Warning: Contains spanking of a child. It's nothing bad and I don't condone hitting a child in any way, shape, or form. It's included in this story to show Daryl still struggling to overcome his childhood. If you don't like it, I am very sorry.

Chapter Three

Sophia hadn't meant the words she had said, they just sort of…fell out. She didn't mean to tell her mom that she wanted to be treated like an adult, and therefore didn't have to go get her a glass of water when asked. She didn't mean any real harm. Carl was younger than her by a year, and he had his own gun now.

And here she was, fetching her mother a glass of water. She had grown up more in the past six months than most adults do in their whole lifetimes, and her mother was still talking to her like a little kid. Sophia didn't want to be mean, but she was just fed up.

And she knew, deep down, that what she had said was mean and uncalled for, and disrespectful. And instantly, she was sorry she said what she had.

"Sophia," Daryl's voice was sharp and commanding, "apologize to your mother, then come outside. We need to have a little chat."

Sophia felt her heart sink. She adored Daryl and he was the last person who she ever wanted to disappoint or anger. He did not look happy as he shut the front door behind him to wait out on the porch.

Carol's face was as white as linin when Sophia turned to face her.

"I'm so sorry Mama…I didn't mean…"

"Go talk to Daryl," Carol turned away from her, and Sophia felt like a deflated balloon.

She mustered up her courage, and met Daryl out on the porch.

"Come on," he began to walk off, and Sophia practically had to run to catch up with him.

He stopped behind the barn, where no one would see.

"See that stick over there?" Daryl nodded to a large stick on the ground not far from where they were standing, "Go pick it up."

Sophia did as she was told. Fear gripped her. Her father used to hit her a bunch…sometimes the beatings left her bruised and in pain for days after. She was terrified of what Daryl was capable of doing. She also knew her father hit her for things like shutting the door too loudly, having the TV on too loudly, being two minutes late from school…Daryl was going to punish her for being rude to her mother.

It was something she deserved.

Sophia picked up the stick and walked back towards Daryl, hanging her head.

Daryl sat down on a log and called her over to him, "Get across my knee, Sophia. You know you deserve this for talking to your mama like that."

"Yes sir," Sophia nodded and climbed across his knee.

She wasn't sobbing or shouting or crying out like Daryl expected. Instead, silent tears spilled down her cheeks. And to Daryl, that was worse.

He shook the thought from his head as he brought the switch down. He tried not to be too hard. Sophia whimpered, but didn't cry out. She turned around and stared at Daryl and his heart shattered.

In that one moment, everything he ever felt growing up flooded back to him. He remembered how his father would beat him for hours until he was bloody and both of them couldn't stand. He remembered the fear he felt towards his father, and saw the same fear in the eyes of this little girl.

And it was because of him.

He had hurt her. He had hurt her and Daryl couldn't take it.

"Get up," he barked, "Get away from me. I don't want to look at you."

"But…"

"I said go!" Daryl's voice bellowed and Sophia let out a cry before running off to the farmhouse.

Daryl slammed his fist against the wall of the barn. He could not believe what he had just done…he had hit Sophia. With a switch. He had made her cry. He had made her scared.

"Daryl?"

Carol placed a hand against the small of his back, "Daryl, what happened?"

He shook her off, "I don't want to talk about it."

"Daryl, talk to me," Carol's voice was pleading, and Daryl knew she had too much power over him. He would give in, and he did.

"I hit her, Carol," his voice was filled with shame, "I hit her with a switch. Just once…but she was…she looked so terrified of me."

"Daryl, she had to be punished for what she said to me."

"But I didn't have to go and hit her."

Carol guided him over to the log, and the two of them sat down, "Daryl, look…parents sometimes make mistakes. There aren't instruction manuals. We mess up sometimes."

"I…I just wanted…I wanted to be like a…like a daddy to her, Carol. I wanted to be that for her and I screwed up. I shouldn't have hit her…now she won't even…she won't even speak to me."

"She will," Carol, once again, placed her hand on her knee, "all you have to do is go to her. She adores you, Daryl, and this won't change that."

Daryl didn't even notice that tear that had fallen and was trickling down his cheek, until Carol wiped it away, "I-I just kept thinking about my old man. He used to beat me all the time, Carol. All the time. I hit her and then he flashed through my head and…and I realized I had to…I had to stop."

Carol gave his thigh a squeeze, causing him to twitch against his will, "Daryl," her voice was soft, "it will be okay. That little girl thinks you're the world. That hasn't changed in the last five minutes. Go speak with her. Explain to her. Trust me, it will be okay."

"I told her to get away from me," Daryl's head drooped, "because I couldn't stand to look at what I had done to her."

Carol squeezed again, "You'll be fine, and so will she. Go to her, Daryl."

"Carol…" Daryl heard his voice break, "I'm…I'm scared."

"Shhh," Carol rubbed his thigh gently, "everything will be okay. Trust me."

"Alright," Daryl nodded, "but shouldn't I wait? I could talk to her tomorrow?"

"Daryl," her smile had turned into a bemused smirk, "if you want what happened a few days ago, after the fishing trip, to happen again anytime soon…you will go do this."

Daryl wagged a finger at her, kissed her lightly, and went off to find Sophia.

Daryl found her by the little river he had retrieved her from about a week ago. She was sitting by the stream, letting her fingers play in the water, while tears fell down her cheeks.

"Hey," Daryl nodded over to her.

She didn't say anything. Daryl felt his heart sink.

"Look, lima-bean…I was angry at what you said to your mama because…well, because I love her so much. I don't want anyone hurtin' her. But that also means…I don't want anyone hurtin' you. I shouldn't have hit you, darlin'. I lost my temper."

"You love her?" Sophia glanced up from the water.

"Very much so."

"Good," Sophia nodded.

"You see, kid, my dad used to really beat on me. Growing up, I was terrified of my old man. Today, when I hit you with that switch…I saw myself become him, and I had to stop. I couldn't…I couldn't hurt you. I did though, and I won't forgive myself for it."

Sophia gestured to him to come to her, and he crouched down in front of her. She wiped away a tear that had fallen to his cheek.

"I said something mean, I deserved to be punished for it."

"I shouldn't have hit you though," Daryl shook his head, "not for something like that. Of course, if you ever run away again, I'm gonna have to track you down and rip you a new one for placing the life of my little girl in danger."

Sophia's eyes widened at the 'my little girl' part and she smiled up at Daryl, "I…I'm your little girl?"

"Course you are," Daryl ruffled her hair, "come on. Let's get you back…"

"So…if I'm you're little girl," Sophia smirked, "you wouldn't mind if I were to…" she splashed Daryl right in the face.

"Oh you're gonna get it now," Daryl grinned and splashed her back before taking her by the hand and heading back to the farm.

"Hey," Daryl ran a thumb across her little hand, "I ain't no good at sayin' things like this but…I love you, lima-bean."

"I love you too, Daryl," Sophia grinned up at him and Daryl Dixon swore, at that moment, his heart melted.