Disclaimer: I do not own TWD.
A/N: Been working on a few Walking Dead fics during the summer and decided to try this one out and see how it works out. Please let me know what you think!
Look Alive, Sunshine
CH 1 – Last Ones Standing
He could hear the wheezing moans as footsteps dragged themselves closer and closer. The second thing he heard was his shallow breathing followed by the sound of his beating heart, crashing over and over against his chest. Every Walker he encountered was a great sense of fear for Daryl Dixon. Every single raid, every single attack was a dangerous risk but it was one he had to take. However, there was once a time in where he didn't fear death and gambled with his life, dangling it in the face of danger. However, times had changed and now he had a greater reason to stay alive.
Daryl pressed himself against the wall. He clutched the overused arrow in his grasp ready to strike. He had hoped that they could finally settle down for a night without the worry of straggling Walkers.
The floorboards creaked as the Walker approached. It reared its ugly head around the corner, rotten teeth exposed and ready to bite. Daryl stepped out, stabbing the walker through the head with great force and little effort. He yanked the arrow back; rotten blood splattered the wall staining the flowered wallpaper.
The Walker's limp body fell to the ground with a heavy thud. Daryl flicked the arrow clean of the Walker's blood. "Filthy bastard." He spat under his breath as he kicked the body aside and quickly exited the room.
Daryl made his way through the abandoned farmhouse and in to the kitchen. He hurried to the pantry and opened it. Inside, on the floor, sat a little girl, no older than five. Her face was dirty and her clothes were ragged and torn. She sat against the wall, her knees to her chest and her hands to her ears. She was the sole reason why Daryl Dixon now feared for his life because without him she would be alone in such an ugly world. She just wouldn't survive without him.
Daryl relaxed upon seeing the child, his child, unharmed where he had left her.
"Come on, sweetheart. Let's go." He extended his hand out to her.
Charlie Dixon let her hands fall from her ears and looked up at Daryl with brilliant blue eyes. Without hesitation, she raised her tiny hand and grasped his.
"Okay, again." Daryl said as he sat against the wall of the barn's loft. He picked clean the bone of an opossum he had shot down earlier in the afternoon. A lantern sat besides them on low.
The little girl sat across from him, her legs crossed beneath her. The two had found refuge up in the loft of the barn out back. Daryl felt safer above ground where they would be safe if he were to doze off. A five year old couldn't quite keep watch and he was running on fumes. They had been traveling for days, the two of them alone. Forever wandering Georgia looking for the family they weren't sure they would ever find.
"''Gain?" Charlie scrunched her nose; "I just done it like a million times." She had this defiant look in her face that reminded Daryl of her mother, or better yet, of himself.
"Ya wanna learn, don't ya?"
"Nu-uh." She said shook her head. Her long mouse colored hair flew back and forth. Her hair was reaching past her shoulders and it made Daryl uneasy. He knew he was going to cut it soon; it was just too big of a liability.
Daryl scoffed. "Charlie, was yer Ma gon' say when she finds out I didn' teach ya how ta read?" He said remembering Beth. Despite the fact that the world had gone to shit, Daryl knew Beth wanted their child to grow to be well educated.
"Daryl Dixon," she had said, "An apocalypse is no excuse for illiteracy."
And Daryl just knew if they ever saw her again, she'd hang him out to dry knowing that he had let their child grow like a wild little animal. She'd probably even castrate him as well for calling her Charlie instead of the name she was given at birth. Charlotte was just too much of a mouth full for him but Beth wanted to name her after Herschel's mother and Daryl wasn't going to fight her on that. Besides, it took Beth a bit of convincing to let him give the child his last name. Daryl wasn't the type of man to let any of his children go unclaimed (if he ever had children, that is).
Charlie groaned giving up. "Okay." And for what according to Charlie was the millionth time, she recited her ABC's only messing up a few times.
Daryl chuckled lightly. "Atta girl."
Charlie grinned at his approval and moved closer lying at his side. She snuggled her head on his lap, comforted by his warmth. She glanced at the lantern watching the soft light until her eyes began to close. Her belly was full of opossum and some canned corn; she was exhausted from their never-ending travels. However, it was the only life Charlie Dixon knew: the life of enduring and surviving.
Daryl grabbed the musty old blanket and draped it over her. The nights were growing colder and winter was around the corner. Daryl knew he had to act fast before they were caught in another unforgiving winter.
"Sleep tight, lil' girl." He said and lowered the lantern's light so Charlie could rest easy.
The first thing Daryl noticed when he awoke the following morning were the cobwebs on the ceiling of the barn followed by the rays of light seeping in through the small rounded window. He had managed only a few hours of sleep and his body still felt stiff. He wouldn't deny the fact that he could use a few more hours of sleep. Daryl extended his hand for Charlie but the space was empty.
Daryl instantly sat up reaching for his crossbow when he spotted her kneeling by the window, glancing out in to the farm. Daryl's panicked heart settled to calm and he released his hold on his weapon.
"What'r ya doin' over there?" He asked annoyed and tense. His heart had almost leaped out of his chest when he realized the girl was not at his side.
"Lookin'." She answered not turning to glance in his direction.
Daryl shook his head and pulled himself up to his feet. "Well, how's 'bout ya help me look for some food." It was more of an order than a question.
"Kay, Daddy." Charlie said and instantly jumped up to her feet. Daryl's heart always fluttered when she called him that. Sometimes he still couldn't believe he had helped in the creation of a child, well, that child in particular.
He grunted softly as he watched her walk past him with a kick to her step. It was as if the ugly world didn't terrify her and Daryl didn't know if he should have been proud or worried.
The two made their way to the farmhouse where they had been earlier the day before. Charlie trotted a few steps in front of Daryl. She held the switchblade he had given her in her little hand. He liked to keep the girl with in his sight at all times.
"Wait here." He ordered when they reached the bottom steps of the porch. Daryl opened the backdoor and raised his hand. Charlie instantly stopped very familiar with the drill. She was never to go anywhere without Daryl checking the perimeter first.
Once the coast was clear, Daryl ushered Charlie inside. Charlie hurried quickly to Daryl's side; curiosity filled her as she scanned the farmhouse. She stepped out from his side and wandered down the hall when she saw the Walker's body and took a step back bumping in to Daryl's leg.
"Don't worry, girl. S'dead." He reassured her and continued his way in to the kitchen.
The two of them raided the kitchen for anything they would need. Daryl checked the high cabinets finding them empty. He checked the drawers where he found a packet of matches. Meanwhile, Charlie checked the bottom cabinets closer to her height. She rummaged through them managing to pull out a few cans of corn and one can of pears.
"Daddy!" She cried out excitedly.
Daryl jumped at her high-pitched squeal, almost dropping the matches he had found. Charlie had a bad habit of startling him with her excitement. Her shrills were loud enough to wake the dead if they weren't already awake. "Damn it, girl, not so loud!" He scolded her.
Charlie paid no mind and ran to his side with the cans of food she found. "Look it what I found." She beamed.
Daryl grabbed one of the cans and inspected it. A soft smile played along his lips as he let his heavy hand fall upon Charlie's head and ruffled her already matted hair. "Atta girl, Charlie."
Charlie giggled with glee at her father's approval. It wasn't always she received it. Daryl wasn't the type to talk much or speak out his feelings. He did however have a soft spot for children, much like Judith but he hadn't seen the Little Asskicker in years. She must have been about six or seven years old if she was still alive. After all, she was about a year and a half older than Charlie.
Still, it was different with Charlie. Judith was Rick's responsibility. Charlie was Daryl's and that was a big responsibility. Especially in the world they lived in. And Daryl lived in fear; if anything happened to him Charlie would be all alone. At least in the group someone would be able to watch over her and step up in his absence. Daryl had a big responsibility on his hands. One he hoped he never failed.