Title: Birthdays Past and Present
Author: GageWhitney
Rating: T
Pairing: Daryl/Andrea
Disclaimer: Very much not mine.
Summary: How could it be that, in less than a year, the world had gone so incredibly sideways?

She keeps track of the days, still. She knows a lot of the others don't, but there's some part of her that feels better knowing where they fall on the calendar.

"Today's my birthday," Andrea says quietly into the dark.

How, she ponders, is that even possible? It seems stupidly wrong. It means that, only a year ago, everything was normal. (Or, at least, a very different definition of the word.) A year, and not the five or ten or twenty that it often feels like.

How could it be that, in less than a year, the world had gone so incredibly sideways?

A year ago, she was a successful civil rights attorney, working for a top notch firm and taking the occasional pro bono case. She wore expensive suits, carried designer handbags, clicked through echoing halls on pricey three-inch heels.

She drove a brand new silver Benz, a fancy, impressive car with a satellite navigation system and heated leather seats. (Good Lord, she loved that car, loved to open it up on the highway and park it at the edge of a sandy beach.)

Her condo was in a new high-rise building, situated only a few blocks from the water. It had marble countertops and modern furniture and white (but not too white) walls that she hired someone to come in and figure out for her.

(Her idea of roughing it had been eating a cheese sandwich for dinner because she was too busy to go grocery shopping that week and didn't feel like ordering takeout.)

Her job these days is varied, acting alternately as sentry and laundress and catcher of fish. She wears clothes scavenged from long-closed stores and other people's suitcases, clothes that are comfortable and easy to run in and dirty more often than not. Her flat shoes once belonged to Amy, packed away to use when wandering around her college campus.

She takes turns doing the driving, getting behind the wheel of Daryl's beat up old pickup truck when he's out scouting on his brother's bike or passed out in the passenger seat.

(Sometimes, she hands the keys over to Glenn or T-Dog, and she holds tightly to Daryl on the back of the motorcycle. It's nice, the rumbling engine underneath her and the wind whipping through her hair, in a way she never would've considered before.)

She longs for a home of her own again, her wish list now consisting of a place that's easily defendable and far from any city and doesn't reek of the dead.

(She doesn't even think in terms of roughing it anymore.)

A year ago, she had a boyfriend named Craig, a nicely tanned stockbroker who wasn't all that interesting but had an ass that looked great in a suit. He'd take her to swanky restaurants and gallery openings, invite her on board his new boat and, once, fly them out on a private jet for a long weekend in Mexico.

He had soft hands, the hands of someone who had never done a day of manual labor in his life. He used expensive Kiehl's hand lotion and got regular manicures, and his skin always felt silky smooth against hers when he'd thread their fingers together over dinner.

She'd never call the sex mind-blowing, even after advice she'd gleaned from friends and old back copies of Cosmo, but it was okay more times than it wasn't, so she stayed with him longer than she should have.

(They broke up about a month before the shit hit the fan because she'd caught him with another woman. Only once did she wonder whatever became of him.)

These days, she's with a man who hunts squirrels and the walking dead with a crossbow (or, if necessary, a gun, or a knife, or she suspects even a sharp stick), whose ass she's sure would look great in a suit, but she's got to settle for staring at him in a pair of dirty old cargo pants. He takes her out hunting with him, to cool, clear creeks he discovers running through the woods and to an old tool shed so they can have some privacy.

Daryl's hands are calloused and rough, and while she's sure that months of wielding axes and shotguns and pulling arrows out of walkers are partially responsible, she suspects they've always been that way.

(When he touches her, a hand on the back of her neck or sliding up her shirt or working between her legs, the roughness of his fingertips creates a delicious kind of friction that lights her nerve endings on fire.)

The sex is rushed more often than not, a side effect of constantly having to be on guard and living in a camp full of other people. It's usually quiet and charged and maybe even a little rough, and it always leaves her satisfied in a way she'd never experienced with anyone before.

(He lies beside her, after, and runs his fingers through her messy blonde hair, and she's sure he's never been this intimate with anyone ever.)

A year ago, on her birthday, she'd gone out for dinner and drinks with Craig and a group of her closest friends. They ate too much seafood and drank too much wine, and he'd popped for the bill, but hadn't gotten her a gift. She was miffed about it for days, even more so when he didn't understand why.

Amy sent her a card in the mail, something silly and sparkly, signed with an XXOO and mailed in a pink envelope. There was a gift card to Victoria's Secret inside with a heart and a winky face drawn on next to the amount.

(She'd spent it on a pair of cozy pajamas in an effort to spite her boyfriend.)

"Today's my birthday."

She's in Daryl's tent, stretched out and naked, half on top of him. It's a quiet night in the camp, and she listens to his beating heart and soft breathing and the noisy crickets outside. People are chattering in the distance, and she thinks it's Glenn and Maggie.

He curls his arm around her neck and presses a kiss into her hair. "Happy birthday," he says. "Sorry I ain't got a gift."

"That's okay," she says, smiling against his skin. She kisses his collarbone. "Just hold me, please."

(He brings her a handful of flowers stuck into a water bottle the next day, and she can't imagine being anywhere but with him, whatever the next year brings.)