As We Once Were

Cali_diva10 (Mandamirra10 here on , if memory serves) made a comment on our brand new, totally-rocking Andrea-Daryl LJ community (shameless plug here: .com/) saying how it would be interesting to consider how our pair might have interacted had the ZA not happened. Got me thinking. And apparently Daryl and Andrea, too. I don't think its quite what Cali had in mind, but this is for her and for Quicksilvermad who really deserves all the kudos for totally pimping the LJ community into the very fine thing you will see when you check it out. It's also for Gagewhitney, who very thoughtfully created the community in the first place and has happily let us take it over for our own nefarious purposes, and for the other lovelies who have replied to my rather forward electronic urging that they come and join us – y'all are the best.

Summary: Futurefic, post 2.07. It suddenly hits Andrea then that if she had seen him wearing that shirt in another life, in another time, had all of this not happened, she might have given him her number, let him call her and take her to dinner.

Disclaimer: I own nothing. And I'm also not sure just how well this works, but I hope you like it.

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It's been so long since Andrea thought about anything to do with the law that Daryl's question takes her by surprise.

"You ever miss it?" He asks as he tosses her something white and soft.

Its clothing of some kind, but that shouldn't be surprising: they're in a trucking stop, the Greene Farm a dim and distant memory. It's familiar in that way that all trucking stops and Interstate service centres are, giant cities for the transitory where the only difference is the zip code and the scenery, and even that bleeds into the background when they're inside the never ending throng of cafes and coffee shops and stores, abandoned monuments to American consumer culture and culinary sameness. Andrea can't even remember the difference between Cracker Barrel and Country Kitchen any more, even though it was a long-running feud between her and Amy over who made the better biscuits and gravy.

She and Daryl are in a clothing store right now, scavenging what clean clothes or winter gear they can. He's got quite the selection of plaid shirts; there are four of them at his feet along with several t-shirts and a winter jacket. She smiles softly as she unfurls whatever it is he's tossed her. She can't ever imagine Daryl wearing something with sleeves.

Not that she's complaining, after all. He has very nice arms and they keep her warm at night now.

"Oh, uh ... sometimes, I guess. Maybe. I haven't thought about it in a while." She fumbles her words and her hands as she reaches to catch whatever it is he's tossed her. "Nice." She says as she reads the phrase on the front of the t-shirt that will be more like a dress on her: A Good Lawyer Knows the Law. A Great Lawyer Knows the Judge.

He gives her his trademark smirk. "Found a bunch of 'em right here next to the china kitties and taffy." He says. "Thought ya might like it."

Andrea can well believe it. These trucking stops are dumping grounds for random shit that people will buy after too many miles without sleep, their brains wired by caffeine and that weird numbness that comes with churning up endless miles of empty highway in the dark. She feels like that, sometimes. Daryl's truck has started to make peculiar noises and they lull her to sleep now as they drive to wherever they're going, chasing their tails or trying to outrun this world they're in.

He smirks when she gives it some shape by belting it at the waist with a canvas belt covered in eagles and flags. "Suits ya." He says, pulling her closer to audibly press his lips against hers.

The others know about them, of course, but he's rarely affectionate in public unless they're alone and even then those touches, such as they are, are rushed and rough and threaded with urgency. It's not until they're alone in their tent or whatever room they're in for the night that there's relative tenderness and the peek of vulnerability.

"You never answered my question." He says as they make their way back to the RV some time later, their wares slung over their shoulders.

"I don't really think about it." She says as they wait for the others to arrive with their horde, her eyes flickering to Daryl.

He's wearing a new shirt, this one with long sleeves which are rolled up and strain against his thick forearms and biceps. It's made of soft grey corduroy and as cheesy as it sounds, it suits his eyes and his skin tone, really suits them. If you take away the crossbow and the hunting knife, he doesn't really look like the Daryl she's come to know and –dare she admit it – even love. He looks like the kind of guy she might have seen in the hardware store, or the mechanic who serviced her Benz and courageously asked for her number afterwards. It suddenly hits Andrea then that if she had seen him wearing that shirt in another life, in another time, had all of this not happened, she might have said yes. And that's the first time she's ever considered it, the first time she's ever seen a positive collision of her worlds old and new. She might have given him her number, let him call her and take her to dinner. It would have been a welcome respite from the endless suits she had to deal with on a daily basis, whether they be other lawyers or clients, or even cops. Her life was a sea of suits and yellow legal pads and glass ceilings and words you'd only find in legal dictionaries. It was a career she'd wanted since she was a kid and now its gone and she can't remember why she was so bothered about it.

She's still trying to remember just what it was like when their group meet something rare yet potentially dangerous: another group of survivors. They're the first living people they've seen since the Greene Farm and no-one wants a repeat of that. Andrea still hears Daryl calling for Sophia in his dreams, and if Carol leaves the RV now then it's a good day. They've long since passed the point of searching the faces of the survivors for anyone they recognise, but that's exactly what Andrea finds.

At first she hadn't believed her eyes when they showed her Tyler Gage's face, but when his crooked smile broke through his mouth and lit up his whole face she knew that her eyes weren't deceiving her.

"I thought you moved to LA!" She exclaims as surprised introductions were made and offers of cultural and culinary reciprocations offered. Her brain's reeling at this very obvious, human collision of her two worlds, that in the midst of all this slaughter and death someone she knows has actually managed to survive.

He shrugs easily, as though that old aspiration hadn't occurred to him in years. "Met my wife, moved to Atlanta." He says in that way he's always had about him, where he's saying as much as he can with as few words as possible. There's clearly more to his story than that – there is for everyone, now – but she's not likely to get it now and certainly not when Daryl's giving them careful stares as he pretends to check for walkers.

It's been at least five years since Andrea's seen Tyler, but he's largely unchanged, still the same height, build, easy manner that he had when they were law students. It's like time has stood still for him. It's not until they're sat at the campfire stuffed full of fish fry and beer that Tyler tells her a little more of his story. They were close in law school, a closeness that widened once they left law school and she moved to Florida, but that distance counts for little as he fills her in on the lost years of his life. Depressingly, his story is similar to hers, similar to all of the survivors who have lasted this long. You aren't able to get very far in this new world without either shaving off inches of yourself or accepting that what will come through on the other side will be a desentimentalised, more amoral version of yourself and Tyler recounts his tale of woe with a depressing, practiced ease.

At length he tips his head towards Daryl, who's sat on the other side of the fire pit trying to get Carol to eat something. "You wanna tell me the story with you and Davy Crocket?" He asks. "Guy's been eyeballin' me since we met."

"Daryl's ... skittish around strangers." Andrea says diplomatically. "But he's a good man. I didn't always think so, but now ... he's the best man I know. I owe him my life."

Tyler seems to consider this as he watches Daryl across the flames. "What did he do before all of this?" He asks.

Andrea shrugs. What was it with men and the past, recently? "I haven't asked." She says honestly, before voicing what to her at least is the far more pertinent question: "Does it matter?"

Tyler shakes his head. "Hell, no." He says emphatically. "I just ... he just doesn't seem like your kind of guy." He says eventually.

Andrea rolls her eyes. "And what kind of guy would that be?" She counters, beginning to feel that rush that she always used to get when she was in the courtroom.

Tyler holds up his hands in defence. "I'm not criticising." He says softly. "I'm just saying ..." His gaze flickers beyond Andrea to a tall, muscular woman in battered fatigues and boots. "Adele and I are the same." He says softly. "She hauled my ass out of a burning car in Atlanta awhile back, saved my life. She's the best woman I know but ... you ever think what we'd be doing if none of this had happened?" He asks, his eyes dark and stormy as they watch the flames dance and meander out of the fire pit.

"Of course I do." Andrea says wearily. Suddenly this whole conversation has made her very tired. "I think we all do, but it does us no good to dwell on it. The past is gone and it isn't coming back."

Tyler shakes his head emphatically. "I don't agree." He says softly. "At some point, all this is going to die down and things are going to start going back to normal. What happens then?"

Andrea shrugs. She can't help but feel as though he's missing the fundamental point. "What is normal now, Tyler?" She asks softly, feeling Daryl's stare on the crown of her head.

"But things will start going back to before." Tyler says. "They have to. There will be a return to what we knew and what then? What do we do? How do we live our lives – who do we want to live our lives with?" As he carries on talking Andrea realises that he's talking more for self-affirmation than actually believing what he's saying: he has to believe that 'normal' will be coming back because it doesn't look like he's bearing up very well under the strain of this new normal.

Daryl's already in bed when she finally ventures into her and Daryl's tent. He's reading her copy of the Louis Brandeis biography that had been stuffed in her backpack when the world went to shit, although he doesn't seem to have made it very far. She can't blame him; biographies of Progressive-era Justices aren't high on everyone's reading lists. She's barely looked at it since before the apocalypse, had been meaning to throw it out because it takes up unnecessary space in her backpack. But somehow it's still there.

"Some light bedtime reading?" She says lightly as she begins to strip down to her underwear.

He shrugs lightly and tosses the book to once side. "Figured I'd see what you spent so much time readin'." He says softly, his gaze travelling up her body as she takes off her jeans and folds them up. Even now the feel of his eyes on her still send shivers up her spine. "You never answered my question from before." He says, his gaze flickering to the Brandeis book. "You miss bein' a lawyer?"

Andrea shrugs as she. "Maybe." She says honestly as she slips on the t-shirt he gave her. "There were a lot of things I liked about it, a lot of things I didn't."

"Like what?"

Andrea's confused and says as much. "Why are you asking me this?" She joins him in the sleeping bag. She's tired and from the looks of things, he is too but he obviously wants to talk and so she doesn't dare close her eyes. Daryl's a man of few words so when he talks, she listens. And when he wants to talk, as he clearly does now, she doesn't dare brush him off. She just wants to know where he's going with his line of questioning.

He shrugs. "Isn't that what people do when they're like us?" He asks, nonplussed.

"Like us what?"

"Like we are now." He says, gesturing to their mutual semi-nakedness.

"You've never asked before." Andrea says, touched beyond words that he's trying to do something that neither of them have ever really done before: he's trying to find out about her past, about what she did before all of this started

Daryl shrugs again and tugs on a stray thread on the sleeping bag. "I ain't never met any of your old friends before." He reminds her. "You and Tyler go way back, huh?"

"We met in law school." Andrea says, sliding down the sleeping bag until she's lying down, watching Daryl intensely.

"Y'all ever date?"

"No. God, no." Andrea says, surprised at her own surprise that he's asked her. Maybe she should have expected this, in a way. In her experience it's hard for people to accept that men and women can have relationships that aren't defined by sex. It's an inevitable question to at least wonder, never mind ask. "Tyler and I were friends, nothing more. Are friends, I guess. But we never dated. He wasn't the kind of guy I'd date."

There's silence then before he speaks again. "I'm guessing I ain't the kinda guy you'd date, either, right?"

"I-" Andrea's protestations die on her lips as she sees the expression on his face. He's not looking for reassurance, some confession that they were soulmates whose love could have crossed any physical, economic or class barriers. He's looking for honesty. "I don't know." Is the best answer she can give. Because she doesn't know, not at all.

He shrugs slightly. "It's okay." He says lightly, as though it's no big deal which in some ways it isn't: the past is gone and most of their past selves along with it, so what do their potential past interactions matter so long as they're here now? But suddenly her past isn't gone, it's just stood up and left the fire pit and thanked Dale for his fish fry. Her past is very much present and it's just asked her why she's with Daryl Dixon.

He carries on. "It's not like we're cut from the same cloth, anyways. You probably wouldn't have looked twice at me and I woulda thought you was some uppity city bitch in your Benz and your power suit." There's a small smirk at the end of the sentence as though he's clearly imagining their exchange, perhaps seeing some of the scenery that might surround their conversation: a battered auto shop, for example, or even a police station where he'd come to bail Merle out of prison, or even an old bar with low ceiling lamps and floors sticky with bourbon.

"I think that's being a little unfair on us both." Andrea says softly, kissing the side of his cheek. "And it's not like it matters." She continues. "That old life is gone. None of us are what we once were, Daryl." She says emphatically. "None of us. And none of us can be as we once were. That's all gone now."

It's difficult trying to picture her with Daryl in her old life, because they're both different now. You can't survive the zombie apocalypse and not be different. Perhaps he's less different than her in some ways; he's perfected his tracking skills while she's learned them from scratch, for example, but more different in others, too. He's more open now, less volatile. Or maybe that's just because her knowing him more has made her realise that a lot of that is a facade. But would Before Andrea have bothered to try to get to know that side of Daryl? Would she have taken one look at his battered shirts and home-cut hair and angry white-trash demeanour and crossed the sidewalk to avoid him? Conversely, would Before Daryl have bothered to get to know her? Would he have looked beneath her Mercedes and her Satnav and her expensive suits and seen the woman he sleeps with every night? Or would he have seen her, as he put it, as an uppity city bitch?

The sad and honest answer is that both of those things are probably true: she would have crossed the sidewalk to avoid him and he would have just seen a suit and a car. Their lives and interactions might never have afforded them opportunity to meet the other side, never mind truly see it. Maybe those other sides didn't exist until now, until they were changed by a cataclysmic event that unmade the world and refashioned it into something that's simultaneously twisted and beautiful, a version of the world and its inhabitants without veneer. When human actions and relationships have been recalibrated to such an extent its difficult trying to think about what it was like before because not only is it hard to imagine the Former You, it's hard to accept that you were that other person once, because it's completely out of touch with who you are now. It's hard and almost unfair to take that past person out of their proper context and place it in a world where no rules apply, not even Rick Grimes' hopelessly naive 'We Don't Shoot the Living.' But it doesn't stop her from imagining, all the same, and so she closes her eyes and rests her head on his chest and lets her mouth move.

"I think that you would have been a welcome break from the guys I used to date, if I had given you a chance." She says softly. "The guys I dated, well ... they were all lawyers, or bankers, or brokers, or whatever. They ... they were so stuffy." She says. "It would have been nice to talk to someone who was interested in me rather than my being a trophy, or one-half of some kind of power couple. It would have been nice to have just been Andrea." She says.

Daryl sighs and closes his eyes, letting his hand drift up her back, tangling his fingers in her thick hair. "The women I dated ... they were different than you." He says finally. "They'd travelled less, most of 'em had never left the state. But they knew their lives real well." He says finally. "You could see it on their faces."

Andrea nods. She can picture the type; young women who have lived less widely but more deeply than she has. They might not have travelled the length and breadth of the country for work but their lives have been harder, more deeply entwined with their local communities and towns, with brothers and sisters and parents and high school sweethearts and husbands and children. They were the kind of women who survived by shaving millimetres off of themselves until one day they woke up mad at the world and at themselves for letting their lives slip through their fingers.

They're quiet for a long minute before he speaks again. "I think I woulda thought about askin' for your number." He says softly. "Might not have done it but I woulda thought about it. 'specially if I saw you wearin' that blue shirt with the round neck."

Andrea smiles against his skin. "If you were wearing that grey shirt I might have asked for your number instead." She says against his warm flesh.

He chuckles at that and Andrea can feel the vibrations up his chest. She speaks again. "Where would we have met?" She asks, content to play out this small, quiet fiction they're writing in the air.

"Auto shop, maybe." Daryl says, before amending, "Me bailin' Merle outta jail, probably. Or him bailin' me."

Andrea feels him still at the mention of Merle. "You know, he could still be out there." She says softly. "If Tyler's still alive ... that guy didn't even know how to change a spark plug and he's gotten this far."

"Jackass." Daryl snorts.

They're quiet again until Andrea speaks. "So what would you have done, if I had given you my number?" She asks,

"Called you, dumb-ass."

The next day they're back on the road, Andrea in the blue top that Daryl likes so much, the Brandeis book tucked away in the bottom of her bag. He's wearing that grey shirt she liked so much. As he starts the car, she hands him something: a folded up piece of paper. Perplexed, he opens it, smiling softly when he sees what she's written down for him.

"Ya givin' me your number, huh?"

She returns his smile. "Call me sometime."

"Think I will."

FIN.

Not too sure about the ending, but I thought it was kinda cute.