He didn't know what gave him strength anymore. Or what gave the girl strength anymore. Days turned into weeks. Long, hard weeks where he was stuck with just his thoughts. His dark thoughts and the responsibility that was on his shoulders. He was now a protector of the young girl who still found happiness in despair.
In blood shed.
In a war zone where death was only the beginning.
His legs grew tired. His spirit broken. But that didn't stop the innocent blonde from hoping. From losing her faith. In the hot, humid air. Every trail turning cold, he had nothing left inside of him.
Living in abandoned homes.
Running from walkers.
Sleeping in run down cars.
Like now. The angelic blonde laid in the back seat. Holding herself as he sat in the front. She was becoming stronger day by day. In a way that he was not. Seeing Hershel being sacrificed. He closed his eyes and witnessed the blade slice his neck. The Governor's hard eyes as he took the man's life. Without remorse. Or hesitation. He destroyed all of their lives. Forcing them to separate. He was too numb to be angry anymore. And knowing he was dead was not enough for him because he didn't have his family back.
The many times Beth had cried herself to sleep. And he did nothing but watch her. He couldn't give himself ease of mind, so how could he give it to an eighteen-year-old girl? Days without sleep were catching up with him. Resting his head on the steering wheel, he heard her screams. Calling out for her father. Her sister.
And though he was silent, he called out for them too. For Rick. His brother. The cop who taught him how to be a real man.
For Carol. The woman who showed him it was alright to be damaged.
And then Michonne. The warrior who showed more sides of herself when they were alone. The woman who made him discover more sides of himself. Their runs together. Relying on each other as they worked together. He taught her how to track. And she listened to his words. His guidance. And she taught him how to smile. Maybe not a grin, but a noticeable tug of the lips. And he didn't feel guilty for doing it more. Especially around her.
He couldn't save her. But he didn't need to. She always saved herself. And he knew she would. But the moment he saw her being pulled into their view, his heart dropped at the noticeable bandage on her forehead. She had been hurt and there was nothing he could do about it. That same sense of helplessness, he felt with Merle. Every thing he allowed in his heart was taken away.
Was she dead? Were they all dead and were they the only two left? He wouldn't allow his heart to believe that. He knew that if anyone were alive, she would be. Maybe that was what kept him going. The fact that he knew she was out there. As long as she was alive, he would make it.
Sitting on another porch step. The third house this week. It was best to not stay at one place for a long period of time. Not after what Rick had saved her and her body from. It was another reminder of this harsh world. No place could be called home. Not even the people here could be. And though she had Rick and Carl, could she truly be comfortable? Could she become attached again?
She found them. But she was still missing something. Looking at the clouds she imagined her beautiful son. Andre Anthony. The little boy who made her smile at the littlest things. His sticky kisses. His messes. The stains of his shirt from playing with mud. So much she wanted for him. What would he think of her now? Did he forgive her for not protecting him? And no matter how many walkers she killed, it would not be enough to bring him back. Or bring Andrea back. She just hoped that her friend found him. She hoped that they were together in heaven. If that place existed.
No. She knew that place existed. But would she get there? She didn't even know. Folding her lips, she hated when she had too much time on her mind. When Rick and Carl were resting. And she had no need to search for supplies. Not because they didn't need more food. But some things reminded her of the people she had lost. Every once and while, the three of them had spotted a car. And cars always reminded her of the redneck. Of Daryl. Everything reminded her of Daryl.
How she depended on his skills to start cars to get away from walkers. The times he tried to teach her how to hotwire, but it just wasn't for her. But through his teachings, there was always a light grin on his face. She hoped only she put it there, but she knew she couldn't have. And at times she saw his face in the clouds.
It was as if the three made a pact to never talk about what happened at the prison. It didn't make sense to bring up the past. If only she could have saved Hershel. If only her and Daryl could have found the Governor sooner. Damn him. He affected them even in his death. The cut on her forehead healed, but her heart hadn't. She didn't know if it ever would. She just hoped Hershel knew how much he was loved. And that he could never be forgotten.
They could all never be forgotten, because they gave her what she thought was gone from this new world. Good people. People who cared. And they gave her time to learn how to open up. That was what Rick gave her. But for some reason when Daryl opened up to her, it opened her eyes. Maybe it was because they were so much alike. This new world awakened a power inside them both. Silent, lethal killers. Which was why it meant so much when he opened up to her. Allowing her to learn his secrets. He was so hardened, but something about her made him feel comfortable. She never had that effect on people. Not even before this world ended.
But it was no point of thinking of him. Even though she knew he was alive. Or perhaps that was wishful thinking. But that was the thing about the human heart. It always reminded you of what you needed the most.
"They are out there Daryl. I just know it." Beth said with purpose. Her knife in her hand. She was now used to the heat on her skin.
She didn't know if she meant it or if she was trying to convince them both. Licking her lips, she knew Daryl was tuning her out. Looking at him, he kept his eyes straight as he carried his crossbow.
Her eyes ahead, they kept walking into the next town. How did they survived this long? She didn't know. But this was how she knew that her father was with her. And she carried his words of wisdom. That was how she knew that she would eventually see Maggie soon. No matter how much she slept, it wasn't enough sleep. Her father was taken from her. And in the most cruel way. She had thought the worst way to die was to get bitten, but she was wrong. And then her life changed forever. But she had to move on. She had to keep living.
"You think these houses have some supplies?" She asked as she watched her guardian pick up a rock from the ground. "What's that?" Placing a hand on his shoulder as he did not flinch.
"Jasper." He softly said as he looked at the rock. His mind far away. Did she really mean it? Did it really match the color of his eyes? Placing it in his pocket, he noticed the blonde's eyes on him.
"Let's keep movin." He announced. "Stay close to meh."
"I can take care of myself Daryl." She stated. "You taught me well."
"That aint tha point. I lost enough people I care about. I can't lose ya too. Hershel wouldn't forgive meh. Neither would Maggie or Glenn." The two kept their eyes on the quiet town around them.
At least he was becoming less awkward. It seemed as if the best part of this was Daryl becoming more expressive. That was Beth's gift to him. For everything he had done for her family. For everything he was going to do for them.
There weren't too many walkers around, but no one could predict what was inside the two story homes. And the more he walked, the more his head hurt. And muscles hurt. And the look of worry on the girl's face made him hate himself more. He tried to hide his weariness behind his stoic mask, but she saw.
"We need to take a break." She touched his shoulder as he shook his head.
"Naw. I'm fine."
"But….." She bit her lip at his lie as she held her knife.
"But nuthin. Yah got enough to worry about. Don't spend time on meh." He stated as Beth stopped in her tracks.
"But I should worry about you. I know you are hurt too. And that you miss Rick and Michonne. And I am sorry that I didn't think to take care of you. It was selfish of me. And I…"
"Naw. It wasn't. Yer dad. He was a good man. And I'm sorry….."He finally said as the girl hugged him. And he slowly hugged her back.
"Thank you for that. And for not stopping me from searching." She looked in his eyes as he nodded.
He had to admit the kid had fight. But he was losing his as his stomach growled. Beth handed him some berries from her bag. This would have to do as they searched through abandoned homes. Finding some aspirin bottles. Stale cereal. And some shirts. Feeling grateful for their discoveries, they kept walking through the small town.
Pulling out the jasper from her pocket, Michonne stared at it. The little token the redneck gave to her. Their little inside joke. It did match the color of his blue eyes. And she did miss him. She would forever miss him. His accent. His silence. His simple words when it was just them. The way his arms fit around her when they…..
"Is that Jasper in your hand?" Carl sat beside her on the step as she nodded. "Dad doesn't want to talk about the prison. Or Judith. Even Mom. But if we don't talk about them, how else will we keep them with us. They taught us so much. He has just given up. He thinks we won't see them again. But I know we will." He looked at his friend's saddened face.
"Michonne. If we don't find them. They will find us. Especially Daryl. You can't tell me that you think he is dead." Her silence made him madder as she gripped the rock tighter.
"I don't know what to think Carl." Michonne sadly said. "I mean Daryl. He."
"He what?" Carl didn't understand why the two didn't believe in their family. That they saw his beliefs as a waste of time. But he knew they weren't.
"Nothing." Michonne said. "Go back inside." Carl stared at her as he returned to house. She was shocked he did. He never did what he was told. But the bond they formed made him respect her.
Like she would tell some child that she wasn't looking for someone out of fear of the unknown. What if Daryl had died? And the fact that she didn't know hurt her more. Keeping her eyes open, she saw two figures from afar. Gripping her katana, she kept her eye on them.
Daryl let the girl place his arm around her shoulder as they kept walking up the gravel road. She was right. He did need to rest because he would be no help if he was this tired. But he didn't want his mind idle. If it was, he would just think of her. But as they passed the homes. His eyes set on the figure from afar. The figure sitting on the steps.
"Do you think they are friendly?" Beth asked as they kept walking.
"Don't get yer hopes up." He informed as his mouth became dry as they walked closer.
Michonne stood up as the two came closer towards the house. Was it really them? Was it Daryl? Her eyes widened as she saw the muscular man being helped by the young blonde. Calling Carl and Rick, she immediately ran to the redneck and child.
"Beth." Michonne said as the woman smiled brightly. "Daryl." She put his arm around her neck as he rested his head on her shoulder. He was here. This wasn't a dream. Tired, but alive. He was allowing her to touch him. To help him. Save him.
He was in haze. All he knew was that he smelled something familiar. The smell of wild cherries and rainstorms. Taking in the scent, he summoned the strength to open his eyes. Lightly grinning at the sight of the dred-locked warrior. Of course she was here with him. She was the only one who smelt like this. Her dark eyes filled with worry as she helped him.
Beth smiled as she saw her guardian lean into the woman's touch. Finally, her optimism had rewarded them.A part of her family was here. And she screamed as Rick and Carl came out the house. The two running towards them, Rick helped his brother up the stairs as they laid him down on the bed in the spare room. A sense of rejoice crashing over them. Giving them the hope that they needed. Maybe the others were alive too.
The five of them in the home. It wasn't like before, but it would do. It would have to. Rick hugged the blonde as Beth placed her head on his chest. If only Judith were here with them. If only she had of taken care of them.
"Judith." She whispered the name as the father and son frowned.
Rick wiped the blonde's tears away. "We will see her one day. We will see them all one day. She is with Hershel and Lori." He sadly said as Carl nodded.
"I'm just glad you guys are back." Carl said as Michonne helped Daryl rest on the bed. She placed the pillow behind the renegade's head as the child saw his father's eyes on the two. So this was who she really cared for. He just hoped his father could accept that.
The warrior took a look at his handsome, stubbled face. Running her fingers through his ruffled hair, the man leaned into her touch. His eyes nearly closed as he found her chocolate ones. The two forgetting that they were being observed by three others as time stopped.
"I ain't tired woman." Daryl mustered enough strength as his body disagreed. "Ya still bossin meh around." The two grinned as the man's body shut down.
Michonne took one last look as they left him behind. He needed this break. But the look in Rick's eyes unsettled her. Did he know?
Rick read her body language as Carl showed Beth to another room. The woman kept staring at the room his brother rested. He knew of the warrior and renegade's connection. The two would look at each other and speak without saying anything at all. As they fought walkers, they moved as one. Why they pretended to not have this connection in front of him, he did not know. Maybe it was for his own benefit.
Though Daryl did not speak of this, he knew the redneck thought that he saw Michonne as his somehow. His brother couldn't go against their leader. Neither could Michonne. The two had their own connection as well. And at times he interpreted it for more than what it was. She was a beautiful strong woman. Different and the same as Lori. But the way she looked at Daryl, she never looked at him as such.
"How long do you think they will be knocked out?" Rick tried to bring her from her reverie as the girl held herself. Never had he seen her so unsettled.
She heard his words, but her mouth would not move. Michonne didn't know whether to be happy to see him or not. Now she was going to have to deal with these feelings she had repressed for so long. But she knew from first experience that the more she hid her feelings the more they exploded. Like Terry. And Mike. And Andre.
"I don't know. They are both really tired." She pretended as if their moment had not happened in the bedroom.
"Michonne. It's alright to care for….." He began.
"Don't. Don't talk to me like we can afford the things we once had in the past world. You know we can't. Every time we think we find a home, something happens to ruin it. Every time I think I find a friend, I lose it."
"But that is the thing. Daryl came back." Rick wanted her to how fortunate she was. He would give anything for Lori and Judith to come back.
"But Hershel didn't. and it is all my fault. And the fact that Beth can look me in the eyes and hug me without yelling at me….." She paused. "I took so much from you guys. And you still call me a friend. How can you?"
"Michonne. You didn't take Hershel away. The Governor did. Just like with Andrea. And the people he convinced to take over the prison." Why could she not believe this?
"Stop saying that like you believe it Rick. It doesn't hide the truth. And you know that. I didn't even want to stay there. If Daryl hadn't made such a big deal for me to I would have never done so."
"so you stayed for Daryl?" He couldn't hide the hurt in his voice as the woman shook her head.
"Yes. No. both. It's just that. I. I just know it was hard for him to admit that he missed me. And though it wasn't direct, I felt I had hurt him. I know we all have experienced abandonment but. Daryl. He just….ugh." She let out a frustrated sigh.
"It was just so much easier just trying to make Carl laugh. Being the mother to him that I would have been to Andre. Being a support system for you both. Reassuring you that you were being a good father. Now that he is back. I just can't believe it. I thought about him every single day. A part of me thought I was tracking him. And now he is so close, but I don't want him to be."
"Michonne." He began as she held up her hand to stop him.
"I don't need you tell me what you think I should do. I just need you to lead us." She said with strength. " And I don't need you to intervene either." He only nodded as he grabbed his gun and knife from the table.
"Well then. Me and Carl are going to run. For once I don't feel like I'm about to die. I need the air and we need to bond." He stated as she nodded.
"Be careful." She warned her brother.
He lay still on the hard ground as the warrior sat beside him. Their eyes on the stars and moon as he stared at the ebony queen. Her hard eyes were now softer. It was something he noticed rarely. But when it happened, he could not overlook it. Licking his chapped lips, his finger traced her cheek as she turned her attention towards him.
"Why can't life be like this for a little bit longer?" Her saddened voice surprised him. She was so strong. Never breaking down in front of others. But she chose him to ask this question to.
"I don't know 'Chonne." He tensed as she leaned into his touch. "A part of meh thought that we wouldn't have to live like this for so long. That our lives would be cut so short. Well at least yers. I never had much to look forward to no ways." Their eyes met as he continued to stroke her cheek.
"Do you have anything to look forward to now?" She scooted closer to him as he became still. She had always given him casual touches on the shoulder. But never had she placed a hand on his chest.
"I think I do." He said as the girl folded her lips. Mentally debating a decision.
"Me too." Laying her head on his chest. He didn't stop her. Much to her surprise.
"I'm glad ya decided to stay. With meh." He held her in his arms as she rested her head on his chest.
"Me too." She stated as he began to open his mouth. "Don't." She put a finger on his mouth. "Let's just stay like this."
He knew this was a dream. Because here he could finally hold her. Tell her how he felt. And know that she felt the same way. When she looked at him, his heart stopped. He finally found her. But she found Rick first. And she and he were both loyal to him. He had already lost one brother.
But he knew he saw that look in her eyes. No he didn't. That was only his mind. That look she only gave him when they went on runs together. It was only friendship. Friends saved one another. The look he thought that said he mattered to someone. To her. Like she would tell him that she wanted him.
And as the door creaked open, he shut his eyes as he recognized her light steps.
Michonne peeked inside the room as she headed towards the bed. This would be the only time where she could marvel his features. It was so hard for her to be a woman after this apocalypse. But he made her want to be one. Sitting down gently, she watched his chest move up and down slowly. The two had been asleep for practically the whole day. And her fingers had a mind of their own as she touched his face. The many times she wanted to do this on their runs together. She didn't even know when this attraction began.
But she jumped as his hand quickly grasped her wrist. His eyes opening slowly as he would not let her leave his side. Their eyes bore into one another as she held her breath. Swallowing the lump inside her throat.
"What are ya doin? I mean. Is everything all right?" He asked as she couldn't get her words together. "Did ya have another dream about Andre?" He sat up as the warrior's mouth dropped. Kicking himself mentally, he forgot that he wasn't supposed to know this. And he caused more harm than good.
"Sorry. I. Ya talk in yer sleep. I just never brought it up." He waited for her to register his words as she nodded.
She didn't know how she was supposed to act at his question. He was just concerned. But why was he?
"Why didn't you tell me that you knew?" She asked as the silence engulfed them. Sitting beside him on the bed, the man avoided her gaze. His eyes on her small hands that he continued to grip her wrist.
"I just figured that if ya wanted me to know you would tell me." He hid his blush. He wondered how she would react if he told her that he had to hold her to keep her from screaming too loud. That the minute he embraced her in his arms, she would immediately calm down.
"It just didn't seem right for me to tell you and you were dealing with Merle's death." She eyed his hand around her wrist as he let her hand go.
"Sorry." He bit his lip.
"No. you have nothing to be sorry about. I'm the one who keeps my defenses up. I try to block out my emotions so that they come out during my dreams. It was bound for you to hear a couple of them." She stated as his mind began to wonder.
On Rick. Had the two grown closer since they reunited. Did he know of her past life? Mike and Terry? Her son. The son that she would never get to hold again. The son that he was sure would have grown up to be just as strong as she is. Of course the leader knew. He was respected by all. But he was still the redneck. And he would forever be in her eyes. Rick deserved the woman. Carl deserved another mother. And he deserved to watch them be happy.
"Daryl?" He did not answer her as his mind traveled. Grazing her thumb lightly against his cheek, he jumped at the womanly touch. "What were you thinking about?"
"Nuthin. Just glad yer here. At least ya didn't run off this time." He sadly said as she bit her lip.
"every time I think about what happened. I hate myself for not being able to save ya two. I should have gone with ya and Hershel. I could have spared us from all of this."
"It's not your fault. " Cupping his face as the two heard Rick's footsteps walk through the hall. "Nor is it Rick's."
"It don't matter. I didn't do my all tah protect ya. I was pressin ya so hard tah stay. And ya finally did. And then this happened." Rick listened out of view. His brother did have strong feelings for the woman.
"I stayed because I wanted to. For you." Her words slipped out as he looked at her. A look of shock on her face. She didn't mean to say that.
He wasn't a man of words. and he also didn't know to much about body language. But he knew when someone was telling the truth. And her eyes told him that. He wasn't the man in his dreams. Assertive when it came to getting what he wanted. And he wanted to grab what was right in front of him. The chocolate warrior avoided his eyes as he gently touched her chin. His actions shocking himself. But if he couldn't have her, he could at least steal a memory.
"I mean I also stayed for Rick. For carl." She added as the man grazed a thumb over her lips. "For…." The look in his eyes stopped her.
And her heart and pulse quickened as he leaned in slowly. His breath on her lips as he looked for approval in her eyes. Nodding, his lips cut her off as they melted with hers. She would have never thought Daryl would be the first to initiate a kiss. His soft lips moving with hers as her hands cupped his neck.
It was a good memory to steal. To pretend that Rick was not his competition. That he was the only one who had her heart. This woman was making him go out of his comfort zone. He was always scared of showing others how he truly felt. But as their kiss deepened, the fear was no longer there. But his heart ached as she broke away.
"What did we just do?" She asked as she touched her lips. Her breathing staggering as she saw the same expression on his face.
"I know you want to be with Rick. And I know that I was being selfish for doing that. But i….it don't matter anyways. Be happy with him." She listened to his words as her head shook.
"What?" The realization hit her. "You think I want to be with Rick?"
"Why wouldn't ya? Any woman would over meh. The way he looks at you. The way he can express himself in the way that I cant."
"Daryl. What you see is comradery. Nothing else. I do care for him and Carl. But I…I missed you. And now I'm even more confused because what does this mean?" He could not answer her question.
The leader's heart hurt as he watched the two together. But he would not be self-seeking. Daryl needed this. To feel real affection from someone who cared for him in a different way. He wouldn't stop this. And through his own sadness, he was happy for his brother. He was proud of his brother.
Daryl was too shocked at her words. She only saw him in this light. He finally wasn't second best to any man. All the times he caught her staring at him. The worry she had in her eyes for him when their backs were against the wall with walkers. She was mentally battling with herself. But he was done with this. He would take what was his.
"Am I just supposed to tell you that this month without you was torture? Pure hell. That I dreamt about you and Andre. That I thought I would only see you in death." Her rhetorical question was more so of a proclamation as their eyes met again.
"I dreamt about ya too. And Merle. Michonne I don't have tha answers. But I can't help how I feel about ya. And for once I am sayin it out loud. Ya can't ignore it either."
"It isn't fair that we get to be happy after what happened. With Hershel. With Judith. Beth, Carl and Rick are emotional messes. How can we just get together and not think about that? Don't you get it? We are apart of something bigger than ourselves."
"So we are just 'posed to ignore what just happened. Or how much we depended on eachother to survive in the past. Chonne I can't. And for once I deserve to be selfish. I don't just do this. Kiss someone just to do it. And I don't think ya do either."
She didn't know when he became like this. The conviction in his light eyes and voice. Grabbing his hand, she kissed it. Her hand moving over his biceps. The strong arms that held her. The times she woke up in the middle of the night to find herself in them. But she did not pull away. If anything she gave more of herself to him. But she removed herself from his arms before he woke.
"I know she doesn't." The two jumped as Rick came inside. His expression became stoic as their fingers laced. But Daryl avoided his eyes. He had nothing to be guilty about.
"Rick. I." Daryl began.
"No. You two don't need to explain to me how you both feel. And I'm sorry that I made you guys feel as if you did. I want you to be together if that is what you want. Is it?" He asked as the two nodded.
"Then be together." He left the two alone. Both no knowing whether to be mad at their leader for eavesdropping or thanking him for intervening.
Daryl was still new to this. Having someone who sparked this flame inside of him. But this warmness he felt as she scooted closer to him was not something he wanted to forget. These feelings weren't just infatuation. Or some need to fill the void in their hearts. They weren't trying to replace Merle and Andre with each other. This was just a natural, unexplainable attraction that he had to give into again.
"'Chonne. I." He began as the woman cut him off with her lips. Straddling his waist, she hoped she was telling him all she needed to. That no other man mattered to her. That she needed him to breathe. Smiling into the kiss as she felt her rough man relax more. Placing his calloused hands around her waist as he deepened their innocent, passionate kiss.
And Rick walked away at the sight of this. A sense of joy overwhelmed him. For once his brother and sister were not afraid to feel. To live. To love.