Title: Heads or Tails
Author: Lucifer's Garden
Disclaimer: The Walking Dead and its characters © Robert Kirkman
Summary: Andrea looks at Shane and sees survival. She looks at Daryl, and sees a life.
Author's Note: There is no real timeline here, but it was written during the second season and more or less assumes that the group is still on Hershel's farm. Contains mild spoilers for episode 7 of season 2, and is rated T for a bit of language and sliiiiiightly adult content.
You look so different
Some other thoughts fill up your mind
And you just made it happen
Got me thinking 'bout you in my life
"Stranger" (slow version) – Elisa
Heads or Tails
Andrea looks at Shane and sees survival.
She sees slipping off in the dark without saying goodbye to the others, because it's easier this way. Simpler.
She sees long silent drives in stolen vehicles, both lost in their respective worlds that have yet to touch borders. Neither one speaks; if it's not to announce danger or point out something useful, it just isn't worth saying.
She sees a different roof over her head every night, sometimes not even a roof at all. She sees nights where it's not safe to light a fire, and she doesn't stop shivering even after falling asleep.
She sees scavenging for stale or rotten food in broken down markets. She sees hunger that goes on for weeks and months, never really gone even when they manage to find something edible.
She sees daily arguments that end only when she's too drained to fight him anymore.
She sees him close down inside when she kisses him, searching for something familiar and warm because there is literally nobody else. He can't give anything in return, but takes what she offers without hesitation. Every time.
She sees him thinking about someone else when he fucks her. Someone far away, yet closer to him than she will ever be. She sees him finishing with her and rolling out of reach once again, even though she can still touch him.
She sees him talking to her like she's an idiot whenever she challenges him. She sees him bringing up Amy just to shut her up sometimes, with that smug, victorious look on his face when she loses control and slaps him in a blind rage.
She sees nights of muffling her sobs to avoid waking him, because he wouldn't know how to react to them anyway. She sees his forced, meaningless apologies the next morning, designed only to make himself feel better.
She sees the cold flare in his eyes when she asks about Otis.
She sees how thin he has become, his body cannibalizing itself along with its humanity. He tries less and less to retain his old humour, his once automatic concern for others, his willingness to help carry burdens. He is adapting to this world, becoming more streamlined – sharper, harder, smaller. Wasting away and sucking her dry along with him.
She sees panic in his face when she tells him she's pregnant. Panic because now she's slower, weaker. A bigger liability.
She sees him grappling with planning an exit strategy or staying by her side, and is surprised that it has taken him this long to start seriously considering it.
She sees herself sticking a gun in her mouth and pulling the trigger, only to hear that empty 'click' and realize he knew what she was planning all along. She can't tell if it's gratitude she feels, or rage yet again at having her choice taken away.
She sees her decision not to confront him about it. She doesn't care what his reasons are, because she knows they have nothing to do with concern for her.
She sees the way he butchers the walkers they encounter now, pulverizing their skulls or hacking them to pieces with a blade. No restraint, just ruthless, wide-eyed savagery rivaling that of the creatures he massacres.
She sees his blank determination when holding other survivors at gunpoint, demanding in his most reasonable 'cop' voice that they hand over whatever fuel and supplies they have. She sees him calmly open fire whenever they refuse, deaf to her pleas for him to wait.
She sees the growing bulge in her waistline, wondering if it's really too late to consider another option.
She sees collapsing in tears when faced with actually going through with it. She sees guilt and despair, paralyzed with indecision, unable to choose between giving the child a fighting chance and saving it a fleeting life of suffering.
She sees getting ambushed by thugs when the two of them split up during a supply run. She sees rough, grubby hands muffling her screams as she is thrown to the ground, her clothes being ripped off as she kicks and thrashes with all the fight she has left. Wondering where he is and why he isn't helping her. He can't possibly not hear what's happening.
She sees being left in a naked, bloody heap, wishing they'd had the decency to at least finish her off properly. She sees him eventually finding her and trying, in his own small way, to put her back together again. For a little while, she even sees hope that maybe things will be different now between them.
She sees him look relieved when she miscarries, insisting that "it's better this way"; that the world is "no place for a baby anymore". She sees all at once that it will never be more than this, and the hope is gone as softly as it came.
She sees wondering what scares her more – being with him, or being alone. She is afraid to be out of his sight for longer than a few minutes, but his presence does nothing to calm her anymore. There is no more trust, no more security. Just habit.
She sees less and less of herself every time she passes by her reflection, and realizes with creeping numbness that she is becoming like him. Just like she wanted.
She sees terror hiding around every corner, every bend in the road. She sees paranoia seeping into her very bones; constantly looking over her shoulder, scanning the horizon, her fingers never far from some kind of bludgeon or sharp object.
She sees pondering which of them will die first, when they are finally swarmed by walkers and have no way out. She sees him weighing her life against his, and losing.
She sees him shooting her in the leg and clearing a path with the last of his ammo, letting them close in on her behind him. She seems him, for the last time, through a wall of putrid snarling faces and clawing fingers, reminding himself over and over again that he at least got her this far.
She sees herself putting the gun in her mouth and pulling the trigger, knowing that this time there will be no empty 'click'.
She looks at him and sees surviving long enough to be ripped apart and devoured.
Andrea looks at Daryl and sees a life.
She sees him teaching Carl how to track and hunt, making Rick insanely jealous and proud at the same time. She sees him showing Carl what poison oak looks like, smirking when the boy laughs at his cautionary tale.
She sees him furtively giving Carol flowers with beautiful white petals, when he thinks no one is looking. She sees Carol's eyes well up and spill over in gratitude every time, and his embarrassed, flickering smile in return.
She sees him leaving a box of stolen diapers and formula in Lori and Rick's tent, accepting their appreciation with a hasty nod and retreat.
She sees him grinning more and more at T-Dog's jokes, and eventually he begins to answer with a few of his own. She sees him teasing Glenn about Maggie, keen as ever to see how red the young man's face can get. And when next Dale makes a smart remark about chupacabras, he only counters with a half-hearted "screw you, old man" and ducks as a few hands lash out to ruffle his hair.
She sees him react to the news that Shane is gone with an unexpected frown. Not for Shane – "good, I was gettin' sick o' that asshole" – but for everyone else. 'Asshole' or not, the man was useful to have around and the group is weaker without him.
She sees him marching into camp with whole deer slung over his shoulder during food shortages, dismissing everyone's praise with gruff indifference. She doesn't miss the burgeoning humility in his eyes, however, when Rick tells him straight up that they all owe him their lives – for this, and for everything else.
She sees him presenting her with a homemade silencer for her gun on what is roughly estimated to be her birthday, and his crooked smile at the surprise on her face. It turns a bit skittish when she pulls him down by the vest to kiss his cheek in thanks. He then shrugs her off and pretends to be annoyed, but it doesn't work and they both know it.
She sees him dispatching walkers left and right with smooth, vicious precision whenever they stumble into camp. She sees the way he then turns immediately, every time, to check on all the others in one sweeping look, chest heaving as he breathes the heat of battle out of his veins.
She sees the way his gaze lingers on her just a little longer than the others after each attack. She measures him in turn with equal regard, their eyes piercing each other in search of cracks.
She feels the tension fraught in his body as she crawls into bed with him the night of a particularly close call, torn between banishing her from his radius and a mounting desire to answer someone else's need.
She sees herself dissolving into thankful tears when his arm finally snakes around her shoulders, pulling her closer. Just this once. Just for tonight. Really.
She sees him go rigid with shock when she kisses him that first time by the creek, too stunned to do anything but reflexively seize up.
She sees sparks when he catches her off guard with that shy, hesitant second kiss. Then the third, fourth, and every other since.
She sees him trying to find balance with her, trying to synch his daily rhythms with someone else in a way he never has before. She sees arguments, confusion and misread cues, but she also sees forgiveness – so natural and unquestioned that it rarely needs words.
She sees him burying his face in the side of her neck when they make love, because the sight of her writhing underneath him is almost more than he can take. She feels his teeth dragging over her collarbone, aching to devour her, and before long she sees nothing but blinding explosions that scatter the darkness.
She sees the knowing looks people give them whenever they go off on 'scouting patrols' or 'salvage jobs' together. She sees it bothering him to no end, bristling at every imagined jibe or criticism. But when nobody voices them aloud, she sees him start to relax – enough, sometimes, to rest a callused hand against her lower back, or idly comb his fingers through her hair when she dozes off against his shoulder.
She sees struggling to speak around the lump in her throat when he finally stays with her through the night, instead of exiling himself from the bed afterwards. She sees him tracing a finger along her jaw with fumbling tenderness that nearly cripples her, muttering an apology for taking "so damn long to figure this out".
She sees everybody's complete lack of surprise when she starts moving her stuff into his tent. If anything, they are wondering why it didn't happen sooner.
She sees panic in his face when she tells him she's pregnant. Not because of the added responsibility – which she knows he will shoulder without complaint – but because he has lived his entire life without knowing what makes a good father.
She sees him watching Rick and Carl, casting them fleeting side-glances whenever they play or argue, or even just talk. He is looking for pointers, she realizes with a stab of affection.
She sees a box of diapers and formula appear in their tent one day, and is unexpectedly thrilled when he mentions looking for baby clothes during the next supply run.
She sees his fascination with the emerging swell of her belly, startling her with investigative touches here and there. She laughs when his eyes widen at the baby's first kick, followed by a tentatively excited grin at her as if to say, it's real – holy shit, we're actually doing this.
She sees his hands tremble when they reach out to hold their squirming newborn daughter, all pink and blue-eyed and unlike anything he's ever seen before. She sees him gently thumbing her little cheek, fighting back a lifetime's worth of tears.
She sees him looking back up at her and promising, without a single word, that nothing – nothing – will ever harm this child, or her mother, as long as he is still breathing.
She looks at him and doesn't even think of dying. Whether tomorrow or years from now, she knows that her last moments in this world will be at his side. She knows that he sees the same thing when he looks at her and their little girl, still with that ironclad promise in his eyes.
A family. A life.