Title: Not asking for a storm
Fandom: The Walking Dead
Pairing/Characters: Andrea/Daryl Dixon
Rating: M for language and mild violence
Word Count: 8,860
Spoilers: Post –season two and veering sharply towards AU territory.
Disclaimer: Not mine! The title comes from the song Emmylou by First Aid Kit.
Betas: The wonderful vegarin and fringedweller who made sure I kept the characters in place and my grammar in line.

Summary: Post series two. Andrea just keeps surprising the heck out of Daryl Dixon. Which is only fair, 'cause he keeps surprising her.

After all hell breaks loose on the farm and they get away (most of us, he thinks, after most of us got away), and after a few minutes of standing around on the road, Daryl gets up and gets on the bike.

He waves off Rick's well-intentioned warnings and ignores Carol's tears and says, "I'm just going down the road a ways. We just ain't leavin' her without lookin', all right?"

He's already let one little girl down and because he's some kind of fucked in the head, he cannot do it again.

He doesn't wait to hear whatever else they think they've got to say and just rides off, back the way they came.

It's early morning and the dew is fresh on the grass beside the road and Daryl feels wide awake, the air in his face is in that place right above humid and he breathes it in.

He drives past a knot of magnolias and something makes him stop. He makes a u-turn and eyes the forest in front of him. Then he gets off the bike and hoists his crossbow into his arms and appreciates the weight of his gun in his belt, the gentle tap of his knife on his hip.

He leaves the bike and edges into the still cool cover of the forest, the waxy leaves of the magnolia brushing the top of his head.

He's about a quarter of a mile into the woods when he hears something behind him and to the left. He pauses and listens hard, his finger sliding easily into place on the crossbow.

"Daryl?" a voice says faintly.

He whirls around and it's only his good reflexes that stop him from firing an arrow between Andrea's eyes.

"Jesus fuckin' Christ, girl," he says harshly. "God damn it!"

Andrea just stares at him, a corner of her mouth is crooked upwards but not with humor. He looks her over. She's filthy, blood's spattered over her shirt and pants, her hair is a mass of tangles and there's dirt over every inch of her.

"I'm not bit," she says before he can ask.

He believes her, but asks "You sure?" anyway. She nods slowly. Her eyes are glassy, but exhausted-glassy, not walker-glassy. He's sharply reminded of another time where their circumstances were reversed.

"I ran," she says. "I ran until I couldn't. There were so many of them."

"I know," and he winces, thinking about the distance she had to have covered on her own.

"I almost got bit by one of them," she says, looking out into the woods. "But she saved me."

Daryl follows her gaze and doesn't see anyone. "Uh, who did?" he asks, a little afraid of the answer.

"A girl with a sword." Yeah, he shouldn't have asked.

"A sword," he repeats slowly. "What? Like in Braveheart?"

She shakes her head and the movement makes her stumble, so he steps in close, putting his hand on her waist. "No, it was longer and thinner," she says. "Her sword."

"Like that Crouching Tiger stuff?" he asks, not believing that she's okay and they're talking about fuckin' swords.

"Yeah, like that," she says. She drags her gaze to his and he sees that despite the exhaustion and the fear, she's still there. Andrea's there and real and alive. "I'm not crazy," she tells him. "She saved me and then walked away. I know how it sounds, but I'm not crazy."

"Okay," he says, because hell, if he gets to see a chupacabra, nothing wrong with her seeing a ninja in the middle of the Georgia woods.

She's still staring at him and he can tell that she's just barely hanging on. She swallows and says, "You came back for me."

It's not a question, but he answers anyway, "Yeah. Yeah, I did. Wasn't going to just leave you here."

Her lips twitch into something kind of like a smile.

"I'll, uh, take you back to the others," he says shifting on his feet.

"How?" she asks as he makes a move to go back towards the road.

"Got my bike," he lifts his chin in the direction of the road. "Just this way."

"All right, but you'll have to strap me on somehow," she says swaying into him.

"Why's that?"

"'Cause I'm going to pass out now," she says all casual-like.

Her eyes roll back into her head and she pitches forward. He catches her, but just barely and for a minute he just stands there, like a fool, with a woman in his arms and his crossbow jabbing at his thigh.

"Well, hell," he says before hefting her up and into his arms. He figures he can loop his belt around her somehow and that'll keep her on.

He hopes that'll keep her on. He's gotta give the woman credit for making it on her own and he'll be damned if what does her in is her falling off his bike.

She wakes up while they're on the road, but all she does is grip his waist and press her cheek to the back of his shoulder. Daryl swallows hard and wonders if he's going to have to re-think his opinion of this woman.

The group decides to head south, because winter will be on them before they know it and it makes sense even when Glenn says, "We should head towards the ocean. You know. Put our backs to it. Like in that zombie movie where Rose McGowan has a gun for a leg?"

Daryl doesn't find it too strange that he's the only one to get the reference (What? It's Rose McGowan with a gun for a leg, come on!), but everyone else agrees that south is better than north.

They find a car dealership off Highway 41 and Daryl and Andrea go up to it to siphon some gas.

The showroom floor looks like it's been hit by looters as opposed to walkers, but they're quick and quiet just the same.

Andrea's got her eye on the horizon while Daryl sets up next to a bright yellow Humvee. He'd seen her roll her eyes when she saw it, but hadn't said anything.

He unrolls the hose and shoves it as far into the gas tank as he can. Then he sucks hard once on the end of the hose, only getting a small mouthful of the fumes before he shoves the hose into their can. He spits on to the floor, then spits a few more times trying to rid his mouth of the burn and the taste.

"Here," Andrea says tossing her water bottle to him.

"Thanks," he says before drinking from it.

The only noise for a while is the sound of the gas flowing into the gas can.

He can't help it and starts to eye the shiny National Guard Chevy in the corner. It's got to be a replica, no way the real thing is just sitting out in Bumfuck, Nowhere. He lets out a whistle and says, "Earnhardt would've had fun with you."

"I would've taken you for more of a Petty man," Andrea says softly. Daryl looks over at her and sees the half-smile on her lips.

"Wouldn't've taken you for knowing who they were," he says readjusting his hold on the hose. "You a secret Nascar girl?"

The half-smile turns nostalgic and she says, "There was a guy at my office. Senior partner. He took Nascar very seriously and spoke in racing metaphors so often I figured I'd better learn what the heck he was saying. So, I started to watch and read a little." She shifts her grip on his crossbow and then goes on, "He retired eventually but I kept watching. Sort of addictive."

Daryl grins. "True that. Ever go to a race?"

"Went up to Daytona one weekend with some of the girls," she says, that smile of hers turning towards wicked. "Now that was a party. I have never drunk so much beer in my life."

"I don't need all the details," he says eyeing her, "did you at least watch the race?"

"Of course I did," she says turning towards him and looking offended. "I burned my butt on those seats in the Florida sun cheering until my throat hurt."

Daryl can't help it, he chuckles shaking his head at her. "Ease up, Danica, just checkin'."

"Bite me, Dixon," she says turning back to keep watch, but he sees her grinning.

He's still chuckling as they drive back towards camp, and he's damn sure that the image of Miss Lawyer in cut-offs swigging from a longneck ain't gonna go away anytime soon.

"Sit down, for God's sake," Andrea says, gripping his arm tightly and maneuvering him into the small bathroom in another farmhouse they found just east of Macon. "I swear you are the most stubborn man alive."

He snorts. "Probably right about that, seein' as there's a serious lack of competition these days."

She huffs out a laugh and then looks appalled at herself. "Let me look at that cut, Dixon. Now."

"Fine, fine. Let the nursin' begin," he says irritably, falling heavily onto the edge of the bathtub. "It's just a cut."

"A cut that's three inches long and deep enough to need stitches," she says handing him a bottle of whiskey they managed to find on the last raid. "I know you're going to want that, so get drinking."

"Fuckin' stupid," he says before taking a long drink. "Fuckin' window. Fuckin' walkers. Shouldn't a bothered with the fuckin' place."

"Fuckin' right," Andrea says, a grin hovering on her lips and Daryl glares at her while she cleans up the gash. "'Course I saw that bag of bolts you managed to find, so not a complete loss."

"Naw, just me being dumb," he says taking another drink. When he looks over at her she's frowning at him. "What?"

"You having to climb through a broken window while keeping your aim steady and coming away with a cut on your arm is not my definition of dumb," she says quietly.

"Yeah, well," he mutters for lack of anything else to say. He watches her wipe away the blood, his blood, from his arm and thinks she's probably right, it does need stitches; the blood isn't exactly ceasing to flow.

"I'll do it," he says reaching for the thread and the needle, but she's faster than he is. For once.

"Like hell you will," she tells him. "You've had serious blood loss and about a fourth of that bottle. No way are you stitching yourself up."

"Done it before," he says furrowing his brow and eyeing her.

"No doubt," she says, already threading the little C-shaped suture needle that they picked up in a drugstore some miles back. "But, I haven't had the pleasure and I've already got this threaded, so just shut up and sit still."

Daryl just stares at her while she eyes his cut and then looks away when she starts to sew him up.

It's quiet, except for the sound he makes when he takes a drink and the others milling around downstairs. He can hear T-Dog and Carol talking while they make dinner. Rick and Glenn are going over the stuff they managed to get out of the small general store they found earlier, before the small herd of walkers found them. They still run across them, but it seems to be less and less. As long as they stay away from the larger towns and interstates; that seems to help. Of course that makes the going fairly slow, but Daryl's starting to think that slow is better than dead.

He fights off a shiver and gets goosebumps as Andrea leans in to see better and her breath ghosts over his sensitive skin.

"You're not too bad at this," he says 'cause he can't stand the silence and doesn't want to do something stupid, like smooth the strands of blonde hair that have made it into her eyes.

"High praise indeed," her smile softening the sarcasm. "I'll have you know that I sewed all my Halloween costumes and my prom dress."

He snorts. "Was it pink and frilly?"

"No," she says firing a glare his way. "It was green. And slinky."

Daryl chuckles and takes a swig of whiskey hoping to shift the picture of her in a slinky, green dress out of his head. It doesn't seem to want to move.

"Never made it to prom," he says instead thinking he might try to rebuild that fence that clearly separates him from her.

She makes a face. "It wasn't that spectacular," she says. "My date had a problem hearing 'no' and I ended the evening with a sore hand from punching him in the nose."

"Ball buster even back then?" he asks liking the thought of her socking some asshole in the face with her pretty dress on.

"Why do you think I became a lawyer?" she asks glancing up at him with a smirk. "That way I could bust balls all in the name of the law."

He laughs out loud and it jars his arm but he keeps chuckling despite the pain.

"And we're done," she says tying off the thread and dousing it again with antiseptic.

Daryl cranes his neck to look at her work and it's definitely the nicest set of stitches he's ever seen, neat and even and will probably leave only the smallest of scars.

"Not bad," he says.

"Not bad, my ass," she says under her breath and he snickers, the whiskey is doing its job and he's feeling light and easy.

She gathers up the medical stuff and pins him with a stern look.

"Would it be completely stupid of me to ask you to not get this dirty or wet or over extend your arm and pull out the stitches?" she asks putting her hands on her hips and flipping her head to get that bit of blonde hair out of her face.

"Well, you're the college graduate," he says, his tongue rolling over the words in his mouth. "So, you tell me."

She shakes her head. "Never mind. Just attempt to be careful for at least twenty-four hours."

"Ma'am, yes ma'am," he says trying to look innocent.

She doesn't buy it and actually snorts a bit. "Pull the other one," she tells him. "It's got bells on it."

Daryl just snorts and she shakes her head. Then she just leans forward and presses a kiss to his arm right above the line of stiches, her lips cool and soft on his heated skin.

He stops breathing.

She sits up straight and stares at his arm, looking mightily shocked. At herself, he reckons.

"I…don't know why I did that," she says her eyes flickering to his face and then away. "Sorry?"

He clears his throat and forces himself to breathe normally. "'S fine."

"Okay, good. Right, it's fine," she says and he might normally make fun of how flustered and nervous she looks, but his arm is burning like fire and he's not talking about the cut.

"Remember, keep it clean for twenty-four hours," she says as she gets to her feet and is looking anywhere but at him. "If you can."

"Sure thing," he says and then he's watching her go.

His arm aches for the rest of the day.

He's still not talking about the cut.

They have a close call when they get too close to Mt. Vernon where, for some reason, the walkers are thick and fast on the roads. No one gets bit, but Lori is starting to show and she's exhausted. Daryl has to give her credit, she keeps on going and she and Carol seem to have found some kind of shared strength. And hell, if it gets them moving, he's not going to look that particular gift horse in the mouth.

Glenn and Maggie stumble across a small house near a lake and they all decide they've got to try to catch their breath for a few days.

Daryl spots Andrea looking out at the pond and eyeing the little shed that doubles as a boathouse. When she goes to investigate it, he tags along. She gives him a look, but doesn't say anything. She doesn't even roll her eyes when he edges in front of her to open the door, making sure there are no walkers in it.

There aren't. Just a few old rods and reels and a dusty tackle box.

"Saw a rowboat by the shore," Daryl says when Andrea just stares at the tackle box. "Think it's still got its oars."

The nod she gives him is slow and measured and he feels a knot of something tighten in his gut. The knot stays there over the next two days and he keeps an eye on her. There's something brewing in her, but he doesn't know what.

One morning he comes into the kitchen from what Glenn calls his early morning 'perimeter check' to see Andrea sitting at the table, dusting off some of the lures and hooks. He blinks and looks over at Lori and Carol who are calmly going about their business. His eyes narrow and he thinks there's something going unsaid, but he's not sure what.

Women, he thinks. Never can just come out and say anything.

He sits at the table and Carol hands him a cup of coffee with a small smile. Andrea's eyes flicker to his and she says, "Morning."

"Yeah," he says, still feeling that knot in his gut. "Mornin'."

She puts the lure she was fixing back into the box and stands up, dusting her hands on her pants.

"I'm going fishing," she says to Carol with a determination that means something but damned it Daryl knows what it is. He wishes, and not for the first time, that Dale was still around 'cause he'd know what this meant.

Carol nods and says, "Okay. Be safe."

Andrea nods back and throws Daryl another glance, then she's out the door. Daryl sits there with his coffee cup hovering by his lips staring through the screen door at her figure as she marches away from the house.

"You should go with her," Carol says. He looks up to her very fixed gaze on him.

"Why?" he asks setting his cup on the table. "I was gonna keep an eye on her. I can do that from up here."

"I think she'd appreciate the company," Lori says looking at him all earnest and like he's supposed to get it.

"I doubt my company is her kind of company," he mutters into his cup. Sure, they're close; him and Andrea. Sort of. Only because she doesn't chatter on and is a decent shot. She's good at being quiet and he appreciates that.

"Oh, I think your company is precisely her kind of company," Carol says softly giving him a small smile that he has to look away from. They might be talking and he may have mumbled an apology to her, but he still feels like he let Carol down.

He makes a face and looks out the window and sees Andrea stop next to the rowboat and set the box down. She stops and stares at the water, then at the rod in her hands before taking a deep breath and putting it in the boat. And then it hits him.

Her sister.





"She don't need me looking over her shoulder," he says getting up from the table and walking to the screen door.

"No, I imagine she doesn't," Carol says coming to stand next to him. "But she might want a fishing partner."

Daryl stares out the window some more, watching Andrea start to push the boat into the water, and then says as he goes out the door, "Fine. But she's guttin' everything she catches. I ain't doin' it for her."

Every other step he takes towards the water has him wanting to turn right back around and go do something else. Let her face her demons on her own. It's none of his business. But then he remembers the smirk she gets when she teases him or when she's actually laughing with one of the others and hell. He likes her.

He's not fixing to ask her to go steady but he likes the feisty, ballsy Andrea. He wasn't too keen on sad and depressed Andrea. It's better for all of them if she stays tough and alert.

And it's got nothin' to do with the fact that you kinda like that pretty little smile of hers? Merle taunts in his head. You pansy.

"Fuck off, brother," Daryl mutters under his breath.

Andrea's got the nose of the boat edged into the water by the time he reaches her.

"You check that thing for holes?" he asks lending his strength to hers to get it on the water.

"Yeah," she says giving him a serious side-eye but not commenting on his joining her. "But, I doubt the lake's that deep though. Can you swim?"

He gives her his best 'woman, please' look and she just shakes her head. "Fine. Do you know how to fish?"

"'Course," he says motioning for her to get in before him. "Just haven't in a while is all."

He takes the oars and rows them out to the spot Andrea points to, not too far from the shore and where the sun has yet to shine down upon.

Daryl never was much for fishing; too much sitting still. But he can't stop watching her as she gets them both sorted out with lures and the rods. The thing that gets him is that she knows what she's doing. Really knows what she's doing. It's like him with the hunting, the motions are so deeply a part of him that he doesn't even know what he's doing when he does it. That's what she looks like when she casts. It's all her and it makes him have to reassess her all over again.

They sit in the boat for a good half hour, not speaking, just casting and reeling back. She catches the first fish, a small American shad that goes into the bucket by her feet. He catches another right on the heels of hers, then she gets another and this goes on for a little while. Then it goes quiet for another spell.

"I needed to see if I could still do this," she finally says after a while. He looks over at her, watching as a tiny trickle of sweat slides down her temple, then down her jaw to drop on her shirt.

"Looks like you can," he says pointing at the bucket of fish.

She chuckles but it's not a happy sound. "Yeah. Looks like." She sighs and reels her lure in. "Still don't know about all of this. About me. If I can still do this."

"Well, that's bullshit," he says casting out. "You can and you are. End of."

"It's not that simple," she says and there's a bite to her tone and he likes it. It means she's fixing to get angry and that's always better than empty.

"'Course it's not that simple," he says rubbing the back of his wrist over his forehead. "Nothing ever is. But don't tell me you're still thinking about packing it in."

"And what if I am?' she asks turning to fully face him, making the boat rock on the water.

"Well, damn girl. Haven't you already decided about that?" he asks giving her a quick glance before looking back out over the lake. "I mean, you ran. You ran until you couldn't. Then you fought and you haven't stopped fighting. Now you're out here in this boat making peace with your loved ones for your own sense of, I don't know, closure or some other psychological shit. Isn't pretty obvious that you want to live?"

He re-casts. "It's pretty obvious to me, anyway. No one who really wanted to die would take the time to go fishing, for Christ's sake."

She doesn't say anything for a long time and he has to look over. She's staring at him with tears shining in her eyes and the knot in his gut tightens and he looks away. "But what do I know?" he mutters.

"You know a lot," she says, her voice all low and soft. "You know a hell of a lot."

Daryl really doubts that, but if something he's said has stuck, well he's not going to argue.

"However, you do not know how to properly cast with a reel, use your wrist not your shoulder," she says reaching over and encircling his wrist with her fingers and bending it back and forth.

He watches her watch his wrist and the knot loosens a bit. Her fingers are slim and kind of dainty, but strong and he lets her manhandle him a little longer before saying, "All right, all right. I got it. Wrist. Not shoulder. Yes, ma'am."

She squeezes his wrist and then lets it go. He sneaks a glance and she's got this little half-smile on her face as she re-casts.

They stay out on the lake for another two hours.

True to his word, she guts her own fish and she eats more that night than he's seen her do in a long time and the knot loosens just that much more.

Not that he blames her.

The fish is pretty damn good.

One night they hole up at an old motel that's got a decent flat roof. Daryl sets up there for the night. He sleeps for a couple of hours, then relieves Rick, who gives him a nod and claps his shoulder the once.

Then it's just Daryl, the land below and the stars above. It's gone cloudy, but the moon is full and that's enough for him. He takes a seat on the edge of the roof, scanning the horizon.

An hour into his watch, he hears someone coming up the fire escape behind him. He doesn't bother to turn around, he knows her tread by now, steady and light like he taught her and the others.

"Nice night," she says as she joins him, her hair loose around her shoulders and smelling like motel soap. There's a tension in the skin next to her eyes and he figures her sleep wasn't easy.

"Nothin' like a full moon," he says as she sits down on the roof edge next to him.

"Mmm," is all she says, her feet kicking softly on the side of the building as they dangle.

They sit and don't say anything for a while. Every now and then, he gets up to walk around the roof, checking all the possible entry points. Andrea stays put, staring out into the dark.

He sits back down next to her and she says, "The only thing that's missing is a nice hot cup of Irish coffee."

"I'd settle for a beer, myself," he says. "A cooler full of ice and beer; that'd suit me just fine."

"Fair enough," she says a corner of her mouth turning up. "A Corona with lime would not go amiss."

"And a hamburger," he says.

"With lots of ketchup," she adds.

"Onion rings."

"Homemade coleslaw."

"Ribs drippin' with barbeque sauce."

"Potato salad."

"French fries."

"With a Frosty from Wendy's."

"Wait, what?" he asks looking at her. She looks at him with a teasing glint in her eyes.

"You never dipped your French fries into a Frosty?" she asks.

"No. No, I have not," he says outraged. "That's just wrong."

"But tastes so right," she says nudging his shoulder with hers. "That whole salty-sweet combination."

"I will take your word for it," he says shaking his head. "Dippin' fries into a Frosty. Crazy woman."

She just smiles and leans into him, her shoulder resting against his, the light breeze making strands of her hair tickle his upper arm.

He should move. He knows that. He should get up and say that he's got to check the perimeter. He should not lean into her, turning his head just a fraction so that his lips hover just above the top of her head.

But he does.

Merle's hoopin' and hollerin' and calling Daryl all manner of names in the back of his mind.

Only for a minute, he tells himself. Just a minute and I'll get up.

One minute turns into fifteen.

When he gets up to check the perimeter, she comes with him.

They make it to the edge of the Okeefenokee and they decide to do one last run through a town to get as many supplies as they can before heading through the swamp on the roads that stretch through it.

Daryl, Glenn and Andrea head into the last town on the map, hoping to find some extra medical supplies and ammunition.

Their first stop is a hardware store and Daryl fights the urge to punch the air when he finds some oil for his crossbow and some extra parts.

He looks over at Glenn making a noise and sees him grabbing some MREs with sour look.

"What?" Daryl asks. "They're food, ain't they?"

"Barely," Glenn says making a face as he stuff them in his backpack. "They usually taste like ass."

"Something you know a lot about?" Daryl says. He grins when Glenn flips him off.

"Screw you, Dixon," he says.

"Back atcha, asshole," Daryl says.

"Boys," Andrea says all schoolmarm-like as she passes them, but she's smiling and Daryl bumps her shoulder with his. She bumps him back.

They wander back out onto the main street, eyes sharp and watching the shadows as they stick to the sidewalk. There're bodies dotted about the place, naturally, but they haven't seen a walker yet.

Yet, Daryl thinks. They're always somewhere.

They come to a drugstore and slip inside, the bell over the door jingling too loudly for Daryl's comfort. They stand at the entrance looking around. It's a typical old drugstore, with a pharmacy in the back and rows of shoulder-high shelves. There's even a photo-booth off to the side of the entrance.

After a couple seconds of looking it over, Glenn heads towards the pharmacy, Andrea following him slowly. She diverts down an aisle and when Daryl spots the feminine hygiene sign, he lets her go. He keeps an eye on her though, as something isn't settling right in him. He looks over the store slowly, not seeing anything, but there's a prickly feeling on the back of his neck.

"How's it going, man?" Daryl calls quietly to Glenn.

"Pretty good," he says. "They've got most of the stuff on Maggie's list."

"Sweet," Daryl says grabbing some bandages and rubbing alcohol. "Let's get goin'."

"What's wrong?" Andrea asks looking over at him.

"Not sure," he says eyeing the store. "Something feels off. Like something's watching us."

Andrea studies him for only a second before zipping up her bag and draping it over her shoulder.

"Let's go, then," she says.

"Just a sec," Glenn calls. "I'm almost done."

"Hurry it up," Daryl says. He sees Andrea head towards the door and he starts to make his way there.

"Wait," Glenn calls. "Does Lori need vitamins and stuff? You know, for the baby?"

"How the hell should I know?" Daryl says looking over at him. "You got the list."

He looks away and catches Andrea shaking her head at them. Then she stops, her head tilts to the side as she goes real still and the prickly feeling comes back in full force.

"What?" he whispers.

She shakes her head and steps towards the photo-booth. Daryl raises his cross bow and steps towards her.

"I'm done," Glenn says coming up behind him.

In the second Daryl takes to look away from Andrea and towards Glenn, a loud blast comes from the photo-booth. Andrea cries out and falls to the floor.

The sound that comes out of Daryl's mouth is so harsh and sharp it hurts his throat.

He races over to her and she's gasping and curling in on her side and he can see the blood on her stomach and hands.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry!" is coming from the booth. "It's buckshot! Just buckshot! I'm sorry! I panicked!"

Daryl raises his crossbow and thrusts it into the booth. "What the fuck?" he yells.

It's a thin, young woman with pale, red hair and she's clutching her gun to her chest and shaking her head, tears streaming down her face.

Andrea lets out a sound that's partly gasp and mostly sob and Daryl looks over his shoulder to see Glenn pressing a wad of bandages to her stomach.

"Aw, fuck," Daryl says ignoring the girl in the booth and getting down on one knee by Andrea. He pulls Glenn's hand away and bares his teeth at the blood on Andrea's white shirt. The girl was right, it is just buckshot, but it's still messy and must hurt like hell. Andrea's bites her lower lip so hard, a bead of blood appears.

"Ease up, honey," Daryl says to Andrea putting Glenn's hand back on the wound and pressing down. "Let it out. I know it hurts like a bitch."

Glenn looks at him. "We gotta get her back to camp. Get the pellets out."

"Right," Daryl says. He looks around and gets up to grab a set of tweezers off the shelf. "Let's go."

They help Andrea to her feet and she's still not making a sound other than some whimpers that she bites off.

The girl in the photo-booth is shaking and just staring at them.

"Wait," Andrea says when they make a move to leave. Daryl looks at her in surprise, but she's not looking at him, she's looking at the girl.

"What's your name?" she asks.

"Jenny?" the redhead says. "I'm so, so sorry. I didn't know what y'all were and then I reacted. I'm sorry."

Andrea nods calmly despite the pain that Daryl knows she's in. "I know. Are you alone? Do you want to come with us?"

"What the ever-lovin' fuck?" Daryl asks glaring at Andrea. She grabs his wrist, her fingers dig into his skin and her eyes are wide with pain and that determined look that he knows is going to lead to something he's not going to like but is probably the right thing to do.

"You look me in the eyes and you tell me you wouldn't've done the same thing," she says, glaring at him.

"'Course I wouldn't," he says with disgust. "I would've got you square in the face."

She laughs and then cringes and gasps, grabbing at her mid-section.

"Aw, fuck," he says. "Glenn get her back to the truck. You, girl, you got more ammo?"

She shakes her head. "Just this. I got a knife? And some cans of food?"

"Well, grab it and come on if you're comin'," he says, helping Andrea out the door. He looks towards the truck and it looks clear. When he looks the other way he sees shuffling figures heading their way.

"Shit," he says. "Let's move."

They start heading back towards the car and he looks over his shoulder when he hears Jenny coming up behind them, her eyes wide and scared. Glenn spots the walkers behind them.

"Aw, crap," he says.

They try to pick up the pace and Andrea's lower lip is bloody from holding in her gasps. She's wincing with every step and Glenn's stumbling under her weight.

"Aw, fuck this shit," he says shoving his crossbow at Glenn then sweeping his hand under Andrea's legs and picking her up.

"Oh!" she says curling her arms around his neck. "Oh, okay. This is… Yeah, okay."

She tucks her face into his neck and he runs as fast as he can. Glenn and Jenny right behind them.

He sets her in the backseat and Jenny automatically hops into the passenger seat while Glenn goes to the driver's seat. Daryl scoots in behind Andrea and pulls her to him, her back to his chest. He snakes his hand around to rest over hers on her stomach and he presses down.

A cry gets past her lips.

"Shh, shh, it's okay," he says next to her ear. He raises his voice. "Get this show on the road, Glenn!"

The car starts immediately and they're off.

Daryl wants to check her wound, but he knows he better wait until they're not moving. He presses his hand down a bit more.

She lets out a choked off sob; then says, "God. Sorry."

"What the hell you apologizin' for?" he says craning his head to look her in the eyes.

Her blonde hair is flying around her face and there are tear tracks down her cheeks. She shakes her head. "I'm being a total wimp here. Sorry."

Daryl stares at her in complete disbelief. Then he says, "Baby, you got buckshot in your belly. You go 'head carryin' on, you've earned it."

"Okay," she says quietly, closing her eyes. "Okay."

She leans towards him so that her forehead is resting against his jaw and he swallows hard and stares out the window as they fly down the road. The scenery flashes in front of his eyes, but all he sees is her falling to the floor.

Herschel pronounces Andrea extremely lucky after ten pellets are removed from her stomach.

"If you'd been two feet closer," he says then stops to shake his head. "Well, let's be glad you weren't two feet closer."

She's instructed to stay put for at least twenty-four hours and Daryl rolls his eyes when she protests. She goes so far as to try to get out of the bed, but she's no match for Lori, Carol and Rick who push her back down.

"I'm fine," she says. "I won't just sit here like an invalid."

"Yes, you will," Daryl says. "Stop arguing and shut up."

Then he just sits down in a chair next to her bed, hauls out the book she gave him, props his feet up on the mattress and starts to read out loud to her. Andrea glares at him while everyone else just looks dumbfounded.

"What are you doing?" she asks sounding colder than winter.

"Readin'. Now hush and listen," he says. "I ain't startin' over from the beginning if you miss something."

He starts to read again.

One by one, the rest leave the room, throwing odd looks at each other and at him, until it's just him and her. He continues to read loudly and steadily.

Her glare is hot and pointed on him and he feels pretty damn good that he holds out for a full five minutes before looking at her.

Her eyes have gone icy blue, but he just glares back.

At some point, her glower turns into something softer and he feels the muscles in his shoulders relax just a bit. There's a part of him that knows he should feel like an ass just sitting there all quiet and staring at her, but every time he looks away he still sees her falling to the ground with blood on her shirt and hands.

He clears his throat and starts to read again, this time a bit softer. Eventually, her eyes close and she's asleep. He stops reading and just watches her.

Merle's started up again in the rear of his mind and he's saying all sorts of things about Daryl's lack of balls, but he's been easier to ignore lately and Daryl just keeps watching her.

He wakes up to the sound of people in the room, but doesn't make a noise. The last few months have shown him the value of staying still.

Turns out it's just Maggie and Glenn, Maggie's checking Andrea's bandages while Glenn stands in the doorway.

"He's been here this whole time," Maggie's saying to Glenn. "I knew there was something going on."

"I don't think so," Glenn whispers back. "I mean, not yet. Not really. They're like…friends."

"You say so," Maggie says with a shrug.

"He did call her 'baby' and 'honey' though. When she got shot," Glenn whispers and Daryl fights the urge to roll his eyes. Jesus. It isn't going to be walkers that'll be the death of these people; it's going to be gossip.

Maggie smiles at Glenn. "That's kind of sweet."

"Yeah, that or disturbing," Glenn says. "I can't decide."

Maggie rolls her eyes. "It's sweet. Now, move it."

She prods his stomach and they leave the room. Daryl opens his eyes all the way and looks at Andrea.

He lets out a sigh and then twitches when she speaks.

"I thought it was sweet," she says sleepily. Her face turns towards his and she smiles at him. "Thanks for reading to me." She falls back to sleep after that.

Daryl blinks.




Sweet, it is.

Daryl turns and fires, a bolt going straight into the eye of one of the dozen walkers that are following him across the field somewhere near Jacksonville. He's damn sure they're more up ahead, but if he can make it to the electrical pylon he sees in the distance, he can at least get up high.

They'd stopped to fix a tire on the truck and the herd was just…there. He's still not sure how he ended up on the wrong side of the road, but there he was.

He yelled at the others to get in the other car and just fucking go. Then he started to run.

It's a long stretch of flat field that runs parallel to the old highway and he's given up firing at them and is just fucking running.

He reaches the pylon and jumps, scrabbling up the side of the concrete base. He looks back and the walkers are heading his way. They still don't move that fast, but what they lack in speed they make up in numbers and persistence. He figures he can climb up a bit more and see if he can wait it out.

It's the sound of Merle's bike that has him just freeze.


No fucking way.

Please Jesus, don't let her be that stupid, he thinks before turning around.

His heart jumps even as it sinks, because yes, she is that stupid and she's heading his way on the bike. She's doing a good job of riding around the walkers, but he can tell that she's barely got control of the machine. He always forgets how small she actually is; because he can see her arms stretching awkwardly to reach the handles. She's got it throttled up too high and it's not sounding all that good, but god damn if she isn't the prettiest thing he's ever seen in his life.

Even if she is still a complete dumbass and if they live he's going to yell at her for hours.

In fact, he may as well get started.

"Are you fuckin' insane, woman?" he yells as she pulls up next to the pylon, walkers only about ten feet behind them.

"Yes!" she yells back. "Get on, asshole!"

He jumps off the base and slides on behind her, curving around her as much as he can. His hands cover hers and it's a joint effort that gets them going.

"I'm not doing this right, am I?" she yells over her shoulder and they ride around the walkers.

"Hell, no," he says next to her ear. "You're gonna kill the suspension driving over this ground! I'm so fuckin' mad at you!"

She doesn't answer him, mainly because they're really dodging the walkers now as they make their way to a small side road at the other end of the field. They hit asphalt and head towards the main road.

Once they've made it a good ways down the road, he helps her to pulls over.

Then he's off the bike and pacing like a maniac.

She gets off much more slowly, her limbs stiff.

He walks back and forth, not daring to look at her until he's sure he won't wring her neck.

Of course, she can't wait that long.

"Go on," she says, steel in her voice. "Yell at me."

He looks at her and she got her chin in the air and her eyes are so fuckin' blue and she's daring him to just let fly.

Well, he's not going to disappoint her.

"You are the craziest chick alive!" he yells getting right in her face, leaving about four inches of space between them. "Didn't I tell y'all to go? Didn't I say that? What the fuck did you think you were doin'?"

"Saving your ass," she says. "That's what I was doing. I was saving your redneck ass!"

"Well, don't!" he says his hands clenching into fists. "I ain't your responsibility."

"Bullshit," she says stepping forward and obliterating the space between them. "You came back for me. I'm going to come after you."

"You shoulda just left," he says shaking his head. "You shoulda cut your losses and just gone."

Her face hardens and then almost crumbles right in front of him.

"Fuck you," she whispers.

"What?" he says dumbly taken aback by her whisper and the tears starting in her eyes.

"I said 'fuck you'," she says a bit louder. "Fuck you if you think that I could just leave you out there. You call me crazy, but do you have any idea what I'd be like if you weren't around?"

He does, actually.

If it's anything like he thinks he might be if she was gone, then yeah, he does know. It'd be like trying to walk without any sort of balance. She keeps him even, for some reason that only God in his messed up way of creating could ever understand. And it occurs to him that the last few weeks, months, have been leading up to this. To this something…more.

Without taking his eyes off her face, he reaches down and grabs her wrist. She's trembling where she stands, her pulse racing under his fingers.

"You ridin' high?" he asks softly.

"Yes," she says, the tremors making their way to her shoulders.

"You wanna fuck me?" he asks and he has to give her credit when she shakes her head.

"No. Not like this, I don't," she says and he figures that implies that she does want to fuck him eventually, but not while they could still blame it on riding a rush.

"You still mad?" she asks. "If you are, you better get over yourself. You hear me? You came back for me, so I'm sure as hell going to come back for you."

He's shaking, his whole body is just one live wire and her pulse has jumped up even higher than before under his fingers and the only thing he can get himself to do is raise her hand to his lips. He kisses the inside of her wrist, hard and open-mouthed, his tongue darting out to taste her skin and feel her pulse alive and fast.

Her lips part and he knows that look and he's damn sure he's got the same one on his face. She wants him. Bad. And he wants her. Christ alive, he wants her. He wants her spread out on the ground, on the bike, anywhere. He wants to put his mouth on every single fucking inch of her body and then do it all over again.

"You're still shakin'," he says his voice gone rough and low, even as his lips hover over her skin.

"Yes," she manages to say.

"'Cause of the ride?" he asks already knowing the answer but needing to hear from her.

"You know it's not," she says her fingers curling around his.

The idea of taking her right then and there is still awful tempting, but they're walkers lurking all around and they've got to find the others.

"This ain't over," he says.

"Bet your ass, it's not," she tells him.

"I'm still pissed off," he says as he tugs her back to the bike.

"I can only imagine," she says drily waiting for him to get on before she eases back on behind him.

A voice that sounds like Dale pipes up in his head saying, 'Good decision, son. Romance is all well and good, but there's something to be said for ambiance. And zombies are a quite the mood-killer.'

It's got to be Dale talking in his head, Daryl thinks as he starts the engine. He's pretty damn sure he's never used the word 'ambiance' in his life.

"Fuckin' insane," he mutters as they ride down the road.

Andrea's response is to kiss the side of his neck, long and slow, finishing with a sharp nip of her teeth.

They get to the ocean.

All of them.

Daryl doesn't know how that happened, but he's not questioning it, either.

They stop when they reach Fernandina Beach and Daryl can tell everyone's itching to just fling themselves into the ocean, but they've gained a healthy sense of caution that Daryl wouldn't have expected out of these people a few months ago.

The town is carefully canvassed and a spot is found just north of the town, near the state park. There's a large house that must have been a bed and breakfast once upon a time and after they clear out a few remaining bodies, it'll do.

They've gotten so careful that it's a full forty-eight hours before they go to the beach and stand there, staring out at the water.

Then Glenn just starts to laugh and runs towards the water, Maggie and Carl right behind him.

Everyone goes in after that. In shifts, of course. Self-preservation is a beautiful thing, Daryl thinks when he's in the water and spots Rick and T-Dog standing guard.

When it's his turn to stand watch, he has a hard time keeping his eyes off of Andrea, who is laughing with Carol and Jenny and letting T-Dog pick her up and throw her into the oncoming waves.

They never did manage to resolve what got started on the highway and Daryl's hands haven't stopped itching to touch her since.

After everyone's gotten soaked to the bone, they head back to the big house.

"Ever done much salt-water fishin'?" Daryl asks Andrea as they walk up the sidewalk to the house.

She smiles. "I was taught on salt-water fish," she says giving him a look that's a bit sly and smug and all sexy.

He grabs her around the waist and shoves her up against the side of the house by the front door, ignoring Glenn and Maggie who sidle past snickering.

"You and me got unfinished business," he says, lowering his head to hers.

Her smile turns into a grin. "I think you may be right. What are you going to do about it?"

Never let it be said that Daryl Dixon does not know how to take a hint.

He expected the kiss to be hard and fast, but once his lips touch hers, it's all leisurely and teasing, his lips just brushing over hers. Her lips part and then it's this lazy glide of tongues and he feels himself just leaning into her and her hands smooth up over his chest and curl around his neck.

She's slight and thin beneath his hands, but so firm and warm and she tastes like the ocean.

By the time he thinks to lift his head, he realizes that he's pressed fully up against her; one hand tangled in her hair at the base of her neck and the other hand is resting all possessive-like on her ass. But her hands have made their own claim on him and meandered over his body so that one is teasing at the skin just above his belt and the other is clutching his shoulder something fierce.

He blinks and just looks at her and she stares back, looking as pole-axed as he probably does.

But then this slow, easy smile spreads across her face and it's nice and kind and there's a hint of mischief lurking in it and his body responds pretty much on cue and his hand fully palms her ass and he loves the gasp she makes when he hitches into her.

"Daryl Dixon," she says trailing that hand of hers along his belly. "You are just full of surprises."

"How 'bout that?" he says starting to grin. "Been thinkin' similar thoughts about you, too."

She grins back and it's the last thing he sees before he kisses her again.

~The End~