those long years. “Like…I don’t care, never wanted to be their perfect daughter or something, but I guess I just disappointed them in everything…” You felt rather silly about being telling all that to Daryl, but he hummed and glanced at you as if waiting for you to keep going, and so you found yourself sharing more about yourself with him.

“Cos…you know, they had this idea about how they wanted their daughter to be, and I guess I wasn’t exactly that. And they wanted me to have great grades, and go to a good university and study to get an important job and what not. But I was a disaster at school, dumb as a brick, barely got to finish high school, never went to college…” You blushed, couldn’t help the embarrassment. “So yeah, just a big disappointment.”

“Don’t think you’re dumb…” Daryl muttered.

“Thanks…” You gave him a weak smile. “But I know I’m not the smarter person…so yeah, I was a disappointment as a daughter, they told me again and again, how awful I was and how bad at everything. Only thing I was good at was sneaking around and they hated it since I could spy on them or sneak in and out of the house without them noticing.” It had cost you a lot of fights with them.

“They’d be glad you’re good at it now, with how you kill walkers and all.” Daryl’s encouraging words made you blush and feel those twirls in your stomach, but when you looked at him he was looking away.

“Honestly? I don’t even know where they are. I left them once I turned eighteen, went to the city, got a job that was another disappointment for them, didn’t speak much with them anymore…” Were they alive or dead? You didn’t know, had barely spared them a thought, and now guilt ate you as you thought about it. “Gosh, I’m a shit daughter aren’t I?”

“Nah,” Daryl shook his head, finally looking at you. “Doesn’t sound like they cared, like all they cared was what they wanted of you, not really you, don’t know…” He trailed off, shrugging awkwardly.

“I guess…” You nodded, rubbing your eyes quick when you felt tears on them, mortified.

“Sorry,” Daryl said when he realized it, looking like he didn’t know what to do.”Didn’t mean to…I just…” It seemed like he didn’t know what to say either, and you rushed to stop his babbling.

“No, it’s okay, you’re right. I haven’t cared about them or what they thought about me in a long while. It’s okay, I’m not one of those persons who wanted to make their parents proud or something, I’m just me…” You smiled awkwardly.

Daryl just nodded and for a little while he didn’t say anything, smoking as you two passed a cigarette back and forth, and he didn’t say anything else until he finished his smoke.

“I guess I was a disappointment to my old man too, or I’d have been if he’d have given a shit about me.” You looked at Daryl as he spoke, but he was looking ahead towards the darkness of the yard. He’d never told you something about his past and family, and even though it was sad, you wished he would keep going, eager to know more about him. “But I know I was a disappointment to my brother. Told me plenty of times.”

You hadn’t known Daryl had a brother, but the fact that he was talking in past made you think maybe he wasn’t around anymore or that Daryl hadn’t seen him in a while and so you decided not to say anything, not knowing Daryl’s feelings about it, you didn’t want to be a sad reminder. Still, you didn’t like that his brother might have told him that and that Daryl believed it. You had the feeling Daryl’s relationship with his family hadn’t been the best either, and his father and brother didn’t seem to be the best people.

“I don’t think you could be a disappointment at anything,” you said quietly, shyly, and Daryl looked at you weird, scoffing and shaking his head as if you had just said some nonsense.

“I was useless at school too,” he surprised you by keep speaking. “Didn’t finish high school or nothing.”

“Yeah, well, you are one of the smartest guys I’ve known anyway.” You shrugged, giving him a shy smile, but Daryl just scoffed again.

“Yeah, sure.”

He was not only smart but also skillful and resourceful, but you felt if you told him Daryl would only scoff again and get uncomfortable, and so you didn’t say anything else about it.

“I guess I was a disappointing friend too, my friendships never lasted long.” You said after a little while, letting out a sigh.

“Why?”

“Don’t know, I guess you should have asked my friends.” You shrugged, self-conscious. “I think the only time I had real friends, people to rely on, was in my old camp…” You all had helped each other, took care of each other, developing a tight relationship, they had taught you everything you knew about surviving. You couldn’t believe they were gone. “I don’t think it’ll come a day when thinking about them won’t hurt.” You whispered, hugging your knees to your chest.

“It won’t…but it’ll feel different…” Daryl said quietly and you just hummed before turning to look at him and give him a sad smile.

“I’ve gotten really lucky though, with this place and all you. Hope I won’t disappoint you all eventually…” You felt you were getting to have good friends again, and you were scared thinking you might do something wrong and lose them, and the idea of disappointing Daryl and him not wanting to hang out with you any more hurt.

“You won’t.” Daryl gave you a soft, quite awkward pat on the shoulder before getting up. “We gotta get up early to go hunting tomorrow again.”

*

“A squirrel’s gonna jump into your mouth if you keep yawning like that.” Daryl joked and you snorted, rolling your eyes. You both had gone out hunting right when the sun went up, and you had gone to sleep late at night as you had spent part of the night sat down together on the yard watching the stars.

“At least that way I’d hunt something.” You retorted and Daryl smirked, nudging you with his shoulder so you’d keep moving and trying to find the trail you knew he’d noticed.

You were glad Daryl had loosened up around you during the time you’d spent hunting together. He seemed a rather serious person, and he was, but he also was a fun guy to be around when he wanted to, on his own way, and you liked it when you got to see that part of him too. You didn’t think many people got the chance, just the ones who were really close to him. You were glad that slowly, he was letting you in more and more.

You didn’t know what to do with those feelings it gave you, though, those twirls you got in your stomach sometimes when you thought about him or when you managed to make him smile or he shared something about him with you. You didn’t want to dwell on that or acknowledge the feelings, knowing nothing good could come out of that.

Even if you maybe, maybe, might like Daryl in a way that was beyond friendship, he would never look at you like that, you knew it. He didn’t seem interested in relationships or anything like that, seeming to like to be alone, and besides, even if he were interested, he wouldn’t be into you. You didn’t think you had anything he might look for in a person, any trait he might want in a potential partner. And so you pushed those unwanted feelings down and ignored them as best as possible. At the very least, Daryl seemed to like you as a friend, and you were grateful for it. His company and friendship kept getting you through dark, sleepless nights, and you didn’t want to lose it.

“Where’s your mind today?” Daryl’s grumble took you back to earth. “You just stepped all over the trail without noticing it.”

“Sorry, just…sorry.” You apologized, blushing a deep red, and Daryl raised an eyebrow at you, seeming confused, before pointing the trail.

You followed it for a while until you found a rabbit ahead and both of you stopped still and quiet. Daryl nodded at you and you aimed your rifle and shot, smiling when you didn’t miss even though the kickback of the rifle still made you grunt in pain. You’d be dinning rabbit stew that night.

“Good.” Daryl gave you a smile and you nodded in thanks, rushing to take the rabbit and hung it from your belt as you tried to ignore the way in which his compliment made you feel.

“Is the crossbow harder than the rifle?” You asked him as you began walking again.

“It’s different.”

“But harder?”

“Don’t know, maybe.” Daryl shrugged and you nodded, silent for a little way, until Daryl glanced at you. “You gotta try it? The crossbow I mean.”

“Really?” You stopped to look at him surprised. “You don’t mind?”

“Nah.” Daryl shrugged and took off his crossbow, passing it to you.

“How do I load it?”

Daryl showed you the right way and then you tried yourself, trying not to curse at the effort of pulling at the string until it was where it should. Then you lifted it, aiming at a tree and allowed Daryl to carefully reposition your arms, different from how you held the rifle.

“Now, lose the arrow.” Daryl’s low voice close to your ear made you shiver ever so slightly, goosebumps forming on your skin, and you forced yourself to stop the nonsense and focus on your task, pressing the trigger.

“Damn it…it does feel different.” You weren’t even surprised you had missed your target.

“Told you,” Daryl smirked and to your relief, he didn’t seem disappointed at you. It seemed he never was, somehow. “Do you want to try again?”

You nodded, lowering the crossbow to take another arrow and load it but you stopped when you noticed Daryl looking around with a frown on his face. “What?”

“Thought I had heard something…”

“I don’t hear-” Before you could finish the sentence you noticed it too, muffled noises of what could be voices not too far. “Wait, yes.”

Daryl began walking towards where he thought the sound was coming from and you followed him until he made you stop and crouch down. You could see a woman ahead pointing her gun to a man on his keens while another man went through his bag, taking out supplies.

“We gotta help him.” You whispered to Daryl, who nodded. The woman and man had their backs to you and so you sprung into action, quickly and quietly.

“Y/N, wait,” Daryl called after you quietly, but you ignored him.

You reached them without them noticing you and swiftly you drove the butt of your riffle onto the man’s head and he fell down to the ground, unconscious. The woman dropped the bag, seeming surprised and turning to face you, but before she could do anything Daryl rushed to you, aiming his crossbow at her.

“Don’t move!” He warned her and you reached out to help the captive man up.

“You okay?” You asked him gently and he nodded, seeming dumbfounded as he looked from you to Daryl and back at you.

“Y/N, watch her,” Daryl told you and you rushed to aim your rifle at the woman while Daryl rummaged into his bag, taking out some cord. He pushed the woman onto her knees and tied up her hands. “He’ll untie you when he wakes up.” He nodded towards the unconscious man.

“Meanwhile you better not make a noise so walkers don’t notice you.” You added, and the woman glared at you both but said nothing.

“Come on.” Daryl began walking and you gestured to the man to follow you. Once you were far enough Daryl stopped and turned to look at the man who still seemed rather shocked and a bit intimidated under Daryl’s stare. You gave him a soft smile, hoping he knew he didn’t need to be scared and he was safe with both of you. “How many walkers have you killed?”

You stayed silent while Daryl did his questionary and by the end of it, he’d decided you’d take the man, whose name was Mark and who had gotten separated from his group and lost in the woods a couple of days ago, back to the prison with you.

Once there, you were joined by Rick who wanted to know who that man was and what had happened, and you let Daryl dealing with it while you went to the kitchen to work on the pieces Daryl and you had hunted. When you finished stewing them and went out, you noticed Mark approaching you.

“Hey, you doing okay?” You asked

“Yeah, yeah…this place is incredible though.” He looked around as in awe and you smiled, nodding. “I wanted to thank you for what you did, for helping me. It was awesome, really, I didn’t even notice you until you were knocking off that guy, you were like a shadow or something.

“It was nothing…” You shrugged, giving him an embarrassed smile.

“No, it was something! By the way, I was wondering if you’d show me around?”

“Have none given you a tour already?”

“Yeah but I still think I’d get lost just trying to go from the infirmary to the bathroom.” Mark chuckled awkwardly and you smiled, you knew it was hard to get used to this new place.

“Alright, come on.”

That evening, you were sat down for dinner next to Maggie, Daryl a couple seats away next to Carol, when Mark went to sat down next to you. He greeted you and then looked at Daryl.

“Hey, Daryl right? I wanted to thank you for helping me today.”

Daryl just nodded without saying anything, eyes on the stew he was eating. You began to eat too and so did Mark.

“Can’t remember the last time I ate something that wasn’t canned,” he said.

“We eat fresh meat daily thanks to Daryl, he’s a great hunter.” You smiled when you noticed Daryl rolling his eyes. “And with all the crops that we also have, we’re pretty lucky in the food department.”

“Yeah, I can see than, I’ve gotten lucky to be taken into this place!”

“You and me both!”

Later that night, when everything was dark and silent, you went to the yard to find Daryl, sitting down on top of the usual table.

“Hi.”

“Hey,” he passed you the cigarette, your own little routine. You had asked him once, a couple of weeks ago, if he minded that you went to sit down by him, telling him you could stop if he wanted you to, afraid you were annoying him night after night, but he’d awkwardly shut your rambling, and so you’d kept joining him and having your quiet conversations.

“This is going to kill us.” You chuckled, taking a drag and passing the cigarette back.”

“Or that.” He nodded towards the walkers that you couldn’t see but that you could hear outside the fence, rattling it.

“I guess…” You let out a sigh.

“Anyway, it’s the last one I got.” Daryl passed it back to you.

“Really? That means we can be healthier from now on…or that we can try and find more next run.” You chuckled quietly and Daryl gave you a lopsided, soft smile. Honestly, it wasn’t the cigarettes what you cared for, but the company.

“How’s Mark doing?” Daryl asked you after a little bit of silence.

“Good, I think, getting to know the place, grateful we helped him.” You smiled at Daryl but he was looking ahead.

“Saw you walking him around.”

“Yeah, I know it can be difficult to get used to this and a bit overwhelming. I was lucky Maggie and you got me under your wing…especially you, you know.” You said as you pointed at Daryl’s winged vest, though as the words left your mouth you cringed at how lame it was.

Daryl looked at you seeming confused and then amused as he realized what you meant, rolling his eyes but giving you a soft smile that helped you feel like maybe he didn’t think you were silly.

“So that’s what you gonna do now, get the guy under your wing or whatever?” Daryl said as he looked ahead again.

“Guess I’ll help him around if he needs it, yeah.” You shrugged and he just hummed, and for a little while, none of you said anything.

“You did good today, those people didn’t notice you approaching.” Daryl’s words made you blush and you muttered thanks. “I’ve been thinking…just…” He didn’t seem to be very sure of what he’d been thinking and you looked at him, curious. “Cos you’re good at moving in silence, so maybe…dunno, maybe you…nah, nothing.”

“What?” You couldn’t help your confused smile, not used to seeing Daryl that babbling. “You want me to silently kill someone for you?” You teased.

“Not yet.” Daryl snorted, seeming to relax a bit. “I’ve just been thinking, that maybe when we’re out there, maybe you could like…try to sneak on me and then I could see if I can notice you.” He shrugged awkwardly and you blinked, surprised by his words.

“Really?” He just shrugged again, seeming more awkward. “I’d really like to! Like…we could train, it’d be so good, it’d help me improve too! And like…we could train with the knives too, maybe? I’ve seen how good you are too…” You wondered if maybe you weren’t getting a bit carried away and overexcited, but Daryl looked at you with a smile that had your stomach doing those weird twirls again.

“Okay.” He nodded. “Want to try tomorrow?”

“Yep! This is going to be so fun!”

Chapter Text

If you had already spent the whole mornings out in the woods with Daryl whenever you two went out hunting, which you did almost every other day, now you both spent even more time out there as you trained together, going back to the prison at late afternoon. Daryl still kept helping you learn to track, hunt and shoot, but now you also trained with your knives, and you found he was as good as you with them.

As he’d asked you, you also tried sneaking on him, hiding and moving silently, trying to approach him without him noticing you, which to his frustration, you managed more often than not. The first day, as he cursed and scowled angrily when you grabbed his arm without him having noticed you, you had worried he was angry at you, but soon you had realized he was just frustrated at himself, and he asked you to keep going. You’d thought about maybe making more noise so he’d notice you and stop his frustration, but you knew if he found out he wouldn’t like it, and besides, the point was training.

Day after day, he began noticing you sometimes, turning to grab you on time before you could grab him, and you were surprised with how proud it made you to see him getting better, no matter you managed to sneak on him more often than not. You also shared some tips with him about how to move more silently and quickly, training at it too, no matter Daryl was already rather good at it.

You thought that by now you both made a great team, and you liked to boast about how no walker had nothing to do against you two, to which Daryl usually just rolled his eyes, but gave you his soft, lopsided smile. You liked it, being out there with him, training with him…it was tiring, but also it was challenging and sometimes fun too. It did nothing to help you smother those stubborn feelings you sometimes thought you were harboring for Daryl, but you still managed to push them down and ignore them, not wanting to make anything awkward, and knowing how hard his rejection would hit you if you allowed it to happen.

You were now following him, hidden and silent, as he walked through the woods, and you knew half his mind was in the task of looking for something to hunt while the other half was focused on trying to notice you, and so you waited until he found a trail and was busy following it, lowering his guard, to actually approach him.

You were behind him, reaching to poke his back, when Daryl turned around and grabbed your wrist gently.

“Nicely done!” You praised, smiling

“Nah, you made it easy, you knew I could see part of your shadow from there,” he complained.

“I wanted to see if you’d notice it, well done.”

“Come on, try again.”

It was past lunchtime when you went back to the prison, and you headed to the kitchen to clean your kills and have some late lunch. You hadn’t been there for long when Glenn came to ask you both if you wanted to join a run they had been planning for the next day, to which both Daryl and you agreed. Time to put into practice all that training.

That night, as per usual, you went to meet with Daryl at the yard before trying to sleep, and you were startled to bump into someone on your way out, usually by now everyone was in their cells.

“Hi, Y/N” You realized it was Mark, who by now seemed to be adapting to his new home without any fuss. “Don’t you have a run early tomorrow?”

“Yeah, I just wanted to take a walk before going to sleep.”

“I’ve noticed you doing that before, have trouble sleeping? Cos I do, nightmares and all that.” He shrugged.

“More memories than nightmares…but yeah, I get what you mean…hope you can sleep without problem tonight, though. Goodnight.” You gave him a smile and began walking.

“Mind if I join you?” Mark asked as he began walking by you.

“No, but I was just going to join Daryl there.” You pointed at Daryl’s silhouette on top of the table, barely visible under to the moonlight. “But you can come and join us if you want…” You appreciated your quiet talks at night with Daryl, but you weren’t about to turn your back to someone who might need some talking and company too.

“Nah, it’s fine, it was time I went to sleep anyway. See you around tomorrow, Y/N.” Mark gave you a quick smile and turned back to his cellblock.

You approached Daryl and flopped down on top of the table next to him. “Hi, there.”

“Hey…saw you talking to Mark there, it’s everything okay?”

“Yeah, he just seems to have trouble sleeping too.” You answered, and Daryl hummed. “By the way, I never asked you, why you come here at night, got trouble sleeping too?”

“Nah, just…liked the peace and quiet I guess.” He shrugged.

“Until I came here and stopped the piece and the quiet?” You half teased, feeling a bit self-conscious.

“Nah.” Daryl nudged you with his shoulder. “I like it, listening to you…” He shrugged as if shy, and you couldn’t help your own blush, shy yourself at his words.

“That’s nice to know…I really like talking to you or just being here, like, the company, so…” You trailed off shyly and Daryl didn’t say anything else, both of you staying quiet for a little while. “Maybe I’ll find you some cigarettes tomorrow.”

“Yeah, maybe.” Daryl snorted quietly, giving you a soft smile. “Come on I’ll walk you to your cell, you gotta sleep or else you gonna be yawning all the time again.”

“Hey, it only happened once…”

*

Early in the morning next day, you left with everyone who was going to join that run, your destination a quite small housing area in the middle of nowhere. Once you reached the place, the walkers around came attracted to the noise. They weren’t enough to be a threat to your group, and actually they were quite less than what you had expected to find in a place like that. Moving together coordinated as you all had done in previous runs, you all swiftly put down the walkers without any problem. You were proud of being part of that team and you thought that each run, you all were getting better. Soon there would be no place you couldn’t go to.

Once you had cleared the streets, you went to check the houses. You paired up with Daryl and together you went to one of the houses. The door was broken but before coming inside Daryl knocked on it, making sure if walkers were inside they’d come to you instead of taking you by surprise.

Two of them made their way to you, while another one stumbled down the stairs, falling down in an angle that was no natural at all, making your stomach turn, while it kept snapping. Holding a knife on each hand, you skillfully sank the blades into the heads of the walkers that were approaching while Daryl put down the one who had fallen down the stairs. You were about to go check the other rooms when you noticed Daryl frowning at the walker.

“What?”

“Nothing, just…it looks kind of recent.”

You looked at the corpse of the woman. You guessed it did, different from the ones which skin had already begun to fall down or things like that, but you couldn’t be sure. Without a word, Daryl began walking up the stairs and you followed him, both of you moving silently and carefully.

There didn’t seem to be walkers around, but as you walked into one of the rooms, you saw two corpses lying on the floor. One had been obviously chewed on, his stomach disgustingly tore open, while the other had a bite wound that had ripped her throat.

“They can’t have died long ago, they haven’t turned yet…” You whispered, not sure of why, since the corpses couldn’t hear you. Maybe people had taken refuge in those houses and something had gone wrong. You felt a shiver ran through you at the idea. Maybe if you had arrived just an hour earlier you could have helped. Or maybe you would have been less than welcomed by whoever those people had been. Too many questions that you couldn’t answer. You decided to stop thinking about it.

“Yeah…” Daryl nodded, seeming thoughtful too before sinking his knife into the heads of the corpses, preventing them from turning. “Come on, let’s keep checking the place.”

The more rooms you checked, the surer you were the place had been someone’s shelter, as you found quite a lot of supplies of all kind, which on one hand was good but on the other…you still rather didn’t think about it.

Once you had checked the whole house you went to the next, repeating the process of knocking on the door, but no walker came. As you stepped inside, you noticed two dead on the ground, and some muffled groans coming from inside a room. Daryl and you looked at each other, surprised, and you both rushed to the room, though Daryl kept you behind him as he opened the door, crossbow aimed in front of him.

Inside the room was a man, lying against the wall, groaning and whimpering as blood poured from a bite mark on his stomach. He raised his head, opening his eyes when he heard you walking in and he weakly raised the gun he was holding.

“Please…” he chocked out, a trail of blood falling down his mouth. “Please…don’t have more bullets…please…” It was obvious that talking was a major effort for him, and you wondered what was he trying to say. You didn’t know how to help him, you were sure there was no way, and you were frozen in place. “Please…you gotta…please…” He whimpered again in agony and you winced.

You didn’t realize what he wanted until Daryl stepped closer, aiming the crossbow to the man’s head, who had closed his eyes again as he groaned and whimpered weakly. You looked from the man to Daryl as he took a deep breath and then he loosed the arrow, ending the man’s suffering and preventing him from turning.

You took in a shuddered breath and Daryl turned around, eyeing you with worry when he noticed you shaking. You had never seen someone bitten being put down. You knew it had happened at your old camp once, but you had never had to see it, you’d only put down a couple of people who were already dead so they wouldn’t turn, and having to see someone alive agonizing like that, having to be put down…it affected you more than you had realized it would.

“You okay?” Daryl asked you gently.

“Yeah, yeah…” You nodded, taking another shuddered breath. “Just…” You didn’t know how to explain it, and you didn’t want Daryl to think you weak. He seemed to understand it, though, nodding as he kept looking at you with worried eyes. “And you?”

After all, he was the one who had put the man down, and you knew Daryl enough to know it wouldn’t have been an easy thing to do for him, he had a softer heart than might seem at first, but for that same reason you knew he couldn’t have left without doing that for the agonizing man. You weren’t sure you could have done it yourself.

“Yeah…” He nodded but he seemed thoughtful, face dark as he eyed the body.

“Daryl, what happened here?” You whispered.

“Dunno…come on, let’s keep going.” He turned to leave the room but after taking another look at you, he timidly reached out to offer you his hand, which made you wonder if you really looked that affected.

Shyly, you took his comforting hand and when he noticed yours trembling he gave it a gentle squeeze that you returned, grateful. Hand in hand, you checked the rest of the house, once again finding all sorts of supplies.

Back at the vehicles, everyone seemed to have had similar experiences to Daryl and you but nobody talked about it, and even though you were going back home with lots of useful supplies, the mood was somber. Back at the prison, Glenn and Daryl went to inform about the run to the council that Rick had created shortly after you joined the place, and you went to retreat into your cell, still shaken by what had happened at the run.

“Hey!” A voice took you out of your thoughts as you walked down a corridor and you looked up to find Mark smiling at you. “I heard you all were back already, how was the run?”

“Don’t wanna talk about it.” You realized how harsh you had sounded and you regretted it, but you really didn’t want to think about what had happened. “Sorry, just…we got a lot of supplies, that’s good I guess.”

“There’s something wrong?” Mark asked you, frowning.

“No, just…I’m dead on my feet, I’m going to my room.”

“Okay…if you ever want to talk or something…”

“Yeah, thanks…” You tried to give him a smile and turned over, rushing towards your cell, not looking forward to bumping into someone else.

Once in your cell, you lied on your bed, trying to lose yourself in a book, though your mind kept going back to what had happened today. You still didn’t feel like talking to people and so you didn’t go to have dinner. You couldn’t want for everyone to go to bed, hoping Daryl would be outside, looking forward to joining him. Once everything was dark and silent, you quietly made your way outside, glad to find Daryl on top of the usual table.

“You didn’t come for dinner,” Daryl said when you approached.

“I wasn’t hungry.” You lied, taking out of your pocket a pack of cigarettes you had found in one of the houses and giving it to Daryl after taking one of the cigarettes yourself. You sat down next to him, lighting the cigarette and taking a drag before passing it to Daryl.

“Thought you said you were gonna quit and be healthier.”

“Yeah…don’t feel like that today.” You shrugged, taking the cigarette again when he passed it back to you.

“You sure you are okay?”He asked you softly and you shrugged. You didn’t want Daryl to think you weak, but you also felt like you could talk to him.

“Just…I’ve never had to do something like that…I mean, it was you who did it but…I don’t know…it didn’t feel the same as when they’re dead…dunno…” You trailed off, self-conscious and unsure of how to explain it, but Daryl nodded, understanding.

“Had to be done, but it’s never easy.”

“Wasn’t your first time, was it?” You asked quietly and he shook his head. “I don’t know if I could…” You knew you might need to do it at some point, given the kind of life you lead, but you rather didn’t think about it, it made you shudder. “You sure you’re okay?” Daryl shrugged but nodded, giving you a weak smile.

You both stayed silent for a while, neither of you seeming talkative that night, but enjoying each other company, until Daryl spoke again.

“My brother, Merle, he was an ass.” He said out of the blue, taking you aback, but you listened eagerly as you always did on the rare occasions he shared with you something about his life. “We were together in our first camp, with Carol and Glenn, also Rick and Carl, and more people that are gone now. There was some trouble in a run and I lost Merle in Atlanta.”

You knew Daryl’s brother wasn’t around anymore but he had never said anything about it. You were about to say you were sorry about it, wanting to give him some comfort, but he kept talking.

“But I found him again. Michonne told you about Woodbury and the Governor, yeah?” You nodded, caught up in his story, wanting to know what might have happened to Daryl’s brother even though at the same time you didn’t want to, knowing how it must have hurt Daryl. “My brother was one of his men.” You could only blink at Daryl in surprise, you hadn’t been expecting that. You had heard all kind of horrible things about the Governor.

“Merle…I know he was an ass before too, that he had done his share of bad things in his life…but with the Governor, he did a lot of messed up things. Did things to Glenn and Maggie too… but Michonne says he did the right thing at the end…dunno what to think.” Daryl shrugged and you stayed silent, waiting for him to keep talking when he felt ready for it. “But he went against a bunch of Governor’s men by himself and got himself killed, the dam idiot. I found him eating the men. So I put him down myself.”

“Daryl…” You whispered, not finding words as your heart broke for him. You reached out to take his hand and he flinched it when you touched it, looking from it to you before relaxing and allowing his hand to softly hold yours. “I’m sorry.”

“Had to be done.” He murmured. “Merle was an idiot and an asshole. Brought it on himself.” But Daryl had loved his brother, you could see it, and what had happened still hurt him. You couldn’t even imagine how much something like that must hurt. You didn’t know what to say, how to offer him any comfort, you didn’t know if it was possible.

Shyly, you reached out your arms for him. “Come here,” you whispered, preparing yourself for his rejection just in case. Daryl looked at you, seeming awkward, frown on his face, and you were about to lower your arms and apologize when he scooted closer, allowing you to gently wrap your arms around him.

He was stiff at first, but soon he relaxed as he leaned into you ever so slightly and you dared to hold him a bit tighter, silently, hoping you were bringing him even if only a bit of comfort because on your side, you were certainly feeling better as you held him close, his head rested on your shoulder, and you were surprised by how good it felt, how natural.

You felt like you could spend the whole night with your arms wrapped around him and it didn’t seem like Daryl wanted to move away from the embrace either, and so you held him in silence for a while until he pulled back, giving you a shy, small smile before looking away, both of you still silent.

“So, um…” Daryl finally began after a little while, rummaging into his pocket. “I got you this, since you didn’t come for dinner…”

He passed you a cereal bar and you blinked at it, surprised, before thanking him, grinning to him, though Daryl just shrugged. After you ate it, Daryl walked you back to your cell.

“Are we gonna go hunting tomorrow?” You asked quietly so as not to wake up anyone from your cellblock.

“You don’t want to rest after the run? We don’t really have to hunt, we’re good.”

“Nah, I’m up for it if you are.” You shrugged, you were tired but you rather spent the day out there with Daryl than in the prison with your thoughts.

“Okay. Try to get some sleep then.”

Once in your bed you tossed and turned, finding it hard to fall asleep. You keep seeing the agonizing man and how Daryl had had to put him down. It’d been a while since the last time you had had a nightmare about the three men you had killed, but now it seemed you couldn’t get them out of your head, how you had ended their lives like nothing, without regret, without even a second thought.

You were starting to feel overwhelmed about everything, a headache forming, your chest feeling tight, and you tried taking deep breaths, relaxing your body, anything, but you still couldn’t get your mind to calm down. You thought about Daryl, the heartbreaking story about his brother, and that only made you feel worse.

Your mind wandered then at how your arms felt around Daryl, his warmth, the way in which he leaned onto you…and you couldn’t help but wonder how it would be to hold him now and…no, you had to stop that, you knew it, you couldn’t let yourself think about something like that.

Still, as you tried to calm down enough to sleep, you couldn’t stop thinking about him, how it felt to hold him, the smile that sometimes he gave you, the way in which he had held your hand during the run to help you calm down and stay grounded, and you couldn’t help but wonder how it’d feel to be able to hold him through the night as you both fought your memories and worries, and tried to sleep…

*

Next morning you were once again trying to sneak on him, and you were trying your best, moving as silently as possible, staying hidden. You waited until you thought Daryl was engrossed following a trail he seemed to have found to make your move. Moving quick but silently, you approached until you were behind his back without him noticing you.

You didn’t know what made you do it, maybe how good your arms around him had felt last night, maybe that need you felt to comfort him, maybe your own need for comfort and affection, but instead of pocking him or grabbing his arm as you usually did, you couldn’t fight the urge to wrap your arms around him, hugging him from behind.

“Gotcha,” you murmured as you hugged him, so as not to startle him and you felt him stiff as he turned his head to look at you, seeming confused and awkward. He scoffed and you were about to pull back, afraid you had made him uncomfortable and now he’d be mad at you, when he gave you a half smile, relaxing.

“Yeah, you always get me.”

“Not always, you’re getting better,” you said, resting your cheek on his wide back for a few seconds before releasing him. “Am I getting better at tracking too?”

“Yeah,” he gave you a soft smile and you couldn’t help your grin. “Come on, try to follow this trail yourself.”

Day after day, as you kept spending time with Daryl, either out in the woods or on the yard whenever you joined him at night, it got harder and harder to ignore the feelings you had been developing for him. A silly smile would spread across your face whenever you saw him and butterflies fluttered in your belly when he smiled at you. You still hadn’t dared to say anything to Daryl, sure that if you confessed your silly crush you would make things awkward between you two. Daryl didn’t look at you like that, you were sure, why would him, and you weren’t about to mess up your friendship. He cared for you, you knew it, always making sure you were alright and helping you around, and sometimes when he smiled at you, or looked at you with soft eyes, or shared something personal about him with you, you let yourself daydream…but you knew it was impossible, and so you did your best to keep your feelings at bay…until the day you didn’t.

You were at the woods, hidden, looking at Daryl as he tracked something, waiting for your chance to sneak on him. You saw him crouching down, looking at the ground as if he’d found something, and then he began walking. Thinking he was distracted tracking, you silently but quickly made your way to him. He seemed oblivious to you and smiling, you reached out for him.

Before you could touch him, though, he turned around, grabbing your arms, a smirk on his face, and you realized he had known you were coming and had just pretended he didn’t. Before you knew what was happening or could do anything about it, he’d let go of one of your arms to grab both of your wrists with one of his hands while he tickled your side with the other, making you yelp.

A couple of days ago while you trained, Daryl had accidentally discovered how ticklish you were. You’d been embarrassed and Daryl had seemed amused but he hadn’t said anything, and now you wondered if he’d been planning this.

“No!” You half yelped half laughed, and you squirmed but you couldn’t break free as he kept tickling you, making you laugh so hard you wouldn’t be surprised if walkers were drawn to you, but it seemed Daryl didn’t care either. “Stop it!”

“You ain’t that silent now,” he said, sounding so smug and amused that you almost wanted to slap him but all you could do was laugh to the point that tears fell down your eyes. You didn’t know when was the last time you had laughed like that.

Daryl finally stopped and you panted, trying to recover your breath and still giggling, buzzing with energy, feeling almost giddy. Daryl was looking at you, grinning in a way you hadn’t seen him before, and you couldn’t help yourself, couldn’t stop it. You stood on your tip tops and pecked his lips.

It was quick, your lips pressing against his for barely a couple of seconds, but you felt light headed and as if you almost could fly. You looked at Daryl, half daring to have hope, but your smile died on your lips, the fuzzy feeling leaving your body. Daryl’s grin was gone and he seemed frozen in place as he looked at you with wide eyes before turning around.

“Daryl…” You called as you followed him but he didn’t stop. You felt you had just made a huge mistake, not being able to control yourself and you rushed behind him, trying to apologize and make things right. “Daryl, please, wait…”

“Shut up or you’ll scare the game!” He snapped harshly.

“Sorry…” You whispered, nodding, feeling a lump in your throat. You blinked your eyes quick when you felt them getting wet, embarrassed. You had messed up everything.

Daryl seemed to notice, looking at you, an emotion you didn’t get to catch flashing in his eyes and it seemed he was going to say something but he didn’t, turning again and walking fast. You followed him in silence as he walked back to the prison, stopping only to shoot at a couple of squirrels.

Back inside the prison’s fences, Daryl began walking fast towards the kitchen area, still without saying a word to you, and you decided not to follow him. You kicked yourself for what you had done, for being so impulsive. If you had lost Daryl’s friendship, you didn’t think you would ever forgive yourself. You felt tears in your eyes and you rushed towards your cellblock.

“Hey! Y/N!” You felt a soft hand on your arm and you saw it was Mark, looking at you with worry. “There’s something wrong? You okay?”

“Yeah, yeah, just…” You rubbed your eyes, you didn’t want to talk about it, not with him nor with anyone. “Sorry, I just want to go to my room.”

“Okay, but, if you ever want to talk…well, know that I’m here.”

You nodded but didn’t say anything, rushing into the cellblock and to your cell, burying your face into your pillow to muffle your tears.

Chapter Text

Next day was even worse, and you felt your heart breaking more and more as you realized you had, indeed, messed what you had with Daryl. When you woke up that morning, your head and eyes hurt after spending the most part of the night crying, and you just felt even worse when you realized Daryl had gone hunting earlier than usual without telling you anything. You knew he had done it because he didn’t want you going with him.

For a couple of days you harbored the hope that Daryl’d eventually stop being angry at you and things would get better between you two, but almost a week had passed and he still avoided you, didn’t ask you to join him anymore, didn’t talk to you or let you talk to him when you tried, didn’t look at you even.

You felt heartbroken. You missed going out with him, training, you missed your quiet talks in the yard at night. You missed him so much, you didn’t know how to stop the hurt. You were now sat down on a table, feeling miserable, staring at the people who worked putting down the walkers at the other side of the fence, contemplating joining them.

“Hey, Y/N.” You felt a hand on your shoulder and you looked up to find Mark looking at you. “You okay?” You only shrugged but nodded. “It’s been some days since I saw you going out…” It felt like a dart to the chest but you knew he didn’t mean to hurt you. “So I was wondering if maybe you would want to come up to the watchtower with me, it’s kind of boring to be alone up there and you looked like maybe you too could use some company and chat for a bit…”

Mark shrugged shyly and you didn’t know what to do. You had kept yourself away from everyone, even from Maggie, who you knew was worried about you, but you didn’t feel like giving explanations about why Daryl and you didn’t go out together anymore, didn’t even speak to each other, you were embarrassed and afraid you might just start crying if you talked about it.

But Mark looked worried and kind, and maybe it was time to stop keeping yourself away from everyone. Maybe the company would do you some good and so you nodded and followed Mark up to the watchtower. To your relief, he kept the conversation light, not asking you about what was bothering you or pressing you into talking. You shared little things about your life before, talked about life in the prison, and it helped you feel even just a bit better, and you ended up saying there during all Mark’s shift.

“Hey, Y/N…” Mark began when you were about to walk down the stairs. “Look I’m gonna tell you something, I’ve meant to for a while but…nevermind…so, I think if I don’t just say it I’m never going to do it so…” You looked at him, confused, but let him talk without saying anything. “I know this is going to sound stupid, and asking someone for a date in this world is kind of ridiculous, but I think you’re really amazing, so…yeah, well, that…”

You could only stare at him, confused, not finding words. Was he saying that he wanted to have a date with you? That you were amazing? You didn’t understand why. You didn’t know what to say or do.

“And I just made everything awkward…sorry, Y/N, just forget it.” Mark gave you an embarrassed smile.

“It’s not that, just…I don’t know what to say.” You babbled.

“It’s okay, Y/N, you don’t have to say anything,” Mark squeezed your shoulder before turning over to walk down the stairs. “If you ever want to talk or something again, I’m up for it okay?”

Later that day you were sat down on your bed, thinking about what had happened in the watchtower. You couldn’t believe Mark’d asked you out on a date. You didn’t even know how you had a date in a prison surrounded by walkers.

Since corpses began roaming the world you’d never thought about dating or stuff like that, you had other things in your mind, more important, and you hadn’t met anyone who changed that…until Daryl, and you hadn’t meant to fall for him like that, it had just happened and you hadn’t been able to stop it. But Daryl wasn’t interested, that much was clear. By now, it seemed he wasn’t even interested in being your friend.

Maybe you should say yes to Mark. You didn’t feel for him what you felt for Daryl, that was clear, but there was nothing wrong on having a “date” with him, maybe you’d get to know each other better, have fun, find out that maybe, maybe, something could work between you two, even if you didn’t feel it yet. You could at least give it a try, and after all, Mark was a kind, nice guy. At the very least, maybe it would help you stop thinking about Daryl…

You decided you’d look for Mark during dinner and would say yes to a date. You felt nervous about it, all of a sudden, and you felt silly about it but you couldn’t help it, you had never dated much in your life. But he was the one who had asked, and you tried to calm down, repeating yourself it wouldn’t be much different from today, when you both had been up in the watchtower together and you had actually had a good time. So, yes, no need to being nervous about it.

You kept saying yourself that as you went to have dinner, looking around for Mark…and also for Daryl, though you wouldn’t admit it. He hadn’t gone dining with everyone that week, and you couldn’t help but think it was because he was avoiding you. He wasn’t there either that night, and you tried to ignore the way in which your heart clenched. You spotted Mark sat down and talking with some people, but you felt awkward at the idea of approaching him to talk about dating and what not and other people hearing it, and so you took your dinner and went to sit down with Maggie. You waited until there were fewer people in the room to approach Mark, who was still there.

“Hi…can we have a word?”

“Yeah…” Mark seemed a bit confused but gave you a smile and got up, following you to the corridor. “It’s everything okay?”

“I’ve been thinking…maybe we could actually have a date, if you’re still interested.” You looked down, feeling your cheeks heat up, you couldn’t help it.

“Of course I’m still interested!” Mark grinned. “There’s something you wanted to do?”

“No, just…how do you even have a date in here?” You shrugged.

“I’m not very sure myself.” Mark chuckled. “Look, I promised I’d help around after dinner, but it won’t take me long, what if I pick you up after it?”

“Okay.” You nodded, chewing on your lower lip. “Just…I’m gonna be honest, I wasn’t really looking for a relationship or nothing, I can’t promise you anything…”

“That’s okay, a date is all I’m asking for.” Mark gave you a shy smile. “And if after it you decide you want to have another then well, lucky me… But no pressure.”

“Alright.”

“I’m picking you up as soon as I’m finished here then.” Mark grinned again and you nodded, turning over and going back to your cell.

You weren’t sure what you were supposed to do…should you get ready for the date? But it wasn’t like you had many clothes, or makeup, or anything like that, it’d been the last thing on your mind, and you felt beyond silly just thinking about it. You decided to stop overthinking it and go as you were, no need to change clothes or comb your hair which was already pulled away from your face with a half-broken hair clip that had been with you since forever.

You had teased Daryl sometimes, telling him you were going to gift it to him so he’d keep his long hair out of his eyes and track better actually being able to see. The memory felt like a stab and you rushed to push it away.

You tried to focus your attention on a book, re-reading the same page a few times as your mind kept getting distracted, and you were on it when you heard a knock on the bars of the cell. You hadn’t dragged the blanket over the door and you saw Mark standing outside the cell, giving you a smile though he seemed unsure.

“So…have you changed your mind?”

“No.” You got up, giving him a smile when you noticed he was nervous too. It was kind of sweet. “What you wanna do?”

“I’ve been thinking…I know you have trouble sleeping and that’s why you go out sometimes to the yard at night.” You nodded. You went out to meet with Daryl too, but you tried hard not to think about it. “So maybe we could take a walk through the yard? If you’re up to it.”

“Okay.” You nodded, you guessed it was the closest thing to ‘going out on a date night’ that you could have in there.

Mark smiled and he reached out as if he were going to offer you his hand or something but didn’t, and you both walked outside the cellblock. You hadn’t been walking for long when you spotted Daryl out there too, sat down on top of a table, smoking.

You tried to ignore him, tried to focus on what Mark was telling you, but you couldn’t help it, everything coming back to you. Embarrassment made your cheeks blush as you remembered what you had done, how you had messed up thing with Daryl, and something stabbed your heart as you realized once again how much you missed his company. You stopped walking, feeling a lump in your throat.

“There’s something wrong?” Mark asked you, frowning in concern.

“No, no, just…”You didn’t know what to say. “I hadn’t realized how tired I actually am…so if we could like…postpone the date or something…”You felt so bad you couldn’t even look at Mark.

“Yeah…” He didn’t sound mad, though, just concerned. “If I did something-”

“No, no,” you rushed to assure. “Just…don’t want to fall asleep on you…and…” You didn’t know what else to say, your eyes trailing towards Daryl’s silhouette before looking down again.

Mark’s gaze followed yours and then he nodded, seeming thoughtful. “Okay. Can I walk you to your cellblock?” You nodded and you both walked side by side to the building.

“I’m sorry I messed up the date…” You apologize, but Mark gave you a smile.

“Nah, you didn’t…just…are you still interested in having one? With me I mean…It’s okay if you don’t, really.” He seemed unsure, but you nodded and he smiled. “Okay. Do you have plans for tomorrow?”

“I was thinking about maybe going out and set a trap, see if I catch something.” You hadn’t been out since Daryl stopped taking you hunting, and you felt like you were barely contributing to the prison. You weren’t sure you could hunt anything by yourself, but you had caught rabbits with traps before, and so you wanted to at least do that.

“Would you mind it if I’ll join you? I haven’t gone out since you rescued me.” Mark asked.

“Okay,” you nodded, it was better not to go out alone, and you still wanted to try this dating thing with Mark, no matter all your feelings for Daryl had hit you again and you saw him, it only made you want to get over the heartbreak more. “I’ll tell you when I’m leaving.”

*

You decided to set your trap in the nearby woods, not too deep into them, not wanting to go too far from the prison so you wouldn’t risk bumping into walkers…or into Daryl if he had gone out hunting. Mark went with you and you truly enjoyed the company and the light chat. You showed him how to set the trap, since he seemed interested in it, and then you both walked back to the prison.

You came back to check on the trap late in the afternoon, and you found out that you had caught a rabbit. Mark seemed impressed and his words of praise made you blush, embarrassed, but he seemed genuine. He went with you to the kitchen too as you went to clean the rabbit, and you were showing him how to do it when the door opened and Daryl walked in, carrying a string of squirrels which he probably had gone to clean too.

He looked at Mark and you, scoffed, and left. You felt a stab in your heart, but you were starting to feel annoyed too. You had overstepped, sure, but Daryl had no right to treat you like that, he was being an idiot and rude, and you wished you could hate him but you couldn’t. You didn’t want to miss him but you did…he didn’t miss you? Your friendship had meant so little to him? He didn’t care about you anymore? He seemed to hate you. The idea almost had you in tears.

Mark was frowning at the door, and you were sure he was going to ask you what was going on and demand an explanation, but his eyes softened when he looked at you. “You okay?” You nodded, focusing your attention back to the rabbit. “If you want to talk about it, I know you’re gonna say no, but…” You shook your head and Mark nodded. “That’s okay. How did you say was the best way to stew rabbit?”

Your rabbit stew ended up being served for dinner that night, and you were glad you had contributed to the prison. You weren’t sure how going out to set a trap and then skinning a rabbit counted as a date, but Mark smiled as he approached you after dinner so maybe it hadn’t gone bad. You hadn’t sat down with him but with Maggie, still feeling awkward about people knowing you have had a date with Mark, but he didn’t seem to mind.

“I had fun today,” he told you once he reached you as you walked down a corridor.

“It was good,” you nodded, giving him a small smile.

“So…good enough to maybe do it again?” He asked you shyly, and you hesitated for a moment but nodded. You still didn’t think you liked Mark like that, but you had had a good time with him, so there couldn’t be anything wrong on having another date with him, and maybe, eventually…

“Yeah, I’d like to.”

“Nice!” He grinned. “I have watch duty all afternoon tomorrow, but maybe if you want you could come up too? Until you get bored of it. We could have lunch together up there, maybe.”

“Okay, okay sure.”

*

You ended up bringing lunch to Mark up to the watchtower staying there during all his shift again, since you found yourself actually having fun as you told him stuff about your old job, both of you talking about your life before the apocalypse and how good life in the prison was, given the circumstances.

“So…what are you gonna do now?” Mark asked you once you walked down the stairs of the watchtower.

“I said I’d help with dinner tonight.”

“Okay… I don’t have watch duty tomorrow but maybe you’d like to have lunch with me again? I really had a good time today.”

“Alright, I did too.” You nodded, smiling softly.

“That’s…that’s really nice to know.” Mark smiled shyly and he looked at you, chewing on his lip. “I was wondering…well, you can tell me to back off or slow down, or anything, but…maybe…could I kiss you?”

You blinked, taken aback by his question, though maybe you shouldn’t be that surprised, you two were kind of dating after all, were you? You didn’t even know yourself. His ask brought to your mind the memory of when your lips had brushed Daryl’s for barely a few seconds, how it had made you feel…that was what made you nod now. You wanted to erase that memory and the way in which made your heart hurt.

Mark smile went wider before he leaned in and his lips met yours. He was sweet, his lips soft, the kiss gentle, and you didn’t feel anything at all. No speed of your pulse, no butterflies in your belly, nothing. Mark pulled back, grinning at you, and you knew you had to stop this. It wasn’t fair.

“I…I’m sorry…I…” You babbled, you didn’t know what to say. “I don’t think this is going to work, and I don’t want it to seem like I’m playing with you or anything, so…I’m sorry…but…” You trailed off and looked down, getting ready for Mark’s anger, expecting him to yell at you, but he didn’t, he just let out a sigh.

“Okay. Told you I’d back off if you wanted me to, and you already told me you weren’t promising anything, so…yeah, it’s okay.” His smile was sad and you felt awful.

“I’m sorry, I thought maybe…sorry.” You trailed off again, still not finding the right words. “I’m sorry I made you waste your time…”

“Nah, nah, you didn’t, told you I had a good time with you.” Mark shrugged.

“And I had too, just…not like that. I can’t be what you want me to…” You murmured.

“I get it.” He let out another sigh. “Kind of hadn’t much hope to begin with…”

“But that doesn’t mean we can’t still talk or anything…I’d like us to be friends, you know…” You offered lamely but genuinely.

“Yeah, sure.” Mark gave you another sad smile. “I just…I gotta go. See you around, alright?”

You nodded and went to your cell, still feeling awful about the whole thing. You flopped down onto your bed and brushed your fingers over your lips. You barely remembered the feeling of Mark’s lips over yours, while Daryl’s was still vivid in your mind, that kiss that had ruined everything.

You were tired of this, and you missed him so much…half of you wanted to apologize to him, beg him to forget the kiss, wanting everything between you two to go back to how it was before. The other half wanted to call him out on his behavior, it was he who was being a prick.

At any rate, you needed to solve that situation between Daryl and you, whatever was the outcome, and you felt you couldn’t wait any longer. With your mind set on it, you waited until it was dark and silent around the prison and you got up, walking out to the yard to see if Daryl was there.

You spotted him on top of the usual table, smoking. You still weren’t sure of what you wanted to say, but you decided to admit that you missed him and wanted your friendship back. Yelling at him or telling him he was being an ass wouldn’t achieve that, and so you decided to try to be civil about it and have an actual conversation with him. Or try to. With your mind set on it, you tried to overcome your nerves, and you walked to him.

“What you want?” Daryl snapped as soon as you stopped in front of the table.

“A smoke.” Was the first thing that came to your mind.

“This is yours anyway, you found it.” Daryl scoffed and rummaged into his pocket, taking out the pack of cigarettes and throwing it to you. You caught it and took a cigarette out.

“Yes but then I gave it to you.” You shrugged, throwing the pack back to Daryl. He caught it, glaring at you, but you didn’t back off. You tried to think for the right words to say but it seemed he wasn’t in the best mood and you were starting to feel annoyed too, you didn’t think you deserved such rudeness on his side.

“What you still doing here?” Daryl barked. “Don’t you have nothing to do, like sleeping with your boyfriend?”

“I don’t have a boyfriend!” You felt your cheeks heating up and all your intention of being polite about this whole mess was gone, Daryl was being unfair. “And it’s not your business anyway!”

“Yeah? Don’t have a boyfriend? So you walk around all day with everyone, keep watch all day with everyone, and kiss everyone? Yeah, sure, I should know.” He scoffed.

“What, are you spying on me or something?” You snapped. “It’s not your business, why you care anyway!”

“I don’t! I don’t give a fuck!” He snapped back, jumping off the table, but you moved to stop in front of him so he couldn’t keep walking away from you.

“Yeah, that’s much is clear.”

Daryl scoffed again, trying to walk past you. “Go kiss your boyfriend or whatever and leave me alone.”

“What’s the matter with you!” You walked behind him, determined to not let him walk away, to try to talk reason within this mess. “Why’re you being like this?! Yeah, I kissed you, and I’m sorry okay? It was a mistake, I apologized, why you have to treat me like this? We were friends, or I thought we were.”

“Yeah, seems you kiss your friends by mistake a lot.” Daryl turned to look at you, scoffing, and you didn’t know what to make of his words.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” You snapped and Daryl didn’t say anything, turning his back to you. “First you get angry because I kissed you, now you get angry too because I kissed someone else, what’s the matter with you?”

“Ain’t no matter with me!” He barked, facing you again and getting on your face. “I don’t care who you kiss, I don’t care what you do!”

“Yeah, yeah, it’s pretty clear you don’t care about me!” You snapped, couldn’t stop yourself any longer. “Don’t even know why I try to make things right again. But I thought we were friends…gosh, I even thought you cared about me.” You felt tears in your eyes, which just embarrassed you more. “I get it, you don’t give a fuck and I was an idiot thinking otherwise.”

It had really seemed like you two were good friends, though, and you still didn’t understand what had made it change like that, you didn’t think a kiss could annoy someone that much, but there it was. You didn’t think you deserved that. It was unfair. It was too much to handle.

“If you cared about me you wouldn’t be like this, I apologized and yet you ignore me and you are a prick to me, if you were my friend you wouldn’t be like this, but yeah, yeah, you’re right, you don’t give a fuck.” You rubbed your tears, trying to calm down, but you couldn’t. “So yeah, I’ll go kiss someone else and leave you alone!”

Without turning to look at Daryl, who hadn’t said anything, you rushed back to your cellblock, trying to hold back your tears and failing. You contemplated living up to your word and going to Mark’s cell, but you knew it’d be unfair to him, you couldn’t do that out of spite and so you headed back to your cell.

You lied awake in your bed for hours, too agitated to sleep, the pounding of your heart being the only thing you could hear, until you cried yourself to exhaustion.

Chapter Text

Despite barely having slept for the whole night, falling in and out of an uneasy sleep with troubling dreams, your body woke you up early in the morning. Your mind went right back to what had happened the night before.

You worried you had been too hard, snapped at Daryl too much, made everything even worse, but as you replayed his words, the way he had spoken to you, the way in which he behaved towards you…it was him who had the problem, and you didn’t understand why he was like that with you. You had messed things up kissing him, sure, but you had done everything you could to apologize and try to make things right, but Daryl hadn’t cared.

You still didn’t understand what had happened. Had your friendship really meant so little to him? Were you really that forgettable? Didn’t he miss to go out with you, talk, train together, keep each other company…because you wished you didn’t miss it but you did. But he didn’t seem to want to make things right between you two, didn’t seem to care at all…

Daryl’d always been good to you, when he trained you he was always supportive and kind, when you were feeling down or insecure he was there for you, and you had thought he did really enjoy your company and cared for you…you didn’t know how just a kiss could have changed all that, making him avoid you. It made things awkward, sure, but awkward enough to the point of ignoring you completely? You didn’t understand how he could have lashed out at you as he did last night…

You felt like crying again and you didn’t want to, you were tired of this, you needed to get over it. You rubbed your eyes and got up, walking to the door of your cell and dragging back the curtain, stopping before opening the door and blinking in surprise.

Daryl was there, sat down on the ground, his back against the bars of the cell and he looked up when you dragged away the curtain of your door, rushing onto his feet.

“What…” You muttered, staring at him in confusion.

Daryl didn’t say anything, just stared back at you, chewing on his thumbnail. He opened his mouth but closed it again, looked behind him and then back at you, seeming hesitant, and you still could only stare at him in confusion. You didn’t know what was going on. How long had he been out there? Had he been waiting for you to wake up? Why? Hadn’t he had enough and had come to yell at you more? It didn’t seem like that.

Daryl finally moved, reaching out to open the door of your cell, and you didn’t know what to do but finally you stepped back, letting him walk inside your room and pull the blanket over the door again. You looked at him, raising your eyebrows, confused, and Daryl stared back at you, chewing on his nails

“I’m sorry,” he finally murmured, looking down, but you still didn’t know what to say. “I just…I…didn’t mean to make you cry…”

“It kind of felt like you did…” You said weakly. Daryl had apologized, but you still felt awful about the whole thing.

“Didn’t mean to hurt you…just…” He shrugged helplessly.

“Then why would you be like that? I tried to apologize and you said all that to me…” You felt a lump in your throat and you swallowed hard.

“Didn’t mean it…I’m sorry.” Daryl apologized again, this time looking at you, and he seemed genuine but you didn’t understand what was going on.

You flopped down on your bed, resting your elbows on your knees and your head on your hands, letting out a sigh. “I don’t understand you.”

“You kissed me.” Daryl said quietly after a few seconds of silence. “You kissed me and I got scared.”

You nodded, that much you had guessed, but still you didn’t know why he’d been like that with you. “I get it. I shouldn’t have, I overstepped. But I apologized and still you were like that with me, didn’t even tell me why, didn’t let me talk to you.”

“I didn’t know what to do.”

“So you decided to avoid me and stop talking to me.” You sighed and Daryl looked at you with guilty eyes. You still didn’t know what to think.

“I….I told you, didn’t know what to do….I just…I…” He trailed off, seeming helpless and at loss of words. “I shouldn’t have done that. I’m sorry about it.”

“But it felt you didn’t mind we weren’t friends anymore, like you didn’t care…” The idea hurt.

“I care…” He whispered, looking down, and somehow you believed he was genuine, but you still didn’t really understand what was going on with him, and it wasn’t that easy to stop the hurt.

“Why were you like that to me last night?” Daryl said he hadn’t meant to hurt you and made you cry, but he had done it.

“I was a prick, I know I was.” Daryl murmured without answering your question. “But I’m sorry.”

You let out a sigh, deciding to let it go. You were sad and tired, and you didn’t want to argue anymore. “Okay. I believe you are” For a little while, none of you said anything, both of you looking down to the ground.

“Are we good?” Daryl asked quietly and you just shrugged. You still didn’t understand what was going on with him and you were still hurt, but you wanted everything between you two to go back as it was before, but you didn’t know if it could.

Daryl nodded once, silent, and turned as if to leave, but he stopped before drawing back the curtain of the door. “Maybe…do you want us to go out hunting today?”

“Really?” You frowned at him, taken aback, he’d been ignoring you and lashing out and you and all of a sudden he wanted you two to go out together again? You didn’t know what to think.

Daryl shrugged, looking away. “It’s okay you don’t want to.”

“I didn’t say that, just…” You let out a sigh. “Okay. Okay, let’s go.” You guessed it was a way as good as anything to try to mend your relationship, even if you were still confused.

Daryl’s gaze went to you, the ghost of a smile tugging at the corner of his lips, and you decided you definitely didn’t understand him at all.

“See you at the yard in maybe twenty minutes?”

“Yeah, okay.”

*

Daryl and you walked by each other through the woods as you had done so many times before, but everything felt different now. You hadn’t said a word to each other since leaving the prison, you didn’t even look at each other, though you had caught Daryl looking at you through the corner of his eye a couple of times.

You thought maybe your friendship was too broken to be mend, and your stomach clenched at the idea. You couldn’t help but still be hurt, though, and you were still confused, you didn’t understand why Daryl had behaved to you like that just to ask you now to go out with him again as if nothing.

After a long while of walking in silence, Daryl stopped, turning to face you, though he kept his gaze down and for a moment he didn’t say anything, chewing on his thumbnail, until he finally spoke.

“I know I was an ass. I ain’t good at handling shit. Ain’t good at talking either. But I’m sorry.”

“It’s not that you aren’t good at talking is that you didn’t even try. I apologize and tried to make this right but you wouldn’t talk to me, like you didn’t want us to be friends anymore.” You shrugged, you felt like you were saying the same things again and again.

“I didn’t know what to do. I thought…” He shook his head. “I like it, to go out with you and talk to you and stuff…” He shrugged, still not looking at you. “But I ain’t good at relationships or that, and you kissed me and I…” He trailed off as if he didn’t know what to say.

“I overstepped and I made things awkward.” You nodded. “But you could have told me all that instead of ignoring me like that.”

“I’m sorry.”

“I know…” You did, you could see it, but that didn’t mean you weren’t still hurt and totally confused. “Just…I can’t help but wonder when it’s the next time you are going to decide you’re not going to talk to me anymore again.”

“Y/N, I’m not going to stop talking to you, told you, I know I was stupid. I don’t know what more to tell you.” Daryl sounded frustrated, and last thing you wanted was another argument with him, and so you decided to try to let it go, hope things between you two went back to normal little by little.

“It’s okay. It’ll be.” You tried to smile weakly.

“I don’t know what to do to make you stop being mad.” He admitted, sounding insecure.

“I’m not mad. I’m hurt.” You replied honestly.

“I really didn’t mean to hurt you.” Daryl looked at you, his eyes genuine.

“But you did…” You whispered, shrugging, embarrassed as you felt like crying.

“Y/N, I’m sorry, but I don’t know what else to do.” Daryl seemed so lost, so sad himself, that you felt your heart hurting more. You didn’t really know what to do yourself either, how to make things right between you two and stop feeling like that.

“You forgive me for having kissed you?” You asked, couldn’t think of anything else.

“Y/N, it ain’t like I have to forgive you for something like that, just-”

“But you do?” You cut him off.

“Yeah, alright, I do.”

“I forgive you too for having been ignoring me.” You decided not to talk about how he had lashed at you last night. You were starting to think he’d been annoyed at something else and you had stepped in the wrong moment and he’d paid it with you. Which wasn’t okay either, but you weren’t going to hold it against him, he had apologized and wanted to make things right, and so did you.

“That means?” Daryl asked, looking at you.

“That we’re good I guess.” You shrugged.

“Doesn’t really feel like it…” Daryl whispered, voicing your thoughts.

“I’m sorry… But you are trying and so I am. Give it time.”

“Okay.” Daryl gave you his tiny, half smile, eyes still looking sad and regretful.

“Come on, let’s try to hunt something.” You patted his arm, hating how what had been such a natural gesture felt so awkward now, and began walking.

“Y/N,” Daryl called after you.

“Yeah?”

“So…you ain’t with Mark now?” He asked you, fidgeting, and you blushed.

“No.”

“But I saw you and-”

“Didn’t work out.” You cut him before you could get even more embarrassed.

“Why?” Because it was him whom you liked, who you wanted to be with, but you couldn’t say that to him. You would only scare him again and would ruin your attempts at building back your friendship. You wondered if he knew anyway, if he imagined.

“Stuff.” You shrugged and Daryl nodded, thoughtful.

Hours later, as you both walked back to the prison, you felt the tension between you two had ebbed slowly, even though your friendship still didn’t feel as once had did, and you both still behaved awkwardly and hesitantly around each other. You guessed it’d take time until things were back at normal between you two, but you felt it was on the way. It was making you feel better already. You didn’t see Daryl again until that night, when he knocked on the bars of your cell and lifted up the curtain, holding a pack of cigarettes that he waved towards you.

“I was out at the yard…and I thought maybe you wanted one too.” Once again he took you aback, but you guessed he was still trying to make up to you. It was sweet, on his own way, you guessed.

“Okay.” You nodded and followed him outside and to your usual table. Daryl lighted the cigarette and passed it to you, and you both sat there in silence for a while.

“I missed this.” You admitted quietly

“I did too,” Daryl whispered, and you tried to believe him. It felt less awkward than this morning, but still, you could feel something different between you two.

None of you said anything else, and as you took the last drag of the cigarette, you were about to say to Daryl that you were going to bed, when he spoke, or rather, called your name quietly.

“Y/N.”

“Yeah?” You looked at Daryl, who was thoughtful, looking down, and he swallowed hard.

“Last night, I told you to go kiss someone else and leave me alone.” You nodded, biting your lip, hating that he was bringing it up, it hurt. “I don’t want you to.”

You nodded, you believed him when he said he was sorry, he’d been angry when he’d told you to leave him alone, but he didn’t mean it, he’d been proving it as he tried to make it up to you.

“I know. It’s okay, we’re back at being friends right?”

“Yeah…but I mean…” Daryl swallowed hard and you frowned, wondering what was going on inside his head. “I mean that I don’t want you to kiss someone else…”

“What?” You blinked at him, confused, but Daryl only shrugged, his cheeks blushed and his eyes trained down. You shook your head, letting out a long sigh, running a hand through your hair, pushing it away from your face. “Daryl, I don’t get you. I’m trying, but I really don’t understand you.”

He just shrugged, seeming self-conscious, and you weren’t sure if he was going to snap or not, but he didn’t. He was fidgeting, as if nervous and awkward, and you let out a sight, trying your best to understand him.

“So you don’t want me to kiss someone else but you don’t want me to kiss you either, I don’t know what I’m supposed to think.”

“I didn’t say that.”

“I kissed you and you stopped talking to me, Daryl.”

“I got scared.” He murmured, and even in the darkness, you could see his blush. “I thought you wanted…don’t know, something with me, and I didn’t know what to do, I…dunno… “He trailed off awkwardly.

“I kissed you and I like you, but that doesn’t mean I’d pressure you into anything, or get angry that you don’t like me like that, all we had to do was talk. I want to be your friend, over everything.”

“I want to be your friend too. But I didn’t say I don’t like you.” Daryl admitted quietly, making your stomach flutter.

“You do?” You knew you were sounding insecure, but you couldn’t help it, and Daryl nodded without looking at you. “That’s why you have been like that these days?” He nodded again, and it didn’t make much sense, but by now you felt it was hard for Daryl to deal with his emotions, and you didn’t want to push it more when he was trying, you wanted to make it easier for him.

“I didn’t know what to do, didn’t think about liking you like this, but I do,” he murmured, as flustered as you were getting. “And I don’t want you to kiss someone else. I can’t tell you what to do or nothing, though…”

“You don’t want me to kiss someone else…but do you want me to kiss you?” You said, barely above a whisper.

“Maybe?”

Daryl didn’t look at you, and you didn’t know what to do. Your heart had fluttered when Daryl told you he liked you, no matter how things had been between you two that week, but you didn’t want to push anything into Daryl. You didn’t want to scare him away again, and a maybe wasn’t enough for you. You weren’t sure his feelings were real, not that you thought he was lying to you or anything like that, but he might just be trying to make up to you and have you two being friends again, and maybe he was confused about his feelings for you.

Daryl was looking at you, seeming nervous and expectant, as if waiting for you to do or say something, and not knowing what to do, you leaned towards him and placed a kiss on his cheek, not sure as for why, you just followed your instinct. You’d half expected it to feel awkward but it didn’t, and it seemed it made Daryl relax a bit. He still wasn’t saying anything and so you felt you needed to step up.

“I’m not going to pressure you into anything, and you shouldn’t either. Just…think about it, maybe…” You tried to overcome your awkwardness at the whole thing, trying to reassure him and also not wanting to get your hopes high just to have your heart broken again. “Just, make sure of what you want and what you feel.”

“I want us to keep going out to the woods together. I missed you, I missed being with you.” Daryl replied, blushed, making your heart flutter again. “I like to be with you”

“And I like to be with you too.” You couldn’t help your small smile and the way in which butterflies flew inside your belly, and Daryl’s lips curled into another smile. “It’s getting late, so why don’t we go to sleep and we talk about this again in the morning?” You half expected Daryl to change his mind overnight, to realize he didn’t want you the way you wanted him, but that would be alright as long as you were still friends.

Daryl seemed to think it for a moment but then he nodded. “Okay. Do you want us to go hunting tomorrow?”

“Sure.” You nodded, getting off the table, and Daryl got up too to walk you to your room.

“Goodnight. See you tomorrow, okay?” You said with a small smile as you turned to walk into your cell, but Daryl reached out for you, fingers brushing your arm softly without actually grabbing it.

“Y/N,” he called for you but didn’t look at you. “So…maybe we’d be together now… or not?”

“Do you want us to be?” You asked, wondering if you sounded as nervous as you were feeling.

“I think so.”

“Okay, okay…” You bit your lip but a silly smile spread across your face anyway. “Then yeah, we could be, just…think about it this night, okay?”

Daryl’s lip twitched into that small you found so adorable, and he nodded. “Alright, then. Night.”

You laid awake on your bed, unable to sleep, butterflies fluttered inside your belly but also did nerves. You still didn’t want to get your hopes high, in case Daryl decided in the morning that he actually just wanted you as a friend. You forced yourself to stop overthinking it. As long as you two kept being friends, it’d be alright.

*

When you woke up next morning the sun was already up and you hoped you hadn’t overslept. You dressed quickly, pinned your hair back, and went out to look for Daryl. You found him faster and easier than you expected, as he was leaning against the railing of the corridor in front of your cell.

“Hey,” You greeted. “Sorry if I’m late, you could just have woken me up instead of waiting here.”

“It’s okay,” Daryl shrugged. “I brought you breakfast.” He handed you a cereal bar and you blinked at it, a bit surprised, but you thanked him and munched on it as you followed him down the stairs and out of the building.

As you walked out of the prison and towards the woods, Daryl reached out and took your hand without saying anything. It took you by surprise but you intertwined your fingers with his, looking at him with curiosity but he was looking ahead.

“So…have you thought about what we talked yesterday?” You ventured when you felt you couldn’t wait anymore. Daryl hummed a yes but didn’t say anything. “So what you think of…well…us?”

Daryl stopped walking to look at you, seeming unsure. “Are we together? Like, not just friends.”

“Yeah, well, if you want us to be…” You hated how awkward this was, but you needed him to be sure, you didn’t want to risk your heart getting broken.

“I want to be with you…told you so.” He told you, blushing and frowning as he looked at the ground. He seemed insecure, and you wondered if he worried about your thoughts an intentions the same that you worried about his, you hadn’t even considered it. “You don’t want it?”

“I do, I want to see if we can make this work, I want it. I really like you, Daryl.” You told him, smiling shyly, hoping it’d reassure him, even if you were confused about this whole thing. His face was still serious and thoughtful, though.

“I like you too, I know I do. But I’ve never had a relationship, I can’t tell you I’d be good at it.” His fingers were twitching nervously in your hand and you squeezed his gently. “I don’t want to mess things between us again, to stop being friends if you see you don’t like this.”

“I wouldn’t stop being your friend, no matter what.” You assured him, brushing your thumb over the back of his hand softly. “Let’s see how this works, okay? We can take it slow, there’s no pressure. If we rather be just friends, then that’s okay. But I want at least to try this with you, if you want it too.”

He nodded, giving you that half smile you loved, even though he still seemed shy, but when he lifted your hand to kiss your knuckles ever so softly, you felt yourself melt, a silly smile on your face. He let go of your hand as soon as he began tracking, though, but you didn’t mind, listening to him as he pointed things at you.

Back inside the prison, Daryl went to the kitchen area to clean his squirrels and you didn’t know what to do, following him or go to do something on your own. Daryl turned his head to look at you when he noticed you weren’t following him and stopped, as if waiting for you, and so you decided to go with him. You looked at him as he worked in silence, still trying to process everything that had happened in just a day.

The idea of Daryl and you being together was crazy, and you still weren’t able to believe it, but at the same time, when you thought about it, butterflies went crazy in your stomach. You still couldn’t make your mind about Daryl wanting to be with you, especially after how he’d behaved the previous days, but you guessed it had been his way of dealing with everything when he didn’t know what to do, and you wanted to let it go and not hold it against him, he’d apologized enough.

Part of you couldn’t help but think he might regret it soon, though, and decide he actually didn’t want you like that, or maybe he in fact just wanted you as a friend but was confused about the whole thing and didn’t know how else to fix things between you two. You were trying not to overthink it and let it flow, but it wasn’t easy for you to believe Daryl liked you like that. He had told you so, though, he had been pretty set in wanting you two to be together, and your heart sped up when you thought back to his words.

Daryl didn’t say anything else about it, but during dinner that evening he surprising you bringing you a bowl of stew when you went to take one and going to sit down next to you, something that he usually didn’t as during dinner he used to catch up with Rick or Carol if he hadn’t seen them that day. You looked at him, but he was still saying nothing as he listened to Glenn talk about the next planned run. He seemed to feel your eyes on him, though, turning his face to look at you, the corner of his mouth lifting into a smile before he went back to focus his attention on Glenn. Maybe he did want to be with you, even if it was hard to believe.

You helped around after dinner, washing dishes and making sure everything was on place, and you lost sight of Daryl while doing so, but as you walked out of the dining room, you found him waiting for you.

“Do you want to sit down outside with me?” He asked you without looking at you, making you smile, and you nodded. You walked out together, and as you headed to your usual table, Daryl’s hand found yours, lacing your fingers.

You both stayed silent of a while, sitting down on top of the table, your hands still joined, until you decided to talk about the run Glenn had told you during dinner, making plans to join it, and wondering if Daryl was feeling awkward or bored, though he hadn’t seemed to mind the silence.

Eventually, you decided to try something else, hoping it wouldn’t make him uncomfortable. Still holding his hand, you guided his arm to wrap it around you gently, shifting closer to his side, holding your breath as you waited for Daryl’s reaction. He still didn’t say anything but looked at you with half a smile as his arm wrapped more firmly around you, pulling you close. You closed your eyes, enjoying his warmth and the feeling of closeness, reassuring yourself that maybe this thing between you two was actually real.

Later, he walked you to your room, your hand once again in his. You stopped in front of him after reaching your cell, suddenly feeling awkward, wondering if you should hug him or something before saying goodnight. You kind of wanted to, but at the same time everything still felt new, and you didn’t know what Daryl might want. He was looking at you and you wished you knew what was he thinking.

“Goodnight,” you said, finally breaking the silence.

“Night,” he replied, though he didn’t let go of your hand as he still stared at you. Suddenly, he leaned down and pressed a soft kiss to your lips. You kissed him back softly and you had to resist the urge to pull him closer as butterflies erupted in your belly. He pulled back and looked at you in silence.

“How did that feel?” You whispered with bated breath, wondering if that would be the moment in which Daryl realized he didn’t like you like that. He looked down and you were half expecting him to tell you he actually just rather have your friendship, when he nodded.

“Good.” He glanced up at you, smiling shyly, before dropping his gaze down to the ground again, his fingers playing with yours.

“So can I do it again?” You asked, a silly smile spreading across your face when he nodded. You reached out to cup his cheek with your free hand and caught his lips with yours for another soft kiss.

You pulled back, and when you felt Daryl resting his forehead on yours for a couple of seconds before moving back, you thought you might just melt right there. You still couldn’t believe this was happening.

“Want to train with the crossbow tomorrow?” He asked quietly, still seeming shy.

“Yeah, of course I want.” Honestly, you didn’t care what you would do as long as it involved Daryl and you being together and maybe kissing him again.

“Okay.” His smile widened and you felt like your heart might just burst. “I’ll come to pick you up. Goodnight.”

Chapter Text

Things with Daryl were slow.

At first, it felt like nothing had changed between you two, you’d wake up and go out hunting or training with him, or on a run, and then you’d be back and maybe get the kills ready together or each of you would go on their way to do chores. He’d sat down next to you during dinner, and after that then most nights you both would watch the stars sat down on a table.

But there were some little differences here and there, more and more each passing day, like when you caught him staring at you sometimes and then he’d smile and look down, blushing, making butterflies flutter in your belly as you smiled bashfully. His eyes looking for you when he walked in somewhere he thought you might be, nodding to you and smiling when he found you.

There were some little touches too, that grew more and more each day. Your hand on his as you walked out of the prison and towards the woods until you began tracking or training. His hand on your thigh sometimes during dinner as you sat next to each other, when he hadn’t seen you in a while that day or when he seemed to think you were too thoughtful. When you sat together on the table at the yard at night, his arm found his way around you and you’d snuggle to his chest, or maybe he’d rest his head on your shoulder when he was tired or worried, smiling when you kissed the top of his head and hugged him.

Slowly, you felt more confident about kissing him, placing little kisses on his forehead or cheeks sometimes, just because, which more often than not seemed to confuse him but he always smiled shyly when you did it. He’d began doing it too, as if picking it up from you, casual kisses on your forehead or cheeks that made your heart flutter. Whenever he kissed your lips you always melted, and as days passed, his kisses were less and less spare as if he got used to this new thing between you two.

So things with Daryl moved slow, but that didn’t mean you didn’t love every second of it, as you let him set the pace he felt like, not rushing any of you into anything.

It took you some weeks to gather the courage to ask him to stay the night with you in your cell, since he always walked you to your cell at night and kissed you goodbye, but never hinted at wanting to go inside. But after you did and he joined you in bed that first night, he didn’t miss a night of sleeping next to you. You found that he loved cuddling, as he would snuggle to you each night, loving your arms around him, and whenever he fell asleep on you, you felt as if your heart would burst of love.

There was still that fear at the back of your mind of him deciding one day that he didn’t want you to be together anymore, that he actually did only want you as a friend, that you weren’t enough, or weren’t what he wanted. That maybe he didn’t love you the way you loved him. But when Daryl snuggled to you, or kissed you, or looked at you on a certain way, it helped you feel less insecure.

Around four months had passed since that first time Daryl kissed you and you were yet another morning with him on the woods. You were sat down on the ground with him lying down with his head on your lap, his eyes closed as you played with his hair. You knew he was tired, although he hadn’t said anything.

He hadn’t joined you in bed until late last night, when you were already asleep, as he’d been with Glenn planning a big run to which you both would go in about a couple of days, along with a big group. You all had found the place during another run, a big supermarket that was a jackpot, but it could be dangerous and it needed a lot of planning, so that was what him and Glenn, probably Maggie too, had been doing during most part of the night. His mind had still seemed on it when he joined you in bed, tossing and turning, waking you up, but you had held him to you, stroking his hair until he fell asleep.

You thought Daryl might be now falling asleep but he opened his eyes to smile at you and then turned his head to nuzzle into your belly. You smiled softly until his nuzzling turned into tickling and you squirmed.

“Don’t you dare.” You warned him and he chuckled.

Tickling you seemed to be one of Daryl’s favorite pastimes. You kept training to sneak on him when you were out in the woods, and when you did, you’d hug him, but whenever he managed to notice you and grab you, he’d tickle you until you laughed enough to cry. Once, you had gotten so loud that walkers had actually stumbled to you, but he hadn’t seemed to mind, both of you putting down the walkers swiftly.

Whenever Daryl managed to make you laugh like that, he’d end up kissing you deeply, leaving you breathless again. You felt those were the times when he allowed himself to be freer around you, whenever it was just you two out there alone and away from everything, and you had to admit there was something special about knowing you were alone and out of the fences of the prison, only the two of you surrounded by nature, when there weren’t walkers around to mess everything.

“I want to hunt a buck,” Daryl said out of the blue. “It’s being a while since the last time we got venison and it’d feed us for some days.”

“There aren’t many deer around, are they?” You had but seen two in all your months going out with Daryl.

“Not close to the prison, they’re scared of the walkers and of us, but I think I could find some further away.” Daryl closed his eyes again and he nuzzled into your hand so you began playing with his hair again. “I’m going to try tomorrow, want to come with me?”

“You know I do.”

“We could stay the night out here, go further than we usually do,” Daryl said, eyes closed as he enjoyed your fingers on his hair.

On one side, the idea of being a night alone with him, far from everyone, sounded perfect, but on the other, it might not be as lovely as you daydreamed it if you had to be alert all night so walkers wouldn’t get you. Anyway, you felt safe when you were with Daryl, and both of you had dealt with groups of walkers before together, so you should be good, and if that meant spending more time alone with Daryl, you’d do it, walkers were damned.

“Okay, but we have to take turns to take watch, I’m not letting you stay all night awake, you hear me?” Daryl opened his eyes, looking at you with a smirk, and you were sure that was something you were going to argue about.

“I was thinking…I found this cabin a long while ago, it’s kind of old and there aren’t supplies or anything in it anymore. But it should be safe enough to stay the night, walkers can’t get in. We could stay there.”

Spending a night alone in a cabin with Daryl? Yes, it sounded like heaven.

“Sounds like holidays.”

Daryl chuckled. “Not holidays, we have to come back with a deer.”

“Still, sounds perfect, I’d love it…when did you say are we leaving?”

“Tomorrow?” Daryl grinned at your eagerness, and you nodded, excited.

“Tomorrow is it.”

As Daryl had said, the cabin was old, abandoned long ago, and there was barely any furniture left. It was rather tiny too, a single room that served both as living room and kitchen, and at some point it might have been a bedroom too. But it’d be safe enough for the night.

Daryl had hunted some squirrels on your way there and he planned to spend next day tracking deer around the cabin, until it was time to go back home. You spent the hours left before the sundown training with Daryl and listening to him as he told you things about tracking deer, following him around as he thought for the best spots to follow next day in the morning.

When the sun went down, you both walked back to the cabin. The windows were safely closed, someone had nailed them and couldn’t be opened. There was no way to lock the door, though, but Daryl and you pushed a heavy bookshelf, empty of books or anything now, against the door, keeping it close. Once the cabin was secured, you spread on the floor the sleeping bag and blanket you had taken with you while Daryl heated a can of soup. You talked for a bit after dinner, in the darkness of the cabin, until Daryl lied down on the sleeping back, pulling you down to lie next to him.

You left him pull you close and then shifted until you straddled him, leaning over him to kiss him. It was the first night you both had out of the prison and in a safe enough place, without everyone else around, and you planned to make the most of it.

Next morning, you woke up when Daryl pulled himself away from you. You opened your eyes and saw him sitting down on the sleeping bag, reaching out to grab his boots. You ran your hand down his bare back, stroking his skin and the scars there, you could barely make them in the dimly illuminated room, but you could feel them. Daryl looked at you over his shoulder, smiling and shifting to lean over you and kiss your lips.

“You can sleep longer if you want,” he told you, pulling away from you again. “I’ll go hunting alone, I’ll come back once I got a deer.”

“No.”You began to sit up, reaching out for your clothes. You didn’t like him going alone, no matter you knew he had done it a hundred times before, and you had wanted to spend more time with him. “No, I’ll with you.”

“Alright.” Daryl nodded, giving you another soft smile. “Come on, then.”

In the end, Daryl got what he wanted, hunting a big buck that you got back to the prison that day, struggling under its weight. It’d feed you for days, but that same night you all dined on roasted venison, a change from your usual stews, and you couldn’t help your smile as everyone congratulated and thanked Daryl on his hunt, no matter it made him all flustered and embarrassed. If something, he was as adorable as humble. You had gotten pretty lucky, you knew.

Life was good, it’s was pretty good.

*

As the car sped up towards the prison, you couldn’t believe that just a couple days ago you’d been following Daryl as he tracked deer until he managed to hunt and bring back to the prison a big buck, staying in that cabin with him, the two of you alone, having the best days you remembered in a long, long while…

So many things had gone wrong since then in such a little time. First the run gone wrong in which you lost Zach, then some of the fences of the prison falling down pushed by walkers, and then almost at the same time, the murder of Karen and David, and the deadly fly that had spread through the prison, leaving most of the people bedridden and creating chaos as the ones that died came back as walkers.

And so you were now with Daryl and some of the others in a car after having managed to get some medicine that might help, driving back to the prison as fast as possible, pushing against time, hoping it wasn’t too late. Once in there, you all rushed to get Hershel the medicine, helping around as so everyone who was ill could have their share. It was a frantic couple of hours, but after it, Hershel was positive the people would recover.

You had been checking on Glenn, who had fallen seriously ill too but who, according to Hershel, would recover, and you went looking for Daryl, who had been helping around too. You found him at the corridor, lying over the railing of the stairs, head rested on his arms.

“Hey,” you whispered as you wrapped your arms around him, snuggling yourself against his back. “We made it.” Daryl turned around to wrapped his arms around you to hold you. He was serious, despite the fact that you had just managed to help everyone, and you frowned, worried. “There’s something wrong?”

Daryl nodded, but for a few seconds he didn’t say anything. “It’s Carol. It was she who killed Karen and David."

“What?” You didn’t know her as deeply as Daryl, but still you couldn’t imagine something like that.

“Thought she’d stop the illness that way, or that’s what Rick says. He found out so he drove her away, left her somewhere alone with supplies…” Daryl seemed thoughtful and worried. You knew how much his best friend meant to him, how deep and important his relationship with Carol was, how she had always been there for him…you could only guess how much this could be affecting him, but you didn’t know what to say, you still found it hard to believe. “But she can’t be out there alone, ain’t easy to survive alone anymore and Rick just left her…”

“We can take the bike, drive to where he left her, we can try and find her. We can bring her back. We can talk to the council…” You listed everything you could think about, even though you weren’t very sure it’d work.

If Rick didn’t tell you where he’d left Carol, you weren’t sure Daryl and you could find her on your own, or Carol might have left the place already. And if you managed to bring her back, you were afraid the council might send her away anyway…she had killed two of your own after all. You yourself didn’t know what to think about that. If it was true, then it was horrible and something had to be done…but you couldn’t stand the worry and sadness in Daryl’s eyes.

“We’ll fix this,” you whispered, reaching out to brush his hair away from his face and run your knuckles across his cheekbone.

Daryl didn’t say anything, just pulled you closer to him, hiding his face in the crook of your shoulder. You kissed his temple but before you could say anything, the building shook with an explosion. You pulled back, startled and scared, looking wildly around as everyone ran out of their cells. Daryl kept you firmly at his side as he tried to find what was going on, but nobody seemed to know anything, and so you both made your way to the yard.

There was a big group of people outside the fence, a man, who as you heard was the so-called Governor, was standing in front of them with Michonne and Hershel on their knees, and they all had shotguns and even a tank. Rick went to talk with him while Daryl passed around shotguns and rifles in case things turned wrong.

They turned wrong. They turned beyond wrong.

It had to be a nightmare.

You had seen the Governor behead Hershel in front of your eyes. Bullets had flown everywhere, both from the Governor’s men and your people, but the tank had relentlessly pushed forward, shooting at your walls and bringing down the fences, letting in both the men and the walkers that always were there, while the sound attracted more.

Everyone was running around and you had lost sight of Daryl as you first shoot at the men that approached you and then at the walkers that tried to get to the people who were running to the bus to evacuate. You were strangely calm, considering everything that was going on around you, but you had your mind focused on just one thing, keep everyone safe, and you were focused only on that. Once the people got into the bus you went looking for Daryl, shooting at the men and walkers that you found on your way until you ran out of bullets and switched to your knives.

You didn’t allow any doubt to creep into your mind as you knew you needed to stay focused on your task. The words of the friend who had trained you, so long ago, back to your mind now. Focus, don’t get distracted, focus on your feet, your knives. You had to be silent, quick, lethal. You had to think only on your task, your goal, on how to get to it. You had repeated those words again and again as you trained back then, and now they were bound to become your mantra again.

You couldn’t let yourself think about your people being massacred. You couldn’t let yourself think on Daryl dying. Focus. Keep going.

“Hey! Y/N!” You turned around, taken away from your thoughts, when heard your name and you saw Mark with another couple of people. “Come on, walkers are everywhere, we have to leave, the bus left already.”

“No, no I’m not leaving without Daryl!” You shook your head, looking around for him.

“Guessed so.” Mark gave you a weak smile although his eyes looked wild and scared. “I saw him and Beth running away from a group of walkers, that direction.” He pointed. “We’re gonna try and follow the bus, hope walkers will stay here. Once you find Daryl, follow that road, we’ll try to have the bus wait for everyone in a safe place.”

“Okay!”

Walkers had closed on you on the short time you’d been talking and you helped them put them down before they ran to the road and you towards the direction Mark had pointed you. You saw some walkers dead on the ground and you could only hope Daryl and Beth had put them down. You kept running and running, beyond the prison fences, following the dead walkers you saw here and there, putting down those who got to close as you kept going relentlessly, getting into the woods.

You ran until your lungs felt like burning and your legs couldn’t hold you anymore, trying to put as much distance as possible between you and the sea of walkers that were invading the prison. You fell down onto your knees, panting as you looked around. There weren’t bodies of walkers around anymore. No sight of Daryl and Beth. You didn’t know what to do.

You wish you knew how to track like Daryl, so you could find their trail. You knew you couldn’t stay there, but you didn’t know where to go or what to do. The only thing that you knew was that you couldn’t let yourself doubt. You had a task to do and you needed to stay focused on that.

Daryl was alive. He had to. He was there, somewhere. You had to find him. Or you’d die trying.

You allowed yourself a few minutes to rest, and you tried to stop your mind from wandering but you couldn’t. Your home was gone again. Men had destroyed and now walkers had infested it, as they did to your old camp, killing your friends. How many of your new people had died today? You had seen their bodies.

You were alone again.

A whimper escaped lips but you bit your lip hard enough to draw blood, you couldn’t allow yourself to cry. But you felt too lost, too scared, too devastated not too. Since stepping into that prison, it’d seemed like the safest place left, a place that would never crumble down, and somehow that was now gone. You had made friends there, and now you didn’t know where they were, if they were safe or not.

Daryl… you knew you loved him, but you didn’t think it had ever felt as raw as it did now, tearing your heart as you didn’t know where he was, if he had made it or not, if you would ever see him again. The pain was overwhelming and you shook as you tried not to sob.

No. No.

Daryl had made it. He was somewhere, keeping Beth safe. You’ll find him. You had to. Focus, don’t think about anything else. Focus only on keep going.

That thought was what kept you going for the next days, as you tried to keep your mind blank of anything that wasn’t to keep moving. You found a car, but obviously someone had been there before and you couldn’t find anything useful, though you managed to get some cord that allowed you to set a not-that-safe camp at night in the woods, similar to what you had done long ago, after running away from your old camp.

One night, you managed to catch a rabbit with a rudimentary trap, that fed you, and when you were so thirsty you thought you couldn’t keep going, you stumbled onto a stream and drank so much that your belly hurt. You were surviving, but for what.

You still couldn’t find any sign of Daryl, no trail, not him, nothing, and neither anyone else that might have run away from the prison. A voice in your head, louder each day, kept telling you that you would never find him, but you shut it down. You wouldn’t stop. You’d die there in those woods, alone, but you wouldn’t stop looking.

The only clue as to where someone else might be was when you saw a column of smoke raising from somewhere and you followed it until the walkers that were drawn to it were too many to put them down yourself and you were forced to run away. You lost track of time, but you knew several days had passed, and each one was harder to ignore that stubborn voice in your head, until you couldn’t do it anymore.

You broke down in the middle of nowhere one morning, after a night of nightmares, and you fell onto your knees as you lose your fight against tears. You couldn’t find anyone, your friends were gone, either dead or lost to you forever as each of you had run to different places. Daryl was gone. Hadn’t he looked for you? Hadn’t he tried to track you, find you, as you had done? Maybe he hadn’t cared, maybe he had run without looking back, without giving you a thought.

Either way, you wouldn’t see him or any of the others again. Either way, you were alone again. Nobody would find you this time. You would die there in the woods alone. You didn’t know if you ever cared about that.

You were so lost in your grieve, sobbing and crying, your guard down and your instinct low, that you didn’t notice someone approaching you quietly until a hand grabbed your wrist painfully.

“Claimed.”

Chapter Text

“Claimed”

The voice made you look up, startled, and a man roughly yanked you onto your feet. You stated at him, too shocked to say anything as he gave you an unsettling smile.“What’s wrong, little girl, are you lost?”

You didn’t like how he looked, you didn’t like it at all, you knew he was trouble. This was it wasn’t going to be as when you had run into Maggie, Glenn, and Daryl. You tried to take one of your knives but before you could, the man had pressed the barrel of a gun to your forehead.

“Don’t even think it.”

“Let me go.” You growled but didn’t dare to try anything with his gun to your head.

“You’re mine now, sweetcheeks.” He smiled again and shiver run through you.

“Let me go you asshole!” You struggled to break free even though he was still aiming his gun at you, you couldn’t help yourself, and the man hit you hard on the head with his gun.

“Don’t make me shoot you, it’d be a waste.” He warned you, his smile gone, and you stopped struggling, blinking back tears of frustration and rage. “I don’t know if I want to have you know or get you to the others first so they know I claimed you.” So he wasn’t alone but with a group. Great, just great. “Nah, I’ll show you off to them first, hope they don’t want to share.”

He tugged at you but you didn’t move and he pressed his gun to your head harder. You wondered if it wouldn’t be best to you lest have him shoot you, end it there. You were going to die alone on this woods anyway. But something inside you didn’t allow you to give up living, and so you let the man tug at you.

He began walking and you realized that as he thought you were done struggling, he was lowering his guard as if he thought you weren’t dangerous, and so you let him thinking, sniffing as you let him drag him behind him, his gun not in your head anymore. You had one chance, only one, and you were going to use it.

Moving as fast as you could, before the man could react, you took one of your knives and sank it into his head. The man dropped dead to the ground and you forced yourself to not think anything about it.

He’d said he’d bring you to his group, so they couldn’t far. You needed to move and you needed to do it quick. You were afraid that you would run into them, though, as you didn’t in which direction they were. You closed your eyes and concentrated on listening to every sound around you, but you couldn’t hear anything that told you where the men might be.

Finally you decided to walk to the opposite direction to which you thought the man had come from, as hidden and silent as possible. You hadn’t been walking for long until you spotted a man, looking as bad as the one you had killed, standing and aiming a bow. You followed his gaze and found…

It couldn’t be.

It was Daryl, his back was to you but you would recognize him anywhere, even if he wouldn’t have been wearing his winged vest and weren’t aiming his crossbow in front of him as he crouched down on the ground. It took you all you had not to make a sound right then, to call his name, anything that might have alert the man of the bow.

Was he aiming at Daryl? You needed to stop him. You didn’t have time, though, as he loosened the arrow and you gasped aloud, but it didn’t hit Daryl, embedding itself in a rabbit not far from Daryl. Luckily for you, the man didn’t hear you, and you looked confused how Daryl turned around and didn’t seem that shocked when he saw the man there. You just grew more and more confused as you hear them fighting back and forth about the rabbit and whose prize was it.

What was going on? How did Daryl know that man? Was him with him, were they from that group the other man had told you? It didn’t make sense. You didn’t know what to do.

They kept arguing until Daryl took the dead rabbit and turning to leave, the other man aiming his bow at him when Daryl turned his back to him, ready to shoot, and you didn’t even think it before kicking into action.

Leaving your hiding spot, you approached the man and before he knew what was going on, your knife was into his head and he fell down onto the ground with a thud. The sound alerted Daryl, who turned around, spotting you.

His eyes widened, his mouth opening and closing in silence as he stared at you without moving or saying anything. You felt yourself frozen in place, you didn’t know what to do, but you hear a whimper leave your mouth as tears filled your eyes. Daryl was there. He was alive. You found him somehow, even if you didn’t understand what was going on.

Daryl kicked into action, striding to you and wrapping his arms around you, holding you tight to him. You felt his hand at the back of your head, pulling you even closer, making it almost hard to breathe, but you didn’t care. You hid your face on his chest, snuggling yourself to Daryl, feeling him nuzzle into your hair before he hid his face on your shoulder.

You didn’t know how long you stayed like that, holding each other in silence, until Daryl pulled away just enough to look at you. “I thought I’d never see you again.” He whispered, voice tight with emotion, eyes wet.

“I’ve been looking for you…but I didn’t know what to do anymore…”You chocked out. “I thought I would never find you.”

“You found me.” Daryl looked at you like he couldn’t believe it, and honestly you couldn’t either. You nodded, burying your face on his chest again. You felt him kiss the top of your head before pulling back, though he kept an arm around you.

“We have to leave,” he said with urgency as he looked at the body of the man and then around. “Quick.”

You nodded but you didn’t know in which direction to go, and you let Daryl lead you. You remembered Mark telling you Beth was with Daryl, but the girl wasn’t there, and you thought you didn’t want to ask. If she wasn’t with Daryl, then…you didn’t want to know. You stayed silent so as not to alert anyone of your presence, until you thought you were far enough from where you had encountered the men.

“I killed another one,” you said without stopping walking. “I had to. He said he was his or some shit, wanted to take me to their group…”

Daryl looked at you, but he soon averted his gaze. “I’m sorry…”

“What’s going on?” You stopped in front of Daryl, trying to have him look at you but he didn’t. “Did you know them?”

Daryl nodded, gaze still down. “I was with them…”

You didn’t know them, but of all that group was like those two men…you couldn’t imagine Daryl in a group like that and you frowned, confused. “How?”

Daryl shrugged. “They found me…didn’t know what to do…I’m sorry…I knew they were bad but…I’ sorry.”

You hated the sad, guilty look of his eyes, and you reached out to brush his dirty hair away from his face. “Hey, hey it’s okay,” you whispered. If Daryl had been with those men, then there must have been a reason, you didn’t doubt it.

Daryl shook his head. “If they would have taken you-”

“They didn’t.” You stopped him before he couldn’t say anything else and you kissed his lips softly. Daryl rested his head on yours, leaning on you when you wrapped your arms around him until you forced yourself to peel away from him. “Let’s go, we have to keep moving.” You needed to put space between the men and you, and hopefully maybe find shelter, supplies…

“Where to?” You didn’t think you had ever seen Daryl looking so lost, so sad, it made your stomach clench. He’d always been so strong, whether it was hunting or on runs, he was someone you could count on to step up and be in charge, to make sure everyone was okay, to give directions when needed, always making you feel safe as if everything would be okay…you hated seeing him like that now.

You had to be there for him, it was your turn now to step in and make him feel like everything was going to be okay. You weren’t sure as to how, though, you were lost too, you didn’t know where to go or what to do. But you had found Daryl, against all odds, you were back together, and that gave you strength and a new sense of hope. If you two were together, then things would be okay.

“We’ll figure out as we go. We’re together now, we’ll be good.” You took Daryl’s hand, giving it a squeeze before starting to walk again. Daryl gave you a weak smile, lifting your hand to his lips to kiss your knuckles.

For hours, you both walked in silence, no destination in mind. You stole glances at Daryl as you walked, he looked thoughtful and still sad and guilty. You didn’t know what to do to help him, what to say, and you hated seeing him like that.

“Let’s rest for a bit,” you said after a while, you weren’t so tired that you couldn’t walk, but you wanted to check on Daryl. The sun was high on the sky but you didn’t know what hour it was, maybe lunchtime, maybe later.

Daryl nodded and you sat down on the ground but he stayed up, pacing. “Are you hungry?” He asked you, looking around.

“I’m okay.”

“I can hunt something.”

“We’ll hunt something for dinner later, now come here.” You beckoned him closer until he sat down next to you, and you wrapped your arms around him, relieving on having him with you again. When you felt him shake with tears, you felt like someone was stabbing you. “Darling, what’s wrong?” You whispered.

“Everything.” Daryl looked at you with wet eyes before averting his gaze. “You’ve been looking for me, you’ve been looking for me all this damn time while I did nothing.” The words hit close home and you swallowed hard. During those days you had wondered if Daryl hadn’t tried to find you, if he hadn’t cared…

“It’s okay.” You forced yourself to say.

“No, no it ain’t.” Daryl shook his head. “I just..I thought…I…Beth was there and walkers were closing on us, and I didn’t know what to do, we had to run, I couldn’t see you anymore…and I looked at the prison and walkers was everywhere. I thought you died, I thought I lost you there, I thought I left you to die.” Daryl hid his face in the crook of your shoulder and you kissed the top of his head, holding him to you.

“Beth…she thought the others survived and ran away too, told me you did too, didn’t care I told her to shut up. Either way I knew I would never see you again and I just…I couldn’t handle it…” You stroke Daryl’s hair as he spoke, keeping him close to you. You knew that feeling of despair well. “I should have done something. I should have looked for you, track you, anything. But I thought you were gone like everyone and I just…I couldn’t…I couldn’t do anything…” He sounded so broken and so guilty, you couldn’t stand it, but you didn’t know what to do.

“It’s okay,” you whispered him.

“It ain’t. I should have done something, I should have done more. I left you for dead as if I didn’t love you…”

“Daryl, stop it, don’t talk like that.” You hated you had doubted him, and you wished you could take his guilt away.

Daryl lifted his head from your shoulder to look at you with sad eyes before averting his gaze. “I know it doesn’t seem like it…” he began quietly. “But I do love you.” You knew he did, somehow, no matter what, deep down inside you, despite all your insecurities, you knew he did.

“I know you do.” You couldn’t help your smile and you reached to gently wipe his tears. “And I love you too.”

“I don’t know why…” Daryl scoffed, looking down.

“Don’t be silly.” You chided him, cupping his cheeks to lift his head and kiss his lips. “I love you. I got lucky that day that I almost stab you…and I don’t know who got luckier I didn’t, you or I.” Daryl scoffed again but the corner of his mouth lifted into a tiny smile. “You’re the best thing I have.” If he needed you to list him all the things why you loved him, you would. Daryl stayed silent in your arms for a while, and you knew you should get moving but you couldn’t make yourself pull away from him.

“I lost Beth…” Daryl said quietly after a little while and you stayed silent, allowing him to talk about it if he wanted to but without pressuring him into it. “We were in a house. I should have been more careful but I thought it was safe. Walkers came and I tried to hold them back enough for Beth to leave the house…but then a car appeared out of nowhere, they took her and drove away…”

A car? It made no sense…and what were the chances of whoever took Beth having good intentions. You rather not think about it, and you weren’t going to mention it to Daryl.

“I ran behind them but I lost them…and then that group of men found me, I thought they’d kill me but they asked me to join them…”

“Maybe we could follow the road the car went to together, try to find Beth…” You didn’t what else to say, how to comfort Daryl, how to stop his guilt.

“They took her a day ago Y/N, she’s gone.” Daryl looked at you sadly.

“At least we can try, maybe we’ll find where they took her…” It could be dangerous, or it could mean supplies and shelter. At least the road gave you somewhere to go, something to do. “Or someplace to stay…something…”

Daryl seemed to think it, but then he nodded. “Okay.” He kissed your forehead, making you smile.

“Let’s go.”

You didn’t leave the woods, walking near the road so you could see where it was going but without stepping on it, in casw the car would come back and find you, and so as to be easy for you both to hide if you run into people or walkers. Together, you walked until the sun began to go down.

You both were about to go find a secluded place deeper in the woods where you could set camp for the night, when you spotted a signal on the road that caught your attention. You approached it, Daryl following you, looking around at any signal of danger.

“Terminus. Sanctuary for all…” You read aloud. “What you think?”

“Bullshit,” Daryl answered and you rolled your eyes, nudging him with your shoulder playfully.

“Look at this. All the roads go to it.” You pointed at them. “If the others were to follow the roads too, we’d all meet there…” You knew it was a stretch but it was the best you had.

“You sound like Beth, saying the others are alive and what not,” Daryl said bitterly. “They’re gone.”

He sounded so hurt…those people had been his family, Rick was his brother in all but blood, Daryl must be so devastated that it killed you. You didn’t want to give him faux hope, but at the same time you needed to offer him something, and you genuinely thought some of the others could have made it out of the prison too. And out in the middle of nowhere, they might decide to follow the roads, and if they found a sign like this too…

“I made it, you made it, why wouldn’t any of the others make it too? They could be alive too. They could be following the roads, they could have seen this sign too.” You tried to sound as confident as possible. “At the very least, we could find shelter, perhaps…”

“I don’t trust it.”

You nodded, Daryl had a point, but you still thought it was your best shot. “We’ll be careful.”

Daryl seemed to think it, looking at the sing, but finally he let out a sigh and nodded. “Alright.”

You smiled and pressed a kiss to his cheek. “Now let’s find somewhere to camp.”

Once you found a good spot, Daryl worked on getting a small fire ready while you wrapped the cord around the camp, setting a perimeter. Daryl had killed two squirrels while you both walked along the road, and he roasted them for dinner. Once you were done eating, you shifted so you could wrap your arms around Daryl. He still looked sad and lost, he hadn’t said a word during dinner, seeming thoughtful, and it worried you. As you snuggled to him, he gave you a weak smile, kissing your forehead.

“What’s in your head?” You asked him softly.

“I should have done more.” Daryl averted his eyes from you and you wondered if he was talking again about not having looked for you and the others. “I was out with Michonne for weeks, looking for the Governor, but I stopped, told her the trail was cold.” You nodded, Michonne had told you about it. “I thought we lost him…I thought he was gone, that he wouldn’t be back or that he was dead…I thought…” Daryl shook his head, eyes full of guilt. “I shouldn’t have stopped. I should have found him. I should have stopped him before him…” He trailed off, swallowing hard.

“None could predict what happened.” You stroked the hair at the back of his head, hating he was beating himself for yet another thing out of his control.

“I lost him. And now the prison’s gone, and everyone else’s gone too,” Daryl said bitterly, but didn’t resist when you guided his head until he hid his face in your shoulder, nuzzling into you.

You couldn’t promise him everything would be okay, that his family was okay and maybe you’d find them, that you’d find another safe place, because those would be empty promises, and both of you knew it. You could just hope your arms around him as you held him tight could be of any comfort.

“I know it hurts, and I’m sorry I can’t do anything,” you whispered. “But nothing of that was your fault.” Daryl didn’t say anything, keeping his face hidden in the crook of your shoulder, letting you hold him close and stroke his hair.

“You gotta sleep,” he said after a while, lifting his head to look at you. “I’ll take watch.”

“No, I’ll take first watch and then I’ll wake you up so I can sleep to.” You didn’t trust Daryl would wake you up, he would keep watch for the whole night if you let him.

“I’ll take first watch.” He insisted and you let out a sigh, giving up, you knew you could be arguing for the whole night.

“Okay. But you better wake me up so you sleep too or I’ll be pissed.” Daryl didn’t ssay anything, just looked at you with a half, small smile. You kissed his lips and then lied down, curling up next to him with your head on his lap. You felt Daryl moving and then he carefully placed over you the jacket he seemed to have found and that he’d been wearing under his vest. You hadn’t had time to grab a jacket when you ran out of the prison and you hadn’t found any. “No, you’ll be cold.”

“I’m okay. Sleep.” Daryl began stroking your hair, and you fell asleep sooner than you could have expected.

The sun raising up woke you and you opened your eyes to find Daryl looking down at you, his fingers still running through your hair. “Told you to wake me up.” You chastised him softly, reaching to take his hand and lace your fingers.

“You needed to sleep.”

“So do you.” You knew he was right, though, after almost a week barely sleeping as you were forced to camp alone in the woods, always afraid of walkers stumbling into you.

“Do you want to sleep for a bit?” You offered, sitting up and kissing his cheek.

“No, we should get moving.”

Daryl returned your kiss and helped you up onto your feet, making sure you kept his jacket around your shoulders. You both untied the cord, which along with a water bottle Daryl had with him, was basically the only thing you two had, and began walking, hand in hand.

You alternated between following the road to Terminus and looking for a stream where you could refill the bottle of water. You were beginning to lost hope one Daryl finally found one. As he went to kneel down next to it and refill the bottle, you walked around to check the area, it wasn’t that far from the road.

“Where you going?” Daryl called after you.

“Nowhere, just wanted to see if I could see something close.” A cabin, a warehouse, a village, anything that meant supplies and shelter.

“Y/N, don’t go far.”

You nodded but keep walking, until your eyes caught something ahead. It couldn’t be…you shut your eyes tight, closed them again, squinted…but there were they…you couldn’t believe it. A grin spread across your face even though you felt your eyes getting wet.

“Daryl, Daryl come here!” You called, loud enough for him to hear you, hoping walkers weren’t close.

Daryl ran to you, seeming scared and worried as if he thought something bad had happened to you, and he just panicked more when he noticed your wet eyes, looking around for any threat. “What?”

“Just look at this.” You nodded at him to get closer, wrapping your arm around him and looking at his head, his eyes scanned the land ahead, his eyes widening when he saw the small camp.

Rick, Carl, and Michonne were there, alive. You found them, somehow.

Daryl looked at you in disbelieve, seeming like he didn’t even know what to say, and you felt the same. You grinned as a smile spread across his face, and he looked back at his family before looking at you again. He opened his mouth as if he were to say something, but instead he cupped your face with his hand and lean down to kiss you. When your lips part, you took his hand, tugging at it.

“We found them. Come on.”