A/N- A common thread I find in my reviews are comments saying that Rick and Shane's relationship should have taken a dramatically negative twist seeing as Shane is now a violent threat, and an unstable one at that, but I'd like to explain my thoughts real quick... I don't see pre-apocalyptic Rick acting in the same kill-all-threats officer friendly we see as walkers and tragedies twist him. He had a lot more faith in humanity before everything went to hell in a hand basket, wouldn't you say? And he'd especially more faith in his best friend.

Special thanks to Idril Isil Gilgalad for showing me this week's quote, if I remember correctly, she translated it and everything! It does, in my opinion, touch a lot on Rick's view of Shane right now.

Many, many warm 'thank you's to jadekeca, Petteroes3, foxianVic, Cohen's girl, Buckismith, Guest, petteroes, the duff, OranjeJuice360, MizzBee, Angelas, Maelstorm And Osmosis, writerchick0214, Q, Medoriko, Guest, Damion Starr, frozenclover, Marion, prowlingPanda, MacDixon Love, simplegay me, silentnyx, californiabound17, Downey, , DreamBiggerDarlingAE, Silver Mirror, InkyBrown, halfemptyflask, and 6747! You guys are absolutely amazing!

XxxX

"Because you didn't know how to pretend I realized immediately that to see you how I wanted to it was necessary to start by closing my eyes"
Julio Cortázar

XxxX

Dollface-

Lori hated the doctor's office, from the fake smiles and dead eyes to the underlying smell of death, just hardly covered by the thick scent of bleach. She waddled herself around in her booth, swaying her weight back and forth and back and forth and she never found a comfortable position. The old, crinkled tissue paper that sat underneath her was supposed to be a health precaution, but she had her doubts. The thing was created just to be an inconvenience, was her bet. She found herself more irked than anything, and in the hormonal state she was in, it didn't surprise her at all that she found herself completely willing to rip out anyone's throat. Even Rick, over in the corner, and his big, goofy smile.

He had had that look on his face for two days now, even when Lori would snap and bite at him like some rabid animal. He had the giddiness of a high school boy going to prom, and really, it was the same one he'd worn a week after Lori had given him his first blow job. She wondered whose lipstick she'd find on him now if she looked. Only, after the thought passed through her mind she thought 'oh.' and hurried to a new topic.

Shane looked nervous, if his fumbling was anything to go by. He kept dropping and tumbling the things he would pick up, over and over until he admitted defeat in trying to take his mind off things and settled into a chair against the wall to brood. Lori smiled at the side of his head, at the furrow of his brow, at the frustrated wrinkles on his forehead. The similarities between him and Rick were many, but the differences were astounding.

Where Shane faltered, Rick was brave. Where Shane was weak, Rick was a defiant wall. Where Shane was small, Rick was meaningful, but there was so much more to Shane. So much more draw, so much more compassion, so much more love and lust and feeling. He was everything Rick was not, in the same way that he aimed to be everything that Rick was.

Rick was pacing, tapping his shoes hard on the disturbingly clean tiles with a clap, clap, clap. His smile faltered sometimes, when a new thought, one that must be about Shane and Lori and the baby inside her flickered through his head. His teeth flashed out for a moment to chew angrily at his lips and he pulled them into an unwavering line. He thought of something else for a moment, almost as if is was an afterthought, and just like that he would huff a quiet laugh, rock backed on his heels and be return to his giddy school girl routine.

Lori wondered about Daryl and the layers that drew Rick in. She considered the mysterious theatricals about him, and the odd way he smelled, and the gruff, rough back country look to him and she tried to remember any time in her marriage that Rick's eyes had lingered too long on anyone of Daryl's description and she couldn't. For so many years Rick only had eyes for Lori.

Lori considered her betrayal. Her gut twisted and she recalled her words, and Rick's and Shane's too and she felt sick. Not sick enough to move to find an escape, but just enough that she shifted against the crinkle of paper again to find a spot less uncomfortable.

She rubbed her belly thoughtfully, picturing a baby with Shane's hard, defined features and a baby with Rick's smooth smile. She kept the images in her mind until the doctor came in.

Axel Temple was an uncomfortable man, with his unshaven face and his odd way of talking, the way he would raise his voice up for no reason and then drop it to a fine whisper unexpectedly. Lori didn't like him much, didn't trust him, but the doctor she usually went to was on leave for the next few months with her own baby and she could find no one else.

Doctor Temple did his routine while avoiding as much eye contact as possible. It was quite a feat with two full grown men and a moody woman breathing down his neck, but he managed, shaky fingers and all. He set to his paper work and his clip board, producing music in his note taking.

He opened his mouth for the first time only after he set his things down, to hum softly. "Hmm, everything's looking good so far!" Shane tensed up and Lori couldn't tell if he was waiting for a 'but' or if he was thrown to the edge of his seat by the sing-song glee of the doctor's voice.

"Are we going to do an ultra-sound?" Rick asked from his corner, his smile nowhere to be seen.

"Of course," the doctor grinned, "And would you guys like to know the sex of the baby while I'm up in there?"

Shane muttered, "Up in..?" while Rick responded with a simple positive.

"And we'd also like to know who the father is."

Lori set her head in her hands and waited for the doctor's brisk and short reply, she waited for his disgust or his disappointment in her vile actions but nothing came but a nod and a tasteless joke.

"If you'd like," the doctor snorted, "I could set you up with an appointment with Jerry Springer?"

"That'll be all." Lori snapped, "Thank you." Temple scurried out with his handy dandy notebook and his tail tucked between his legs.

The room was left feeling as empty as ever as the doctor took the comfort and the ease and Rick's easy smile with him. The thought of a parental test loomed over them all, bringing with it images of Lori and Shane and Lori and Shane and Lori and Shane. Rick flinched and bore the weight of love silently.

"We should think of names." Lori whispered softly. She watched her boys' reactions and waited for them to speak.

"We should wait. See what the baby looks like first."

Shane nodded his agreement, ramming his hands in his pockets. "Yeah."

Lori heard the paper wrinkle underneath her again. She pulled her pony tail tight, clearing her throat and piercing her lips. "Then should we talk about what's going to happen when we find out who the... who's going to help raise the baby?"

"I want," Shane hesitated, observing Rick for a moment before starting again, "I want to start a family with you, Lori."

Rick flinched, avoiding eye contact with anything but the floor. His shoes kicked against the tiles and he stepped forward and backwards like a pace cut short. He settled for standing -swaying- again after a few uncomfortable moments.

"You don't have the right to say that just yet." Rick finally spoke.

Shane itched the back of his neck and licked his lips, nodding somberly at his friend, "You're absolutely right, I'm sorry." He pierced his lips, clearly realizing he was stepping on egg shells.

"What about our 'happily ever after' Rick?" Lori asked, facing her husband, "Do you really think that still exists now?"

Of course Rick didn't believe in it, he didn't want to. The thought of spending the rest of his life with Lori, sitting back and waiting for a repeat experience just like this, knowing he wasn't good enough, never, ever getting the chance to trust again. The very idea crippled him with sorrow. So he slowly shook his head at his wife.

"So where does that leave us?"

The doctor crashed in with a wobbly cart, smacking into both sides of the door frame before clambering in loudly. He didn't notice he had interrupted a tense conversation, or he didn't comment or apologize for it. Temple settled into his swivel chair, pulling his cart along with him. Set up on it was the ultrasound, its wires strewn messily around it, its screen staring blankly at them. Temple propped himself and his equipment up beside Lori's bed, switching on his monitor and the rest of his tools and plunging the room into an awkward silence.

Rick watched as Shane sauntered up to stand beside Lori, he watched his hand snake up and take Lori's hand like a secret. He witnessed their eyes meet, and their hearts flutter and souls sing all from ten feet away. Rick felt more betrayed than ever.

The doctor worked to get his machine running and Rick let the blundering man distract him. Temple motioned to Lori and she sat back against her booth, glaring at the ceiling impatiently at the crinkle of the tissue paper and lifting her shirt up to expose the plump, round proof of a baby.

Temple laughed, twirling his mustache between his fingers like the bad guy, he giggled like a child, a creepy, hairy child. "So would you like to talk about any of the-"

"I've done this before," Lori told him, "we don't want to sit through the whole opening speech again."

Temple nodded slowly, uncertainly, like he had never dealt with a hormonal mother before. For all Rick knew, and for all the clumsy and inelegant moves the man made, he probably hadn't. "Of course, ma'am, my apologies."

Lori didn't respond, but waited until the gel for the procedure was squirted onto her belly. She squirmed when she finally felt it, smiling up at Shane and whispering, "It's cold."

Shane grinned back, eyes alight with the honor of looking down on her.

Rick would be lying if he said he wasn't bitter. Watching his two best friends act so in love in front of him would be fine in most situations, but Lori was still his wife. Lori was still his son's mother, and maybe his new child's mother. And maybe not, he flinched.

A black and white mass appeared on the little screen near Temple, floating in and out of view, catching everyone's attention. Shapes and forms blurred and shifted around, dancing with the projector, with time and space as a little baby was formed. Rick had forgotten what it felt like, to look into a monitor and see faith and hope and life and the future all on that tiny, black screen. He had forgotten what it felt like to stand next to a miracle, a pitiful shrimp in the whole, wide world, and have it mere inches away. He could reach out and touch it if he wanted. He could feel it on his fingertips.

For just a moment, Rick saw the world was beautiful again. And in that moment, Rick wanted nothing more than to show it to Daryl.

Shane reached out to touch Lori first, brushing the side of his thumb over Lori's belly, smiling softly, blinking away tears of awe. He looked deep into Lori's eyes, and Lori looked into his and they just existed together, and that was enough for them.

"It's a baby girl." Temple cooed.

And Rick couldn't stay in the room anymore, not while he knew that Lori didn't love him anymore, she hadn't for a long time. Not while knowing that Shane had completely replaced him, had taken everything Rick had loved for so long. Not while knowing that that baby inside Lori that Rick had already found himself cherishing might not be his.

Rick mumbled something about going to the bathroom as he bolted to the door. He didn't look back, he didn't let anymore memories of his past marriage flood him, he didn't think about Lori or Shane or the little fetus growing for them. He thought about Daryl and nothing else.

Daryl would have the answers Rick needed. He had to. Rick didn't want to turn to anyone else. Not ever again.

XxxX

Daryl was at one of his many jobs but Rick didn't have much trouble finding him. He had become reluctantly observant of the time over the last few months, keeping mind of where Daryl would be in his schedule regardless of if Rick was planning to see the man or not.

It was still morning, not quite noon, so Rick had began and ended his search at the car repair shop. Despite all the change that had twisted Rick's life to an unrecognizable level the shop was still the same as when he had first visited. The same drugged up kid greeted him at the door, the same sick gasoline smell wafted from the same thick doors, the same whirring and clanking of heavy tools could be heard.

Daryl was hiding underneath an aged truck, fumbling for gears and gadgets as he worked on the bottom of the engine. Rick watched him for a while, smiling thoughtfully as Daryl's hand popped out from under the vehicle to wrestle for a bag at his waist blindly. Rick kicked the bag softly, nudging it encouragingly to meet the tips of Daryl's fingers. It was clutched tight and dragged under the car for further scrutiny.

Daryl tossed around in the bag, seemingly oblivious to any of the outside world, or of Rick's presence. Rick thought about pulling up a chair and making himself comfortable. He wasn't ready to go anywhere, and just wasn't sure he could face another heart-wrenching, soul shattering conversation about the things he'd done wrong in the last few months and the sound of Daryl clanking away under cars was more comforting than it had the right to be.

"Sumthin' on yer mind." Daryl's voice said from under the truck. Rick would have startled, but was too busy sighing with relief. He wasn't too sure why his shoulders suddenly felt lighter, and his legs felt weak, but it felt good and he didn't want to question it. He waited for the other man to wheel out into sight.

"It feels like every time I see you you're either in danger or recovering from something awful." Rick eyed a couple of angry, black bruises on Daryl's shoulders and sighed, feeling a sudden and violent urge to ask. "Do you think one of these days we can talk under different circumstances?"

"Different?" Daryl sat up on the skateboard, "Prolly not."

"That's too bad." Rick held out a hand to help Daryl up, but it wasn't taken and Daryl stayed, comfortable with his spot on the ground. Rick let his hand drop.

A beat passed where the silence in the air was tense, almost suffocating, and almost unfamiliar. Rick wasn't used to the feeling, at least not around Daryl. He wasn't prepared to see suspicion flash through those blue eyes. It was all gone before Rick could really analyze it.

"I thought ya had a meetin' with tha baby's doctor." Daryl spoke up finally, "What are yew doing here, did it end early?"

"Not exactly." Rick admitted quietly. "I wanted to see you."

Daryl hesitated, his face twisting in confusion until his eyebrows were deeply furrowed and his lips were curved into a frown, "Me? What for?"

"I just," Rick scrambled for the words, "Things were getting complicated. I didn't want to get involved."

Daryl stopped breathing for a second, as if he were pondering a world that took his breath away. His chest hitched only a mere millisecond later and he said, "Is tha baby all good, then?"

"Yes, she is."

"She." Daryl noted, looking off into space. "A baby girl, then. Any names picked out?"

"No." Rick shuffled, "But I don't think that's up to me."

Daryl's eyes shot over to Rick, "And why not."

Rick coughed, pulled on the collar of his shirt and quickly changed the subject, "I've been thinking."

"I have a mind to be worried."

"You and I should just go." Daryl eyed Rick with the same distrust a father would a daughter on prom night. Rick continued regardless, "Somewhere, anywhere, no-where. Wherever. I don't want to be here anymore. I don't want to be around Lori and Shane and their… the baby."

Daryl observed Rick with knowing eyes.

"I can get you away from here, away from your brother." Rick's voice choked and caught and stumbled all over, maybe with excitement, maybe with fear, maybe it was his brain begging him to stop. "I can get you away from this horrible life, you won't have to work three awful jobs or even get out bed if you don't want to. You and I could go live the white picket fence life, with apple pie cooling on the window sill, a dog on the lawn, a baby…" Rick's words drabbled off into the distance and the only sound that followed was the protest from the skateboard as Daryl stood up.

"Look at me, Rick." Daryl ground out past grit teeth. He got close to Rick, smelling of oil and muck, and then stepped two or three feet back so Rick could look him over. Rick saw nothing out of place on the man, only a deep look of vicious disappointment on a dirty face. "Do I have tits?"

The question struck Rick at a weird angle, and he couldn't bring himself to answer with Daryl eyeing him with such a hard, serious look. He sputtered out 'Uh?' before Daryl answered for him.

"No, Rick, I don't have tits. I'm not a woman. Yer spewing bullshit ta tha wrong audience. If yew want ta be banging someone who's goal in life is pie and pups yew can go right ahead: walk outside and fuck tha first bimbo yew see." Daryl shook his head. "And yew best think twice before yew bring up ma brother or ma work again."

Rick smiled apologetically, "You're right. I'm sorry. I was thinking like, I was just… Lori used to… When…" Rick abandoned his statement, knowing how awful it would sound no matter how he put it.

"Yeah." Daryl rolled his eyes. "I don't know where yer goin' with all this, but I think yew need a night ta sleep on it."

"I've thought about it plenty." Rick told Daryl, stepping closer enthusiastically. "I just want to get you away from all this chaos. I want to get out of here with you."

Daryl snorted, mostly out of disbelief, but with a bit of spite. "Fuck off, I'm not going anywhere."

"Aren't you sick of this town? Don't you want out of here?"

"I seem ta be a lot more comfortable than you." Daryl growled, trying not to let Rick know how cornered he felt. Rick's face was set with determination but his eyes were lost, Daryl could see it, and he wasn't about to let Rick make the biggest mistake of his life.

"I can get us out of here, Daryl." Rick said again.

"And what about Carl." Daryl hissed. "You're just going to leave your son behind?" Rick threw his head back like he'd been hit and Daryl worked with it. "And that baby girl."

"She's not even mine-" Rick tried again, and this time more of him looked uncertain.

"How tha hell do yew know that fer sure!" Daryl barked. He felt shaken, himself. He wasn't used to confrontations.

"She doesn't need me." Rick said, "She doesn't need me in her life."

"And I do?" Daryl asked with a hiss, "No chance in fucking hell! Get yer ass back ta the doctors and take care of yer responsibilities. I will take care of myself, fuck yew very much."

"I love you."

Daryl's breath left him painfully, like he'd been shot. He wasn't ready for that, not in the very least. The 'L' word wasn't in the job description. This wasn't supposed to happen. It took too long to get his brain working right again.

"And what tha hell is tha baby supposed ta think if she grows up and she has yer stupid smile and yer stupid eyes and yer stupid laugh?" Daryl spat, "She'd be smart enough ta piece it ta'gether sooner or later, I know that! And then what is she gonna do when she has ta look herself in the mirror every morning and know she wasn't good enough for you! She is going ta look at herself and everyday she'll think she wasn't worth it! She will believe in her heart that yew never loved her, that she wasn't worth loving!"

Rick gapped. He couldn't respond, he couldn't get his breath back fast enough. He couldn't process the unexpected questions or the truth behind them. He couldn't swallow down the proof being chucked at him. He couldn't come to grips with the pain and sorrow behind Daryl's angry eyes.

"You've been betrayed, Rick, I get it. Yer hurting, and yer angry and yew don't want ta face tha problems that're piling up behind yew, but yew can't keep running, yew idiot! Yer making all tha wrong choices right now and I'm not gonna sit here and let yew tell yourself yer doing it fer me!"

"That's not it, Daryl-"

"Stop making excuses, Rick." Daryl stopped him, "Yer fucking up yer life because yew don't know what else ta do. If yew can't figure it out by now, I will figure it out fer ya. Go back ta yer wife, take care of yer baby and yer son and tell yer friend how much of an asshole he is and then make up. The connections yew have with tha people yew love are more important than anything in the world. Don't loose everyone yew have over some misplaced need ta be a hero ta me, Rick."

"Shane and Lori betrayed me." Rick whispered in disbelief, "How can I just go back to life as it was?"

"Yer stupid, Rick. In all the right ways." Daryl told him, eyes softening ever so slightly, "I know yew well enough. If they just disappear out of yer life now you'll never be able to live with yourself. You'll regret kicking yer family out of yer life."

Daryl looked too tired all of the sudden, like someone had cut the strings from a puppet. Rick watched the man take a breath before squating down to gather his tools with uncharacteristically clumsy fingers. He scooped what he could into his bag and with one more look over his shoulder he said softly, "I'm sick of your bullshit, Rick. And I'm not going to be your excuse anymore." Daryl sauntered off into the maze of broken trucks, neglected engines and big, old, rusty tools, leaving Rick to gather his brains and wrestle with his thoughts.

XxxX

A/N- Happy New Year! Sorry it took so long, I've been dealing with a lot at home, and it all recently just took a turn for the worse so I'm not sure how frequent the updates will be, but they will continue, don't worry. My rule: any story still up on my profile I will finish.

2 chapters left, last I checked, but honostly, that was months ago...
See you next time, thank you so much for putting up with me!