Don't own TWD
A/N: Hi, everyone! My apologies on the late update.
I was asked if LAS was going to follow some plot from the show and I want to say that it will but just a tad (even though these past few chapters have followed the show's plot pretty closely). It really wasn't my attention but beyond this point I'm going to try and divert from the show a lot more and get LAS back on its own track.
CH 67- No Such Luck
There was stillness in Alexandria after that night. Things seemed to calm with the stillness of it all like the first crisp sunshine after a dark storm. The stillness was even felt outside beyond the walls of the safe zone, in the near by woods where Daryl found himself scouting through the foliage. However, that tranquility was interrupted by the quick and swift footsteps behind him.
Daryl paused and looked over his shoulder. "What did I tell ya about laggin' behind?"
Charlie emerged from behind him. Raccoon tail hat on her head, backpack on her back, hands on the straps and a light of excitement in her big blues. She smiled up at her father, unfazed by his annoyed tone of voice.
Daryl ushered her forward so she'd be in front of him. "Yeah, sorry ain't gon' cut it when I gotta explain to yer ma why ya got a walker bite on yer gullet." He followed after her.
After hours of contemplation and a mild argument, Daryl convinced Beth to let him take the girl out hunting with him. He had woken that morning with a strong craving for venison and nothing could keep his mind off it. He assured Beth he wouldn't venture too far. There were plenty of streams and rivers near Alexandria and he was sure they would come close to a deer in the first few hours of their hunt.
Charlie was dying to set foot outside of the safe zone. The normality of it all was too much to handle and she squirmed with boredom and curiosity.
"Ya can take the girl out of the wild but ya can't take the wild out of the girl." Daryl had said and he strongly believed it. He and his own had grown too used to the apocalypse that a normal life seemed to be the odd one out.
"I ain't gon' git bit!" She argued, tired of being warned of things she already knew of. She hadn't forgotten what life was like outside the walls. She never would.
"Shh, keep yer voice down, girl." Daryl warned her, "An' keep yer attention on the trail."
"I know, I know." Charlie's eyes fell down to the trail. They weren't following anything and Charlie had a hunch they weren't going to find or eat any venison.
Without warning, Charlie stopped in her tracks and turned around halfway, placing her index finger to her lips. Daryl grabbed his crossbow and aimed it forward. "What'd ya hear?" He whispered.
Charlie listened closely and answered in a whisper, "Walker."
"Get behind me." Daryl ordered.
"I thought ya said to stay in front of ya. Daddy, make up yer damn mind."
"Ay!" He nudged her arm, "Best not let me hear ya talkin' like that 'gain or I'll hang you by yer feet over the fence."
"Ya say naughty words all the time." She frowned at him.
"Stop bein' a smart ass an' listen."
Charlie rolled her eyes and got behind Daryl. She followed him a few yards in the direction of the wheezing and cracking. A few more steps and they discovered the rotting body of a woman tied to a tree. Her long blond hair was still attached to her head but her skin was a grayish pale color, slowly sagging off her body. By the looks of it, she must have been dead for at least a week.
"Careful." Daryl reminded Charlie as they approached the body.
The dead woman noticed their presence and began to flail about, attempting to break her arms free of the ropes that kept her tethered to the tree. The stench was overwhelming; Daryl didn't know how they could stomach it. It wasn't something anyone got used to.
Charlie stepped from behind Daryl and took a step forward, heading her father's warning but letting her curiosity loose just a little.
"Damn." Daryl muttered.
"Daddy, watch yer language." Charlie reminded him, her eyes still on the body. She frowned and tilted her head to the side. "Daddy, what's that squiggle on 'er forehead?" She pointed up at the walker.
"What?" Daryl took a closer look at the walker and noticed a 'W' had been carved on the skin of her forehead.
"S'a double-u." He explained to her, "You know that."
"Why's it there? Who put it there?"
"Dunno." He stood next to Charlie, continuing to stare at the walker that attempted with all its might to loosen itself and attack.
Daryl reached into his belt and brought out his knife, stabbing the walker through the side of the head. "Noisy bitch." He muttered, "Gon' wake up the whole damn forest." He hadn't meant to curse in front of Charlie. He never did mean to but she had heard far worse and seen far worse.
The two returned back to Alexandria with empty hands and no venison to show for it. It would be dark in a couple of hours and Daryl didn't want to risk getting Charlie stuck out there in the dark.
Charlie went ahead of him towards the large doors. Sasha was positioned on top, gun in hand, keeping watch. She saw them approaching and gestured down at Eugene to open the door for them.
Daryl reached over and grabbed Charlie by the shoulder, stopping her. "Ey, best not tell no one about that walker we saw. Alright?"
"Why?" She glanced up at him, eyes slightly squinting from the sun.
"Don't want anyone to worry is all."
"Why would they worry? Was it somethin' bad?"
"Dunno. Just don't want people thinkin' the worst."
Charlie gave Daryl a salute, "Aye aye, Cap'n."
Daryl snorted and followed after her in through the gates of Alexandria.
That night Daryl and his small family sat around the round dinner table eating quietly. They ate what Beth had prepared with their shared portions of the day. The pantry was running low on food and Hamburger Helper was one of the remaining options that Olivia had for them that day. So Beth did her best with what she could.
"Charlie, sit on your bottom please." Beth told Charlie who had crouched on her feet upon the chair, reaching forward to grab her glass of water.
Charlie fell back down on her bottom, obeying right away, while Daryl placed the glass in front of her and she took a hold of it with both hands.
"Did you guys have a good time out huntin'?" Beth asked. It still felt surreal having her family sit at a dinner table.
Charlie set the glass down after taking a big gulp of water. "Lots!" Charlie perked up, the coon hat still on her head, "Daddy and I saw—" She cut herself short when she saw Daryl's stern look.
"Charles, what you see?" Beth asked, laughing lightly at the girl's curious behavior.
"We saw a blue jay." Charlie perked up again, "An—and then we saw a badger!"
"Now yer just lyin'." Daryl chuckled.
"A badger?" Beth mused, "Is that so?"
"Yeah, it's so." Charlie picked up a fork full of her Hamburger Helper and stuffed it in her mouth.
"Are ya sure ya didn't see it in that animal book of yours?"
Beth laughed, "Thought so."
Daryl shook his head, "Weren't much out there. Kinda quiet."
Beth sighed, "That's good. Better than not."
"Yeah." He agreed and set his fork down.
Daryl hated lying to Beth but he didn't want to worry her. Especially when Charlie was out there with him. Still, he knew he had to tell her and he would do so just before they readied themselves for bed.
Being tangled in her arms during the night was like a dream Daryl never wanted to wake from. The warmth and softness of her skin felt like the perfect home he had always dreamed of. Her voice whispering in his ear was mesmerizing. Her fingertips digging into the skin of his back as she moaned was just a little taste of heaven. However, every moment of passion was a risk. A risk of repeating the past but they were in Alexandria now, if anything happened, at least they would be safe.
Daryl kissed the skin along Beth's collarbones, feeling himself go deeper and deeper in pure bliss. She giggled at his soft kisses; he knew she was ticklish. He had discovered that the night they conceived Charlie. She felt so fragile lying beneath him but her hands brought him closer in. He thanked Denise for those magical little pink pills she had snuck Beth while no one else looked. Such luxuries were hard to come by but they were lucky. In those days, they were always lucky.
When they lay side by side, regaining their breath, Beth perched up on her elbow, facing Daryl. The room was dark, she could barely make the profile of his face but even in the dark she could tell he was pensive.
"I'm surprised she's still asleep."
"That's a good thing." Daryl muttered.
Beth gave out a soft laugh, "That's true. Must be tired from her long day." She turned around and reached down on the floor to retrieve her shirt and slipped it on followed by her underwear. Daryl just watched the silhouette of her body.
"We saw somethin' out there."
Beth stopped moving for just a moment and turned on the light. Her big blue eyes filled with worry. "What?"
Daryl didn't answer right away.
"Daryl, what did you see?"
Daryl sat up, "There was a walker tied to a tree. Had some weird marking carved on its forehead."
Beth was unsettled by this, "Who would do that?"
He shrugged, "Dunno. Just hope whoever did that doesn't show their faces 'round here."
Beth let her eyes fall upon the bed for a moment. Daryl reached over and placed his hand upon hers. "C'mere."
Beth crawled over to him and buried herself in his arms.
"Don't want ya to worry 'bout that." He told her, resting his cheek on her head, "There's crazy fucks out there, don't mean they're comin' for us."
Beth nodded. "Yes, I know. But it's still unsettling."
"We'll be fine."
"I know. I trust you." She glanced up at him and kissed him, "We'll always be safe with you."
"C'mon, Daddy! C'mon!" Charlie dragged Daryl towards the gate of Alexandria. They were off to another hunt and the girl was as excited as could be. She loved the feeling of being beyond the safe gates but understood the risks of what could happen.
Daryl nodded at Eugene who opened the gate and let them out. They were just out for a stroll, Daryl told himself. There would be no heroics, no scouting. Nothing to put the girl in bigger danger. Still, he had lived out in the dangerous world with her for so long that it felt no different. It felt normal.
They came across their first walker just meters from the entrance. Charlie hid behind a tree while Daryl pulled his knife out and took care of it. The lonely straggler had on tattered clothes, sticking to the rotting flesh of the corpse, stained with dried blood and fluids of decomposition. Entrails were spilling out of its gut, having caught itself somewhere by the looks of it. Once Daryl took it down with one swift motion, Charlie jumped from behind the tree and joined him to inspect the body.
"That one ain't got no double-yah on its forehead." She pointed out.
"Yeah, it don't." Daryl agreed, somewhat relieved that it hadn't been the case. He nudged her arm, "C'mon."
They continued to search through the woods. Daryl managed to snag a squirrel with Charlie's help. She liked to help him hold the crossbow while he aimed and shot the target. However, they had no luck in finding a deer. By that point Daryl had figured they wouldn't unless they searched deeper into the forest but he wouldn't risk it with Charlie at his side.
Or so Daryl had thought. In a quick, swift motion. Charlie gripped his wrist with a grip so tight Daryl immediately stood in front of her and positioned his weapon to shoot and kill. He didn't think twice and when his adrenaline finally settled enough, Daryl saw a young buck several meters from where they were standing.
It stood still, ears twitching at every sound, dark eyes ahead and alert. Daryl could almost taste the venison but when he steadied the crossbow to shoot and take down the buck, a branch cracked and the animal set off.
"Sum'bitch." Daryl muttered under his breath and followed after the animal with Charlie at his heels.
They followed the tracks along the dirt and mud uphill until they disappeared into the foliage. Charlie panted, catching her breath. Her cheeks were rosy red and she wiped her brow with the back of her little hand. "Where to now, Daddy?"
"Damn critter went west by the looks of it." Daryl knelt down to study the last visible hoof print on the dirt before it disappeared into the grass. "Could still find it. Gonna take all evenin'."
"It be night time by then." Charlie looked around their surroundings, not recognizing where they were.
"Bet it will be. Ain't no point in riskin' our skins for that." He stood back up and glanced up at Charlie. She had made a face as if something had stunk up her nostrils. "What? Ya gotta go?"
Charlie kept the cringe on her face and it wasn't long before the breeze hit Daryl and he smelled the rotten scent that had hit Charlie first. It smelled like the dead.
A whole lot of them.
"The hell is that?"
Charlie followed after Daryl uphill to the ledge to investigate where the scent was emanating from. She stopped short when they reached the ledge of the clearing that lead about half a mile down to a rock quarry. Her eyes glossed over with a look of both fear and amazement and her lips parted, wanting to speak but unable to find the words.
The quarry was filled with countless bodies, aimlessly roaming about in mass waves of rotten stench and decay. Flies swarmed the air and the sound was almost as bad as the smell. There must have been hundreds of them, Daryl thought. Then he noticed a port of the horde trying to push past a few trailers parked along the entrance of the quarry as if someone had parked them there to intentionally trap them in.
"Holy hell, Daddy." Charlie finally found her voice, grabbing Daryl's hand. "That ain't look too good."
"Nah," Daryl agreed, not bothering to scold her language, "It don't."