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Kiddnapped

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“You know when we kidnapped her, I never thought I would fall in love with her.” Daryl said, looking at his brother’s form. Tears running down his face, as he raised the crossbow, and aimed. Merle glared at him, his eyes narrow. The bolt hit its mark, and he dropped.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Letty played the role of their younger sister elegantly. Letty it would seem, just accepted that this was the new world, and she could have done much worse. Tonight she was sitting next to Daryl. She rested her head on his shoulder, in a sweet sisterly fashion. The leaders here – Dale and Shane were going over plans for the next day. Sweet little Letty, with her tangled brown mess of hair. Pretty little Letty who before them, he doubted had ever killed anyone. Now, she raised her gun, head cocked ever so slightly, and shot with a precision that Daryl was slightly proud he had taught her. She still preferred the two machetes that were strapped to her thighs, but… learning to use the gun was important.

Letty had brown eyes with amber flecks in them, pale skin, and always wore a look of slight amusement, like the world around her was a joke all her own. The firelight danced on her skin, and he breathed in hard. He still had no clue why he kept her, could not even began to phantom the idea now, he could remember vaguely that in the moment he had not wanted the blood of an innocent human on his hands, but that had changed in the years since bringing Letty into their fold. Letty was a mystery to Daryl and Merle both, other than what they sort of knew about her. She took the hits they laid out on her as an early child like it was nothing, they continued to care for her, and raised her like a Dixon, each silently wondering when or if anyone would ever catch on to them.

Then there was Scud, the youngest of their clan. Four Dixons’ left. Scud was Merle’s son, and roughly nine years old at the time of the turn. Letty was pretty much the only mother the runt had ever had. Daryl could remember the day that Scud had came to live with them, his real name was Joshua. His mother, Candi was a stripper from Atlanta that Merle had shacked up with. For once in their lives they had an apartment in Athens, and Daryl was holding down a job. Merle was in jail, for possession.

A cop knocked on the door, and explained Candi was dead, and Merle was the kid's father. Scud was like nine days old. Instantly Letty in her small form had taken the baby in her arms. “What’s his name?” She asked. “No name.” The cop explained. When he left, Daryl breathed a sigh of relief. He had taken to homeschooling Letty, mostly using an old encyclopedia his mom had used on him. Merle had another seven months in jail, but Daryl and Letty managed. For a small kid, she knew what a baby needed to survive, and Daryl had learned quickly, she was a fast learner.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Rick was relieved to see Lori, Carl, and Shane in the camp he was brought back to by Glenn. He was also relieved beyond belief to know that they had some form of stability there. Some semblance of hope. There were families prospering there. He was honestly curious as to how they had managed as long as they did, to keep the hilltop protected, but he pushed it aside. Morales had informed him about the only person who would miss Merle Dixon, was his baby brother. There had been a whisper of two others who might miss him, a girl named Letty and a young boy name Scud. But that was pushed down quickly, the assertion that Letty was only around Merle because of Daryl, and Scud would do what Letty said.

The triumph of being back with his family was lovely. He soon found himself explaining how he had made it out by the firelight. Shane not far away, his eyes wide with curiosity. A young woman maybe in her late teens early twenties emerged from the woods, a stringer of raccoons on her hip. “Merle!” She shouted. No response.

“Letty, we got to talk to ya.” Shane started.

The brunette looked at him harshly. “Daryl back yet?”

“No, about Merle, we…” Morales started.

“Don’t fucking care, if ya left him, killed him, shot him, that’s yer cross to bear to Daryl. Here’s yer fuckin dinner.” She slammed the three raccoons down and stalked away from the fire towards a lean to, and crawled in. “Scud, come to bed.”

“Momma, wait.” The little boy scrambled up from his place by Carl, his sandy blond hair dancing, and scurried after her.

“Told ya.” Glenn mumbled. “Told ya, she is only around for Daryl.”

“He calls her mom?” Rick asked.

“Only mom he has ever known, I think.” Andrea mumbled.

Chapter Text

Letty Jones stretched out on the cold ground, and covered her body with Daryl’s poncho. She shivered slightly, and thought for a fleeting moment that Merle being gone might not be too awful. Scud climbed into the tent, and shivered, climbing under the poncho with her, and settling his head on her chest.

She closed her eyes and tried to think of something, anything. She remembered her mother, and her father, both had been ambitious, both had worked in Tampa. She thought of her older brother, his dancing eyes, her perfect family. She felt the tears burn her face. She remembered Merle, fucking Merle killing her father, and dragging her mother off.

She remembered the argument, glass breaking, Daryl screaming at him about not fucking touching the little girl, then confusion, then sirens, then she was with them. She had grown up with Daryl and Merle taking care of her, she didn’t remember having a birthday party after she was four, didn’t remember her parent’s actual names. Didn’t remember a lot actually.

She tried to focus on something happy. Merle had brought a dog home for her once. It was flea ridden and mangy. It had died not long after, it was hit by drunk Merle in his truck. Daryl had helped her bury it. She wondered now if anyone looked for her. They moved around a lot, she remembered that much. The last place they had been at before the turn was Reno. Merle had taken them there with his buddies to rob a bank. When the turn started they found themselves making it back towards Georgia.

William Dixon, the father of two men who had taken her long ago, was dead. He had turned and the house reeked. She had killed William, both Merle and Daryl had frozen, they had killed the dead along the way, but she saw how crippled they both were. She drew her knife and shot forward, William was as tall as Merle but wider built. She had met him a handful of times, and each time, she had a scar. He chided his sons for keeping her around. She had rather enjoyed killing him.

Scud, a little trembling boy at the time, had cried for a grandfather he didn’t understand, and she had tucked him into bed, then turned her attention to her older boys. That night both Merle and Daryl cried, and she held them in turn. Merle broke first, she heard Daryl ransacking the house. Once Merle was asleep on the sofa, not three feet from William’s prone body on the floor, she found Daryl. In the room she knew belonged to William. He was kneeling beside the bed, in his hands a Bible.

“That yer mom's?” She asked, careful, padding towards him. She had learned that it was better to be careful around both boys when they were upset. Now she thought about how she still referred to them as boys, Merle who was every bit of 45 or more, and Daryl who she knew was in his 30s, they were her boys. She remembered vaguely about the picture that was tucked into the bible, it had been Daryl’s mom.

She carried that picture still, stitched into her jacket, they burnt the house down the next day, and left, careful, knowing the dead were drawn towards the living and fire. She drifted off into sleep sometime after that. Listening to the sounds of their conversation. No, Daryl was not going to be happy when he came home tomorrow. Scud, on the other hand, was already terrified.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Dale took his seat next to the fire, and looked at each member of the group. “Have you given any thought to Daryl Dixon? He won't be happy to hear his brother was left behind. I am amazed that Letty Dixon was not more upset, she might be waiting to let her temper lose with her brother. Not to mention Scud Dixon, he looked absolutely terrified when his father didn’t come back.”

T-Dog shifted uncomfortably, and sighed. “I'll tell him. I dropped the key. It's on me.”

“Letty probably doesn’t care for Merle, there is an age gap, and they are always fighting. Plus I think that Scud is more Letty’s than her brothers, he will probably be ok.” Amy interjected.

“I cuffed him. That makes it mine.” Rick said, his boot resting close to the fire, Lori in his arms, and Carl stretching around them both.

“Guys, it's not a competition. I don't mean to bring race into this, but it might sound better coming from a white guy, sorry T-Dog, you know how Merle was… And we have not talked with Daryl or Letty enough, Merle always did the talking.” Glenn suggested.

“I did what I did. Hell if I'm gonna hide from him.” T-Dog growled.

“We could lie.” It was a simple suggestion from Amy, but everyone look at her like she was crazy.

“Or tell the truth. Merle was out of control. Something had to be done or he'd have gotten us killed. Your husband did what was necessary. And if Merle got left behind, it is nobody's fault but Merle's.” Andrea was defending her sister, to an extent.

Dale looked skeptical. “And that's what we tell Daryl? I don't see a rational discussion to be had from that, do you? Word to the wise… We're gonna have our hands full when he gets back from his hunt.”

“Yes we are.” Lori mused, shivering slightly.

“I was scared and I ran. I'm not ashamed of it.” T-Dog offered, sighing and watching the flames lick at the fire.

“We were all scared. We all ran. What's your point?” Andrea asked, interested in T-Dogs moral compass on the situation.

“I stopped long enough to chain that door. Staircase is narrow. Maybe half a dozen geeks can squeeze against it at any one time. It's not enough to break through that… Not that chain, not that padlock. My point… Dixon's alive and he's still up there, handcuffed on that roof. That's on us.” T-Dog answered truthfully.

“Shit.” They heard Letty say as she grumbled from the tent, shivering. She checked behind her to make sure Scud was fast asleep. Rick had not seen much of her before she slunk off but in the fire light he could tell she was pretty, far more beautiful than anything directly related to Merle Dixon should be. “You asshole’s left him? For real, you left Merle fucking alive? Yer all dead, so dead, between Daryl and Merle I won’t be able to stop them, won’t be able to prevent… yer all fuckin’ dead.” She laughed, and it was a strange coarse laugh. “I begged ‘im to go, be a team player fer once… this shit is poetry. And I am not gonna be caught in the fuckin’ cross fire.” She was grumbling, and she walked to the fire and sank down next to no one, away from the others. “Yer all fucking dead.” Rick watched her grab one of the blankets that was situated next to the log she sat on, then she rambled back towards the lean-to.

Then she was gone again, and he looked after her for a long time. “What’s her story?” He asked.

“She doesn’t talk often, neither does Daryl. Merle is the one who does the talking, and from what we gather the thinking for them. Daryl follows Merle, and Letty follows Daryl. Not sure if their siblings or cousins, or what. But they were together when they came here, and they are all Dixons.” Dale explained. “Scud plays with the other kids, when Merle is not around, when he is Scud clings to Letty like she is the only person who can save him. It seems like whatever the children are, they are his to abuse.”

Chapter Text

In the early light of day, she stretched, there was no Daryl, yet. She untucked her body, and dug around through the duffel bag, she quickly found her brush, and pulled the tangles out. She braided it down the side, and sighed. She found clean clothes. She was down to a tank top and shorts. She sighed. Her scars would be on display. She never much minded them, they were scars lined with memories, memories of the day she had received them, some made her laugh and some made her cringe.

She stood, stretched, the dug out clean clothes for Scud. “Come on, bub, wake up, let’s go bathe OK?” Scud nodded, wiping the sleep from his eyes, and yawning.

She led their way to the pond after she grabbed their bag of dirty clothes. Andrea and Amy were fishing; Shane was teaching Carl to hunt frogs. The other women, the little women, Merle referred to them as, were washing clothing. She stripped on the rocks, not caring if anyone saw her, and dove in. Scud followed, and she soon found herself swimming around, a smile on her face. The water washed over her body, and she felt relived. She unbraided her hair, and let it shake out of the braid. She ran her fingers through it, and tried her best to wash out the grime.

Then she started to scrub Scud. “Hold still, Joshua.” She whispered. He did as she asked, on his tip toes on a rock in the water, and she washed him down. “Bout time for a haircut, before Merle gets back, ya know how he feels about long hair.” She teased, running her fingers through the blond locks.

She enjoyed the swim, moving across the water, occasionally scrubbing her skin red, where she found dirt. She climbed up the rocks and laid out under the sun, letting the heat and the light dry her skin. She could feel Scud climbing up and laying down beside her. She closed her eyes, and sighed. When Daryl came back, he would want to go after Merle, and she… Letty would follow Daryl, like she had her whole life, she would follow him to the ends of the earth. Scud, the poor kid, would follow her to the ends of the world. Her childhood had been given up for him, for Daryl.

When she was mostly dry, she pulled on her bra, and her shorts – no clean underwear, and then her tank top. She pulled her hair up into a messy wet bun, then slipped her boots on. She rolled her shoulders and grabbed up her blue jeans and dirty flannel. Scud pulled on loose blue jeans and a t-shirt, tugging his boots on once more. She pulled on the duffel bag of dirty clothes. Mostly hers, her boys didn’t change clothing much. She made her way around to where the women were washing clothes, she nodded in their direction and slipped her boots off.

She waded out into the water. Knee deep and started scrubbing the clothes. Andrea and the others were watching she could tell. “How did you find them?” Andrea asked after a long pause. Letty could feel their eyes on her body, each one taking in the long scars and angry burns that ran her frame. Scud was sitting on the rocks near Andrea, watching Letty.

“They… been with them most of my life.” She offered.

“How long?” Jackie asked, interested. None of them got to talk to her often, she was quiet and if there was a rise out of her it was Merle who received it. Often they screamed at each other, famous tempers rumbling.

“Since, shit, I dunno, maybe I was four or five.” She grumbled, she knew their stories. Damn women talked all the time. Andrea and Amy lost their parents, were several years apart. Amy in college when the turn started and Andrea a social rights activist. Carol and her daughter Sophia were the victims of Ed, Carol’s husbands, domestic abuse. Jackie was a city planner from Atlanta. Then there was Lori, who was not on laundry duty today. Lori who had the best possible life. A living son, Carl, a loving husband, Rick, and her fuck toy, Shane. Must be nice.

“How long has that been?” Amy asked finally.

“Shit, nosy ain’t ya. Twelve years, I think.” She growled.

“How long has Scud lived with you?” Andrea asked next.

“Since he was like nine days old.” She mumbled.

“How did you come to be with them?” It was Carol who asked.

“None of your damn business.” She snapped, ripping her clothing from the water, and heading up the side of the quarry.

“Shouldn’t bother her, ask her those questions.” Lori chided them when she thought Letty was out of earshot.
“We deserve to know who is sleeping next to us.” Andrea snapped.

“She is Letty Dixon, that is all you need to know, she hunts and she kills, like her brothers. She has kept us alive more than once. She protects Scud. It is best not to ask things that upset her.” Letty rolled her eyes at Lori’s words. No one had bothered to ask her name once Merle had introduced himself. All assuming she was a Dixon.

 

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

 

There had been a scream that day, around midday, and although Letty had no clue what exactly happened, everyone had darted off in the direction. She gathered a walker had made its way to camp, and Daryl was home. She knew for sure Daryl was home when she heard him scream.

“MERLE!” Daryl’s voice brought her attention from what she had been doing, which was cleaning her gun. She looked up at him, watching his demeanor. “Merle! Get your ugly ass out here! I got us some squirrel! Let's stew 'em up.”

“He ain’t here.” She told him, even and calm. She was striding towards him, ready to calm him. But there was no use, his temper was already starting to show. Rick and the others watched in earnest. Letty was the quietest, but she was making her way towards Daryl in even strides, her shoulders squared and planting her feet firmly she stopped before him.

“He ain’t here.” She said again, taking his crossbow from him, and shouldering it. Her fingers brushed against his jaw bone, for a moment, his eyes locking on hers and he narrowed his eyes. Scud was behind her, his green eyes darting frantically at Daryl.

“Get your ugly ass out here! STOP FUCKIN PLAYIN!” He shouted one more time.

“Dar, they didn’t bring dad home.” Scud sounded so little. Rick realized he had not heard the little boy talk other than calling Letty mommy the night before. Letty must have shot him a look, because the little boy clamped up and moved away from the fight, closer to Carl and Sophia.

“Daryl, just slow up a bit. I need to talk to you.” Shane looked at Letty, almost pleadingly. Letty moved to stand slightly behind Daryl, her body tense.

“About what?” Daryl’s eyes locked on Shane, and h is breathing was hard.

“About Merle. There was a… There was a problem in Atlanta.” Shane doesn’t offer any more information, making Daryl’s shoulders tense, unnaturally. Letty slipped her hand forward, and gently knotted it in the back of his shirt.

Daryl chanced a look around the group. “He dead?” He heard Letty suck in a deep breath, and exhale hard.
“We're not sure.” Both Letty and Daryl could hear the honesties in his statement. Letty moved further behind Daryl, both hands on his shoulders, looking hard at the back of him.

“He either is or he ain't!” Daryl snapped, shaking her from her grasp. She dropped her hands idly to her side.
“No easy way to say this, so I'll just say it.” She didn’t know if Rick Grimes was stupid or brave, but either way, she could feel the hate radiating off Daryl as he turned to gaze at the other man.

“Who are you?” Daryl spat.

Rick shuffled his feet. “Rick Grimes.”

Daryl scuffed. “Rick Grimes,” he mocked “You got something you want to tell me?

Rick looked somewhere between insulted and annoyed, but sympathetic still when he stated, “Your brother was a danger to us all, so I handcuffed him on a roof, hooked him to a piece of metal. He's still there.”

“Hold on. Let me process this. You're saying you handcuffed my brother to a roof and you left him there?!” Daryl was pacing, and Letty was watching him, her eyes careful, calculating.

Rick sighed, “Yeah.”

Daryl lunged at Rick, and Letty surged forward. Rick shoved him backward, harshly, into Letty. Already Letty had a knife drawn, and was watching Daryl, sizing up the whole of the fight, and deciding how to handle what was coming.

“Hey! Watch the knife!” T-Dog screamed, even as Daryl was drawing up his own knife, ready to lunge at Rick. Shane moved between Letty and Daryl, she let him, Shane realized, and Shane locked his arms around Daryl’s neck, securing a choke-hold.

“Okay. Okay.” Shane breathed at him. Letty was within sight, her knife up, and eyes locked on Shane, her eyes darting between Shane and Rick.

“You'd best let me go!” Daryl nearly screamed, if the situation had not been so serious, it probably would have been okay for Letty to dissolve into the giggles that she did, however as she laughed a little, everyone looked at her, except Daryl, Rick and Shane.

“Nah, I think it's better if I don't.” Shane was even, level with Daryl.

“Chokeholds illegal.” Daryl knew even as he said it that he sounded childish, and he knew that Letty would later call him an insolent brat, something she had learned no doubt from Merle.

“You can file a complaint. Come on, man. We'll keep this up all day.” Shane shot back.

“Now, I'd like to have a calm discussion on this topic. Do you think we can manage that? Do you think we can manage that?” Rick asked, surly.

“Hmm?” Shane prompted.

“Go on, Daryl.” He heard Letty behind him and attempted to whirl around to look at her. His eyes then moved to Scud, who looked terrified. He wondered if there was a chance he looked like Scud when he was little, Merle always said Scud looked like him. He stiffened realizing how frightening this must be.

After a long pause, Daryl said finally. “Mmm. Yeah.”

Shane released him and he righted himself. As he straightened, his eyes glanced at Letty, she moved to stand beside him, lacing her fingers in his. The other members of the group had seen it before, Letty had a way of riling Merle up and calming Daryl down, she had a way of soothing the nightmares the smallest of the Dixon’s had, but she also murdered for her boys. They didn’t understand it, and more often than not the arguments were started in the woods and finished in camp.

“What I did was not on a whim. Your brother does not work and play well with others.” Rick said, slowly. “But I figure ya both already know that.”

“Mhm.” Daryl nodded, carefully. Letty nodded beside him. Merle was a mean son of a bitch, but he didn’t know how to be a team player. It was Merle’s way or no way at all.

“It's not Rick's fault. I had the key. I dropped it.” T-Dog snapped. His eyes narrowing on Daryl and Letty.

Daryl looked distraught, he could feel Letty squeezing his hand, he dropped it and started pacing. “You couldn't pick it up?”

T-Dog frowned. “Well, I dropped it in a drain.”

Daryl gawked, and spit. “If it's supposed to make me feel better, it don't.” Letty’s silence made him wonder what she was thinking, he would have to talk with her about this, about how to get Merle back, if they did or didn’t. He was unsure.

“Well, maybe this will. Look, I chained the door to the roof… So the geeks couldn't get at him… With a padlock. It's gotta count for something.” T-Dog had made an effort, a small one, to secure Merle.

“Hell with all y'all! Just tell me where he is so that I can go get him.” She could see the pain on Daryl’s face, there were tears forming, and soon she knew he would need to release that, and it would be her body that would bear the brunt of it.

Lori emerged from the RV, looking haggard. “He'll show you. Isn't that right?”

“I'm going back.” Rick agreed.

Letty watched as everyone dispersed then, her eyes trained on Daryl. “Scud, stay with Carl, I’ll be right back.” She ordered, then reached out for Daryl, and tentatively he took her hand in his and let her lead him down to the water’s edge. She made him set down on the edge of the water, and locked eyes with him. “Sit down,” She ordered him, then took his hands, “Let me clean you up.” She took the red rag from him, and dipped it in the water, then she started carefully wiping him down. Once his hands were clean, and his face was clean she looked at him. “They told me last night.”

“’Nd what did ya do?” Daryl snapped.

“Daryl, there was nothing I could do. I needed to wait for you. Now that you are back, we can do this correctly. Shit, I could not just run off with Scud, the kid is afraid of his own shadow.” She was still holding his hands in hers. “I know you're upset, I’ll let you use me, do what you need to do, I get it OK.”

“Woods, now.” He ordered, he forced her up the hill and she felt his hand in her hair, knotted even before he knew what he was doing.

The others watched as Daryl pushed her into the woods, when Rick made a move to go after them, Lori stopped him. “Nah, let it be.” She ordered. “It’s normal.”

He pushed her hard, making her lose her footing, and she scraped her knees on the moss covered ground. She looked back up at him, and shivered slightly, waiting, with Merle it would have been a swift kick to the ribs. Instead he laid down next to her, and pulled her on top of him.

She settled, her knees drawn up, resting beside his thighs. He held on to her hips, hard, she knew she would bruise she always did. “Go on.” He asked her, implored her.

“What do you need me to do?” She asked, skeptical, normally she took the brunt of Merle’s anger, Daryl would intervene when he thought it was too much on her, if Daryl was hurting she wanted to help him. Daryl always fought his issues out, hitting and striking Merle.

“I dunno.” He whimpered out. She chewed her bottom lip for a long moment.

“Do you need to hurt or?” She asked, confused what he needed from her. “Punishment or…?” She was unsure.

“Need ta feel right.” He mumbled. She had an idea, but wanted to wait until she knew for sure what he needed. His eyes widened as she leaned forward, her hands on the ground on either side of his head.
She pressed soft kisses to his forehead, it triggered a memory but she would think back on that later, then kissed his face, each time kissing a little harder, a little longer. She peppered him with open mouth kisses, never landing on his lips. She kissed down his neck, remembering something she had saw a tramp do to Merle, but this felt different. She nipped at his skin, softly, hearing something escape his lips. Then she pressed her lips firmly to Daryl’s he stiffened and his grip moved up from her hips to her ribs, his nails digging in.

He felt a hunger inside he forgot had existed, each kiss seemed to brighten his soul. He was growing in confidence as she peppered the open mouth kisses on his body, then she kissed him, really kissed him. He tightened his hold on her, gripping her ribs hard enough he thought he might break her. She was warm everywhere. Shit, he thought, Letty was supposed to be like a daughter to him, or at least he had been telling himself that since she was fourteen, and started looking like a woman. She was supposed to be a child. Someone he took care of. He had expected her to hit him, beat him like Merle would have, but this, this was different. He stiffened as her lips moved on his. He moaned, letting her kiss him, and then he kissed back. His right hand snaking up her body, tightening once more in her hair, dragging her mouth away from his, and kissing her neck, biting down hard enough to make her squirm and moan.

This was nice, he rationalized, he could get used to her, this change in Letty. He realized somewhat late that the bite he was giving her was probably painful, but shit he wanted to let his frustrations out. He could taste the iron in his mouth, and hummed. He always liked the taste of blood, maybe because he had tasted his own so frequently when he was young. Letty’s had a bitter sweet taste to it, all her life, and he had licked her bloody wounds more than once. Often when Merle hit her, or they got into fights and had no clean water.
When he pulled back, he moved to her shoulder, biting once more, sucking and kissing. Since they took her in, when she was four, much against Merle’s will he had stopped having whores around, stopped chasing tail, he had kept the little girl safe, kept her close. Then Scud had joined them, and for a bit, Daryl had entertained the thought that they were both his kids – then Merle came home.

He remembered telling people Letty was his daughter, when they questioned. She had always been his property; he had just never known why he had felt so strongly about her until now. This moment, with her straddling him in the woods, and her body hovering over him, as he attacked her neck with bites and kisses, knowing it would leave hickeys, he realized this was a release he needed.

Knowing they would now have to explain that Letty was not a Dixon at all. His hands were traveling again, and she was just letting him, “Do what you need.” He heard her whisper, slow and calculating. His hand not knotted in her hair found its way up the front of her shirt, his dirty hand palming over her bra, working its way into her bra, he pinched her nipple, making her hips jerk against him. She let out a choked moan, and looked at him, ready to pounce.

“DARYL!” They snapped apart, her body falling down hard, and she hurried to straighten her clothes. Daryl jerked his blue button up flannel off and tossed it at her. Dale was looking for him.

When Dale found them in the clearing, Letty was buttoning the blue shirt up, rolling the sleeves up, there was a small patch of blood on her neck and he raised his eyebrows. “Dale.” Her voice sounded off, like she had been struggling moments before.

Daryl’s eyes met Dale’s. “She ain’t our sister.”

Dale nodded. “I know, have for a while now. She’s your girl, though.”

Daryl hadn’t really thought about labeling her. “’Ah guess.”

Dale looked at her then. “It’s not a walker bite, is it?”

“Nah, Daryl bit me.” Dale nodded, as she stood, he wrapped his arms around her shoulders.

“I’ll take you to your tent, because they are getting ready to leave, I’ll come patch you up, and tell them, you fell on some rocks while you guys were out hunting.” Dale told her as he led them back towards the camp. Daryl felt better, minus the problem straining his jeans. He felt like he had found something he had not realized he was missing. Something that was absolute.

The memory was vague at best, now that she thought about it. She was probably six when it happened. A fever had taken her hostage, and both Daryl and Merle were distraught, worried over her, Daryl kissing her face, open mouth, Merle checking her forehead for a fever. She laughed in reflection. She remembered also that she had often checked Scud’s fevers with her lips not her hands.

Chapter Text

Shane had listened to what Rick was saying. “So that's it, huh? You're just gonna walk off? Just to hell with everybody else?”

“I'm not saying to hell with anybody… Not you Shane…” Rick looked exasperated. “Lori least of all.”
“Tell her that.” Shane growled back, irritated.

“She knows.” Rick managed to say it simply enough.

“Well, look, I… I don't, okay, Rick? So could you just… Could you throw me a bone here, man? Could you just tell me why? Why would you risk your life for a douche bag like Merle Dixon?” Shane was expectant hoping to convince Rick that a suicide mission was not their best option.

Daryl locked his eyes on Shane, and growled. “Hey, choose your words more carefully.”

“No, I did. Douchebag's what I meant. Merle Dixon…The guy wouldn't give you a glass of water if you were dying of thirst.” Shane snapped.

Letty sorted with laughter, her neck bandaged and her shoulder covered to. Daryl chanced a look at her, a small smile ebbing onto his face. Scud hummed, a warm smile inching around his face, looking around Letty.

“What he would or wouldn't do doesn't interest me. I can't let a man die of thirst… me. Thirst and exposure. We left him like an animal caught in a trap. That's no way for anything to die, let alone a human being.” Rick snorted.

“So you and Daryl, that's your big plan?” Lori asked Rick. Rick’s eyes shot toward Glenn, and looked at him expectantly.

“Oh, come on. Nope.” Glenn whispered, looking startled. Glenn was upset.

“You know the way. You've been there before… In and out, no problem. You said so yourself. It's not fair of me to ask… I know that, but I'd feel a lot better with you along. I know she would too.” Rick offered.

“That's just great. Now you're gonna risk three men, huh?” Shane snarled. His eyes wild with rage.

“Four.” T-Dog snapped.

“Five.” Letty was standing there, her eyes locked on Daryl, as if begging for him to tell her no, instead he smiled a little.

“Scud, you listen to Mrs. Carol until we get back, I promise I will always come back for you.” Letty was stooped to his level, her hands on his shoulders.

“Letty, I wanna come.” He was pleading with her.

“Not this time, Joshie, you stay here my little Scud, and do what Carol says, love you, I will be back, just like always.” Letty grabbed his head in her hands, and kissed his hair. “Promise.”

“I will keep him safe.” Carol promised, letting Letty steer him towards her.

“This is how you know we will bring Rick back.” Letty offered to Lori. “Scud is pretty much mine, and I would never leave him alone in this world.”

“Do as Letty says.” Daryl huffed, his eyes trained on Scud. “My day just gets better and better, don't it?” He was eyeing T-Dog ruefully.

“You see anybody else here stepping up to save your brother's cracker ass?” T-Dog snapped, his eyes lighting up with rage.

“Why you?” Daryl asked. He understood Letty, she would go anywhere he went.

T-Dog sighed, his eyes looking aged. “You wouldn't even begin to understand. You don't speak my language.”

“That’s five.” Dale agreed.

“It's not just five. You're putting every single one of us at risk. Just know that, Rick. Come on, you saw that Walker. It was here. It was in camp. They're moving out of the cities. They come back, we need every able body we've got. We need 'em here. We need 'em to protect camp.” Shane snarled, his impatience showing.

“It seems to me,” Rick paused, “What you really need most here are more guns.”

“Right, the guns.” Glenn recalled how they had left the bag of guns lying next to the tank.

Shane’s eyebrows raised. “Wait. What guns?”

“Six shotguns, two high-powered rifles, over a dozen handguns. I cleaned out the cage back at the station before I left. I dropped the bag in Atlanta when I got swarmed. It's just sitting there on the street, waiting to be picked up.” Rick was numbering off everything he remembered grabbing.

Shane momentarily looked like a kid in a candy store. “Ammo?”

“700 rounds, assorted.” Rick answered smugly.

“You went through hell to find us. You just got here and you're gonna turn around and leave?” Lori snarled, looking angry and hurt at the same time.

“Dad, I don't want you to go.” Carl looked just as pained as his mother.

“To hell with the guns. Shane is right. Merle Dixon? He's not worth one of your lives, even with guns thrown in. Tell me. Make me understand.” Lori begged.

Rick chewed his thumb numbly. “I owe a debt to a man I met and his little boy. Lori, if they hadn't taken me in, I'd have died. It's because of them that I made it back to you at all. They said they'd follow me to Atlanta. They'll walk into the same trap I did if I don't warn him.”

“What's stopping you?” Lori snarled.

“The walkie-talkie, the one in the bag I dropped. He's got the other one. Our plan was to connect when they got closer.” Rick explained, looking exasperated.

“These are our walkies?” Shane asked, his eyebrows raising.

“Yeah.” Rick looked defeated.

“So use the CB. What's wrong with that?” Andrea asked.

Letty was watching the exchange, her hand on Daryl. Shane sank down on the hood of one of the car. “The CB's fine. It's the walkies that suck to crap… Date back to the '70s, don't match any other bandwidth… Not even the scanners in our cars.”

“I need that bag. Okay?” Rick asked his eyes locking on Lori.

“All right.” Lori agreed after a moment.

Rick looked at Carl, his eyes widening, and then he hugged him to him. “I love you son, and I have to do this, okay?” He asked. Carl nodded against him.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Daryl wondered when he had started caring more for her than Merle as the car pulled forward, they were safely tucked into the cube van on their way into Atlanta to get Merle. He wondered if he even really wanted to have Merle back, it had been kind of nice, just them. Plus, with no Merle he could take care of Scud the right way. All those years ago, he and Letty had named the kid, the way that they knew Merle would want him to be named. Ruger Joshua Dixon. Merle was the one who started calling him Scud, little piece of Scud, he would say.

The ride was mostly silent, mostly uneventful. Rick was lost in his thoughts, he was fairly sure there was something about the Dixon’s he was missing, he just couldn’t put his finger on it. Earlier he knew without a doubt, whatever had happened to Letty in the woods, Daryl had inflicted it, then Dale lied about it. Rick didn’t think he liked that.

Sizing up the three siblings in his head, and Merle’s son, none of them looked alike, something he would have to ask one of them later. Probably Letty, she seemed like the most apt one to talk. They drove in almost silence. "We need to check on Merle first, going for the guns first would be doubling back." Glenn breaks the quiet.

"Do you have a gun?" Rick asked Letty, she had watched out the front with him. Her eyes looked in the rear view, to Daryl.

"Don't much need one." She tapped her thigh, and he saw two long machete strapped to her legs. "Quiet killer."

Daryl snorted. "Tell 'im, brat." Daryl growled at her, the others unhearing while deep in thoughts.
“What are we doing if he is not there.” Letty asked, carefully, looking at Daryl.

"Depends, on if Merle is alive or not." Daryl answered sending a shiver down Rick's spine.

She flashed him a smile, and returned her gaze out the window. When they stopped, and everyone was out, Rick once more noticed their closeness. He could see how the others would mistake them for siblings. She was sweaty, so she peeled her t-shirt off, Daryl took it immediately, and tucked it into his back pocket, clearly he thought she was done with it, she rolled her eyes and stalked off. There was a bandage on her neck and left shoulder, little spots of blood peaking through. Every once in awhile, she would touch him gently or he would place a hand on her shoulder.

They made it to the department store, and to Rick’s amazement, with a Dixon on every side of him, they moved silently, Daryl taking one out with a crossbow, and Letty with her blade. They looked at each other, Daryl nodding. It was an unspoken language they shared, Rick realized, this sort of thing only happened to people who had spent a lot of time together, which had they been siblings would make sense.

After they made it to the stairwell, they broke open the chain. Daryl sauntered out first, Letty hot on his tail. "The fuck?" Rick heard her growl, there is no Merle. Only bloody handcuffs. Daryl screamed, and it made Letty look stricken. "Look, his hand.” She was pointing something out to Daryl.

Daryl's temper surged, his crossbow rose, leveled at T-Dog, "See tha fuck ya did?" ha snapped as he pointed angrily at his brother's hand. Rick drew his own revolver, his eyes narrowed at Daryl. Daryl fished her wadded up shirt out of his pocket, and scooped the hand up with it. Daryl wrapped it carefully, then tucked it into Letty' pack.

“He is alive, yer lucky.” Daryl snarled. His eyes found Letty’s, she seemed to heave a heavy sigh. He was not sure if she was relieved or not.

"Yea, Daryl, I guess they 're." She mused, he pressed his forehead to hers, a momentary display of both their relief, before he grabbed her by her hair, like Merle had done countless times before, and shoved her forward. Rick grimaced, watching her skull be moved forcefully, but she just took it. "AIN'T GONNA FIND HIM STANDIN' THERE." She snapped finally.

T-Dog began scooping up the tools and putting them in the pack on his own back. Daryl and Letty both moved following Merle's blood across the roof. "Look, 'ere." Letty pointed to something; the continued on until they were in another part of the strip mall now.

"Took out two, with one hand." Daryl chuckled like a private joke to himself, then he saw Letty grinned at him. The blood led them forward into a kitchen. "Letty, listens to ya after all," Daryl huffed looking at a couple Sterno cans burning next to an iron steak weight, which was crusted with skin. "Nobody can kill Merle but Merle."

"We will continue looking, I promised." Rick was ready to follow the Dixon's when T-Dog coughed.

Rick looked back at him, "Ain't prowling the streets until we get them guns, Rick."

They scurried out of the kitchen and onto the top of the next building. "Daryl you will watch me from here, with Letty. Rick, T-Dog you will cover this alley way, it's two blocks away, that way I'll have a safe place to run." Glenn drawled his plan out on the roof.

"Not too shabby." Rick nodded at him.

"Hey kid, what'd you do before all this?" Daryl asked, genuinely interested, Letty looks at him in interest as well.
"Delivered pizzas," Glenn answered. "Why?"

When Letty started to giggle, Daryl elbowed her sharp in the ribs. More abuse in Rick's eyes, and he wondered helplessly exactly why violence was the only thing these Dixon's are good at. Glenn, Daryl, and Letty made their way down the ladder to the alley, and reached almost the end. Glenn slid his backpack off, Daryl raised his crossbow, and Letty watched a few feet behind. Glenn darted into the street, walkers milling around him, he grabbed the bag of guns, and Rick's hat, and surged forward, headed back towards Daryl.

Daryl looked back to check on Letty, only to find a teenage boy holding her, smiling at him. Daryl snarled, "Who the fuck 're ya?" Daryl snapped raising his bow.

"Ayudame! AYUDAME!" The boy screamed. Rick and T-Dog both moved toward the alley way, unsure of what was happening. It is complete chaos, in the fray Glenn was taken, but the guns and Miguel the teenage boy who was holding Letty was left. Letty knocked him out with the butt of her machete and snarled.

"Now we have two problems." Rick groaned. "Need to get Glenn back and Merle."

"Wouldn't have happened if ya woulda just brought Merle home the first time." Letty snarled, her eyebrows raised.

Chapter Text

Rick sighed, and they looked at the little boy with them. “Hey, kid, take us to your stronghold.”

The boy was reluctant at first. With Rick playing good cop, and Daryl bad cop, Letty constantly pacing watching his every move her knife drawn, the boy was shaking. Eventually he gave in and headed them through town. Soon they found a brick building. Letty listened quietly while Rick and a Mexican man disagreed. Eventually they were brought in, and the argument heated up before a small little elderly woman wound their way between them.

The whole thing was a lie, Letty and Daryl shared small smiles. It turned out that the nursing home had been abandoned by workers in the early days. Those that remained behind were doing their best to keep up with the elderly that were still there. Glenn was returned to them, along with half of their guns, looking no worse for the wear.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

When they finally made it back to where the cube van was supposed to be parked it was long gone. Letty raised an eyebrow, “Merle, funny thing is to know where we parked, he knows we came for him.”

Daryl nodded, “Guess he is done with us.”

Letty chewed her bottom lip. “Good, didn’t wanna rob 'uhm anyway, ‘ah like those kids.”

“’Ah know ya do, darlin’.” Daryl chuckled, giving her hip a tight squeeze.

She rolled her eyes. “You were gonna rob us?” Glenn snarled.

“We didn’t wanna.” Letty said looking at Glenn.

“We listen to Merle; he has always been the boss.” Daryl offered.

“Well, in that case, I think I am relieved that you two are not like him.” Rick joked, a smile on his lips.

T-Dog sized them up, “Are the three of you even related.”

Daryl snorted. “Merle is my half-brother, I guess, dad never claimed me.”

“They kidnapped me.” Letty said truthfully.

Rick looked at Daryl, conflicted. “I wouldn’t let Merle kill her. I saved her.”

“Scud’s mom was a whore, she died in childbirth, and we were his last remaining kin.” Letty explained.

“Good, I think I might like you.” Rick told Daryl, clasping his shoulder.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

They made it back to camp, Daryl and Letty immediately went to their tent, “We could leave, first thing tomorrow.” She suggested. Scud trailed in after them.

“Dad?” Scud asked, his eyes lingering between Letty and Daryl.

“He left us, bud.” Daryl patted his head, smiling at him. “But we are used to that, right?”

“Uh Huh.” Scud nodded.

“We could leave.” Letty said again, smaller this time.

“Nah, they don’t have a hunter, whole lot of them would starve to death.” Letty raised her eyebrows at him.

“You really are good, to all his evil you know that.” Daryl sighed looking at her.

“Maybe, get some sleep.” He urged her, watching her tuck into the sleeping bag, followed quickly by Scud, who was asleep before his head hit her shoulder. As the sun rose, he found the camp alive with activity. “Letty.” He called to her, she tilted her head up and looked at him.

“Dar?” She asked curious.

“Goin’ huntin’.” He patted her head, and headed off into the woods.

“Letty.” Rick motioned her to him, she stood. “Let’s take a walk.”

“Sure, OK, Officer Rick.” She joked.

“So, they took you?” He asked.

“Uhhu, when I was a little girl. Maybe four or five. Daryl wouldn’t let Merle killed me. Killed my whole family, some disagreement with my dad, I think. No one ever looked for me, that’s the fucked up part. They burned my house down, guess everyone thought I was dead too.” She explained, somewhat distracted.

“Ah, was going to ask about that. When did you decided to go along with their plans?”

“Didn’t get much of a choice, there partner.” She told him. “Go along, or get left behind.”

Rick nodded. “Do you think you two could work with us, without Merle.”

“Sure, I can, Daryl will be able too, once he gets used to it being just us.” She guessed.

Rick nodded, they were at the quarries edge “Shane.” Shane looked up from where he was standing guard.

“SOPHIA!” Letty called, the younger girl on the top rim looking down. “SCUD!”

Sophia ran down the path, to where Carl was already in the water and slipped her shoes off, jumping in. Scud found Letty and shimmied down himself, jumping in. Letty took her shorts and shoes off, and plunged into the water. Soon they were splashing and playing hard.

Chapter Text

“WALKERS!” Letty screamed as a small group of them moved into camp. Everyone was in action then, killing and fighting. She was quick shoving Sophia, Scud, and Carl into the RV with. She whirled on a larger walker, slamming her knife into its skull. As it fell, she rolled forward grabbing a couple of Daryl’s bolts, she pressed them to him, and was killing the walkers she encountered.

She grabbed Lori, dragging her away from a particularly nasty looking walker, and kicked it backwards, straight into Amy. She heard Amy scream and she felt her world darken a bit. Lori was clinging to her shoulders, hard. She backed them up to the RV, and killed walkers as they approached, doing her best to protect Lori, she then drug Carol behind her as well, smashing Carol between her and Lori. “Kick them when they get too close, do something.”

Thirty minutes, that is how long Carl told them it took for them to kill all the walkers. Ed, Carol’s husband had been bitten in the fray. She took an axe from Letty and started slicing into him, “Oh, Ed.” She managed to breath out, shaky breaths.
Letty stood frozen, rooted in her spot, with Carl, Scud, Sophia clinging to her, damn if Letty didn’t look like some sort of warrior queen beside them, she was only a couple years older than them. Daryl chewed absently on his bottom lip, his eyes flicking up and down her body.

They were going to be leaving, once they buried the dead. Andrea was the hold out, waiting for Amy to change. Daryl and Letty had unloaded his bike, and he handed her the truck keys. Against both Lori and Carol’s wishes both Carl and Sophia had decided they wanted to ride in the F150 with her. The back was loaded up with supplies they couldn’t or wouldn’t leave behind.

She cranked the engine, relieved when it turned over, Daryl took off first, on his bike with Scud holding on behind him. Letty watched after them, shifting gears easily. Carl was sitting at the window, his head pressed against the glass. They were all small enough there was more than enough room for them to move around freely. They stopped midway through their first day, to place Jim against a tree, and leave him. “No more gas, Dar.” She told him.

Daryl nodded and helped her move everything to the RV, including Sophia and Carl. “Only thing in the world I ever owned,” Daryl growled looking at the truck for a long moment.

“Ya own me.” She said it so simply he rolled his eyes. He grunted, then slipped on the bike and felt her climb on after him, Scud rode in front of him, falling asleep against his uncle.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

“So they are not siblings?” Lori asked, as Rick drove the SUV they had managed to take from camp. In front of them Shane was driving his Jeep, the RV in front of that, and T-Dog in another truck. The motorcycle with the Dixon’s on the front. He reached for Lori.

“No, they took her from her family when she was about four. From what I gather, Merle killed her family and Daryl refused to let her die.” Rick opted not to mention several things about Letty to Lori.

“Ah, so they saved her?” Lori asked.

“Daryl did. Merle… had other plans for her.” Rick explained, and took Lori’s hand.

“I thought you were dead.” Tears were welling up in her eyes. “I had to do something to make myself feel alive.”

Rick was confused. “What are you talking about?”

“Shane… I…” She didn’t need to go on, Rick already knew. He dropped her hand.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

They headed towards Atlanta, towards the CDC, which Rick thought would be their very best option. Letty climbed on the bike with Daryl at first light, and pressed her face into the leather vest on his back. She sighed, and shivered slightly. She was still sleepy. Scud this morning, because of the cold, had been ordered by Letty to ride in the RV with Carol.

It would be an almost a full day's ride to the CDC location that Rick remembered being in Atlanta from previous trips there. Daryl and Letty were in the back of the pack today, and both started screaming and waving their arms when Shane’s jeep gave out on him. The jeep clearly ran out of gas, and he was out on his feet.

Dale caught sight of Daryl and Letty waving and shouting at them, he doubled back, pulling up close to where Shane was fighting them off, and Carol opened the door, and pulled him in.

“Shit.” Shane breathed. “They don’t fuckin’ quit, thanks for getting me.”

“Don’t thank us.” Carol breathed, panting, slightly.

“We would have never known if Daryl and Letty hadn’t noticed you.” Dale explained, as they fell back in line behind T-Dog.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

They reached the compound, but Letty didn’t like it. “Something is not right.” Daryl heard her whisper behind him. “Look at all the dead, just shot in the head and left out here.” Scud was clinging desperately to Letty’s hand, Letty smiled at him “But we will be ok.”

Daryl nodded, they made their way after the others to the main entrance. Rick was pounding away at the door. All of them had their weapons drawn, and were watching the dead move around them. “We don’t have long.” Shane hissed, already walkers were getting in the way of their escape.

“Anybody infected?” A voice seemed to ask from behind the door.

“One of our group was.” Shane answered the man.

“He didn't make it.” Rick snapped.

“Why are you here? What do you want?” The voice asked.

“A chance.” Rick pleaded.

“That's asking an awful lot these days.” The man in the CDC mused.

“I know.” Rick was perplexed. Why wouldn’t they just get to go in.

“You all submit to a blood test. That's the price of admission.” The voice ordered.

“We can do that.” Rick agreed quickly.

“You got stuff to bring in, you do it now. Once this door closes, it stays closed.” The man ordered. Finally, lights flickered on. “Bring in what you need. After these doors close they will not open again.” A disoriented voice told them once more.

As the doors swung open, they surged in. All of them. T-Dog, Rick, Shane and Daryl darted back towards the vehicles. Once everyone was in the main entrance, together, a man approached them. “My name is Doctor Edwin Jenner.” He said after a long moment. “Welcome to the CDC of Atlanta.”

“Where are the other scientist?” Jackie asked, looking around.

“Long gone, I am the last one here.” He offered, leading them down. “Once we are down stairs I will shut the power off up here.” They followed him into an elevator.

“I want to test all your blood, I already broke protocol bringing you guys in here, I just, want do the best I can to honor what is left of the CDC protocol.” Jenner was talking a lot, but he finally looked at Carl, “Might have to keep an eye on you though.” Scud was hiding behind Letty, something Rick and the others were used to seeing.

She rolled her eyes and pressed even closer to Daryl. Daryl had reached the conclusion that Letty really didn’t like most of humanity before the turn and now she had every reason to hate them, and distrust them. Sometimes, he thought to himself, it pays to be overly paranoid. For what it was worth, Scud hated most people as well. Maybe it was a distinct correlation to growing up around Merle.

Chapter Text

After he blood tested them, he told them briefly about air conditioning and showers, something they would probably all enjoy. Before they bathed, though, everyone wanted food. Real food. Jenner gave them all rooms, then settled them down for dinner together. He cooked, and opened a bottle of wine. Daryl set another bottle of wine between himself and Letty, raising his eyebrows ever so slightly when she attempted to sneak a drink.

Finally, he just poured her a glass. He continued to pour alcohol into Glenn, intent on seeing his cheeks redder than Santa’s coat. Letty had drunk with him and Merle, once she hit about fourteen, they treated her like an adult anyway. Scud was sitting in a seat with Sophia, both tucked right next to Carol. “None for you.” Letty wagged her finger at Scud. “You're way too young darling.”

“You know, in Italy, children have a little bit of wine with dinner.” Dale told them all.

“And in France.” Jackie agreed.

“Well, when Carl is in Italy or France, he can have some then.” Lori snapped.

“What's it gonna hurt?” Shane asked.

“Come on.” Rick agreed. Rick let Carl have a drink, the face he made sent Letty into a fit of giggles. Carol soon took Sophia, Scud, and Carl to the shower room, bathed them, and settled them into the couch in the library to read.

Next Jackie, Lori, and Carol showered. Letty didn’t want to shower with them, once all the men were done, everyone was loitering around except her and Daryl. “’Mone.” She tugged his shirt. “Let’s bathe, drink, and go to bed.”

“Bathe together?” Daryl asked, his eyes widening.

“More or less.” She was tugging his drunk self behind her.

“A’ight, I guess.” He giggled, crashing into the wall and tugging her with him.

She rolled her eyes, but continued on her path. Once in the bathroom of the room Jenner had given Daryl, she was shimmying out of her clothes before he managed to get a handle on the situation. She flung her shirt over her frame, then her tank top, then her bra. Her back was to him and he noticed the all too familiar licks of a burn up her back. Without thinking he reached out and ran his fingers down the burn scars. Daryl realized those were from the night they found her.

When they arrived in her house, ready to kill her father, he was already beating his wife and children, that was probably what had set Merle off in the first place. The policeman they were there to see had a long history of roughing up his kids. He had burned her back, Daryl later found out, because she spilled milk in the living room. “I love you, Daryl.” She whispered it so lowly. He thought for a moment he imagined it, then her pants and underwear were off, socks and boots abandoned. “I’ll start the water.” She told him, slipping forward, from his grasp.

“Make it hot.” She heard Daryl behind her. She turned her head back, and saw that his back was to her as he removed his own layers of clothing. The moment he shed his shirt and pants, she moved forward, pressing her chest into his back, her arms tucked around his waist.

“We are marked.” He heard her mumble into his back. The alcohol was making everything hazy, his already under touched body was heating up and quickly to the feel of her breast pressed into his back. He shivered slightly at her absence, then felt her fingers wrap around his wrist, dragging him into the shower with her.

He had almost laughed when her eyes widened at the sight of his body, he had turned once in the shower to look at her. Her eyes looked him up, then froze, her face locked in an expression of interest. Daryl had always known he was bigger than other guys, shit the few times he did have sex, his partners were normally drunk, and part of that he figured was because as Merle had always teased him, his cock didn’t fit his body. He was wider than he felt he should be, when Merle had first seen his brother naked, he had called Daryl a torpedo.

“Shit.” He grunted, the water scalding his flesh. She didn’t seem phased, she was scrubbing the dirt and grime from him, carefully cleaning his back. “I’ll do my junk.” He snapped and grabbed the rag she had in her hands, she laughed slightly, the sound tickling him.

“Daryl Dixon, are you afraid of a little girl touching your dick?” She was leering, her body dripping, and her eyes lighting up.

“It’s yew who should be afraid.” Daryl’s voice was husky and deep; she could hear the danger. Before all of this, she would have known that it was a dark road she was going down, and she should back off, instead tonight the alcohol had her feeling brave.

A smile danced on her face, her features brightening up to him. “You wash me off then, rag hog.” Daryl blushed when she closed her eyes, and spread her arms and legs away from her body, spread eagle he shook his head at her.

The alcohol and hot water were enough to make him forget their age differences, forget that she was a baby, forget that more than once he had called her his daughter. He scrubbed her down, brutally hard, every inch of her, stalling only for a moment between her thighs, when she peaked at him, he was kneeled before her, prying her lips open, and gazing at her clit and opening. She blushed, deep. Breathing in hard.

She almost screamed, when he pressed an open mouth kiss to her mound, she wiggled, desperately, her hips arching. He grabbed her hip bones, hard, dragging her legs apart further then looked up at her face. “It this ok?”

She nodded, her eyes wide, and her thumb between her teeth. Daryl returned to what he was doing, running his tongue up and down her wetness, slipping his tongue into her core, pressing hard, then he kissed her inner thighs, hot open mouth kisses. If Letty had not been completely turned on at the thought of being naked with him, this might not have put her so far on edge.

First Daryl bit her hip bone, hard, making her suck her breath in. Daryl nipped softly at her clit, making her buck against him, knotting her hands in his hair, she forced him up, dragging him to her mouth. She pulled his mouth to hers, and kissed him hard and fierce, letting him control it, once he started to respond, she registered his hand on her breast, gently rubbing her nipple, as the other one held her head where he wanted it. The water was getting cold, she lazily reached back and turned it off, never breaking the kiss.

He bit down hard on her bottom lip, making her hiss in pain or annoyance, either way her mouth opened up to him, and he ran his tongue along her lips before diving in. Daryl had never wanted anything the way he wanted her to scream his name, he realized. Never before had he allowed a woman to be this close to him, long. He had had sex a handful of times, never really caring for it. His drunk self-tonight, was very invested in Letty, his length was hard enough already that he was in pain.

He didn’t care that they were wet, he grabbed her and tossed her over his shoulder, ambling out of the shower and towards his bed. He dropped her unceremoniously in the middle, and climbed up her. He pressed his face into her neck and breathed. The alcohol had the world spinning, he had not realized how much he had consumed.

Her hands were dancing on his back, in another life he would have slapped the shit out of a woman for touching his scars, not Letty, not her. He pushed himself up higher against her, hovering over her, before capturing her mouth once more with his, kissing her hard enough he knew her lips would bruise. She felt him, before she could stop him, slipping his head into her. She growled.

Her hands knotted in the blankets on the bed, her back arching. He pushed all the way in in one go, he had been looking between their bodies, watching as he slipped into her, disappearing completely, she was tight, so tight, Daryl thought he would explode in her the moment he made it balls deep. When his eyes met hers again, he saw the pain, she was biting her lower lip, and was being very still.

“Fuck, yew were a virgin.” Daryl felt something constricting in his chest, and was ready to move away, when she took him by surprise, throwing her legs around his waist, and locking her ankles.

“I was, don’t stop.” She begged. Her eyes were full of something Daryl knew well now, wanting, lust. Of course she was a virgin, he and Merle never let her stray far from them. And if she had strayed it had been on their orders, and Daryl had been very clear about not sleeping with anyone to her.

He nodded, he would go as slow as he could, he pulled out gently, and rolled his hips back into her, slow and steady, giving her time to adjust to his movements. “Fuck, do that again.” She begged when he struck something inside of her. Her back arched even harder, pressing her chest into his.

His mouth pressed warm kisses against her neck, and her collarbone, each thrust made her whimper harder. “Faster.” He heard her rasp, three fast strokes and she exploded, her whole body tensing, then her hips bucked wildly, her first real orgasm burning through her body. She breathed shakily for a moment, then kissed him, bucking her hips at him, egging him on. She knew he had not finished yet, and did not want to be alone.

Daryl took her hips to be an open invitation. His thrust became brutal and erratic, hitting her spot hard each time, enough to make her shiver, her body was clamping around him, and she was panting again, he grabbed her shoulder and hip for better leverage, and slammed into her, hard, he could feel his balls tightening, and he groaned. “DARRRRYL!” Her choked scream was all it took for him to slip over the edge, her second orgasm causing her to clench down so hard on him, it seemed to suck the cum right out of him.

He fell down on top of her, exhausted. He sighed, she giggled. He didn’t want to break the contact with her, so he rolled them over, her body fell down against his chest, she moved only briefly to pull a blanket over them. She wiggled a little, and could feel his length still inside her, on the verge of hardening again. She slumped forward, exhausted, and fell asleep her head pressed into his chest. Daryl ran his fingers over her, and soon the alcohol and exhaustion overtook him. Sleep welcomed both.

Chapter Text

Daryl woke before her, to the feel of a human body on his own. “Fuck.” Memories from the previous night seemed to erupt to life in his head, he felt her snuggle even closer to him. “Letty we got to shower and eat, the others will be up soon.”

She looked at him, sleep still in her eyes and frowned. “Daryl, I hurt.”

His eyes widened. “Hurt? There?”

She nodded, “It is probably from last night being my first time, or sleeping like this.” She motioned to the fact that he was wedged between her hips, and her legs thrown over his thighs. Daryl sat up, taking her with him, and detangled himself from her.

"Let’s shower, for real.” He ordered. Half supporting half pulling her into the shower. He turned the water on, and only rinsed off, making sure their sticky fun from the previous night was off his flesh. He stepped out, and pulled cleaner clothes on.

There was a knock on his door, he frowned, shutting the bathroom curtain and walked over to the door. His bed was a mess, he realized frowning still as he opened the door. Carol stood before him, Lori at her side. “Have you seen Letty?” Carol asked, panic on her face.

“Yea, she is in the shower.” Daryl motioned towards the running water.

“There was a shower in our room.” Carol looked exasperated.

“She gets nightmares, used to sleepin’ next ta me n’ Merle, so she came here last night.” Daryl offered a sort of lie.

“You were drunk.” Lori was eyeing him carefully. The water turned off in the bathroom, and he heard a small curse erupt from Letty’s lips.

“DARYL DIXON,” She barked, “Get me some clean clothes from Carol’s room.”

Daryl looked at Carol, who just handed him her pack. “Take this ta yer momma.” Darryl ordered Scud, well aware the boy had slept next to Carol last night. Kid could not sleep alone.

Scud took the pack from his hands and darted around the curtain. Daryl stood somewhat unsure what to do, as the two mothers waited by the doorway. “Letty hurry yer ass up, Carol and Lori are waitin’ on ya.”

“OK! SHIT!” She shouted, Scud was pushed out from behind the curtain, then he could hear the sound of her ruffling through the backpack.

“She sleep in the bed with you?” Lori asked, trying to look around Daryl to the bed.

“Yeah, always slept next ta me in the tent, kept Merle from her. When she was little an’ had nightmares she slept in tha bed with meh.” Daryl was starting to think moms knew everything, at least moms of the character of Lori and Carol. “She’s safer that’a way. Scud normally sleeps with us too, musta saw he was asleep with ya before she tucked in here.”

“What about from you?” Lori asked, eyebrows raised.

Before Daryl could manage to even process what Lori had said to him, Letty ducked out of the bathroom. Black skinny jeans hugging her hips, tucked into her boots, and a Motorhead t-shirt, it did not hug her curves at all, instead, it looked kind of big on her. There was the slightest of bruises showing where her neck and collarbone connected, but it was something that easily could have come from killing walkers.

“Daryl wouldn’t hurt me.” She snapped at Lori, taking careful strides. Tucking her arm around Scud as she did, pulling the little boy tight to her.

Soon Daryl was left alone in his room, anger at himself bubbling. He had taken advantage of a child, a child who idolized him. By the time he was at the breakfast table with the others he was in one of the worst moods the group had ever seen.

He refused to sit next to Letty or even to sit, which made Dale and Rick look between them with confusion. They pair were normally inseparable. To a testament of how much Daryl had taught Letty her face was masked, neither happy nor sad, unmoving. If anything they both looked like stone statues. Lori’s eyes stalked them both. Scud was sitting in Letty’s lap, his body resting against her, another thing the members of the camp knew well.

When Letty and Merle had fought back in camp it had normally centered around Scud, or his mistreatment. More than once that they could all remember, except maybe Rick, she had taken a beating for the boy.

“Hello.” Lori tried to be as cheerful as she could be.

“Morning.” Rick said, a smile on his face.

“Are you hungover? - Mom said you'd be.” Carl asked.

“Mom is right. Mom has that annoying habit.” Rick answered truthfully.

“Eggs. Powdered, but... but I do 'em good.” T-Dog cheered, cooking, and apron around his waist, and a big smile on his face. Glenn moaned. Then T-Dog continued. “I bet you can't tell. Protein helps the hangover.”

“Where'd all this come from?” Letty asked surprise on her face. “The Tylenol?”

“Jenner.” Carol answered.

“Can you help me please?” T-Dog asked, shuffling around. Letty tossed him a plate.

“He thought we could use it.” Jackie answered.

“Thank you.” Rick looked directly at Jenner, a smile on his lips.

“Some of us, at least. Don't ever ever ever let me drink again.” Glenn moaned.

Shane laughed as he entered. “Hey.”

Rick locked eyes with him, “Hey. Feel as bad as I do?”

“Worse.” Shane answered truthfully.

“The hell happened to you? Your neck?” Rick asked as the others chomped away at their breakfast.

“I must have done it in my sleep.” Shane explained, sitting down and frowning.

“Never seen you do that before.” Rick responded.

“Me neither.” Shane growled. “Not like me at all.”

“Morning.” Carl cheered at Shane.

“Hey, doc. Doctor, I don't mean to slam you with questions first thing...” Rick started.

“But you will anyway.” Jenner mused.

“We didn't come here for the eggs.” Shane snapped.

Chapter Text

They followed Jenner into a command room, and were awarded with Jenner typing anxiously on a keyboard. Then, “Vi, Give me playback of TS-19.”

“Playback of TS-19.” Beeping surrounded them.

Jenner started, “Few people ever got a chance to see this. Very few.”

“Is that a brain?” Letty asked, Scud was standing close to her like normal, the silent victim in the world of Dixon’s.

“An extraordinary one. Not that it matters in the end. Take us in for E.I.V, Vi.” Jenner said.

“Enhanced internal view.” Vi mirrored.

“What are those lights?” Andrea asked.

Jenner smiled at the simplicity of the question. “It's a person's life... experiences, memories. It's everything. Somewhere in all that organic wiring, all those ripples of light, is you... the thing that makes you unique. And human. You don't make sense ever? Those are synapses, electric impulses in the brain that carry all the messages. They determine everything a person says does or thinks from the moment of birth to the moment of death.”

“Death?” Rick echoed.

“That's what this is, a vigil?” Jackie asked.

“Yes. Or rather the playback of the vigil.” Jenner responded.

“This person died?” Letty asked, her mind racing.

“Who?” Shane asked.

Jenner breathed deeply, then. “Test subject 19. Someone who was bitten and infected... And volunteered to have us record the process. Vi, scan forward to the first event.”

Vi’s robotic voice boomed, “Scanning to first event.” Loud beeping followed.

“What is that?” Carl asked, looking at the screen.

“It invades the brain like meningitis. The adrenal glands hemorrhage, the brain goes into shutdown, then the major organs. Then death. Everything you ever were or ever will be... Gone.” Jenner answered.

“Is that what happened to Jim?” Andrea asked.

“Yes.” He answered so simply, that it made everyone shiver.

“She lost somebody not too long ago. Her sister.” Lori was reaching for Andrea.

“I lost somebody too. I know how devastating it is. Scan to the second event.” Jenner turned away from them now.

“Scanning to second event.” Vi’s voice boomed once more.

“The resurrection times vary wildly. We had reports of it happening in as little as three minutes. The longest we heard of was eight hours. In the case of this patient, it was two hours, one minute... Seven seconds.” Jenner paused, sighing, and looking pained.

“It restarts the brain?” Glenn asked.

“No, just the brain stem. Basically, it gets them up and moving.” Jenner responded.

“But they're not alive?” Shane asked.

“You tell me.” Jenner snapped.

“They are scary.” Scud mumbled, pressing his body even closer to Letty, who patted his head.

“It's nothing like before.” Letty said after a long moment, pointing up at the screen.

“Most of that brain is dark.” Lori agreed with her.

Jenner nodded, pinching his nose. “Dark, lifeless, dead. The frontal lobe, the neocortex, the human part... That doesn't come back. The you part. Just a shell driven by mindless instinct.”

“God.” Glenn breathed.

“What was that?” Jackie asked.

“He shot his patient in the head. Didn't you?” Rick surmised.

Jenner nodded, then. “Vi, power down the main screen and the workstations.”

Vi’s voice once more boomed. “Powering down main screen and workstations.”

“You have no idea what it is, do you? It could be microbial, viral, parasitic, - fungal. Or the wrath of God? There is that.” Jackie asked.

“Somebody must know something. Somebody somewhere.” Andrea was sitting, rocking slightly.

“There are others, right? Other facilities?” Carol was holding tight to Sophia, her eyes locked on Letty’s.

“There may be some. People like me.” Jenner agreed.

“But you don't know?” Rick snapped.

“How can you not know?” Shane demanded.

Jenner looked stumped, like he could no longer continue answering their questions, then. “Everything went down. Communications, directives... all of it. I've been in the dark for almost a month. So it's not just here.”

“There's nothing left anywhere?” Letty asked.

“Nothing?” Daryl echoed, his hand on Letty’s shoulder.

“That's what you're really saying, right?” Lori was close to sobbing.

“Jesus.” Dale breathed.

“Man, I'm gonna get shit-faced drunk again, come on Letty, let’s shower again. Scud, you come on too, bud, we can go together.” Daryl grumbled, locking his arms around her in a firm hold and heading away. The statement was not missed on Lori whose eyes narrowed.

Dale raised his eyebrows, but opted to ignore Daryl and Letty for the moment. “Dr. Jenner, I know this has been taxing for you and I hate to ask one more question, but... That clock... It's counting down. What happens at zero?”

“The basement generators... they run out of fuel.” Jenner sounded so small in that moment.

“And then?” Shane asked, almost snarling.

“Vi, what happens when the power runs out?” Rick demanded after no answer from Jenner.

Vi’s voice bounced through them all. “When the power runs out, facility-wide decontamination will occur.”

Glenn froze. “Decontamination... What does that mean?”

Jenner announced that they could not leave, and had explained to them that basically a bomb that turned air to flame was going to erupt in thirty minutes. “OPEN THE DOOR! WE WILL TAKE OUR CHANCES.” Rick roared.

Both Letty and Daryl were swinging axes at the metal doors. Sophia, Carl, and Scud were screaming and crying between Lori and Carol. Jackie was standing next to Jenner, unmoving. T-Dog, Shane, Glenn, and Rick were pacing. Andrea and Dale were whispering fiercely between themselves.

When the door cranked open, Rick was pushing them all out, Jenner momentarily called him back. Daryl was clutching Letty’s hand hard enough it hurt, pushing and running, Letty had a hold of Scud’s hand in her other. They reached the main floor before the others, and he kissed her hard on the mouth, sure that death was coming, and quickly. They both had drug Scud into a tight hug against them. Rick and Shane stumbled upon the scene, the noise enough to break them apart. Letty blushed scarlet.

“I think I have something we can use, Rick.” Carol was fishing around in her bag, she produced a hand grenade ignoring Rick's comment about not needing cookies right now.

Rick pulled the pin and tossed the grenade at the glass front. Daryl shoved both Letty and Scud down on the ground hard. The explosion seemed to jar their bones, once more they were running, everyone. Daryl was shoving Letty on to the RV after shoving Scud up the stairs, his body behind her, her shirt contorted up enough to reveal his hand print on her hip, a bruise from the night before. Instantly he realized why she had put the Motorhead shirt on, it was longer than her others, and would have normally covered her flesh. Shocked he pulled her back, and drug her towards the motorcycle which was parked beside the RV. Dale and Andrea somewhere along behind them tumbled out the window. The way Lori’s eyes met Daryl, he knew she knew.

He felt something twist in his gut, he was not sure if it was anger that she was judging them, or regret that he had taken the innocents of something so beautiful. Once everyone was in their cars, Daryl pulled Letty on to the bike, letting her sit in front of him, she was sore no doubt from the previous night, and he figured the gas tank between her legs was nicer than his body. The bike roared to life, and he began to guide them from the city.

“Yer hip hurt?” His voice growled into her ear.

“Not as bad as other parts, my mouth hurts pretty bad, you ever gonna talk to me in front of the others again.” She snapped, angry.

“Sorry, we shouldn’t have, yer a child, fuck.” He snapped, anger boiling in his veins. “How old are you anyway.”

“Seventeen I think.” She whispered.

Daryl growled at her age, and now he was fucked, he was so damned. “I’m 34.” He snapped. “I’m old enough to be your dad. This is wrong, I shouldn't….” His voice trailed off. His body thinking on its own accord he lowered his face into the nape of her neck, inhaling as he watched the road ahead.

“Daryl, those rules don’t apply in this world. Kings in their fifties used to marry eleven year olds and no one batted an eye.” She snapped back, stretching her body against his. “Please don’t turn me away, I didn’t wanna be a mistake.” He could feel tears on the verge of her body, she had not cried when they killed her family.

“Yer not a mistake, I am.” Daryl sighed. Wind pushing around them. “You will regret me, little darlin’.”

“Dar. You have been my friend, my brother, my father, and now my lover, accept it.” She growled. “Plus, we have Scud to watch out for, we can not let him be hurt, ever.”

“I know.” Daryl breathed after a long moment.

Chapter Text

Rick was driving the SUV. His eyes trained on the road ahead of him, Carl was fast asleep in the back. Stretched out, and snoring. “Rick, I think they are more than friends.” Lori said through gritted teeth.

“Until I came around you all thought they were siblings.” Rick snapped. “But they are something.” Rick agreed.

“Are you going to stop him?” Lori asked.

“Stop him from what?” Rick asked, genuinely unsure what Lori wanted from him.

“Raping her?” The look Rick shot her made Lori feel worse than death.

“He wouldn’t rape her. He wouldn’t do anything to hurt her, Lori, he cares a great deal about her, he braved Merle’s anger to keep her alive, I doubt he would do anything to cause her any pain at all.” Rick’s voice was angry even as he said it, and Lori realized the meaning was double sided aimed at her and truthful.

“They were together last night.” Lori said, not willing to let the argument go.

“So were you and Shane.” Rick growled. Lori paled, her eyes wide as she looked at him. “Shane never once scratched himself in his sleep, but you, you like to slap and dig your claws in. Remember the Christmas after Carl turned three I wouldn’t fight you over the damn turkey?” Lori nodded, “You left the same scratches on me.”

Lori paled even more, and looked out the window. She could feel the tears burning in her eyes, and could feel her heart thundering in her chest.

“If anyone gets hurt out of the two of them, it will be Daryl, because just by looking I can tell he has never felt real love.” Rick snapped.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Shane sat in the truck, as T-Dog drove. Everyone else piled into the RV. “So, what do you think he told Rick, before we left.”

“Dunno. Rick will tell us when it is time.” Shane snapped.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

The first night after the CDC they decided to make their way to the nursing home and their acquaintances to see if they could stay a night or two with them. They had only been away from the nursing home two weeks, but when they reached the courtyard walkers were already there. In the grass they were eating some of the Mexican men they had met before.

Daryl and Letty led the surge inside, after they made sure everything was clear, they cleaned out the two of the rooms upstairs of any bodies. T-Dog, Glenn, Shane, Dale, Rick, Daryl, Scud, Letty, Andrea, Lori, Carl, Carol, and Sophia moved into the graveyard that was the dining room once.

Daryl chewed his bottom lip, his one hand pressed into Letty’s back. “What do you think happened here?” Rick asked.

“They had guns, they should have been able to fight walkers off.” Rick mused.

“They clearly got over run.” Andrea sighed.

“Over run, shit, walkers didn’t do this.” Letty snarled.

“How do you know that?” Andrea snarled back, arms crossed on her chest.

“Observation.” Daryl snapped, looking at the ground.

“Observation, three syllables didn’t expect someone like you to know that word.” Andrea growled.

Letty looked irritated, her lips curling up. “Bitch.” She snapped at Andrea. Scud looked at Letty his eyebrows raised, as he felt her hold on him tighten.
“They are all shot in the head, no walkers did this. Humans did.” Daryl looked at Rick, exasperated, clearly ignoring Letty’s anger.

Andrea made a noise in her throat. Like she was choking.

“Observation, ever looked at a dictionary or encyclopedia.” Daryl said, angrily at Andrea. “I wouldn’t be worried about their bodies or the dead, I’d be more worried about whoever the fuck did this.” Daryl stomped off, dragging Letty with him.

Alone, they stood on the stair well for a while. Daryl just held her for a long time, letting her press her head into the center of his chest. Daryl heaved a deep breath. The last two months with Letty had been the first time he had felt anything even related to family, losing Merle was unfortunate, but they had bigger things to worry about right now. Playing house with Letty and Scud had always been fun.

The very fact that some human had felt the need to kill harmless elderly people, take the weapons and medicine that the nursing home had to offer disturbed him. Letty looked up after a long minute. “Let’s go eat with the others, and figure out what the plan is.” She took his hand in hers, and kissed his knuckles affectionately. “Don’t worry, we can take care of each other, promise.”

“Don’t like her do ya.” Daryl asked, dipping his head slightly.

“Andrea? Fuck no.” Letty snapped, raising her lips to his, and kissing him softly. Daryl led her back to where the others were gathered, and they looked at their meager supplies.

Once the food was separated for them all Shane opened the last bit of alcohol from the CDC, “Nicked it in case we needed it, later.” He laughed a little. Daryl reached for it hungrily, and took a large swig.

After they ate, Rick called a meeting of the men outside, Glenn was clearly upset, and was losing his calm. When Daryl returned he took his seat next to Letty, instantly she snuggled against him, pressing her face into his chest. Scud rested against them both, sitting in both their laps. Lori, Carol, Andrea, Carl, and Sophia were already fast asleep, after eating. T-Dog was on first watch. Shane, Glenn, and Dale stretched out in the middle of the room, snoring. Rick’s eyes met Daryl’s and he raised his eyebrows.

Daryl looked conflicted, just sitting there, in Rick’s opinion. Daryl was clearly fighting something inside of himself and the little girl in his arms, was the catalyst of the battle. Rick thought about his conversation with Lori, and realized how much he must have hurt her, but she had hurt him, hell how long had she and Shane been sneaking around behind his back? Since before he was shot? Was that possible?

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Rick started the car up first thing that morning. And headed them towards Fort Benning. Carl, Scud, Lori, Carol, and Sophia were in the SUV with him. Ahead of him he could see Daryl and Letty on the on the bike. Lori giggled.

“What?” Asked Rick, interested in knowing what could make her smile.

“Just thinking about our trip to the Grand Canyon with Carl.” They were both laughing.

“I don't remember that.” Carl snapped.

“No, you wouldn't. You were just a baby.” Lori offered.

“Besides, we never made it past Fort Worth.” Rick added.

“No, you got sick.” Lori agreed.

“I never knew a baby could throw up so much.” A shiver seemed to run down Rick’s spine at the comment, but Lori laughed a little harder.

“Ick.” Carl mumbled.

“Yeah, ick.” Rick agreed. Then, “The doctor in Texas said you'd live.”

Lori nodded, “Then we turned around and drove home.”

“That sucks.” Carl sighed.

“No, it was a good trip.” Lori asserted.

“The best.” Rick laughed.

“Can we go see it?” Carl asked.

“The Grand Canyon?” Rick raised his eyebrows.

“I'd like to.” Carl asserted.

“I would too.” Sophia almost begged.

“Can I come, and Letty?” asked Scud.

“Can we go?” Carl asked once more.

“We'd never go without you and your mom.” Lori said, looking back at Sophia and Carol.

“OR without you and Letty, Scud.” Rick started. “That's a promise.” Rick said.

“Let’s go then, after Benning!” Carol suggested, smiling.

Chapter Text

“Daryl.” He felt Letty shift.

“Hm?” He asked, carefully.

“Since we are kind of… in a relationship, shit we always have been… could you tell me about that night?”

Daryl fell silent. “The night we took you from your house?”

“Yea, that night.” She whispered. She was behind him, her chin on his shoulder, gripping him hard as the bike roared ahead.

“Told ya about it, already.” Daryl grumbled.

“Sorta, the whole story would you. I don’t remember it, my brain sorta blocks it out.”

“A’ight, dun get your panties in’a bunch. Merle and yer dad knew each other, and yer dad made off with some of Merle’s meth. So we were just gonna fetch it, is all. Then Merle and ‘ah saw how yer dad hit ya and yer mom. So we waited a bit, ta see what was happenin’, and he came at ya with the fire. Tha next thing ‘ah knew Merle was runnin’ in, and he shot yer dad. We planned on leavin’ ya, but when tha time came I couldn’t.” Daryl paused. “Ya were standin’ there in yer punk footy pjs covered in blood from one of yer parents, and ya had that damn little doll in yer hands the one ya gave Sophia.”

“So, you wanted to save me, that is why you kept me.” She mused.

“Nah, I… I like the thought of havin someone to look aft’r.” Daryl said after a long moment. “When the sirens started, I just grabbed ya, and ran. Merle fussed at me for days. Shit, for most’a the first year, ya was with us.” Daryl mused.

“I remember, he scared me. All the time.” Letty mumbled.

“Then once ya were with us, ‘ah never found the place ‘ah felt comfortable leavin ya, so ya ended up doin’ unspeakable things jus’ like us.” Daryl grumbled.

“I became a Dixon, Daryl, no big deal there.” She laughed and settled around him. “Thank you.”

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

The RV gave out later that afternoon. “I said it. Didn't I say it? A thousand times. Dead in the water.” Dale was growling as he talked animatedly to the RV’s engine and anyone within ear shot.

“Problem, Dale?” Shane asked, his head cocked to the side.

“Just a small matter of being stuck in the middle of nowhere with no hope of-- Okay, that was dumb. If you can't find a radiator hose here...” Dale was mostly talking to himself, but they understood. There was something wrong with the Radiator.

“There's a whole bunch of stuff we can find.” Glenn offered, motioning around them at the cars and such.

“I can siphon more fuel from these cars for a start.” Shane agreed.

“Maybe some water. Or food.” Andrea added.

“This is a graveyard.” Lori asserted, chills running up her body.

“I don't know how I feel about this.” Carol agreed.

“All right, all right, here we go.” Shane was muttering.

“Come on, y'all. Just look around, gather what you can.” T-Dog felt as bad about it as they others did.

“Which one?” Glenn asked as he grabbed a tool.

“The Flathead. Radiator hose clamp is always a Flathead.” Dale started to take it, then decided against it. “Here, you do it. Learn something.” Then Dale started instructing Glenn how fix it.

Daryl rode ahead, and returned Letty climbed off. “Nothin’ for a while.” He offered Rick.

“Let’s look around, see what we see.” Rick ordered.

“’Mone, kids.” Letty led Carl, Scud, Sophia to pick through the cars. Each step took them further away. They were playing by one of the cars, when she caught Rick’s eye and he motioned behind him. “Get down.” She hissed. Pushing the kids under the nearest car, then she rolled in between them. She pressed a knife to them. “Stab in the head.”

Silence overtook them. She covered their mouths, forcefully with her hands. She couldn’t see anything. Her eyes met with T-Dog and Daryl, they were laid under the bodies of two walkers not far ahead of her. Daryl had tilted his head enough to lock eyes with her. Fear, real fear, was inching its way into his orbs. She shivered, continuing to hold the kids to her. Carl had snaked an arm around her, as if he needed to be anchored to her to be alive. Scud was beside Carl, on the far side, clinging to him.

When it seemed clear, Sophia breathed easily, but a walker dropped down beside them, and snarled. Letty thought fast, shoving all three kids out from under the car, and across the guard rail, she was running hard, holding a hand of each child, and headed into the forest. She ran hard, pulling them with her until she reached a mangrove like tree, its roots protruding from the earth. She pushed them in. “Don’t move.” She ordered.

Carl nodded, holding Sophia to him, Scud who was the smallest was pressed between him and the roots, and watched limply as Letty crawled away, her knife drawn. He saw the first walker hit the water, and she stabbed it in the head, he could hear more walkers moving on the ridge above them.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Daryl was up the moment he saw her cross the guard rail. He was over, both Rick and Shane behind him, no hesitation. They followed the tracks, but found no sign of the three of them, except on the far side of the creek bed. Where Sophia’s doll had been dropped. Daryl picked it up, and cursed. It was bloody like the first time he saw it. “If Letty is alright, they will be fine until the morning. Let’s head back, and start again tomorrow.”

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Letty took out the other two walkers with ease, and returned to the mangrove, she took both Sophia and Scud’s hands and motioned for Carl to follow her, and started to pull them across the creek, towards a shelter she had saw, it was late in the day, and she knew she could not retrace her steps in the dark, when a walker appeared out of nowhere. In the hustle, Sophia dropped her doll.

Letty ran hard and fast, Sophia in her arms, scared, and Carl holding on to her arm, Scud clinging to her shirt. The moment she heard the church bells, she could have screamed in excitement. “Come on.” She urged them. They slipped in and secured the doors behind them, she turned and shivered. Four walkers were in the church, just standing. “Aim for the head, Carl, if they get close. You and Sophia don’t move.” Letty moved on the first walker, sinking her blade into its head, it took her longer than normal to pull the blade back and in that time two were on her, she killed the first one, and was struggling with the second when a third dropped into the fray. Two hungry mouths chomping at her.

Both Sophia and Carl moved in unison, each one stabbing a walker in the head. Letty smiled, shoving the bodies off of her, and clambering up. It took her a few minutes but she secured as much of the church as she could, and they found a small room in the back they could sleep in, with no windows. Scud was shaking in his boots, she feared this world was not made for him, not anymore. Without Merle to mold and harden him she wondered if he would be able to do what was needed.

She laid down flat, and soon both Sophia and Carl were snuggled against her. Scud rested on top of her, something she had done since he was little. Every sound that night made her jump. She never once closed her eyes, refusing instead to watch the light as it flickered through the boarded up window.

As the sun rose she led the children outside, there were no walkers she could see, and the light rain falling on them would make retracing their steps impossible. “Alright, kiddos. We have a problem.” She sighed, letting them know it was a slightly serious problem. “The rain from last night and this morning will have washed away all the tracks we made yesterday. We won’t be able to backtrack to our family. However, if Daryl hears the bells from the church, he will look for us here, trust me.”

They nodded. “So what is the plan?” Sophia asked. Her hand laced in Scud’s.

“First, we get those bodies out of the church, and we kind of fortify it so we can be safe here.” She told them. Soon she and Carl were pulling the four dead members from the church while Sophia was checking for supplies. By midday, when the bells rang, walkers started to mull around, Letty drug the kids back into their hiding room. She shushed them and they settled into silence.

Chapter Text

“Ya hear that?” Daryl asked as they followed the creek bed.

“What?” Shane snapped.

“Church bells, shush.” Daryl ordered. Of course. It was almost hauntingly wonderful, a church in the middle of nowhere. How fitting. The first night Letty had been with them after they killed her family, they had taken refuge in a church, as a family lost during a bad tropical storm, the church folks had given her new clothes.

Silence overfell the group. Then they heard the faint sound of the bells, Daryl started pushing them towards that. Everyone but Dale and T-Dog were out searching. “Church, shelters” Rick agreed.

They wound their way through the forest, and stumbled upon a church. There was no steeple, but the bells started ringing all the same. “It’s a box.” Glenn said, moving around the side to turn the noise off. “Hey, I found some recently killed walker bodies.”

“Huh?” Daryl followed him. “Letty did this.”

“How do you know?” Rick asked, surveying the area, eyes narrowed.

Daryl pointed to the church wall, in blood Letty had wrote. “We are ok, all four of us, too many walkers, headed back into the woods.” Daryl sighed, “I am going to follow the tracks, over there,” He pointed to the ground. “Yew lot stay here.” He ordered. Then he was off briskly walking after the four sets of impressions on the ground.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

“Father, forgive me. I don't deserve your mercy. I prayed for safe passage from Atlanta and you provided. I prayed for Ed to be punished for laying his hands on me and for looking at his own daughter with whatever sickness was growing in his soul. I prayed you'd put a stop to it, give me a chance to raise her right, help her not make my mistakes. She's so fearful. She's so young in her way. She hasn't had a chance. Praying for Ed's death was a sin. Please, don't let this be my punishment. Let her be safe, alive and safe. Please, lord. Punish me however you want, but show mercy on her.” Carol was praying, slow and steady inside the church. Rick, Lori, and Glenn watched on.

“Daryl found tracks, he is following them, four sets. They were here, they got away when they could.” Rick offered when she stopped, tears were forming in her eyes, Lori sank down beside her, and held her in her arms. Lori was trying hard not to think about her and Shane’s argument, Shane would be leaving soon, breaking off on his own, and it was her fault. She had her own sins, she knew, but this, taking Shane from Rick and Carl would be her biggest.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

“I’m coming with you.” Andrea snapped, looking at Shane.

“I don't know what the hell you're talking about.” Shane was stalking away from where he and Lori had argued, his mind clouded and looking for an exit strategy.

“I'm not stupid and I'm certainly not deaf. Look, I don't know the story.” Andrea was following him, clearly up to something, he stopped and looked at her.
“There is no story.” He finally said. “None.”

“Fine, I don't care. Don't confuse me with someone who does. Look, all I care about is getting out of here as far away as I can, like you.” Andrea sneered back at him, her hands on her hips.

“We're gonna sail off into the sunset together? We gonna hold hands?” Shane growled, his sarcasm biting at her.

“I'm not asking you to go steady, Shane.” Andrea rolled her eyes dramatically, “I'm asking for a ride, a chance to start over somewhere else. You observe this group lately? I have. I see two people who don't belong. We're the odd men out. Between the two of us, we make a great third wheel.”
She was right and he knew it, he shuffled his feet and heaved a sigh. “So what? Say we do, we just run off. What's in it for me except for the extra ass I got to cover?”

He was taking her bait, Andrea smiled a little. “The chance to do something for someone else.”

“Yeah.” Shane snapped.

“And a door that swings both ways. Put a gun in my hand, I'll cover your ass too.” Andrea smiled, as cute as she could at him.

Shane scoffed, but realized she was his best bet of making it out of there, and keeping his shit together, he really hated to think about it, but she was cute enough girl, might even be fuckable some.

“Think it over.” She said, when she saw Rick exit the church she stepped away.

“Got to move here, man. These people are spent. There's only so many hours of daylight left. We still got a long way back.” Shane sort of half walked, half darted towards Rick.

“We wait a little longer for Daryl.”

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Letty was sore and tired, the running had worn her thin, and she had nothing to keep her moving other than the children. About fifteen walkers had been behind them, but she had hopes that she had outsmarted them, or at least confused their noses. She had covered the four of them in walker bile and they were resting in a clearing.

She had been making sure to take deep enough steps to keep them moving, keep them going, and to keep Daryl tracking her. Not long after they settled in and she had them comfortable, the kids were in a hollow log she had found, Daryl spilled out of the tree line, his back to her, a walker on him.

She surged forward, knifing the walker in the temple. It fell away and Daryl looked into her eyes, searchingly. The brown orbs were inviting and open. He smiled, she smiled. “Come out, loves.”

The kids moved out of the log, and joined them. Daryl was standing, and looking at Letty. “Loretta.” He breathed. “Don’t you ever do that shit again.” He kissed her then, dragging her to him, holding her tight. “Scud, thank god!” He then picked his nephew up and hugged him to him.

“I promise I won’t.” She laughed. “They are exhausted. I pushed them too hard.”

“Come on, Carl, piggy back ride?” Daryl watched as the little boy excitedly moved to climb up his back. Then he watched as Sophia once more climbed on Letty’s back. He then picked Scud up, and carried the youth forward.

“Your name is Loretta?” He heard Sophia whisper behind him.

“Uhhu, Loretta Pearl. Letty is something Merle came up with, cause Loretta didn’t suit me.” She explained, walking along behind Daryl.

Each step they made pulled them back towards the church but by the time they made it there, the group was gone. In the distance Daryl heard a gunshot. He frowned, so did Letty.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

“We should have waited on Daryl.” Rick snapped, looking at Shane with anger in his eyes.

“Yea, want him to hold your hand to?” Shane shot back, angry.

They had separated after the church, Glenn leading Carol back to the RV, with Andrea. Rick and Shane had decided to press forward, and Lori had decided to go with them.

They had reached a fork in the path sometime later, and Rick found himself and Shane arguing once more, Lori was a few feet in front of them, when a large buck and his two does appeared. Lori shushed them violently and moved forward, ever softly. Her hand outstretched.

It was a beautiful moment, Lori with her long dark hair carefully moving forward, each step calculated to touch one of the trusting animals, her hand in front of her. Then it wasn’t. A gunshot broke the silence and Lori crumpled. Rick screamed, so did Shane.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

“That was a gunshot.” Andrea looked around, her face pale.

“Yeah, it was, we keep moving though, I am on orders to get you two back to the road.” Glenn argued.

“It was just one, though.” Carol was confused.

“Daryl nor Letty had guns, so it wasn’t with the children.” Andrea mused.

“Then Rick? Shane? Lori?” Carol was even more distraught.

“We head back to the road; we meet up with them as planned that’s all it is.” Glenn argued.

“No, we should.” Andrea started, but a rustling in the trees made her pause, her knife up.

“We head to the RV.” Daryl snarled, Carl asleep on his back and Scud out cold in his arms, behind him Letty emerged, a sleeping Sophia in her arms. Carol shot forward, cupping the child’s face in her hands.

“Dehydrated.” Letty managed as she stumbled forward. Glenn stepped up and scooped Sophia from her arms. Andrea made her way to Letty, and decided to help support her.

“Let’s move.” Daryl ordered, he didn’t want to tell them that several walkers were just behind them, he didn’t think he needed to. Letty was tired, they all were, and each step seemed to weaken them, they were spent as a group, and he could see it.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

“No, no, no, no!” Rick was screaming, holding Lori in his arms.

A man stumbled from the brush, pain on his face. “What have I done?”

“You shot her!” Shane snapped.

“The deer,” The heavy set man paused, “I can fix this, my man, Hershel, he can fix her, come on. Names Otis, let’s move.” Otis was leading them away now.

“Come on. Hey, you move, dickhead! Come on, get us there!” Shane ordered the man, they now knew as Otis to move them along the trail faster.

“How far?” Rick asked, Lori’s body unnaturally heavy in his arms.

“How far?” Shane echoed.

“Another half mile, that way! Hershel, talk to Hershel-- He'll help your wife. I'm sorry.” Otis panted.

“Let's go-- Come on!” Shane ordered dragging the man up.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

“DAD!” Maggie screamed, her heart racing as she saw a man advance on their lawn, a woman in his arms.

“Mags.” Hershel stepped on to the front porch, and saw the man. “Is she bit?”

“No.” Rick stammered. “Shot, your man shot her.”

Hershel frowned. “Come in, let’s move, IV Maggie, now.”

Chapter Text

Daryl led them back to the RV, and once they placed both kids inside the RV, Letty was pacing by the bike, drinking water down. “Rick, Shane and Lori, they are just gone?” She snarled. “Great.”

Daryl heaved a sigh, and looked at Letty. She didn’t look seventeen not in that moment. Her hair was a mess and she looked unnaturally pale. T-Dog was talking, mumbling, uncontrollably.

“DARYL DIXON!” A woman on horseback was yelling at them, she had short auburn hair.

“That’s me, now stop yer yellin, woman wha ya want with me?” Daryl snapped.

“Rick Grimes sent me, his wife was shot.” The woman paused. “He said y'all would be out here, I need ta take someone back with me, to help him. An’ tha rest of ya follow behind.”

Letty stepped forward. “Dar, help me up, ok.”

“I dun like this.” Daryl snapped.

“I know, love, I do, but come on, Rick needs me, follow us back.” Daryl cupped his hands and she climbed onto the back of the horse with the young woman.

“My name is Maggie.” He heard the auburn hair girl say as they headed off.

“Letty is my name, tell me what happened exactly.” Letty pressed.

“Well, our family friend, Otis accidentally shot Lori, he was shooting a deer, and it seems like it went through the deer.” Maggie offered.

The horse ride was not comfortable, Letty had never liked the beast, and she was not a fan of the animals in general, this particular horse seemed larger than any other animal she had ever seen. As they reached the front of the house, Letty could not slip down fast enough, she darted into the house. “RICK!”

Rick’s head shot up and he saw Letty. “They found you?”

“I kept them safe, Daryl has them.” She responded, hugging him.

Rick smiled, letting her hug him tightly. “Lori needs blood.” He explained.

“What kind is she?” Letty hoped that they would be lucky, she could tell that Rick was not a match to Lori, by the drawn look on his face.
“O positive.” Rick responded.

“I am O positive.” Letty offered. “We found out before the turn, Merle broke my ribs and we were at the hospital, so they tested my blood. We skipped out without paying…” She mumbled.

“Thank god!” A man behind her exclaimed.

“This is Hershel, he is a doctor.” Rick explained. “Would you give Lori your blood.”

Shane joined them, Letty looked at his face, he was just as stricken as Rick. “Yea.” She whispered, sitting on the bed next to Lori.

Hershel was talking again, “Bullet went through it. Went clean through. The deer slowed the bullet down, which certainly saved his life, but it did not go through clean. It broke up into pieces. If I can get the bullet fragments out... And I'm countin' six.” She felt the needle slip into her skin, and breathed in hard. “I don’t have the supplies here to fix this.”

“We could go to the FEMA place, where they set up, they probably have everything we would need.” Otis said after a long minute.

“I’ll go.” Shane snapped.

“I’ll show you the way.” Otis argued.

“I’ll help.” Jimmy agreed.

After they left Rick looked at Letty for the first time, really, since he met her. “Once you were older, why didn’t you tell someone?”

“Daryl is my life. Been takin’ care of him and Merle since I was about seven, they needed someone to look after them, Dar he ain’t like Merle. He is like their uncle Jesse – he was the man Dar called father, me too, until he got shot. Merle… well, he has a way of bringin’ bad things round. Scud when he came, well I couldn’t leave him. He is the one who called Merle dad. But he has always called me mom. ” She offered, her eyes were tired.

“How old are you?”

“I think I am seventeen, after the spring, I should be eighteen.” She offered, yawning.

“Do you remember your life before?” Rick asked, as she sank down next to him in the only chair in the room, her one leg over his, cuddling to him, she shivered. The second transfusion was set up, already, and Hershel raised an eyebrow at Rick, as he silently left the room.

Rick hugged her to him, realizing how small she really was under all the dirt and grime, he threw the blanket over them both. “No.” She snuggled. “I… Daryl had a newspaper clipping, so we could remember my full name, it’s Loretta Pearl Jones.”

Rick’s heart thundered in his chest. “Letty, that is the first case Shane and I worked on, Lori and I named Carl after your brother, we never found your body, and we searched everywhere.” Rick sighed. “Neither of your parents had family that were interested in finding you. When we finished the academe we were sent to Tampa to work for a year to gain experience. Letty, I was the officer who never stopped looking for you!”

Letty raised her head and smiled weakly. “Ya found me, Officer Rick.”

Rick chucked. “I am so glad you were not dead, Merle… he killed a lot of people that night, he robbed a store…” His voice trailed off.

“Daryl wanted me to have a blanket, and shoes… and food that night.” She sighed, closing her eyes. “Made Merle knock off the seven eleven.”

“Letty, I had pictures of you, of potential sightings of you all over my wall.” Rick told her, he looked down and realized she was once more asleep. That night when he dreamed with her on his lap, he remembered the crime scene. There had been a void in the blood, he realized from her two little feet, where she had probably stood in fear, he could see vividly in his mind, Daryl’s younger self jerking the girl into his arms and yelling at Merle.

He realized when he woke some time later that Daryl had probably more than risked his life for Letty. Merle had left marks on his brother for saving her life, for sparing her.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Letty endured another two transfusions, and was passed out in a sitting chair, when Shane, Jimmy, and Otis returned. Maggie, who was barely 18, and Beth, who had just turned 14, were both instantly interested in the sleeping form. Both hovering by the doorway, their eyes glancing at Letty, “Leave her be.” Shane ordered them. “She is not a pretty little girl for you to play with. She belongs to a surly angry redneck.” Both looked at him confused.

Surgery was going well, for the most part. A lot of Lori screaming in pain and both Shane and Rick holding her down. It was first light, after a long night, when she heard the cars. Instantly Letty was up, her body moving her. She saw Daryl as he climbed off the bike, and she rushed forward, throwing herself into his arms.

Daryl was knocked off his feet by her tackle, and taken aback by her affection. It was too early in the morning for her to be this awake, he reasoned with himself. He felt her body press into him, and groaned. Mid-groan her mouth sank to his, and he kissed back after a long moment, his hands gripping her.

“Get a room!” T-Dog coughed. Shouldered between Dale and Glenn as they helped him into the house. Soon the kids spilled from the RV with Andrea and Carol in tow.

Letty pulled back, her brown eyes searching. “Don’t stop.” She heard him growl, before her lips found his again, and his head was swimming. For a moment he forgot where they were, what was going on, then she pulled back again. “Letty.” He breathed, then pushed her off sharply. “The fuck you doing?”

She laughed. “Daryl, I just missed you, now come on.” She stood, and reached her hand down, Daryl accepted it and she pulled him to his feet. “Rick is in side.”

Daryl tilted his head, then headed inside, her behind him. The exchange was not missed by their group or those who lived on Hershel’s farm. Once inside she sank down at the table next to Jimmy. “That your boyfriend.”

“Hm, nah, that’s Daryl.” She answered. She didn’t actually have a title for him. “He has been my friend, brother, father, lover… pretty much everything.” She explained.

“How does that work?” Hershel asked as he sat down at the table.

“I had a rough childhood, he did too. Daryl and his brother Merle took me from my family when I was four.” She explained.

“So, they kidnapped you.” Hershel asked.

“We don’t talk about it.” Rick’s voice was gruff and haunted when he spoke. Hershel’s head snapped up. “She is better for it, trust me.”

Hershel nodded slowly, he was not sure if he trusted Rick or not, but he didn’t see him as a threat. Rick returned to his place next to Lori, Carl and Scud were tucked into bed with Sophia. IV’s and fluid pumping into all three of them. Letty excused herself from the table and joined the others setting up their tents outside of the house.

“Ya stay down here, with Carol and Sophia, ya take care of them. Keep Scud with you.” Daryl told Letty as he stalked off towards the edge of the property. Where he planned to set up his camp. She nodded after him.

“Hey, are we hunting later?”

“Yeah.”

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

“Bethy, can I borrow some real clothes.” Beth nodded.

“Come on, Letty.” Beth led her up the stairs. Once upstairs Beth dug out the only thing she knew for sure would fit Letty, Letty was wider in hips and chest then Beth but a good six inches shorter than her. She pressed the summer dress to her.

Beth blushed when Letty just tossed her clothes off, no modesty to her frame. She pulled the dress on, and smiled warmly before accepting the offered socks, and tugging her own boots once more on. She made her way down the stairs, and out onto the front lawn. She stretched, the dress riding up. It had been Beth’s a couple years ago, before she got too tall to wear it, but even now, when she stretched the hem rose up her thighs. Daryl looked at her. “Not much to your clothes, huh?”

“Shut up, dickhead, when Maggie gets back with Glenn gonna ask her for some pants or leggings. My hips are wider than Beth’s.” Daryl blushed a bit, but nodded.

“Lori doing ok?” Daryl asked.

“’Ah think so.” She mumbled.

Daryl nodded. “Let’s get a move on then, Hershel is alright with us saddling up a horse, and us hunting from it.” Letty nodded, walking along after Daryl. He tacked the horse for them, and he climbed into the saddle. She handed him her machete then let him help her up behind him. She held on to him much like she would if they were on the bike.

The horse ride was uneventful at best until they reached a cliff, tree line. As they moved across it, the horse was already spooked, the snake just made it worse. The horse bucked wildly, sending both Letty and Daryl off its back, and tumbling down the cliff face. Letty hit the rocks, Daryl crushing into her next, she jerked wildly. The blot discharging from the crossbow, embedded through her ribs and into Daryl’s stomach, the bolt was just long enough the tip of the arrow could be seen through his lower abdomen. The back ribbings of the bolt through her lower back, on her second lowest rib. They hit the water next. Daryl on top of her, she groaned. “Shit.”

Daryl stood, making her scream out in pain. “Shit.” He whimpered. She broke the back of the arrow off, hissing. She drew the knife from her boot, with his help, and cut the bolt from in between them. She fell backwards into the water, gasping. Daryl slammed forward, groaning.

“How far did we fall?” He asked, feeling his side gingerly.

“Pretty fucking far.” Letty was standing again. Her own fingers ghosting the bolt in her ribs.

“Think we can travel back by creek or head back up the cliff?” Daryl looked woozy, and slightly irritated. It took them a few minutes to find the crossbow in the water, she carefully shouldered it. She heaved a hard sigh and looked around at him, he was bleeding pretty bad.

Letty reached for Daryl, and sighed. Their bodies crashed together, into the mud bank. “I think we should climb.”

Daryl hissed. “The creek could get us lost, yer right.”

Letty started first, climbing Daryl fisted his hand in her shirt. Doing his best to hold on as she climbed. Each attempt to move them higher only hurt more, contorting their sides and making them gasp for pain. Daryl lost his footing, and tugged her down hard with him. She slammed onto the ground next to him. “FUCK.” She snarled.

Taking deep even breaths, she growled. A walker emerged from the tree cover. She stood, somewhat shakily, as the monster made its way towards her, she waited almost impatiently, then stabbed it in the head, as it got near.

She turned to look at Daryl, her eyes wild. “Come on, Dar, we got to climb…”

Her voice in his head sounded like Merle’s and it made him both relieved and worried. The spurring was more than enough to get him up and going. He climbed first this time, her shouldering him when she needed to keep him moving. They climbed to the top, her shoving wildly to get him over the lip, and then she scrambled up, tossing the crossbow from her, vomiting harshly, her ribs constricting around the bolt. The second fall had landed her on the crossbow, and she could feel fresh blood on her lower back. She was more than sure the bow had cut into her.

Daryl was groggy at best. She panted, getting her footing, dragging Daryl further away from the edge. “Hey old man, get up.” She growled, his eyes snapped open, and he glared at her, trying to shove her off, each move made his body ache even more. “Old man, lets go I ain’t playin, it’ll be dark soon, and we can’t fight walkers like this, now get the fuck up.” Again her voice seemed to blend with ghost Merle’s in his mind.

He struggled to his feet, she tied the strap of the cross bow to her wrist, and wrapped an arm around him. The dress Beth had loaned her was ripped and frayed, she would have to apologize for that. Daryl struggled against her, and moaned what she thought was Merle, but she just growled at him. “Fuck, Daryl, I ain’t playing this game right now, let’s fuckin’ go.”

Daryl ambled next to her, letting her guide him, pain etched into his face, visions of Merle dancing in his head. It was late evening when they made it to the edge of the tree line, she grinned at herself. Thinking about the four walkers they had managed to somehow kill. Daryl had stolen their ears, in pleasure, talking lamely to Merle, she just rolled her eyes at him, and urged him forward.

She could hear him mumbling under his breath every once in awhile, the one that stuck out to her was “Hell, you ain't here now. Guess some things never change.” She rationalized that Daryl was talking about all the times Merle left them.

She remembered spending her tenth birthday in a jail cell with Daryl and a very tiny three year old Scud, because Merle had disappeared. It was a one of the many times in her life that she remembered Merle disappearing on them, he led them face first into danger, then was gone the moment the proverbial shoe dropped, her and Daryl holding the stolen goods. More than once in her upbringing Daryl had talked his way out of tough situations, or relied on the little girl to bat her big brown eyes at the officers and say “Uncle Merle musta done it, Daddy has been here with me and the baby, all night, playin’ monopoly!” And then she would drag the cop into the hotel room, and show him the monopoly board, mid game and all. Sometimes she would even tell them all about Scud.

If he wanted to pick this moment to lose his shit, she was guaranteed a moment later to flip shit on him about him kidnapping her. Not that she regretted it, he was literally the best fucked up thing to ever find her. She stumbled, Daryl trying to catch her, she could see Rick through blurry vision. She heard Daryl snap something about the gun in his face, their bodies almost situated, still leaned forward when a shot ripped through the air.

Her collarbone felt like a bolt of lightning was ripping through her, the bullet pushed through her, and grazed Daryl’s head, they both dropped. “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” Rick screamed, dragging Letty up, “Get him.” He ordered T-Dog, who threw Daryl over his shoulder. Dale was on them now, and they were rushing to the house. “HERSHEL!”

Chapter Text

Camp was pretty uneventful. Rick had told the others earlier in the morning that Daryl and Letty were going out hunting. Something the group was used to. Something wonderful for them, it meant fresh meat. “Andrea, you take watch.” Rick ordered.

Glenn and Dale were working on the RV, Shane was cleaning and breaking down the guns, teaching T-Dog what he needed to do to oil them. Carol was helping Patricia, Beth, and Maggie do laundry. Both Carl and Sophia were working on school work, Rick was adamant that they continue to learn, and Jimmy was standing over them watching him.

“Walker. Walker!” Andrea shouted, catching everyone's attention.

“Just the one?” T-Dog asked, looking along the tree line.

“I bet I can nail it from here.” Andrea cooed.

“No no,” Rick ordered.

“Andrea. Put the gun down.” Dale almost begged.

“You'd best let us handle this. Shane, hold up.” Rick was rushing after them as they were running. “Hershel wants to deal with walkers.”

“What for, man? We got it covered.” Shane called back.

“Andrea, don't.” Dale ordered.

“Back off, Dale.” Andrea screamed at him.

As they were nearing the walker, Rick paled. “Is that Daryl?” T-Dog asked. Rick and the others had their guns raised.

“That's the third time you've pointed that thing at my head. You gonna pull the trigger or what?” Daryl snapped, Letty supporting him, she was trying to get them standing up straight when a shot ripped through the air.

“No! No! No!” Rick was chanting. “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” Rick screamed, dragging Letty up, “Get him.” He ordered T-Dog, who threw Daryl over his shoulder. Dale was on them now, and they were rushing to the house. “HERSHEL!”

“Rick! What on earth's going on out here?” Hershel was making their way towards them.

“I was kidding.” Daryl muttered weakly over T-Dog’s shoulder.

“Come on.” Rick urged them.

“Oh my God. Oh my God, are they dead?” Andrea had reached them mid field, her heart pounding.

“Unconscious.” Shane offered.

“You just grazed them.” Rick sighed, Letty’s head lolled awkwardly in his arms.

“But look at him. What the hell happened?” Shane quipped.

“He's wearing ears.” Dale whimpered.

Rick slowed up to behind T-Dog and jerked the ears from Daryl’s neck, pocketing them. “Let's keep that to ourselves.” He warned.

They made it to the front porch, with Hershel holding the door open, both Patricia and Beth rushing to the house, blankets in hand to use for strips of fabric.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

She groaned, she felt the itch of the cotton sheet and opened her eyes. Daryl was across from her, his eyes still closed. She knew her clothes had been stripped from her, her chest was wrapped up, she could feel the bandages. She knew that she probably had underwear on. Attempting to move, was a mistake. There was a bite of stitches on her lower back made her cringe, and the burning in her left shoulder made her growl. Daryl’s eyes fluttered open, locking on hers. “Dun move.”

She stilled, her head laying back down against the pillow they were sharing. “Got shot?”

He nodded. “Fell down a cliff twice, and got shot, but hell, we made it back, ya n’ me against tha world, right?” He grumbled.

“Haha.” She mocked, “Mhm, me n you Daryl Dixon.” He lamely reached out taking her hand in his and they drifted back to sleep. At some point Scud climbed into the bed between them.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Rick was getting used to being stuck in corner chairs watching members of his family struggling to be alive. Tonight he was intrigued by the relationship before him, Letty was holding Daryl’s hand, her forehead pressed against his. Scud was wedged between them.

Rick had known in the beginning that they were not siblings, but he had only ever considered them the very closest of friends, each day seemed to push them more towards something else. He had witnessed two kisses between them, and both were very sweet and usually centered around an emotionally charged situation.

Rick felt the tears burn his cheek. It had never been about finding Lori, she had long ago dissolved their marriage, they had played their roles good in front of the others, but Shane knew. They were in the death throes of a divorce when Rick was shot, when the turn happened.

He was learning, Daryl could easily fill the void left by learning Shane was the man his wife preferred, by realizing ultimately he would have to kill Shane, he realized also that he would need the strongest members of his group beside him. Shit, Daryl was already there for him, taking care of the kids, providing food.

Then there was Letty, the ever present helpful girl. Ready to help in any way that she could. She had taken to helping the kids, being there for them, she had given her own blood for Lori so she could survive, so she could be there for Carl, she had run with the children, kept them alive… she was a better wife in the last several weeks than Lori had been in thirteen years. Whatever was between Daryl and Letty Rick didn’t care about, he realized as long as they remained by his side, they were family to him now.

They had no clue what had happened in the woods and for the life of him he had no clue how Letty had gotten Daryl back. His ribs were bruised, and his whole body seemed to have just given out. Hershel even had raised his eyebrows at the years of abuse that lined Daryl’s back. He had looked even darker at the burns that licked up Letty’s back, the scars that littered her body from years of abuse. More curious to both men were the two hand shaped bruises on the little girl, one on her hip, and one on her shoulder. Whoever had held on to her, had done it with enough force to break her. Hershel had also made a small note that she had bruising between her thighs.

Rick had no clue where either of the hardened killers had gotten their wounds, and he told Hershel as much, but he was curious. After cleaning the gunshot wounds, Hershel had removed the bolt pieces from her ribs, and Daryl’s gut, then he had cleaned the open gash on her lower back. Lots of stitches. Hershel had openly complained about them running out of medical supplies.

In the end, they had propped them up, on their sides, facing each other in hopes that when they did wake they would not freak out. It was Letty who opened her eyes first, and blinked. “Rick.” She whispered.

“Yes, darling.” Rick was instantly by the bed, sitting behind her legs, and leaning forward, looking at her face with a curious expression.

“MOMMA!” Scud clung to her, holding her tight, “What happened?”

“Found a snake, horse threw us down a cliff, almost made it to the top. Daryl lost footing and we slammed down it again. Then… we fought off some walkers on the walk home, then we got shot…” She paused, licking her lips. “Who the fuck shot me?”

“Andrea, she didn’t mean to.” Rick managed, relieved she was ok.

“That bitch.” Daryl growled.

“Thank god you're both awake!” Rick awkwardly hugged them both.

“Where are our clothes?” Daryl managed to ask.

“Sorry, we didn’t mean to see your marks.” Hershel had joined them.

Letty looked at Daryl, her eyes searching for something. “The burns are from my daddy. He lit the house on fire, damn near killed me, killed two of my brothers. A wooden beam fell on my back, that was before Daryl and Merle rescued me.”

“What about the cuts on your legs?” Hershel asked, intrigued.

“Merle… Daryl…. William… Dixon’s show their love with violence.” She offered.

“How bout your bruises, on your shoulder, hip, and thighs?” Hershel asked next.

Letty looked at Daryl, conflicted. “They…”

“From sex.” Daryl grunted, his eyes were closed, tight, and he was more than blushing red at that point. Scud looked confused between Letty and Daryl.
Hershel looked at them carefully, and gave Rick a reproachful look. “What about you, son? What happened to your back?” Hershel asked.

“Dad and Merle got drunk some.” That was all he said. His eyes clamped shut. Letty shot both Hershel and Rick a look that made them regret the conversation.

“You have any marks from Merle?” Rick asked.

She nodded, raising her arm, to show the ribs that were not injured on the cliffs. A long knife wound ran down her side. “’Ah got one from that night too.” Daryl whispered through a clenched jaw. He felt Letty’s fingers ghost a mark on his collar bone. “We both got a lifetime of scars from him.”

“ME too.” Scud huffed, showing his stomach and shoulders. Hershel’s eyes were downcast.

“Pain medicine for both of you.” Hershel said, after a long minute.

“I won’t leave, won’t let anything happen to either of you.” Rick offered when they both looked at Hershel suspicion in their eyes.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

“I think he will forgive you, don’t know about Letty though.” Rick told Andrea as they sat at the breakfast table the next morning.

“I can’t believe I shot Daryl and Letty.” Andrea almost sobbed, her face in her hands.

“Don't be too hard on yourself. We've all wanted to shoot Daryl.” Rick joked.

Beth was carrying food up to Letty and Daryl. They had wiggled themselves to a sitting up position on the bed. “Hey.” Letty smiled a real smile at Beth.
“Hi Letty.” Beth blushed. “Sorry about not giving you real clothes. Maggie left these out for you.”

“Thank her for me, where is she?” Letty asked. “Keep an eye on Scud, would you?”

“Yes, and she went with your man Glenn to get supplies.” Beth explained.

“Ah, cause we burnin’ through yer daddy's medical junk huh?” Daryl’s voice seemed to surprise Beth.

In this room, looking so vulnerable almost fifteen-year-old Beth was amazed at how nice he sounded. “Something like that.” She smiled at him, offering him the plate.

“Daryl, this is Beth, Beth this is Daryl.” They nodded at each other. “Daryl is my best friend, and I wanna be your friend too Beth, so can you stand the thought of hanging out with him too.”

Beth nodded. “If daddy will let me.”

Both Letty and Daryl laughed. Letty looked at Beth for a long moment. “How is Jimmy?”

“He, he thinks you’re a goddess the way you kill the sick.” Beth explained.

“Jimmy is her boyfriend, I think.” Letty explained, feeling Daryl’s shoulders tense.

“Mhmm,” Daryl nodded, eating away at his plate. Then she started eating.

Beth was leaving the room, then, and Letty watched her go. “Who do ya think she is more ‘fraid of? Hm? Me or ya?” Daryl nudged her shoulder. She rolled her eyes.

“Dunno, safe money is on you though.” Letty laughed.

Daryl punched her uninjured shoulder. But cracked a smile at her anyway.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Letty was unconscious when Carol entered the room, her eyes alive with activity. Daryl was grateful for the women, she was pretty much the mother hen of the group, and she would be alive long after everyone else, he realized, because that was the hand she was dealt.

She tipped forward and hugged Daryl, slightly, trying not to wake Letty up. “Hey.”

“Watch out, I got stitches.” Daryl warned, not really avoiding the hug, but not enjoying it either.

“You need to know something. You two have done more for my daughter than anyone, you have done more than her daddy ever did in his whole life.” Carol looked proud of him in that moment.

“I didn't do anything Rick or Shane wouldn't have done.” Daryl looked uncomfortable. Letty if she was awake was playing the best game of possum he had ever seen, her face was pressed between his shoulder and the pillow, her breathing easy.

“I know. You're every bit as good as them. Every bit.” Carol said after a slight pause, she kissed him on the forehead and stood. “If anything happens to me, I want, I need you and Letty to be her keepers.”

“Carol…” Daryl growled.

“Promise me?” She pleaded.

“A’ight, ‘ah promise.” He said after a long moment, his eyes briefly meeting Carol's.

“Thank you.” She awkwardly hugged him again, then was gone.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Lori was awake that morning, and eating much to Rick’s enjoyment. He and Carl were spending time in the house, as Hershel allowed. Rick was relieved they were all here, all safe, but the constant threat of Shane never seemed far from his mind, he worried over him, and realized that he would not be able to survive the thought of Shane taking his place, ever.

Once Lori was better they would be moving on, Herschel had said as much, and he understood it. Hershel had not taken kindly to seeing a young girl, a child, tackle and kiss a much older redneck when they first arrived. Rick knew that it had been conformation, for himself, that Letty and Daryl were the most important players in the group other than himself and Shane, they were the ones who the kids trailed behind.

Rick looked at the door frame that led to Lori for a long moment before he headed outside. They had been lucky so far. Otis, Jimmy and Shane had managed to get supplies from the FEMA building and all three had come back, mostly unharmed. There was a change in the way Shane held his face, Rick had noticed it and he realized somewhat slowly that Daryl had also noticed it.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Letty and Daryl were up and moving before Hershel expected. They made it down by lunch. They pressed against each other and made a haphazard path down the stairs. “Shouldn’t be up.” Hershel called after them.

“Ain’t much for houses.” Daryl shouted back at him. They stumbled somewhat awkwardly to the RV, where Dale helped them both into the bed in the back.

“We are eating later tonight at the house.” Dale called them.

Daryl thundered into the bed, and drug her down with him, her head laying on his chest, their breathing evened out. Dale peaked in to see them, and smiled. Carol shushed Sophia and Carl as she ushered them from the RV, and checked back to look at Daryl once more. Dale guided Scud out of the RV, and watched as the little boy started playing with Carl and Sophia.

Chapter Text

Hershel found the kitchen alive with activity following his shower, he hated the sight of blood, always had and probably always would.

“Oh yeah? I never thought I'd be so happy to see a potato.” He heard Carol joke as he came down the stairs.

“I'm just glad we're not roasting squirrels over a fire in the woods.” Lori mused, her voice weak, sitting in a recliner, which had been pulled into the kitchen.

“Thank you, Patricia, so much for letting us into your house.” Carol smiled warmly, turning her attention back to Sophia.

“What's this?” Hershel asked, sighing.

“Lori and Carol are cooking dinner for us all tonight.” Maggie offered a smiled on her face.

Hershel sighed. “That's the first I've heard of it.” He then motioned for Maggie to follow him out of the room, and onto the porch.

“I didn't think it was that big a deal. They want to thank us for helping them.” Maggie shifted uncomfortably.

“We need to be setting clear boundaries with these people. They're getting a little too comfortable.” Hershel growled.

“It's just dinner.” Maggie fired back, her annoyance rising.

“What's going on with you and the Asian boy?” Hershel asked, his eyes narrowed.

“Glenn. He's a friend.” Maggie asserted.

“I'd rather he wasn't.. Bad enough I have to chase Beth and Jimmy around.” Hershel sighed, frustrated, he had had too many things to worry about before Otis shot the woman.

“Well, you don't have to chase me around. I'm not 14.” Maggie snarled.

“I know you're not. That's why I'm counting on you to be the mature one. You know how I feel. Please, don't make things harder than they need to be.” Hershel tried to be patient.

“I'm a little old for us to be having this conversation.” Maggie snarled, her irritation rising.

“Don't get close to them. They're not going to be around forever.” Hershel warned.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

When it was time to eat, they managed to work their way back to the house. They sank down at the table, Rick on one side of Daryl, and Letty on the other side of Daryl. “Sophia!” Letty kissed her forehead and snuggled her. Scud climbed into her lap, and Carl slipped in between Letty and Daryl somehow, leaning into both of them. Rick was starting to see that the family was changing, they were raising the kids together. Lori was asleep once more in the small room off to the side.

Shane and Dale were arguing softly about something related to the guns, which Hershel had requested they not have out and about on the farm. Carol had taken her spot next to Sophia, wedging between Sophia and Rick. T-Dog and Glenn were sitting side by side, teasing each other. Andrea found a seat between Shane and Dale, shoving them away and breaking up their hushed conversation.

Jimmy, Otis, Beth, Patricia, Hershel, and Maggie were setting at the far end of the table, everyone squished together. During dinner Letty watched Maggie and Glenn flirt. Her eyebrow raised slightly, as she locked eyes with Daryl over Carl, his eyes shimmered lightly, and she stuck her tongue out. Beth giggled. After dinner both Daryl and Letty made their way to the couch, slouching down and passing out.

“Mind if we leave them up here tonight?” Rick asked.

“Nah, they should be fine.” Maggie covered them up, and smiled.

“Lori will be alright for the night, Rick, get some sleep.” Hershel urged him, his eyes tipping towards the young girl and surly redneck.

“Hershel, she is an adult, and a killer just like all of us.” Rick whispered softly. Then headed out the door, dragging Carl with him.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Letty was more present in the days that followed the fall from the cliff face, always lurking. Rick could tell there was something bothering her. Her eyes were trained very constantly on Shane, who if anything was becoming more and more moody by the day. She did not allow Scud anywhere near him either.

She was searching through the RV, with Dale on watch, looking for a book she could read that she had not already read a thousand times, when she heard Glenn outside, then she heard Dale retort something along the lines of “She’s inside.” Something was wrong with Glenn. Letty couldn’t quite put her finger on it but he and Maggie were not talking anymore. He intentionally sought her out. “Letty, I need advice.” Glenn was pacing, his eyes locked on her.

She looked at him, as they stood in the RV. “Ok, I am way younger than you what could I help you with?”

“You’re not that much younger than me, I am only twenty.” Glenn snapped.

“Ok, four years, world of experience in those four years.” She laughed, easily, something Glenn was unsure about most days. Letty only had two laughs, one that was coarse and brooding and the other soft innocent almost like it should have come from Beth.

“There are walkers in the barn.” It just sort of spilled out.

It had been a week since the fall off the cliff and although she felt a lot better, hearing those words made her heart feel like a vice grip had tightened on it. “What? Show me.” She hissed. Not believing that these farmers would keep pet walkers.

“Now?” Glenn looked shaken.

“Yes.” She snapped.

Suddenly he felt her urgency too. “Ok.” He whimpered.

She strapped her machete’s to her thighs, and followed Glenn from the RV. They crept along the tree line, carefully out of sight of the others, all except Daryl, who felt a pang of jealousy wondering what his Letty was doing sneaking around with the Asian. It was anger he realized the emotion, as he watched them slip behind the barn.

Glenn hauled himself up, then reached down for her. Letty reached up with both arms, and he hauled her up. Once inside, she smelt it, the sour smell of death. She sank to her knees, eventually lying flat on her stomach, her arms and head over the side. Glenn found a place beside her.

“Shit. I can’t count how many.” She muttered, pulling a small knife from her back pocket. She slid her palm open, and let the blood drip down, watching as the walkers stopped pushing on the edges and moved to the center.

Glenn checked behind them, and when he heard her choked sob, he didn’t want to look. But he did, he peered down into the depths, and there was easily twenty of them. “Oh fuck.” She breathed, her face pale. She was on her hands and knees, then scooting away from the ledge.

Glenn followed her, “Shhuuuuuuush.” He moaned, “They will hear you.”

“We have to tell.” Her voice was broken, and tears stained her cheeks.

“I promised Maggie.” He grumbled.

“This is bigger than Maggie.” She snapped back, she was headed out the loft window before he could stop her, she was unfazed when she landed on the ground next to a standing Daryl who looked furious.

“The fuck you cryin' for?” His eyes were wild with rage.

“There are walkers in the barn.” She hissed, then showed her his hand. “Cut my hand is all.”

He kissed the palm of her hand, licking at her blood. She had found in their past that he liked the irony taste of blood and the tang it left in one’s mouth. She blushed as his open mouth kiss on her palm lasted longer than it should have.

Glenn dropped to the ground next to them, “Shit, what do we do?”

“We tell Rick. He can talk with Hershel about it.” Daryl answered. He looked at Glenn as if daring him to say something or do something other than what he said. Daryl pulled Letty along with him.

“Rick.” Daryl’s voice sounded harsh as he spoke their leader's name. “Can we have a word.”

Rick followed the three closer to the tree line. He cast an eye over his shoulder seeing T-Dog and Andrea with the small children.

“Hershel’s keep’n walkers in tha barn, man.” Daryl explained.

“Show me.” Rick ordered.

Once more Letty and Glenn ambled into the top of the barn, reopening her cut she allowed the blood to run down her fingers. Rick and Daryl joined them, belly’s pressed to the wood. “Shit.” Daryl hissed, tears brimming in his eyes.

“We leave this alone for now.” Rick told them. “Not a fucking word.” They agreed and rejoined the others. Shane had not missed the exchange and was curious about why they had climbed into the barn. For now, he would let it go, Lori was up and moving. He was grateful enough for that.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

“If you’re making a run into town, with Maggie, could you fetch something for me?” Lori asked, Glenn turned and faced her.

“Sure, what do you need.”

“I wrote it down.”

“What is it?”

“Quiet.” Lori warned.

“At least, where do I find it?”

“Try family planning.” She whispered.

Glenn swallowed hard, and tucked the paper into his pocket, when he turned Letty was not far from him, her eyes on his, and a small smile against her lips. She turned and headed out to where Daryl’s tent was pitched.

“Hey, Dixon!” She called, he turned to look at her.

“Letty.” His voice was deep and it held a warning.

“Listen, Dar, I wanna talk to ya.”

“Talk.” He commanded.

“Ya not talking to me?” She asked, irritated.

“What do ya mean?” He snarled.

“I kissed you, and then we went hunting, damn near died, and you have not so much as touched me since we left the house, since the barn.” She snapped, advancing on him.

“Listen, ‘ah shouldn’t be the one kiss’n ya.” Daryl snarled. “That Jimmy kid should.”

“That Jimmy kid is 16, and Beth is 14. I think he is spoken for.” She snapped, inching forward, into his personal space. “Daryl, you said you wouldn’t shut me out.”

Daryl swallowed hard, then his eyes met hers. She was too damn close, and she smelled so delicious. “Letty. Stop.”

“No.” She was quick, and caught him off guard, she knotted her hands in his hair which was starting to get shaggy, and drug his mouth down to hers. The kiss sent fire through him, making him curse her in his head. He found himself grabbing her waist, trying hard to anchor himself to her, to hold himself to the ground by holding on to her. The kisses were relentless.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Shane was pacing the perimeter, watching the world around him, when he saw Letty kissing Daryl, he would never really have considered the fact that Daryl was afraid, but watching them kiss, he realized Letty was the one in control. He sighed, he found it down right disgusting a woman in charge of the relationship. Hell, that had been his biggest dislike of Rick, the way he let Lori run him. But, shit, when his turn had come with Lori, he had let her run him to. Let her decide what was best, but only with choices he had already made.

He wondered if he could forget his time with Lori, if he had a nice piece of tail like Letty chasing him. Daryl, he reasoned, never really deserved the little girl, he had kidnapped her after all when she was four. How twisted, Shane thought, Daryl raised her to be his woman.

The thought made him angry, so angry he stomped towards the couple. Neither noticed his arrival, their lips still locked on each other, Shane grabbed the back of Letty’s head and jerked her away from him. Before she could stop them, both Shane and Daryl were throwing punches, she could not make out every word exchanged, but she got the jist of the argument.

Shane had gotten the better of Daryl, wrestling him to the ground, and pinning him, punching him again and again in the chest and face. Letty moved quickly, digging out the gun that had belonged first to Merle then to Daryl, she cocked it, and held it at Shane’s head. By now they had drawn a crowd, Rick was standing not far away, his mouth slightly open.

Shane looked at the little woman, her form good, gun held right, not even six inches from his head. “Shane, get the fuck off him or I will end you.” It was a warning, and her voice spoke volumes.

“I don’t think so, bitch.” Shane spat, hitting the gun with his hand, she didn’t falter, the gun didn’t move. Daryl punched him in the jaw, in an attempt to knock him to the side. “All yall talk about right and wrong, yet you let a kidnapper and his victim live like lovers.” He spat.

Andrea and Dale had joined Rick, Scud, Hershel, Glenn, Maggie, Carol, T-Dog, Carl and Sophia, as they watched the fight. It was late in the afternoon. Somewhere in the shade of the trees behind them, Lori was with Beth and Patricia.

“It’s not like that.” Letty snarled. “Daryl didn’t initiate this, I did. And it has nothing, nothing to do with him kidnapping me, or being nice to me, Merle took me too, Merle was nice to me when he needed me to do something for him, but I have no feelings one way or another for Merle. You all saw that when I found out your asses left him behind. Now get the fuck off Daryl, or I will kill you.”

Shane narrowed his eyes, and slammed another punch into Daryl, then stood. He glared hard at Letty, then turned towards the others. “Rick.”

“Shane, walk away, now. She is not playing.” Rick warned.

“I’ll kill ya, ya ever say ‘ah raped her or hurt her again.” Daryl snarled, he stood, moved in front of Letty, then took the gun from her hands. “’Ah would never hurt her, or any of the kids.”

Shane looked back at him for a moment. “Think ya could share her then, cause it doesn’t look like my plans are gonna work out.”

The gun was in his face once more, Daryl on top of him. It took T-Dog and Rick to peel Daryl off of him. “I think that Letty and Daryl should sleep in the house tonight.” Hershel started, taking them all by surprise. “Along with Scud.” He added when he saw the scared expression on Scud’s face.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

They looked at the guest room offered to them, and settled in. Letty climbed under the covers after toeing her boots off, and laid her head on the pillows, smiling. Daryl scoffed at her. “We are grounded.” She laughed, to herself.

Daryl took his shirt and vest off, followed by his boots, then climbed into the bed beside her. “We ain’t doin’ nothin’ in this house.” It was a warning.

She rolled her eyes, and rolled over, throwing an arm around his middle, closing her brown eyes. She was asleep before his head hit the pillow, and at that point he was not going to make her move. He liked how comfortable she was with him. He would for the rest of their lives, enjoy sleeping next to her.

Scud climbed into his arms on the other side. His face pressed into Daryl’s ribs. This was something he was used to, both children loving him.

Chapter Text

They, for now, we're letting the walkers in the barn remain a secret from the rest of the group, but Glenn was always looking concerned and scared. Continued talks with Lori left him distraught at best, plus his relationship with Maggie was hot/cold so much he was unsure how he felt about her, how he felt about himself, what was up and what was down.

He was at a lost. And to make his mood worse, his closest friend, which was Letty, was in her own hell. Daryl spent literally everyday avoiding everyone, her most of all, he filled his time with hunting on his own, when he killed he would drop meat on the porch, and then disappeared.

Glenn and Letty were walking together, talking amongst themselves, when Lori approached them, she was healing pretty good, from the gunshot wound, and from everything else she was going through. “Still wanna help?” She asked Glenn, careful.

“I have somewhere to be.” Letty disappeared from them then. Seeking out Scud.

“Yes, please, let me help, if you won’t tell anyone else, about the baby.” Glenn begged.

“If you want to make that run to town…” She started.

“I'm your man.” Glenn told her.

“Thank you.” Lori looked relieved.

“It's okay. It's not a big deal really.” Glenn assured her, and headed towards the barn.

Letty, with Scud in tow, was soon following him and Maggie. “Going with ya, gonna look around the place while you and Mags get shit out of the pharmacy.” Letty let her horse mosey behind the love birds, and she focused on everything but them. Scud was jabbering along, his arms around Letty. He had always loved horses, this was the first time life had presented them the chance for him to ride one.

“You didn't have to come. You could hate me from a distance. Please say something. Maggie, &...” Glenn was pleading, Letty would have to tell him later that it was very unbecoming of him.

“I asked for your trust and you betrayed it. Now my dad's pissed at me. Your turn.” Maggie snapped, her face contorted in anger.

“So your dad thinks they're sick? You agree with that, even after what you saw at the well?” Glenn snapped, the question reminded Letty of their second day on the farm when as a team they had lowered Glenn into a well in an attempt to get a walker from within side of it out. She would have been the test subject, but Carol flat out said no. It ended badly and they lost the well.

“I'm not sure what I saw at the well.” Maggie shot back at him, she was confused, hell Beth was confused these days.

“Yes, you are. Look, if you'd seen Atlanta, you would not have a barn full of walkers.” Glenn assured her, his eyes darting back to Letty who was absentmindedly playing with the saddle she was riding in. Letty started singing a small song to Scud, something he normally liked.

“I wish you'd stop calling them that.” Maggie snarled.

“What do you call them?” Letty asked, reminding them that she was there.

“Mom, Shawn, Mr. and Mrs. Fischer, Lacey, Duncan.” Maggie snapped. Silence overtook them.

They reached the pharmacy and Maggie watched Letty climb down. She reached her arms up and helped Scud slide into her arms. Letty was headed off away from them, towards the other stores.

“What does she want now?” Maggie snarled.

“I can't say.” Glenn’s lips were pursed, he really had no clue how to pronounce what they were looking for.

“So when one of them asks you to keep your mouth shut...” Maggie snapped.

“Crawl out of my butt and help me look, please.” Glenn begged, handing her the paper.

Maggie's eyes narrowed, she took the piece of paper from him and snarled. “You've got to be kidding me.” She was gone from him, then, behind the counter and looking for the medicine, there was a crash and then, “No! No! No!”

Glenn turned to see her grappling with a walker. He rushed it, slamming his hatchet into the walker's head, and watched as it fell. Maggie was crying and whimpering, her whole body contorting.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Once outside they found Letty, she had some new bolts for Daryl poking out of her backpack along with some other things, they were unsure what. She was already on the horse, this time Scud was in front of her. “Ya alright?” She asked when she caught sight of Maggie and Glenn.

Maggie looked like she had been crying, and Glenn looked terrified in his own right. “Close call with a walker.” Letty didn’t push it, she just nodded.
“On the way home, let’s talk about something fun, huh?” She asked.

“Like what?” Maggie mused.

“Like… swimming in the summer and not having to worry about some monster dragging you to your death.” Letty tried. “Never mind, I don’t even have fond memories of swimming, Merle used to drag me under, and hold me until Daryl would have beat him senseless for him ta let me go.” She mused, both Maggie and Glenn watched after her, confused but aware that she was teaching them a lesson.

Regardless of how awful this world was, there was always something worse that could happen.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

They untacked the horses and headed towards the encampment. Letty was apprehensive at best, about what was to come. She sent Scud off to play with Sophia. She could tell from the way Maggie was holding herself that she was gearing up for a fight. “Hey! We got your stuff.” Maggie screamed.

Glenn caught Letty’s eyes then called after her. “Maggie, hang on, please.”

“Come on in here.” Lori was gesturing towards the tent she, Carl and Rick shared.

“Why? Nothing to hide. We got your special delivery right here. We got your lotion, got your conditioner, your Soap Opera Digest.” Each word Maggie spat sent a shiver down Lori’s spine.

“Maggie.” Letty was using a calming tone, trying to stop the onslaught.

“Next time you want something, get it your damn self. We're not your errand boys.” Maggie snapped.

“Honey, I... “ Lori started but was interrupted when Maggie flung something hard at her.

“And here's your abortion pills.” Maggie stormed off after that. Letty looked at Lori hard in the face and sneered. Then walked away herself.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

“That was not cool.” Glenn snapped.

“Which part? The part where that bitch almost got us killed?” Maggie snarled back at him, her eyes wild with anger.

“I should've gone alone, or just with Letty. If you want to blame anybody, blame me.” Glenn told her.

“Right, take the blame. You know, for a smart guy, you're really stupid.” Maggie asserted.

“Okay, I'm confused, because I think you just paid me a compliment, but you made it s...” Glenn started, his face showing confusion.

“I've already lost three of the people that I care about most in this world.” Maggie snarled.

“Maggie... Shut up.” Glenn warned.

“You're smart. You're brave. You're a leader. But you don't know it. And your friends don't want to know it. They'd rather have you fetching peaches. There's a dead guy in the well? Send Glenn down. Your walker bait. I can't take you becoming one of them.” She kissed him hard on the lips.

Then she walked away. Glenn shook his head, frustrated. He needed to find Letty, and make her help him understand what the hell had happened.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

He found Letty and they moved back to Lori’s tent. “The blood on Maggie's shirt...?” Lori asked.

“She was attacked.” Letty offered it easily enough, her eyes locked on Lori.

“Are you guys all right? How bad was it?” Lori looked panicked for a moment.

“It was pretty close.” Glenn answered truthfully.

“I'm so sorry. I should never have asked you to go.” Lori felt awful.

“I offered.” Glenn shot Letty a look then, and she nodded.

“I thought the town was safe, but if you hadn't come back... “ Lori looked stricken.

“But we did. We always do.” Letty asserted, Lori’s head snapped back to look at her.

“The morning-after pills... Will they even work?” Glenn asked pulling Lori’s attention back.

“I don't know. And I don't know if I want them to.” Lori sounded stressed.

“Good.” Letty laughed.

“Then I got these too, just in case.” Glenn produced another set of boxes from his bag.

“Prenatal vitamins. That's a hell of a choice.” Lori looked between them.

“I'm glad it's not mine.” Letty whispered, patting Lori on the head.

“Lori, we're friends, aren't we?” Glenn asked.

“With everything we've been through... Yeah.” Lori responded.

“I can't tell you what to do. I could never tell you something like that. But your choice... Maybe you shouldn't make it alone.” Glenn stood, and took Letty steer him from the tent.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Letty found Daryl that night. “Wanna word with you.” He looked at her. “Lori is pregnant. She ain’t telling Rick or Shane or whoever the fuck else it could be.” Scud was asleep with Carol and Sophia.

Daryl sat up in his makeshift bed and looked at her. “Why ya tellin’ me this.”

“Because I knew ya would talk ta me if I opened with that.” She argued. She sank down next to him. “Please.”

“Letty, ya heard how Shane thinks ‘a me, ‘ah reckon Hershel feel’s that’a way too.” Daryl looked at his hands.

“But we ain’t like that, now dammit, please. Yer the only family ‘ah have ever known, you and fuckin’ Merle, and little Scud. So right now I need ya to love me, like always. PLEASE.” She damn near screamed the last word in his face.

Daryl caught her hands in his and jerked her forward. “Shhhh.” He saw the tears in her face, and held her close, eventually laying them down together. “Why’d ya tell me ‘about Lori?”

“Because I wanted ya to know, if I were pregnant, and I am not, I would tell ya, regardless of how we are.” She snuggled to him, closing her eyes. He sighed.

“Night, Letty, darling’.” He kissed her forehead.

She snuggled even closer to him, and her eyes closed, sleep overtook her. Daryl sighed, deep, and watched her as she slept. He was not sure what the hell he was doing, who she was to him, but the moment they touched he felt it once more, the calm that seemed to seep into him. Daryl thoughtfully ran a hand through her knotted hair, he had let her sleep for a while, her eyes opened and she looked at him through sleep laddered eyes. “Daryl.” Before she could even whisper the full world, his lips were on hers.

Light from the moon slipped into the lean to, and she could make out the scruff on his face, and the dirt on his skin, as she breathed him in, she sunk into his form, her hands racing over him. “Letty.” He looked conflicted.

“Don’t think. Just do.” She growled back at him. Her mouth recapturing his, and he moaned into it. Not thinking about it would be exactly what to do.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

When the sun rose, Daryl opened his eyes, sluggishly. Next to him Letty’s naked form rested, the blanket stretched across his lap, covering him, and from about her ribs down. She was laying on her stomach, her hair falling out around her, he sat up, and stretched, taking in the sight of her, and smiling. His Letty. She had always been his Letty. He had been about twenty-one when they took her from the house. Merle had beaten him weekly since then, almost always centered on something Letty was responsible for.

He reached for his pants, and was pulling them up his waist when he saw Rick’s form coming across the yard towards him. “Gonna help…” Rick’s voice trailed off, Daryl flung the blanket higher up Letty’s body and pulled a t-shirt over his head.

“Gonna do wha?” He asked, standing.

Rick swallowed, his eyes landing momentarily on Letty’s prone form. “She’s remarkable, isn’t she.” Then he looked Daryl I the face. “Gonna help Hershel with something, said it's real important. You two keep an eye on things.”

“Ya mean on Shane.” Letty mumbled, rubbing sleep from her eyes, the blanket wrapped around her.

“Yeah, on Shane. Best get dressed for Carol or Lori stumble out here, ya know both of uhm grump about ya spending too much time with grown men.” Rick teased.

Letty rolled her eyes. “Never had any friends who were not adult men, Rick. You included.”

Rick shot Daryl a look, together they closed the lean too front and she got dressed. Letty emerged in t-shirt and short shorts. Her cowboy boots and socks in hand. Her messy hair tossed up outta her face. “On second thought, with Shane, ya best come with me Letty.”

“’’Ah agree. If yer not around, might not hav’ta kill him.” Daryl informed her.

Letty rolled her eyes but consented, following Rick towards where he was supposed to meet Hershel. Hershel and Jimmy waved at him, smiling. “With Otis sick we need all the help we can get.”

“Otis is sick?” Letty raised her eyebrows.

“He has cancer, had it before the turn, no medicine these days, so…” Jimmy’s voice trailed off.

“Gotcha.” Letty smiled warmly at Jimmy.

Hershel frowned a bit, but was of the mindset if Rick was sure Letty was the one for the job, then she was the one for the job.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

“Hey, Maggie, just talk to me.” Glenn was chasing her, he was furious that he was getting the cold shoulder and he could not begin to understand why.

“Hey.” Maggie snarled as she stopped.

“Maggie.” A small smile broke his lips, Glenn was excited to see her smile.

“Give me your hat. You said talk to you, I'm talking to you. Give me your hat.” Maggie took the hat as he offered it, and cracked one of the eggs she had been carrying in the basket into it, then slammed it back onto his head.

“Why would you waste an egg like that?” Glenn asked exasperated as the runny egg slid down his face.

“I think it was rotten.” Maggie smirked and walked away. “Come on Scud.” Scud laughed but followed Maggie he was supposed to help her for the day, according to Letty.

Shane was laughing somewhere behind him. “What is she mad at you about anyway?”

“I told a secret.” Glenn offered.

“Really, what that her panties aren’t clean?” Shane sneered.

“No, that there are walkers in the barn!” The moment it escaped his lips, Glenn paled. Daryl who had not been far from them narrowed his eyes and moved quickly.

“Now Shane, Rick knows, let it go until he gets back.” Daryl’s voice was even and calm even as he spoke, he knew there was no stopping the train now, it had already left the tracks.

Chapter Text

As they wound their way through the woods, Rick and Hershel were deep in conversation. Letty had managed to talk Jimmy into giving her a piggy back ride, which had made Daryl scoff the moment he saw it.

“You know we can help you out with your work.” Rick tried, Letty understood, he was trying to convince Hershel to let them stay.

“It's my field to tend.” Hershel explained.

“We found the barn.” Rick said it carefully, knowing their task coming up was a test.

“Leave it be.” Hershel warned.

“Well, I'd like to talk about it, but either way... your barn, your farm, your say.” Rick sounded impatient, and Letty could tell desperation was starting to seep into him.

“I don't want to talk about the barn. I don't want to debate.” Hershel restated.

“Not a debate, a discussion.”

“I need you and your group gone by the end of the week.” There it was, the main thing this walk was for, Herschel did want them to leave.

“I talked to Dale. You and I have our differences with the way we look at the walkers. Those people, they may be dead, they may be alive. But my people, us, we are alive right now, right here, right in front of you. You send us out there and that could change.” Rick was begging. Letty was pretty sure that he needed help at this point.

“I've given you safe harbor. My conscience is clear.” Hershel continued on his path.

“This farm... This farm is special. You've been shielded from what's been going on out there. Dale said you saw everything happen on the news. Well, it's been... It's been a long time since the cameras stopped rolling. The first time I saw a walker it was just half a body snapping at me from the ground. My inclination wasn't to kill it. But what the world is out there isn't what you saw on TV. It is much much worse and it changes you. Either into one of them or something a lot less than the person you were. Please do not... do not send us out there again. My wife's pregnant. That's either a gift here or a death sentence out there. If we were to stay we could help you with the work, with securing this place. We can survive together.” More begging.

“Rick, I'm telling you we can't.” Hershel sounded defeated.

“You think about what you're doing.” Rick pushed.

“I've thought about it.” Hershel snapped.

She could hear water in front of them, and stiffened, then she heard Rick say, “Think about it.”

“I've thought about it.” Hershel snapped once more.

This time Letty spoke, carefully from Jimmy’s back. “Think about it again. We can't go out there, not now, not with Lori.”

Hershel looked back at her for a long moment and then sighed. “Let’s see how you two do with this task.”

“What task?” Letty asked, her eyebrows raised.

“Looks like none today, they musta moved on.” Hershel’s eyes were trained on the creek bed.

The walk back was in complete silence. Rick and Letty shared even glances, but she bit her tongue.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

“Hi, honey. Lori doesn't need any more of my help.” Hershel was speaking to Maggie, aware that she was against his plans.

“So that's it?” Maggie asked, irritated.

“Rick was trying to make his case. It'll be hard. They'll have to be careful. But he was being dramatic. They're a strong group. They've done well on their own. They're just gonna have to go out and find their own farm. There's plenty of them now to choose from.” Even as he spoke he realized he was rationalizing for himself.

“There aren't. Every one of them nearby is burned out or full of walkers.” Maggie snapped back.

“Walkers?” Hershel frowned, then continued on, “So we just keep these people here forever? How are they my responsibility?”

Maggie didn’t take long to think about it instead she quoted scripture at him, “A new command I give to you: Love one another as I have loved you. That's what you told me, right? I was mad about mom. Mad about you marrying Annette. I was 14 years old and I was awful, to you more than anybody. All I wanted to do was smoke and shoplift. Love one another. That's what you told me.”

“Maggie. That was different.” Hershel started.

“No. You're different.” Maggie asserted.

“I am. But we're not. I love you. That's part of this. Is this about you and the Asian boy? Do you want me to...” Hershel was not sure what his daughter wanted or needed? He knew that Maggie was rather fond of Glean.

“No.” Maggie sighed. “His name is Glenn. He saved my life on the last run when one of the people you think is sick tried to kill me. How's that for dramatic? Things aren't what you think they are. They aren't. Don't do this. Okay? It's not about me and Glenn. It's not about me and you. It's about you. It's about who you are, who you're gonna be.” She snapped. Her eyes wild with anger.

Before Hershel could respond, Jimmy was in the house once more. “Hershel, its back.”

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Shane was fuming, his whole body aching when he saw Rick. He had half a mind to tear into Rick about the barn. “Walkers?” He snarled.

Rick sighed, and looked at Daryl. “Glenn ain’t the one for secrets, Hoss.” Daryl offered.

Letty was hovering near the tree line, her eyes locked on Jimmy, he was making his way into the woods once more, probably checking the creek bed, it occurred to her that every single day Jimmy was in the woods, Otis to, at least until he got sick. “Shane, it ain’t our barn, ain’t our farm.” Rick warned.

“But it’s a fucking danger!” Shane cried out like an insolent child.

“I will talk to Hershel about it, until then, just… put Andrea on guard at the barn.” Rick snapped. Pinching his temple, and sighing hard.

“Why not me?” Shane asked.

“He don’t trust you, fucktard.” Letty snarled. Her eyes were narrow, her stance hard, she was ready for a fight, ready for whatever it was that needed to happen. Her hate for Shane was like a fog surrounding her. Daryl tentatively touched her shoulder.

“Letty.” He breathed her name, she turned her gaze to him, and her eyes softened.

“Shane, just, watch the perimeter, OK? Clean the guns or something, Andrea keep guard on the barn, I am going to talk to Hershel.” Rick was starting to turn.

“Rick, hold up.” Letty pointed and he saw both Jimmy and Hershel headed back towards them. She realized in the heated discussion she had not witnessed Jimmy’s return. “Scud, you stay away from Shane you understand me.”

The little boy nodded, and headed towards Dale and Carol.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Jimmy led them this time. Letty in the back, her knife out just in case. They treaded carefully, making their way once more to the creek bed. “The silt on the bottom is like glue. You just sink in.” Jimmy explained.

She heard the walkers before she saw them, and her eyes darted to Rick, there were two. “That's Lou Bush.” Hershel pointed to the one in front.

“You knew him?” Letty asked, her face contorted.

“Lou as in Louise. She has a farm up the road. Sweet corn mostly. Worked at Hapman's bar on weekends. The man, I don't know him, but the coveralls, I've been to where he worked. How many have you killed?” Hershel asked, sort of lamely. He and Jimmy had dog catcher poles in hand, and Letty could see where this was going.

“Too many to count.” Rick replied, “Same with Letty, right?”

Letty nodded, her eyes never straying far from the walkers. “Can you stop?” Hershel asked, he made it sound so fucking simple.

“There are people out there who haven't been in their right minds, people who I believe can be restored.” Hershel explained.

Letty felt a sinking feeling in her stomach, her eyes darted to Hershel. “You're not talking about the walkers, are you?”

“It doesn't matter if you see them as human beings anymore. But if you and your people are going to stay here, that's how you're gonna have to treat them. My farm, my barn, my say.” Hershel snapped, Letty was a wordy little thing. It was clear to him that she had not had a proper upbringing.

“We can stay?” Letty’s eyes were wide, a smile peeling onto her face.

“Calm down, Letty, you and I know Shane won’t go for this.” Rick was looking surly.

“We also both know he is going to die sooner rather than later.” Letty’s words caught Hershel off guard. But he could recall the other night the exchange between Letty, Shane and Daryl easily enough.

“True.” Rick mumbled. “We can change.”

Jimmy looped the first walker, and Letty took hold of the pole, Jimmy just out of reach in front of the walker, Rick took the second pole and let Hershel wonder in front of him. Keeping the walkers moving, and staying in step with their partners was harder than it should have been.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Daryl didn’t like the walkers in the barn any more than Shane. But when Shane wandered from the back of the property with the gun bag over his shoulder, Daryl raised his eyebrows. “Yeah, here we go.”

“What's all this?” T-Dog asked.

“You with me, man?” Shane asked Daryl.

Daryl was conflicted, if Rick had given the order for the weapons it would have been a no brainer, but no way in hell was he going to be without a gun if this fuck had one. “Yeah.” Daryl took the outstretched gun. Scud looked up at Daryl, his eyes mistrusting.

“Time to grow up.” Shane snapped.

“You already got yours?” Andrea asked.

“Yeah.” Shane nodded.

“Where's Dale?” Carol asked, her eyes darting behind Shane.

“He's on his way.” Shane explained.

“Thought we couldn't carry.” T-Dog asked, conflicted as well.

“We can and we have to. Look, it was one thing sitting around here picking daisies when we thought this place was supposed to be safe. But now we know it ain't.” Shane was handing out weapons like candy.

“How about you, man? You gonna protect yours?” He shoved a gun roughly towards Glenn, who accepted it out of habit. “That's it. Can you shoot?” Shane asked Maggie who was standing on the steps behind Glenn.

“Can you stop? You do this, you hand out these guns, my dad will make you leave tonight.” Maggie warned.

“We have to stay, Shane. What is this?” Lori asked, holding Carl to her.

“We ain't going anywhere, okay? Now look, Hershel, he's just gotta understand. Okay? He... Well, he's gonna have to. Now I want you to take this. You take it, Carl, and you keep your mother safe. You do whatever it takes. You know how. Go on, take the gun and do it.” Shane handed both Carl and Sophia guns.

“Rick said no guns.” Carol said sort of defeated, already holding Sophia to her.

“This is not your call. This is not your decision to make.” Lori snarled.

“Oh shit. What is that? What is that?” Shane snarled, as clapping caught his attention. He whirled to see both Letty and Rick leading walkers from the woods.

Lori screamed after Shane, “Shane!”

The walkers were snarling hungrily when Shane ran at them, hollering at Rick, “What the hell are you doing?”

“Shane, just back off.” Letty warned.

“Why do your people have guns?” Hershel asked, confusion on face.

“Are you kidding me? You see? You see what they're holding onto?” Shane had drawn the crowd from the house porch, and they were all watching, terror in their eyes.

“I see who I'm holding onto.” Hershel responded. Both Rick and Letty had stopped walking.

“No, man, you don't.” Shane laughed.

“Shane, just let us do this and then we can talk.” Rick tried, Letty was growing concerned, she could see the danger in Shane’s eyes.

“What you want to talk about, Rick? These things ain't sick. They're not people. They're dead. Ain't gonna feel nothing for them 'cause all they do, they kill! These things right here, they're the things that killed Amy. They're gonna kill all of us.” Shane roared back.

“Shane, shut up!” Letty screamed.

“Hey, Hershel man, let me ask you something. Could a living breathing person, could they walk away from this?” Shane shot the walker Hershel was holding on to.

Both Rick and Letty screamed. “No! Stop it!” Panic edging onto Letty’s face, she briefly looked at Scud, and frowned.

“That's three rounds in the chest. Could someone who's alive, could they just take that?! Why is it still coming?” Shane shouted, then shot again. “That's its heart, its lungs. Why is it still coming?” He shot once more.

“Shane, enough.” Rick growled.

“Yeah, you're right, man. That is enough.” Shane shot the walker between the eyes and it dropped down. “Enough living next to a barn full of things that are trying to kill us. Enough. Rick, it ain't like it was before! Now if y'all want to live, if you want to survive, you gotta fight for it! I'm talking about fighting right here, right now.”

“Take the snare pole. Hershel, take the snare pole. Hershel, listen to me, man, please. Take it now. Hershel! Take it!” Rick shouted, pushing the pole at Hershel, his eyes met Letty and she continued to fight with the one she was holding.

“No, Shane. Do not do this, brother.” Rick was begging him.

“Wait! Don't do it!” Letty was crying, tears on her face, Daryl felt something twisting in his gut, he gripped Scud’s shoulder, pulling him away from Letty. The little boy had been trying to make his way to her.

“Rick!” Hershel called.

“Please!” Letty begged.

“Come on. Come on, we're out here.” Shane was mocking the dead in the barn.

“This is not the way!” Lori shouted from somewhere behind them.

“Please!” Rick and Letty screamed in unison.

“Get behind me. Come on.” Shane ordered.

“Maggie, Beth, It's okay. Stay back!” Herschel begged them.

Rick tried one more time, screaming “STOP!” At Shane. Two things happened at once. First Shane raised and axe and cut the chain from the barn, second a gunshot ripped through the air, and Shane dropped unceremoniously hard to the ground. Rick looked around. Letty had drawn her gun, the one he knew she kept hidden in the back of her pants, the pole she had been holding was in Jimmy’s hands. She charged forward, and slammed her body into the door of the barn, she was not strong enough to keep it closed, and the walker’s tumbled out.

Rick looked at Hershel for a long moment, “Don’t kill his wife and son!” Rick ordered. “Which ones are they?”

Daryl only cared about one thing, getting to Letty. He pushed Scud back towards Beth, hard. He killed everything that got between him and her. He tossed her over his shoulder, and darted from the fray. “MOVE, WOMEN AND CHILDREN, NOW, TO THA HOUSE!” He was shouting.

Hershel followed, his heart sinking, there would be no stopping the blood bath, not now. His wife and Shawn would be dead. Completely.

Daryl made it into the house first, he made Letty sit on the sink and was checking her over for bites or scratches. “Shit, girl, what were ya thinkin?”

“I didn’t want this to happen, we will hav’ta leave now.” Letty was crying, her shoulders heaving. “We have been through so much, I wanted Scud to finally have a home, I wanted this place for Carl and Sophia.” She shook her head as her body shook. Daryl sighed, hugging her.

Chapter Text

“He is dead.” Lori screamed. “She KILLED him.”

“She did us a favor.” Dale panted, breathing hard. “He ambushed me while I was taking the weapons out of camp.”

“Lori, I know this is hard on you, and on you Carl, but he was out of control. Letty acted as I would have, if I had a gun on me, he was going to get us all killed, and thrown off the land. We might still have to leave the farm.” Rick was pacing in their camp.

Daryl was inside the main house, with Hershel and Letty deep in conversation. Hershel had asked to talk specifically to Letty and Daryl, Rick understood why but no one else seemed to. If any two members after Shane were going to cause an issue it would be those two.

“Are you going to even talk to her about it?” Andrea asked Rick finally.

“When Hershel is done, yes.” Rick answered. “We are going to bury all the dead, not just our own. Is that clear.” A moan around camp, but everyone acted as he wanted them to.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

“Letty, you killed a man today to protect my wife and step-son, who you believed to be monsters, why?” Hershel asked.

Daryl, Scud, Letty, Beth, Maggie, and Hershel sat at his kitchen table. “What he was doin’ was wrong.” She answered simply.

“But you killed him.” Beth grumbled, her eyes red from crying.

“I did. Too late, I didn’t spare you any heartache.” Letty was picking at her shirt. Scud was sitting beside her, his eyes wide. He didn’t talk much and being part of the adult conversation made him feel uneasy.

“You showed us, that you two belong here, I saw your face, Daryl, you didn’t want to do that anymore than Letty and Rick wanted it to happen. Scud deserves to be here, this world was not made for him. But you did kill on my land today.” Hershel sighed.

“If you want us to leave we can.” Daryl offered, slowly.

“No, you can’t now. Your family has proven to me, that there are dangers out there I could not even begin to understand… I will allow you all to remain on, at least a while longer, but… I need time to mourn, I am sure your group does as well.” Hershel offered.

“Shit, when I shot I didn’t even think about Carl watching, or Lori.” Letty felt a new sting of tears on her face. She tipped her head down and looked at Scud. “Sorry baby!” She hugged him to her then, his face pressed into her chest.

“Rick’ll handle ya now, darlin’.” Daryl sighed, he stood, pulling her with him, and locked eyes with Herschel. “Thank ya.” Daryl led her out of the house, and let her lace her fingers into his, her other hand held Scuds. He squeezed her hand, and stopped them mid step. “Ya did right, Letty.” He pulled her into his embrace, and kissed her lips, carefully. It was like he was afraid to break her. He patted Scud’s head.

“Momma, you saved us all.” Scud squeezed her hand.

When he pulled back he saw the smile on her face, and he returned a small smiled. “Ok. Let’s go.”

They found Rick by Daryl’s tent at the end of the property. “How did it go?”

“We can stay, it seemed like Hershel was thank’n her for tryin’ to spare tha lives of his loved ones.” Daryl explained. “Say’s he needs us ‘round. But he is upset, we killed on his land, somethin’ that don’t sit right with him, I reckon. Lori mad?”

“Yea, she’s pregnant, but I guess ya and Letty know that.” Rick mused. “It’s Shanes.”

“Knew that too.” Letty offered it carefully. She stepped forward, tentatively and hugged Rick.

He hugged her back, and felt the tears burning his eyes. “I know why you killed him Letty, I am not mad at you, or about it. I have you and Daryl and your more supportive and useful than he ever was, but he was my friend once, and I am hurt.” Letty continued to hold Rick as he spoke.

“She’s got a way ‘bout her.” Daryl said after a long moment, “Knows how ta make grown men cry. She’s tha only person ‘ah ever seen Merle cry ‘round.” Daryl sat down on his bunk.

“Lori wants me to punish you, somehow.” Rick sighed a heavy sigh, his arms tight around Letty.

“Ya can, I accept whatever it is.” Letty sighed, feeling him shake. “Merle and Daryl have… in the past, been rough on me, more Merle than Daryl.” Letty squeezed him hard.

“I can’t bring myself to do it, Letty. You did the right thing. I think it will be punishment enough, Carl being cold with you the next couple of days. I tried my best to explain to him what happened, but I doubt it will be acceptable for a while.” Rick patted her head then pulled away.

“Rick.” Daryl sighed. “We need ta talk about Hershel, he want’s time to mourn, I think after that he might be lettin’ us move in. ‘Ah think Letty, Scud, and I might keep on the porch a while.” Daryl was seeking permission.

Rick realized that Daryl could lead, and would lead if he needed to. The same with Letty, but both preferred to have someone else lead them. Merle had been their leader, albeit a bad leader. They had chosen Rick to be their leader now. Rick would be the one they would follow to hell and back.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

“Carl, please.” She begged, her heart defeated.

“Leave me alone.” Carl snapped.

“Carl, I did it to protect you.” She tried again, reaching for him.

“You did it to protect yourself and fucking Daryl.” Carl snapped.

“Carl, you know that is not true. Daryl can take care of himself, so can I. Didn’t you see how Beth looked, she was hurt Carl, I know how much you look up to her, now listen to me, please. I didn’t mean to hurt you, but he was going to hurt us!” She tried again.

“Letty.” Carl sighed. “I know you were protecting my dad. I do, but I loved Shane too.” He was crying. She felt horrible. It had been two days since she killed Shane. She hugged the little boy to her, and pressed her face into his hair.

“I love you, Carl. I do, and I know you are hurting, but please, I miss you.” She was holding him close to her frame.

“I am sorry Letty. I love you too.” He whimpered, hugging her back, and crying against her frame.

She was not sure when Sophia appeared next to them, wrapping her arms around them both. “I love you both.” Both Carl and Letty opened the hug to her.

“ME too!” Scud cried out, and they opened the hug to him, Letty laughing.

“Glad you finally have friends.”

Beth was watching from her window, her expression drawn and her heart sinking. These people had come to her home and destroyed everything that made any sense to her. She shivered and returned to her bed. She could hear Maggie frantically looking for their father downstairs.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Maggie called for Lori, Carol, and Letty. Her face was contorted with pain. “Something is wrong with Bethy.”

“Sweetie, can you hear me?” Lori asked as she sank down on the bed next to Beth.

“What's wrong with her?” Maggie was frantic.

“She might be in shock.” Letty offered.

“Where's Hershel?” Carol asked.

“We can't find him anywhere.” Maggie motioned to herself and Patricia. “Otis is sick, and Jimmy is helping bury the dead.”

“Fetch Andrea, and the kids, bring everyone not needed outside into the house.” Letty ordered Carol, Carol nodded then took off.

“Lori, get me Rick, now.” Lori looked taken aback by Letty but did what she was told all the same.

“Maggie, I need a blanket and hot water, the hottest you can get.” Letty ordered her. “We have to keep her warm.” After Maggie did what she was asked, she slunk into her father’s room. When Rick entered the room with Letty and Beth, Letty frowned, but pointed him down the hallway.

“Hey, kiddo.” Rick offered as he knocked on the door. “Your stepmother's things?” Rick asked as he took in stock what she had spread across the bed, or what Hershel had.

“He was so sure she'd recover. They'd just pick up where they left off.” Maggie responded, her eyes red and her cheeks tear stained.

“Looks like he found an old friend.” Rick said, striding across the room and picking up a flask.

“That belonged to my grandfather, gave it to dad when he died.” Maggie explained.

“I didn't take Hershel for a drinker.” Rick tapped the flask on his palm.

“No, he gave it up on the day I was born. He didn't even allow liquor in the house.” Maggie sighed, explaining, and shivered.

“What's the bar in town?” Rick realized he knew exactly where Hershel would be headed.

“Hamlin's” Maggie told him, easily. “He practically lived there in his drinking days.” Maggie told Rick.

“Betting that's where I'll find him.” Rick mused, by now Glenn had joined them as well as Letty.

“Yeah, I've seen the place. I'll take you.” Glenn offered.

“All right, I'll get the truck.” Letty was already headed down the stairs.

“Okay.” Rick and Glenn agreed.

“N... no.” Maggie stampered.

“It's an easy run.” Glenn tried to sound comforting as they moved down the stairs.

“Like the pharmacy?” Maggie snapped.

“Hey, Maggie?” Rick caught her attention. “I'll bring him back.”

“Maggie, that was different.” Glenn told her, hugging her goodbye.

Lori glared after them. “You’re really going right now, when we are like this?”

“Lori, he is a man who needs a friend, I am going, that is fucking final. Daryl is in charge until I get back.” Rick snapped, pushing past her. When he made it outside Letty and Daryl were talking amongst themselves. “Daryl, hold the fort down until we get back, ya hear.”

Daryl nodded, then returned his attention to Letty. He pressed Merle’s gun into her hands. “Come back, Letty.”

“I always do.” She smiled, letting him pick her up and hug her to him, swinging her slightly.

She climbed into the truck, in the middle, and rested her head against Rick’s shoulder as the truck took off. They had barely left the farm when Glenn cleared his throat. “Maggie said she loves me. She doesn't mean it. I mean she can't. I mean... well... She... she's upset or confused. She's probably feeling, like...” His voice dropped off.

“I think she's smart enough to know what she's feeling.” Rick told Glenn a small smile on his face.

“No. No. No, you know what? She wants to be in love, so she's... she needs something to... to, like... to hold onto.” Glenn started again.

“Glenn, it's pretty obvious to everyone Maggie loves you, and not just because you're one of the last men standing. So what's the problem?” Letty asked, her voice smooth in the cab of the truck.

“I didn't say it back. I've never had a woman say that to me before except my mom, of course, and my sisters. But with Maggie, it's different. We barely know each other. What... what does she really know about me? Nothing. We're practically strangers. But I... I didn't know what to do with it. I just stood there like a jerk.” Glenn was stammering again. Letty sighed.

“Hey. Hey, this is a good thing, something we don't get enough of these days. Enjoy it. And when we get back, return the favor. It's not like she's going anywhere.” Rick laughed.

“Rick? I know about Lori, her being pregnant. I got her those pills.” Glenn was looking at his hands, clearly disappointed in himself.

“I helped.” Letty sighed, she was still resting her eyes.

“I figured.” Rick returned his gaze out the window.

“Hey, I'm sorry I kept it from you.” Glenn sighed.

“Don't be. You did what you thought was right. It just so happens it wasn't.” Rick responded.

For a moment it was quiet, then Letty the quirky thing she was laughed, “Do I call Daryl my man-friend or boy-friend, like I don’t understand, I call him a boy in my brain, him and Merle are my boys… but…” She laughed again, this time both Glenn and Rick joined her.

“I think ya just call him Daryl.” Rick joked, an easy silence fell over them, and by the time the made it to the bar, they were all three in better moods.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

“Hershel.” Rick called as he knocked on the door to the bar.

“Who's with you?” Hershel sounded irritated at best.

“Glenn. Letty.” Rick answered, pausing in the doorway.

“Maggie sent him?” Hershel had figured Letty or Daryl would come with Rick but not Glenn.

“He volunteered.” Rick explained, Letty and Glenn inching their way into the bar.

“He's good like that.” Hershel interjected.

“How many have you had?” Rick asked.

“Not enough.” Hershel snapped, taking another long sip.

“Let's finish this up back at home. Beth collapsed, is in some sort of state. Must be in shock. I think you are too.” Rick mumbled, sitting next to Hershel at the bar.

“Maggie's with her?” Hershel asked, his eyes still in the glass in his hand.

“Yeah, but Beth needs you.” Letty interjected, making her way behind the bar to see if there was anything work nicking for Daryl.

“What could I do? She needs her mother. Or rather to mourn like she should've done weeks ago. I robbed her of that. I see that now.” Hershel was tired, his age showing for the first time since they met him.

“You thought there was a cure. Can't blame yourself for holding out for hope.” Rick spoke gentle.

“Hope? When I first saw you running across my field with your wife in your arms, I had little hope she would survive. But she did. She did. That was the miracle that proved to me miracles do exist. Only it was a sham, a bait and switch. I was a fool, Rick, and you people saw that. My daughters deserve better than that.” Then Hershel was moving, standing, making his way closer to Letty.

“So what do we do? Just wait for him to pass out?” Glenn whispered to Rick.

“Just go. Just go!” Hershel snapped.

“I promised Maggie I'd bring you home safe.” Glenn interjected.

“So what's your plan? Finish that bottle? Drink yourself to death and leave your girls alone?” Letty asked, her draw showing through the anger.
“Stop telling me how to care for my family, my farm. You people are like a plague! I do the Christian thing, give you shelter, and you destroy it all!” Hershel’s voice was raised.

“The world was already in bad shape when we met.” Rick snapped. His own anger growing.

“And you take no responsibility! You're supposed to be their leader!” Hershel shot back, pouring another glass of whiskey.

“Well, I'm here now, aren't I?” Rick stammered.

“Yes. Yes. Yes, you are.” Hershel agreed his face solemn.

“Now come on. Your girls need you now more than ever.” Rick tried, desperately to move them back towards the truck.

“I didn't want to believe you. You told me there was no cure, that these people were dead, not sick. I chose not to believe that. But when Shane shot Lou in the chest and she just kept coming, that's when I knew what an ass I'd been, that Annette had been dead long ago and I was feeding a rotten corpse! That's when I knew there was no hope. I knew you knew it too. Right? There is no hope. And you know it now, like I do. Don't you? There is no hope for any of us.” Hershel snarled, each word punctuated.

“You ready?” Rick asked, his eyes narrow, on Glenn.

“Yeah.” Letty nodded.

“Man, how many times we gonna have to do this? Look, I'm done. I'm not doing this anymore, cleaning up after you. You know what the truth is? Nothing has changed. Death is death. It's always been there, whether it's from a heart attack, cancer, or a Walker. What's the difference? You didn't think it was hopeless before, did you? Now there are people back at home trying to hang on. They need us, even if it's just to give them a reason to go on, even if we don't believe it ourselves. You know what? This... this isn't about what we believe anymore. It's about them.” Snapped Rick.

The moment he spoke the front door of the bar flew open, Letty dropped, instantly, fear etched on her face. “Son of a bitch. They're alive. I'm Dave. That scrawny-looking douche bag there is Tony.” A tall, rounded man, with an evil glint in his eyes said as he eyed the three men.

“Eat me, Dave.” The one named Tony snarled.

“Hey, maybe someday I will.” The big one, Dave said. “We met on I-95 coming out of Philly. Damn shit-show that was.”

“I'm Glenn.” Glenn spoke evenly, making his way behind the bar, where he knew Letty was crouched.

“It's nice to meet some new people.” The Tony fellow poured himself a drink.

“Rick Grimes.” Rick thumbed at himself, wondering what Letty was up to.

“How about you, pal? Have one?” Tony made to pout Hershel a drink.

“I just quit.” Hershel snarled.

“You've got a unique sense of timing, my friend.” Tony laughed.

“His name's Hershel. He lost people today, a lot of them.” Rick explained.

“I'm truly sorry to hear that. To better days and new friends. And to our dead... may they be in a better place.” Tony set his gun on the table, sank into the chair, and raised his glass. “Ah. Ah. Not bad, huh? I got it off a cop.” He gestured towards his piece when he saw Rick looking at it.

“I'm a cop.” Rick almost spat, trying to keep his voice even.

“This one was already dead.” Tony offered.

“You fellas are a long way from Philadelphia.” Hershel lamented.

“It feels like we're a long way from anywhere.” The big man, Dave said.

“Well, what drove you South?” Rick asked, interested.

“Well, I can tell you it wasn't the weather. I must've dropped 30 lbs. In sweat alone down here. I wish. No, first it was D.C. I heard there might be some kind of refugee camp, but the roads were so jammed, we never even got close. We decided to get off the highways, into the sticks, keep hauling ass. Every group we came across had a new rumor about a way out of this thing. One guy told us there was the coast guard sitting in the Gulf, sending ferries to the islands. The latest was a rail yard in Montgomery running trains to the middle of the country... Kansas, Nebraska. Nebraska? Low population, lots of guns. Kinda makes sense. Ever been to Nebraska, kid? A reason they call 'em flyover states. How about you guys?” Tony liked to talk, Letty realized from her squatting position behind the bar, there was a slight hole, she could easily shoot him through it if she needed to.

“Fort Benning, eventually.” Rick offered.

“I hate to piss in your cornflakes, officer, but... We ran across a grunt who was stationed at Benning. He said the place was overrun by lamebrains.” Tony informed them, drinking from his glass once more.

“Wait, Fort Benning is gone? Are you for real?” Glenn asked, his shoulders sagging a little bit.

“Sadly, I am. Oddly, the truth is there is no way out of this mess. Just keep going from one pipe dream to the next, praying one of these mindless freaks doesn't grab a hold of you when you sleep. If you sleep. Yeah, it doesn't look like you guys are hanging your hats here. You holed up somewhere else?” Tony asked, his eyebrows raised.

“Not really.” Rick snapped, his temper was rising.

“Those your car's out front?” Dave asked.

“Yeah. Why?” Glenn asked.

“We're living in ours. Those look kinda empty, clean. Where's all your gear?” Tony asked.

“We're with a larger group out scouting, thought we could use a drink.” Rick lied.

“A drink? Hershel, me, I thought you quit. Well, we're thinking of setting up around here. - Is it... is it safe?” Tony asked, eyeing them more carefully now.
“It can be, although I have killed a couple of walkers around here.” Glenn offered.

“Walkers? That what you call them?” Tony asked.

“Yeah.” Rick replied.

“That's good. I like that. I like that better than lamebrains. More succinct.”

“So what... so what, you guys set up on the outskirts or something? That new development? Trailer park or something? A farm? You got a farm? Is it safe? It's gotta be.” Tony was smart, too bad Letty was planning on killing him.

“You got food, water? You got cooze? Ain't had a piece of ass in weeks.” Dave was starting to perk up some.

“Listen, pardon my friend. City kids... they got no tact. No disrespect. So listen, Glenn...” Tony was starting to pinpoint the weakest link.
“We've said enough.” Hershel was adamant.

“Well, hang on a second. This farm... it sounds pretty sweet.” Dave started. “Don't it sound sweet, Tony?”

Tony nodded, “Yeah, real sweet. How about a little Southern hospitality? We got some buddies back at camp, been having a real hard time. I don't see why you can't make room for a few more. We can pool our resources, our manpower.”

“Look, I'm sorry. That's not an option.” Rick answered.

“Doesn't sound like it'd be a problem.” Tony was sizing them up.

“I'm sorry. We can't. We can't take in any more.” Hershel answered.

“You guys are something else. I thought... I thought we were friends.” Tony pouted.

“We got people we gotta look out for too. We don't know anything about you.” Rick was trying to make them see reason.

“No, that's true. You don't know anything about us. You don't know what we've had to go through out there, the things we've had to do. I bet you've had to do some of those same things yourself. Am I right? 'Cause ain't nobody's hands clean in what's left of this world. We're all the same. So come on, let's... let's take a nice friendly hayride to this farm and we'll get to know each other.” Tony offered, a smile edging onto his face.

“That's not gonna happen.” Rick spoke evenly.

“Rick... this is bullshit.” Dave growled.

“Calm down.” Glenn mumbled, feeling Letty push against his legs.

“Don't tell me to calm down. Don't ever tell me to calm down. I'll shoot you three assholes in the head and take your damn farm!” Dave snarled, raising his gun.

“Whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa. Relax. Take it easy. Nobody's killing anybody. Nobody's shooting anybody. Right, Rick? Look. We're just friends having a drink. That's all. Now where's the good stuff, huh? Good stuff, good stuff, good stuff. Let's see. Hey, look at that.” Tony had made his way behind the bar, and stumbled right onto Letty crouched down. “That'll work.” He jerked her up hard by her hair. “You gotta understand... we can't stay out there. You know what it's like.”

Rick paled when he saw Letty, Glenn looked shocked, she was doing her best to look frail and in that moment she did. Tony slammed her on to the bar, and smiled toothily at her. She smiled back. “Yeah, I do.” Letty tentatively patted the man, Tony’s face, her fingers dancing across his jaw bone. “But the farm is too crowded as is. I'm sorry. You'll have to keep looking.”

“Keep looking. Where do you suggest we do that?” Tony snapped, his fist tightening in her brown locks.

“I don't know. I hear Nebraska's nice.” She smiled the same toothy grin back at him.

“Nebraska. This bitch.” Tony laughed. “She yours?” He asked Rick.

“No, she belongs to our hunter.” Glenn explained.

“Really. Pretty thing, I might fancy keeping her myself.” Tony ran his hand down the front of her, groping her body as he did. She remained completely still.

“If I give you what you want, would you leave us alone?” She asked, chewing on her bottom lip.

“Both of us.” Dave snapped.

She nodded. Rick glared at them. Letty was many things in his mind, but this was something she was not. “You first though.” She motioned at Tony, then climbed down the bar.

“Leave your knives and weapons out here.” The man warned her, she removed all the visible weapons from her body.

“Have to piss.” Dave stood and peed in the open where everyone could see. Rick shared a look with Glenn as Letty secured the door behind her and Tony.

Chapter Text

Tony was eager. That is what she would have called it, and laughed at him for it, any other time. It really was a shame he was going to die. The blade in her pocket was small, but the moment his mouth started inching its way down her shirt front, she knotted a hand in his hair and moaned, loud and breathy, enough to cover the sound of the knife opening. She stabbed it into his ear before he could ever register what was happening. She whimpered slightly, as his body slid down her, blood coating her front. She retracted the knife and wiped it off on her shorts.

She lowered herself from the counter. She stepped down on his form, and quietly opened the door. She knew the moment Rick’s eyes met hers, he raised his own gun, and shot Dave in the head. Hershel jumped slightly. Then both Hershel and Glenn looked back at the bathroom door. Letty was making her way out, climbing over a set of legs crumpled in the floor.

“Holy shit,” Glenn whispered, opening his arms for Letty. She pressed against him.

“You all right?” Rick asked Letty, his eyes checking her over.

“Yeah.” She grumbled. Glenn’s hold on her tightened, he was rubbing her hair like he had done his sisters in the past when they were upset.

“Hershel?” Rick turned his attention to the older man.

“Let's head back.” Herschel mumbled.

In the distance they heard a car as it rumbled towards them. “Car. Car. Get down.” Rick drug Hershel down beside him, while Glenn and Letty rested on the other side of the door.

The car engine stopped, the sound of the doors opening made Letty take a deep breath in. Then they closed. Outside a man began shouting. “Dave? Tony? They said over here?”

A second voice sounded next, “Yeah”

“I'm telling you, man, I heard a gun shot.” A third voice rang out.

“I saw roamers - two streets over. Might be more around here.” The second voice said.

“It's hot. - We gotta get out of here.” The first voice said again.

The third one shouted, “Dave! Tony!”

The first one said, “Shut up, you idiot! You wanna attract 'em? Just stick close. We're gonna find 'em.”

The second said, “Dude, he said to stay close.”

“Tony.” They sighed.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Glenn looked between Letty who was crouched down directly in front of him, her head hard against his chest, and Rick. “Why won't they leave?”

“Would you?” Letty whispered back sharply, nudging Glenn a little harder than necessary.

“We can't sit here any longer. Let's head out the back and make a run to the car.” Rick whispered.

Outside there were several gunshots. Letty in her mind decided to name the voices they heard.

“What happened?” The first one asked.

“Roamers, I nailed 'em.” A second one offered.

“They disappeared but their car's still there. I cleared those buildings. You guys get this one?” Merle junior spoke.

The first man from earlier, she opted to name Jerry spoke next, “No. Me neither.”

“We're looking for Dave and Tony and no one checks the damn bar?” Merle junior snaps.

They could hear the men approaching the front door.

“What?” Jerry-man asked.

“Someone pushed it shut.” The third one, who she opted to call Buck said.

“There's someone in there.” Merle junior snapped, then raised his voice. “Yo, is someone in there? Yo, if someone's in there, we don't want no trouble. We're just looking for our friends.”

“What do we do?” Jerry-man asked.

“Bum rush the door?” Buck asked.

Next Merle Junior spoke, “No, we don't know how many are there. Just relax” Then he raised his voice. “We don't want any trouble. We're just looking for our friends. If something happened, tell us. This place is crawling with corpses. If you can help us not get killed, I'd appreciate it.”

“Dude, you're bugging. I'm telling you nobody's in there.” Jerry spoke.

“Someone guard the door. If they're in there, they might know where Dave and Tony are.” Mini Merle asserted.

Letty breathed a sigh of relief the men were leaving. She could have punched Rick in the throat when he shook his head, and shouted, “They drew on us!”

“Dammit.” She hissed. The footsteps were coming back.

“Dave and Tony in there? They alive?” Mini-Merle asked.

“No.” Rick shouted.

Jerry-man shouted “They killed Dave and Tony.”

Buck snapped, “Come on, man, let's go.”

Mini Merle shouted. “No, I'm not leaving, I'm not telling Jane. I'm not gonna go back and tell them that Dave and Tony got shot by some assholes in a bar.”

“Your friends drew on us! They gave us no choice! I'm sure we've all lost enough people, done things we wish we didn't have to, but it's like that now. You know that! So let's just chalk this up to what it was... Wrong place, wrong time.” Rick shouted back.

Letty was already standing, her gun drawn, Glenn and Hershel following her. There were gunshots outside the bar, and she tipped her head at Rick “Run.” She hissed.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Hershel had never run so hard or fast in his life, even now, several miles from the bar, in the dark with walkers around, he was not afraid, not really. Glenn, Letty, and Rick were a tight formation around him, killing in turns, they always seemed to know where the other one was at. They stumbled into a barn. Letty planted her palms on her knees, and breathed in hard. “Shit, Rick, really?” She snarled, looking hard at him. “I know you’re a cop and shit, but REALLY?”

“Felt like the right thing to do.” Rick grumbled. Letty rolled her eyes, irritated, and sullen.

“Now we are in a mess. We got a ways to get back to the house. And those fuckers have cars.” Letty snarled. She was beyond pissed at this point.

“This barn belonged to an old friend of mine, Widow Walton, her house is back in those woods, should be a truck there.” Hershel told them.

“Really?” Rick asked, his eyebrows raised.

“Yea, and when we get home, I think we can all move into the house, and sleep.” Hershel told him, looking him straight in the face.

“Really?” Glenn asked.

“Really.” Hershel responded.

Letty slipped out the front of the barn, her guns raised, Rick behind her. “Stay here with Herschel, we will fetch the car.” Rick ordered Glenn.

They slunk through the darkness until they reached the old house. Widow Walton had been a dedicated woman from the looks of it. Letty made her way to the front door and knocked on it. Soon the growling could be heard from the other side. “Supplies.” She hissed at Rick as he raised an eyebrow. She opened the door, and sunk her knife into the head of the walker woman as it emerged.

Rick followed her into the house, and watched as she gathered supplies. “Hershel might not like this.” Rick lamented, watching her raid the blankets and food.

“Rick, we need this shit.” Letty was not one to be deterred he had learned, so he accepted that this was what was happening at this moment. It was four trips later to the truck, Letty climbed into the bed of the truck, and wrapped up in blanket as Rick climbed into the cab, turning the engine over.

Rick traveled down the gravel path that had brought them to Widow Walton’s house, and waited patiently for Glenn and Hershel to clamber into the truck. Glenn climbed into the middle seat, and looked at Rick expectantly. “She is in the bed, asleep.” Glenn looked back and caught sight of the provisions and Letty fast asleep, curled up in the blankets.

“She get those from Widow Walton’s house?” Hershel asked.

“Yes.” Rick looked somewhat disappointed.

“Good, Malory would want them to be used, I assume she was dead.”

“She is double dead now.” Rick responded.

Glenn looked between Rick and Hershel, then shook his head. “Things are changing, huh?”

Chapter Text

Letty groaned as the truck stopped, her eyes glancing upward. Daryl was peering over the side, looking at her. “Letty, come on, we got shit to do before the morning.” She was being hauled up then, and pulled out of the truck bed.

“Darrrrr.” She whimpered.

“We are moving our lean to and our stuff to the porch, by the swing.” He told her, as he made her trail behind her towards the lean to, he had already packed all the stuff up. He had Scud carrying things as he woke her up. “Stop complaining, brat.” He snarled back at her, tugging her along, his fingers laced in hers.

“Ok, old man.” She mumbled back at him, letting him lead her.

“Everyone else is packing too, in the dark, ‘cause Hershel is letting us move inta that house.” Daryl was leading her by the main camp site, where everyone was packing.

She smiled warmly at Lori, who only nodded curtly back at her, she sighed. “She is never going to like me.”

“Sees what we mean to Rick, darling. In a way we are replacements for Shane, and we see that he was important to Rick.” Daryl was right, he always seemed to know when he was right.

It didn’t take long for them to pack. Living with Merle long enough they both had it down to an exact science. Scud never had anything more than a backpack, so he was a quick mover too. They were already sat up on the porch and asleep by the time everyone else had turned in for the night. Daryl had passed out with Letty’s head on his waist, her arms tucked around him, and his eyes watching the last of the shimmering fire at their main camp die out. Scud was pressed to the other side of Letty, with his head on her shoulder. Rick had told him what Letty had decided to do at the bar, he was not sure how he felt about it. It made his skin crawl, thinking about another man touching Letty. He tolerated it from Rick who had some sort of savior complex, but anyone else it bothered him.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

At first light, everyone else settled into the house. Lori and Carl were given the master bedroom, which they would share with Carol and Sophia. Hershel claimed he didn’t feel right letting either mother nor child sleep on the floor. Daryl and Letty had helped the others move in and then further secured their corner of the porch. The dust had settled, when things turned for the worst.

Otis died in his sleep that morning, his body turning faster because it seemed to have already been decaying. He was up and growling, when the women and children ran from the house. Patricia and Beth the last from the house, walker Otis caught Patricia and bit her, Daryl raised his bow, the arrow found its mark, hitting Otis between the eyes. Letty caught Patricia and lowered her to the ground, cradling her head in her hands.

Hershel, Maggie, Beth, and Jimmy crowded around Letty. Her knife ready should the moment come. Rick watched a stern look on his face. Daryl was not far from her, his eyes trained on his little assassin. It took an hour of Letty holding Patricia’s head in her lap, not trusting Hershel and the others to do the deed, when it was time.

When it happened, Beth let out a choked cry. Letty realized it must have hurt her, losing two mothers in one week. She wondered absently what that was like even as her blade pierced Patricia’s skull. Her blank eyes met Daryl’s and he frowned. Scud was tucked carefully behind Daryl. “Dad, if that happens to me, will you do it, so Letty doesn’t have to.”

Daryl looked down at the little boy. “Sure, Joshie.” He responded patting him. Daryl had been the one he called daddy first, and it had irritated Merle something fierce in the beginning. Daryl had been beaten for it, but then Merle disappeared on a drunk again, and Daryl was once more left with Letty and Josh.

<

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Lori was pacing, she did that a lot lately and it completely irritated Rick. Dale had taken to walking the fields, something about the incident with the barn and the death of Otis and Patricia had left him conflicted. Rick could see it, just like he could see the fact that Lori would never give up her dislike for Letty or Daryl.

Lori’s pacing around the kitchen had him pinching his nose. “What is it now?” He asked, hoping she would stop and talk to him.

“They are murderers.” Lori snapped.

“Who?” Rick asked, his irritation rising, he already knew who.

“Letty and Daryl.” Rick sighed exasperated, and rested his elbows on the table.

“I would have killed your precious Shane too.” Rick snapped.

Lori looked at him, hurt beyond words, her own pain welling in her heart. “I don’t want this baby.”

“Good, because once it is born, Letty and Daryl will take it, and I will be done with you.” Rick snarled, his eyes narrowed. He stood, anger on his face, and moved away from the kitchen, knocking past Carol as he did so.

Carol gave Lori a sympathetic look. “He will come around, and Lori, this is our miracle.”

Lori was sobbing by the time Letty made it into the house, two plucked chickens over her shoulder. “Hey.” She offered somewhat weakly.

“What do you want?” Lori asked her, her shoulders shaking.

“I brought in dinner, is all.” Letty dropped the chickens in the sink. “I am sorry. Shit Lori, I am. I.., he was gonna hurt Rick, and by extension Carl. If there had been another way, I would have taken it.”

Lori gaped at her. “Rick plans on having you raise mine and Shane’s baby.” Lori snapped.

It took Letty by surprise but she didn’t let it show. “I think he thinks you will die, he has mentioned to everyone especially Hershel how difficult delivering Carl was for you.”

Lori frowned. “Why would he tell you that…”

“Carl is named after my brother Carlton James Jones.” Letty told her.

Recognition blossomed on Lori’s face. “Your Loretta Jones, the missing girl who haunted him.”

“Yes, I am.” Letty responded, reaching for Lori’s hand. “Let Rick alone, from now.”

Lori watched the young woman before her as Letty dropped her hand and went to work preparing their dinner. She worked in silence, Lori realized that growing up with Merle and Daryl she had probably learned to be as quiet as a mouse.

“Letty.” Lori said after a long moment.

“Mhm.” Letty hummed.

“What are you and Daryl?”

“Nosey woman,” Letty smiled at her though. “We just are, he is Daryl and I am Letty. Some little girls dream their whole lives about their wedding, I dreamed about a motorcycle and him realizing I was something more than a girl, more than his responsibility.” She explained it as simply as she could.

“Rick and I are broken.” Lori offered. “We have been for a very long time.”

“I figured, Shane wasn’t a new thing was he?”

Lori looked around, making sure no one was home. “No, to be honest Carl might be his too.”

Letty’s eyes narrowed. “You… that long?”

Lori sobbed openly then. “I have made many mistakes.”

Letty returned to her work then, her anger reaching a new height.

Chapter Text

Rick and Daryl found Letty in the foulest mood they had seen her in since the CDC at dinner. Not even Beth’s singing made her mood brighten. To make matters worse, she was exceptionally cold to the children. She finished her meal and stormed outside in the sinking light, and into the tree line.

“What tha hell’s gotten inta her?” Daryl asked the group. No one seemed to answer.

“Might be my fault.” Lori said after a long moment.

“How?” Rick snapped, his anger flying at her.

“She was in after ya left this morning, tried to apologize and we had words.” Lori said, somewhat disconnected.

“WHY ARE YOU MEAN TO HER? SHE WAS PROTECTING ME!” Carl snarled, anger radiating from every member in the Grimes clan.

“Carl… she was…” Lori started.

“I HATE YOU! I KNEW ABOUT YOU AND SHANE STOP ACTING LIKE I AM A KID OR DEAF!” Carl stood and stormed out the front, Sophia, Scud, and Beth scurrying after him.

“I’ll go after them all.” Dale said after a long moment.

“He… he hates me?” Lori seemed to ask the open air.

“I think it is time we cleaned up.” Andrea mumbled, picking up the plates.

“Good idea!” Maggie almost cheered, enthusiastically helping.

“We have guard duty, right?” Jimmy asked T-Dog and Glenn, they nodded and scurried from the house.

Carol, Daryl, Rick, Lori, and Hershel found themselves at the table. “I don’t know.” Rick said after a long moment. “If he hates you or not, but the more you mistreat Letty the more I grow to dislike you, finally seeing you clearly for the first time in 13 years is painfully hard for me.” Rick stood then, pushing away from the table and headed upstairs.

“I’ll talk to him.” Hershel said after a long moment.

Carol stood as well, “Gonna get the clothes off the line.”

Daryl was left beside Lori at the table in a silent dining room. “She did it for you.” Lori snapped looking at him. “Killing my love.”

“Yer love, that’s fuckin’ rich, ya stupid bitch, Rick went through HELL to find yer ass and ya repay him by fuckin’ his best friend, then mourning’ over him, when someone kills the fuck because he is dangerous.” Daryl snarled. “He’d of killed Rick, me, Letty, hell anyone who stood in his fuckin way of bein with ya and Carl.”

Lori paled. “I knew he was dangerous, but I thought…”

“Seein’ a little girl take him down musta hurt ya, but woman, Letty and I are loyal to a T when it comes to followin’ someone, and we follow Rick, Letty would lay her life down for Carl, and ya treat her like a damn problem, it’s yew that is the fuckin problem.” Daryl snarled once more, then stood. He made his way to the front porch and lit a cigarette.

Lori was once more sobbing at the kitchen table.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Letty was pacing, moving fast and irritated, she was probably a good way away from the farm house by this point, in a clearing overlooking the creek. Soon she was joined by Carl who was teary eyed, Sophia, Scud, and Beth. “Letty.” Carl sobbed, his arms snaking around her waist, she ran her hand through his hair and held him, Sophia stood at the other side of her. Soon Scud was holding on to her as well, his arms snaking between the other two.

“Why did ya follow me?” She asked Beth.

“Carl took off after ya.” Beth explained. “Then Sophia and Scud, didn’t want them out here alone.”

Letty nodded, “Thank you.”

“Momma said she had words with ya.” Carl breathed against her. “I didn’t want ya to leave.”

Letty sighed. “Carl I ain’t leavin ya, ever.”

“Promise?” Sophia quipped from her other side.

Letty was about to say something when she heard a voice she had never wanted to hear again. “Tut Tut, Letty, better promise the brats.”

“Merel.” Her voice sounded pained even to Beth who had no clue who this man was. “We came back for you.”

“Dad?” Scud looked at him, confusion on his face.

“I know, I saw.” Merle chuckled to himself.

“Then why didn’t ya just wait for us.” Letty asked him, tucking the kids closer to her, Beth had moved behind her.

“Oh, had other plans. Ya see turns out there are other groups out there with more to offer, or so I thought.” Merle chuckled. He wheezed when he did it. “Followed tracks, best I could, then the highway…”

Letty looked him up and down. “Your bleeding.” His chest was bleeding.

“Turns out, the man I joined up with, didn’t want me to do anything to find ya lot again, I went back to camp after I healed up, but y’all was gone.” Merle stumbled forward.

Letty released the children and surged forward, catching Merle and swayed under his weight. “Shit, Merle.”

“Tha man shot me, but I made off on my own…” He was unconscious then. Letty motioned the kids forward.

“Everyone grab an appendage; we have to get him home. Beth take his other arm, kids his legs, let’s move now.” Letty was in charge, and they began to move back through the forest towards home.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Dale had known Merle was alive, he had shot him earlier in the day when he saw him. Dale had from the beginning wanted the Dixon’s to overthrow the camp, Dale was not actually the sweet competent man they all thought he was. Merle was the only one who knew for sure, he was James Dixon, their father’s oldest brother.

It was a stroke of luck that Daryl had not recognized the man, then again, Daryl had not seen James Dale Dixon since he was a small child. Since their father William had first thought Jesse to be Daryl’s father. When Merle had appeared once more, Dale had panicked and had shot him in the chest, it had seemed like the right thing to do.

He was not actually looking for the kids; he couldn’t care less about the brats. They were dead or alive it meant nothing. He heard the walker before he saw it, and by the time he went to react, the beast was on him. His screams brought everyone from the house, with the kids not back yet they were all in panic mode.

Rick and Daryl made it to him first, then Andrea. “GET HERSHEL!” They were shouting, Dale knew better, his chest had been ripped open. Rick felt the others around him, and he could feel the choked sob in his mouth, he stood gun raised ready to kill Dale, when Daryl surprised him by slipping his hand over Ricks, and raising the barrel towards Dale, “Sorry, brother.” Daryl whispered.

He was rewarded with Dale moving his head as close to the barrel as he could, the shot echoed across the farm. Daryl shared a look with Rick, pressing his gun back at him. “Goin’ after the kids.” The walker this close did not set right with him, before he made two strides toward the woods, he caught sight of the five of them carrying someone between them.

“DARYL ITS MERLE HELP!” Letty screamed, soon Daryl was running towards her, Rick and Hershel on his ankles.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

“Merle is my older brother. Half anyway, we share a mom. William Dixon is his father, everyone believed Jesse, William’s youngest brother was my father. My mom never said one way or the other.” Daryl explained to Hershel.

“Ok, how does Letty fit into Merle?” Hershel asked.

Letty was fast asleep, Merle’s head on her waist, and her body contorted around his to make him as comfortable as he could be, since he had been shot in the chest. Daryl looked at her and sighed. “Merle killed her family over crystal meth, it’s a long story. She was four. I wouldn’t let Merle kill her.” Daryl offered.

“It was my first case, Daryl, did she tell you, Shane and I worked the Jones murder in Tampa.” Rick was inside the room, his eyes resting on Merle.

“Nah, she didn’t but I think that’s because she wanted you to tell me.” Daryl guessed.

“We never could find the reason behind the murders and kidnapping. Didn’t make any sense. We never found her body, but the court decided to label her dead.” Rick explained.

“Wondered why no one ever came lookin for her.” Merle rasped.

“You're awake, asshole, ya scared me.” Letty was moving then, checking his face.

“Get Offa Me, brat.” Merle shoved her away, Daryl caught her.

“Don’t ya go pushin’ on her, Merle. She’s my lady.” Daryl snarled.

“Always knew ya liked uhm young.” Merle whispered, tired. “Where is my boy?”

“How’d ya get shot? How’d ya find us?” Daryl ignored the last statement.

“Dale – Daryl, Dale was not Dale, not really.” Merle whispered, his eyes closing again. “James Dale Dixon…” He grumbled.

Realization dawned on Letty’s face. “The oldest of the Dixon men. James, William, and Jesse. I only ever met William and Jesse, James was in prison for the longest time. When he got out he shacked up with a widow who had children, remember Daryl, she had money or something, William told us about it the last time we saw him alive.”

“I remember, we were with our uncle that WHOLE time an’ yer ass never felt the fuckin need to mention it?” Daryl snarled.

“Weren’t important.” Merle mumbled. “He was in on the robbin’ but didn’t go down, did it.”

Letty rolled her eyes. “Merle, hey fucktard, listen to me, Rick and the others, are not a fan of you being here, not at all. We love you, I guess, but you are gonna have to change a bit. Hershel owns the farm, not us.”

Merle muttered something that sounded a lot like “Fuck you.” But they could not be sure.

Scud darted in then, and pounced on the bed. “Dad.” He whispered.

Letty sucked in a deep breath, watching for a moment, surprise on her features when Merle actually hugged Scud to him. “Come on brat.” Merle motioned for Letty, who joined him on the bed, he hugged her to. “Made mistakes, but am back now. Turnin’ over a new leaf. ‘Ah ain’t even mad at ya, Rick, for the handcuffin’ bit. ‘Ah was dangerous.”

Letty laughed, but snuggled against Merle. There had been one other time in her life that Merle had hugged her like this, it was after he realized in his drunken stupor he had ran over the very mutt he had brought her home to please her. She had cried after her and Daryl buried the mutt, and he had hugged her.

Daryl had only been hugged by his brother once, so when Merle offered he raised an eyebrow but ducked down anyway and hugged him. He was sixteen in his memories, and Merle had just come home, to take him away from Hell that William Dixon created.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Like the other Dixon’s, Hershel was amazed at the speed at which Merle healed. Three days later the oldest Dixon was up and moving, his arms firmly around Letty’s shoulders as she led him out of the house to the corner of the porch Daryl had taken over. In those three days many things around the farm had changed, namely Beth had tried to kill herself, thanks to Andrea.

Letty had broke the door down, hurting herself in the process, to get to Beth. Hershel had led Rick and Glenn on a run to a nearby town for supplies. Jimmy had tagged along with them, and had not returned. Letty had fractured her wrist, something that Hershel was sorry for to an extent. Letty had drug Beth from the bathroom, and straddled her on the bed, fighting the younger girl, and stitching her wrist up.

Once Beth had passed out, Letty sought out Maggie then went after Andrea, the fight that had ensued between the two had left Andrea angry and sullen. Prompting the woman to declare she was leaving. Rick had tried admirably to talk her out of it, but had had no luck. Letty for what it was worth, had a broken nose and a cut above her eye following the fight.

Daryl had worked on closing up their part of the porch, Hershel had allowed that, and Daryl had constructed some sort of bunk bed system on the main house. Merle’s bed was on bottom, Scud’s above him. Then a thin curtain hung between their beds and the newly enclosed part of the porch where Daryl had created a bed for himself and Letty.

Letty helped Merle into his bunk. He was back to his old self, growling at them and barking orders. Not that it mattered much, not now, neither one was interested in listening to him. A couple weeks without Merle, and with Rick guiding them the middle Dixon’s had discovered they did not actually need Merle as much as he needed them.

Scud was also different towards his father. “You stole their van, dad, when they came back for you, why would you do that?”

“Son, leave me alone.” Merle warned.

“Answer me, Merle.” Scud shot back, angry.

Daryl and Letty shared a look, then she opened the curtain. “Yea, Merle, answer Scud.”

“Go on, Merle, tell the little boy the truth for once.” Daryl snarled.

“Cause I figured I didn’t need anything from ya anymore, ok, the three of you always have slowed me down. I took in Daryl cause he was my brother and he needed me. Shit, then he demanded we take care of Letty, and she was nothing but trouble, then that fuckin whore brought your little piece of shit ass into this world, Scud, and died doing it, couldn’t of flushed ya, na, wanted to keep ya. Daryl then decided to fuckin play house with the two of ya brats.” Merle was red in the face.

Tears welled up in Scud’s eyes, and Letty stood. She walked calmly over to Merle and brought her casted wrist down on the center of his chest hard, causing him to gasp for breath, and his whole body to contort in pain. “Get up Scud.” She drug the little boy up with her, and stormed off. Pausing to pick him up.

“You ever think, Merle, ever that maybe you're the reason we are fucked up?” Daryl snapped, standing to follow the pair.

Chapter Text

When he caught up to Letty and Scud they were leaned against a barn, Scud in her lap, and his face buried against her neck. Daryl sank down next to Letty, slipping his arms around the two of them, and pulling them close. “Once he is well, we will figure out what to do with him.” Letty offered, her eyes meeting Daryl.

“Right, we will.” Daryl agreed. Scud nodded somewhere between them and sniffled. Both Letty and Daryl turned their attention to the gravel path that led to the house as the bronco Rick, Hershel, and T-Dog had taken out. Her eyebrows raised as a fourth person spilled from the car.

She could distantly make out the discussion being had. “He is injured, and we need information from him, we believe he is part of the group that attacked us and Letty.” Rick was explaining to Glenn.

“Take the baby on to the house, Letty.” Daryl told her, forcefully. She nodded, and helped the little boy up, half holding him and half dragging him.

By the time she was on the porch with Maggie, Merle was fast asleep on his bunk. Snoring. She rolled her eyes. Lori was inside the house with Carol, but that wasn’t her issue right now. She scooted the little boy inside, pointing him towards Carl and Sophia. They would be in Beth’s room upstairs she imagined. Trying to keep Beth happy, the girl had decided she wanted to live after her altercation with Letty.

Letty returned to the porch taking a spot next to Maggie. Maggie slipped her arms around Letty’s shoulders and rested her head on Letty’s. They were quickly becoming sisters, in their own way. After destroying the bathroom door and injuring herself, Maggie had registered that both Letty and Daryl were helpers in their own way - both just trying to keep everyone alive.

She leaned back on Maggie, comfortable with the contact, and watched as Daryl and Rick talked quietly to each other. Lori joined them on the porch, linking her arms around Maggie and Letty. Letty smiled as affectionately as she could at Lori. With Beth’s suicide attempt she had changed somewhat, Lori, and was trying hard, to be more helpful. She had even stopped mentioning Shane. Carol soon joined them as well. The four women watched, interested as the men drug the boy to the steps, pushing him onto his knees.

“Say’s he knows ya, Maggie.” Rick explained. Maggie only nodded, when the hood was pulled from his head she shook her head.

“I… I don’t know him, but there is a chance he went to school with me.” She offered, confusion on her face. “Let me… check my year books or something?” She asked her eyes locking on Ricks, he shook his head no.

“We are gonna patch him up.” Hershel explained. “Then take him out to the barn. The little barn.” Hershel pointed to the small shed.

“Right.” Rick agreed.

“Let's get back to guard, then.” Glenn and T-Dog moved back to their positions on the farm.

“You said information.” Letty snarled, low, looking at the boy.

“This is Randall.” Rick explained. “He is from the same group as Dave and Tony.”

Daryl watched her clench her fist, then narrow her eyes. “Really.” She snapped, walking down the porch, to where Randall was kneeling. With her casted right hand, she punched him in the face hard. “You gonna ask to fuck me to?” It was low and snarling. “Going to try to rub all over me, just cause you think you can, cause yer fuckin’ entitled?”

Merle was awake, his eyes hooded, but he knew the tone. “Letty. NO.” Merle snapped.

“Why not?” She snarled. Daryl had caught up now.

“Letty, don’t... they need information from him, if you kill him…” Daryl’s voice dropped off.

Letty stopped, her arm raised above the Randall’s head. Her eyes narrowed. Daryl had his arms around her now, holding her tight, pulling her away. “Letty.” He mumbled into her hair, gripping her tight. “Breathe.”

She breathed deeply. “Ok.” Daryl felt bad for her, in the moment.

“We created ya Letty, and yer first reaction when angry was ta kill.” Merle mumbled. “Maybe yer right, maybe ‘s my fault ya three turned out wrong.”

Daryl looked at his brother, and then back at the prisoner, then at Letty in his arms. He cast his eyes then to Rick. “Rick, man, I will be the one to get the information from him.”

“Can you keep your anger in check.”

“Compared to Merle and Letty, yea. I should be.” Daryl mumbled. “Keep ‘er up ‘ere.” He told Lori, pushing Letty at her. “‘Nd be nice.” He snapped.

Carol wrapped her arms around Letty, pulling her back towards Maggie and Lori. “Promise.” Carol nodded at him. With that Carol pulled Letty and the other two women into the house. She pushed Letty’s hair from her face then said. “I think you need a bubble bath.”

“What is that?” She asked, confusion on her face.

“You’ve never had a bubble bath?” Maggie asked.

“No, never.” Letty felt a blush on her face.

“That kinda makes sense.” Lori chuckled. “Living with only men, I bet they made you shower from a young age up huh?”

“Actually yea.” Letty was being pulled up the stairs, past Beth’s room and into the bathroom. All three women were moving around her, alive with activity. Lori started the water, and Maggie dug out a bottle of something that smelled like lavender. Carol was trying to brush her hair.

“Strip.” Maggie said after a minute, the tub was filling with water.

“If you're drown me, or try to I’ll kill ya.” Letty snarled.

“We are not going to hurt you.” Lori rubbed her face.

“I… Ok.” Letty grumbled, accepting the gentle rub as a peace offering. She tugged her shirt and bra off. Then her pants.

“Can you tell us about the scars.” Maggie asked, watching Letty shimmy off her old underwear. Her body was marked, scars running along almost every piece of her flesh.

“I guess, yea.” Letty mumbled. Lori took her casted hand in hers, and quickly wrapped it in a plastic bag, taping it so the cast would not get wet.

“That one.” Carol pointed at an easy one, her ribs.

“Silly, bolt from the cross bow out hunting, this mark on my head is from that too.” She pointed up, pushing hair from her temple to reveal the graze. “This.” She pointed to a long gash from her armpit to hip on her left side. “Merle gave me when I was eight.” She pointed at her back. “Burns from the night they kidnapped me.” Then she paused looking at several small ones on her torso. “William Dixon did these, thier father, he didn’t like me, another mouth to feed he would always say.” She paused. “Got these.” Motioning to several scrapes on her legs, “Scaling a fence behind Daryl, got caught in some barbed wire I was thirteen.” She looked at herself in the mirror. “This only my shoulder, is a dog bite.”

“That is a lot, these little knicks what are they from?” Lori asked.

“They are from when Daryl or Merle were drunk.” She paused. “Mostly Merle.” Then she frowned.

“He was always fond of knives. These if I remember are from stepping on him while he was asleep.”

Lori nodded. “Go on, get in the tub.”

She cast a precarious look at the tub, frowning, then did as told. She stood there for a moment, looking perplexed. “Sit.” Carol finally urged her.

She did as instructed, then raised and eyebrow as Maggie sat beside her outside the tub on her knees. “Gonna wash your hair.”

“M’k.” She mumbled, tipping her head back and closing her eyes. There was a memory trying to swim to the surface, but she couldn’t quite place it. Lori sat on the toilet seat, and propped her feet up on the side of the tub. Carol rested against the sink and hummed. Maggie had more trouble than she thought she should have. Letty had unruly hair at best, and it tangled easily.

Once Maggie had gotten her hair as clean as she could, she french braided it, and secured it up in a bun out of the water. Maggie just smiled at her. “I’ll fetch you some clean clothes, we are gonna go finish dinner, ok?”

“K.” Letty responded, sinking down in the water, humming in pleasure.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

It was maybe twenty minutes later that Daryl made his way to the main house. His knuckles bloody, and looking angry. He stormed into the kitchen. “Where is she?”

“In the bathroom still.” Carol looked at his hands, a frown on her face.

“Not now woman.” He snapped, storming up the stairs. He threw open the bathroom door, all anger seemed to seep out of him. She looked adorable. Her hair swept up outta the water, her ankles crossed and propped on the side of the tub, her shoulders under the water, bubbles covering the important parts of her. He edged in, closing the door behind him.

Her eyes fluttered open. “Dar.” She almost started to sit up but he shook his head no. Her eyes checked him over, his knuckles were bleeding. “Mere.” She mumbled, raising up in the water slightly.

“He… he doesn’t really know anything.” Daryl moaned, dropping to his knees. She moved quickly, taking his hands and pressing them into the hot water. He hissed, and she grinned to herself.

“Feel better.” She asked, now sitting crisscross applesauce in the tub, her breast peeking above the water.

“Some. Couldn’t stand the thought of another man touching you.” Daryl mumbled.

“But you don’t even touch me, not often, when you're drunk or angry, never just because you want to. I am still an outlet for your emotions Daryl.” She sighed, her own pain edging into her eyes.

Daryl looked at her, eyes locking on each other, and he felt her pain, every bit of it. “I don’t know how… Letty.” He breathed her name, his eyes searching hers.

“I know, and I don’t wanna push you, ever.” She whispered back. “Join me?”

Daryl frowned for a moment. “I dunno.” He whispered.

“Your dirty and this feels amazing!” She whispered excited at him. “Lock the door.”

Daryl rose and locked the door then looked back at her again. “Letty.”`

“Daryl, I have seen you in various stages of naked my whole life, get yer clothes off and get in the tub. I’ll even scoot to this end, where the faucet is so you won't hurt yourself.” She scooted to the water faucet and waited, eyebrows raised.

“‘Ight, dammit girl.” He mumbled. It in her opinion was taking way too long for him to strip, but finally he was naked, and blushing.

“Beautiful.” She whispered, and he blushed harder. He had never stood on display for someone and he was uncomfortable at best. “Come on then?” She teased. He growled, then in two strides was by the side of the large tub, he stepped in, splashing water and sank down, his knees drawn up. “Nah, stretch out, and I will wash your hair, with my uncasted hand.”

Daryl let out an exasperated noise, but did as she commanded, stretching his legs out as best he could, she crawled between them, pressing her chest to his. This tub was suddenly very small he realized. Her body fit his perfect, something he had realized in his tent, the last night they were together. He shivered as her hand cupped water and soaked his hair.

Daryl was chewing on his bottom lip, his one hand resting against her hip, the other on the lip of the tub. She was soaping up his head, and making him feel slightly drowsy. She was good at making him lower his guard. She rinsed his hair, and he heard her sigh, his eyes still shut. She pressed her chest to his, and he felt the warm kisses, traveling along his jaw. He growled out, low.

“I’ll stop if you want.” She whispered into his skin.

“Don’t.” He barely managed to snap back at her, her hand stroking his length, from base to tip, almost painfully soft. He was not sure when he had gotten hard, but at this point he was lost to conscious thought, her body her smell always seemed to trap him like this.

By the time her mouth found his, she had developed a steady rhythm and pressure with her hand each stroke slightly tighter and faster than the last. His hand left her hip, grabbing hard at her ass cheeks, pinching. His other on the base of her neck, gentle.

“Ain’t gonna last.” He choked out as her mouth nibbled hungrily at his earlobe, then dropped to his neck, biting and sucking.

“That’s the point.” She moaned at him, her tongue dancing across his flesh, then he felt her bit hard, she was going to mark him. He didn’t care, hell at this point she could leave hickies everywhere on his body as long as she didn’t release his throbbing length. She picked up her pace, and he found himself bucking into her hand, breathing erratically.

“Damn.” He almost shouted, “Letty.” He moaned next, coming much harder than he expected, the white sticky mess landing on tiles around the tub. She was kissing him again. He leaned back in the water, panting.

She stood, smiling down at him, then slipped outta the tub, and grabbed the towel. “Clean up.” She commanded him.

“But… you…” He looked confused.

“Dar, I don’t know about your life before me, but sometimes it's okay to just receive, its not about payment or paying back, love.” She kissed him again, then got dressed. Maggie had left her new underwear, which brought a smile to her face, a pair of shorts, a sports bra which was a tad too small, and a long sleeve shirt. She slid on the clean socks which were pink, and knee high, and then her boots.

“Letty, I love you.” He whispered once the door was closed and she was long gone, he sank in the water, until his head was completely under the water.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

The only time everyone was in the house was supper. Everyone, Merle included, gathered around the table. “Daryl is in the bath.” Letty had explained when she came down alone, she had then helped Merle inside.

“Letty, did he tell you about Randall?” Rick asked.

“Didn’t have to, saw his knuckles, kid’s beat up uh?” Letty asked.

“Not exactly, Daryl did beat him up, but he gave us information that we are not sure how to use.” Rick explained. “He knows where they were two days ago, and it is only a couple miles from here.” Rick continued. “Daryl hit him enough to break him, to make him beg for his mother, but by the look on your face I am going to assume you knew that already.” Rick sighed, running a frustrated hand through his hair. “Randall made the fatal mistake of asking if his friends had you, and if they had if he could get a piece of the action.”

Letty paled. “How dead is he?”

“Pieces.” Merle mumbled. “Left him in pieces, I bet.”

“Close…” Rick grumbled. “But, sadly, that gets us no closer to knowing about this threat.”

“Sure it does.” Merle said after a moment, his eyes locked on Letty. “The whole lot of them are rapist, sounds ta me.”

“I am with Merle on this.” Carol said, surprising everyone. “Well, those two were more than ready to take anything Letty could be at the bar, and Randall…”

Rick sighed, he looked at Letty. “Daryl wants to scout them out, and he wants you along with him.”

Letty was picking at her shirt, when Daryl entered the room. His hair still wet. “Reckon if we leave tonight, we can find the camp and watch it all day tomorrow, then head home in the dark.”

Letty’s eyes locked on Daryl. “Fine by me. But Scud,” She turned to the boy. “You listen ta Rick until I get back, not Merle, ya hear me, sleep in here with the kids.” She ordered.

“We leave after we eat, a’ight Rick?” Daryl sank down next to her.

“Alright.” Rick agreed.

“Just you two?” Hershel asked.

“Yea.” Letty took Daryl’s hand in hers, something small and unseen under the table.

“Just us.” Daryl agreed.

Chapter Text

Merle didn’t like it, he watched them leave, and snarled. “Can I come in the house?”

“Maybe, ya gonna be good?” Lori asked, hands on her hips.

“I’ll be nice.” He grumbled.

“Or we shoot ya, hide your body, and tell them ya ran away.” Scud told his dad, tapping at T-Dog’s gun.

“Ya sure he’s your son?” T-Dog asked, smiling.

“Nah, too much like Letty.” Merle snapped. “Guess he is lucky.”

Rick sighed, “Well come on.” He opened the door and helped Merle into the couch.

“They will be alright.” Merle told Scud as he sat on the couch.

Rick was not sure who he was reassuring the little boy, who seemed to already know they were coming back or himself. Either Way Rick nodded in his general direction and sighed. “Long night tonight, let’s board up the windows, and keep the lights at a minimum, everyone in the house on the first floor.” Rick ordered.

It was around midnight that Rick heard the gunshots. He rose to check on the outside world, and felt a pang of panic. “We need to move.” He said suddenly, waking everyone up.

“Daryl? Letty?” Scud scrambled to the window. Instead of familiar faces walkers were pouring out of the woods.

“Shit.” Merle mumbled. The walkers seemed to be coming from the direction that Letty and Daryl had disappeared in. “They ain’t coming back, at least not to here, not if the herd met with uhm.

Don’t worry Scud, they always come back to ya, they ain’t me.” Merle patted his son on the head, and hugged the boy closer.

T-Dog burst through the front door. “Come on, ya’ll.”

T-Dog and Rick steered everyone towards the vehicles, except Merle and Carol. “Gonna take the bike.” Merle said looking at him carefully.

“Were leaving?” Maggie cried out.

Rick nodded at both of them, and pressed a gun into her hands. “Yes, this is a herd, they must have been cut off by it.”

“Need ya to lead us outta that.” T-Dog yelled starting the SUV up. Maggie found a seat in the truck with Rick, looking around wildly. Lori and Beth were with T-Dog, Glenn was somewhere in the back with Hershel and the kids, and somewhere ahead in the forest Daryl and Letty were lost.

That was a wall of walkers, instantly Maggie was in action, point and shouting directions to T-Dog, it felt like they drove all night, maybe they did, as the sun rose they found the highway.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

They had found an easy enough path to lead them to the camp the boy Randall had told them about. They found the winding creek bed. Letty’s hand intertwined in Daryl’s her breathing matched his. It was chilly out tonight, something that he regretted not bringing more clothing.

It was close to midnight when they found the outskirts of what had been the camp. She froze, he did to. The whole place was crawling with walkers. Children, women, men all dead, either turned or being eaten. “Move.” Daryl hissed, suddenly aware of the way they must smell - fresh from the bath and delicious.

Letty was running, Daryl close behind her, as they reached the first set of thick trees her body was slammed down, not by a walker but by a human. A tall black woman with two pet walkers behind her. “Shit.” Letty hissed.

“Damn, woman, who tha hell are ya?” Daryl was helping Letty up.

“Name is Michonne. I was looking for someone, out here.” She motioned to the woods around her. “A man.”

“Ah, well, if he was in that camp back yonder he is dinner, we gotta move.” Letty was already running again, Daryl behind her, neither cast a look back towards the African American woman.

She heard the woman cuss, then felt her presence behind them, “You two got a plan ta get us outta here?”

“Nope, just run and kill.” Letty called back to her, her knees sinking into the creek.

“If we could get ta the highway, Letty, we could climb up and wait uhm out, on the crashed semi.” Daryl grunted behind her.

“Good plan!” Letty was enthusiastic, crashing up the bank, her body dirty and tired, she and Daryl drug Michonne up after them. Her pet walkers dead somewhere behind them.

“The road?” Michonne raised and eyebrow.

“Long story.” Letty panted, but led them on, Daryl right behind her, when they reached the tree line, the moon winked down at them. She smiled warm. Daryl caught her round the middle, spun her, and kissed her square on the mouth.

“Shit.” Letty giggled when he pulled away. “Glad we made it to.”

Michonne coughed. “Higher ground?”

Soon the three were laying on top of a turned over semi, not far from where they had parked the broken down RV before they had made it to Hershel’s land. “They will come.” Daryl mumbled into Letty’s hair, her head pressed into his shoulder.

“Who?” Michonne asked, eyebrows raised.

“Our family.” Letty answered, her eyes on the amazon warrior.

“Ah. More of you then?” She grumbled.

“Michonne, right?” Michonne nodded. “Who were you looking for?” She asked.

“Man named Philip Blake - he killed my… my boyfriend and my son, he was the leader of our camp, and he… destroyed everything.” Michonne sniffled, and looked at Daryl. “You two look pretty cozy.”

“Been together awhile.” Daryl offered her.

“How long?” Michonne raised an eyebrow. The young girl didn’t look old enough to be with anyone awhile.

“Since I was four.” Letty answered, her face peaceful her eyes closed, just her breathing in Daryl. Her hand rested around his middle. “Since he saved me from hell.”

“Aha.” Michonne didn’t say anything for a long while. “Then your a couple.”

“Yea, I guess.” Daryl managed to say as he yawned. “Look lady, you look uncomfortable, come on a lay down here ya can rest on my arm, ain’t gonna bite…” Daryl chuckled to himself. “‘Ah will stay up all night, no worries.”

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

They neared the spot they had parked at on the highway and everyone grinned, relief on their faces. Daryl was standing on top of a semi, waving excited at them, Letty next to him. A second woman on top of the turned over trailer as well, her whole body seemed tense.

As Merle brought the bike across, he kicked the kick stand down, and shut it off. “This everyone?” Daryl asked his eyes locking on Merle.

“But all the kids?” Letty asked asked, soon Sophia, Carl, and Scud tumbled out of the station wagon. Beth and Lori climbed from the truck. Letty hugged Scud to her, “I missed you boy!”

“Missed you too momma.” The little boy wound himself tight to her.

“Who is this?” Rick asked.

“Michonne.” Letty answered carefully. “She was looking for the same bad men as us.” Letty explained, her eyes locked on Rick.

“She didn’t kill ya in yer sleep, might be a’ight.” Merle nodded at the woman.

“Looking for a man named Philip Blake.” Michonne explained. “He is the reason my son and love are dead.” She explained, a pained expression on her face. “That camp looked like something he would lead.”

Rick nodded, “You use a Katana?” He asked looking at her back. She was skinny and muscular, with a beautiful brown skin, and dark eyes.

She nodded at him, climbing into the truck bed. “I’ll ride here.” She decided.

“We need ta move, Rick, can’t stay here.” Daryl urged. He was climbing on his bike, Scud sitting in front of him, and Letty behind him. It wasn’t idea, but they did not have a lot of car room currently. “Merle ya ride in the truck bed with Michonne, Carol and Sophia.”

“Agreed, let’s go. Carl, Lori, Glenn, T-Dog with me in the station wagon with me. Hershel you wanna drive the truck with Maggie and Beth, at least for now, we can get more cars later. We need to fill the station wagon up with supplies, soon.” Rick was already ordering them around.

Chapter Text

She had no clue how long they were on the road. Beth was pretty good at keeping up with the days as they traveled. So, several afternoons into camp, when they had ran out of gas and found themselves very open and vulnerable on the side of the road, stashed in some sort of brick ruins, Letty was not surprised when Beth announced, “I think it is Thanksgiving.”

Everyone looked at her. Letty didn’t even bother to look up. Scud was pressed between her and Beth, Carl was plastered to her lower legs, almost asleep in the cold, and Sophia was tucked in to Daryl’s poncho resting against Letty’s other side. Her head tipped into Letty’s shoulder. Michonne’s knees were against her back.

Somewhere along the way Daryl and Letty had become the parents or older siblings of everyone in the group’s kids. Letty watched as the group around them evolved. Hershel was constantly watching Maggie’s interactions with Glenn, he was also constantly watching Beth. Beth was growing more interested in Letty with each day, often hovering dangerously close to the other girl. Watching her every move, idolizing her.

“Then we celebrate.” Rick decided, somewhat lamely. T-Dog raised his eyebrows at Rick.

“I don’t know what that is?” Letty and Scud shared a look. “We never had one.”

Michonne chuckled, darkly at the girl, then continued cleaning her Katana. Much like Daryl, Michonne didn’t talk much. Didn’t really need to.

“Daryl.” Rick gave him a strange look. “You never celebrated Thanksgiving?”

Merle laughed. “Our parents never had the money to, and shit, we never had the money to either, Crystal Meth is expensive and so are hookers.” Merle laughed a hearty laugh again.

“We had Christmas though.” Letty explained somewhat disheartened.

“We sure did!” Daryl exclaimed, kissing Letty’s temple and ruffling Scud’s hair.

“Merle and Dar would steal us some new guns and we would go off in the woods until February hunting and fishing, only time of year Merle was home long!” Letty smiled at the memories. “Got my first crossbow at fourteen, remember I couldn’t even pull tha weight back right.”

Daryl was laughing now, “Ya busted yer lip on it, and Merle stitched it up, tears streamin’ down yer face, and little bitty Scud cryin’ too, cause he thought ya would be mad at him for it.”

Rick had never seen the Dixon’s all four alive with energy. “That was a good Christmas.” Merle laughed with them, and hugged Scud closer to him. Letty smiled at Daryl then, kissing his face slightly.

“So, we need a turkey or a game bird.” Rick said once the Dixon's had settled back down into each other.

“Right, thats me and you huh Merle.” Daryl laughed.

Merle stood, since rejoin them he had been trying, hard to make things right, to prove that he was a member of their family and to make sure that everyone knew he meant business about staying with Daryl, Letty, and Scud.

Whatever reservations Rick had had about Merle joining them was easy enough to overlook because of how much him being their changed the other three Dixon’s they were happier and more relaxed. Regardless of what he had done in the past, Merle was starting to be OK in Rick’s book. Lori on the other hand, was irritated that both her husband and her son were taken in by the Dixon's.

Once Merle and Daryl left camp, Daryl patting Letty’s head affectionately on the way out, Rick turned his attention to Letty. “You know your herbs and spices? Any that would grow wild around here?”

She nodded. “I’ll take the kids, teach uhm, and Hershel too.” She smiled at the older man, who smiled back at her. To him she was still a strange combination of a woman and a child, and unruly one at that, but she was sweet and enduring to a fault. He stood, and followed Letty and the children into the woods.

“Glenn, Maggie, T-Dog, Carol could you guys find some firewood.” Rick asked, “Lori I want you to rest here, and relax.” He smiled at her, as warmly as he could.

She shivered, and Rick smiled to himself when Letty emerge and tossed the Poncho at her from, Lori took it without hesitation, bundling up against the chill in the air. Rick motioned Michonne over. “Could you keep an eye on Lori, I wanna stretch my legs a bit.”

Michonne frowned a bit but nodded, sinking down next to Lori, bumping shoulders harder than necessary. Once Rick had wondered off Lori and Michonne looked at one another, and giggled. “Where do ya think he is off to?” Lori asked finally.

“Probably to watch his boyfriends hunt.” Michonne snickered.

Lori smiled warmly at the other woman. Deciding to live after Shane’s death was hard on her, harder than it should have been, but here in the moment with Michonne or the small moments Letty allowed her to have, she felt better about things. “At least he has friends, he used to only have Shane…” Then the darkness seemed to constrict on her.

Michonne knew Shane’s name, and his story, knew that Letty had been the one to kill him, but that Lori blamed Rick for it still. Michonne frowned at Lori. “Seems like it’s better this way.”

Silence consumed them, as the small encampment became much too large for Lori, her head swimming, she sunk into Michonne’s lap, tears falling, and closed her eyes. Exhaustion overtook her.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

“Been thinkin’ baby brother.” Merle mumbled as they made their way through the trees.

“Mhm?” Daryl hummed.

“We ought to take uhm to Blood Mountain for the winter sets in bad.” Merle mumbled, his voice low.

Daryl turned sharply and looked at him. “Home?”

“Home.” Merle agreed, he could see the terror behind Daryl’s eyes. “This time, he’s already dead. We burned down that house, I am talkin’ bout the second house, in the woods, tha house you and Letty use’ta keep.”

Daryl chewed on his thumb for a long moment. “‘Ah’ll talk to Letty ‘bout it.” Then he returned his attention to the hunt. Whatever Merle wanted to do it was not something he could decide on his own. Blood Mountain held many demons for them all.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Letty was crouched down in the underbrush, the kids wound around her and Hershel holding a sack, his eyes trained on Beth, Scud, Carl, Sophia, and Letty. She was a master in his opinion of obtaining and holding the attention of children. “This you can eat.” She explained holding up a specific mushroom. “This one, its sister, you can not.”

“Why?” Hershel ask suddenly surprised at himself.

“The Amanitus muscarius is a rare coastal mushroom originally used by the Iroquois to combat red malaria. It also happens to be a highly potent aphrodisiac. Not sure how it ended up here, now that I am thinking on it. And then there's its infamous sister, the Amanita rubenica, affectionately known as Purple Julie. It will kill you in less than a minute. Guess what they both have in common?”

“They look alike.” Beth guesses.

“Sort of, except look closer.” She shows each kid the mushroom closer, and upon closer inspection the bell of the mushrooms were in fact different color patterns.

It was something that Hershel would never understand, her patience with the children, after everything she had been through it would make sense to him that she would be every bit like Merle, but she was soft, loving.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Thanksgiving was interesting to say the least. Daryl and Merle could not get a game bird, they did however get a nice stringer of squirrel and opossum. Letty had no problem then instructing the kids on how clean, gut, then prepare the meat. Rick watched as Daryl leaned back on the nearest tree and watched her, a small smile on the corner of his lips. Merle on the other hand, was frozen, his whole face contorted somewhere between pride and pain.

“When did ya start listen’n ta me.” Merle mumbled after sometime, Rick watched as Letty cocked her head to the side, and winked at Daryl.

“Hard to ignore yer loud ass, Merle.” She responded.

Merle chuckled. “Guess yer right.”

Letty stood, her hair catching in the evening light, and surged forward, her arms around his middle. Merle hugged her back, confused for a moment.

Soon they were gathered around the fire, sun was sinking, and they were eating. “Can you guys tell us about thanksgivings before?” Letty asked after a long moment. It was Hershel who started, as the oldest, explaining what Thanksgiving had been like him for a child.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

When the sun rose the last embers of fall were gone, and with it Merle. Daryl and Letty looked around for most of the early morning, and returned with no Merle. A frown etched into Letty’s pretty tanned face. “It’s alright.” Scud said slowly. “He always finds his way back to us.”

Letty smiled a little. “Yea, I guess you're right, darling.” She agreed kissing his head. They moved on from the spot in early morning, they spent most of the rest of the winter on move. From safe house to safe-house, each step seemed to be colder than the last. It was a wide circle they ran, almost eight miles in a continuous arc, never straying far from where they knew the landscape.

Merle was nowhere to be found, no sign of him, ever. Each day seemed to also draw them closer to losing themselves. “Family, gotta talk with you.” Rick said as the snow flitted down the slope around them. “Something I should have told you, after leaving the CDC.” Rick coughed.

By now everyone had gathered around him. Rick stood in the center, his arm hung over Carl’s shoulders, Lori beside him, Carol and Sophia, then T-Dog and Daryl, Letty had Scud tucked against her side, then Hershel, Beth and Maggie. “Go on Rick.” Daryl nodded after a minute.

“That man, Jenner, he… there is no cure, no going back…” Rick mumbled over the words.

“Remember those bodies we found, in that root cellar we stayed in. Daryl and I looked them over, no bites, they just died, of natural causes…” Letty mumbled.

“Makes sense.” Daryl said finally.

“What does?” Hershel asked.

“No cure, can’t be fixed…” Daryl shrugged.

“He also said, that we are all infected. All of us, we carry it, regardless of how we die…” Rick looked at his hands.

Lori shivered somewhere beside him.

“We gotta place we could head towards, if that is somethin’ ya want.” Daryl mumbled.

“Yea, no one ever goes up that’a way. Too damn backwoods.” Letty tapped her chin.

“Home?” Scud asked, his eyebrows raised.

“Where is home for you three?” Rick asked, interested.

Hershel was paying attention, hard, wondering where these kids grew up. “Blood Mountain.” Letty said after a long moment, her eyes never leaving Ricks.

A shiver seemed to run through them all. Stories came from Blood mountain, horrible ones, about witches and cannibals. “A’ight, lead the way.” Rick said after a long moment.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

They were resting on the road, watching as Rick and Daryl hunted, they were following the railroad tracks. Letty was resting, her body on the bike. Daryl had her rifle with him, more often than not, she was light, and in emergencies she could drive Merle’s bike better than Daryl could. Scud was playing off to the side with Carl and Sophia, Beth beside them. When they returned Rick told them about the prison, and informed them that they were going to move on it, and soon.

Letty flanked Daryl, as he and Glenn laced up the fencing, she surveyed her surroundings. “We take the field tonight,” Rick told them. He handed out orders then, and looked at Letty, “You run with me for the gate, keep uhm off each other that way.”

She nodded, he had become pretty fond of her the last couple weeks, she was smart and quick. Soon she and Rick were running up the kill, killing the walkers as they could, Letty collecting Daryl’s arrows as they did. Carol shot the ground between them, and hollered her apology. Rick slammed the gate shut as Letty opened the door to the guard tower, inside they killed two on the stairwell, “LIGHT IT UP!” She heard Daryl cry. Shots rang out for the next several minutes. Rick smiled, he was checking her over, making sure that she was completely fine. She smiled graciously at Rick, and nodded.

Daryl caught Letty as she darted down the hill, straight into his arms, he tossed her a bit, around in a circle, as excited as he was, and then he released her, she was on Beth in an instant. They were close in age, and had become fast friends. She locked arms with Beth and let the younger girl wipe blood from her face.
That night they talked about the future, a future with planting and future with children, laughter and hope. Rick walked the fence. Beth talked with Lori about the baby, Letty just listened, eventually Beth rested against Letty’s form, and Letty watched Daryl on the lookout. Carol had joined him so both Sophia and Scud were tucked under the blanket Letty had.

Beth was singing now, to their urging. Letty and Maggie joined in, soon, much to everyone’s joy. Their pace was even and simple, Beth was by far the best singer, but Maggie and Letty could keep pace enough with her. Rick ordered them to bed, “We are pushing into the prison, tomorrow, so we need the rest. We gotta push just a little bit more. Most of the walkers are guards or prisoners, could have fallen early. Supplies, armory, medicine, weapons, food, this place could be a gold mind.”

“We won't make a dent,” Hershel started to argue.

“That’s why we go hand to hand.” Rick asserted. “They don’t stand a chance.” Rick winked at Letty.

Daryl and Carol sank down next to Letty, as Lori went after Rick. Letty laid her head in Carol’s lap tugging Beth’s sleeping form with her, and Carol petted her hair, running her fingers through the tangles of both girls, Letty’s hair was many different dark colors, and when splashed against Beth’s blond it seemed like a mess, both had long tresses, with leaves often tangled in it. Letty’s feet pressed into Daryl’s lap, and he grunted at her. She was fast asleep, soon Beth followed, they all did. Sophia and Scud curled around them, warming themselves with the older kids.

Chapter Text

Lori must not have found the answers she wanted with Rick, because Daryl watched her cry that night, as she had done so many times before. Deep heavy sobs, they seemed never ending, and he wondered what exactly Rick had said to her. Rick and Lori didn’t have the relationship that Daryl’s mother and father did, but they were not happy either.

As the sun came up they moved in, a tight formation. T-Dog, Rick, Maggie, Glenn, Daryl, and Letty. Each taking out Walkers in hand-to-hand combat. Carol had argued with Letty not go, but Rick was determined as a good fighter that she come. “Keep tight!” Rick yelled at them, he pushed them against the wall, as the riot guard wearing walkers emerged. Daryl and Letty moved in sync, slamming into as many as they could with the knifes, Rick called for Daryl, and he helped close the gate. Letty scaled a walker, bringing it down, and forcing her blade through its neck. “RAISE THE SHIELDS!” She heard Maggie roar. Daryl tucked the thought away, but Letty had not trouble man handling walkers easily twice her size, she had no problem shoving, killing, roughing them up.

They reached the conclusion that there might be walker’s inside, so they agreed to push into the prison. Letty in the back, T-Dog in front of her as they opened the first cell door. They moved carefully into C-Block, discovering for the most part is was empty, cleared. They branched out, surveying the surroundings, Daryl pushed into the next room, Letty behind him. Rick came out of the guard tower, holding keys, looking the happiest they had seen him in weeks.

The cell quarters were empty, dirty, smelly, but without any of the dead. Some had been there, that much was clear, but they had all killed themselves. On the second floor they found a couple walker’s caged in, they had never left their cells. Rick and Daryl dispersed them, then threw their bodies over the railing.

“What do you think?” Rick asked.

“Home sweet home.” Daryl growled.

“For the time being.” Rick managed, then “I have a set of keys, so does Daryl.”

“We sleep in the cells.” Carl guessed.

“I ain’t, I’ll be in the perch, Letty? Scud?” Daryl called, and she followed. Carol rolled her eyes.

“Brats.” Daryl heard her grump after them.

Daryl and Letty surveyed the area, he pulled the mattresses from two other cells, and laid them out, Letty dropped down next to him instantly, her eyes fluttered close, and she stretched out, Daryl dropped next to her, looked over at her once, and drifted into sleep. Scud was soon between them, stretched out over both.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Letty woke before him, which was unusual enough, but a smile graced her lips, his one hand was stretched out across Scud between them, and resting on her waist. She felt a blush seep into her cheeks, Daryl was trying hard to show his affection for her. When his eyes opened, she pretended to be asleep, he removed his hand from her as if she was on fire. Below she could hear the others moving around. They were starting to get ready for the next push. She stretched out and yawned, Daryl nodded at her.

They stood, and moved in unison down the stairway. Later Rick didn’t bother to ask his resident hunters what they were doing, they were cleaning the deer they had brought in and going over the weapons. Carol called Hershel away, and Rick looked after them. “Said it was nothing.” Letty patted his arm, encouragingly. Rick looked at the teenager, there was a huge difference between her and Beth. Rick knew it, hell they all did. Beth didn’t stand a chance, not the way Letty did, if things went to shit, it would be Letty who lived.

“Letty.” Hershel was back. “I want to ask you something, before we take care of this push.”

“Sure.” She let Hershel pull her to the side.

“If something happens, I want you to look after Beth, you make Daryl help you, you understand? You… teach her to be like you.” Hershel growled.

“A’ight you got it, pops.” She nodded.

That was the second kid that they had inadvertently become the protector of, first Sophia for Carol, now Beth for Hershel. she smiled as much as she could. She did enjoy the kids.

They were suiting up, Carl and Beth flirting awkwardly. Then they were wandering down long corridors, their senses hyper alert. Maggie and Letty had chest guards on they had from some of the walkers, protection Rick had called it. They moved in tight formation, each checking cells as they did. Rick and Daryl in front, Letty and T-Dog next, with Glenn marking the path they took, Maggie and Hershel in the back. Each push forward, set them more on edge, if possible. They could hear thuds ahead, and soon there was a swarm, “GO BACK!” She heard Rick cry out, Letty groped blindly for Hershel, pulling him with her, as Daryl ran them forward. She saw Maggie and Glenn get trapped behind them.

“Where are they?”

“We have to go back?”

“Which way?”

Hershel was calling for them as they moved around downed bodies, each step they took led them, Hershel turned from her, and she heard him scream. Rick took out the walker, and they grabbed Hershel up, Letty and Daryl moved to take out the walkers advancing on them. “Letty, move now.” She was holding the back of his vest to keep him moving with her, keep him close to her. They boarded up the door together, with T-Dog’s help.

“BELT.” Rick roared at her, and she tugged the leather from her hips, one of the last pieces of clothing she had left from before the turn. Rick was moving fast, using a belt as a tourniquet. Letty watched, feeling sick, as Rick cut Hershel’s leg off. Daryl looked towards her, locking eyes with her. “He’s bleeding out.”
“Duck.” Daryl stood his crossbow raised, Letty had her rifle in shoulder and was pointing it behind them towards the grate.

Before them stood a handful of inmates. Daryl’s eyes never flickered, as he heard Letty click her tongue, something she did when they hunted, it was to let him know which side she was on, which side she would take out if he or Rick ordered it. She was pretty good at following orders.

“Pressure on the knee.” Rick ordered.

“Who are you?” The prisoners asked them, a loud one.

“Who the fuck are you?” Letty snapped back.

They had one gun between them, Glenn darted past them looking for supplies. “T, the door.” Everything was moving way too fast, and Letty was struggling to keep up.

As it opened they moved to take out the walkers, they remained in formation, Daryl and Letty out last, their weapons raised, and trained on the prisoners. Letty secured the door behind her. “Letty, up front, Daryl, keep tight.” Rick ordered them, his little soldiers into place.

They were running, following the arrows the best they could. “DARYL!” The walker dropped before Rick even managed to say his whole name, the reverse in direction had Daryl beside Letty, the prisoner’s trailing them.

“Go, go, go.” Daryl ordered.

They rushed to the cell block, moving in, T-Dog and Letty scooping the weapons they did have on the table, Daryl joined them, weapons up and waiting for the prisoners to come through the open door. Daryl saw T-Dog on his right, and felt Letty on his left. “Today’s your lucky day, you have been pardoned by the great state of Georgia.”

The prisoners and Daryl talked, Letty listened, T-Dog moved, “Ya ain’t comin’ in.”

Their voices were raised, Letty’s eyes narrowed. “Rick.” Her voice echoed back to him.

The prisoners stilled, realizing a little girl was flanking Daryl. “Relax, no need for this.” Rick then explained the end of the world to them, Letty giggled to herself, when they announced they had been in there for ten months. Daryl cut his eyes at her, and she quieted. The small pass between the two was not missed by T-Dog or Rick. “Nothin, no phones, no computers, at least half the population wiped out, maybe more.” Rick insisted.

They showed them the prison yard then, the downed walkers and the desperation that was the world today. Each were relieved to be in the sun. Mulling around. “Never thought I would be so happy to see the fences.”

Daryl was explaining how they got in, how they cleared the fences. Rick was going over how the infection was in all of them, Daryl dumbed it down. “We are from Atlanta.”

“Where ya headed?” One of the prisoners asked.

“No where.” Rick growled.

Rick was laying down the law, explaining the prison was now his. Letty drew her gun, the moment the loud prisoner pointed his gun towards Rick. Daryl insisted they leave, be gone, anything. Letty kept her rifle up. They decided to take out another cell block, they were wagering the cafeteria against clearing out a cell block. Letty didn’t listen much, just kept her gun at the ready, her eyes trained on the loud one.

Daryl could tell what was going across her mind, it was the ease of them together that had taught him, something dark danced in her eyes, something that should scare everyone with them.

The prisoners led them to the cafeteria, next. Another conversation had started. The loud one was talking, again, Letty growled. When she saw the food, her heart soared a little though, Rick snorted. “Not a lot left?”

Daryl was in surveying. Checking over what they had, Letty beside him. Axel, the white wiry prisoner was talking about pissing. Letty made a face, Daryl’s lips tilted upwards in a small smile. “Letty,” He called her closer, and lowered his face until his mouth was to her ear, “Keep yer eyes on them, kill uhm if we need to.” He felt her nod and moved away from her.

On one of their many hunts the last month or so together he had watched her kill a man that threatened his life, in two quick movements she scaled the man’s back, and slit his throat. The man never had a chance to fire his gun, Daryl shot him in the head with his crossbow the same moment, and they locked eyes with each other. He nodded, she grinned. She liked the killing, almost as much as he did. He wondered now if that had anything at all to do with how he and Merle had raised her.

They carried their food back, in pairs. Rick and T-Dog were first. Then soon the other’s returned, prisoners in tow, and were mapping out a plan to take the next cell block for them. “We don’t use guns.” Letty started when the loud one asked why he needed other weapons.

“Not unless your back's up against the wall.” Daryl finished.

“We go in two by two, Daryl on point with Letty, I’ll take back with you. Anyone runs we could die, break of rank and we get killed, the head is what kills uhm.” Rick asserted.

They were moving then, Letty with axe in hand. Daryl shoulder to shoulder with her, his bow up and ready. They pushed forward into the darkness, Letty had a flashlight between her teeth, and had secured one on Daryl’s bow. Each step they made was almost soundless, they could hear those behind them, loud and breathing hard. They locked eyes briefly, and moved on, she heard the walkers before she saw them. Clicking her tongue, she fell just a step behind Daryl, the motion was not lost on T-Dog, who slipped back a step to.

Each step into the darkness, each corner they turned, it made her shiver. Daryl was once more explaining to the prisoner’s how to survive; Rick was shushing Axel who had gotten excited at seeing a shadow. Daryl had meant for them to be quiet, but the prisoners were darting forward beating and punching the two walkers. Letty stood between Rick and Daryl, T-Dog slightly behind Rick, and they watched, Letty looked at Rick, an eyebrow raised. “The hell?” She whispered.

Again, Daryl asserted that it had to be the brain when they moved forward. The prisoner’s each trying to kill, “Stay in tight formation, no more prison riot shit.” Rick growled. As several spilled in, they killed as one. Big Tiny, the largest of them moved back, out of formation, Letty was moving towards him, ready to help, when a walker scratched him down the back. Letty took out one, and Rick the second. The loud mouth, with the gun, shouted at the walkers. Rick and Letty shared a look, when they saw the scratch that ran down Big Tiny’s back.

Letty’s eyes narrowed, she backed away into Daryl, who rested a hand on the small of her back, and surveyed the man. He could tell by Letty’s reaction this was not good. “Bit?” Daryl whispered into her ear, carefully. She nodded.

“There is nothing we can do.” Rick said after a minute, once more an argument broke out. Then the loud mouth struck him down with axe, killing him, smacking repetitively. Letty stepped even further back into Daryl, his hand fisting in her shirt. Rick looked at the man, and flashed his eyes back to Letty and Daryl, T-Dog was a step behind Daryl, and the three nodded. It was not missed by Axel, there was unspoken communication.

Moving forward, with T-Dog in front, Daryl and Letty took up the back, Rick stepped between Letty and Daryl. “See the look on his face?” She whispered.
“He makes one move.” Rick whispered back.

“Give me a signal.” Daryl whispered.

Silence filled them. When they stopped Rick ordered loud mouth to open the door, he fought at first, but Rick asserted, “Just one, we need to control this.”

Letty chanced a look at Daryl. The loud mouth couldn’t get the door open, when he did, both spilled open. Chaos ensued. The loud mouth swung to close to Rick, and shoved a walker into him. Daryl moved to help, and Letty raised her gun not at a walker but at loud mouth. Her barrel was inches from his cheek. No one threatened her men. She knew what Daryl meant to her, but sometimes she felt a flicker of something similar with Rick.

Rick and the loud one were staring each other down, Rick sank the blade into his head, without a second of hesitation. “GET HIM.” Rick ordered after the black man that ran, Letty surged down the hallway. Oscar and Axel on their knees, Rick behind Letty, running. The prisoner slipped into an opening Rick couldn’t fit, but she could, and she was gone, slamming the gate behind him, Rick laughed, suddenly surprised at how much she was like Daryl. “Better run.” She taunted.

They made their way back, Rick following Letty once she reappeared at his side. He rested an arm around her shoulders. The screaming stopped. They pushed back towards Daryl and T-Dog. When her eyes locked on Daryl she knew he was mad, she had taken off, without his consent. It was unspoken between them, Rick was in charge, Daryl his second, and she was Daryl’s second in command. Rage seemed to fume off of him. She looked sheepish, and skidded around the room, to stand beside him. They were not guarding the men anymore. Oscar and Axel were trying to convince Rick that they were good people. Daryl held his blade at Oscar’s neck. T-Dog his gun at Axel.

“Rick.” She spoke, his eyes locked on to her. “Rick, you saw the others, they were bad. These guys, Axel – Oscar, they don’t look that bad.” Rick weighed what she was saying, god he wanted her to be right.

Axel and Oscar were shoved into the cell block they had cleared. Rick ordered Daryl, T-Dog, and Letty to leave. Daryl felt bad for them, “Sorry about your friends, man.” Letty head him, then trotted off after him, T-Dog behind her.

They made it back without incident, Rick went immediately to check on Hershel. Daryl jerked her arm hard, “What the hell were you thinking?”

“He was a problem to our family, I was thinkin’ bout killin him.” He grunted, dragging her towards Hershel’s cell. Carl and Scud in front of them, they all watched and waited as Hershel slowly opened his eyes. Daryl rested his hand once more on the small of her back, like he had done earlier.

Hershel took Rick’s hand, and for a moment everyone felt joy. Something that was foreign to them, something Daryl had felt too little in his life. Lori pushed past both Daryl and Letty, and sunk into her bunk.

Daryl guided her to the look out, his hand on her back the whole time. “Don’t, unless ‘Ah order it, run off like a fool.”

“Daryl.” She looked at him, his grip on her elbow had tightened significantly, and he was going to bruise her if he didn’t stop. Her eyes darted over his face. “Yer hurtin’ me.”

Daryl let her go quickly, and sighed. “Ya listen to me, ya get me?”

“I do. I promise. I won’t be a fool. But he could hurt us, still might.” She whispered. “Couldn’t kill ‘im, left him as walker food.” She explained. Absentmindedly she rubbed over her arm, and locked eyes with him.

It was no secret to anyone in the group, Daryl didn’t make eye contact with anyone but Rick, Scud, Letty, and occasionally Carol. He grunted, and tugged her towards her bed.

She sank down, him next to her, and he handed her the water bottle. She immediately started cleaning his face and arms off. Daryl preferred to be dirty, but only if it was not walker bile. She let him wipe her down then, getting the blood from her face, and neck. “Can’t get yer hair clean.”

She nodded, and sighed, tossing it up in a messy bun. “No big deal, we goin huntin’ soon, right, I’ll rinse it in the creek or sum’thin’.”

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

The settled into a routine around the prison after the first night. Daryl was watching Letty braid Beth’s hair down her back, “This’ll keep it outta the walker gunk as we clear the yard.”

“I’ll do yours next.” Beth agreed.

“Then we can have a sleepover.” Letty barked, she had not meant for it to come out so harshly, but it did, “Shit, Bethy, I am sorry.”

“It’s alright, ya spend enough time with Daryl, and it happens.” Beth responded.

Daryl snarled, but Letty laughed, the brightness edging into her eyes.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

The yard was cleared, and the bodies of the dead burned. Both Beth and Letty kept their long hair braided down their backs, and eventually talked Lori into a similar braid Letty could French-braid, she could do a lot of things, actually. She could kill and be sweet as a lark the next moment.

Daryl woke up from a dream of Merle, and was thrashing about, he inadvertently smacked Letty, hard in the center of the chest. She gasped for air, struggling to get her breath back. Rick was beside them both, yanking Letty up and thumping her hard on the back, then toeing Daryl with his boot, which woke him, and he flailed a little more.

“He’s fucking alive.” Rick looked confused.

Letty had recovered her breathing and was kneeling beside him again, “Dar.” Her voice was calm.

The nightmares had come to haunt Daryl once Merle had left them in the woods. Rick usually woke him, but then Letty had started, he responded better to her. Rick looked between them. Daryl looked alert but in a trance. “He’s alive, I can feel it, Rick, ‘ah know it.”

“Merle.” Rick realized.

“Dar.” Letty rubbed her hands down his arms, her eyes locking on his. “It was a nightmare, and we have always known he was alive – no one can kill Merle but Merle, remember.”

Daryl locked on to her, his eyes focusing on her. “Letty.” He grumbled. “Did I do that?”

He was looking at her nose, she nodded. “Knocked the breath out of her too.” Rick growled. “Ya shouldn’t sleep so close, I know it’s easier to get to him before he gets to yelpin’, but Letty, this time I think he broke yer nose, maybe did something to yer ribs.”

Letty rolled her eyes, “Ain’t nothin I ain’t had before.” Scud giggled a little at that, moving from his spot on the floor, to stand.

Daryl looked her over for a moment. “Let Hershel look at ya, I ain’t goin back to sleep, gonna relieve T-Dog on watch. Go on.” He shoved her as he stood.

She grunted, and moved towards Hershel’s cell, it was early in the morning, if Rick was awake he would be too. “Nightmare, Daryl.” She explained when he looked her over. Hershel just shook his head and sighed.

“Bruised your ribs, Letty, and a broken nose. He doesn't know his own strength, and damn if when he’s sleepin he turns into the Hulk.” She chuckled as Hershel told her what all was wrong, instantly she regretted it. “No laughing.” He wagged his finger at her. “Bethy.”

Beth appeared, and helped Letty stand, they were almost the same height, she was a few inches shorter than Beth, not that that mattered, Beth was two years younger and could easily tower over her in the next couple months. Letty and Beth made their way into the dining area. Daryl stayed on guard until late that night, when Rick relieved him. Letty was sitting on their mattresses waiting for him.

“What I do to ya this time?”

“Ah, bruised ribs, and a broken nose. Dar, it ain’t nothing.” She grumbled, patting the cot next to her.

“Ya said that earlier.” Daryl announced, sinking down, resting on his side not facing her.

“I love ya, goof.” He heard her whisper, and he smiled.

“Enda tha world best thing tha’ ever happened ta ya too, huh?” Daryl jokes, he motioned for her to lay down, and let her sink into him, resting her head on his outstretched arm, and slung his free arm around her waist, he felt her more than saw her wince, and he felt back. “Sorry ‘bout yer ribs.”

She was already asleep. He sighed, then he moved quietly onto his back, he stared up at the ceiling. He could hear the others below, quietly moving around, doing their own thing, sleep overtook him, once more he was filled with dreams.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

It had been about a week, and they had not seen the walker version of the inmate. It was starting to really irritate Rick. He had been so sure the dumb fuck would die, especially with Letty trapping him, but no, he had not noticed him, and that damn near irritated Rick to the point of snapping.

He had talked to Lori, and she seemed somewhat happier. He still had not forgiven her, but he was being nicer and more loving at least in front of Carl. Which relieved Letty and Daryl some. “Park the cars in the west. We finish burning the corpses.”

“Glenn and Maggie?”

“Guard tower?”

Daryl screamed up at him, Glenn emerged pulling up his pants. “What’s up you guys?”

“You comin’?” Daryl asked not quite loud enough, Letty, Carol, Rick, and T-Dog snorted with laughter again.

“What?” Glenn shouted back down, his face confused.

“You comin’?” Daryl tried again, louder this time.

Letty burst with laughter. “RICK!” T-Dog called to him. Axel and Oscar were walking into the courtyard. Daryl and Letty flanked Rick.

“We had an agreement.” Rick snarled.

“We made a deal, but we can’t live in there again, all those bodies, we knew them, ghost.” Axel grappled.

“You should burn them.” Daryl snapped.

“We tried, the fence is down on the far side.” Oscar growled.

“Biters out there.” Axel mused.

They were talking, begging for them to let them live with the Grime’s clan.

“Rick.” Letty mused. “They need us; we could use them.” Daryl had his hand on Letty’s wrist. Pulling her back towards him. Rick looked at Daryl, who shook his head no. Letty looked between them. “Rick, Dar.”

Soon they were arguing. T-Dog was arguing for them to stay, Maggie insisting they were strangers, Carol arguing that they could take them. “I get guys like this, hell I grew up with them. They are degenerates, but they ain’t psychos. I could have been in there with them as easy as I was in here with them.” Daryl argued.

“So you’re on my side?” T-Dog asked.

“Nah, let uhm take their chances.”

Letty sighed, her head in her hands. Rick was on about how they had been through too much. Letty shot a look at T-Dog, she knew he was on her side, no one else was. She shook her head when he went to talk again.

“Really, Letty, they say no and yer just gonna quit?” T-Dog was frustrated, throwing his hands in the air.

“I do what Daryl says.” Rick cut his eyes at her. “I do what Rick says. I follow them, they lead me. They say no, I say no.” She stopped after that. Tipping her head back on Daryl’s bicep.

Daryl grunted. T-Dog didn’t let up. Daryl climbed on the bike, Letty behind him, “Looks like it could use a tune up.” Axel called after them.

“Dar.” He felt her cling to him. “What if that was you, and we were turnin you away.”

Daryl grunted, letting her press against him. “Ya always makin’ me try ta do good.”

The cage opened and Hershel stepped up. Letty’s head shot up, and a smile broke her lips. “Look.” She pointed up, and smiled even harder when she caught Daryl start to hum. Glenn was giving the prisoners food as they prepared to move the rest of the cars up into the lot, Glenn, Daryl, Letty, and Rick were moving their way outside the fence. Each step looking for the proper place to burn the bodies that they had remaining. They gathered firewood, “He is one tough son of a bitch!” Glenn chuckled.

Walkers moved from the tree line. Beth and Carl following behind Hershel and Lori. Both Sophia and Scud were playing in the yard. Rick nodded at Hershel, and smiled warmly at Lori, Michonne was right behind her. Carol, Maggie and T-Dog looked please by his walking, a broad smile across Hershel’s face. In the silence, no one noticed the walkers. “WALKERS!” Carl screamed.

Rick, Letty, Daryl, and Glenn were running hard and fast, Glenn doubled back to tie the fence. Letty made it first, her long fast strides pulling her ahead, she unlocked the gate as she reached it, and ran. She saw Beth and Hershel duck into the prison on one side. Maggie led Lori and Carl into another point in the prison. She grabbed at Scud and Sophia, shoving them hard into one of the parked cars, and stabbing two walkers in the head, draping their bodies over the car. Letty looked at Axel and Oscar. “MOVE.” She ordered them, “KILL!” T-Dog screamed, Carol yelped as walker slammed into T-Dog, Carol managed to pull him into an opening, Michonne quickly followed

“GET IN FORMATION.” Rick roared, she followed his order, her back to Daryl’s they were immediately behind Rick, Glenn’s back to them. Each step was calculated. “LET OSCAR AND AXEL IN.” Rick ordered. They shut the gate tightly and moved to kill those in their way. Loud sirens started echoing, breaking the relative silence of the prison. “IT’LL DRAW MORE. SHOOT OUT THE BUZZERS.”

They did as he ordered. She could not hear what Rick was screaming, or what Oscar was saying. Rick was dragging the inmates, they were running, deep into the prison. The buzzing inside was harsh, making her brain shutter. She kept tight with Daryl, each step with his.

She clicked her tongue, something Rick had picked up the two of them doing, they whistled some, but inside and in close range it was the click. Vaguely he wondered if Merle had taught them how to do it. He didn’t have long to think about it. “LORI! CARL!”

“They must have been pushed back,”

“Someone is playing games. Split up and look for the generators. Whoever gets there first take care of them!” Rick growled.

Daryl felt Letty behind him, he knew she was there, she always was. She trailed softly, each time he paused she paused, each step he took, she took. It was something he was used to. The two of them were fighting the pack of walkers in front of them, eight that he counted. She clicked, and moved to his right, diving forward, she was shorter than the walkers and easily moved between them, she stabbed, swayed, danced. With all the walkers down, they locked eyes. Daryl grunted his appreciation at her, and she smiled, blood smeared across her face, their bodies caked. “Letty!” He snapped, raising his bow, she ducked, slamming forwards into him as his bolt connected with the walker behind her. She helped him gather his bolts and they were moving again.

She pushed on his shoulder, letting him know where she was. Fisting his vest with her hand, growling when she tripped slightly forward. Rick was behind them somewhere. With Oscar. They made it to the generator first. Letty and Daryl bracing the door. She heard the small black man scream and run at Rick he had him pinned. Daryl and her were struggling to keep the door closed. She could not see what was happening, the door slipped and they stabbed the first ones to enter, then managed to close the door once more. Daryl slipped up on Oscar after he shot the little black man. Rick shook his head no, and Daryl lowered his knife, and looked back at Letty.

Her chest was bleeding, he looked at her, “You cut me, in your hurry, I am fine.” She explained. He looked at her chest, drawing her closer.

“Letty, shit.” She felt him run his fingers over the blood. “Rick, ‘ah accidentally slashed Letty, when ‘ah was rushing Oscar.”

Oscar’s head snapped around. “Precautionary.” Rick explained. “Daryl and Letty, they are my soldiers. They know what I need sometimes before me.”

Letty swayed, groaning. “Too much bleeding.” She dropped to her knees. Daryl reached for her, scooping her up.

“Oscar, yew take her. ‘Ah need to be able to fight. She gets bit and ‘ah will kill ya with my bare hands.” Daryl handed her gently to Oscar, her head lolled back, and she closed her eyes. Rick looked her over, something pinging his heart with worry. He could feel the fear on Daryl, and tentatively squeezed the younger man’s shoulder. Their eyes locked.

They left the room, with walkers dead in their wake. Oscar held Letty to him with enough force to break her, he felt like, each step he took, each move he made he was careful, guarding her from walkers. Her dark brown locks, coated Oscar’s shoulder, her blood seemed to soak him through. A distant gunshot in the prison itself, made him jump. Glenn and Axel met them in the long corridor before they exited. They saw what was left of T-Dog, his body almost picked clean. Daryl scooped up Carol’s scarf, he tucked it into his pocket, holding it to him. They seemed to tumble from the cell block into the courtyard.

Hershel and Beth saw them, waving, Hershel paled “The others,” Then he looked at Letty. Maggie and Carl emerged next, holding a small bloody infant. Oscar moved to carry Letty in, Maggie sobbed, she couldn’t stop Rick, he moved passed her and looked at Carl. Glenn took Maggie in his arms, Hershel turned and followed Oscar in to patch up Letty.

Oscar laid her flat, her body seemed lifeless. “She’s lost a lot of blood.” Hershel grumbled under his breath, but went to cleaning the wound, and stitched her up. She was paler than normal, but there was nothing he do to fix that. Each stitch made her moan, which was a good thing. He watched her carefully, then looked at Oscar. “How did this happen?”

“Daryl accidentally cut her.”

“Daryl… seems to hurt her more than help her…” Hershel sighed, he checked her ribs and groaned. “Broke one.”

“Might have been me holding her too tight.”

“Might have been.” Hershel drew his knife, and made a small incision over the broken rib, he carefully removed the offending bone shard, and checked for any remaining shards. He stitched the incision up, then wrapped her ribs tightly.

She was unconscious then, more than before, barely breathing, and for the first time since meeting Letty Hershel worried about her life. She was so much like Daryl, so solid, and strong. He supposed anyone could be hurt, anyone could be damaged.

He could hear Rick screaming outside; he could hear so many things. Hershel made his way back out. Daryl was trying to get Rick’s attention. Hershel was looking over the small little baby. “Not her, no one else dies.” Daryl pulled Beth aside. “Keep care of Carl, Sophia, and Scud.” Both Sophia and Scud had scrambled out of the car once the walkers had been cleared enough they could make a quick run for the prison compound.

Rick was running into the prison, axe in hand. Daryl was screaming at them. “I can only take one, with the highway covered.”

Maggie was quick, climbing on the back of the bike with Daryl after kissing Glenn goodbye, she tugged the pack on, and slipped her arms around Daryl. They sped away, making their way down the back country roads, soon they stumbled along a sign for a day care. Daryl pointed, Maggie hollered “Let’s try it.”

Chapter Text

Letty’s eyes shot open. She didn’t think she had been out long. She sucked her breath in hard, groaning. She could hear Carl crying, Beth trying to sooth him. Sophia was sobbing to, her head on Scuds lap not far away. Letty stood, shakily, grunting as she did. Hershel was beside her in an instant. “What are you doing, Letty?”

“Where is Daryl?”

“Went on a run to get formula.” Beth explained.

Letty looked around, then saw the small bundle in Beth’s arms. Shakily she made her way to where the kids were pressed against the wall. She slid down between them, with Beth on one side and Sophia on her other. Snaking an arm out for Beth to hand her the little baby. Beth looked to Hershel who nodded. Letty took the small wailing form in her arms, and much to everyone’s amazement managed to sooth her. “Take them, get some rest.” She ordered Beth.

Beth nodded taking Carl, Sophia, and Scud into the cell she shared with Hershel. Hershel dropped down next to Letty. “How you know how to sooth the baby?”

“Scud had colic.” She whispered, tears forming in her eyes as she rocked the baby girl. She pressed it more firmly to her chest.

“You’re a good second, to Daryl, you know that.” Hershel patted her knee.

“Yeah, makes me Rick’s third, huh?” She laughed. Her mind wondering to where their leader was.

“Sort of, Rick I think knows your loyalties are with Daryl.”

She looked at Hershel. “That a problem?”

“Nah, I don’t think so. Daryl trust Rick, by proxy you trust him too.”

“Hershel?”

“Yes Letty.”

“Are we going to be ok? Our family? Is Daryl? He hurt me today, trying… well, he has taken care of me for so long, i think he forgets i can handle myself… i guess that is how he shows he loves me.” Letty shivered as Michonne dropped a blanket around her, and sank next to her. Michonne pressed her head against Letty’s.

Hershel was quiet for a moment. “Letty, is that why he is protective of ya?”

“Not sure, know that’s why he is so damn hard on me to get things right, ta listen to his orders.” She fell silent after that, holding the baby and singing to her, it was not a song that Beth would have known, it was something alternative. “If I had just one wish, only one demand, I hope she's not like me, I hope she understands, that she can take this life, and hold it by the hand, and she can greet the world, With arms wide open. With arms wide open, Under the sunlight, Welcome to this place, I'll show you everything, with arms wide open, now everything has changed, I'll show you love, I'll show you everything, With arms wide open, With arms wide open….” Her voice trailed off, kissing the pink bundles slumbering form once more.

Hershel was gone from her then, over seeing what she imagined to be the burying of the dead. They had not found Carol’s body, and she had no clue what that meant. Rick had disappeared into some part of the prison; she didn’t know if that was good or bad. She just didn’t know. She rested her head on Michonne, and laid the baby girl on her lap, letting her head rest against her knees as she bent them up. She ran her hand across her chest, she had not changed shirts, they had not changed her shirt, it was the blood soaked one that Daryl had cut her in.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Daryl slowed the bike, and Maggie climbed off. Daryl followed her, pushing the kickstand down on the bike. His mind was on the baby girl, on Letty, on everyone they had left behind. He thought briefly about Rick, but could not linger long on those thoughts, no he needed to make Rick understand that it wasn’t his fault, Letty would know how. He grunted, realizing that he had no clue if Letty was alive. Suddenly he was stricken, he loved them both, he didn’t understand it. He needed them, something serious was going on in him.

They moved across the lawn, opened the gate, and into the house, clearing it as they went. He felt awful, his mind wandered over the idea that there could be a dead child, a walker child, those always seemed to be the worse, they always made him think back, back to Sophia. Daryl checked the yard one more time, Maggie slammed through the glass and clambered in. Daryl behind her. She took the bag from her back and started grabbing supplies. Daryl’s eyes caught a hand print on the wall. “Sofie.” His snatched it and looked around, until he saw a Joshua, a Beth, and a Carl. He doubted there would be a Letty. He tucked them into the backpack.

They made their way into a hallway, each taking a different direction. Both looked at each other when they heard a rattling in the kitchen, Daryl had a child’s toy in hand as he opened the door. He motioned for Maggie to open the cabinet, crossbow drawn, he sent the arrow flying into the opossum’s head. “Not putting that in my bag.” Maggie growled as Daryl said, “Mmmhm, dinner.” Maggie slipped several bottles and nipples into her pack from the sink.

She opened the next cabinet and found five cans of formula, and some pacifiers. She quickly tugged them into the pack and she pulled it on to her back, nodding at Daryl. He grunted, slipping the opossum into his bag. He motioned for her to follow him, then. Climbing out the window they had entered, Maggie followed. “Daryl, you cut your hand.”

Daryl looked down, and sighed, he must have done it while climbing out of the window. He dug Carol’s scarf out of his pocket and wrapped it around his hand, he tied it off with Maggie’s help the climbed back on the bike, kicking the kick stand up, and turning the engine over. Maggie clambered on behind him, lacing her arms around his waist, and pressing her face into his back. It was almost dark when they reached the prison gate, it opened as the bike roared through it. Carl was holding the crying baby when they entered.

Daryl quickly scooped her up, and soothed her, taking the bottle from Beth when it was offered. Letty moaned, but stood, standing beside Daryl, peaking over him as the little one ate. Daryl looked so proud of himself. “Gotta name yet?”

“No, not yet, maybe, thinking about Carol, Andrea, Jackie, Patricia, Lori…” Carl’s voice dropped off.

“Ya like that, huh, little asskicker?” Daryl asked ticking her, Letty laughed, “You like that sweetheart.”

They laughed as he soothed her, calling her little asskicker and nuzzled her. He looked up from the baby and smiled warmly at Letty. “Ya made it.”

“Between you and Oscar, she lost a lot of blood, and broke a rib, removed the rib, stitched her up, from left collarbone to bottom of right armpit, ya have to be more careful Daryl.”

“Wasn’t his fault.” Letty snapped, always quick to defend him. “Thought Rick was in trouble, drew his knife, I was just too close.”

“Hush.” Daryl growled. “Right, sweetheart, Daryl needs to be more careful with all the little girls.” His voice lightened and was sticky sweet as he talked to the baby.

Letty rolled her eyes but motioned for Beth to help her. Axel watched both teenagers, Sophia, Scud, and Carl as they moved as one towards the table. Maggie made them something to eat, cooking the opossum Daryl had killed. It wasn’t much, but it would be enough for them.

Daryl handed the babe off to Beth, once she had eaten, then he ate, and carried Letty’s form up to their look out. He laid her down, then sank beside her. Axel and Glenn were on watch. He felt her shiver, then re positioned her, pulling her head onto his arm, and covering her. Maggie came up for a moment. “Daddy says that ya gotta watch her tonight, lost a lot of blood.” Scud was curling up next to him, burying his head in Daryl’s shoulder.

“’Ah will.” Daryl answered her back. Maggie retreated, Daryl didn’t sleep a wink.

Letty woke with a start, searching for him. He was up and moving, before her. He found a Cherokee rose, and she watched from the fence where he demanded that she stay, not one to argue, he planted it over where they had made a hole for Carol, never really finding her body the previous day. She watched him, her heart ached. Carol was like her mother.

Rick was still holed up in another part of the prison, leaving Daryl and Letty to manage them, control what everyone did. Daryl didn’t take his job lightly. He ordered watches, ordered Letty to oversee body disposal, then had Oscar come with him, on a hunt.

Letty was working in the yard, Hershel watching her, dragging bodies, with Axel and Maggie’s help. Each step made her grunt, chewing her bottom lip, biting her cheek when the pain was too much. Hershel knew she wouldn’t stop, not now. She would do what Daryl had ordered. Loyalty to Daryl was a unique thing, Hershel realized, no one offered Daryl the level of complete blind loyalty that Letty did. It almost mirrored the loyalty that Daryl provided Rick, unwavering and unquestioning.

She fell, sort of awkwardly into one of the dead walkers. Axel tried to help her up, but she shoved him off, Hershel couldn’t make out what she said, she only growled. Carl must have relieved him from watch. Axel looked hurt, whatever she had said had stung, and he was making his way back up the hill. Daryl swept through the gate, a deer hung over his shoulder. “Letty, get yer ass up.”

His snarl jolted her, and she stood, groaning, swaying. Daryl grabbed her upper arm, hard, and jerked her the rest of the way, leading her up the hill. “Told ya to supervise, not do, dummy.” She grunted, unmoving.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Rick had returned to them, “Everyone ok?” He asked.

“What about you?” Hershel asked.

“Cleared out the boiler block.” Rick growled.

Letty watched the world around her, she was leaned against Daryl, her back to his knees.

Daryl explained what Axel was up to, fixing the water system so they could shower, then Rick was gone from them, Hershel calling after him.

“Let him be.” Daryl grimaced. “He’ll come round.”

“Making a run today?” Letty asked Glenn, who nodded in kind. “Get me a new shirt?”

They all looked at her, as she picked at the cut shirt. “It was the last not destroyed one.” Beth said, sadly. “We wear the same size, and the two on our bodies are the last ones we have.”

Maggie chuckled. “The baby needs clothes too.”

“Carl could use some clean clothes.” Beth picked, laughing as he blushed.

“If Axel get’s the generator working we could shower too.” Glenn made them laugh.

Letty groaned, standing, pushing up from Daryl. “Tired.” She answered his look. Then shakily climbed the stairs, she laid down on the first mattress, which was his, and turned away from them.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Hershel decided to find Rick, she guessed, the sounds of him trotting away. Daryl was beside her, little ass-kicker in his arms. “Beth is gonna clean up a bit, thought we could keep an eye on ‘er.”

Letty nodded. “How long did I sleep?”

“An hour, maybe?” Daryl responded, she climbed up to a sitting position, gingerly moving to lean against him. Daryl felt her presence and relaxed. He felt her tip her head onto his shoulder, she wiggled her fingers in front of the baby’s eyes, waiting for the baby’s eyes to find her fingers, then wiggled them again. Daryl watched, then “Little sweetheart, ass-kicker, gonna make ya strong like Letty, darlin’.” She chuckled.

“Ain’t too strong, almost bled to death, poor Oscar had to change into clothes T-Dog…” Her voice dropped.

“No one else woulda surviv’d that.” Daryl said after a moment, kissing her forehead.

She smiled, softly, and slipped down him, resting her head against his thigh, her hair spilling into his lap. He laid the baby all wrapped up over her cascading hair. He nodded at Glenn as he and Maggie left for their run.

Daryl let her nap, then led Oscar and Carl to kill walkers and pull the dead from Rick’s path to the boiler room, he had handed little asskicker off to Beth. As they walked Daryl told Carl the story of his mother’s death, how she died in flames smoking in her bed, more than likely drunk. Daryl led him peeking around corners, “Burnt down to nuthin, that was the hard part, just gone, erased nothing’ left of her.” He grumbled. “People said it was better that way, just made it seem like it wasn’t real.”

“I shot her, she was out, hadn’t turned yet. I ended it. It was real.” Carl responded, “Sorry about your mom.”

“Sorry bout yours.” Daryl watched the boy. “M’one.” Carl trailed behind Daryl, Oscar not far behind. Oscar strayed when he found a pair of slippers. A walker surprised the three of them, and they all shot at once. Daryl lowered himself to his knees, “Carol’s knife.” He wiped the blood off on the prisoner, then slipped it into his belt.

Chapter Text

Letty watched Hershel holding the baby, Rick slipped in, and she looked down at them. Carl was once more in the dining area, with Beth hovering next to him. Rick took the baby, Letty pushed herself down the stairs, watching Rick cry and hold the little pink bundle and Carl to him.

She came to a halt in front of Rick. “No more checking out, you hear me.”

Rick looked at her caught off guard. Then her arms were around his neck, and her face in his chest. “You got it.” He said finally, Daryl had entered the room, his eyes locked on them. Then he did something very un-Dixon, he moved to them, and hugged Rick and Letty, Carl and the baby to him, his forehead jarring into Rick’s rather hard. Scud must have realized that a hug was happening, because when Rick looked down again, Letty had Scud’s arms around her middle.

Rick smiled. Daryl looked content for that moment. It was Letty who broke back, briefly to kiss Rick’s cheek, then Daryl’s lips before untangling herself, she stumbled as she moved toward the kitchen area. The hug had made her realize something, but she doubted it would be something she could act on any time soon, or if ever, The three of them, they were meant to be together.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Daryl heard the clinking of a door, hitting a walker, and he slammed hard against the wall. Anger got the better of him, after he paced several steps, intent to kill the walker he threw the door open, Carol was slumped against the frame, he scooped her up and carried her back outside the walls. Once he settled her into the bed in Hershel’s cell he went out looking for the others.

Daryl growled. “Come on, ya gonna wanna see this.” Hershel nodded.

Rick stood, pulling Letty with him, and beckoned for Carl to follow him. “CAROL!” Rick almost squealed, hugging her to him, forcefully.

Letty slammed into both of them, followed by Carl, Sophia, Scud and Beth. “Poor thing fought her way into a cell, then passed out.” Daryl explained.

A look passed between Rick and Carol, tears welling in her eyes as she told him “I’m sorry”, she hugged Carl to her then took the baby from Beth, smiling. She locked eyes with Letty, and beamed.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Maggie and Glenn returned first thing in the morning, a huge set of bags between them, clean clothing for everyone. It was sometime later that afternoon that they all sit on the courtyard together. “I think we can do this.” Rick said after a long moment.

“No more Ricktatorship?” Letty asked, a smile on her lips. Her body was tight between Daryl and Rick on the knoll.

“Nah, I think a democratic council would be good.” Rick said after a minute.

“Who would be on it?” Hershel asked.

“You, Carol, Daryl, Letty, Michonne, T-Dog.” Rick said after a long moment. “Me if you lot will have me after the last couple days.”

“Rick no one is upset with you, You have been through alot.” Carol patted his leg.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Two weeks passed. Letty was feeling much better, and Daryl was out on a long hunt, he had taken Glenn with him, which was unusual but he felt like teaching. And he had clearly stated that Rick was too loud in the woods. “We need to make a small run.” Rick told her.

“Out of formula again?” She asked.

“Nah, close though. We also need a couple other things. Wanna take you and Carl, it's close and good practice.” Rick explained.

“You mean the little IGA up the road, right?” She asked.

“Yea,” Rick agreed. “Carl is excited, I need a huntress with me.”

“Hahah.” She laughed. “You need someone to save your ass.”

Carol joined them, a backpack in her hands. “Here you go. Rick, you best carry this. Letty, how about you bring them home safe.”

“I can handle that!” Letty smiled.

She watched as Rick turned the car on, Carl climbed into the middle seat, and she took the passenger seat. “I’ll watch Scud!” She heard Michonne shout as the car left the front gate. They enjoyed the ride in silence, and once they stopped. Rick stepped back, watching as Letty taught Carl how to draw anything inside out in a safe manner, and then how to pick the lock.

They were inside the store gathering things, each with a box in arms. Carl was still inside when Rick and Letty made their last trip. Rick whistled, something he learned from Daryl, to let Carl know to stay down. There were a group of men around the truck they had driven here. Each had a leather jacket on them. “Well, what have we got here. Thought we mighta run up on that blonde bitch, but na, we got-” The man was interrupted as Merle surged forward.

“Claimed, both of uhm.” Merle snarled, looking positively venomous. “Letty! Shit girl!” He grabbed her and hugged her close. “Missed you.”

“I missed you too ya big lug.” She panted.

“Friendly.” Merle nodded his head towards Rick.

“Merle.” Rick smiled at him as nicely as he could.

“Hey, Dixon, you can’t claim them both, that’s not how this works.” A man said behind them.

“Yea, right, ain’t no rules Blake. And I claimed uhm both.” Merle snarled.

“Never pegged you for chasing both tails.” The man, Blake, spat at him.

Merle frowned. “Where are the others?”

Letty shook her head no. “It’s just me and Rick, the others are dead.” She looked choked up about it. Merle slammed a fist into her gut.

“Don’t lie to me bitch.” His mood was suddenly very volatile.

She dropped to her knees, vomiting harshly. “She isn’t. We are all that is left, Merle. Daryl... “ Rick found himself choking on the words. Unsure why, he was close to Letty and Daryl, these days, but damn.

“You can have the bitch, then.” Merle said after a moment. “If muh brother is dead, I got unfinished business with Friendly.”

“You sorry son of a bitch!” Letty screamed at him as she was jerked up. “YOU FUCKIN PIECE OF SHIT! AIN'T EVEN GONNA ASK ABOUT SCUD!” She was kicking a flailing then, her whole body fighting the very idea that Merle was throwing her away.

“Hush now, princess, we know all about the little orphan his brother took in to fuck.” Rick paled at this man's words.

“Merle, do what you want to do to me, but leave Loretta alone.” Rick breathed, his face pale.

“Or we take you both back to camp, and have our fun with you.” The man, Blake suggested.

Merle nodded enthusiastically, and Letty watched in horror as Rick was hit hard in the back of the head but the metal case on Merle’s stump. Then the man, Blake, threw her over his shoulder, and into the hummer they had.

She looked back at the store, frowning for a moment. Carl was alone, in a world of walkers.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Andrea watched Merle and Philip Blake drive away with an unconscious Rick and a freaked out Letty. It was a few moments later, when Carl emerged from the store, the last of hte bags in his hands. Andrea frowned. “Carl?”

Carl snapped his head in her direction. “Andrea!”

Andrea ran to him, hugging him. “I missed you guys.”

“Where those men after you?” He asked, frowning.

“Yes, and they took your dad and Letty instead, shit. Are the others really dead?” Andrea asked.

“No, they are at our camp. I will take you there.” Carl decided, holding his head up.

“Are you sure? I kind of left mad and angry…” Her voice trailed off.

“Carol will be glad to see you and you can meet Michonne and my baby sister.” Carl sounded excited.

“How is your mom?” Andrea asked, curious.

Carl didn’t answer. Silence that hung between them was not comfortable.

Chapter Text

She could feel her arms bound above her head, and knew that her mouth was taped shut. She also knew that Rick was beside her in a similar position. “Merle might believe that you're all dead, but I don’t.” Blake’s voice reminded her of death. “How rude of me no to introduce myself, my name is Philip Blake.”

Letty inhaled sharply, this was the man who had made Michonne who she was. She tried to speak behind the tape but it was no luck, he laughed at her, cupping her cheek hard. “And I am the leader of this camp, my merry band of claimers.” He chuckled then. “So, just tell me what I want to know and I will let you go.”

Letty didn’t believe him, not for one second. Rick was either being quiet, asleep, or unconscious next to her. “I think I will talk to you one at a time, starting with you, little bird.” She felt him tug her arms down, then she was over her shoulder. She looked back at Rick, his eyes wide, and she felt his fear. She tried to make a reassuring gesture with her own eyes, but doubted he understood it.

Blake carried her into a smaller office, and slammed her onto the desk. Her body crumped painfully. He untied her hands, then ripped the tape from her mouth, making her yelp. “There there, Letty is it?”

“Only my friends call me that.” She choked out.

“Oh, really, what should I call you then?” Blake chuckled.

“Trouble, death, bitch, anything but Letty.” She snarled.

Blake laughed again. “Merle wasn’t kidding, you have a lot of spunk. Too bad we are going to beat it or rape it out of you.” She forced her face to remain calm, and she breathed in deeply. “Then we are gonna make Friendly in there rape ya, after that he will be more than happy to take us to your camp. We want all your supplies and women.” Blake laughed again.

She closed her eyes for just a moment, and found a calm place in her mind. She decided to repeat to herself over and over again the method that Daryl had taught her to make her own bolts. Even as Blake kissed her lips, she kept the mantra up in her head, when he stripped her completely, she shivered against the cold, and cocked her head to the side for the briefest of moments, it was a mirror of sorts. Her heart sank as she realized that it was more than likely a two-way mirror and although she could not see Rick, she would be willing to bet he could see her. She then started going over the list of motorcycle parts in her brain, and how they all fit together.

He slammed her down over the desk, tears seeping slowly from her eyes as he lined himself up, sinking himself balls deep in one go. She closed her eyes, and started making a list of all the important things in her life. She felt him talking and had to refocus. “Gonna let all my boys, have about ten of them, think you can handle that.”

Honestly she had no fucking clue what she could handle, she knew that she could protect her brain, but her body? How destroyed would it be when they were done? She returned to her game, listing things, focusing on anything but the pain.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Rick was pressed against the glass, his chest and face slammed into it, Letty was sprawled over the table, he had counted nine men so far, nine men he had to kill or let Daryl kill, shit maybe they could kill them together. He felt a new rage when Merle slipped into the room. His hand running over Letty’s stilled form. For the first time since it started she fought, she fought against Merle. A scream rippling through the air. she was kicking and pushing away from him, but Merle was bigger.

Rick snarled in anger as Merle grabbed her by the hair, ripping her backwards, and slamming her forehead into the desk. Her body went limp for a moment then he saw the slightest of twitches, she was flipping Merle off through her binds. Merle laughed, if you could call it that, then dropped his pants. When he finished, and Rick had tried hard not to watch all of it, Blake was in his face. “Your turn, once you're done me and you got some talking to do!”

Rick fought against him, but realized it was no use. “Either ya fuck her or we kill you both.” Rick stilled. Blake handed him a cup. “Drink up, I want you to make her feel you.” Rick paled his heart racing.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

The moment the car arrived at the prison Daryl knew something was wrong. First Carl looked like he had been crying, and second Andrea was the woman who emerged not Letty. Andrea found him right away, and began to tell him something he was not sure he could deal with. “Your brother is working with this man, and they took Rick and Letty. They… they will do horrible things to break them. Merle gave Letty to Blake, like a fucking toy!”

“Philip Blake?” Michonne asked.

“Yes, actually.” Andrea looked confused.

“We are going to need fire power.”

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Letty looked back at him, and nodded her head. Rick looked at her helpless form. “I… Sorry.” He managed to choke out. Whatever he had drank, it had done the trick, he was so hard now a few minutes inside of her and he would die. He flipped her body over, so he could look her in the eyes. Then he nodded, she tried to smile back at him. He lined himself up with her, stroking his length as he did so, then pressed in slow. He ran comforting hands down the front of her body, stroking lightly.

Even if he was the one pushing in, she was more than ready to comfort him. She caught his hand with her bound hands. She squeezed and blinked at him a couple times. Rick started an easy rhythm, hoping not to hurt her more than she already was. When he finished, he felt Blake dragging him away once more. The last he saw of Letty her whole body was thrown on the ground and a man he didn’t know was kicking her in the chest and face.

Once he was settled into a room all his own, Blake started in. Rick kept up his assurance that they were the only two left, continuous blows to the head reminded him that he was going to do everything in his power to kill this man and everything he stood for.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

“We walk from here.” Andrea urged them. “They have patrols, better off on foot.”

“How far?” Glenn asked.

“A mile, maybe two.”

Walkers were snarling on the road, trailing into the forest after them. Oscar kept close to Andrea. Michonne had her katana, and gun holstered, on point. Glenn and Daryl behind. Walkers moved on them. “Formation, not gunfire.” Daryl ordered from behind them.

Like a well-oiled machine they moved, stay tight, and killing only those they needed to. Andrea helped Michonne, and they made their way into an abandoned building. “Get low and keep it down.”

“That smell.” Andrea growled.

“What is that?” Oscar asked, his nose scrunched up.

“Fox, what’s left of one.” Daryl mused.

“Guess Lassi went home.” Andrea mumbled, her nose crinkling, Daryl caught Glenn’s attention, and motioned him closer. There was a blanket, as Glenn jerked it back, and a man jumped up. Screaming at them to get out of his house.

“Lower the gun.” Daryl growled.

The man looked skeptical. He drew the gun up higher. Glenn slammed the gun, Daryl moved at the right moment, not getting hit. Andrea slammed into the man, pulling him down, Michonne cut into him, her blade sinking. “Open the door.” Daryl snarled, he and Glenn threw the man’s bleeding form, they ran then, hard and fast, snaking around the pond, and back to the trail.

“That was insane.” Oscar mumbled. Darkness fell around them as Andrea led them forward. They found the walled town, and Glenn looked at it, confused. Daryl felt Andrea, bent down next to him, peering at the wall. A man stood atop the wall, spot lighting anything that moved, bows and guns, armed to the teeth.

Glenn looked at them, Oscar was hovering behind Andrea, next to Daryl, Michonne was crouched next to him, Glenn in the front. Michonne moved, Glenn growled, “We need to downsize.”

“Ain’t no way to check all the buildings.” Daryl sighed.

A twig snapped causing them to snap their heads back, “Michonne.” Andrea hissed. She motioned for them to follow her, and they crept along into an opening, then into a storage house. Andrea in the front. Glenn, Daryl, Michonne, then Oscar.

Daryl and Glenn were whispering low to each other, working out a plan when a knock on the door pulled their attention away. The man was talking, taunting, not supposed to be here. Andrea slammed into him, Glenn next, ordering her to zip tie him. “Open mouth.” Daryl snapped, he complied, and Daryl shoved something into his mouth, then hit him over the head. “Kill him, quiet, Michonne.”

Andrea watched, as Michonne sunk down, looking at Daryl who nodded. Michonne pulled her katana up, slitting his throat, he never made a noise, then she rammed the blade up from his nostril into his brain, Andrea stiffened, she had never seen that kind of kill. Michonne wiped the blood on her pants.

Gunshots caught their attention, and they moved into the streets. Running after the noise. They entered the building they sounded like they were from, they moved quickly, skating through the metal walls. They were moving Letty and Rick, Glenn threw a flash bomb, and sent Michonne forward, she grabbed both Rick and Letty, shoving them at Daryl, and pushed.

“SOMEONE HELP!” Glenn heard someone scream.

“MOVE!” Glenn ordered them, they were running hard and fast then. Rick was being shoulder by Daryl, and Andrea. “INSIDE!” He ordered them in a hiss. Andrea slipped away from them, into the streets.

“Where is Andrea?” Letty was panicked. Daryl looked her over, she was in a shirt that clearly belonged to Rick and it was barely long enough to cover her butt, she was barefoot. Rick was barefoot, and only had his blue jeans on. They were both covered with bruises.

“Daryl this was Merle.” Rick groaned. “He did this, wanted to kill us.”

Letty shot Daryl a look. “Merle.”

“He know I am with ya?” Daryl asked, curious, locking eyes with Letty. She shook her head no.

Letty tuned them out. “I need you.” Rick managed to convince Daryl not to run. His hand knotting in Daryl’s shirt, their faces very close.

Letty laced her fingers through Daryl’s hand, and squeezed it. “We will come back, promise.” It was a low assurance, but Daryl nodded. Letty was his not Ricks, and if he demanded it, she would follow him back. The idea unsettled him slightly. Daryl flung tear gas and a smoke canister out into the street. Then they were moving, guns blazing. He realized in the smoke he wanted Rick to be as loyal to him as Letty.

Oscar picked Rick up, shoving him over his shoulder, and watched as Daryl did the same with Letty. Glenn was behind them firing his gun, in front of them Michonne, Andrea had opened the path out, she was waving them forward. The commotion had drawn several walkers, and running out into a herd was not idea, but it happened all the same. It was two miles back to the SUV, running, as fast as they could and as quickly as they could.

When they reached the car Oscar climbed into the front driver's seat after depositing Rick into the passenger seat, his head pressed against the window. Michonne and Glenn clambered into the way back and Andrea slammed the hatch closed. She climbed into the back seat with Daryl who was settling Letty into his lap. Andrea noticed how his face was contorted and pale, she looked down following his gaze, and saw the pool of blood in his lap, it seemed to be flowing from Letty. Andrea’s heart sank. She reached out tentatively, touching Daryl’s shoulder, but he jerked away.

Letty was unconscious so was Rick. Daryl held her pressed tight against him, breathing in and out. Hoping that when they made it to the prison, Hershel could fix her. Fix Rick, make the two adults he loved the most in the world right again.

Chapter Text

Hershel was not pleased the state the two returned in. At all. Letty had been raped, how many times he had no clue, she wasn’t torn thank god, but she was beyond exhausted. Her whole body had just given out on her. Her shoulder blades were bruised, and most of her body was lined in cuts and bruises. Rick, he had footprints all over him, neither were awake and it had been two days. Daryl had not left their cell. Instead he had ordered everyone into the prison, and allowed some walkers into the yard in hopes that it looked like the place was completely abandoned.

Daryl paced, a lot, his one hand rested on Rick’s shoulder, his other on Letty’s. He slept between them, and he only ate when it was demanded of him. They had enough provisions to last them two weeks like this, he was hoping beyond all reason that two weeks like this and they would both be back on their feet.

Rick woke first, screaming his head off, and only was comforted when he saw Letty and Daryl both. “Shit.” He hissed. “Send everyone away.” Daryl did as he was told. “I need to talk to you.”

Daryl inched closer to him, sitting on the floor, and intent on Rick. “He raped, her let his friends rape her, and made me rape her.” Rick managed to spill all the words out.

“Made you…?” Daryl looked confused.

“Shit, Daryl, while it was happening, she locked her eyes on mine, and tried to make it seem like it was ok, like she was trying to comfort me. They want our women and our supplies. They made me watch,” Rick was intent on going on, but Daryl didn’t want him to. He just wanted him to stop. Daryl placed a hand over Rick's mouth, but jerked it away when he saw fear in Rick’s eyes.

“Not gonna hurt ya, just want ya to stop.” Daryl said finally.

Rick nodded, and felt tears on his face. Daryl leaned forward and pressed his forehead to Ricks. Thinking back, Rick realized he had seen Letty and Daryl do this, it was a display of affection they shared. Rick felt a tightening in his chest when he realized that both Letty and Daryl had comforted him, out of want not necessity.

“Do I get any love?” Letty’s voice crackled.

Daryl half jumped half crawled to her bed, his hand knotting in her hair, and he wanted so desperately to kiss her, his eyes searching hers. “Can I kiss ya?” He breathed, as his forehead rested against hers.

“Yea, you can.” And he did, he pressed his lips against hers, soft and easy. When the kiss broke, Rick had managed to crawl over to her. “You can kiss me too, ain’t afraid of you.” She mumbled, Rick looked at Daryl who nodded, then he kissed her lips much like Daryl had easy and slow. “You two figure it out yet?”

>P?Rick shook his head, unsure of where she was going. Daryl looked at his lap. “Guess not, let me spell it out for you, Rick you just lost Lori, physically, but shit she even said you guys were lost before the turn… and Daryl, you feel it too, we share most things, and attraction to Rick is one that is not lost on either of us. The three of us, we are some sort of fucked up team. Right? I think you both get where I am going, and I just wanted to put it on the table, that I am ok, whether it is just me and Daryl forever, or if you join us Rick. But I ain’t leaving him, ever Rick.”

Rick paled. “I’d never ask you to leave Daryl.”

“Yer missin’ her point.” Daryl mumbled. “She want’s the three of us to fuck, ta be in ‘ah relationship.” Daryl was still looking at the floor, hard.

“After what you just went through?” Rick asked.

“Ain’t connected events.” She managed. “Loving Daryl is something I have done my whole life, falling for you has been unexpected at best. Being raped, not the best thing in the world, but not my fault, not your fault either. We have to decide as a family if it is worth staying here or not, with them close by I would rather not, we are asking for trouble.” She mumbled. “We don't’ have to do anything now or anytime soon. OR ever.” She explained. “Just wanted to get this out of the way, so no sexual frustrations or miscommunication.”

“So, Daryl is that true?” Rick managed, his face an interesting mix of confusion and curiosity.

“She’s right.” Daryl looked sick. “If ya wanna hit me or somethin, go on, ‘ah understand.” Daryl scoffed.

Letty was losing her wakefulness. Her eyes heavy, but she still heard Rick laugh and say. “Daryl, I like you too, and Letty, god, I have been so confused the last several days, shit since the farm. I worked out I needed you both, but I didn’t know how."

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

They reasoned it would take them a while to completely move out of the Prison, first they started Daryl’s plan of placing go bags everywhere, buried in the woods under different symbols. Then Daryl started taking folks out and teaching them what every symbol meant.

The more Rick thought on the information Letty and Daryl had presented to him the more aware he was that he liked the idea. He was very accepting of the overall idea. Daryl was slightly withdrawn, but they had started working on moving from the prison, they didn't have a safe house nearby that could hold them completely.

The rains started, drenching them through and through, then the sickness started, flu gripped half the prisons population. Two months had passed, and they still allowed a couple walkers to roam in the yard, their garden experiment had been stripped. But they had taken in stragglers over the last couple months. A family here and there, swelling their overall population to almost 45.

One of the kids they took in, named Patrick, was sick. Hershel had noticed it a couple days before. He had pulled Rick and Daryl aside and explained to them that it looked like the flu. Soon it spread, like wildfire. It was Hershel who decided on the quarantine finally. Both Scud and Sophia had fallen sick, Letty with them. Rick ordered anyone who wasn’t sick to stay in their cell block, and he ordered Carl and Beth to take Sophia to the library part of the prison, and keep her away from the ill.

Daryl and Rick were standing side by side in the early morning light when Tyreese, a new comer, and his sister came running to them. “WALKERS IN THE QUARANTINE BLOCK!”

Daryl’s face paled. He grabbed Rick’s hand before he could stop himself, and they were running up the hill, dragging each other. When they made it inside, both Letty and Glenn who had been pronounced sick early on, where wheezing, their bodies taunt, and pained expressions on their faces. Around them several of the sick laid dead. “Patrick musta died in his sleep.” Letty managed, a sheen of sweat drenching her body, and her long hair pressed back, sweat soaked. Glenn had an arm slung around her waist supporting her.

“Are you two ok?” Rick asked, his hand still in Daryl's.

“Yea, us and Hershel are good.” Glenn nodded, coughing loud and hoarse into her hair. Letty smiled lopsided at both Rick and Daryl.

“Miss you two, but get outta here, before you get sick.” Letty coughed then, hugging tighter to Glenn. Hershel was motioning for Rick and Daryl to meet him in the conversation room, where glass panels separated you, and phones were hung up to talk to loved ones.

Rick held the phone between him and Daryl’s ear. “I need some medicine, soon. Dr. S and I can heal them, but he need to make a hard run, it's a vet hospital some ways away from here.”

Daryl looked at Rick. “I will go, Rick, take Bob, Ty, and probably Michonne with me.”

He nodded at Daryl. “We gotta talk about whoever burned that family, this morning. Wanted to ask Letty if she saw anything…” Rick mumbled.

“Letty was passed out this morning, the only person who was over here, that wasn’t in quarantined was Carol. What happened this morning Rick?” Hershel asked, his eyes locked on his leader and hunter.

“That new family we took in, the one with her little boy who we think brought the flu, Patrick was fond of the four year old, but Carl found their bodies burned beyond cell block B, in the courtyard where the biters can't get to them.” Rick explained.

“Only person not accounted for this morn’n was Carol.” Daryl mumbled, his eyes glancing at Rick.

“Yeah, Daryl, I know ya love her, and Letty does too, but if she did this…” Rick’s voice trailed off.

“Just ask ‘er.” Daryl said, frowning.

“I will.” Rick promised him.

“About the three of you.” Hershel caught them off guard. “I have seen how the three of you look at each other.” He paused, letting them catch up. “Dunno why I didn’t see it sooner. Daryl and Letty are like two halves of a whole, and I bet they are the other half of your soul, Rick. I know it's probably not a very conventional relationship, and I should probably frown on it, but honestly, the other morning watching the three of you, Letty in the middle and one of you on each side as you walked to the gate it made sense. I know I shouldn’t agree as a man of God, but ya got my blessing, I think the others would understand. Does Carl or Scud know?”

Rick and Daryl shared a look, Daryl was blushing. “Scud knows about me and Letty, the three of us wanna tell Carl together.”

“Yea, I think Michonne knows.” Rick added. “Michonne loves Carl, and they talk alot, so we were gonna talk to Michonne about it first, but then… well everyone got sick.”

Hershel nodded, tapping his chin. “I can get her back to normal but need medicine.” Hershel left them then.

Rick hugged Daryl, pressing his face into Daryl's neck,something they didn't do often, but both Rick and Letty seems to like snuggling up to him. “Gonna check my snares, bring some food in, cause I dunno how long the hospital run will take. Ya wait ta deal with Carol until we get back.” Daryl ran a hand through Rick’s hair somewhat unsure, then detangled himself, and walked away.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Daryl liked the woods. Time spent in the woods had always been easier on him, and to some extent Letty. He knew Rick and Carol were getting things together for them to head out and get the medicine and supplies Hershel needed from the veterinary hospital. So, he steadied himself by heading out into the woods. He was checking his last snare when he heard a branch break and a gun cock.

“Easy there, fella. Them snares look familiar is all, wanna learn where ya learned to trap like a Dixon.” Merle’s voice floated to him. Of course Merle didn’t recognize him. His hair was long and shaggy these days, and he wore one of Rick’s black hoodies into the woods, leaving his signature vest with Scud, hoping to make the sick boy feel better.

Daryl whirled on his brother, and raised the crossbow. “Some asshole taught me, then raped my woman.” Daryl’s voice dripped with hatred.

“Knew ya weren’t dead.” Merle chuckled.

“Oh really?” Daryl snarled.

“Yea, Letty can’t live without ya so I don’t see her survivin alone with Officer Friendly.” Merle snapped at him.

Shows you how much you know. Daryl thought, looking Merle up and down. “Governor drop your ass.”

“Nah, fucker went crazy, burned his town down. Killed a lot of folks.” Merle tapped his blade.

“What ya want then.” Daryl snarled.

“Fetch Letty and Scud and let’s go.” Merle commanded him.

“No.” Daryl snarled. “Ain’t going anywhere with you. I went back for you, man, you weren’t there. I didn’t cut off your hand neither. You did that. Way before they locked you up on the roof. You asked for it.” Daryl was seething.

“You know what’s funny to me, you and sheriff Rick are thick as thieves. Bet you a fiddle made of fucking gold… Bet you never told ‘im we were gonna rob them.” Merle snarled.

“Letty and I told him when you fucked off with the truck. But guess what? Didn’t happen.” Daryl was quiet when he said it, recoiling from his brother.

“Cause I wasn’t there to help.” Merle countered.

Daryl tensed visibly. “Like when we were kids, huh?” He snapped.

“That why I lost my hand?” Merle snarled, waving his metal covered stump in front of Daryl.

“You lost your hand cause you’re a simple minded piece of shit.” Daryl spun on Merle.

Merle was fast for an older man, slamming into Daryl, snarling, knocking him into a nearby tree . His shirt was ripped the world was woozy. His body ground into the bark, making him yelp in pain, groaning as he pushed off of the tree. “I didn’t know…” Merle briefly saw the scars lining his brothers back, and his stomach lurched.

“Yeah he did, did the same to you that’s why you left first.” Daryl was pushing his pack on.

“Had to; I would have killed him. Where are you going?” Merle sounded scared.

“Back where I belong.” Daryl sighed frustrated. “You raped Letty and beat Rick, man.”

“I can’t go with you…” Merle paused, then watched them walk away.

“I MIGHT BE THE ONE WALKING AWAY, BUT LIKE ALWAYS YOU’RE THE ONE LEAVING.” Daryl snarled.

“If I can't stay with you… kill me.” Daryl turned sharply to look at Merle. “Only ever worried bout Letty and Scud because you wanted me to. I can't go look her in tha face… all ‘ah ever done was hurt Scud.”

“Ain't killing ya. “ Daryl snarled. Before he could act Merle surged forward.

“One of us leaves alive, the other becomes walker bait.” Merle grumbled.

Daryl frowned. No way was he leaving Letty or Rick. He had just found a real home. “You know when we kidnapped her, I never thought I would fall in love with her.” Daryl said, looking at his brother’s form. Tears running down his face, as he raised the crossbow, and aimed. Merle glared at him, his eyes narrow. The bolt hit its mark, and he dropped.

Chapter Text

Rick was relieved when he saw Daryl returning to the prison, he wore a smile when he realized Daryl was wearing one of his hoodies, something no doubt Carol or Sasha had found a run and brought back for him. Daryl looked strained though, and Rick realized he was dragging something through the high grass. For an excited moment Rick thought it might be big game, then he realized it was an arm. “Help me.” Daryl growled at Rick.

Rick was out of the gate before he registered he had opened it, and was helping Daryl drag Merle’s dead body into the camp. “What happened?” Rick panted as they secured the gate behind them.

“Found me in the woods, was gonna kill me cause I was ‘ah stranger using Dixon’s snares. Wanted me ta fetch Letty and Scud, and head back with him to wherever. Told ‘im no, and he went an’ made me kill him.” Daryl was whispering, his body shaking slightly.

Rick pulled him close, not caring who saw. Daryl stiffened at the sudden touch, but relaxed into it, and just stood for a moment. “I’ll tell Letty and Scud.”
“Dunno how he got so closed ta us, Rick, dunno if we should be splitting up and me takin’ the stronger fighters.” Daryl was worried.

“Regardless, I will bury your brother for you, and you will go get medicine for our girl, ok?” Rick was using a voice he normally would have used on Carl. Daryl nodded, and headed towards the car, but not before ducking his head slightly, and kissing Rick’s temple.

Rick stood rooted in the spot, Daryl had never kissed him before, not on his own, or without being coaxed into it. Rick looked down at Merle’s prone form and frowned, before grabbing one arm and one metal case and dragging the man towards their graveyard.

Both Maggie and Carol were working in the graveyard, digging graves for those who had lost their lives in the last 24 hours due to the flu or the walker issue in the quarantine cells. Maggie raised an eyebrow as rick approached. “Got another. Plant ‘im next to… Lori” Rick paused, “And the marker we made for Shane.”

Maggie nodded at him. “Merle?”

“Confronted Daryl in the woods. Daryl is going out on a run. I am going to get things settled and together to make sure we are good to go in case the governor comes knocking. Merle being back don’t sit right with me. Carol can you help me out?”

Carol looked up at Rick. “Yea. Just me and you?”

“Want Maggie here with some of the stragglers. We need more guns.” Rick offered.

“Ok, you got it Rick. How long will you be gone?” Maggie asked.

“About a day.” Rick nodded at Maggie, and then helped Carol from the grave.

“We gonna talk.” Carol stated lamely, pulling at the bottom of her shirt. Both Axel and Oscar made their way towards MAggie ready to help.

“Yea, bout the burned bodies.” Rick informed her climbing into of their trucks, he had waited until Daryl was gone to do this, and he felt bad, knowing what Carol meant to both Letty and Daryl as well as what this act would mean in regards to Sophia.

Rick wasn't sure if he was leaving her in King County or not, it would depend on if Morgan was there or not, and if he was, if Carol thought she could be useful to him. His home town, however, was not how he had left it, and he realized the little adventure was going to be a lot more of a headache then needed.
“I did it to protect our children.” Carol said it so suddenly.

Rick looked at her for a long moment. “I was going to just bring you out here and leave you.” HE paused. “But I can’t do that, not to Daryl, not to Letty, not to Sophia. I love Daryl and Letty, but you know that.”

“I do. I know the three of you are in some sort of relationship, maybe have been since the farm. Or the CDC who knows?” Carol joked. “I only wanted to protect ours.”

“I know.” Rick squeezed her hand in his, and smiled at her. “I know.”

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

After a grueling several hours dealing with Morgan and his crazed state Rick was glad to be back on the road with Carol, bag of guns in the back, and some other random supplies here and there. Namely two new crossbows. He remembered Letty mentioning that she knew how to operate one, and hoping that the smaller of the two would fit her well enough, maybe she could teach Carl, Sophia, Beth, Scud, Judith someday.

When they returned to eh prison, Andrea had been moved to the quarantine area, Michonne had helped her get there before leaving with Daryl. Michonne and Daryl were best friends, to an extent, they shred some genuine interest in tracking down the sick fuck who had tried to kill them, the governor, and they had tried hard to make the whole child population of the prison happy with comics and candy. Something Rick was genuinely proud of. Andrea nd Michonne were sort of creating a different kind of relationship, to which Daryl had openly stated all the prison was was a damn fucked up love novel. Rick couldn’t help but laugh about that at current.

Hershel was looking a little worse for the wear, when he met Rick. “Dr. S. is sick. While you were gone, Carl and I went out of the gates to get some herbs I needed. Rick, they are dying in here.”

“Any of ours?” Rick asked, panic clear in his voice.

“Letty, Sasha, Andrea, and Glenn are ok. I am ok. Scud is doing better than last night and Sophia’s fever broke this morning. I am glad I have four of our strongest warriors in here, Rick, but it makes me worried about what happens if we are attacked.” Hershel frowned.

“No worries!”Daryl almost shouted, as he materialized from somewhere behind Rick. “Gonna have to talk to ya about Bob.”

Rick looked stricken. “Is he dead?”

“No, no… just and alcoholic.” Daryl placed calming hands on Rick. “All the things ya asked for Hershel, handed them to - here she comes.”

Letty was trailing towards Hershel, two huge duffel bags under her arms, with those two girls Rick had brought back almost a month ago. Mika and Lizzie, he had found them in a car, their father in walker form trying to eat them. They had sort of become Letty’s like all the children did. Hershel smiled at her.

“You look awful, sweetheart.” Daryl said through the glass, inching closer.

Rick hated to agree. She was pale and ashy, bags under her eyes, and sweating. Lizzie looked worse, her blond hair matted to her head, her cheeks sunken. Letty pressed her forehead against the glass, and opened her hands, flat to the cold surface. Rick placed a hand on the glass over her right and Daryl followed suit with her left hand. Both men pressed their foreheads together over hers. “I love you, go kill who ever needs to be killed. I can keep being a nurse to Hershel no big deal.”

Even her voice sounded pained. Hershel scooped up the duffel bags and motioned the two younger girls to follow him. “Letty, I love you.” Daryl breathed into the phone just as Letty pressed one end to her ear. She smiled. Rick looked at them both, then lowered his head next to Daryl's “I love you both.”

“What's happened?” Letty asked, her eyebrows knitted. “You look worried.”

“Merle found me in the woods, before the run, had ta kill him.” Letty let out a small sob, her eyes locked on Daryl. “How can you be sad when he did that to ya?”

“Because you are sad, Dar.” Letty whimpered out. Rick felt it too, even after what Merle had put them through, the pain Daryl felt for losing his brother, cut into him like a knife.

“We fetched some guns, a family was found burned to death. Took Carol with me to fetch the guns, we talked and she did it. I don’t know what to do about it.” Rick explained.

“She… why?” Letty asked, her brow raising in confusion.

“To protect what's ours, our kids.” Rick offered it.

Letty looked at Daryl, who looked at Rick, and then she sighed. “Rick, you made it clear to us before and after the Ricktatorship, murder was not allowed. That sounds a lot like murder.”

“But, she thought she could stop this.” Rick growled out, conflicted.

“Lotta good that did, just made her a murder on top of everything. She is punished enough, bets she’s torn up about it.” Daryl grumbled.

“I don’t doubt that. She thought she was stopping this, then she must feel awful, no wonder she was so upset when Sophia got it.” Letty added.

There was a commotion behind her. “LETTY!” Hershel’s voice rang out.

Whatever strength Letty had left, she surged towards the cell block, and Hershel looking back for a moment and waving at her men. Rick sighed and looked at Daryl.

“Can’t do much, Rick.” Daryl frowned.

“We can talk to Carl.” Rick decided.

“Thought we was waitin’ on Letty.” Daryl was already following him.

“Want him to understand that if something happens ta me that he is to stick with ya, lie and say he is a Dixon if he needs to.” Rick explained. “If Blake is coming plan to get the kids out of here and fast, with you and Letty. They stand the best chance.”

Daryl was not sure how he felt about that but he had promised to take care of Sophia and to take care of Beth, so this wasn't much different. Not really. They found Carl standing guard outside the room Beth had holed up in with Judith. “Wanna talk to you, Carl.” Rick said, motioning him close.

“What is it dad?” Carl had this underlying motion of excitement, as he came to them.

“I know we have not long lost your mom, but I think you knew, your so smart, about Shane, and about the fact that your mom and I were not happy anymore.” Rick started.

Daryl felt awkward, and wished Letty was there. Carl just noded. “They tried to hide it at camp, from me and everyone, but I knew, Daryl knew.”
“Right, so I am going to tell you something, and I want to know what you think about it.” Rick stated.

“If it's about the fact that you like Daryl and Letty more than friends, you don’t need to go on about it.” Carl said matter of factly. Daryl froze, a blush ebbing on to his cheeks. “Shane told me you were bisexual, and explained it to me a long time ago. Letty is already Judith’s mom, and Daryl took care of us when…” He paused, Daryl and Rick could both finished the sentence when you lost your mind over mom.

“I… you're so smart, buddy. Are you ok with the three of us being in a relationship? All three of us being like your parents?” Rick asked, clarifying.

“You, Daryl, and Letty. Sure. But, you have to promise to tell Judith about mom. I know she will only ever know Letty as mom, but about our real mom.” Carl growled.

“Ok, I promise. All three of us promise, right Daryl?” Rick staid.

Daryl had been quiet for a long time, and instead of talking now, he just hugged Carl, tears forming in his eyes. He had not expected the kids to be so understanding. He could not help but start laughing when Carl announced, in his arms. “Gonna call you Pa, or Papa, because he’s my Dad, and two dad’s is confusing enough without using the same name.” Carl laughed with him.

“What about Letty?” Rick asked.

“Mom, so Judith knows what to call her.” Carl said it so simply. “But, how are you going to explain our family to other people?”

“We will figure it out when we get there.” Rick said, joining their hug.

“So, Scud’s my brother now?” Carl asked.

“Sure, thing.” Daryl told him. “Think we oughtta start callin’ him his real name, it's Ruger Joshua, byt the way. Letty call’s him Joshie, when no one's around. Merle hated his names, made up Scud, like he was a piece of nothing.”

“Cool.” Carl mumbled. “Got a brother named Josh, a second dad and a new mom. Today ain’t so bad.” Carl went back to his guard duty, as Rick and Daryl moved off. They heard a gunshot and froze, sharing a look before running towards the quarantined cell block.

Hershel emerged as they got there. “Dr. S is dead, several of our newcomers are dead. To be honest, Letty, Scud, Sophia, Mika, Lizzie, Andrea, Glenn, and Sasha are my only patients alive, and they are only that way because of the run you went on.” Hershel nodded at Daryl. “Letty killed Dr. S before he could get to Glenn, the only thing she had was a gun, and was barely able to lift that. She is the only one who can not keep food down… I am worried about her weight loss.” He offered.

“What are you doing out there?” Rick asked.

“Need some help getting the bodies out.” Hershel explained. “Need you both to wear mask and cover your bodies as much as you can.”

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

After removing most of the bodies. Both men were exhausted and found their way back to the clean cell block. Expecting some food to be cooking, but Carol was nowhere in sight. Instead Maggie was there, with two little boys left over from the stragglers who were not sick yet. There mother was in the shower, according to Maggie, and she had no clue where Carol was. Bob, Ty, and Michonne were sleeping, prepared to take watch later. Currently on watch were Oscar and Axel.

“She left this for you, Daryl” Maggie said after a moment, making sure the boys were where they were supposed to be.

Daryl took the folded up note from her, and read it aloud. “I know I should have waited to talk to you and Letty, but I just couldn’t. I messed up, Daryl. I was so blinded by my own fears I killed a family, a whole family, for no reason, everyone is still sick, my Sophia to. I took the smallest car, and some clothes and supplies. I just, I need to go. I am going to head out on my own, and I think it is better this way. Sophia will live much longer with you and Letty, love her please. And take care of you husband and wife, I know those are foreign terms to you, but Letty and Rick need you, as much as you need them. I love you." Daryl paused. “She left. She just left, Rick.” Daryl frowned. “I can go get her.” In his scramble, he shoved the letter at Rick.

“You didn’t finish reading.” Daryl looked at Rick. “I wanted to make a relationship with you, but then the truth with you and Letty came out, then I realized you also had Rick, there is no real place for me, Sophia is better with you guys and I can’t watch you love them. I thought I could when it was just Letty.” Rick sighed. “She… It’s my fault, I should have realized we were not being inconspicuous enough.”

“So, you're with Letty as a couple both of you?” They had both forgotten Maggie was there. Daryl recoiled from the words, jerking way. “That’s cool. She is good for you both.”

Daryl had been ready to have words of hate thrown at him. “Huh? What the fuck is with all you people? Accepting of me taking and giving…. being bi…” Rick looked at his partner, and sighed.

“You should lay down, Daryl.” Maggie giggled. “We don’t have to together!” Rick added hastily, making Daryl blush even worse before the angry hunter stormed up to the perch.

Maggie laughed for a moment. “Let me help you move your stuff, Carl's, and Judith’s up to the perch, it’ll be the only place you can all sleep together.”

Rick shot her a strange look. “You Greene's sure are understanding.” He mumbled, but let Maggie force him into helping.

“Wanna talk about Carol?” Maggie asked as they packed up Judith’s things.

“Not really.” Rick sighed.

Chapter Text

Hershel was pleased with himself the last of his patients were up and moving around. The walkers had stopped building up along the walls for a least a few days, then Rick had found the rats scattered around the fence. He brought it to Letty, knowing if it was one of the children she would know. “Lizzie, doesn’t understand that they are bad.” Rick nodded his understanding then went to talk to Lizzie.

Andrea had taken to helping Letty when she could, but Letty was not the best at letting her help. Today was no exception. “Michonne and Hershel and I got this.” Letty snapped. “Just, stay up here and help Bethy with the kids. Keep an eye on Lizzie.”

There had been too many bodies, after the flu to burn inside the compound, so they had loaded them onto a trailer and were taking them outside the enclosure to burn them in a clearing they had found. Michonne was driving, Hershel in the passenger seat, and Letty sitting in the truck bed, her rifle up. Daryl was out hunting, and Rick was working with Glenn in the yard, repairing some of the fencing, which had been put under a lot of stress due to the walker building up where Lizzie had been feeding them.

The little girl was no longer allowed to go anywhere without Letty, Carl, Daryl, Rick, or Andrea. Her sister, Mika, was relieved that someone knew what her sister had been doing, and was now working to teach the little one a better way. Axel was working with Maggie on the water systems. Oscar in the guard tower.

Michonne turned the truck off, and set her Katana down on the tailgate, helping Letty climbed out the back and onto the huge stack of bodies so she could hand them down. The three then went straight into pulling bodies from the trailer to stack and set on fire.

Letty heard a strange noise almost like one of the fake turkey calls, it hurt her ears regardless, and turned, in time to see Philip Blake and another one of the claimants, Martinez maybe, standing with guns drawn and pointed at them. Letty paled, her eyes looking back to the truck, her gun was on the top, above the open window, and Hershel's’ pistol was on the tire, they were so fucked.

Hershel raised his arms above his head, Letty followed suit, then last Michonne. “How interesting. Letty Dixon, Michonne Anthony, and I believe if Merle told me about you you must be Hershel Greene, resident farmer and Santa.” Blake sneered at them.

“Let Hershel go.” Letty demanded.

“No, I need all three of you to bargain with Rick.” He laughed. “Really think I would just let you go?”

“Merle was stationed here and he just happened upon Daryl didn’t he?” She asked, her voice flat.

“Smart girl, too bad I plan on killing you.” Blake snapped.

“Wonder which one of you means the most to Rick?” Martinez mocked.

“I do, so you can let them go.” Letty snapped. Blake walked towards her, and smiled, kissing her full on the lips before she could stop him.

“That so?” He grabbed for Michonne’s katana and smiled wildly at her. “Then I’ll start with the old man, and end with you, might even rape you again.” His breath washed over her, in nasty snaps.

She felt like hurling. Hershel was reaching out for her, ready to grab her and steady her if need be, but instead she squared her shoulders, and snapped something back. “Rape me all you want, sick fuck, but if you lay one hand on either Rick or Daryl’s heads I’ll fucking cut you up and feed you to your men!” She snarled, then spat in his face. She didn’t quite feel the slap, but it resonated through her skull, she registered as she fell sideways it wasn’t a fist, it was the barrel of a gun he had brought down on her head.

“Mouthy bitch.” Martinez grumbled as he drug her limp body up and dropped it into the truck. “Climb on up there, grandpa.” He tapped his gun on Hershel’s shoulder, then Hershel climbed into the back, shakily, his prosthetic leg didn’t bend so well.

“Michonne, I missed your pretty little face.” Blake smiled at her.

“I didn’t miss you.” Michonne was already climbing into the back of the truck. Blake took his time to undo the trailer hitch, then he climbed into the cab. Martinez climbed into the bed and sat with his gun pointed at them.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

When she woke her hands were tied behind her back, and she was sitting in some sort of camper. Michonne and Hershel were across from her. Next to her in the seat was a man she didn’t fully recognize, but his scent hit her hard, he had raped her, she realized. For a moment she felt fear closing in. Athens he heard Hershel talking. “Whatever he has told you about us or has promised you is a lie. If you help us out of here, we can give you safety and security.”

The man next to her gruffed at him, then snaked an arm around her. “This little piece of meat here might disagree with that.” Letty was visibly recoiling from the man, her face pinched, and lined with fear. Hershel watched her for a moment, her eye socket was damaged from the hit, he could tell, but that was something to worry about at a later time, her eyes were frantic.

Michonne was completely quiet, but nudged Letty’s foot under the table. Letty took her eyes from the man, and locked them on Michonnes. I got you, just watch me. At least that was what Letty got out of her eyes. Letty never looked away from Michonnes brown eyes as the man rubbed up and down her, and kissed at her neck. “We got acquainted last time.”

Letty’s jaw was clenched, but Hershel watched her, her eyes glued to Michonne, a silent mantra in her head. He could tell she would be fine, regardless. As far as Dixon’s went, Letty was the one he worried the least about. The door to the RV scraped open, and Black sauntered in. His black eye patch making him look like a bad pirate in an 80 s move to both Letty and Michonne.

“Sorry about all this, Hershel, you and your girls were innocent bystanders I am sure. Then Rick Grimes came in and ruined your life, he sort of ruined Merles too. And look what happened to my dear old Merle, dead as a door nail.” He barked with laughter.

Letty was being very still, her whole body seemed to be a statue. Michonne chanced a glance at her, and she realized Letty had closed her eyes and was doing something in her own head, her mouth working slightly. “Merle is dead because Merle wanted to be dead.” Letty said it quietly.

Blake’s attention snapped back to her. “Letty, after everything we have been through, you should know I don’t like it when someone talks out of turn.” His eyes narrowed.

“You should know, Gov’na, that you ain’t allowed to call me Letty.” She snarled. Slamming her forehead into the man who had been stroking her chest. He toppled backwards, and she was standing toe to toe with Blake before Michonne and Hershel could fully grasp what was happening.

“Gov’na, huh?” He laughed, grabbing a fist full of her hair. “Now I am going to show them how I broke Rick.” She didn’t even pale.

“Don’t know what you're gonna be doing, Gov’na, cause you didn’t break Rick, you fuckin made him stronger. Didn’t break me either. Instead you cemented everything dear ole Merle ever wanted to teach me.” She punctuated the last me with a knee to his groin. “Rape me if you want, but don’t you hurt Hershel.” and a head butt to the temple.

“Nah, not gonna rape you, gonna kill you nice and slow.” He was leering over her, his body suddenly on top of hers, she kicked hard, causing her body to slide up the table into the window. Michonne almost screamed, because there were several walkers outside the window, and her body had cracked it.

“Don’t try anything crazy, princess.” He mocked,before leaving the RV.

The man she had headbutted followed him. Hershel looked at her. “What are you playing at?”

“Don’t want you hurt.” She managed to choke out as she sat up. Michonne saw something glimmer in the counter of her mouth. Letty spit a knife blade onto the table. “That was ridiculous work.” She moaned.

“Damn genius, girl.” Michonne could have kissed her. Letty worked the blade over to Michonne the best she could, then Michonne managed to sneak it into her pocket.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

“They should have been back by now.” Carl mumbled. “Dad, Pa, you two better go and check on things.” Rick and Daryl shared a look. “Go on.”

“Stay here and keep everyone inside.” Rick ordered Carl, then nodded at Daryl.

Both men grabbed their weapons and a pack and exited the open gate as Carl waited for them to slip out. Daryl had made sure he knew exactly where Letty was going, so when he and Rick reached it on foot and found the trailer abandoned, both Letty and Hershel’s guns left on the trailer.

“This isn’t good.” Daryl said after a long moment.

“No.” Rick agreed. Daryl and Rick followed the tracks until it hit the road, “This heads back towards Woodbury.”

“We need to get back to the prison.” Daryl’s voice was stained, he'd tugged harshly at Rick’s shirt, and pointed to the ground, blood had pooled near where the tires of the truck would have been in relation to the trailer. “Let’s go.”

Rick followed Daryl through the underbrush, he could feel the panic in him rising. Letty meant the world to him and Daryl, other than the kids, and now she was gone. Rick was not prepared, some time later in the day when Philip Blake and his associates arrived at their doorstep. He motioned for Daryl to waitin up the yard, and he made his way to the fence. Before him Letty, Hershel, and Michonne were bound.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

On her knees in front of the governor with Hershel beside her and Michonne on the other side of him, she shivered. How stupid they had been, they had let their guards down. Her hands bound tightly behind her back. He was yelling at Rick, she searched the crowd for Daryl, and glimpsed him, red rag tied to his hand. This was not going to end well, not at all. She chanced a glance at Michonne, a thousand words spoken at once. We have to get Hershel and get the fuck out of here.

Rick was pleading about how it could work, them all staying here. He chanced glances at Letty when he thought he could. Then suddenly he changed his tune. “You can have it all.” She groaned, they must have opened the tombs he was just buying time. The governor was no fool, and he must have realized there was something amiss. He was hovering the blade close to Hershel’s neck. She shot Michonne a glance, and could see the warrior woman was working her hands free. Letty surged to her left, smashing into Hershel, the blade nicking his neck, but embedding into her collarbone, hard enough that as the governor twisted to pull it back she heard the bone crack, a low scream slipping from her lips. At the same time something loud erupted above her and she realized it was the tank firing and starting. She could hear the guns going off, the loud shots ringing in her ears.

She felt Michonne, eyes locked on her, then she was being hauled up. “Need this, sorry.” Letty screamed, loud and pained as Michonne tore the katana from her collarbone. She gasped openly for air, Hershel’s hands, she surged her hands forward deftly working through the haze of blood loss to untie his hands. Michonne was lost from her vision, and she swayed. Hershel steadied her, “GO!” Michonne screamed.

Letty did not need to be told twice, she moved forward. Her arms tight around Hershel’s middle, her blood coating them both. “Hersh, there is a weapon stash… bout a mile away… the mark on the tree looks like Daryl’s crossbow. I… when you get there dig it out.” She was losing her mind, her whole body was failing to work.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

“NOOOOO! NO! NO!” Daryl screamed, his voice cracking. The blade in Letty’s body, both sides revealed, he could not take it, anger clouded his judgement. “NO!” He screamed again, the more he watched the more he hated it. Michonne jerked the blade out of her like it was nothing, that scream she had emitted had pierced him to the core. He realized both Letty and Hershel were moving, and quickly then. Rick and Daryl locked eyes for the briefest of moments, and then Rick was lost to his sight to. He was damned in that moment, the two people who meant the most to him ripped away.

Daryl moved fast, rounding up his kids. “Scud, Bethy, Carl, Sophia, Judith…” He paused. Mika was stand over the body of her dead sister, a walker from the tombs had emerged and was chewing at the young girls body. “Mika, come on baby, let's go.” He urged her. Judith in his arms, the others running hard behind him. He was pulling them towards the tree break he had saw Letty lead Hershel into. Towards the gun supplies. His woman would protect Hershel half dead on her feet or not, and right now, his biggest worry was the children.

He had killed Merle, god had that hurt, but he still had Scud, and every day that little shit was getting to be more like a Dixon, even called Letty a cold hearted bitch the other day, Daryl chuckled. Then his heart sunk, because at this moment she might actually be. Then there was Rick, where the fuck had he disappeared to, another nail seemed to stab at Daryl’s heart.

They were running, hard and fast, each move. Daryl handed Judith over to Mika. “Move darling!” Daryl shouted, Beth shivered at the order. “DAMMIT BETH SHOOT THEM!” They ran until they couldn’t anymore, through underbrush and thorns, each moment making it hard to breath. They collapsed in a small bramble of trees, panting. Daryl was wheezing. “Might hafta give up smokes.” He choked out.

He needed Letty, she would know how to keep the kids moving forward, but damn, she was dead. His mind had accepted it. Rick, Rick could be out there, he was a tough son of a bitch, he would be alive - he’d probably never see Rick or Letty again. But his heart was not taking that into consideration. “Daryl.” Carl was sitting up, looking at him, “We should keep moving.”

“Keep lookin’ for our family.” Sophia agreed.

“We need to do something, we need to find our families.” Beth pushed.
“They could have made it out.” Scud agreed, his eyes hopeful.

Daryl was stone face and silent.

“You can tack them. Come on, the sun will be out soon.” Beth looked dejected. “Fine, I’ll do it my damn self, no clue why Letty was always dottin on ya, yer mean as shit.” Beth spit.

Chapter Text

Michonne helped Rick to his feet and they were off, Tyreese not to far behind them. Rick was barely awake and was worried, the pain etched on his face. Michonne tried to comfort him as Ty helped shoulder his wait. The three of them were making their way toward a subdivision they had looted previously. Rick passed out as they moved, the fist fight with the governor and his leg wound wearing him down. Tyrese slammed him over his shoulder, and kept running. Michonne was plowing through Walkers as they reached them, grief present in all of their minds. They had never created a plan for it something separated them all. There had never been a need.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Bob, Sasha, Andrea, and Maggie found themselves on the far side of the prison, watching the bus leave without them. “Anyone see Beth?” Maggie asked as they ran.

“With Daryl and the kids last I saw?” Bob asked, his own gunshot wound aching.

“Good, he won’t let anything happen to her, or the other kids.” Maggie snapped.

Andrea staggered towards them. “We need to move.”

Maggie nodded and helped shoulder Andrea, she had been shot it looked like in the gut. Bob too the other side. “We can patch me and her up once we get somewhere safe.”

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Glenn groaned, his whole body hurt, he climbed as high as he could, the last fleeting thoughts on his mind were of Maggie, her beautiful face seemed to loom above him. He closed his eyes, tears sweeping down his face, and he welcomed death in that moment. He threw his body hard against the concrete that had once been the bridge that connected two different parts of the prison.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Hershel found the weapon stash, right where she said it would be, he was old and not a spring chicken anymore, carrying Letty had been harder than he expected. Now, now he had found most of what he needed. He half drug half carried her to the van he had cleaned, the weapon stash had a medical bag in it, something he knew Daryl had insisted on the moment he saw it because there was a shot of liquor in it.

He laid Letty out flat in the back of the van and closed the doors, locking them. He removed her shirt, and for a moment felt like crying, he had not realized how many scars she had gotten in the months that had followed the first time he had doctored her back on his farm. Each new mark seemed more than enough to make him wonder how it had happened. None were as pressing as the through and through of the katana blade, her collarbone was broke, that was going to make everything a lot harder.

Then there was her stomach, it almost looked bloated, he prodded at it for a moment, then realized, she was pregnant. Close to three months along, he would hazard a guess. Where had they been three months ago? He wondered, where had she and Daryl found the time, or for that matter her and Rick? How had she not lost the baby during the… Hershel’s mind froze. The rape. He ran his hand over her waist once more, and sighed. He hoped she lived, new life was a gift.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Camping was a fun activity, or at least Daryl tried his hardest to make it fun for them. He had managed to round up supplies, he had armed all of the kids but Mika and Judith. Beth was sullen, and missed her father, and her sister, he knew her heart was breaking in half. Scud was also miserable, he wanted his Letty - his momma back. Then Mika, she had lost her sister in the attack on the prison, her father had died before they had taken her in. He didn’t know what Sophia and Carl were thinking about, both had drawn expression on their 13 and a half year old faces, both looked older than they really were. Judith was not easy to keep quiet in the woods, he was silently thankful that he had Beth, she was good, damn good at keeping his little asskicker quiet.

“Dad, I want my momma.” Scud whispered, the only one other than Daryl awake, he had found a small shack for them to sleep in.

“I want Letty back too.” Daryl agreed, tucking his nephew to him. “I need her back, Joshie.”

He didn’t say that Letty was probably already dead, didn’t mention that more than likely everyone they loved was beyond dead. Daryl had saw where the blade had entered her, had saw the blood, all over her and Hershel, no way to survive losing that much blood. No fucking way.

Beth was determined to find the others, and Daryl admired that sort of blind determination. The faith she had. Daryl was a negative person by nature, no amount of love from Letty and Rick would change that. He had always known that, shit Letty had probably knowing it too. Beth, every action this little blonde headache did was positive and determined. She always picked extra food, sure that would find a member of their family the next day. She always seemed a step behind Daryl, but then again, she was the oldest kid with him now, and they had too many youngsters between them to even wonder.

He caught a walker that first day on their own, that tried to eat her, Beth, and rolled it over. The anger that Beth drove the knife into its skull with shocked Daryl. He had not thought much about what the little girl might be angry about, shit, he had no clue what could be on her mind or the others. No it was his Letty who had a way with words. And his Rick who had a way of comforting and controlling everyone.

When she started crying, Daryl had no clue what to do. To his amazement it was quiet little Scud who took her hand, “Shush, Bethy, yer daddy is ok, he is with my momma, and she’d never let anything happen to him, and Rick, he is with Michonne, they always find each other, and Sophia, yer momma she is strong and mean.”

Daryl looked at Scud, when had that little shit become a miniature Letty, when had that happened? How had he missed it. Letty had poured so much of herself into raising Scud that her personality shone through him like a beacon of light, like hope. Maybe Letty wasn’t dead, he decided. Beth had enough hope for him to find he was infected with it to. He took Beth’s other hand, and tugged her away from the corpses. He had put down two walkers, members from the prison whom they had taken in along the way.

Chapter Text

“Rick has been out two days.” Tyreese sighed.

“I know, but he will be fine. We got the bullet out, I am glad Daryl pushed for those goody bags all over the woods. I am sorry we had to use them this way though.” Michonne sighed, tears in her eyes. “I hope he got the kids out.”

“Daryl would have stuck to the plan, with or without Letty, he knew what to do, where to head with the kids.” Tyreese assured her.

“I know, but, Letty, shit - I just wrenched my blade outta her, like it was nothing’ and left her and Hershel for dead.” Michonne was sobbing, her head in her hands. She sank down next to Rick on the couch, and cried hard and long. Tyrese kept watch, and when they were both good and asleep he covered up his leader and the warrior queen.

Once he knew they were secure he slipped out, checking over the houses he knew had already been picked clean. He killed a couple walkers, but nothing to difficult, he wondered where his sister was, where the children were.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Glenn awoke with a start. He thought he could hear Maggie screaming for him, but it must have been a bad dream. The stench of death drifted over him, and he shakily rolled over to check his surroundings. Walkers, everywhere. He shivered. Too many walkers to count, out of the corner of his eye he saw someone, also similarly unconscious and stretched out, blood pooling around her, the walkers couldn’t get to her because she was behind a fence, just like him.

Glenn hauled himself up, and pushed into the prison, breaking the glass above the lone female. Her shorter black hair and tanned skin made him frown. For a moment he had mistaken her as Letty, then he remembered the governor sinking the katana into her skin, he felt the tears well up in his eyes.

He drug the girl towards him, and smiled when she woke up. “Names Glenn, ya were with the governor right?” The dark haired girl nodded, sluggishly. “Alright, lady, get up, yer gonna help me find my wife and my family.” Glenn ordered her.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Maggie and Sasha tried their best to follow the instructions as Bob gave them on how to correctly clean the wound, and extract the bullet. Either way he was in a lot of pain, and passed out midway through. Then they turned their attention to Andrea. Digging the bullet from her waist proved to be more difficult than digging the one from Bob’s shoulder. Once they were both out, Maggie cried, long and hard. Her whole world was Glenn and she had no clue where he was. Sasha cried too, they had been safe, they had everything. Now they were scattered and had no one.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

The fever was something he could have combated on a normal day. Her nightmares, not so much. He had to shake Letty awake violently. After four days in the van she had pushed them forward. Much to his concern, each step seemed to bring her displeasure on some level. Nothing she couldn’t handle, he was sure, but she kept a fever, and everything she ate, it came back up. This was miserable. “Hershel.” She whimpered after a particularly bad nightmare.

“Letty, you're pregnant aren't you?” He asked, recounting all the facts. “You were sick with the flu we thought, but your symptoms were never right, you only had the fever sometimes and the vomiting.”

“Yea, ain’t told Dar yet, too much was going on. Him and fucking Michonne kept checkin in and out like the prison was the four seasons lookin for him. Never finding the fucker, guess I shoulda helped Dar look, because clearly the fucker wasn’t dead. Ain’t told Rick, yet either, not with all the shit he has been doin’ farmin’ and keepin Carl in line… Hershel, listen, we gotta get some pet walkers like Michonne, neither of us move fast right now… was thinkin’ it would help us out.” Her brain was always calculating how to keep them going.

Hershel looked at her for a long time, then nodded. She was a second to Rick, same as Daryl, and had been out in the crazy a long time before he had even realized the dead were dead. He would follow her lead. As the sun rose, Hershel found her, machete drawn, clipping the arms off a walker she had cornered. It winded her, “Gonna call him Peter.” She choked out, breathing hard.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Rick awoke with a start. “We gotta find Daryl and the kids. Shit, Letty and Hershel?” Contorted memories were falling back into his mind, and he was concerned.

Michonne frowned at him. “Rick, take it easy you have been out for almost five days.” She pressed her hands into his chest, and tried desperately to calm him.

Rick frowned. “Where are we?”

“We are in the housing project. The one we have picked through a thousand times, the plan always was to regroup, and if we couldn’t to hit the train tracks. To head across the tracks.” Tyrese offered, looking more at the ground then at Rick.

“He is right, we should head to the tracks. We don’t know where anyone else is, and even if we did, we don’t know... “ Rick’s voice trailed off.

“Ok, how does your leg feel.” Michonne questioned. Rick nodded.

Chapter Text

Beth had decided to throw a tantrum, that is what Daryl figured this was. Storming off angry as hell, crying out about wanting a fucking drink. They had ended up at a resort or golf course or something. Judith tucked to his hip. Scud was behind the bar, Mika with him, the pair looking for brandy, he knew Daryl liked the taste, and quickly found a bottle. The moment he did something hit Daryl. “Beth, yer a fuck’n genuius.” He could have kissed the little brat.

“Huh?” All the kids looked at him.

“Letty would think like me and Merle, she would go to this shack we found, in the woods, not long after we took the prison, hell, she might already be there. No tellin’, and they got better liquor there anyway.” Daryl ordered them out of the golf course, and found the yard crawling with walkers. Beth managed to twist her ankle, falling at an odd angle. He jerked her up and kept them moving, running hard for the woods.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

“Right up here, Dar and I found it.” Letty pointed them ahead. Hershel was tired. “It ain’t much, it's kinda like what we grew up in, them first, then me, the way they raised me.” She offered. “It will be easy to secure and rest up for now.”

Hershel nodded his understanding. Following the winded firecracker deeper into the woods. She was something, Letty Dixon, every bit of her something unique. She secured their pet walkers to the porch, then they cleared the house. Once inside, she dropped onto the couch. “How did you develop your pain tolerance?” Hershel asked, sinking into the chair.

She chuckled. “Merle. From the moment they took me in, every opportunity he got, he raised his fist to me, teachin’ me to be strong to be a Dixon, to fight for myself. Woulda beat Scud up the same, but Dar and I wouldn’t let him. All his fist ever taught me or Dar was to avoid him and to watch men and the others when it came to drinkin’, to keep ourselves out of people's way.”

Hershel nodded, and sighed. His mind instantly reminded of his own father, who on more than one occasion had drank himself stupid, and even sober was known to raise his fist to show his love. It was something he had never ever wished on anyone else, and for a long time his hatred had kept him from his farm, now that was lost to him too.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Maggie was gone from camp when Bob and Sasha woke the next morning. “We gotta find her.”

“Why would she leave?”

“To find her family maybe?” Bob asked.

“I imagine.” Andrea frowned. “We can’t track for shit, neither can she, so, stick to the road?”

Bob nodded. “Best bet. Hell, might even run inta some of the others.”

They came across Maggie, sitting on the side of the road, the bus that had taken survivors in front of her, she had not moved in a while, they could tell. Her eyes clouded with emotions. “Gotta make sure Glenn ain’t a walker on that bus.”

Bob looked at her for a long moment, then nodded. “One at a time, we let uhm out one at a time, safe like.” Bob argued.

“I need ta see their faces.” Maggie snarled.

The door opened with Sasha and Bob’s help, and the first of many walkers stumbled out. Andrea stood half a step behind them clearly in pain, watching as Maggie tore into each individual walker with a level of hate and contempt she was not sure she would never understand.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

It was quite a march through the wilderness, but Daryl led them to the shack. Excitement settled into him, when he saw the pet walkers chained up out front. Michonne or someone who knew her technique was there. Daryl was still slightly concerned, but the door flew open, and Letty stumbled out, her body doubled over, heaving. Hershel was beside her in a second, holding her long tangled mess of a hair from her face, and whispering to her.
“Hershel.” Daryl breathed, Beth looked up, and her eyes landed on her father.

“BETHY!” Soon Beth was in his arms, and Letty was looking up, her eyes widened in surprise. After seven days on their own, there Daryl was Scud behind him, Judith in his arms, Carl and Sophia hovering not to far from him with Mika between them, and Beth. He had followed the plan.

“Letty.” His voice caught in his throat, passing Judith to Carl, then surging forward. He had his hands all over her checking her over, and she laughed, the coarse laugh he loved. Then he was kissing her, hard and full on the lips, not caring about the dry heaving.

She smiled at him, her eyes dancing. Then hugged each of the children. Hershel smiled at her. “Kid’s let’s get ya some food.” Hershel led the young ones in, and nodded his head at Letty.

Once the door was shut, she scrambled to her feet. “Give me yer hand.” She ordered him. Daryl did so without thinking. He watched, confused as she raised her lose flannel shirt up, her stomach was different looking, he realized, slightly poked out, she pressed his palm to it, “Feel around.” She ordered. He raised his eyebrow. “Pregnant.” She said finally.

Realization dawned on his face. He had been so busy looking for the governor he had forgot to look at Letty, to notice she was different, when was the last time he had seen her, really seen her. He realized that it was when she was kneeling, a gun to her head, he had been so focused on finding Philip Blake he had forgotten until that moment that he had what he needed.

His silence made her uneasy, she dropped his hand and her shirt, and shuffled her feet. “Sorry.” She grumbled. “Know ya didn’t want…” Her voice dropped off.

“Nah, girl, its ok. Kinda nice, finally have my own brat to care for.” He laughed. “Won’t have ta kidnap this one.” She smiled at him, her arms reaching around him, pulling him in. He could taste her tears. “Ya tell Rick?”

“No, wanted ta tha mornin’ of the attack, shit went south, wanted to tell my boys when ya were together.” She breathed against him. He kissed her forehead.

“We’ll get our man back, darlin’.” Daryl said after a long moment. He didn’t know how much she had saw after she was stabbed, but Rick had taken a bullet to the thigh.

Chapter Text

“Bob, we should follow the tracks to this place, Terminus, it seems promising.” Sasha mumbled.

“It sure does.” Maggie agreed, her eyebrows raised. “Gonna mark the signs for Glenn.”

“Maggie, what about your dad, or Beth… Or Rick?” Andrea asked softly. She received no answer. Andrea was struggling to keep up at the grueling pace Maggie was setting. Often Sasha and Bob had to carry her weight between them.

Bob and Sasha shared a look. No longed did Maggie look for Hershel, she had completely given up on Beth as well, no her focus was on finding Glenn. Somewhere deep down Sasha wondered if Ty had given up on her, she doubted it, but damn.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Letty had Judith on her hip, and was humming something soft to her, her whole body alive with electricity. Daryl hadn’t rejected her, hadn’t minded her decision to not tell him sooner. She understood more than anyone his need to hunt the governor, after everything, and Merle, she had understood. She always understood him, more than he would ever understand himself.

They had found a cabin sometime earlier in the day and were checking the surrounding areas. Letty’s eyes were trained on Daryl. “There are clothes in there, for babies and older kids, there are graves. Someone tried to make it here.”

“The weren't strong enough.” Daryl offered.

“They never are.” She agreed.

“Ya saw the Terminus signs, same as me, what ya think about that?” He asked after a minute.

“Think ya had better scout it, see what ya see and then let me know, ‘ah ain’t riskin’ the babies, or ours.” She asserted, bouncing Judith on her hip.

He nodded, “Gonna hunt, see what ya can fix fer food in the cabin, and get clean clothes on everyone ya can.” He caught her arm and kissed her on the lips. “Go on, brat.”

She nodded and took off back through the woods. When she reached the cabin, she knocked on the door, then said clearly. “Hershel it is me, come on.” The old man opened the door, she slipped in.

“What are we doing?” Beth asked.

“Gonna take an inventory of what we got here, Bethy could you and Sophia work on getting some food started. Carl can you build us a fire. Mika and Scud, please play with Judith in the living room. Hershel and I are going to see what all supplies are stashed around the cabin, ok?” Everyone was working after that.

Letty found totes of clothing in the close, labeled with names. “Bet they lived here.” Hershel offered. She nodded, pulling the first tote open she found boys clothes, a variety, she thumbed through them, finding stuff both Scud and Carl could wear, she tossed the acceptable clothes onto the table. The next tote offered girls clothing, she thumbed through and found clothes Mika and Sophia could wear. The next tote she found adult clothes, a pretty nice variety. Some would fit her, which was good, they were stretchy she smiled. Some would fit Beth. Some new pants for Daryl and some underwear. Even some for Hershel, who was still covered in her blood. The last tote was baby clothes all too big or too small for Judith, but nothing some quick stitching couldn’t fix. There was both boy and girl baby clothes, she tucked some away for later. Hershel watched her a smile on his face. The boxes he tore into were mostly canned good and weapons.

They grouped together what they could use, and she changed out of the short shorts and flannel shirt she had worn for what felt like eternity. She slid on the stretchy jeans, and a t-shirt, it was tighter and her bump definitely showed. She didn’t mind. Scud and Carl changed clothes next, then the girls, and finally she changed Judith, thankful that the pants she had found had the nifty adjustable waist.

Daryl flung the door open a deer in his arms, “Already gutted and cleaned it, and skinned it, cut its head off too, but was afraid it would draw too much attention, gonna cut it up in here, ya found an ice box right?” She nodded, and started helping him cut the deer into more appropriate sized pieces.

She felt him behind her before she looked, timid as ever, he snaked his arm around her, and pressed his hand to her stomach. “Letty.” He whispered. “Yer clean clothes, they show off our surprise.”

She laughed. “Got ya some clean clothes too.” He looked shocked, she stopped her work on the deer and shoved him towards the bedroom where she and all the children had changed.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Michonne, Rick and Tyreese had stumbled onto the signs for Terminus, they were more than ready to reach the community. It had been three days of walking, non stop almost, and when they reached the compound they heard eerie silence on the other side, once inside they were even more confused.

After a very strange introduction they were pushed into a train trailer, in darkness. Rick was pissed. “Who the fuck do they think they are,” he snarled.
“Rick?” He recognized that voice.

“Maggie, is that you?”

“Yeah, Glenn, Andrea, Bob, Sasha they are here too, and some new friends we made once we were tossed in here. Abraham, Tara, Rosita and Eugene -he seems to think he has the cure.” Maggie told him in the dark.

A smile broke his face. “I got Michonne and Ty with me.”

Chapter Text

Daryl watched as Rick, Michonne, and Ty were pushed into a train compartment. He shook his head, frowning. Going to need to go back for Letty, he didn’t know what to do. From his vantage point and the binoculars he could see corpses, but not of the walker variety, scattered through camp. A twig snapped behind him and he whirled around.

“Daryl!” Carol almost screamed.

“Carol!” Daryl surged forward. They embraced. “Why did you leave?”

She looked at him for a moment, then changed the subject. “We gotta act fast, get our family out.” Carol whispered against him.

“Got a plan?” He asked.

Carol stepped back, and nodded, showing him a rocket launcher. “Found it after I ran away.”

Daryl smiled. “Resourceful woman.”

“Do you have Sophia?” She asked concern on her face.

“Letty does. Letty is pregnant Carol.” Daryl’s face was very stern for a moment.

“Small miracles, everywhere!” She smiled.

They crouched, and started working on a plan.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

“They are going to be sorry.” Rick growled into the darkness.

“Hm?” Michonne sighed.

“When they realize who they are fucking with.” Rick responded.

A loud noise rocked the train car they were in, and suddenly the hatch was ripped open. “MOVE!” Rick smiled at the familiar gruff voice, and darted forward, seeing Daryl before him. They embraced quickly, Rick kissing his cheek, before motioning them forward.

They moved through the camp, then, killing anyone they encountered walker or human. “Carol is using a damn rocket launcher.” Daryl explained. “We gotta move, gonna attract more dead.”

Daryl was leading them through a maze he had memorized from above, towards the front, when suddenly their leader Gareth was in front of them, his eyes wild. They had picked up their weapons as they darted through compounds, and Rick shot forward, his machete drawn, and slammed the blade into his head. Gareth dropped to the ground. “MOVE!” Rick ordered his family.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Letty had prepared a big meal, Beth claimed she had a feeling. Both Beth and Hershel had been in the dumps lately, all the signs they had found leading to Terminus, Maggie had only told Glenn to follow her. Both were a little hurt that Maggie had not even considered them alive.

So, with Beth in high spirits, she cooked more than she should have, and normally would have. Her small frame showing off her bump, she didn’t look sick not like Lori had, but the general lack of food kept them all looking half dead. If they had extra food they could always pack it away.

Beth was humming to Judith currently, and Hershel was helping the other kids clean the guns and knives they had found. Letty had been working with Mika most of the morning, on how to handle a knife, how to handle a gun.

She happened to look out the front window when she saw smoke drifting into the sky from the direction she knew Daryl was headed in. Her heart sank. “Hershel.”

Hershel looked up and soon stood, joining her at the widow. The smoke was a bad sign. He shared a look with her. Then moved back to where the children were. “Kids, let's prepare to move in case we need to.”

Chapter Text

“Cabin, ahead.” Daryl pointed them towards the cabin he knew Hershel and the kids were holed up in. “Move, sooner we get there, sooner we can board it up and keep hidden from the herd.” Daryl could hear the walkers behind them.

Letty must have been watching out the window, because the moment they approached she moved out to the middle of the yard, knives drawn, with Hershel not far behind her, his rifle shouldered and ready. “GET INSIDE!!!” She ordered them. As they ran past her in a large formation. She knifed the walkers that came to close. She grabbed Hershel and darted into the cabin. “Seal the windows, kids, move now, like we practiced!” Before the kids could even celebrate the arrival of their parents, they were moving around, putting the covers on the windows that Letty and Beth had made earlier.

“Walker blood smeared on them.” Letty explained, “Should mask our smell.” The moment she spoke everyone's eyes landed on her, then on her stomach. Rick hugged her tight, kissing at her temple, and dragging Daryl into a hug with them. Most of the group was used to the strange trio.

“Thank god, Letty, you are ok! We all saw you go down.” He pulled back and looked at her in the face, then kissed her lips. “Guess you were going to surprise us?” Rick felt Daryl squeeze his shoulder, then move away.
“Actually.” She laughed. “The day Hershel, Michonne and I were taken I was planning on telling everyone.”

Daryl had found a spot somewhere out of sight. Abraham was searching around. “Well, if yer pregnant who is the lucky young fuck?” His eyes darting around clearly having come in last he had missed the display of affection shared by the trio.

Rick and Daryl shared a look, smiles on their faces, and Rick nodded slightly. “Guilty.” Daryl grumbled. The four newer members of their family - Tara, Eugene, Rosita, and Abraham looked at him, the gruff man who had saved them, who was feral at best.

“Ah.” Eugene smiled. “Love is unique.”

“That it is.” Rick agreed, marching to Daryl’s side, half dragging Letty with him. “Wanna make somethin’ clear. Carl, Scud, come on over here and bring your sister.” Rick looked at the new members of their family. “We are a family unit. Me, Letty, and Daryl are a trio of sorts, and these are our kids, right.” Carl and Scud nodded. “And the little one, it’ll just be number four. But her first, and Daryl’s, so, don’t judge.” Rick grumbled.

They hunkered down. Grouping themselves around the living-room. For the first time in almost a month their whole family was back together again. “Did you even think I was alive?” Beth snapped at Maggie, her voice low.

“I just, I had no clue, but I knew Glenn was. No offense dad, but the way Letty looked when you two made for the woods I was pretty sure you were both dead.”

“Oh, ye of little faith.” Hershel replied in true biblical fashion.

“Letty ain’t about to die, not now, not ever.” Daryl grumbled. Letty was sitting with her back to his chest, and Scud was cuddled up between Letty’s legs, his head on her thigh already asleep. Rick was beside Daryl, pressed shoulder to shoulder, with Carl under his arm, and Judith in his lap. Letty’s hand was in Rick’s.

“Nope, not now.” She echoed, making him smile.

Andrea had nestled up to Michonne, her face pressed into the nook of Michonne’s neck as the warrior queen ran her fingers through Andrea’s blond locks. Michonne was whispering softly to Andrea.

“Tell us about your cure.” Hershel begged Eugene. Carl, Judith, Sophia were already asleep. Beth was resting against him, her eyes still angry towards Maggie.

“First.” Letty announced. “There is something we saw, me and Hershel. Before we made our way to the shack and hooked up with Daryl and the kids. There are some vans and cars, with crosses on the back. We were going to help a kid, but the car struck him, then two cops got out and tossed him in the back and sped away.”

Rick raised an eyebrow. “We followed them for a bit.” Hershel explained. “Seems like they go to a hospital or something in Atlanta. There was an broke down van we found, same marks. Inside was a map, an area circled, we snagged it, but here is the kicker - it was Grady Memorial.” Hershel sighed. “We think they are taking victims back to the hospital and maybe it's like a safe haven.”

Rick thought about that for a long time. “Why would they run the person over though?”

“We couldn’t figure that one out.” Letty offered, her eyes closing, as she yawned.

“We can think about it, if it's a hospital it would be safe for Letty.” Rick mused. Tapping his fingers on his chin. “About that cure Eugene.”

“Its very complicated…” He smiled at them. “Would take a long time to explain.”

“I think we all need to talk about what happened in general.” Rick said after a long moment. “Letty, what happened that day.”

“Ok,” Letty breathed. “We were out taking care of the bodies from the flu outbreak.” She started. “We got to the clearing, and Michonne and I were starting to pull the bodies off while Hershel cleared the area when I heard one of those fake deer calls, I looked up and Blake was there. Merle was placed outside the prison to keep an eye on me and Rick, we learned once we were back at the Gov’na’s camp.” She offered.

“Letty was very mouthy.” Michonne chuckled. “And got knocked out, because she threatened to kill Blake if he touched either of your heads.” Daryl and Rick shared a look.

“Then, when she finally came to in the RV he had us shoved in, she continued to badger the man. Daryl, Rick, you both would have been proud, she was determined to make him realize he hadn’t broken anyone with the last time he kidnapped her.” Hershel explained.

“Either way, we were taken.” Letty explained. “And well, you saw us when he dropped us out in front of the tank. Seriously, I was confused when the sunlight hit my eyes and I was in the field. But then Michonne and I looked at each other and we knew we had to get Hershel outta there.”

“Darlin’.” Daryl breathed. “When Michonne yanked her katana out and you screamed… thought ya was a goner.” He pushed her hair from her face.

“Me too, honey.” Rick agreed, his shoulder sinking onto Daryl’s. Daryl was still adjusting to being loved by both of them, they were so gentle with him. He had no clue what he was doing, and both Letty and Rick were patient and kind. Daryl stiffened for a moment, then relaxed.

“I know, Hershel and I did too. Thank God for those goody bags!” Letty cheered.

“You guys really are a family, not just you three and your kids, but all of ya’ll.” Tara said after a while. “That day, I lost the last living members of my family.”

“I am sorry for that, Tara.” Letty smiled.

“We have been together a long time!” Carol said hugging Sophia to her.

“Most of us from the start.” Glenn agreed.

“We added the Greenes before the winter.” Rick interjected.

“How long have you been with them?” Abraham asked, nudging at Letty’s boot.

“I have been with Daryl since I was four, and we got Scud when I was seven.” Letty explained. “Daryl kidnapped me as a child, Rick actually worked the case.” She giggled.

“Yeah, and we couldn’t find her body or any reason for the crime to have even been committed.” Rick started.

“We kept on the run, always worried ‘bout tha cops comin.” Daryl managed, his cheek resting on Rick’s head, and his arms tight on Letty. “Scud is my nephew.” Daryl explained. “Letty basically raised him. Merle was in jail all tha damn time, and ‘ah tried my damnedest ta keep jobs, so Letty and Scud were home alone mosta tha time.”

“My mom was afraid of Letty in camp, when we took the Dixon’s in.” Carl said suddenly no one had realized he had woken up. “Letty she said, was a killer, like her brothers - we all thought that Daryl and Merle were Letty’s older brothers, because that’s what Merle said.” Carl laughed. “But she stood up to everyone, and was always worried about us kids.”

“What happened to your mom?” Rosita asked, curious.

There was a strange turn in the air in that moment. “She died.” Daryl said it evenly. “When Jude was born. My little ass-kicker.” Daryl made a face at Judith.

“We were already… separated.” Rick said after a long moment. “Carl…”

The boy had wedged himself into Letty’s arms, Scud moving towards Rick, and Carl shagged hard as Letty wrapped her arms around him, he was crying. Had he mourned his mother before? Rick looked at Daryl’s face, Daryl reacted, wrapping his arms around Letty and Carl, Carol stepped forward and scooped up Judith. Scud and Rick moved at the same time, to hug Carl as he cried on Letty.

Chapter Text

Silence fell in the house, and for the first time in a long time everyone slept. Hard. Letty was uncomfortable when she woke, realizing that they had pretty much fallen asleep the way they had been holding Carl, her body almost crushed between Carl and Daryl. She groaned slightly, and frowned. The sun wasn’t completely up yet, or maybe the walker blood covered window guards. She yawned and knew she needed to stretch, but didn’t wanna wake any of her boys or little Jude who was curled up between Scud and Carl. Rick’s eyes met her and he smiled. He wasn’t moving yet, either.

She smiled back, and winked at him. Daryl really didn’t sleep often, so both were determined he slept as long as he could. She had no clue how long Rick and her watched each other, or made funny faces at each other, his beard was looking scruffier than usual, and it made her smile slightly. Rick, Daryl, and Letty had had no free time, the three of them. Rick closed his eyes, recalling the conversation.

Rick was standing in the garden, plowing, destroying what he had worked to build. He felt arms around his middle, and turned, seeing Letty’s dark brown hair, and over her Daryl’s face. “She ain’t patient with us like the kids, wants ta know what ya wanna do.” Daryl stepped a little closer, shuffling his feet.

“Been thinkin on it.” Rick answered truthfully. He felt Letty release him and turned around, she was already settled against Daryl, his arms loosely draped around her shoulders, and neck. “If you're both sure, then I am more than ready to do whatever this is.”

Daryl had been looking down, inspecting the ground, when Rick finished he looked up. Clearly searching Rick’s eyes for any sign of a lie. “It wern’t easy for me, growin up before Letty came ‘round. Couldn’t make Merle understand ‘ah like both… being fucked and fucking someone. He tried ta beat it outta me. After Letty came, ‘ah could avoid the prostitutes he brought home.”

Letty was quiet settled between her men. Daryl was holding on to her like she was the only thing keeping him grounded. She reached out to Rick’s shirt front and peaked around making sure no one else was in the yard, before tugging Rick to her, squishing her form between them. She was quick, moving her hands up to his neck, dragging him down to a kiss, quick and little, before sliding slightly to the left, dragging his face up and to the right.

Daryl captured his lips as Letty rubbed his chest. Rick had never kissed anything quite as solid as Daryl, it was nice, his lips were unexpectedly soft, like Letty’s but firm. Rick realized in the moment, kissing Daryl back, that his long standing bisexuality was now a flag flying in his chest. When he pulled back, Daryl blushed. “I’ve liked you since you threatened to kill me, didn’t wanna put a name on it because then it would have been something Lori would guilt me over, and shit Letty the first time I saw you kill…” Rick recaptured her lips for another kiss, pressing hard, grinding her against Daryl.

“Rick.” Daryl’s voice was low, almost like a warning. “She ain’t healed all the way, let’s not start somethin…” His voice trailed off, as Rick crashed his mouth back onto Daryl’s, Letty slipping out from in between them, a smile on her face, and her hands tracing the curves of their necks, she had left them, confident in their mutual attractions.

Rick had to smile as his eyes fluttered open, and Daryl was awake, his lips on Letty’s, before looking at Rick, somewhat sheepishly for a good morning kiss. Daryl scanned the room, no one else was awake yet, so he hungrily licked his lips. Letty smiled, from her point she could not kiss Rick if she wanted, so at least Daryl could. Rick pressed his lips to Daryl's a small moan escaping his mouth as he did so.

As the others woke, soon Daryl was alone, he had not moved from his seat. “Wanna talk to you two.” He said after a moment. Instantly both Rick and Letty gravitated to him. They followed him outside, past the barbed wired. “I… Merle.” He looked so hurt.

“You have not got to grieve.” Rick said, reaching for him.

Soon Daryl was enveloped in a unique hug, his and Letty’s foreheads pressed together, Rick’s arms around both of them. Daryl felt the tears on his face, his whole body shaking. Letty just let him, his hands reached out, rubbing her back, and Rick’s, grounding himself into his loves. Rick was humming and murmuring, “It’s ok, we miss him too.”

“I do actually miss him.” Letty said after a minute, ducking her head, and locking eyes with Daryl. “Remember the first time you two took me fishing?” Daryl nodded. “Remember teaching me to cast, I accidentally hooked Merle’s inner thigh, and he was so angry he howled. Remember? He threw us both off the boat.” Daryl couldn’t help but laugh, “Remember the time you wanted to teach me how to fix the Bonnie, and I was doing so good, but stumbled and knocked it over, burning Merle’s leg, how he threw every tool he could get his hands on at us?” Again Daryl nodded a laugh coming from him. “Or that time in Ohio, that he tossed both of us outta the truck? Remember why?”

“You wanted to sing the dumb barbie song.” Daryl laughed. “And Merle wouldn’t sing the Ken part with you!”

“That’s right, you were singing Barbie Girl right along with me, like a champ, and he wouldn’t sing the Ken part!” They were both laughing.

“He saved you both.” Rick said it so suddenly they both looked at him. “He saved you both from your own forms of hell, wasn’t the best at it, but without him, I would not have you both right now, I owe Merle a lot, and wish I could somehow thank him even now.”

“Ya gave him a decent burial, ‘ah couldn’t have done that, not after what happened with him and you and Letty.” Daryl managed to say. “Ain’t so much ‘ah miss him, as ‘ah killed my blood, ‘ah killed the closest thing to a dad ‘ah ever had, without a second thought. ‘Cos it meant keepin’ both of ya safe.”

Letty seemed to shiver. “Mommmmma.” She heard someone scream, her head turned, Scud was pointing at something. All three looked in the direction of the point, back towards Terminus.

Chapter Text

“Shit. Shit. We gotta move.” Rick was looking at the wall of walkers headed for them.

“MOVE!” Daryl cried out, suddenly very concerned.

“Everyone in the house, get packs, and out the back of the house. Head to the tracks, we gotta go!” Rick was shouting, Daryl had his hand on her elbow. He released her as she stopped to scoop Judith up. “Mika, go with Letty.”

Mika had been through alot, and was frozen. It was Ty who grabbed her up and started running. Everyone was booking it, Carl had Sophia’s hand and Scud had Beth’s. They were following Letty who had Judith tucked to her, hoping beyond hope that somewhere behind her everyone else was.

They were killing walkers as they ran, she paused, Judith tangling her hands in Letty’s hair, and she looked back. “Tracks.” She told Carl, “Get to them, the four of you in the formation we worked on, now.” Soon other members tumbled from the trees. “Maggie, Glenn, Carol, Hershel, copy the formation the kids are in.” When the next set of family members broke through the trees it was Andrea, Bob, Sasha, Ty with Mika over his shoulder and Rick. “Formation.” She ordered, her eyes locked on Rick. The next group was Abraham, Rosita, Tara, and Eugene. “Get into formation.” She ordered pointing in the direction of the others on track, knives out ready to go. Daryl broke the tree line Michonne beside him, and grabbed her steering her to the front.

“MOVE, STAY TIGHT!” Daryl and Rick seemed to order at the same time. The moved quick, always on their toes, hoping to not run into anyone or anything else. Midway through the day, Letty was exhausted. Daryl and Rick remembered back to Lori, and both felt awful. Letty was a different breed of female, however, and didn’t complain the first time. She just shifted Judith to her other hip, and looked at the almost six month old.

“Jude, your little brother or sister is real hungry.” She sighed. “But momma just throws it up.” Letty pressed her forehead to Judith’s, looking down at the little blonde’s lashes. Rubbing her nose gently against Judith’s cheek. Rick was astonished at the ease both Letty and Beth had with Judith.

Beth moved up closer and nodded as Letty passed Judith to her, kissing the blond curls momentarily, before wrapping her arms around Carl and Scud’s shoulders, limping slightly. When had she started limping? “You good Letty?” Rick asked, concern heavy in his voice.

“Yeah, with Hershel I injured my hip, but it ended up being good, because it slowed us up enough we didn’t get taken to wherever they took that boy, the men in the cross vans.” Rick nodded at her.

“Want one of us to carry you?” Abraham asked. “Your pregnant, shouldn’t walk to much anyway.”

Letty raised an eyebrow. “Merle, Daryl’s brother, who helped kidnapped me, used to beat the shit outa me, I can walk until…” The look on Daryl’s face cut her off.

“Not the time.” Daryl grumbled. Mika was on his back, her face buried into his neck. “Mika is exhausted, Sophia is out, Ty is carrying her, Beth has Jude, and soon Rick will be carrying Scud. Thankfully both Carl and Beth are not quick winded. Abraham, ya can pick ‘er up.”

Letty looked ready to argue, but Rick nodded his head at Abraham and the next thing she knew, Abraham had her in his arms. Rick stopped in front of Scud, and the little boy climbed up his back. “Mika needs a family.” Letty said after a long moment.

“Nah, gonna start tellin’ people she is mine.” Daryl grumbled. “Need a new brat anyway, my old one went and became my badgering wife…” Daryl grinned as he felt something collide with the back of his head, she had thrown a rock.

He looked back, and realized Rick had handed her the rock, a small smile on his face. “Hey old man.” Daryl mocked Rick. “‘Fraid ya couldn’t hit me, hadta get our girl to do it.” He turned to keep walking, and felt a solid thump on his shoulder, he cut his eyes back and saw Carl and Beth giggling.

“Rick, that wasn’t very nice.” Letty burst out laughing. Abraham even thought it was hilarious.

“The three of you are so weird.” Carol grumbled. By now Carol and Tara were supporting Andrea’s weight
between them, Hershel had looked over her wound the previous night at told them it looked ok, she would just need to heal.

Screams for help caught their attention, and they found themselves rushing towards it, off the tracks. The sight they stumbled on made Letty roll her eyes. All the kids and Letty were set down, Beth handed Judith to Letty right away, as Jude reached for her. A priest of some sort was standing on a rock, calling out for help. “That attracts more.” She said drawing the man's attention, as Rick, Daryl, Maggie and Glenn swarmed forward killing the four walkers that had surrounded him.

“Thank you so much!” The man slid down the rock, sighing heavily. “My name is Father Gabriel Stokes, I have a church not far from here, if you need a place to rest, and some food. I have no other way to repay you for helping me.”

Rick and Daryl stared a look, then looked back to Letty. She took her spot between them. “Mr. Stokes,” she started, clearly not interested in calling him father.

Daryl leaned towards Letty and whispered, “Gonna go kill some shit.” She nodded.

He slipped out of the group, about ten minutes later when Rick noticed his absence he met Letty’s eyes and could feel the calm coming off of her. “Went hunting, Rick.”

“Dad.” Carl caught his father’s attention. “Don’t worry ‘bout Pa, he always comes back,” then Carl chuckled as Judith started calling for Papapapapa and Dadadadada and Mamamamamam.

Letty rolled her eyes, and frowned. Scud took her hand, and she realized he was holding Mika’s hand too. “So these are your children?” Father Gabriel asked.

“Knew this would come up.” Letty mumbled. They had stopped in a clearing. “Rick and Daryl are the fathers of…. Carl, Scud, Mika, and Judith, and the baby I am carrying. Carol is Sophia’s mother. Hershel is Maggie and Beth’s father. Sasha and Ty are siblings. Did I miss any?” She raised her eyebrow.

“Two men, are the father of four…” Father Gabriel looked confused.

“Letty is our mother.” Carl said after a long time. “My second mother. Mika’s second mother. Scud and Jude’s only mom they will know in this life.”

“Letty you don’t look old enough…” Gabriel trailed off.

“I am plenty old.” Letty snarled.

 

“She is an adult.” Michonne was beside her instantly. “Trust me.”

“Yeah, she and I are the same age.” Maggie lied.

“Almost 21.”

Letty looked back at Maggie and smiled. “Mags.” Then she giggled. “Guess you can drink on your birthday and I can’t kinda knocked up.”

Rick laughed, then heard a rustling to his left, he raised his gun, and sighed relieved when it was just Daryl, with a stringer of squirrels. “Not sure if we can keep seein’ each other, Officer Friendly, ya keep pointin’ that python at me, ‘ah might change my mind.” He was growly, and Letty laughed.

“Sorry, Dar.” Rick grumbled, putting the gun back into his hip holster, looking from Letty to Daryl, in the moment everyone else forgotten.

Daryl handed Carol the stringer, and picked Mika back up, she was rubbing her eyes, and looked tired. “What’s wrong sweetheart?” He asked her.

“I’m scared.” She whispered.

“Ain’t gonna let nothin’ happen to ya, girlie.” Daryl kissed her forehead, like he had Letty when she was a kid. Then reached out for Scud’s hand. Scud took Daryl’s hand, and felt him tug him. “‘Mone preacher, ya said somethin’ bout a church.”

Gabriel was looking anxious. “What you are suggesting is an abomination. Your relationship…”

Hershel looked irritated. “Gabriel, sir, if you don’t mind, I am a man of God, God steered me from alcohol when it gripped my life, and it was with his council I let these people on to my farm, and since then they have done nothing but save my life, and my daughters lives. They are good people, we are good people, please do not turn us away.”

Maggie and Beth were standing behind him, Glenn had his rifle up, and ready just in case they should meet any unfriendlies. Gabriel didn’t say anything. So, Abraham tried. “We know they are strange, but my man Eugene here has the cure, knows how to fix all this, we are on the way to DC. Please if you could just give us a nights rest…”

“I would not turn you away… but… please, remember we will be in a house of God.” Gabriel lead them the rest of the way to the church.

“JC never answered my prayers, what about you?” Letty asked Daryl low as they followed, Carl’s hand in hers. More for her comfort than need. He was almost 14, didn’t need much of a babysitter.

“Nah, but ‘ah think we prayed for tha wrong things, darlin’.” Letty thought on it. Wishing someone's death was probably not the proper way to pray.

It was another mile before they reached the secluded white church. Two large church vans were parked outside, ready to be employed if they needed them.

Letty felt her body relax some. “Ok, Gabriel, make you a deal.” Rick said.

“Hm?” Gabriel asked as he unlocked the church.

“We help you get more food, and you let us stay two nights, enough to let Letty and Andrea rest up before we head to Atlanta.” Rick retorted, “From Atlanta to DC, but if that boy Hershel and Letty saw on the road is alive, we owe it to him to bring him into the fold.”

Abraham raised an eyebrow. “Plus, we ain’t heard everyone's story yet, about how we got back together.” Maggie said suddenly. “One more night here ain't gonna hurt, Abraham.”

“Fine.” He grumbled. “But then we all go to DC.”

Rick and Daryl raised an eyebrow. “We go where we want.”

“Ok.” Letty grumbled. “Rick, Daryl, Ty, Rosita, Sasha, Michonne, Maggie, Glenn, you go with Gabriel to get food. That leaves me with the kids, Carol, Eugene, Hershel, Abraham, Andrea, and Tara here. Abraham and I can work on the vans, and the kids can stay inside. Carol can cook the food, and Tara can help. Hershel can stay on watch with Eugene. Andrea can rest up a bit in the church, too. She looks more in pain than I am.”

Rick cut his eyes at Letty. “When did you become leader?”

“When two alpha’s started a pissin’ war.” She retorted, making Daryl smile. “Now move.” She wagged her finger at him, Rick caught her up in his arms, kissing her, then released her long enough for Daryl to hug her tight, kissing her lips. Then she sighed. “Wait, come back.” She caught Rick’s face in her hands, and pressed her lips to his hard, biting his lower lip hard. Then pulled away, catching Daryl’s face next. He peppered her cheeks with kisses, then her nose. “Come back.”

Chapter Text

Once they had crested the hill, Gabriel going begrudgingly. Letty whirled on the children. Judith on her hip. “Look around, but stay close. Find anything interesting come find me. Gonna help with the car.” She handed Jude to Beth. “Whistle like I taught you, ok.” They nodded.

Abraham was amazed when Letty came to stand next to him, dropping her backpack at his feet. “Basic tools in there.” He looked at her, a frown on his brow.

“You're the glue.” He said after a minute. “Ya hold everything together.”

Letty rolled her eyes. “Yeah, and you think Eugene is a savior, he's more like a sinner. We went to the CDC.” She leveled with him. “Dr. Jenner was pretty sure there was no fix it, for this, only death.” Abraham looked at her for a long moment, then she stepped away, helping Carol clean the squirrels.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

“Think we should talk about a few things.” Rick whispered to Daryl, they were a few paces behind the others.

“Like what?” Daryl mumbled, his bow ready, eyes trained on their surroundings.

“Not everyone is going to accept us, the three of us.” Rick said after a long moment.

“So, plan?” Daryl asked.

“Yeah, she is your wife, and I am your brother, at least that is what we can tell people.” Rick suggested. “That way her closeness to my kids make sense, and we can always share a room…”

Daryl nodded. “Think we ought to find our own hold out. Like the prison was, winter is gonna come Rick, we ought to head up Blood Mountain before heading to DC.”

Rick chewed his thumb for a moment. “We can do that, we need to let you, Letty and Scud get closure anyway.”

“Ain’t for Scud. We never let him be there much, Letty and I kept him away.” Daryl’s eyes were suddenly on Rick’s face, squinting. “It’s for Merle.”

Rick nodded, taking the hunter’s hand in his, and squeezing it lightly. “I can’t wait until we are secure enough to spend a night just me, you and Letty.”

Daryl felt his face heat up slightly at that. “Not much further.” Gabriel managed to say, pointing ahead. Both Rick and Daryl looked up, anger suddenly clouding their faces.

“Claimers…” Rick snarled.

Ahead of them in the road a group of men with black leather jackets stood, one of them looked an awful lot like Martinez. “Martinez.” Daryl mumbled his fears.

Rick frowned, bumped shoulders with Daryl, for a moment. They were roughly three of them. Rosita looked at both Rick and Daryl. “Assholes raped Letty.” Rick managed to say through clenched teeth. “Kill them.”

Rosita looked at Sasha and Ty, then the three raised their guns, evenly, firing straight at the three men before they could retaliate. As they dropped both Rick and Daryl surged forward towards the middle man, Martinez. He wasn’t completely dead yet, so both Rick and Daryl raised their guns, and fired a shot. Not the best idea, in the middle of nowhere, with walkers near by. But they both felt better.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Carl and Scud found her, not long after she and the others had settled into the church. Carol and Letty had started moving pews around, making it more like a house, giving the family much needed room it would need to stretch out. Eugene and Hershel were outside, working stakes into the ground around the church.

“Momma, come ‘ere.” She heard Scud, and looked up. He was in the doorway. Andrea was laid on a pallet, Hershel working over her, it appeared an infection was working its way through her.

“Stay inside, unless ya need me.” She told Beth, Hershel, Mika, Sophia, Andrea, Carol, and Judith. Carol nodded after her. Letty wound her way around the church following Scud. She looked at the siding that Carl was pointing at. “What is that?” She mumbled.

“Knife, ya think?” Asked Carl.

Letty rubbed her fingers down the marks. “You’ll burn in Hell for this.” She sighed, “Definitely a knife, and done repetitively. It looks like several knives, see how these two lines arch different.” She pointed it out, both Carl and Scud moving closer to look at what she had been demonstrating to them.

“What does that mean?” Scud asked.

“Means the good father ain’t so good, that’s what it means.” She mumbled, a frown on her face. “Carl, you ok with me, your dad, and Daryl?” She asked him low.

“Yeah, you and Daryl are like a much better mom and Shane to be honest.” Carl mumbled.

“Ok, kiddo.” She smiled kissing his cheek, he was going to be taller than her, maybe even taller than Rick or Daryl. “Let’s get inside, want you to show yer dad and pa this ok?” Both boys nodded. She lead them back around the church in time to see Rick, Daryl and the others cresting the hill with a large wagon full of supplies. A smile broke her lips.

Beth was slipping out the front door of the church, looking just as pleased as Letty was. Both young girls, soon followed by Carol headed up the hill. Much to Gabriel’s distress, Rick and Daryl caught Letty between them, hugging her close. “Got ya some stuff we think ya might be able to eat.”

Letty nodded, hooking her arms around both of them, Rick and Daryl laid their arms around her shoulders, trying hard not to weigh her down. “Get this food inside!” Rick ordered.

Daryl scooped Letty up, and carried her inside, against her will. “Dar, the boys found somethin’ they need ta show ya and Rick.”

“A’ight, want ya in the church, something happen’d today, ain’t good. Talk ta ya later about…” He paused looking around, they had moved the church around so the family could sleep together in a circle like they always did. “Later.” He managed, setting her down. “Mika, baby keep yer mamma in here, ok? With you and Jude.”

Letty rolled her eyes, but settled down on her sleeping bag, and motioned for Mika and Jude to join her. Jude was crawling for the most part, all over the place. So there was a lot of chasing Jude around, but it was her nap time, at least by Letty’s reasoning, so she scooped the little girl up and cuddled her to her, rocking her back and forth until the little girl tumbled into sleep. Andrea nestled up next to her, there old battle at the farm long ago forgotten.

Soon the whole crew were inside. Settled around each other like they did in the forest on most nights. “Beth, do you know what day it is?” Rick asked her.

Beth shook her head no, a mouthful of food.

“I think we can call whatever today is, Thanksgiving.” Rick offered.

Letty laughed, “If it is, a lot has changed since last years Thanksgiving, Rick.”

Beth giggled. “Well, Lori was pretty far along then, and Jude is almost six months old, so realistically with it getting chilly there is a chance that it is Thanksgiving.” As she finished everyone started laughing.

Daryl and Scud were on one side of Letty, Jude in her lap, with Rick and Carl on the other. This was their normal sleeping arrangement, but it was rare that they all slept at once. Even though Carl was young, Letty often asked him to be her watch partner. Rick and Daryl never partnered with each other, reasoning that someone of the three of them needed to be with Jude at any given time. Mika was sitting next to Sophia and Carol. Glenn and Maggie snuggled together. Rosita and Abraham, with Eugene and Tara. Michonne, with Andrea in her lap, curled up tight to her, was near Beth and Hershel. Bob and Sasha were curled up together, with Tyrese not far away, a small smile on his face. Father Gabriel was sitting away from them in the pulpit, watching.

“So, Ty and Michonne saved me, no clue how, but they were the best nurses ever.” Rick explained. “When I woke up I was so scared, so scared I was never going to see you guys again, all of you!”

“Good thing Ty’s big ass hauled you to safety then.” Michonne chuckled.

“What happened with you Glenn?” Letty asked.

“I ran back into the prison trying to find the kids, worried that when Letty went down, then Rick, Daryl would forget himself, dude we all see how the three of you orbit each other.” Glenn grumbled, looking at Daryl’s mean face. “I must have gotten knocked out because I woke up on the bridge, it was blown to bits.” He told them, his arms around Maggie. “But, when I came to everyone was gone. Except Tara, who I thought was you at first Letty, then I remembered what happened… shit I think we all thought you were dead.”

“He woke me up.” Tara went on. “And I promised him I would do anything I could to help him get back to Maggie. So we set out, him in that damn riot suit.” She laughed for a moment. “He just passed out, completely luckily Abraham, Rosita, and Eugene found us. Then we had to backtrack, because this crazy man was determined to find you Maggie,” Tara laughed.

“Then we ended up at Terminus.” Glenn offered lamely. “Met in a tunnel of walkers, almost got eaten by both walkers and humans…”

“What about you and the kids Daryl?” Rick asked.

“Got them out, Beth here was our beacon of hope, at least most of tha time, Hershel, got a potty mouth on her and little wench stomped off to get a drink of liquor, or I’da never remembered the shack in the woods.” Daryl explained.

“Beth.” Hershel looked at her sternly.

“That moonshine shack we found?” Michonne asked him suddenly.

“Yea, took Letty out there on a hunting trip so she would know where it was in case.” Daryl explained. “Good thing too, cause her and Hershel had been there about two days when we found them.” Daryl paused. “After that we started tracking the train tracks, following the signs you left Maggie, little Beth cussin up a storm at tha fact ya didn’t think she or Hershel would be alive. Then we found that cabin. Set them up there, and ‘ah headed off to check out Terminus when Carol appeared.”

Carol shifted uncomfortably. “I killed that family.”

Everyone looked at her. “The first family sick at the prison. Rick knew that. Letty did. Daryl did. I ran, I didn’t know what else to do. Made sure they would take care of you Sophia. I just wanted to protect everyone and I messed up. Spent most of my time making my way to Terminus, but something about that place just felt off, shit I had been watching it for days when Daryl showed up.” Carol told them all, looking sadly at Sophia for a moment.

“Mom, it's ok that you ran. But you can’t do that again. You adults are supposed to work together.” Sophia was wagging her finger at Carol.

“What happened, happened.” Rick said after a long moment. “Someday it will be ok.”

Chapter Text

They all drifted into sleep, for the second time together. Letty stretched out between Rick and Daryl, the boys and Mika snuggled up together. Judith with them. Rick’s arm under Letty’s head, and Daryl’s arm around her waist. Rick’s chin rested above her head, both men were on their sides facing Letty. In the early hours of the morning Daryl jerked awake. He had heard the door of the church open. He carefully detangled himself, and shooshed Mika when he woke her, he climbed over the other family members and slipped out the front door.

Gabriel, Bob, and Carol were talking not far away from him, headed into the brush, Daryl followed a few steps behind. “My car is over here.” Gabriel offered.

“Why did you hide it?” Bob asked.

“Didn’t know if I could trust you guys.” Father Gabriel said after a long time.

“When were you bit?” Bob’s voice asked someone.

Daryl was suddenly very aware of the situation he was listening to, had anyone else made it out of the small little church with them. Yes, now that he realized it there was fourth voice talking, and he tried hard to listen to who it was. “Yesterday, after Terminus burned down. I tracked you here, planning on eating you, and yet I find you guys willing to put me down.”

Daryl froze. Someone from Terminus had followed them, and had lured some of their members away from the core group. Without thinking he whistled like a robin.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Letty jerked awake, hearing a familiar whistle, one from her childhood that didn’t fit in the land they were in. She looked around her, Daryl was gone, the door to the church ajar. Instantly she woke Rick, shaking him violently. Once he was up, they made their way out the front, motioning for Michonne to board it up. Letty returned the robin whistle, and waited.

They didn’t wait long, a bob white call pulled her attention to the left, she motioned for Rick to be quiet and follow her. She led him as quietly as she could through the woods, until they reached Daryl crouched down. Letty knelt next to him, and Rick slightly behind him. He was pointing in front of him, Letty followed the point of his finger.

Ahead of them, Gabriel, Bob, and Carol were standing with a man from Terminus. Talking around the car. Letty tilted her head forward slightly, trying to catch the conversation. “Listen, there are more of me in the woods, they don’t know I am bitten.”

“So, why are you telling me this?” Carol asked, tapping angrily on the hood of the car.

“You're willing to end my life, and I can feel it coming.” The man spoke again.

Letty leaned in low to Daryl, “We need to find the others.” Rick barely heard her whisper, but nodded. “Going to head to the left,” She told them.

She was crawling away then, as quietly as she could, slipping through the underbrush. Behind her she could hear Daryl mumbling for Rick to stay the fuck put. She righted herself and stood, worming through the trees, until she felt more than saw the presence of two men. They were ahead of her, whispering to themselves about Keegan, she realized Keegan was probably the man that was bit. “He should have made the signal by now, if he got anyone alone.”

Letty’s heart sunk, the man might not be bitten. She clung closer to the tree. A second voice spoke then. “They might not buy his story. If they did, they are dumber than we thought.” Letty frowned, it was a rouse, who was watching the children. She bit her lip, chewing it nervously.

They were rustling, moving towards her. She pressed even tighter against the tree. Two against one was not a fair fight by any means. She sighed. The first one reached her tree, and stopped. She tried to still her breathing, but the beating of her heart must have given her away. She moved quickly. Drawing both machete’s and pausing. “I think someone is out here.” The first one said.

She blinked her eyes several times, trying to adjust to the light. The moment the second man raised a lighter and lit it, they saw her face and she saw them. They couldn’t react, she surged forward, stabbing down and to the left with both machete’s hearing the sharp cries of pain they both emitted, she knew she hadn’t killed them, just seriously injured them.

One struck out at her, hitting her in the shoulder, she stumbled back, and kicked hard at them, before standing, and winding her way through the woods back towards the church. Her blades shimmering through the trees when the moonlight hit them.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Daryl found the camp fire, and two men sat around it. He paced silently until he was on the far side of the camp, and crouched down. He heard the unmistakable screams of two men not far away. Instantly his mind went to Letty. Both the men next to the fire had jumped up, one with a gun out. Daryl stood, drawing his crossbow, he loaded it, raised it in the light of the fire, and watched the man holding the gun drop.

He moved silently, to hide behind a tree, as the other man started shouting. “WHO THE FUCK IS OUT THERE?”

Then he heard the man “Omf.” As he struck the ground. Daryl peaked around the tree. Letty was standing over the man. Blood slipping down the end of her machete, she had stabbed the man through the rib cage, he was on the ground. She stood over him for a moment, then slammed the blade into his temple, hard.

Daryl grinned. “It’s a trick.” She mumbled, Daryl nodded. They were moving before he realized it back towards Rick. He was still crouched down. “‘Mone.”

By the time they reached the church, several of the Terminus survivors were inside. Carol, Bob, and Gabriel were there. Letty had one machete up, pointing it forward, the other in her left hand by her side. Rick raised a gun, and looked at Daryl. Letty whistled, long and loud. It was one she had taught the children, so that they would know what to do.

“Hey, fuckers.” The three of them heard Carl. “You're gonna be real sorry bout this.”

“Why is that?” One of them asked.

“My dad, my pa, and my mom are gonna fuck you up.” Carl snapped back.

There was a low murmur through the group. “Two dads?” One of them asked confused.

“Yea.” The three of them heard Mika snap. “The leader and the archer, you sorry fuckers.”

As Mika spat the last word, Letty surged forward, reaching a small man in the doorway. Had the scenario not been so damn terrifying, Rick probably would have worshiped the skill the woman used. She stabbed the man first in the ribs, then used the handle to pivot herself upwards slicing the man's neck. At the same moment his Daryl surged forward, two blades glinting in the morning’s light, catching a larger man in the back of the head, and a woman in the temple. Carl was helping Mika with a second woman. Everyone was moving, the whole church was alive with activity. One man ran straight for Rick, who he recognized to be Gareth’s brother. He raised his gun, and shot at point blank range, watching the man drop.

“This is the lord's house.” Gabriel stampered watching as the Grimes clan looked around. Letty was panting. Her hands were covered in blood. She was standing in the middle of the church.

Daryl was off to his left. “Get these bodies, outta here.” Suddenly everyone was moving. Daryl was looking at Letty. Her face was down, Rick couldn’t read it. “Letty.” Daryl was stepping towards her, Rick a step behind him.

“I am ok.” She paused, her breathing tight. When she looked up, there was blood on her face.

To those around no one knew who moved first, but both Rick and Daryl were on her, Rick tilting her head, and Daryl checking the rest of her body. There was a open cut from her chin to her ear, a thick cut. “Who?” Rick snapped.

She pointed to the left, to the woman who had Carl’s knife embedded in her temple. “Carl got her.”

Daryl touched her cheek. “Hershel.” His voice sounded choked.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Eighteen stitches later, they were standing in a circle. “We can’t stay here, they are too close, we are too close to winter.” Rick mumbled. His fingertips tapping his cheek. Letty was leaning against Carl, her eyes heavy. It was the wee hours of the morning and she was beyond exhausted.

“There is somewhere we could spend the winter.” Daryl said after a moment.

“The mountain?” Letty asked.

“Yea, after we head into Atlanta and check out the hospital.” Rick nodded.

“DC?” Abraham snarled.

“We could split up.” Carol said suddenly. “Half going on to DC, winter on the road is not a safe place for Letty, Hershel or the children.”

Letty frowned. “Who would even travel to DC?”

Rick knew without a doubt. “If we are splitting… Maggie, Tara, Glenn, Abraham, Rosita, Eugene, Ty, Sasha, Bob, and Carol go on to DC. Hershel, Daryl, Letty, Andrea, Michonne, and I can manage the children.” It was not a good split and they knew that. “Bob can hunt, and Carol knows how to find water. It would be the best group I could offer. I need my Daryl and my Letty with me.”

“What about me?” Gabriel asked. “I would like to continue on with you?”

“Best keep him with us.” Letty mumbled.

“There are two vans, we can split it even.” Daryl mumbled.

“Let’s look at two maps, and see if we can mark locations that the first group can leave messages behind for the second one.” Rick mumbled, tapping his chin once more. “Anyone not ok with this?”

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Carl, Mika, Sophia, Beth, Judith, Scud, and Letty were in the smaller of the two vans. Michonne was climbing in pulling Andrea behind her, then Hershel with Gabriel behind him. Soon Daryl was in the passenger. Rick and Abraham were talking one last time, “Take care of your family.” He nodded towards Rick’s van.

“You got it.” Rick looked at the van he had loaded up. “You take care of mine too.”

“Where are you headed first, and you got it.” Abraham agreed.

“Into Atlanta.” Rick and Abraham shook hands, then Rick climbed into the van he had. The moment he shut the door, and turned the engine over, he looked around him. “Let’s get this over with.”

“Rick.” Letty’s voice was strained. “Judith needs more clothes, soon. Can we stop at some of the smaller stores in Atlanta and see about getting some stuff?”

“Yea, for all the kids.” Rick nodded.

Soon they were all asleep. “Can’t believe Carol left ‘er again.” Daryl mumbled after some time.

“I can.” Rick sighed. “Something is not going right in Carol right now. If we ever see them again, I hope Carol is prepared to do whats right by her…” Rick shifted the van into drive, and gently brushed his hand over Daryl’s thigh, Daryl jerked and blushed, but looked at Rick, an eyebrow raised.

“Maybe we don’t follow uhm?” Daryl mumbled.

“Wanna see my Maggie again, fellas.” Hershel grumbled from somewhere in the back.

Atlanta loomed in front of them, Letty had crawled to the front and was sitting between the drivers and passenger seat. “Maybe we should secure a place on the outskirts, and go in tomorrow?” She asked, surveying the landscape. They were headed into Atlanta, cars lining the other side of the road.

“She’s right.” Andrea mumbled.

It didn't take long for them to make a camp using cars as a buffer around them. The road was a strange place to sleep, but it would work out in the end. The hospital loomed in the distance and they did not know exactly what to expect of it. Regardless, it was something they needed to agree on. “I think it would be best,” Letty said after a moment of contemplation in the camp fire light. “If Hershel, Andrea, and Gabriel kept the children, I can go with you two and Michonne, even if I only drive the car.”

“She’s right. We can hole up in one of the buildings on the outskirts, and just sort of wait for you guys. Beth, Carl, Sophia, and Scud are pretty efficient at killing walkers. Andrea is healing pretty well. Mika can keep Jude with her and Gabriel and I can stay on watch.” Hershel agreed.

No one spoke. Instead Rick had them all turn in for the night. The van was not the most comfortable place to sleep but then again it was not the strangest place they had camped. At first light he found an abandoned parking garage on the edge of Atlanta, “Stay in the van.” He ordered, leading Michonne, Daryl, and Letty away from Hershel and the kids.

“We will be back.” Michonne nodded in their general direction.

Grady was a fair distance from where they were, and it took most of the morning to walk there. Once they arrived, they found most of the area around the hospital littered with aid supply stands, and national guard level military junk. “We can check through this stuff, and thangs, after.” Rick declared, leading them to the front entrance of the hospital.

The first floor was crawling with walkers, it didn’t take the four long to dispatch them, it was not until the fifth floor that they met any resistance. A woman, who was clearly in charge, named Dawn stopped them. “I am here for my son.” Michonne lied.

“What’s his name?” The woman didn’t bother to actually look at them.

This time it was Letty who spoke, her mind had locked on to something the police uniform men had called the boy. “Noah.” He had saw both her and Hershel that night, and had turned back towards them when the car struck him.

“He is here, but we treated him, and supplies cost.” She snapped.

Letty was irritated, at best, and rolled her eyes, marching into the woman’s personal space. “Give us back what is ours, and you get to live.”

The woman, Dawn, glared at her. “That’s not how this works.”

“Yes, it is.” Michonne had her katana out and was giving Dawn a very unusual glare. “You give us what is ours or we kill everyone we have to to get them back.”

Dawn paled a little bit, realizing that Daryl and Rick both had weapons pointed at her, and Letty had one of her machete’s to her neck. “Don’t make us ask again.” Letty snarled, venom dripping from her words.

Dawn made a strangled noise, but hollered all the same “BRING NOAH!” A commotion behind them revealed a door opening and two policemen dragging forth the boy. The moment the hoods were removed, Michonne and Letty smiled.

Noah, limping, locked eyes on Letty, “Noah, told you I would bring your mom to ya.” She winked.

“Mom?” Noah dramatically hugged Michonne to him.

Michonne smiled warmly, pushing his body behind hers.

“We are leaving now.” Daryl growled, his eyes locked on Dawn.

“Fine, but you won’t make it out of the city. Not with my men chasing you.” Dawn snarled.

Letty peaked around her at the two policemen. “Do you like her?” She asked, eyebrows raised.

They both shook their head no. Rick and Daryl frowned, instantly knowing exactly what was about to happen, Letty stabbed her, through her neck, blood splattering across both her and Michonne’s form. Daryl moved next to Letty, stabbing the sputtering woman in the head.

“Now you leave us alone, we took care of your problem.” Rick snapped from somewhere behind them.

They backed out of the room, careful, and hopeful, then ran hard and fast back to the van. With everyone in it, Daryl turned them away from the city and headed them back towards his home.

Rick and Daryl shared a careful look at Letty, and wondered if maybe she was not as crazy as Merle in her own way, she definitely didn’t mind the killing. Noah was sitting in the floor of the van, his head against Beth’s legs as she patched his forehead up.

Chapter Text

Abraham was cussing up a storm. They had found a better ride to DC, not long after leaving Rick behind. Carol was driving the church van with Tara and Eugene in it, while the rest were riding in a rather large fire truck. They had made it decently far, the fire truck had just given out on them when the smell of walkers grew over powering. They had stopped the van and the firetruck to scout the area around them, about three miles up the road, the largest herd of walkers they had ever seen were just kind of standing around.

“Maybe we could go around them?” Carol suggested, her shoulders shrugging.

“Let me look at the map.” Glenn ordered.

“Everyone else, spread out and see what you can see, see if there is anything useful around, and stay in pairs.” Rosita ordered them.

Sasha, Bob, and Ty moved to look for water, deciding they could find a nearby creek. Carol, Tara, and Eugene back tracked down the road some looking though lost or abandoned cars. Rosita, Glenn, Maggie, and Abraham began to pour over the map. “How big does that herd look?” Abraham asked, rubbing his beard.

“Real big.” Glenn responded, “At least a mile wide, maybe longer, need to go out maybe ten miles and then cut up.”

“Why so far?” Rosita asked, curious.

“To keep from catching their attention.” Maggie said, finally, looking out at the road ahead. “Wish Rick was here, he would have an idea.”

“By now they are well on their way up Blood Mountain, if they made it out of Atlanta.” Abraham grumbled.

“Ain’t no if, now that Rick has Daryl and Letty back, God couldn’t even stop them.” Glenn sounded resigned, like he missed home to. Maggie wondered when she had started to think of their group as home, and not a place. The prison had been home, but that was because they had all been there together.

“We should have never separated.” Maggie groaned, tears stinging her eyes. “I just got Bethy and dad back.”

“Well, if we back track as far as Glenn wants to we might as well just head after them to Blood Mountain, Daryl left a map here, to show me how to find the old Dixon home place.” Rosita stretched it out next to the larger map.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Carol, Tara, and Eugene managed to find two gas cans, fill them up, and several articles of clothing that could be beneficial. They had even managed to find a pretty stocked first aid kit. Something Tara was ecstatic about. Eugene looked distracted as he was mulling around, trying not to be walker bait.

“Something on your mind?” Carol asked him, a motherly smile on her lips.

“It’s a lie.” He said after some time.

Carol just looked at him for a moment, confusion on her face. “What’s a lie, sweetheart?”

“Ain’t no cure, and because I lied I have damaged your family, ma’am pulling you away from your child, and separating you and Maggie and Glenn from the people they belong with.” Eugene was staring at the ground.

“Are you fucking serious?” Tara snarled, her voice on the edge of breaking.

“It's a lie, yes.” Eugene nodded his head, his eyes still glued to the ground.

“Fuck.” Carol snarled, grabbing him by his shirt front. “You are gonna tell Abraham the truth now, so we can meet back up with our family.”

“Get to marching!” Tara snarled, shoving Eugene from Carol’s grasp. They had almost made it back to the fire truck when a walker appeared out of nowhere, as it lunged for Eugene, Carol surged forward, pulling the Walker away, she lost her footing and fell backwards on her butt, the walker snarled and snapped at her, sinking his teeth into her shoulder. She dispatched it a moment later, and looked at Eugene with heavy eyes.

“You killed me.” She said it so even and calm that Eugene knew in his heart what she said was true.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Sasha saw the Walker take Carol down, both her and Ty running forward, Bob holding the containers of water and trying his best to keep up. “Why were you not in formation?” Sasha snarled, her head shaking back tears as she looked over Carol, her hands finding the bite.

“Because Eugene is a phony and he did not need to be protected.” Carol shot back, pushing Sasha’s hands away and standing. “Let’s get to the others, need to let them know the truth.” She surged away from them, and Ty hurried to catch up with her, his arm around her waist.

Sasha wondered for a moment if he was protecting Carol or if he was aiming to protect the others when she turned.

“What was that about?” Bob asked.

“Eugene here lied to us, there is no fucking cure.” Tara snapped, before hauling herself up and heading towards the fire truck.

As Sasha, Eugene, and Bob made it to the fire truck, Maggie had sat Carol down in the shade and was looking her shoulder over. “Shit, Carol.” Glenn was pacing. “What are we going to do?”

“First, Eugene is going to tell the truth about the cure.” Carol snapped. “Then you lot are going to head back towards our family, and I am going to kill myself.”

Maggie let out a choked sob, but looked back towards Eugene waiting patiently for him to tell them whatever had gotten Carol so fired up. He opened his mouth and closed it several times before he finally said. “I lied about the cure, I needed protection, and that was the…” He was cut off by Abraham swiftly punching him in the jaw.

Eugene swayed for a moment, then toppled backwards. Knocked out cold. “Load up, everything and anything of use.” Abraham grumbled. “We are turning around and getting out of here. You too, Carol, until you change you are still one of us.”

Carol only nodded, but remained seated. She pressed her head back against the truck and thought for a moment, how hurt Sophia had looked the last time she saw her, then she thought about how pleased Sophia looked when Letty told her she was doing something right. Carol had not been the mother Sophia needed for a long time. A very long time, letting Sophia live, giving her daughter a chance, that was Letty all Letty.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

They stopped the van once they reached a road that no longer could be called a road. Daryl led them all from the van, and up the steep incline. It had been two days of traveling, and his heart was still beating hard in his chest. This was not an easy path, so Rick was helping Hershel up, while Letty had Jude in her arms. Noah had his arm around Beth’s shoulders, as she maneuvered up the steep terrain, and Michonne had her arms around Andrea. Scud was by his side, eyes cautious, Sophia and Carl a few steps behind him. Mika was beside Letty, holding her hand as if she would disappear if she let go.

“Not much further.” Daryl breathed after almost two hours in the chilly forest. “Merle was the last of us Dixon’s up here, so I hope he secured the place. Good hold out for the winter.” Daryl clarified, leading them up the rocky terrain.

Letty smiled when the forest opened up and two wooden cabins emerged. “This is where we used to spend our Christmas time.” She told the group. “Merle would bring us up here. It is the Dixon homestead, Jesse took care of it, most of the time. William preferred to live in trailers near town.”

Scud looked around finding Mika, then taking her hand. Daryl and Rick moved together in unison, to check the two cabins, while the others hovered outside. Once Daryl was sure there were no dangers in the larger of the two cabins he motioned for them to come in. It was not as big as the prison or the farmhouse for that matter, instead it was tiny but big enough to comfortably house them and some of the others if they ever saw them again.

“Ought to be blankets and such in the next cabin, Michonne can you and Gabriel check it out?” Letty asked, as she situated the kids into one side room, there was an old crib in the room, it had been Daryl’s and Scud’s. She sat Judith in it and went about checking the room for supplies. There were three sets of bunk beds in here, no doubt in her mind, an addition Jesse had made in hopes of family hunting trips. “You kids can take this room, Beth, that includes you and Noah.”

If Sophia and Mika took one set of bunk beds, Carl and Scud could take the second, then Beth and Noah the third. That would leave Judith the crib for now. There were no windows in the particular room because it was very much in the heart of the house, on its far side through the doorway was the kitchen, the side they entered through had the living space and there were bedrooms on either side.

Rick, Daryl, and Letty would take the room directly connected to the children’s room. Michonne and Andrea decided to take the small crawlspace room above the children’s room. Hershel and Gabriel opted to share the room on the far side of the house, next to the kitchen. It left one room open, in hopes that family members would return to occupy that room sooner rather than later.

Once everyone was settled for the night, Letty crawled in bed, alone. Both Rick and Daryl had decided to stay up on watch, she frowned, and climbed from bed, wrapping the blanket around her. She found them on the front porch, a gap between them just big enough for her to sink down into. “We put up traps, we strung noise makers, can you two please come inside?”

“Nah, feels weird without the others.” Rick grumbled, lacing an arm around her middle.

Daryl followed suit, tucking his arm around her, making sure it was pressed tight against Rick’s as well. “Don’t feel right, being away from our family.”

“Never thought this place would be sanctuary.” Letty mused, aloud.

“Gonna set traps in the mornin’ ya ‘nd Scud gonna hav’ta help me. Got bear mark’s all over tha place.” Daryl grumbled, looking at Rick and Letty.

“Ya know, that bed, it’s starting to sound real good.” Rick laughed, his breath like fog in the chilly air.

“Nice and warm too, since I got the blankets all warmed up.” Letty laughed, they stood, pulling her with them, and headed inside.

Once Daryl and Rick tore off some layers, and Letty was settled in the middle, they joined her, once more, Rick had his arm under her head, Daryl had his arm stretched across her waist, and they slept facing her.

Rick, Daryl, nor Letty needed to talk often, the three just understood each other, knew what was needed before the thought could ever reach them, winter was coming, and whether they wanted to admit it or not, it was going to be long and cold. Even Hershel was pretty sure they were in for one of the worst winters they had ever experienced.

Chapter Text

Carol’s fever spiked late that night, Maggie never left her side, letting Carol’s head rest in her lap, and promising her that once they made it back to Sophia that Maggie would never ever let the younger girl out of her sight again.

Glenn paced, he was not pleased with making Camp at the very church they had left earlier in the day, shit this morning felt like a lifetime ago, and he was not sure how he felt about that. After long talks with Abraham he was pretty sure that Eugene was getting off easy for his lie. Glenn had worked hard to convince him not to kill Eugene.

Rosita, Tara, Sasha, Bob, and Ty were asleep in the church scattered around the floor. Abraham was stalking around the perimeter with gun drawn and ready. Maggie was watching over Carol, how fucked this whole day was. Glenn was still reeling from it, when he saw, more heard, Carol take her last heaving breath.

He was beside Maggie in an instant, holding Carol’s arms and upper body still. The turn didn’t take long, it hadn’t been more than five minutes, when Carol’s eyes opened once more, the green haze of the virus in them. Maggie cried out, unintentionally, and the sound brought Abraham to stand beside them.

Maggie drew her knife, and gently slipped it through Carol’s temple, it took more force than she was used to, reminding her that younger walkers were firmer than the ones they had been facing lately. She rolled Carol’s head from her lap, and let Glenn pull her into his arms. Abraham laid his gun down and picked her body up, carrying her gently outside of the church, and laying her amongst the tombstones.

They were not going to bury Carol. Glenn and Maggie had decided that earlier. Once they met back up with Rick and the others, they would bury her memory, not the thing she had become. “Get some sleep.” Abraham told both Glenn and Maggie when he returned, picking his rifle back up, and slipping out the front once more to watch the area.

Glenn had no clue when he fell asleep, or for that matter how he fell asleep, but he woke to Rosita, shaking him and Maggie both. “We needta move, got a lot of ground to cover today.”

Glenn nodded, helping Maggie up, and following them to the van. No one spoke for a long time, then Ty coughed. “She was the best woman I ever knew, at least given the circumstances, and who she was.”

Silence captured them then. Eugene found a spot he enjoyed staring at on the ground. No one was talking to him, and he didn’t want to say anything about Carol, the woman had scared him, and frankly anyone who would leave their child behind not once but twice seemed a little wrong to him.

When they reached the entrance to Blood Mountain State Park, Abraham stopped the van. “Camp here tonight?” Glenn asked him, Abraham nodded. Early the next morning they were moving again. It was slow, going up the mountain on foot, but the van’s hose had given out. Glenn slightly missed the firetruck, there was mud and a chill in the air that kept him from being happy about the situation, at least they were closer to their family.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Daryl had woke Letty and Scud early, both were bundled and keeping watch around him as he set the traps. Already they had noticed two bear cub tracks. “When we get back.” Letty started. “We need to put pikes up around the main clearing, keep the bears away maybe.” She was whispering to Scud, and as she turned she caught something out of the corner of her eye, a glint of brown, that was fast moving.

“DAR!” She screamed, drawing his crossbow up, and aiming it, she released the bolt just as the bear slammed into Daryl, knocking him down, claws biting into his shoulder and back.

Scud was shaking, rifle in hand, he shouldered it, even as Letty was reloading the crossbow, the bear jerked Daryl across the ground, rolling him over, it’s large paw slamming down on his face. Daryl snarled, and screamed in one go. Scud fired a round into the bear's eye, just as Letty released the second bolt, hitting the beast in its ear. The bear dropped hard on Daryl.

Both Letty and Scud darted forward, struggling to get the beast off Daryl. He was breathing, thank god, but barely. “Go fetch Rick, now, Scud, take the trail home.”

Scud looked like he wanted to object but he did as he was told. He took one last look at Letty, then grabbed the rifle running back up the embankment. Letty leaned over Daryl, tears in her eyes. “You're gonna be ok, love, me and Rick, we got you.” She kissed his lips.

Daryl had never felt such pain in his life, the moment Letty screamed, and his head looked up the bear was on him, claws scraping down his back, mouth biting hard into his ribs. He struggled only for a moment, hitting at the bear with everything he had, then the beast was stepping on his head. He thought he heard a gunshot, then the damn creature was crashing into him.

Next thing he knew for sure was Letty hovering over him. “Me and Rick, we got you…” That was the only thing he heard as darkness overtook him.

When Scud returned Gabriel and Rick were with him. “Take him back.” She ordered. “Scud and I need to clean the kill, so we are gonna drag it back to camp.” She motioned at the bear.

Beth and Noah broke the tree line next, Michonne hot on their heels, it took all three of them and Scud and Letty to drag the beast back up the sharp embankment. “Lay it out flat.”

Inside Hershel was working on Daryl, Rick by his side. Gabriel emerged the next moment, and said “Letty, Rick needs you.” Letty nodded, looking at Scud.

“You know how to clean it.” Scud only nodded, watching her slip inside.

Letty helped Rick hold Daryl still as Hershel dug out the first aid kit. “Don’t know what it is about you three, but most of my supplies are used up… guess it's cause your heroes.”

“Bear came outta no where.” Letty told Rick, squeezing his hand.

“You both mentioned their being bears up here.” Rick looked like he was going to cry, shit Letty was crying already. Hershel frowned, three parts of a whole, only now was he understanding what Abraham had meant, Letty was the one who held them together, she was the glue.

It was almost two hours later that Hershel was done working on Daryl. Rick and Noah had carried him to the bedroom Rick, Daryl, and Letty shared. Letty had crawled in bed with him. Rick looked them over, then said. “Beth and Jude are in the kitchen, everyone else is gonna be outside putting spikes around the houses. Scud got the bear cleaned, and now Andrea and Michonne are working on cleaning the meat up to cook.”

Letty nodded. “It’s cold enough out it should keep until tomorrow, I can set the smoker up, and we can have smoked meat…” She snuggled against Daryl, and Rick could see the fear on her face. He gasped for air, slowly, then moved forward. Cupping her face in his hands, kissing her lips gently, tasting her tears, then he dipped his head, to Daryl’s kissing his lips, then his forehead.

Rick felt the fear of uncertainty creep into his heart, he turned swiftly away and headed outside. He didn’t pray often, and he doubted Jesus or God were very interested in his relationship with Daryl and Letty, but the moment he was off the porch he hit his knees, hands clasped together like he was in sunday school, and head bowed, he prayed. Soon Hershel joined him, then Gabriel, then the children, then Michonne, Andrea, even Judith found a spot next to her daddy, cooing.

Inside, Daryl was sweating, and Letty was pressing the coolest wash cloth to his head she could find. Her own form of prayer dancing through her head. If your real, God or JC, and you let him live, I promise from this day forward, to allow you to guide me, to provide me the path, do not leave me and Rick alone in this world, do not let either of us break the thing that holds us together.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Abraham was a step ahead of Rosita, Sasha and Ty next, with Bob and Eugene a couple paces behind, then Tara, followed by Maggie, and Glenn taking up the rear. They had hiked most of the morning, before reaching the church van the others had been in. On the side, Letty or someone had wrote: Grimes Clan, you're almost there, another three hours through the hills, and your destiny awaits.

“She always this poetic?” Abraham grumbled.

“Always.” Maggie chuckled.

“It’ll be dark soon, and we are exhausted, let’s make camp and eat what we have left from the church, then first thing tomorrow head up the mountain.” Glenn decided for them, opening the door to the van, and ushering them in.

“Wonder how upset they will be about Carol?” Tara asked.

“Very, Daryl, Letty and Sophia will probably be the worst. Letty found a mom in Carol, even though Letty became everyone's mom. And Daryl, shit, no one knows exactly what him and Carol shared, but, they were close.” Maggie sobbed a little bit.

Abraham stretched out in the front seat, Rosita on his lap, Tara snagged the seat next to him, clinging to the headrest. Maggie and Glenn curled up in the floor, everyone else finding a seat to curl into.

There were no stars or moon that night, just a blanket of complete darkness. Maggie, had she been superstitious, would have taken that as a bad sign, instead, she reasoned it must be God’s way of saying Carol was really gone.

Chapter Text

Rick took his place in bed beside Daryl late, realizing Daryl was in the middle, he tenderly laid his arm over Daryl’s bandaged waist, Letty was wrapped around him, his arm under her head, and her head pressed into his shoulder. When Rick slipped under the covers, Letty raised up enough to kiss him goodnight, and pull his open palm onto her stomach. He rubbed her and smiled, it was luck that Daryl was attacked and not her, it was luck that he was alive. Maybe they had someone on their side after all. He had no choice but to thank God, for small graces.

Beth knocked on the door at first light. “Jude wants you.” Letty uncovered and slipped away, leaving Rick holding Daryl, as Letty took little Jude from Beth and followed the younger girl from the room. Beth handed her a bottle and smiled at her.

The living area of the house had a small broken down couch, and a television. Letty had laughed about the TV, but once Noah got the generators running, the treasure trove of VHS tapes they found in the cellar could be used, at least one a night. Michonne declared it a victory on boring. Andrea laughed hard, and snuggled closer to her.

Letty tucked herself into the couch, resting against Michonne’s form, Jude in her arms. Michonne tossed the blanket over her lap. “Noah, Gabriel and Hershel are working on the pikes, Andrea is with them.” Letty nodded.

“Is it daylight yet?” Letty asked, looking towards the front door.

“No, it's not. But after Daryl… we all sorta spent the night clearing out the other two rooms in this house for usable supplies, and we stripped the other cabin. Scud said he didn’t care what we did with it, so would it be ok if we dismantled it to build a fence?”

“The other cabin was never used by William or the boys, I believe it belonged to Jesse.” She tapped her chin. “Do whatever needs to be done.”

With that Michonne was up, leading the kids outside. Letty was left with Jude, who was greedily sucking down the bottle of milk. That was something they had stocked up on. Hershel and Carl had went on miniature runs while they were at the hospital, gathering up clothing and supplies. It had been a bitch to haul up the mountain but nothing she wasn’t grateful for now.

The nearest town was five miles away, in the opposite direction of which they had came. She knew the path and so did Daryl, but with him injured and her pregnant, that path would be really hard to take, either one by themselves.

She and Jude drifted off to sleep. Outside, Michonne and Andrea had taken command of the fortification process and were demolishing the smaller cabin, literally piece by piece. They had found tools in the cellar of the large cabin, and were working out the details of building a fence like the one from the farm, when Andrea heard a twig snap, she raised her hand to silence everyone.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

“Who the fuck lives all the way up here?” Abraham spat, panting.

“Someone who doesn't like people?” Maggie supplied the answer that fit Daryl, best.

Abraham snorted, irritated. They had been hiking since they all woke, and were no closer to the landmark that Daryl had mentioned would point them in the right direction.

A soft thudding noise made Glenn clear his throat. “Hear that?”

The group grew silent, and then heard the noise several more times. “That has to be them.” Tara guessed. “Securing the cabins Daryl mentioned maybe?”

She moved forward, the others behind her, and soon reached a set of traps. “Daryl’s.” Glenn ran his fingers along the snares. “They are not done though, not like him at all to leave something half completed…” His voice trailed off as he heard a twig snap.

Michonne was standing ahead of them, katana drawn, a confused expression on her face. “Where is Carol?”

Maggie and Glenn looked at each other. “She got bit, listen, is everyone ok?”

“No, come on, it's not safe, your standing in bear blood.” Michonne motioned for them to follow her. They maneuvered up the hill and found Andrea, all the kids, Noah, Hershel, and Gabriel working on the fence. “Daryl was attacked by a bear. Letty, Rick and Jude are inside with him. Know you have been hiking for a bit, but can you help us get up the fence? And if anyone knows how to smoke meat, there is a whole lot of bear…”

Soon Bob was working with Maggie on smoking the meat they had salvaged from the bear. Everyone else was working on the fences, when Beth slipped inside to relieve Letty. Sophia and Mika took Rick’s place next to Daryl, and both Rick and Letty joined the crew outside.
Letty could now see why Sophia looked so resigned.

“Carol not back?” She heard Rick ask Maggie, near her. She heard Maggie tell Rick about the bite and Eugene. She scanned the area, seeing Eugene mulling near the fence project, doing whatever Rosita told him to do.

“Rick.” Her voice sounded cracked. “Need to finish those traps.”

Rick sighed, “Damn hunters.”

“Need food.” She grumbled. Rick nodded.

“Let’s do this quick. Glenn, Maggie, help us out.” Both jolted forward to assist, each took a position near the trap line, watching for any sign of bear. They managed to get them all strung before and were once more inside the pikes and fences when Beth and Andrea exclaimed dinner was done.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Daryl woke in pain, but was relieved to feel the heat on both sides of him, which let him know both Rick and Letty were with him. The window let him know it was dark, night outside. Letty shifted, her eyes opening wide, she shook Rick, he sleepily opened his eyes.

“DAR!” They both whispered loudly, peppering his face with kisses.

“Tha fuck happened?” He asked, his voice sounding gravely.

“Bear.” Letty was crying, tears hitting his face, and neck as she continued kissing him.

“Thought we were gonna lose you.” Rick whimpered kissing his jaw bone, similar tears.

“Well ya didn’t.” Daryl gruffed. Both laughed a little. Daryl groaned, he didn’t know how he felt about all the emotions he was feeling, but he did know he woke up hard, painfully and he needed something to relieve that. “Need a bit of help.”

Letty laughed, grabbing Rick’s free hand, and lowering it down. In her haste to start kissing Daryl, she had inadvertently bumped his crotch with her thigh, feeling him. Rick blushed when Letty tightened their interlocked hands around Daryl’s length. He bucked against them then winced in pain.

Letty smoothed his shoulders down, and started licking and nipping at his neck, as Rick kissed him on the lips, teeth more than tongue, dangerous. Daryl was losing himself in the sensations of hot mouths, and the pumping on his cock his lovers hands were doing. He panted into Rick’s mouth, letting a small moan out, before he painted their hands white. Letty dipped between the three of them, licking Rick’s hand clean, her own, and then Daryl’s crotch.

“Why was ‘ah naked?” He asked, once he found his voice again. Rick nuzzled up in his neck, leaving a hickey the way it felt.

“Your fever.” She offered.

“A’ight, why are ya both naked?” Daryl asked, feeling her head press into his chest, carefully looking for a place that wouldn’t hurt.

“This was the first chance we were gonna get to do it… sleep like this, so we figured why not. Thought if you woke up you would like it.” Rick laughed into him.

“Shit, wanna wake up like that everyday. I’m hurtin’ though.” Daryl moaned out the last bit.

Letty was off him instantly, so was Rick. Cold settled into his chest. Letty grabbed one of the blankets and wrapped up in it, slinking from the room. “The others came back, Carol didn’t make it.” Rick was wrapping Daryl in the blankets, tugging his pants on.

“Didn’t think she would…” Daryl didn’t looked surprised. “She gave up.”

Rick kissed his forehead, and was buttoning his pants when Letty reentered the room, Hershel behind her. “Got some medicine, might help ya. Letty told me you woke up in pain.”

Hershel sank down next to Daryl on the bed, and looked over his chest, a sheen of sweat on his body. “Told them not to let you get too hot, with the chill in the air, ya might catch pneumonia.” Hershel shot both Rick and Letty a look, then dug around in his doctor’s bag, producing some of the medicine left behind by Merle. “Two oxy’s, they will knock you back out, but it will be good for you. Need to heal, and keep infection away.”

“Is everyone else a’ight?” Daryl asked, remembering Scud being out with them.

“If yer worried about Joshie, he killed the bear, I didn’t have a gun, he did.” Letty told Daryl, looking over Hershel at him.

“Good.” Daryl breathed a sigh of relief, accepting the medicine and then the cup of water Rick offered him. The world around him grew foggy and dark as the sun rose outside. Letty helped Rick slip some boxers on his frame. Rick kissed him on the forehead, and Letty on his nose before they slipped out of the room, Sophia and Mika slipping in. The two little girls took their spots on the bed next to Daryl.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Abraham was a man who liked to have a plan, and right now he did not have a plan. Rick and the others were getting cozy, with Eugene telling him that he had lied for protection, Abraham felt he no longer had a mission. He was pacing and angry. A week here, in the cabins, left him more stir crazy than three solid days in the prison would have had Daryl.

“Need to do something, Rosita.” He snapped, angry following a depressing checking of snares, nothing trapped in the last two days.

“Think we ought to go on a run.” Glenn said from somewhere behind him. “Me, you, Maggie, and Rosita.”

“To where?” Rosita asked, raising her eyebrows.

“There is a little town, ‘bout five miles from here, down the southern summit.” Letty was standing on the porch behind Glenn. “Both Daryl and I know how to get there, trying to tell you would lead you blind, since neither of us are good map makers, or maybe you four suck at map reading.” Letty sneered with a giggle.

“So, Letty has offered to go with us, Rick and Daryl are fine with it under the pretense that we protect her, above all else.” Maggie explained.

There it was, a mission Abraham Ford could get behind. Protecting Letty at all cost, she was his new DC, she was the cure, her and the children she would be raising. They were the future and she was the gateway. “I’m in, Rick, Daryl, they won’t have a thing to worry about. I’ll keep her safe, since she is the first lady and all.” Abraham looked positively alive with the idea.

Rosita rolled her eyes, then stepped past Maggie and Glenn on to the porch, she wanted to talk with Rick and Daryl. “We do this, we could be gone overnight, is that ok?” She asked just making sure.

“Be gone no more than three days.” Rick ordered her. “Daryl is feeling better, Carl and I can keep the snares checked here, and Scud is a damn good forager.” He patted Rosita on the shoulder. “Abraham needed a mission anyway, he is a goal oriented man.” Rosita snickered, realizing that Letty could very well have drawn a map. She had just chosen not to.

When they headed out of camp, Letty was on point, crossbow in arms, and Abraham a step behind her, the downhill slope was more winding and less steep, at least on this side of the mountain. They only encountered a handful of walkers on the way down.

“Rosebower.” She grumbled pointing at the town. “Merle an’ Daryl used’ta bring me ‘n Scud down here for ice cream once a week.” She smiled, stepping forward on the path. “Guns up.”

Town looked deserted, but looks can be deceiving. They cleared the first two buildings easily enough, stocking up on the little things, mostly canned goods and baby related things. It was about four blocks in when a creaking noise drew both Letty and Abraham’s attention into a pharmacy. There were several walkers milling around, killing roughly thirteen, and one that she would forever call a half a walker because it was literally a head and shoulders, they found several containers of medicine that would be easy enough for them to take home, and keep.

It wasn’t the walkers that disturbed them, it was the last building on the road of town, where a frail looking man and woman were living in filth, muttering to themselves. They were easily mistakable as walkers, it was not until the woman reached forward with filth covered hand to touch Letty’s stomach and asked about how far along she was that Abraham reacted, killing them both.

Abraham also took Letty’s pack, and secured it on his shoulders, eyeing her for a moment. “Don’t think we want anything from this house.”

“No, but we probably do from the IGA.” She pointed across the road. Abraham’s eyebrows furrowed, but he nodded. Rosita took his hand and led the way this time, Letty sandwiched in between them and Maggie and Glenn.

Abraham rapped on the glass doors that led into the IGA, no immediate threat came forward just as thunder erupted across the overcast sky, and the rain began to pour down in torrents. Immediately, Abraham ushered Letty inside, and scouted the place out. “Guess we are staying here for the night.”

Chapter Text

Daryl was propped up on the pillows, Judith next to him, Sophia, Mika, and Carl in a semicircle around him, with Scud on the edge of the bed. Rick had put the children on “Don’t let Papa move” duty, and the little punks were pretty good at it.

With everyone back to them, except Carol, Rick had the group fortifying even more than they had the morning after the bear attack. Daryl could hear the steady thuds of work outside, as well as the clanging that came from Noah working on the generator in the cellar. He could hear Bethy singing in the kitchen, and the smell of whatever she had managed to round up was making his mouth water.

Daryl was acutely aware of the overcast skies and the rain surging down, aware that his Letty was down the mountain in town, and aware that Rick was on edge, because even though they had agreed that the trip might end up being over night, Rick had hoped they would be back.

Daryl was running out of stories to tell the children, when Hershel and Andrea came into the main house from the cold rain. Hershel, Daryl could tell, had a cough, and Andrea was mother henning her father. “Hershel, you stay in here, and let Beth look at you. Don’t need our doctor getting sick, now do we.”

“I guess not.” Hershel had grumbled, Daryl listened to the sounds of him kicking off his boot, and shedding a layer or two of clothing. Daryl didn’t move much, the bear hadn’t done him any favors and Hershel was still not sure he would ever be able to wield his crossbow again, good thing in Daryl’s opinion, that Rick was talking about staying here for a while, at least until Letty delivered their baby.

Another thought edged into Daryl’s mind as he started up telling the children about one time him and ol’Merle drank way too much and Letty had to come to the rescue. Letty could be carrying Merle’s child. He chewed his thumb for a moment, and his eyes drifted down to Judith, she wasn’t his or Rick and they still worshiped her.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

As the sun rose Abraham panicked. Letty was not by his side where he had instructed her to sleep. Maggie and Glenn and Rosita were all near by but not Letty.

Abraham had a feeling he knew where she had went. They had cleaned the IGA out yesterday afternoon, using flashlights. They had found several bags they could use to carry the supplies back up the mountain. “Wake up.” Abraham ordered them all then headed out the door.

The front door of the creepy house, as he was calling it in his brain, was wide open. Both dead bodies from yesterday remained where he had left them, the only sign that he was correct was the front door being wide open. He found Letty in the upstairs, her messy hair pushed out of her face as she was ransacking the room she was in. “Looking for baby shit.” He heard her say, of course the little murderess knew he was behind her.

She was raised by the Dixon’s, there was no sneaking up on her. “What made ya think they had some.”

“Tha way that woman knew I’s pregnant, ain’t that big yet, could just be under-fed.” She grumbled, and then squealed, Abraham moved further into the room only to see a chest being drug by Letty to the center of the room.

“Abe? Letty?” Glenn called from below.

“We are up here, check out the down stairs.” Abraham ordered.

Already Letty was prying the chest open. “Lily.” She traced at the words that were painted on the chest. “Musta had a little girl.”

Abraham moved forward to help her pry the top off, as soon as the top popped, he grabbed Lety, dragging her back, and felt a silent scream fix on his features. In the crate was a walker, two actually now that he was looking, two little girls, probably both under five.

The noise had pulled Maggie, Rosita, and Glenn upstairs. It was Rosita who surged forward, stabbing both in their heads, as Letty sobbed. “Why would they…” Her voice trailed off, her heart breaking.

“Let’s just go.” Maggie begged.

Glenn already had her by the shoulders and was leading her away. Abraham scooped Letty into his arms and followed. Rosita took only a moment longer, and a fleeting look back before she followed down to the main level. “Gather up our bags, we are moving out.” Maggie ordered, visibly shaken by what she had saw.

They marched into the slow falling rain, and each step seemed to make Letty sob a little quieter, until finally Abraham looked down and the girl was fast asleep in his arms. He frowned, unsure as to if exhaustion had led to her passing out, or her brain simply couldn’t comprehend what those people were doing.

Some losses were just too great, and whatever Letty had been looking for, Abraham knew she hadn’t found it.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

Rick was ordering everyone inside out of the storm, when he saw Abraham marching towards him, Letty in his arms. Rick’s face must have betrayed his emotions, because instantly Rosita said, “She is just asleep, passed out on the walk.”

“Anything happen?” Rick asked, as he ushered the group inside, and barred the door.

“Found a couple alive.” Glenn started. “They were too far gone Rick, shambling around like walkers, tried to touch Letty.”

“I killed them, thought I was protecting her.” Abraham mentioned.

“But she must have recognized them, said Daryl and Merle took her and Scud into town for ice cream once a week when they were up here.” Rosita started.

“Because when we woke up this morning.” Maggie concluded. “She was gone from us, and in the house they belonged in, Abraham found her in an upstairs room digging around for baby things.”

“Good thing he did, too.” Glenn grumbled. “Because the crate she had been looking for, when they pried the top off of it, two half starved walker children emerged, neither her nor Abraham could kill them, so Rosita did.”

Rick paled, he knew Daryl had heard the story, and he frowned. “Sound like anyone ya’ll knew Daryl?”

“Yea, Millard and his wife.” Daryl’s voice was broken, like glass. “Millard is a Dixon cousin, from somewhere down the line. His wife usta watch after Letty and Scud when we had trouble or had ta go to the bigger town.”

“Lay Letty with Daryl, and run the kids outta there.” Rick ordered.

“We should have enough supplies, now, to last the winter.” Beth giggled.

“Then in the spring, after the baby comes, we can talk about Noah, and his family, see what we need to do for him.” Rick agreed, and kissed Beth’s forehead.

“Let’s check them traps.” Rick ordered Carl and Scud much later in the afternoon. Winter was upon them now, the sleet turning to snow, and a cold wind whipping around them. Rick was sure as everyone else was, this winter would be hell.

Chapter Text

Hell was an understatement. The snares held, but there were no further trips to town. There was no need, Rick argued, because they had picked everything clean. Also, he didn’t fancy anyone taking the steep trip down or up the mountain in the snow they got. Even for Georgia, it was a bit extreme.

By the middle of winter there was about a foot of residual snow. Daryl was up and moving, Letty almost six months along now, and Rick helping Daryl practice his bow skills. He still had a little trouble getting it up, and reloading, but he was still loads faster than Rick would ever be.

After the first main snowfall they had abandoned sleeping separately, mattresses were drug into the livingroom and the fire place seemed to be constantly going. It was on nights much like this one where they had managed to get two deer, and a couple rabbits in the snare, that the family was gathered in blankets on the mattresses snuggled together watching the snow out the front windows. “Maybe DC is still the best option.” Daryl said what everyone had been thinking.

“Even without the cure, Eugene might be onto something. It’s a big city. Loads of supplies, doubt anyone managed to survive - it would take some organized raiding parties, but it might be worth it.” Glenn nodded.

“We can’t stay here forever.” Letty dared, “It’s nice, but it's picked clean, and that town, it's the closest thing for miles.”

“Very true…” Rick looked around them.

“I think it’s a Ricktatorship,” Hershel laughed, “Whatever you and your Lady Secretary of War and you Gentleman Secretary of State wanna do…”

“I think we move out once we know spring has sprung, hopefully by then Letty will have delivered the baby.” Rick declared, his hand laced in Daryl’s, with Letty pressed against their chest.

It wasn’t something they had talked about, who the baby probably belonged too. Letty had been through a lot, a whole lot, that was no secret. They had all three realized it was a one in thirteen chance that the baby belonged to either Daryl or Rick. It didn’t matter not really, Judith belonged to Shane biologically and they still loved her more than the world.

“Done gathered up all the supplies I can to make delivery as easy as possible. I just hope, you can do it without us needing to cut you open.” Hershel sighed.

“Got a question, not about the baby.” Carl dared. “Shouldn’t the older walkers start to decay soon?”

“I hope so, without food, there’d be nothing to keep them alive.” Eugene speculated.

… -\- --- --- --- -/- …

As the first mornings of spring started, flowers pressing through the ground around the cabin, and her screams drew what few walkers were milling around. Daryl and Rick were both out of the house, along with Carl, Scud, Mika, and Sophia who was holding Judith. While his children were on the porch, Rick was leading a pretty large group of his family to killing the walkers who were sporadically appearing, no doubt drawn out by the screams of Letty.

Michonne, Sasha, Maggie, Beth and Hershel were inside. Letty’s water had broke that morning, just as a spring rain had let up. The ground was wet, mud caked, and making any attempt at killing the walkers slightly more dangerous, and highly irritating. All winter, when the weather permitted it, Daryl had worked on gaining his strength back, worked with his crossbow.

He was a damn fine shot, if he did say so himself, his arm still hurt from the weight, but all in all it was something he could live with. A moment of silence made all the family members pause. Inside, two little wails echoed, then Hershel cheered. A moment later, Maggie was on the front porch. “Two babies. A boy and a girl!” She grinned. “Letty is ok. Babies are ok. Once Daddy has everything situated, you lot can come in and start seeing them!” Maggie looked both relieved and tired.

Daryl caught Rick in a hug, as the pair embraced,it felt like the world was right. Like things were starting to look up again. Then they heard the low snarl of a walker. As the pair turned around, they realized exactly how close it was. For a long moment neither moved, then soft blond hair caught Daryl’s attention, and Sophia was plunging an axe into the creature's head over and over again. “Dad, pay attention.” She grumbled.