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And you can take all you want

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The cold was crawling up his back despite the fire warming his face. Maybe it was the wind, or the dipping temperatures of the early summer night, but he couldn’t help himself but shiver.

Casting glances at her, not even trying to be inconspicuous, searching her eyes. If she noticed, she did her best to ignore his gaze, which didn’t help his unease.


It had been four days since she walked into his camp, put down her bag, and seated herself opposite him across the small fire. After the first shock- and he must’ve been in shock, he was certain of it- they had fallen into a wordless routine. He meant to speak to her, but if he usually had few words, now he had none, all the while he was shouting a million questions at her in his head.


All of her movements were deliberate and efficient. Graceful even, but there was hard tension in her shoulders, he noted. All of her was hardened, in ways he could not have imagined. Seeing her again, her face void of that warm smile that everyone had come to draw strength from, it left him with a feeling of grief once more.

It wasn’t the scars, the memory of gunpowder smell in his nose when he searched for that hole in her head beneath the familiar blonde locks that made him hold his breath. It was the way she’d take her time skinning a rabbit she’d caught, hyperfocused on the task with gleeful fascination as blood ran over her hands. She was suddenly the most terrifying person he’d ever seen.

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Her kiss was harder than he’d imagined, and most of all surprising.


Yes, he had thought of it - not dreamed it up in a schoolgirl crush type of way - but his gaze had lingered on the pale pink skin many times. Quick glances, unbeknownst to her, and in his imagination a picture had formed, of her soft mouth gently touching his skin. The memory of a peck on the cheek, warm and unhurried. Shiny lips, sometimes, thanks to a dab of petroleum jelly to keep them moisturized. From a time when hands were still clean and a little self-care mattered and was a welcome part of life.


Now, not much was clean anymore, least of all the fingers pulling on his shirt, pulling him down to her, chapped skin on chapped skin. A sigh from her, almost a growl, working her lips over his and it felt nothing like he’d thought it would. Heat growing low in his belly as their lips parted and tongues explored; a thrill building over how well they fit together, how natural it felt to playfully bite her lip and how good it made him feel when she pushed her hips closer in response. Hesitancy replaced by urgency, hands pulling at clothing and hair, his and hers and he didn’t want it to stop. Didn’t want to stop inhaling her scent, that campfire smell in her hair mixed with the still familiar odor of sweat and rain. Didn’t want to stop feeling her warmth, how real she suddenly was, take in her shape under the too big clothes, commit everything about her to memory all while still comparing to what once was. But with every hungry kiss, sigh, pull, and bite, he knew it didn’t matter. What was didn’t change what is and when his hand grazed over the scar on the back of her head he almost wanted to cry. Grief, relief, confusion, an all encompassing ache in his heart that had built over so many years. She was here, now, and she wanted to be there with him when clearly she was independent and strong-willed enough to choose to do whatever she pleased, and right now she wanted him. He didn’t know why. There was still so much to unpack, so many unanswered questions, but this felt right. Despite it all, the years apart, the unknown inbetween, he knew her, and she knew him. In a world where nothing was really sure and safe, he knew this: they trusted each other inherently and explicitly.


When she broke the kiss, he realized that both of them had tears on their faces, but she didn’t look upset. If anything, it felt cathartic to him, and she seemed to mirror that feeling when their eyes met at last. Eye-contact, purposefully and without evasion. His hand still wrapped around the curls by her neck, he pulled her close, resting his forehead to hers. When their breathing returned to normal, he wasn’t ready to let her go just yet, the undead be damned. Her hair felt so soft, her breathing tickled his neck just right. She was so alive right here in front of him, and he was starved to touch her. Had not realized how much he’d hungered for it since she’d walked into his camp, but now that she’d given him permission, he couldn’t imagine letting go.

She didn’t seem ready either, one hand holding firmly onto his vest. It took him a moment to understand that he felt contentment, an almost forgotten feeling, and he hoped she felt at least a fraction of it as well.

No words. His lips still tingled from her kisses and he wanted more. This, too, was an unfamiliar feeling for him: the want, the wanting more, and when her thumb brushed over his bottom lip he wondered once more who she was even though he knew the answer so very well.

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They had never talked about it, but he knew it was there. The exit wound just inches from his fingertips. It was tempting to let his touch wander and finally look at the source of all this pain.


Of all the gunfire, blood, and gore over the years, the sound of her body hitting the dirty laminate flooring and her blood splattering across his face was what still haunting him in his dreams.


How her fall had echoed in the deafening silence of everyone’s shock.

How hot her blood had felt on his lips, acidic and burning.


Back then he had thought, for a cruel second as Maggie crumbled in front of him crying, what a mercy it was that her face was still pretty. So people could bear to look at her as they said their goodbyes, and kissed her cheeks.
No one had felt her breath or her warmth, and so maybe her sleeping on his lap now, after all this time, was nothing but a cruel god’s trick.


He had never carried anything so heavy in his life. The steps down the hospital staircase seemed never-ending, everything was as heavy as lead and he had to pause a few times to catch his breath. With Carol’s hand on his shoulder, he had carried on, and it had to be him: he had found her, and lost her all the same.


Now her weight was on him again- oh, how light she was. Warm, too: and of course he could feel her breathe and see the movement of her ribcage and having missed that before, it brought up a memory of deep pain.


His hand moved up to her scalp. He just had to see, the curiosity was too strong. As nimble fingers gently parted her hair, he could feel her stir. He paused, fearing to be caught, fearing to have overstepped.


“It’s OK, if you wanna look,” she said softly. “It doesn’t hurt anymore, really. Think it looks a little ugly.” She shrugged, tone light.
So, she wasn’t mad.


“You sure?” He should’ve asked before, and he knew that, but everything with them felt weirdly fragile still, and it wasn’t an easy thing to bring up.


“It’s no big deal. It’s just…one little part of everything.” She reached up to gently guide his hand to the right spot. “There. Feels mostly numb, actually.”


She trusted him with it. Trusted him. It helped that they didn’t have to look each other in the eye, but he could tell she wasn’t tense. Wasn’t retreating or removing herself from the situation altogether, and he wondered how long she’d actually been awake.

But it was OK, and it was time. So he took a deep breath to look at the very spot that he had last seen as a pulsing wound. Hidden underneath thick blonde hair, a puckered scar. Far less prominent than he would’ve imagined, not too hard to the touch and of a light pink color. Deceivingly unremarkable for a wound of that magnitude.


Seconds ticked by with him just tracing along scar, Dog snoring, and Beth breathing evenly.


“S’not ugly,” he said at last. Whispered, really, and it felt like such a stupid thing to say. He scolded himself before adding, “Y’know, ‘s kinda cute.” This time he literally bit his tongue.


An unexpected chuckle from Beth. “Cute? Oh, Daryl, now that’s mighty cute of you to say.”


His ears turned red and hot but he was ready to blame the fire on that. Cute. He knew it was better to just shut up, so he did, and started to gently massage Beth’ scalp. Simply listening to her breathe evenly as she fell asleep again. Dog at their side. A peaceful, starry night.


Maybe he wouldn’t have nightmares about this shooting anymore. Beth was real, and alive, and the wound had long healed. Maybe it was time to let go of the agony of that memory. Of the guilt. Because she wasn’t mad, or hurting, but alive, and at peace. And maybe he could be, too, with time, at least he tried to have a little faith again.

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He was angry, all consuming red hot fury with every sharp inhale and exhale of breath, heart pounding so hard in his chest it almost hurt. It did hurt, all over- his muscles from exertion and tension of holding his bow, and his head from the sight in front of him: Dog lying on his side, bloodied and panting. Beth kneeling with her back towards him, shoulders slouched with exhaustion as she was fighting to catch her breath. And less than ten feet away, a dead bobcat, head at an unnatural angle and wet with blood.
A rock, discarded and glistening red, between the three of them. He released his bolt into the animal’s skull for good measure, along with a sigh of short-lived relief.

Still, he didn’t dare to move, and the scene burned itself painfully into his being.

Daryl had been away from camp, checking snares, pleased with the fat rabbit he’d found tangled and stiff. The meat would taste delicious with those fresh blueberries Beth had collected in the early morning. And while the two of them still didn’t talk, they shared- meals, shifts, tasks. It worked in this weird way that he didn’t dare to interrupt. They had carved out a coexistence that currently served them well. As long as they had a stomach full of food and a fire to keep them warm, it was all they needed.

Then, the barks, first powerful and strong, the way Dog rarely did, being perceptive enough to know what happens when he made too much noise. Suddenly, loud and threatening and Daryl had started to run, bounty discarded, as the angry barks turned into squeals of pain and Daryl’s adrenaline pumped his blood so hard he could hardly hear anything at all.

Their peaceful camp now in utter disarray, and all Daryl could think was, not again.

Once he was confident that his legs wouldn’t buckle, he carefully approached Beth from the side, seeking eye contact. Mercifully, she lifted her head slightly. “I’m all right. Go check on dog, then we should move.”

She was covered in blood, crimson and ruby all over, her hands, arms, hair, god, her face- but just as he froze again, when the metallic smell of warm blood hit his nostrils, she stumbled to her feet and started to gather their belongings with practiced efficiency.

She could talk, stand, walk. Later. Later he could deal with the panic in his belly, obsess over the what-ifs.

First, dog. Panting, awake, and tail wagging weakly as Daryl approached him.
“Hmm, boy. What did’ya get yerself into this time?” Acting calm for the animal’s sake, as tears threatened to form in his eyes.

It looked worse than it was- superficial scratches, no bites, which Daryl was thankful for. He wasn’t sure why the bobcat had attacked in broad daylight, but rabies was something he wouldn’t wish on Dog.

Mindful of the pups injuries, he picked him up and, following a small nod from Beth, made his way behind her on the short trek toward a stream they frequently used. It was frustrating to leave their camp behind for now, but on the off chance of walkers being attracted by the barking, it would be better they’d find only the dead bobcat to chew on.


Together, they cleaned up Dog, Beth even put some stitches in the tired animal. With an injured shoulder, Dog would limp for a while but already started to perk back up, especially after being served rabbit, which Daryl had gone back for. Reluctantly, but it was the smarter move, they all needed the calories and energy, and it gave him the chance to check on the camp, too. Just three walkers munching on the dead bobcat, and he disposed of them quickly.
He was thankful to have his hands and mind busy, but once they sat down across the fire, he took in her sight: fingers glistening with rabbit fat and the blood still bright pink in her blonde hair; he couldn’t hold off the thoughts and emotions any longer.

This close call, this freaky coincidence, had almost cost him dearly. And while relief was supposed to settle in by now, anxiety and anger took its place.

Because he remembered. Every second of the last time he thought her dead. Forever ago but just like yesterday- the sight of her head drenched in hot blood and the feeling of it dripping off his arm as he carried her down those stairs and out into the sun. He hadn’t washed it off for days, after leaving her, unburied. Had no keepsake of her, nothing, not a lock of hair or one of those bracelets, her cross. Nothing but her dried blood itching on his skin until Carol made him go wash up a little. For Maggie’s sake. And gave him the knife Beth had worn on her waist. It burned a hole into his pack daily, even now, that goddamn knife that she should have gotten back the moment she walked into his camp, but he couldn’t as much as look at it, after all this time.

Anger, because he had failed to protect her, again. Anger, because she was sitting there without a care in the world, like this was normal and in a way he knew it was but that made him angrier still. He didn’t recognize this Beth, all practicality and composure. When had it all stopped to matter? Why was he so rattled, and she wasn’t at all? His hands shaking, a betrayal of his body for her in plain view, and yet she chewed on that thigh bone, unhurried and nonplussed.

“Could’ve died today,” he blurted out in an angry whisper, earning a lifted ear and open eye from Dog.

Beth paused, putting down her meal, brow furrowed. Almost looked at him confused, but held his gaze, yet didn’t reply, then picked up her meal again.

Daryl’s frustration grew. For a while he had contemplated, worried, that Beth may have lost her voice. Had lost her songs and music. Her voice had faded in his memory over the years, leaving an empty space. Every other song since Grady had hurt all over again, music had never been the same.
Today when she spoke, it didn’t register at first, with worrying about Dog and her and leaving their camp behind, but if she could speak, why didn’t they talk? She had sounded strong, a little hoarse, more serious. Deeper, factual.

“Got nothin’ to say to me, girl?” He leaned forward, elbows resting on his knees. Waited a beat, two, three, but she just held his gaze. “Goddamnit, talk to me!”

Her face was unreadable when she finally spoke. “Whaddaya want me to say? We could die every day, that ain’t new.” A one-shouldered shrug, breaking eye-contact to look into the fire.

“Yer full of blood! Stupid thing coulda bit ya, coulda.. Killed ya. Before we ever-”

“Before what? Sat down ‘n had a nice, cozy chat? There’s nothin’ worth talkin’ about. Nothin’ worth worryin’ about.”

“Was a time I could never shut you up.”

“Well, people change.”

“Can see that.”

“What is it you want from me, Daryl? Best be very clear, ‘cause I’m not playing games with you.”

Where she appeared calm and in control, he had long lost his composure, nails digging into the palms of his angry fists and the muscles in his body tense with strong, overwhelming anger. The sudden disconnect between them was upsetting to him, too many emotions and none of them rational and he knew that, but her stoicism fueled his deep spiral of anxiety, anger mixing with helplessness.
But he couldn’t control his rage, couldn’t sort through this barrage of emotions; hadn’t felt like this in a long time, and he had to think of Merle and his tantrums that always ended in broken bottles and damaged door frames.

Breathe, he needed to breathe, he needed space to calm down before he fucked things up even more, but when he looked at Beth she just looked at him expectantly, eyes hard and steely blue, and he hated that look. Hated that she looked at him like that and he knew it was his fault.

Distance would help, he needed to calm down because he’d just picked a fight over nothing and he needed to get away. When he searched around his backpack to grab his water bottle, his hand brushed over the hilt of the knife he had once gifted to Beth. Before he consciously made the decision, his hand had already grabbed it out of the pack and in quick strides he rounded the fire to toss it at Beth’ feet.
Any smartass remark died on his tongue as for the first time since their reunion Beth’ composure crumbled: At his aggressive approach she gasped loudly and scrambled backwards and away from him, arm raised in defence and when he caught her eye over her shaking wrist, pure fear.

Both of them, frozen. The crackling of fire and a confused whine from Dog was all he could hear over the rapid beating of his panicked heart.
He watched her chest rise and fall rapidly, her stance unwavering.

His mouth was dry and his voice breaking when he finally spoke. “Beth, I-“

“No. Don’t.” Little girl voice. Cutting through him like a sharp knife.

Eventually, he stepped away carefully, settling in for the night not too far away and still in view of the small camp. Despite the forgiving temperatures and being wrapped in a warm poncho, shivers ran over him as self-hate threatened to consume him whole.

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Today is not remarkable in any way, except it is. 

She can think about that later, after.  

The built-up to this moment has been slow, but steady. From not talking to fighting, to hungry kisses that constantly leave her aching for more, more than she ever expected to feel or yearn for. Little touches, innocent and careful, slowly turn into teasing until she can see that he is just as wound up as her.

Finally, they snapped, rushing to undress and feel the other as close as possible. Warm hands exploring, with an urgency on the edge of desperation. There was no hesitation on her part, and from the way he divested her of her panties it sure as hell seemed they were both more than ready to give into lust. 



It doesn’t make any sense. This. Them.

His teeth are scraping over her throat as he buries himself inside her, over and over, a hard rhythm seeking to feel more, faster, deeper. He wants to give her that, and she arches to meet his movements. 

He’s heavy on top of her, elbows caging her in by the shoulders, a delicious restraint. She finds purchase in his hair and yanks, feels him tense at the sudden pain and growl into her neck. She hooks her knee higher over his hip, changing the angle slightly, with his pelvis meeting her clit just right. Her moans are unexpected to her own ears, the build-up so quick and intense she fears to fall over the edge all too soon. 

She thinks of the marks he’s leaving on her body and shivers. Of the marks she is leaving on his.

She’s starting to tremble, and he slows his pace with a grunt, much to her irritation, and sits back up on his knees. 

“So close,” she pants, desperate for friction. 

He smirks, catching his own breath. “I know.” 

Beth growls, reaching up for his open shirt to pull him back down, to fuck her again, but he catches her wrist with ease. “Nuh uh.” 

Suddenly he’s in charge, and she hates it and loves it because she’s never quite seen him like this, but it’s remarkably natural. Hair hides most of his face like so often but she can see a hint of amusement tugging at his lips. She glares at him, and when he doesn’t let go of her wrist she knows just what to do to make him flinch. Tightening her walls around him, she enjoys his sharp intake of breath, and wiggles her hips for good measure. 

“Now,” she hisses, and gasps in surprise when he pulls out in one swift motion. All words of complaint die on her tongue when he smacks her pussy playfully and his smart fingers find her clit to pinch slightly. 

“Hands ‘n knees. Now. ” Serious, but almost mocking as he throws that word back at her. 

She has hardly time to recover, clit throbbing, as she hurries to turn around for him. His hands smack her ass, find her hips and pull her back to his legs. She can feel his cock bounce against her slit and she moans deeply. Ass in the air, presenting herself as ready. He seems to enjoy her reaction, slides up and down her wetness and she feels her thighs tremble in anticipation. When he fills her, she bites on her forearm to keep herself from crying out loud. 

She lets him set the pace, meets him with every thrust, revels in how good he feels, how good he fits- it should be clumsy and awkward and a little strange, two bodies together for the first time in such an intimate way. But what makes it work is their joined history, the complete trust she has in him after all these years, in spite of the distance and time spent apart.

This feels right, it’s simple. It’s not complicated , and he fills her over and over and she focuses on just feeling good for a change. 

The sounds they make is almost obscene, from the slap of their bodies meeting to the wetness being pushed between them in abundance. It feels thrilling to leave control at the door. Opening herself up, pushing back to invite him deeper shamelessly. Her hands scramble for purchase on the blanket they threw down in a rush. It smells like smoke: from campfires and cigarettes and so uniquely him. 

From the snap of his hips against her ass she can tell he’s getting close to climax.

When she clenches around him again he growls, he stops his thrusting and pulls her up roughly by her shoulders, one hand finding her throat as the other twists a nipple in a movement so swift it sends another throb all the way to her clit. 

He doesn’t say anything for a while, breathes into her ear hotly and gauges her reaction to his touch. So he is serious about being in control, and she can’t fight him when her orgasm starts to build again. Doesn’t want to fight him. She sighs, moans, and he gently applies pressure to either side of her neck, pushing down just enough to make her legs quiver. 

“You OK?” He asks, and she nods, a little too eagerly, because he hums in amusement, and leaves her breast to trail slowly down to her pussy. More shivers as he takes his time, so she grasps his arm to ground herself. Feels the muscles and tendons tense where he holds her by the throat, powerful. She’s wound up so tight that when his fingers find her clit at last she lets out a shuddering breath she didn’t realise she’d been holding. 

Firm, sure circles, like he’s done it a thousand times before, but it’s just that he’s actually paying attention. To her breathing and her trembling, and when he starts to move slowly inside her again she almost sobs. 

“Imma get you there,” he whispers, and his voice, so confident, adds more goosebumps. “Gotta let go, girl.”

He’s right, she’s still fighting him for control, however weakly now. And as he speeds up his deep thrusts, the skilled fingers on her clit, he applies more pressure to her neck, causing a sensation she never imagined before tonight- she comes so hard she thinks she may pass out. He lets go of her neck and holds her up gently as she clenches so quick and hard he groans loudly when his own orgasm hits, with barely enough time to pull out and spill himself over her ass and the back of her legs. 


She wakes at first light, legs tangled with his, sharing warmth. They have done that many times before, for convenience and necessity of survival. 

It feels different now, and not just for the fact that they are both half naked and the room still smells of sex. Her skin is sticky but she likesthat, in a way that is foreign and new, and she suspects that a whole bunch of things will fall into the categories of foreign and new in the days and weeks to come. 

The future, thinking of it as a tangible, desirable thing, that is new, too. 

He’s awake of course, and she appreciates that he indulges her. That he hasn’t run away like he did the first time they kissed. His arm is around her middle, caging her in very differently from last night. The hand that held her by the neck last night lies warm against her ribs, deceivingly gentle. 

They’ll have to talk about that, too. 

Because while there was passion, there was also an edge, and she’s unexpectedly curious about that.

But now, she decides to soak in the moment just a few minutes longer, and closes her eyes again. 

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Every now and then, they talk. Not just the usual day to day, or talking to Dog, but actually making the effort to share things from their pasts. Daryl started this little campfire ritual, and it felt foreign and out of character at first until Beth realized how hard he was trying. Not just for her, to get her to talk, but for himself, and it sparked a curiosity within her to understand this current version of Daryl. Made her want to show him respect by reciprocating as far as she could. To her, it was not necessary to dredge up buried memories, working through it didn’t change the outcome and often just brought pain. 


But, she extended enough courtesy to keep the conversation flowing, to allow them to learn who the other one is today. Also, there ain’t no jukebox in the damn woods. 


She has agonized over what she wants to share tonight, but starts in the most casual tone she can muster. 

“D’you ever regret the things you did?” 


“To protect someone? To stay alive?” 

Daryl takes a sip of the spiked tea they are carefully sharing- sitting outside an old cabin that’s missing a good chunk of the roof, but has four walls with a heavy door can be locked at night. Walkers are securely tied to four corners of the camp, so they can afford the luxury of getting rosy-cheeked when talking about things long gone and done. Another temporary home, but better than a tent. For rain, their tarp will do. 


She ponders his questions, petting Dog absentmindedly. The fire is making her cheeks burn hot, or maybe it’s the tea. It might be nervousness, if she’s honest. 


“Both, I guess. Perhaps doin’ somethin’ when you didn’t quite have to…” She trails off, resting her chin on the forearm, her knees pulled up tight. Keeping herself warm, or making herself smaller, she doesn’t know. Won’t help to talk about it, won’t make a difference either. Except admitting to be a killer to him, that could change things, quite likely will , but she wonders how the words might feel on her tongue, released from inside where they fester and burn every second of her borrowed life. 


“On the road, we met some guys. Traders, movin’ between communities. Sweet-talkers, but we were hungry and they shared. Were real nice, not pushy, and offered to take us along, to good people.” She scoffs, the too familiar anger and shame building up in her belly. 

“I was stupid , buyin’ all that. Shoulda known better, after everything.”


She can see Daryl shift and tense, his hands balling into fists. His mouth is tight, too, but he says nothing, instead gives her room to continue. Part of her wishes he would interject, but it’s her story to tell and so she must.


“Overheard one of ‘em on a walkie talkie. Didn’t sound like good people they were intendin’ to take us to.” She shrugs, sighs. She’s tired of going through this in her head every day, and now it sounds so trivial when put into actual words.  


“Well, they’re dead, so hopefully we saved some people the misfortune of meeting ‘em.” She lifts her mug in a silent cheers, and takes a deep sip. 


“Think ya skipped over the important part of the story there, girl.” He’s always patient with her, much more patient than she knew him to be, and it helps. Hates it a little, too.


She huffs, another grimace of a smile pulling at her mouth. “Well, y’know how it goes.”


“How’d it go with them, ” He presses, still calm.


Little shrug. “We confronted them, we fought. I killed them.” Her words are slow and deliberate, she adds another one-shouldered shrug before turning her head away, tears pricking at her eyes and she doesn’t want him to see that. It’s childish and weak to cry over it now- what’s done is done.
Maybe, she should’ve bargained. Maybe, she could’ve reasoned with them. But maybes won’t undo all the bloodshed and she doesn’t believe she did anything wrong.


“They killed my friend. He died there in the mud, so I killed ‘em.” It’s a justification, and a reason. It’s motive. 


And she can still see the blood, smell it, feel it , like it invaded her brain with all the other cruelties over the years, setting up home in the periphery, just to remind her that all life ends in blood now, in excruciating pain.


“I guess they just tried to make a livin’. And I killed them because I didn’t wanna be sold.”  She hopes she sounds calm, wills the memories away. She remembers it as clear as day, their mocking and their threats, when they told her what a good fuckdoll she’d make, that they’d break her in for the buyers first- 


“They hurt you?” It’s more of a whisper, with a strong edge. He holds himself together, just like she does. 


“I hurt them more.” Chin jutting upward, tears long wiped away by her sleeves, defiance in her voice. When she was done with these men, she was bathed in blood and gore and it felt grotesquely warm on her skin. There was no recognizing them - they looked barely human - and she sat between their mutilated bodies all night. 


It’s important for her that he knows- what exactly? That they didn’t break her, that she doesn’t regret it, that she’s dangerous? 


Daryl hangs his head, and she isn’t sure what to make of it. She doesn’t want his pity, if that’s what he gears himself up to. There was a reason she didn’t want to tell him, and it wasn’t for shame of what she is now. There is a kindness in the way he looks at her, like she’s still good and that’s just not the case anymore. But the illusion is nice. The way he’s still being a gentleman, giving her first dibs, making sure she’s warm, all without being too obvious and overbearing, and it makes her feel welcome. Makes her feel cherished. Like she is worth protecting. This will end now when he realizes it’s people like her he needs to protect others from. 


But maybe she needs to be clearer so he understands who he is sharing his camp with. 


“I’ve killed many people since. They all deserved it, Daryl. And I’ll always kill them long before they get the chance to kill me.” She pauses, exhales in relief. Even though it’s hard to say it out loud, to him of all people, it’s also freeing. 

“Y’know, it was unimaginable back then, but Shane wasn’t wrong about everything in the end.” She huffs. “Never thought I’d ever say that about him. And he was still a piece of shit.” 


She hasn’t thought of Shane in a long time, and once considered him to be the most dangerous man she ever met. Ready to kill a boy who just potentially posed a danger, he had understood the new world long before the others were ready to. 


Daryl lifts his head to meet her eyes, and maybe she was expecting disappointment or disdain, but instead he looks at her like she’s something new . His eyes wander over her face, over her scars, and down to her hands, folded and hanging loosely over her knees. When he looks her in the eye again, he nods. 


“Y’ain’t the only one who learnt that lesson, Greene.” He sounds almost proud, just with a hint of sadness and she tilts her head at him curiously. Maybe he understands that this was the cost of her survival. 


“We’re the same now, aren’t we?” It’s an unexpected realization: Daryl might not be so different from her. 

Then he smiles at her, that almost scowl, and she laughs. It’s a short, genuine laugh and not too loud, but her lungs fill with air and for the first time in a long time, she can finally breathe. 


This is enough, for now. She leaves it at that as they finish their nightcap while Dog snores. 


Later, she will tell him that sometimes, she enjoys to kill. That it’s not just a necessity. That she likes watching them die on her terms, their lives extinguished instead of hers, and how it makes her feel elated . And hopefully that makes her very different from him after all.