This is the epilogue. We're here. It seems weird after the time I've put into this story. It's sad. I was so ready for it to end but half way through this I started getting all sad. I'm going to miss this story more than any I've written to date. Maybe in time I'll come back to this AU, maybe a sequel. Who knows but this is what we got now. I'm thankful for all my readers who've went on this ride with me and experience my chaotic little world. You all are fantastic!
This chapter sucks to me. Just so much to be said...
Running hard enough to feel her heart beat a drumline against her ribs, she charged on. Breath rushing, chest heaving, eyes focused- this time she was bulletproof. The sun was scorching across her shoulders and making her hair cling to her sweaty skin. It was making the day feel cloying and heavy, the wind was sound of rushing water had her pushing her legs even harder, the burn of the overuse of muscles making her grit her teeth.
Sophia smiled when a down tree slowed her prey down but it still wasn't enough. This was further then she'd been in a while and it was showing as she didn't know the ground as good. Vaulting the few downed pines between her and it she gasped as the deer was suddenly felled. Legs locking Sophia grunted as her knees buckled and she almost went down. Boots skidding to a stop forcing the dirt to push ruts into place, she looked up into the smug eyes of none other than Brian Dixon. He was disheveled like always but now had a fine sheen of sweat and mud over him. Pine needles clung to his arm and neck where he'd hit the ground with the deer.
Brian was standing tall over the kill. He wasn't looking at her but down to the deer as it took it's last breaths. His knife was in his hand and she'd not even seen it before. He squatted over it running his hand down it's neck and spoke quietly. She knew what this was because she'd seen her own father and his do this for years. It was always smart to be thankful for what you had and give thanks. To honor your kill, it was something Daryl made sure she understood.
Brian's voice dropped off as the panting of the deer grew and he drove the knife into it's chest sharply. It'd died instantly. He looked up at her then and tilted his head as the sun hit his eyes. Sophia shifted without thought blocking the sun. He'd came out of nowhere and took the deer without her ever realizing he'd gotten by her. He was more like her dad than she ever thought possible at times.
"What took you so long?" He quipped.
Sophia pushed her hair back and sighed. How did he not look a bit winded? "Don't be a braggart Brian, no one likes them."
He barked out a laugh and shook his head. "Getting slow."
"Bitch." He grunted as he rolled the deer.
Sophia swung her pack around and started digging. She tossed rope down to him and pulled her pack off her shoulders. Brian stood just as she eyed the few trees around. He raised a brow at her and Sophia shrugged. Grabbing the rope she tossed it over her shoulders and motioned him over.
"Need a foot up."
Brian walked to her as she got in position. They needed to move fast with the scent of blood in the air. Brian's hand caught her foot as she stepped and his other hit right at her ass thrusting her up and she felt her face flame. Catching the lowest branch she swung herself up and into the tree. She didn't dare look down for fear of meeting his knowing eyes. Scuttling quickly to the strongest branch she started tying off the rope to string the deer up.
Sophia dropped the rope down when she was ready and watched quietly as Brian got the deer ready. He was quicker than her at skinning and cleaning them but then she'd never really took to those lessons. Of course Merle found that amusing but then she'd always pushed it off on Brian. They were trained as a team and this was just something he could do.
When the guts hit the ground at his boots he was already walking to the tree. Sophia quickly untied the rope and Brian huffed at her.
"I'm going as fast as I can." Sophia snapped. "No one told you to stop what you were doing anyways."
"Remember you said that." He snorted walking away.
Sophia wrapped the rope around herself and started scuttling. Even after eight years of knowing him she wanted to choke him at times. It was weird when she thought about it. They'd been so young when they met. They were almost like brother and sister but really not. Not at all. If that were true then she was going to burn in hell for the thoughts she had because no sister should ever think that way about her brother.
Staring down from the tree she grit her teeth knowing he was going to be a smartass. If she tried to jump she was likely to hurt her ankle. He knew that. He knew she'd need his help. He was a bag of dicks.
"Brian." Sophia muttered.
He ignored her and finished tying off the deer's legs. Sophia rubbed her face and stared over at him. She was considering the hurt ankle to his smug self.
"I won't beg. " Sophia spoke louder, "You aren't going to make me beg."
Brian looked up at her then and smiled. Her breath shuddered in her chest and he stood fluidly. Where he got his grace she wasn't sure because Mac wasn't like that. Maybe he picked it up from Andrea after she came around. Or her own mom because Mac was like a bull in a china shop.
He stood below her and motioned her down. When she got as far as she could he caught her and she was on her feet just as fast.
"Now was that so damn hard?"
The trip back was slower but she expected that. With her watching his back they moved slower, more cautious since he was weighted down. She could only imagine what her mom and dad were thinking. They'd been gone four days. Longer than she'd ever took off before outside the walls.
The sun was setting and Sophia knew if they could just make it to the truck then she could get them back before sun was all the way down. Brian looked to the sky and blew out a breath. Sophia fished her water out and stopped him. He raised a brow and she forced him to tip his head and drink water.
She knew her mom and dad weren't so much worried about her skills with her being out here. It wasn't even that she was gone outside the walls because so long as it was her with Brian her dad didn't worry anything like she'd seen before. Sophia felt safer with him. Always would because she knew that Brian would always be there. He'd always have her back. She'd known that for years. And maybe that's when things changed. Sure she'd seen him as more of a brother at the time when she'd first met him. She'd always wanted a brother or sister growing up but never got one, that was until Daryl. Seeing that he had a nephew made her think she got her wish.
Brian told her years ago he'd never seen her as a sister and told her to stop being weird. It'd made her laugh at the time because she didn't understand him. That was new too because she thought she knew him better than anyone. But after he'd killed to get to her and saved her, after he'd got her out of there and away from that massacre her entire world shifted. That look in his eyes was something that haunted her for years trying to figure out.
It wasn't until she seen her own dad kill a man over her mom that she knew why Brain never seen her as a sister. Why he always put her first and continued too. It scared her and she avoided him for a while. Refused to see they weren't kids anymore with a small crush because it made her face her own feelings. Unlike her mom and dad she'd been a coward where they were concerned. Looking back now she knew she lead him on and he'd willingly followed her even though there were other girls their age around. Girls who still flirted with him and followed him around.
Sophia glanced over at him taking in his profile. Sweat was soaking his hair and she watched a drop as it beaded and gather at the tip of his nose. He grimaced once as it dropped away and he straightened his back more. Avoiding him wasn't smart. She was trying to make up for it with coming out here to hunt with him but after avoiding him for three months she could see the tension in him.
"You're mad at me."
He looked over at her but said nothing.
"I am a bitch."
"I've been telling you that for years." He grunted.
Sophia sighed as they neared the road. "I'm sorry."
"I want to make sure of what you're saying sorry for? Avoiding me, right?"
Sophia looked over at him but he wasn't looking at her and his thick hair was falling over his forehead.
He shook his head and picked his pace up. Sophia grit her teeth and restrained herself from slapping him. It wouldn't do good to slap him in her apology. She rushed forward just as he got to the truck and dropped the tailgate for him. He dumped the deer and jumped up in after it. Blood was coating his back and shoulders, it was up his neck and arms. He looked like he'd slaughtered someone and splashed the blood all over himself. The sweat on himself was making tracks in it. Despite all the gore Sophia knew that he was handsome.
He tied it off and jumped out and slammed the tailgate. Sophia jumped and he tossed the keys to her. He hardly ever let her drive. He told her she drove like a idiot and most of the time took over. He started wiping his arms off before getting into the truck and Sophia followed him. She followed his lead and got into the truck.
When he was settled he yawned and stretched out. His eyes were half mast but she knew he was wide awake. He had the ability to exude the air of complete indifference even when his high strung ass was freaking out.
"Are you going to keep ignoring me?"
He lazily rolled his head in her direction, "Since when was I ignoring you? I've had watch, I've had to hunt, I've been helping my dad and uncles. I've been busy." He shifted and shook his head, "You switched watch times, you stopped partnering to go hunting, you started leaving rooms if I came into them. I wasn't ignoring you because you made it damn obvious I wasn't wanted around."
Sophia flinched at his words. Why was she so awkward? Why couldn't she just tell him that her entire world flipped on its ear when she realized that it wasn't a familial bond she felt for him. That she thought about stabbing Tasha when she seen her fluttering her tarty eyes at him? That realizing that she was in love with her best friend scared the shit out of her because it'd hurt even more to lose him? That if she could distance herself now that it'd hurt less when something happened. That the distance only made her miss him to the point she considered crawling into her parents bed like a twenty three year old baby.
"I don't need a explanation Sophia." his voice was deeper and she knew he was getting tired. "Just don't fuck with my goddamn head. If you aren't going to be around then don't get mad at me for still living."
She looked over and felt her chest tighten. Had he moved on? Panic seized her.
Stomping the break he was threw forward. He his hand slammed the dash the same time she spun towards him.
"What the everloving fuck is wrong with you?" He barked.
"I love you."
He stopped shaking his wrist and stared at the dash. His chest heaved. Sophia barely had time to get her seatbelt undone before he jerked her forward. His mouth caught hers and all the fear she felt before vanished. Her arms went around his neck and he hauled her up against himself completely, forcing her to straddle his lap. A groan tore from his throat the same time her weight dropped into his lap and his grip tightened on her waist. instead of feeling anxiety at how new this all was, she just felt heat rush through her.
Sophia's hands dropped away from his hair and straight to his belt. She was jerking it open when he caught her wrist and broke the kiss. His eyes were darker and his breathing was rushing around her.
Sophia shook her head and popped the button on his jeans. "No." She kissed down his jaw, "I've been yours for eight years, I'm not waiting anymore."
"Fuck." He muttered as he started working her shirt off.
"You're all that I want." Sophia's voice was breathy.
Daryl watched as the storm rolled in bringing the scent of rain and a break from the heat. He welcomed it. The thunder was loud in the distance and he could see the flashes of lightning as the storm danced across the sky. It was always calming for him to watch, knowing that mother nature was taking everything back. Woodbury still stood though and was stronger than ever. Reinforced walls, people ready to do what was needed, and a will to survive. They found new people every so often but it was getting thinner and thinner out there. He knew that one day they'd stop finding people altogether or just stop looking. There were a few settlements springing up and they traded at times but for the most part they were isolated, it worked for them. They were self sufficient and that was what they wanted. The wall was expanded three times for various reasons but it'd been worth it. A garden was now in place- along with some livestock. They were always looking to better whatever they could for themselves.
Even going so far as to trap rabbits and built a lot for them. No matter how cruel you viewed it, having a constant supple of meat when they couldn't get out and hunt was important. Besides the rabbits were quick to reproduce. It didn't take long before they had a population explosion of them. They still hunted and worked to teach more people but it was slow going. Not everyone was cut out for it and some didn't have the patience needed or skill. It still fell mostly on the Dixon's shoulders but then they were use to carrying that load. Hunting wasn't a pass time for them, it'd been something they were born and raised in. All in all they were doing good and he was thankful for that.
Especially because he knew there were other groups out there. Groups that weren't friendly. Groups that were brutal and destructive. Groups that if they strayed to close to their borders would find themselves in more danger then they were prepared for. It hadn't come to that ina long time and he figured it was the reputation this place packed. They were the not fucking around group, he'd seen Merle wipe the smile from more than a few mens faces with nothing more than a excited smirk. No, they weren't weak.
"Are they back?"
Daryl turned and Carol stepped all the way onto the porch. Carol had Rose cradled to her chest and he smirked. The fact that his brother had a daughter named Rose, fucking Rose, was amazing. It was even more amusing to him to know his other brother Merle had a kid now. How the fuck did that shit happen?
He looked up from the sleeping baby and nodded, "Got back about an hour ago."
Carol frowned at him but he raised a brow. "I figured she'd already be back."
Daryl knew better. He'd known there was something wrong with Sophia. She didn't come out and say but then he didn't need her. He'd always been able to read her and it was obvious she figured out what everyone else already knew. It scared her and she acted like him. Like a complete dick and instead of facing the damn issued just became a bigger dick. Always being difficult, that's what he passed onto her.
That she sought Brian out when she knew it was time for him to go hunting again on rotation spoke volumes. Of course he wanted to backhand Brian because they weren't kids and damn sure he knew what kind of stuff his twenty four year old self was thinking. Mac and Merle got a kick out of it but kept their mouths shut around Brian. He had a short fuse where Sophia was concerned.
"Do you think they're still fighting?"
"No." Daryl chuckled, "Don't matter what that girls does to him he's always going to come back."
"I don't know if that's sweet or sad."
"Depends on what angles he's looking at her from." Mac leered.
Daryl turned glaring at his brother. Mac wrestled Rose from Carol and made a point to show her as a meat shield.
"You aren't wrong though." Mac nodded. Mac jerked his head towards the other end of the street. "She's down there ordering him around, again."
Daryl snorted and Carol leaned into him. He ignored the way she was watching Mac with his daughter. He ignored it because he knew that like Sophia he'd panic. It didn't matter that Carol was already seven months pregnant or that they had a three year old son, who was currently sleeping- thank god. He still struggled with the thought of fucking up his kids.
Daryl turned and Carol did as well. She moved slower now that she was pregnant again and that made his skin itch. He was always going through what ifs in his head but he knew that they were stronger than they'd ever been. Carol padded to the living room and Mac wasn't far behind.
"You realize she's likely going to drag his ass right down here." Mac pointed out. "Going to attach herself to his hip again after weeks of pretending he's dead."
Daryl grimaced as Mac started smiling. "Don't you say a goddamn thing."
"Wasn't going to." Mac taunted.
Carol took over the couch and pulled Daryl down to her. They all got quiet when they heard Hunter stir. Carol's eyes were large and threatening. Daryl watched down the hall as his son fell asleep again. Mac ignored it all as he kicked out on the recliner. Nevermind that he had his own place, with Andrea, because the bastard was always here. He wasn't even sure why they even bothered with moving into a different place because both stayed here constantly.
Just then Sophia burst into the room. Her hair hung in tangles and was soaked.
"Well it's fucking raining." She huffed.
Daryl snorted and she beamed at him. Carol stared at them like she was ready to hit both of them. No matter how much she threatened them she wasn't able to put a stop to the Dixon mouth. Sophia crawled onto the couch and Daryl grunted when she threw her legs over his lap and started sprawling out.
"What did I miss while I was gone?"
Mac looked up, "Rose shit on Merle."
Sophia grinned but he could tell she was tense. She wouldn't look right at him and he let his head fall back. Part of him was more amused than anything. Carol's breaths evened out and her little snores were the only sound besides the rain. Mac was even quiet for once. Sophia kept shifting and Daryl caught her legs holding her still.
"Spit it out or set somewhere else." He ordered.
Sophia looked up meeting his eyes. Hers were large and worried. He could see a faint blush on her cheeks and he arched a brow at her.
"Is this about you telling Brian he had an hour to get his shit here before you done it for him?" Mac questioned suddenly. Daryl made a noise in his throat. "What don't look at me like that! You think I came here just to see your ugly mug? Fuck no, I came here to make sure you didn't castrate my son."
"We're fucking twins you cunt." Daryl snapped.
"Well clearly I'm the better looking of the two of us." Mac taunted.
"Choke on a dick."
"I didn't say an hour." Sophia muttered, interrupting them. "I mean...that wouldn't be plausible...a little time restrained."
Daryl looked over at her and Sophia flushed. "If I hear you having sex then you can set through another Merle sex talk. Very detailed sex talk." Daryl threatened, "Then I'm going to kick his dick into his throat and make sure that it's useless."
"Who's to say that Sophia won't be the instigator?" Mac challenged? "Maybe I need to defend my sons honor."
"Oh no. My child is a saint." Mac spoke haughtily. "IF you defile him in any way then I will have to defend his honor."
Mac went on and on for over an hour. Sophia was arguing with the both of them but in the end he'd seen this coming. Sophia didn't want to be far from them and with her mom pregnant again plus having a little brother sometimes you had to fight her away from them. She said she always wanted a big family.
When Brian did show up he looked like he was ready to get hit in the face. Daryl arched a brow at him and Brian swallowed. Mac in turned stared at Sophia and she flushed violently.
"No pee pee touches." Mac warned, "If he hears you then he's going to do to you whatever you do to his daughter."
"Fucking weirdos." Brian grimaced.
Daryl smirked at him and Brian blanched. Sophia kicked him in the chest but slid off the couch. When they disappeared Daryl just closed his eyes. It didn't last long as he heard his son start crying. It wasn't long before he was calling for them. Daryl got up and Mac followed suit. Rose and Hunter were better behaved around each other.
He ignored the laughter coming from Sophia's room. He wasn't going to get upset. She was a woman now and at least he liked Brian. He loved him. He didn't like thinking about Sophia's heartbreaking words from all those years ago. How he was all that she had. How the forlorn looking her eyes over the weeks made him think of that time again. Without Brian her eyes weren't as bright, she wasn't as happy. She had more now than she'd ever dreamed of, they all did. He'd seen this coming for years though so he'd had time to prepare. Besides our most basic instinct is not for survival but for family.