Checking for Scratches

Summary: "Carl," Dawn started; her voice barely a whisper in the still of night, "what are you doing?"

Disclaimer: BTVS belongs to Joss Whedon while TWD belongs to…Robert Kirkman.

Dawn Summers settled around the campfire; automatically, she chose a place beside her sister. Daryl Dixon sat to the left of her on a stump. She rolled her eyes at the way they avoided one another's eyes but constantly found ways to sneak glances at the other. 'Sheesh,' she thought with a quiet snort, 'and they call me a kid. With the way they flirt, you'd think they were back in grade school!' She didn't know if he would make her sister happy, but after losing Angel and Spike…Dawn would take would she could get. And if anyone could "convince" her sister to give love another try, it would be Daryl Dixon.

The only problem with whatever this thing between her sister and the crossbow-totting man was that nothing was happening; and it wouldn't unless Buffy pursued it. But even if she did, she would have to treat it carefully. She couldn't just charge in and expect for the best.

Daryl wasn't exactly the relationship type guy. He was awkward and abrasive; he tended to push people away instead of pull them closer; and be damned if he would admit that he needed or even cared about anyone.

Dawn looked away from them with a deep sigh of exasperation and immediately clued into something. Carl Grimes—fellow fourteen year old and good friend—wasn't at the camp. She furrowed her brows and looked around.

"Dawn?" Buffy called, sounding both cautious and worried. Dawn knew instantly that Buffy thought walkers had found them. She smiled reassuringly at her sister then grimaced when Willow teased:

"She's just looking for Carl." She bristled even further when Daryl gave her a knowing look and Buffy rolled her eyes. She glared at Willow heavily before squaring her shoulders and ignoring them. Willow shared a look with Buffy and they both smothered a giggle. Glenn kept a straight face, but Maggie giggled openly. Beth simply adverted her eyes from Dawn and smiled. Rick was the only one that made her feel better. He simply smiled fondly at her and said:

"He's right there," and pointed him out. Dawn clenched her jaw as she looked over her shoulder in the direction he was pointing. She spotted Carl sitting on one of the abandoned cars. He was graciously staying in his dad's sights. As if feeling her eyes on him, he looked up from whatever it was that had caught his attention. She saw his hand move in a familiar motion—one she had taught him, one that only Tara and she had known. It meant "come here", but it wasn't obvious like the beckoning curl of the fingers that Daryl did to Buffy. It was the flicking of the index finger against the pad of the thumb; twice meant "come here", once meant "I'm alright." Both moves looked like a thump only "come here" didn't fully extend the index finger. She gave a slight nod and turned back around. She looked toward her sister and told her:

"I'm gonna go see if he's alright," it was honest. Dawn truly did want to see if he was okay. Today had been a hard one. Walkers normally traveled in packs, but this one had seemed larger. They'd had to go farther to get away from them; they'd had to fight. It had been close, especially for Dawn. She knew it had scared him. He was so afraid of losing anyone else. She pushed up from the stump, ignored the knowing looks, and walked in his direction.


Carl watched her come to him. He took in the way she walked, even and with purpose. He took in the set of her shoulders. She wasn't in pain; he couldn't see a single tear in her clothing. No blood. She was fine. She was fine. She was fine. He repeated like a mantra in his head, but it still wouldn't sink in. When he had heard her scream that blood-curdling scream, his heart froze, but the rest of him had kicked into motion. His brain screamed for him to get to her and his body reacted. He had then proceeded to empty that clip into him, wasting precious ammo when his first shot had downed the walker holding onto her.

Carl couldn't ignore it anymore. That incident had forced everything into light. Dawn had become someone important to him. His mind said 'well, of course, she's your best friend' and usually he could listen to it; but, today, had proven something. She was more than just his best friend…because every scenario he pictured of someone having to put her down…His throat tightened. He couldn't…He could never let something like that happen. Dawn….Dawn wasn't his world. That would be stupid, but Dawn…Dawn was important. She was color. She was that one little bit of laughter that made him feel lighter; she was that smile that reminded him that he was still capable of it; she was that little light left that made him remember there was still good in the world. He swallowed.

He didn't know how to handle these truths when they were brought out in the open. People kept dying and he knew, he knew, that logically she could be next or he could be next. His feelings were dangerous, frightening. For the both of them.

He was torn from his thoughts by the sound of her boots clunking against the bumper. He looked over to see her climbing onto the cab of the car with him. She smiled when she saw she had his attention.

"Penny for your thoughts?" She asked as she sat next to him. Her boots draped over the passenger's seat window. He had checked the car and the others around it before climbing on top of it; he knew that it was safe, but all he could see was that walker's hand around her ankle. He swallowed and buried it.

He wanted to say something to her; he wanted to tell her, but as the same time…he didn't want to talk about it. He flicked his index finger twice against his thumb. Dawn tilted her head and furrowed her eyebrows as she caught the motion before looking back up at him. She quirked an eyebrow but scooted closer.


Dawn licked her lips as she felt the body heat coming from him. His warm sunk through her clothes. He felt nice in the cool night air; she scooted just a little closer. He looked over at her and sat up. Dawn watched him move from propping his elbows up on his knees to sitting up straight. She looked away from him for a moment, expecting him to stand up. That familiar tickling feeling of someone's hand approaching her body rippled down her spine. She looked over at him and flushed instantly. He was so close that she count the freckles on his nose; she could see the colors in his eyes. He wouldn't meet her eyes, but she couldn't tell where he was looking.

"Carl," Dawn started; her voice barely a whisper in the still of night, "what are you doing?" She asked as he leaned closer to her. She felt his fingers combing and gathering her hair up to slide over her right shoulder.

"Checking for scratches," he answered just as quietly as he ran his fingers down the column of her neck and around the skin of her bared shoulders. He slipped his hands from her shoulders and down her arms. She licked her lips again and forced out:

"You saw me after the attack, Carl," it was all she could get out. Her words stuttered as his fingers tickled the inside of her wrists.

"I just wanna be sure," he whispered.


"Wha….What is he doing?" Buffy demanded quietly of Daryl. He looked over in the direction Buffy was looking. Instantly, his eyebrows shot up his head. In the faint moonlight, he could see Carl running his hands over Dawn's arms, down to her waist. It took a moment, just a moment, for Daryl to figure out what the boy was really doing. His lips twitched as he choked out:

"Looks like he's lookin' for scratches." Buffy whirled on him.

"What is that?" She asked, staring at him hard as the flames flickered on. "What is that?" She asked again at his confused look. "Is that the same thing as searching for ticks?" He blinked. And then it clicked. Daryl barely smothered the laugh that threatened to bubble free.

"Now that is just wrong," he grumbled convincingly.

"How?" Buffy asked; the way she said it though made it sound more as if she were demanding an answer. 'God, this woman is so damn bossy!' He thought.

"I'm from the South and I'm pretty certain you only asked me because of that damn song. You're supposed to still be mad at me, 'member?" Daryl pointed out.

"I'm not mad at you per say…I'm more mad at—Hey! You're being all avoid-y! And I let you be! Answer the question, Daryl."

"No, Buffy. It's not like that," he chuckled. "You see how close the two of 'em are ("Yeah and that worries me."). He's just genuinely concerned about her. Look at 'em," he motioned with a hand to the two teenagers on top of the car. Buffy did. She hated to admit it, but Daryl seemed to be right. Carl's hands never seemed to wander where they weren't supposed to. She watched as he tucked her sister's ankle up into his lap and peeked underneath the boot and sock. Her lips twitched as she relaxed. She was pretty sure her sister's face must resemble a tomato by now. She was relaxed, that is, until Daryl opened his big mouth: "It prolly hasn't even occurred to him yet to try and feel her up."

Buffy's eyes popped open wide. Daryl barely succeeded in distracting her from going over there and twisting Carl into a pretzel. The kid was lucky that the woman's outrage was so easy to redirect.


"So, am I safe?" Dawn asked rhetorically as Carl put her other ankle back where it had been hanging. Her cheeks were flaming red as she looked over at him. Carl nodded.

"Yeah," he confirmed. There was a pause. And then Carl realized he had basically felt her up. It didn't matter that he hadn't touched anywhere inappropriate. His cheeks flushed just as brightly as hers. He dropped his eyes from hers. Dawn giggled. His eyes snapped back up to her. "Hey! Don't laugh at me! You look just as worse!" His affronted statement only earned him another laugh. He crossed his arms over his chest as she giggled beside him.

'We're worse than Daryl and Buffy,' she thought as she tried to get her giggles under control. Luckily, that thought worked like a charm. 'Whoa…we are totally different. Carl and I are just really good, close friends. There's absolutely nothing romantic about checking for scratches,' she reassured herself. Carl coughed beside her awkwardly.

Dawn said the first thing that came to mind to break up the silence, "You're alright, right?" Carl's head snapped over to her. "I won't have to check you?" Carl's mouth fell open for a moment. His eyes glazed a little before he shook his head.

"Nah, I'm fine," he reassured her with a strong clear of his throat. "Hardly any walkers got close enough to me," he added, knowing it would distract her. Just to make matters worse, he looked pointedly at her. Her eyebrows furrowed in a glare before she rolled her eyes.

"Go on and brag then," she grumbled, looking away from him and crossing her arms over her chest. Carl smothered a chuckle.

"It's not bragging. It's just an observation," he stated. He smothered the chuckle but not the grin.

"No. You are clearly all gloat-y and smug," Dawn snapped, looking back at him.

"Gloat-y?" Carl repeated slowly.

"Therefore, it's gloating!" She pushed on as if she hadn't heard him. "I get it, I get it! You're a badass! That doesn't mean you have to-" He tuned the rest of it out. He knew that if she was launching into a playful tirade about him, she wouldn't think about what just happened between them. She wouldn't notice the redness of his cheeks or the shaking of his hands.