AN: Okay, this story is sort of an alternative one-shot in place of my attempt at a Daryl/OC story, 'I See a Darkness'. This one takes place before the events of "Tell It to the Frogs." I know Amy may sound a little OOC in this, but I thought since she's still fairly young, she would have felt this way at some point during the show, before Rick shows up.

Btw, the title of this story comes from the name of the Wye Oak song that played in the Season 2 trailer ;)

Okay, enough babbling. Enjoy and review…!

Amy's POV:

He is the lone wolf of the pack, a rogue leader estranged from a group of desperate survivors.

I am more in sync with the encampment of humans around me, like a small part of one huge, if somewhat reluctant, family.

Sometimes, I wonder what occurs inside the mind of Daryl Dixon. What thoughts dance behind those restless blue eyes of his…

Throughout the day, I help Carol, Lori and Andrea with watching the children and the minimal amount of laundry that needs to be done around the camp. Carl has developed a small crush on me, but is too shy to say anything. Whenever I talk to him, he only smiles and looks down at the dirt surrounding his feet. He's a good kid, and so is little Sophia.

The rest of my family, except for my sister Andrea, had been consumed by the walkers. I had only managed to escape with her when our neighborhood collapsed due to the geek epidemic.

Nowadays, I consider everyone in the encampment to be my extended family. Well, almost everyone…

I always avoid Merle Dixon at all costs whenever he is around the camp. His eyes create an aura of disgusting perverseness whenever he looks at me, as if he's imagining what I look like without my clothes on. To be honest, he scares me anytime he is within ten feet of me.

In fact, just this morning, he had tried to make his advances on me while I went along to gather firewood. I had managed to struggle away from him, but not before he left me with a dark bruise on my cheek and a twisted ankle when I tripped trying to get away.

I didn't tell anyone except Andrea, who told me never to go anywhere alone again. Deep down, I prayed for all of the men, especially Daryl, never to find out about what Merle attempted do to me.

Daryl is different from his brother, but in a subtle way. At night, everybody but him circles around the campfire, discussing things about life before the dead walked the Earth.

Before there was no room left in Hell for the devils that haunt our homes and cities…

While everybody makes small talk with one another, I stay quiet and listen for the ominous sound of walkers in the woods.

I listen and I know that the crossbow-wielding hunter is out there, guarding us from danger.

He and I have not interacted with each other much since he and Merle first arrived to our camp. We had occasionally bumped into each other by accident, but he only briefly takes a glance at me with those cobalt eyes. I would mumble out an apology, afraid that I had made him angry. He would only turn away from me and continue with his task.

Tonight, I sit near the campfire, in between Dale and Andrea. I don't see any of the Dixon brothers in sight. Merle has supposedly gone on a special coke-snorting trip in his tent and wouldn't be awake until morning. Daryl is on guard duty for the night, once again.

This time, I want to get to know something about him…

I want to at least get him to speak with me and have a decent conversation. It couldn't hurt, right?

I stand up from my lawn chair and grab a water bottle out of my small backpack. Dale looks up at me with confusion.

"Are you turning in early, Amy?" The elderly man gently questions me.

"Um, no. Actually, I was going to take a bottle of water over to Daryl. He might be thirsty." I unscrew the lid, wincing as the plastic ridges of the round cap dig into the skin of my palm.

"I think he already brought his own water with him when he went on guard duty." Lori says to me, a hint of caution in her voice.

"Well, I feel bad for leaving him out there by himself." I shrug as I back away from the group of people around the fire. "I'll be fine, guys. I'll yell for help if something happens." I assure the brunette woman and white-haired patriarch staring at me with uncertainty. Andrea's worried green eyes glow in the firelight.

"Just be careful, Amy. He has a short temper, so I wouldn't upset him if I were you." Dale warns me in a stern voice, one of grandfatherly concern.

I turn my head back to him, smiling at Dale over my shoulder. "I'll be careful, Dale. And who knows? Maybe Daryl has more to him than just a short temper. We shouldn't judge people before we get to know them."

With that, I turn away from the group and walk toward the edge of the campsite, where I know Daryl will be standing guard. I clutch the water bottle tightly in my hand, feeling nervous.

What if he yells at me for disturbing his job on guard duty and demands for me to never speak to him again?

Well, if I wanted to talk to him, I had a right to do so unless he rejected the idea. I would just have to wait and see.

I see him hunched over in the dirt, his crossbow perched across his back. His posture seems to be tense, listening for any sign of walkers. He raises his head up, hearing my footsteps on the grass behind him. Daryl slowly turns his head toward me, his blue eyes staring straight at my face. They narrow in suspicion, but I try to smile to show that I mean no harm.

"H…Hello, Daryl." I manage to stutter out. He turns his body halfway in my direction, making me feel small under his intimidating gaze.

"What do you want, lil' girl?" He asks gruffly, taking out one of his arrows to wipe it clean with a rag. I slightly feel offended that he considers me to be a child. I am twenty years old, damn it! I suppose I would be small to him, at my five foot frame.

"I…I just thought you…uh…" My throat tightens as the oxygen leaves my lungs, sweat beading at my forehead.

"Go on! I haven't got all damn night." He snaps irritably.

I nearly jump in my spot, startled. The pain in my ankle flares up as I put my weight on it. I hadn't felt the intense pain since earlier that morning. If anyone asked, I only told them that I tripped while retrieving firewood; at least I told half the truth. God, I pray that Daryl doesn't notice me wince.

The water bottle drops from my hands as I grit my teeth together, trying to bite back the urge to cry out.

Daryl stands up and gestures toward me. He is merely a few feet away from me, his eyes scrutinizing my suffering posture. "Why you limpin' like that?"

He comes closer to me, allowing the faint glow from the campfires to light his face in my view. His voice cuts hard into my ears as he questions me.

"I…I'm fine." I try to explain as he walks closer to me. His eyes narrow again as he focuses on my face, particularly the bruise on my cheek. It was probably a dark purple by now.

"I call bullshit on you bein' fine, lil' girl. I know you didn't get that nasty bruise by fallin' down." He is standing only a mere foot away from me. The aroma of alcohol mixed with sweat and cooked venison overwhelms my nostrils as he silently examines my condition.

"Daryl, look, I only wanted to bring you some water because I thought you were thirsty and would like a bit of company while you were out…here…by yourself." I slowly finish my sentence as I realize how much I've babbled out.

I see a very faint grin form at the corner of his lips, but his eyes are focused on my ankle. "Look, you oughta not be on your feet while your ankle is like that. And are ya gonna tell me how you got that damn bruise on your face?"

"Well…I don't think I should tell you. Don't see why you would really care anyway." I mutter to myself, but I can tell by the way his fiery blue eyes light up that he heard what I said.

"Well, I know that it was someone in this camp who did that to you. The guys and I will narrow it down if you refuse to tell anyone." I see his fist tighten around the pocketknife at his waist.

I hang my head in shame as I struggle to stay upright on my feet. Daryl watches me in silence, closing the distance between us. His arm wraps around my waist, holding me steady. I feel surprised at how strong he is despite the pain in my ankle.

"All right, easy there. Come on, I'll take you to Dale's RV. Ya can rest in there 'til mornin'." He bends down and lifts me up into his muscular arms. I instantly wrap my arms around his neck, half-afraid that he'll drop me.

I hear his footsteps in the dirt as he carries me back to camp. "Now, don't be gettin' all sweet on me now, Amy. I don't do this whole 'hero' thing very often." His blue eyes hold mine in place, freezing my gaze where I have difficulty looking away.

"I…I'm not. I'm just surprised that you know my name, that's all. Also, I haven't been carried in a long time, so this damsel-in-distress thing is new to me, too." A small smile lights up his face for the briefest instant before Shane's voice breaks the silence.

"What the hell happened?" I feel a dozen pairs of eyes on me, stunned by the sight of rough redneck Daryl Dixon carrying me in his arms.

"Can't ya'll see that she's hurt?" Daryl explains in a slightly angry tone of voice to Shane. He gestures to Dale's RV parked nearby. "Good Lord, are ya'll blind or somethin'?"

"I'll be okay, everyone. Don't worry about me." I manage to announce before Daryl takes me inside the trailer. He walks to the tiny back bedroom and places me on the bed over the quilt blanket. I bend over to remove the shoes from my feet.

"Now, tell me who did that to your face, Lil' Amy. And don't give me none of that lyin' bullshit." His eyes burn at me with urgency, but I still feel like I cannot say anything.

"Daryl, I honestly don't really see why you care who hit me. You've been ignoring everyone around camp, so I don't see why you have a reason to care if I get hurt." I fold my arms across my chest as he stands up straight in front of my bed.

"Well…I've seen ya around camp." His voice is quiet as he mutters only for me to hear what he has to say. "You seem like a real sweet person and nobody should be goin' around hittin' ya like that." He points to the bruise marking up my cheek.

I feel somewhat flattered that he showed even an inkling of kindness toward me…even if it was in his own way. He turned away to leave the room, but not before stopping at the doorway.

"You're gonna sleep in here tonight. If I catch ya sneakin' out, I'll have no choice but to tan your lil' ass with my belt." His eyes shine with boyish playfulness to let me know that he was joking. "G'night, Amy." He slowly turns away from me and tightens the bow across his back. His eyes steal a last glance right before he disappears outside into the darkness.

I lay my head onto the soft pillow as the events of the night swirl in my mind. Pride rushes through my veins as I realize that I discovered a softer side to the notorious Daryl Dixon. As sleep consumes me, I can only hope that the end of the world will not destroy any potential new relationships among humans in the desperate struggle to keep our sanity and survival intact.

Right as I sink into oblivion, I shudder at the thought of Daryl finding out that his own brother was the one had hurt me. I am not sure what the outcome would be for Merle, but I know that it will not end well.

My troubled thoughts leave me as I drift into a muddled dream of my unlikely savior of the day, the tough Daryl Dixon. He truly is a good man who will fight at others' defense, and I only hope that he will be able to show more of that caring side to him as time goes on.

.

.

.

The next morning is hell for me. Andrea and I have gotten into an argument about her volunteering to go to Atlanta to scavenge for food. Now, I storm off angrily into the woods, settling down by a tree to rest and be alone for a few minutes. And it turns out to be the most hazardous few minutes of my life.

Merle has found me and has me pinned down in a cocaine-filled rage with lust on the side. He tears at my shirt with large, filthy hands. My brain refuses to process what is happening and starts to black out…

My mind refuses to sink completely into the dark ocean of unconsciousness. I can still feel myself on the forest floor and hear the muddled voices of men shouting. The weight of Merle's hulking form is pulled off of me in a flash, but I can't gather the strength to open my eyes to the post-apocalyptic nightmare that has become my life.

I hear the faint sound of painful punches being landed onto human flesh, a nose being broken, but my eyelids remain stubborn as the violence descends into my ears. A large but gentle hand pushes sweaty strands of brown hair off my forehead. Another different pair of hands lifts up my left arm, probably examining the fresh bruises from my struggle with Merle.

"Looks like he got her pretty good, Shane. I think she just passed out from the trauma. Let's get her inside the RV and get one of the girls to fetch the first aid kit." Dale's voice informs the former sheriff. I feel arms slide under my legs and back to lift me up from the ground, but another voice, one I don't expect to hear, barks out from further away from where the two men loom over me.

"Don't bother, Walsh. I'll take her. My brother is the one who hurt her in the first place. For right now, lil' Amy is my problem." Daryl's voice is filled with subtle fury as I hear the leaves rustle beneath his feet, probably walking toward my inert figure. Shane lifts me up a few inches before Daryl's tenderly calloused hands position one of my limp arms around his neck before sliding his arms under me, his hold on me surprisingly gentle, not harsh or angry like I expected.

His feet crunch onto the leaves on the ground as he starts walking back toward camp. My brain begins to sink deeper into sleep as the sounds around me begin to fade. My head rests naturally against Daryl's shoulder, which feels actually comfortable. The familiar, comforting smell of sweat and cooked meat coming off his wife-beater increases the haze in my will to stay half-awake. I feel the slowly burning inferno of Daryl's eyes on my face, angry at me for carelessly marching off into the woods by myself.

"Lil' girl, you're gonna get a hell of a chewin' out when you wake up." His growl in my ear sends a final chill down my spine, as if he suspects that I can hear him. My subconscious sinks deeper into the sea of slumber, submerging me into a peaceful blackness.

'

.

.

"Amy, please. It's all just plain common sense. You know damn well that it is not safe to wander off alone, especially in the woods." Andrea lectures me in front of my bed inside the RV. She sits across from me on the other tiny bed with Shane right next to her, holding his blue baseball cap in his hands.

My redneck "bodyguard" leans against the doorway frame to the puny bedroom, his arms crossed on his chest. His blazing eyes stay on me as I look at my older sister lecturing me, feeling like a little child getting grounded. Daryl is probably waiting for them to leave to give me his own version of a lecture. I certainly am not looking forward to that.

"Look, Andrea. I respect what you and Shane are trying to do, but I just didn't want this whole thing with Merle to blow up in my face. I just needed to be alone for awhile. Now, the whole camp is gossiping about it." Angry tears soak my eyes as I try to hold them in.

"Well, I guess you just happened to give Merle another chance to hurt you by wandering off like that." Shane stares straight at me, taking the role of authority figure on my part.

"Did he try to hurt you yesterday morning, too?" Andrea questions me, folding her arms on her chest. Shane's sheriff badge glints in the afternoon light.

"Yes…he did. I only lied about getting hurt because…" The words choke me as I attempt to force them out. Daryl leans closer into the room, still focused on what I have to say.

"…if anyone found out, it would only cause a fight between everyone and scare the kids. We… I just don't want to cause any trouble… but I still did anyway. I…I'm so sorry, guys." The tears sting my eyes as they flow down my cheeks. Shane hands me a Kleenex box while Andrea sits beside me on my bed and rubs my back with her hand.

"Are ya'll almost done with your 'good cop, bad cop' routine?" Daryl asks, an edge of impatience in his tone. He doesn't look at me until Andrea releases me from her hug.

"Yeah, I think we've got her all wore out with our interrogation." Shane grins at me, making me smile faintly back in return.

"Good, 'cause I've been standin' here for twenty damn minutes waitin' to speak with her alone. I told you, it was my brother, so she's mine to look after right now." Both Shane and Andrea only stare for a brief second of silence at the protective statement Daryl makes about me.

I feel my own heart do a small jump at the words "mine" and "look after" in the same sentence, directed at me, coming from the mouth of Daryl Dixon.

"Daryl, I don't feel comfortable with you being alone with her. Maybe you need to go outside and cool off for a bit." Shane suggests, placing his blue police cap back onto his head.

"Shane, I'll be fine. I…trust him not to hurt me." I look up into the hunter's blue eyes to let him know that I'm being serious.

"Well…okay. But, we'll be listening outside, just to give you a fair warning, Dixon." My sister gives Daryl a hard look of threatening intent.

The redneck takes a step closer to where I lay on my bed as Shane and Andrea head for the doorway of the small bedroom. Daryl turns around to face the dark-haired cop, his back burnished with glistening sweat, and the muscles tight with tension. He angles his body between me and the main leader of the encampment, his posture stiff with protectiveness.

"I'm not as low as my shithead brother that I'd hit and try to rape a woman, Walsh. Or sneak off into the woods and screw around with the wife of his dead best friend." Shane's eyes widen in disbelief as Andrea and I look at each other with questions in our gazes. Daryl's voice is low with anger, like he's attempting to keep his temper from flaring up in order to not scare me. "Just look at her. She sure as hell don't look like some throwaway whore, now does she?" I can almost hear the smirk in his mocking tone that momentarily masks the edginess in waiting for Andrea and Shane to give us some privacy.

"All I know is that if you upset her, you're gonna end up just like your shithead brother, broken nose and all, which ironically, you gave him to start with." Shane nearly snarls, reaching down to lay his hand on the pistol in his pocket.

"Come on, Shane. Let's leave these two alone for now." Andrea walks toward the main trailer door. Shane gives Daryl a look of forewarning before turning to follow my sister outside. When he finally closes the trailer door, Daryl reaches forward and shuts the small bedroom door, to give us a guarantee of actual privacy. Then, he closes the curtains to the small windows, just in case somebody tries to look in on us.

A strange feeling forms in the pit of my stomach at the notion that Daryl and I are enclosed in a little room together, alone for the first time. He sits down onto the other bed across from mine, laying his crossbow onto the blanket beside him. He breathes out a long, irritated sigh.

"Damn, I thought them two control freaks would never leave." I see a tiny smile form at the corner of his lips, but it disappears as his sapphire eyes blaze at me again. "That was pretty stupid of ya to go wanderin' off like that, little girl. Did you even think about what you woulda done if a walker found you out there?" I see his fist clench together as he talks.

"Yes, before Merle grabbed me, I thought I heard one in the bushes. I reached out to get a sharp tree branch, but your brother dragged me farther into the woods before I could defend myself." I wipe the rest of my dried tears off my face. "Besides, I'm only one person in this camp. It's not like I really do anything productive around here, anyway. Everyone thinks I'm too weak to go into the city because I can't run very far without getting tired and having to stop and catch my breath. I'm not strong enough to do hardly any physical labor. I'm pretty much useless around here. Why would my safety matter to anybody?"

I see him clasp his hands together, interlocking his fingers. He stands up and walks straight to my bed, his strong, intimidating form towering over my small body. I feel vulnerable in his presence, basking in the aura of his internal rage at my speech.

"Amy, you oughta be goddamn grateful that you're even alive to see today. With the world gone straight to Hell, we don't have time for the 'woe-is-me' bullshit. Every human alive matters, even if they can't really defend themselves!" His voice is a hiss, in between a yell and a whisper, so the people outside can't hear us.

"Well, Daryl, since I've already caused a fight between the only blood relative you have now, maybe I should make it easier for you and give myself to the walkers! You can even shoot me yourself, if you want to!" Now, I'm the one yelling at him, possible risking the release of his fury.

The embers in his eyes explode into a wildfire at my insane words. At the same time, my hands fly to my heart at the realization of what I had just said. Is the apocalypse really making me go crazy? For the moment, it doesn't matter as I stare at Daryl's dirty, furious face. Now, I have done it!

"Lil girl, I guess since you feel that you gotta throw away your life, I might as well keep ya from bein' put in harm's way." His voice is an infuriated growl as he grabs his crossbow and slings it over his powerful shoulder. He turns away from me and heads to the doorway.

Daryl looks back at me from the bedroom entrance. "And Amy, don't be givin' me none of that fiery stubbornness of yours. As cute as I find it, you're not gonna get away with bein' hurt around here. Startin' today, you're gonna have your own personal bodyguard; not just from walkers, but from my bastard of a brother. If he so much as looks at ya wrong, he'll be payin' dearly for it. I'm gonna try my best to keep ya safe around here, but don't expect us to be interactin' any different with each other. I'm not a goddamn Saint, you know."

I can only stare in disbelief as he gives me a nod with his head and turns in the direction to leave. My head crashes against my pillow with a dizzying speed as I curl up into a ball and close my eyes, trying to decipher what has just happened to me and Daryl.

He was going to be my protector from Merle, from walkers…from anything that may threaten me. My brain can only figure out that much information as the sleep-induced haze closes over my senses and I drift off, undisturbed and safe…for now.

From that moment on until the day I die, I will always know Daryl Dixon as a zombie-slaying guardian angel with a tough exterior and the heart of a good man.