Oh my God, it's done!

It's really really done...I can't believe it. Thank you so much to everyone who has stuck with this story, left comments and kudos, and drawn art for this.

Special, special thanks must go to my wonderful beta, Suze, for her amazing skills and ability to get chapters back to me incredibly fast.

Special thanks also to The Walking Bread, who has done and continues to do amazing art for this story.

Her latest can be found at imgur dot com slash 4BeeD5C :)

On a final note, I'm not sure I'm entirely done with this story. There are other flashbacks to the pre-ZA life of Daryl and Glenn that I wanted to write. I may put some standalones up on my tumblr (neversaysdie, natch) if anyone is interested. Apart from that, if anyone else wants to play around in this sandbox, you are more than welcome to...just let me know!

I left home a long, long time ago

In a tin can for the road, with a suitcase and some songs

Chasing miles through the night time, making tracks

With no time for looking back to the place where I belong

Glenn dodged around the open cardboard box that was currently housing most of his shirts and underwear, making a mental note (for about the fiftieth time) that he and Daryl really needed to put that new dresser together. He'd damn near tripped over the box five times now, and the dresser was doing nobody any good stacked in pieces out in the living room.

In fact, he'd tripped over that this morning when he was shuffling into the kitchen to put a pot of coffee on.

Muttering to himself under his breath, he reached into the box, digging around for the clean dress shirt he knew was somewhere in the bottom. After a few moments, he let out a triumphant yell and pulled the plain white dress shirt out by one sleeve. Immediately, his triumph turned to dismay when he realized that the shirt was hopelessly wrinkled, the collar and cuffs both crumpled messes.

"Well, crap," he said succinctly. Throwing the shirt over one arm, he padded out of the bedroom and down the short hallway that led to the combination living/dining/kitchen area, pausing in front of the doorway to the only other room in the apartment. He could hear the shower still running, along with the tinny strains of come country station playing on the shower radio that had been his friend Kirsten's housewarming gift to them last week.

Daryl was singing along...poorly. Glenn smiled softly to himself, shaking his head a little as he shouldered the bathroom door open. His boyfriend had many, many talents-some of which Glenn was still learning-but his singing voice was about as pleasing as nails on a chalkboard. Probably less so.

"Hey, have we unpacked the ironing board, yet?" he called as he stepped into the cramped, steam-filled room. The singing died off and Daryl poked his head out from behind the shower curtain, his hair still wreathed in shampoo suds, poking up every which way in ridiculous whorls.

"We have an ironin' board?" he asked doubtfully. Glenn thought a moment, his brow wrinkling.

"Okay, probably not. But we should! Everyone needs an ironing board." Daryl snorted.

"Laundry place down the block'll press anythin' ya' need pressed for three bucks," he said dismissively. "I ain't messin' with no damn iron." At Glenn's surprised look, Daryl let out a bark of laughter. "What, ya' think I got that jacket collar all starched up on m'own?"

"Actually, I thought you went out and rented a suit for the night," Glenn muttered, looking forlornly at the wrinkled mess in his arms. Great. He didn't have time to go down to the laundromat now. Daryl shook his head with another snort of laughter, ducking back into the shower.

"Jus' hang yer shirt on the door in here for 'bout ten minutes...the steam'll get the worst a' the wrinkles out," he called over the rush of the water, turning the music up a couple more notches. Glenn perked up, a grin breaking out on his face.

"Oh, good idea! Knew I kept you around for a reason," he said brightly, hanging the shirt on the hook he usually left his towel on on the back of the bathroom door.

"Glad ta' be of service," Daryl replied dryly as Glenn slipped back out into the hallway, shutting the door behind him.

Twenty minutes later, he was hastily shoving his feet into the only pair of black dress shoes he owned, silently debating with himself over whether he wanted to wear a blazer over the dress shirt. On the one hand, it would hide the wrinkles that hadn't quite fallen out with the impromptu steam bath. On the other hand, he kind of thought the blazer made him look like a douchebag. He hadn't worn it in months...wasn't even sure if it still fit properly. He'd filled out a bit in the past year or so...mostly due to the fact that dating Daryl Dixon had turned out to include a lot more outdoor activity than Glenn had been anticipating.

Not that he was particularly complaining-if he'd known how much fun hiking could be, he might have started it up earlier.

Ultimately, he decided against the blazer. The restaurant they were going to was nice, but it wasn't so nice that he'd be out of place if he didn't have a jacket and tie. He grabbed his wallet off the table by his side of the bed, before jogging out of the bedroom and down the hallway. As he entered the living room (nearly tripping again over the pieces of their new dresser...damn it, they really did have to put that thing together!), he paused a moment, tilting his head slightly as he noticed Daryl.

His boyfriend was just sitting on the couch they'd nearly killed themselves wrestling through the doorway, fiddling with the cuffs of his shirt, one leg bouncing up and down rapidly. Unlike Glenn, Daryl had gone the jacket and tie route in various shades of gray (and whoa...if Daryl looked this good in a suit jacket, Glenn was going to have to find more opportunities for them to get a little dressed up), and had even gone so far as to shave his face clean of its customary scruff. He reached up and smoothed the tie down the front of his shirt, lips pressed into a thin, colorless line and his brow furrowed in a way that Glenn had come to know meant he was worrying about something.

Something warm bloomed in his chest as he realized Daryl was nervous. He was nervous about tonight, and had dressed up in a suit and tie he no doubt hated, and had shaved when Glenn knew most of the time he couldn't be bothered, and he was nervous. In the year and a half they'd been dating, he'd never known Daryl to give a flying fuck what anyone thought of him...but he was worried about making a good impression tonight.

Silently, he slipped into the living room, smile quirking wider when Daryl looked up immediately anyway. Try as he might, Glenn had never yet been able to sneak up on his boyfriend.

"Hey," he said softly, closing the distance between them to crouch down in front of the other man. He rested his hands lightly on Daryl's knees, stilling the bouncing leg. "Don't be so nervous."

"Ain't nervous," Daryl replied defensively, but only managed to hold the facade for a moment before sighing heavily, dropping his hands down over top of Glenn's.

"It'll be fine," Glenn said.

Glenn's parents knew about Daryl, of course. Glenn had told them about him about six months into the relationship. His mom and dad lived all the way up in Michigan, though, and his father's arthritis made traveling difficult. Usually, Glenn was the one doing the visiting when they got together. Daryl rarely got time off during holidays and such, though, and so Glenn's parents had finally decreed that if Glenn's 'young man' wasn't able to come to Michigan to meet them properly, they were coming to Georgia.

Hence, dinner at the upscale steakhouse he and Daryl were supposed to meet his parents at in half an hour.

"Sure 'bout that?" Daryl muttered with a self-deprecating smile. "I ain't exactly the type a' man ya' bring home ta' Mama."

"Daryl. They're gonna love you," Glenn said firmly. He leaned in and pecked a quick kiss to Daryl's mouth.

"They're gonna love you because you're a great person, and they're gonna love you because you make me happy, and most importantly...they're gonna love you because Ilove you. Okay?" He sat back on his heels slightly, arching one eyebrow challengingly. Daryl was quiet for a moment, and then he laughed softly, shaking his head.

"Okay," he said.

How these days grow long, but I'm on my way back home

It's been hard to be away

How I miss you and I just want to kiss you

And I'm gonna love you 'til my dying day

How these days grow long

Glenn woke with the sun shining into his face. He squinted in displeasure, rolling over to curl against Daryl's solid warmth. His questing hand encountered nothing but empty blanket. Glenn's heart clenched in his chest.

"No. No, no, no, no." He squeezed his eyes shut tighter, taking a deep, shuddering breath. It hadn't been another dream. It hadn't. He'd found Daryl yesterday...his friend had come for him, and he'd been rescued from the hell of Atlanta, and he'd found Daryl. He was going to open his eyes, and he would be lying in the worn blue and gray tent that they'd taken out on a dozen camping trips, wrapped up in blankets that would smell of his boyfriend if he brought them up to his face, because Daryl was alive. He was alive, no matter how impossible that was, and Glenn just had to open his eyes so that he could see, and his heart could stop its sudden racing.

He couldn't bring himself to do it.

Not when there was even the slightest chance that he would open his eyes and find himself back on his bed at the KOA camp, or tucked away in the bed of George's truck-rescued off the roof, but not by Daryl. He couldn't take it, he couldn't-

His rapid-fire thoughts were interrupted by a soft rustling down by the foot of the sleeping bag he was laying on. There was the barely there clicking of a zipper being undone, the whisper of nylon brushing against nylon, and then he felt the sleeping bag shift slightly as new weight landed on it.

And Glenn knew he should be kicking out, or reaching for a weapon, or at least opening his goddamn eyes. You couldn't ever let your guard down in this world...you just couldn't, unless you had someone watching your back damn closely. Glenn didn't do any of those things, though.

The movement was too carefully quiet and deliberate to be a geek.

The fingertips that gently skated along his cheek in a barely-there touch were as familiar as his own.

And Glenn would always, always be safest with the person that touch belonged to.

"I know yer awake," Daryl said in the quiet of the tent, and Glenn felt his heartbeat start to smooth out immediately.

He opened his eyes.

Blinked up into Daryl's face, where his boyfriend was hovering over him, one hand braced on the sleeping bag next to Glenn's hip, the other still gently stroking his face. Glenn swallowed roughly, a soft sigh of sheer relief escaping him as he reached up and curled his fingers around Daryl's wrist. Silently, Daryl stretched out to lay down beside him, propping his head up in his free hand as the other one slipped from Glenn's face to trail down his chest, resting right over his heart. Glenn could read the understanding in those flinty blue eyes, and wondered if Daryl had had a moment that morning where he was afraid to open his eyes.

There were things to do, responsibilities that they had to see to. The rest stop, although a passable camp for a couple days, was nowhere near safe for the long-term. They would have to be moving on, and quickly. Glenn needed to track Rick and Andrew down and find out just what the plans were, how he could help. He was sure Daryl would try to get some hunting done while they were stationary-shore up their food supplies a bit until a supply run could be made. Or hell, maybe they were just going to get on the road immediately. Whatever the plans were, Glenn and Daryl needed to find out...needed to find out what part they'd be playing.

Daryl leaned down to kiss him gently, though, almost reverently...as if he still couldn't believe that Glenn was there for him to kiss. And Glenn understood that, because he felt the same way.

When you're sad, you know I wish I could be there

To make your sorrows disappear, and set your troubles free

It's not fair for me to be this far from you, but I promise to stay true

Wherever I might be

The realization hit him out of the blue, when they were doing nothing more spectacular than sitting at a red light on the way to a movie they had both wanted to see. Glenn was reading something on his phone, head bobbing along to the music on the radio. He glanced up at Daryl and smiled for no apparent reason other than he was happy, and the thought hit Daryl like a sledgehammer to the gut.

He didn't know what he was doing.

He hadn't really been sure what he was doing from the onset. It wasn't like he had a lot of relationship experience to draw on. There had been Molly Campbell in eighth grade, and Lynne Barrett his junior year in high school (right before he dropped out). He'd taken up with Claire Nichols when he was twenty, and they'd had an on-again, off-again thing for the next three years. Granted, the grand total of "on" was something like six months, all told. After that, it had been nothing but a string of one-night stands.

He had no idea how to go about being in a real relationship. Hell, he was counting Molly fucking Campbell as 'experience' and all they'd done was ditch seventh period to go smoke behind the school for three months, and catch a couple of movies in town. Most people didn't count people they'd gone with in fucking middle school as relationships, did they?

The point was, he was in over his fucking head. He honestly wasn't sure what he had been expecting when he'd agreed to go out for breakfast with Glenn that morning eight months ago, but it sure wasn't this.

Glenn was...Glenn was becoming important. Fast. And Daryl wasn't sure he knew how to deal with someone becoming that important to him. The only people who had ever mattered this much to him were Merle and his Mama-and that hadn't worked out so well for Daryl in either case. Lo-caring about someone this much was dangerous. It just meant it would hurt more when that person inevitably disappointed you. Or left you because you disappointed them. Daryl hadn't needed anyone in his whole life the way he was starting to need Glenn, hadn't needed his brother the way he was starting to need Glenn, and it scared the shit out of him.

It scared him, the way just seeing Glenn happy made him more content than he could ever remember being. It scared him, the way he found himself wanting to be more, wanting to be better for Glenn's sake. It scared him, the way this kid who was thirteen years his junior was starting to become the point around which his world revolved.

And it fucking terrified him that he didn't think he wanted it any other way.

He could get out now, before he got in any deeper with Glenn. Before he got any more dependent on the kid than he already was. But that would mean giving Glenn up. It would mean not being a part of Glenn's life; it would mean his boy possibly moving on and finding someone else. And that? That was unacceptable.

"What'cha thinking about?" Glenn asked suddenly, not looking up from his phone. Daryl watched him for a moment, just drinking in the sight of him and thinking about how much his life had changed in the past eight months...how he was pretty sure it was all for the better.

How he was starting to think that he might just love this man, even if he knew he was nowhere near ready to actually say that.

"Just things," he muttered, turning his attention back to the street. "I'll tell ya' later."

He didn't know what he was doing. But damned if his boy wasn't worth it.

Time keeps burning, the wheels keep on turning

Sometimes I feel I'm wasting my days

How I miss you and I just want to kiss you

And I'm gonna love you 'til my dying day

How these days grow long

Time keeps burning on

How these days grow long

They left the tent eventually, once the sounds of people moving around outside became too loud to ignore. Most of the others were gathered around a small fire, where Carol was busily stirring a pan of reconstituted powdered eggs. Glenn groaned internally, though he knew better than to turn his nose up at food. Just...God, he hated powdered eggs. He slipped his hand into Daryl's as they walked.

"Man," he groused as they walked, "Danny and I are gonna have to go on a run ASAP."

Daryl ground to a halt, his hand tightening around Glenn's fingers convulsively.

"You ain't goin' nowhere on that ankle," he said intently. Glenn huffed, shaking his head.

"Of course not...but it'll be better in a few days." Daryl's face crumpled into a frown, and Glenn could tell he wanted to protest Glenn going on any supply runs at all. He also knew that Daryl would never actually dream of trying to tell him what to do, though.

"Hey," he said softly. "I don't like it either...but we're good at it. No one's gonna make it very far if we don't use everyone's skills-and that's mine."

Daryl closed his eyes briefly.

"I know," he admitted in a low voice. He stepped closer to Glenn, sliding one arm around his waist and drawing him close. "I ain't gonna try an' stop ya'...but I'm comin' with ya' when you do those runs."

"Daryl-" Glenn started, but Daryl interrupted calmly.

"I'll follow yer lead, an' I'll listen t'yer plans...an' I'll cover ya' when ya' go into a place. But don't ya' ask me ta' stay behind when you're doin' that. Don't ask that." He took a deep, steadying breath, "I can't...I can't be without ya' again, kid. Can't do it. Wherever we go, it's gotta be together-if we live or we die, it's gotta be together. I can't do it any other way. So please...just, please..." Daryl trailed off helplessly, hunching in on himself a little.

And what could Glenn say to that?

In truth, he couldn't do it any other way, either. Having Daryl back...having Daryl with him, alive and well-it was a gift. It was a gift and a miracle, and Glenn wasn't going to waste a single second of it. Daryl was right-live or die, it had to be together. He nodded silently, leaning forward to kiss his boyfriend lightly.

"Okay," he said. "Okay, I promise. Together. No matter what happens, we go together."

Now I'm lost in a sea of sunken dreams

While the sound of drunken screams echoes in the night

But I know all of this will come to pass, and I'll be with you at last

Forever by your side

"Pretty sure the smoke alarm ain't supposed ta' be used as a timer," Daryl said wryly, chuckling in amusement as Glenn frantically clambered up onto a chair so he could fan a dishtowel in front of said shrieking alarm.

"Oh my God, shut up! I only missed the timer 'cause you wanted a quickie in the shower!" he snapped. Daryl snorted.

"Y'act like I was the only one gettin' off in there," he said, poking the charred lump of blackened mess sitting on their kitchen counter with clinical curiosity. The charred lump of blackened mess that was supposed to be the chicken that would feed the guests that were supposed to be arriving in a little less than twenty minutes.

Not for the first time in the past few days, Glenn wondered what in the hell had possessed him to think their apartment was in any way, shape, or form an appropriate place to try and have a dinner party. It was the size of a postage stamp! He'd had to ask Kirsten and Zia to bring card tables along with their respective boyfriends when they came, just so there would be enough room for everyone to sit. Daryl's friend from the garage and his wife were bringing folding chairs.

So great, they would have places for everyone to sit, but the only thing they had to offer was a salad and the beers Daryl had chilling in an ice-filled bucket in the bathroom.

"We could tell 'em it's Cajun-style," Daryl offered, the impish smile on his face belying his helpful tone.

"I could also tell Kir I'm crashing on her couch for the next week," Glenn replied testily.

"Yer mad at me, so you're gonna go sleep on a couch?" Daryl asked in confusion. Glenn paused in his frantic motions, brow wrinkling.

"Shut up," he said again, petulantly. Daryl burst out laughing, giving the sad chicken carcass a final poke before swinging around and coming to stand by the chair. Silently, he wrapped his arms around Glenn's hips, resting his chin against Glenn's chest and looking up at him with false innocence. Glenn gave the dishtowel another wave before giving up and just yanking the thing off the wall, flipping it over in his hands to pop the batteries out. The piercing shriek silenced immediately, and he shoved the batteries into his pocket, before putting the alarm back on its mount and resting his hands on Daryl's shoulders.

"Jus' order a pizza. Mike an' Sally ain't gonna give a fuck...an' them girls ya' work with never turn down free food."

"That's not the point," Glenn said miserably. Daryl shook his head, then abruptly shifted his grip to the tops of Glenn's thighs and heaved, lifting him right off the chair with a startled squawk. Daryl swung back around, stepping over to the small counter (that also served as a breakfast bar) and setting Glenn down on top of it, pushing himself close in the vee of Glenn's legs.

"No," he said agreeably. "The point is for 'em ta' come over, hang out, maybe watch the game, an' have a good time. Who cares what they're eatin'?"

Despite himself, Glenn felt his lips twitch. His boyfriend had a point. Daryl tilted his head slightly, the grin that had been playing about his mouth the whole time turning sly.

"'Sides...if we order pizza, we got time fer another quickie in the shower."

How these days grow long, but I'm on my way back home

It's been hard to be away

How I miss you, and I just want to kiss you

And I'm gonna love you 'til my dying day

How these days grow long

They broke camp after breakfast.

There was no reason to stay-the rest stop was not safe or sheltered enough to make it a viable long-term option, and with their food supplies as low as they were, they really needed to be on the move again. Apparently, they were going to try for the CDC.

Glenn wasn't sure how he felt about that. On the one hand, he agreed with Rick that if there was anything like an answer, if there was anything left of the government or the military, it would probably be there. On the other hand, he was pretty sure that if there was something there, they would have somehow heard about it by now. He could tell Daryl felt the same way, but his boyfriend was being silent on the matter-apparently willing to follow Rick's lead.

And if Andrew was, as well, then that was good enough for Glenn.

They packed almost silently, collapsing the tents and stowing most of the big items in the RV. Daryl and Dale took on the job of replacing the thing's radiator hose while everyone else began divvying up supplies and fuel, deciding which vehicles would be left behind in the name of conserving gas. Daryl's truck was voted in for its cargo capacity, as was Jenny's Outback. The RV was a given. Andrew and Rick were deciding between the rest of them, looking at how many people each car could carry, and what the trunk space was like.

Glenn busied himself helping Danny bundle all the tents, blankets, and sleeping bags together into the smallest packages that could be managed, piling most of them into the bed of Daryl's truck. When they were done, Danny insisted on Glenn getting off his ankle, pointing not-so-subtly in the direction of a folding chair that had been set up by where Daryl and Dale were working on the RV.

"Enjoy it while you can," Danny said blithely. "Once you're back in fightin' shape, you and I are gonna be running ragged. Gotta say, though, won't be near as hard to find enough food to feed this bunch."

Glenn nodded thoughtfully as Danny helped him limp over to the chair.

"Reckon your boy'll be coming with us when we go on a run?" his friend added. Glenn glanced over at him in surprise. Danny just shrugged. Glenn let out a bark of laughter at that, shaking his head.

"Yeah," he said finally. "I reckon Daryl'll be coming along. You mind?"

"Hell no!" Danny said immediately. "You shoulda seen him when we went down to get you! Dude's like a redneck Jedi or somethin', man!"

Glenn nearly choked at that, the mental image popping into his head almost instantaneously. Yeah. He could see that.

"But seriously...he'll be a help. And I'm not gonna tell that guy he can't come along with you." It was Danny's turn to shake his head. "The way he looks at you, dude...well. We're happy for you, G. We really, really are."

Glenn smiled softly as they reached their destination, settling into the chair as Daryl all but climbed into the RV's engine, cursing a blue streak.

"Thanks," he said quietly, sincerely. Danny patted him on the shoulder before wandering off to see if Jill needed any help with anything.

Repairing the RV took another two hours, during which the car debate was settled-they were abandoning George's old truck in favor of the more spacious (and reliable) Honda, and Carol and her daughter would be switching back and forth riding with Jenny and her son, and Rick's family-and a route down into the CDC was picked. The route itself made Glenn a little nervous...they would be cutting it awfully close to sundown, and he didn't like the idea of being that far into the city after dark. There was no help for it, though...no one liked the idea of camping on a random section of the highway for the night any better. Not with the swarms of geeks they were starting to see.

It didn't take them long at all to get the rest of their gear stowed into the various vehicles, and soon enough there was nothing left to do but pile into the cars and be on their way. Whether it was towards a possible bit of hope in the wasteland the world had become, or just another dangerous disappointment remained to be seen. He watched the others separate to their cars-Andrea and Amy pausing to speak with Daryl for a moment before climbing into the RV, while Rick and Shane had a quiet conversation beside the Honda. Jenny swept by him with her son in her arms, pausing to drop a sisterly kiss on Glenn's cheek, while George slipped into the passenger side of the Outback. He bumped fists with Danny as his friend made his way to his car, and accepted Jill's tight embrace and Andrew's affectionate handshake.

Finally, Daryl seemed satisfied with whatever last-minute adjustments he was making to the patch job on the RV. His boyfriend nodded gravely to Rick before glancing over at Glenn, jerking his chin toward the truck. Glenn grinned at him as he limped over to the passenger side, sliding into the familiar seat with a soft sigh. Daryl passed the crossbow over to him as he climbed in as well, and Glenn carefully lowered the weapon to sit on the floor between his legs...not the most comfortable arrangement, but like hell either of them were going anywhere without a weapon close at hand. Daryl's rifle was carefully mounted on the rack in the window behind them, in easy reach for Glenn.

"Ya' ready for this?" Daryl asked as he turned the key, and then immediately slid his hand over the bit of seat that separated them, palm up. Glenn took his boyfriend's hand, raising it to his mouth to brush a kiss across scarred, dirt-stained knuckles.

"As I'll ever be," he replied. Daryl watched him silently for a moment, as the others began pulling out of the rest stop in the order they had all decided on. He and Daryl were to bring up the rear.

"I love ya'," Daryl said suddenly, tightening his hand around Glenn's. "Ya' know that, right? No matter what happens, I'll always love ya'. More n' anything."

The world as they knew it was gone. The life they'd built together, the friends they'd had, the home they'd made together-it was all gone. Nothing would ever bring it back. And Glenn didn't know what they were heading into...if it would somehow be better, or worse, than what they had now. He didn't know if Rick's gamble with the CDC would pay off, or if it would turn out to be a terrible, terrible mistake.

The only guarantee in this world was the one that Daryl had just offered him-that no matter what, he would always have Daryl. He would always have Daryl's love. He nodded fractionally, smiling at his boyfriend lopsidedly.

"I know," he said seriously. "I love you, too. No matter what happens."

They both leaned forward at the same time, closing the small distance between them with a short, sweet kiss. Then Daryl let go of his hand long enough to put the truck in gear, and they pulled out after the RV, following their caravan out onto the highway. Their hands found each other again as soon as Daryl turned onto the blacktop, and Glenn settled back into the seat.

He didn't know what they would find at the CDC. He didn't know what tomorrow would bring them, or what their fate would ultimately be. All he knew was that whatever happened, they would face it together. That was all anyone could offer in this world.

It was all either of them needed.

Time keeps burning, the wheels keep on turning

Sometimes I feel I'm wasting my days

How I miss you, and I just want to kiss you

And I'm gonna love you 'til my dying day

How these days grow long

Time keeps burning on

How these days grow long!