Disclaimer: I don't own AMC's The Walking Dead or any of its characters. Wishful thinking aside.
Authors Note #1: Please see original chapter for complete warnings and related information. *Rated for: Spoilers for the season two finale, sensuality, adult situations, allusions to spousal abuse: both physical and emotional, as well as casual references to religion in regards to Carol's cannon beliefs.
Her teeth rattled as they skidded through a patch of loose gravel. Motorcycle jerking roughly as Daryl kicked out with his feet. Struggling to keep them upright as they took the corner far too fast, trying to avoid a group of walkers as they blew past a multi-car pile up. Nearly ploughing through the lot of them as part of the group lunged out from amidst the burnt out tangle of blood smeared windshields and crumpled metal frames.
But in spite of it all, she'd never felt safer.
And as twilight broke around them, tingeing the night sky with muted pinks and lightly flushed purples, she couldn't help but think that her entire situation was strangely fitting. Fitting because back before the world had ended, she'd spent hours telling Sophia about white knights and fairy tale princesses. Telling her about true love and a man who was going to come along someday and love her like nothing else on earth.
She'd spent years perfecting those images. Filling her room with a thousand different imaginary landscapes and far too many perfectly described sunsets than she could rightly count. And like any girl her age, Sophia had adored every single one. Always quick bat those gorgeous baby-blues and ask for just one more story, one more lavish ball room scene or chaste embrace on that perfect marble balcony.
And on the bad days, days when Ed would come home with that wandering eye. His breath ripe with the smell of cheap bourbon and another woman's perfume, she wasn't sure which of them needed those fairy tales more, her or Sophia.
She knew many of Sophia's friends had started reading stories about "Banker or Political Barbie;" progressive tales about girls who dreamed of running for president or becoming world renowned doctors and scientists. And while she'd read those to her as well, she'd never stopped telling Sophia about the fairy tales. About stories where good always triumphed over evil, and the heroine was always just in time for that perfect, sunset kiss.
She did it because she felt that it was important that Sophia knew that happy endings really did exist. And that god willing, she'd never settle for anything less. Not like she had with Ed… She'd been determined that her daughter would not make the same mistakes as she had. But God had apparently had another plan for her, taking her up before she'd even had a chance to fall.
She shook her head. Mind dwelling on thoughts that she'd forced out of her mind during the chaos of the last few days. What with Randall and Dale. It made her wonder if some day she could forgive him for that… for taking her baby girl away and leavin' her behind. And while she didn't know the answer to that, all she knew was that she hadn't talked to God since. Somehow there didn't seem to be much of a point in it anymore…
But she put those thoughts out of her mind as Daryl revved the engine, coaxing a little more speed out of Merle's old Triumph as they came upon a crossroad. Angling the tires north, towards the highway as they turned onto a clear span of road that stretched off into the horizon for as far as the eye could see.
And as gravity and motion moved her another few millimeters closer to the man at her front, she couldn't help but think that somehow she wasn't all that bothered by the fact that her own white knight had turned out to be dark, rough, and just a few decades too late. All that mattered was that he was here, now. And that was saying a lot these days.
She didn't know his past. She didn't know what he'd been through or even what he'd done before all this. She didn't have to. Just as much as she didn't know what the future was going to bring, or even if the others were still alive. She didn't know what they were going to do, or where they were going to go from here. But what she did know was that they were going to face it together. Not alone. Even Daryl, in his own, round about way had already shown her that.
He'd come back for her. No one had ever done anything like that for her before. Not even Ed. Despite the risk, despite everything, he'd come back for her. And just like he had when he'd scoured the woods for her baby girl, Daryl had proved that there was far more to him than met the eye.
She hummed into the din, letting the sound linger, tuneless, in the back of her throat, content with the knowledge that not even she could hear the sound over the rattling purr in the engine. Facing the wind head on now, she watched as the thick forests and long abandoned farms of rural Georgia flickered and disappeared in the low, pre-dawn light.
She'd almost forgotten what this felt like. Just being grateful to be alive…
She wasn't exactly sure where the courage came from, but before she could think it through she found herself inching forward. Relaxing all the muscles she'd been keeping taut until she slowly melted into him from behind. Movements cautious and gentle as she finally killed whatever distance remained between them.
He flinched reflectively as her arms wrapped around him. Hunching into himself like an abused dog cringing in advance of some long expected blow. But for once she held her ground. Maintaining her soft embrace until she slowly felt his skin begin settle. His movements just as tense and as heartbreakingly awkward as they'd been the night she'd leaned in and kissed his temple.
She could feel his heart beating through his chest, vibrating down through her bones as she sighed. Gratitude and relief melding together until something similar to contentment settled in her breast. It was tentative and fledgling, but it was there all the same. And as the darkened shadows of crashed cars and the occasional fence post blurred past, she let the moment breathe.
The sky was lightening by the time she gathered the courage to move again. Mind awash with memories of missed opportunities and tightly held regrets as she tentatively loosened her grip on his waist and allowed one of her hands to rest on his side. Flirting with the arch of his hip as she slowly let her thumb trail across that vulnerable swath of freshly scarred skin on his right side. Rubbing her thumb across the edges like a mantra as the bike curved gently with the road.
It was the closest thing she could give him that she figured equated to a promise these days. It was small, flighty, feeble, and utterly paling in comparison to anything he could have had if the world hadn't crumbled around them. Quaking and rotting from within like the structure of a house mouldering on its very foundations. - She knew it wasn't much. But for some strange and almost impossible reason, she figured that for him, it might just be enough…
Because while Daryl didn't say a word about it either way. Shoulders hunching into the turn as they curved around a bend in the road, he didn't move away either. He simply let her mold herself into the arch of his back. The swell of her breasts pressing up against those gorgeously tattered wings, as the jut of his hip butted into the press of her fingers, once, and then twice with sullen, but deliberate slowness.
And as the sun rose around them, streaking the thick Georgian skyline in a heady mix of flashpoint orange and pastel pink, she smiled into the curve of his shoulder. Letting her forehead rest against the cool black leather as something close to peace settled over her.
Because in the end, it really didn't matter that this wasn't perfect. Or that the lives they were forced to live these days were neither perfect nor ideal. All that did was that they were here and they were together. And for her, that was enough.
…After all, she'd never really asked for much out of life. Just the chance for her own happily ever after…
A/N: This story is now complete. - Please let me know what you think? Reviews and constructive critiquing are love!
Reference: Merle's bike, which Daryl has been riding all throughout Season two is a '71 Triumph.
"Heroes know that things must happen when it is time for them to happen. A quest may not simply be abandoned; unicorns may go unrescued for a long time, but not forever; a happy ending cannot come in the middle of the story." - Peter S. Beagle