So! First Walking Dead fanfic! Couldn't help it, Daryl Dixon is amazing!

Basically a little summary - Set before season one has even taken off but joins in on the first few episodes. I have changed things slightly to my own tastes and fit in my own character/s but basically stuck to the script and storyline we've all seen.

By the way, I've basically turned a multi-story fic into one huge ass story line, hope this works for everyone!

Disclaimer: Nothing is my own!


Strange Findings, Stranger Feelings

"I found a campsite."

Everyone stopped what they were doing and looked up at March in surprise. She crossed her arms across her dirty white singlet top and met the four sets of eyes staring up at her from their little fire.

"You found a what?" Jason asked, rising to hit feet and brushing his hands on his jeans. "Were there any of those things there?"

March shook her head, red-gold strands flicking across her face. "No. In fact it looked like people were living there."

Jason squared his jaw and looked at their companions. Kate was biting her lip in worry while Sam and Pete kept thoughtful expressions on their faces. They'd decided to skip class for a week and go on a road trip through some of the more southern states. The end destination was Fort Lauderdale where Pete's parents had a yacht anchored. That was almost three weeks ago now. They were still headed towards Florida but the journey was taking them longer than expected as they did their best to avoid the highways and the groups of walking dead roaming them. Even with March's vivid imagination she wouldn't have dreamt that leaving their St. Louis college was going to amount to such a disaster. It was almost a perfect idea for a book. Almost.

"We should go scavenge what we can," Sam spoke up. "Steal what they have to keep us going."

"You can't be serious?" March asked, shocked. "We could talk to them, see if they can help us."

Pete shook his head, instantly agreeing with his best friend. "No, better we stick to our own group. You never know what weirdoes might be hanging around. Besides, we don't need anyone else." He gripped Kate's hand tight, his girlfriend looking at him in approval.

March groaned and turned to Jason. "Jase?" she asked, moving towards him. "I don't think that's right. Do you?"

Her fiancé shrugged his shoulders, dark hair blowing in the afternoon wind. "Don't know, March. I don't think we should just be inviting any random stranger into our group. What if they try rob us? Then what will they do?"

"And what if it's another group of scared college students just wanting someone to lend them a hand?" March challenged.

"Pete and Sam are right. Let's take what we need and get out of here. We were about to move on anyway."

March threw up her hands in exasperation. Now she regretted even telling them about the camp site. Somehow doing the patrolling had landed to her while the rest of them sat around in a circle complaining of how tough life was for them now. She'd wandered out further than she'd intended and ended up stumbling onto a small camp site. She'd been able to take note of the two tents, dodgy looking pickup truck and black motorcycle sitting in the shade. After waiting a moment or two she detected no life and had wandered back to her own camp.

"Are you going to do it, or not?"

The question snapped March back to the present where Jason was looking at her expectantly. "Do what?"

"Steal the shit we need."

"What?" March demanded. "No! I won't do anything of the sort. They didn't look like they had much anyway."

Pete moved forward and shoved Jason aside, his hand grabbing March's arm. "Look March, we're getting desperate. We have no food left and no booze. If you think we're going to leave that campsite unattended then think again."

"Get off me!" she snapped, pulling out of the reach. "You shouldn't even be thinking about drinking! Of all things to worry about, God!" She turned but was spun around by Jason.

"Don't talk to him like that!"

"Don't talk to him like that?" March asked, incredulous. "What about telling him not to grab me like that? I'm your fiancée Jason, not some hooker on the street corner he picked up!"

"Well I can leave you here just as quick," Pete snapped over Jason's shoulder. "Either you go and get what we need or we leave you here."

March stared at him in surprise. He was joking, right? They wouldn't just leave her here! "Why me?" she argued weakly, mind already betraying her and planning how she'd get in and out without being seen.

"Because you're the one who grew up in the wild," Jason reminded her, as if the idea disgusted him.

March shot him an angry glare. "It's called field study," she said. Her parents were both journalists and she'd travelled around a lot as a child as they conducted field research for National Geographic. "That doesn't mean I am better at stealing." She wondered if they were okay, both were currently immersed somewhere in Africa reporting on the strange migration of animals that had started happening in the last recent months. She wondered if it had anything to do what was happening to them here.

"Just do it already," Kate complained, her tinny voice trembling. "I'm sick of just sitting here."

"Your move, March," Pete challenged, eyes narrowed.

Flicking her eyes at Jason she realised she'd receive no help from him. "Fine," she sighed, turning and grabbing one of their empty bags from beside the fire.

She'd stolen before on a few other occasions, her friends forcing her into the role. Most of the time the places were deserted, and the few times people were there they were affected so she'd managed to get away with a little without being caught. One thing about growing up in the 'wild' as Jason put it was that her parents had taught her how to walk as quietly as possible to avoid detection from the animals they reported on. Something she never thought would have come in handy until now. She was yet to have to kill one of those things. The boys had done in a couple, each had a weapon of sorts stashed safely in Pete's car. She knew it was stupid for her to go out without anything in her hands but found it easier to run when she wasn't encumbered by something like a crow bar. Besides, at least that was one of the things that the boys were happy to take care of as her and Kate stood away at a safe distance.

She started off into the bush but footsteps behind her made her turn in confusion. All of them were on their feet and each had a bag in their hands. "What are you doing?" March asked, wiping her forearm against her forehead. Man, it was stinking hot down south.

"We'll come with, wait in the bushes. We can carry more that way," Pete said, speaking for the group.

March narrowed her eyes. She had never been a big fan of Pete but ever since the outbreak she'd grown to hate him. He was a deceitful asshole, one who managed to tell everyone what to do and how to do it. Jason became nothing more than a puppet around him. She watched him check his gold Rolex and sniggered. People always sucked up to those with money. Even in a world where money meant nothing anymore.

"Fine," she said before turning back and heading into the brush.

They walked in silence for the rest of the way and only stopped when March motioned that the camp was nearby.

"Kiss for good luck?" she asked Jason, moving to stand beside him.

"Fucking hell, March. We aren't in school anymore. Just go get our fucking stuff," Pete snapped, pushing her firmly against the shoulder.

March turned with a sneer on her face and crept stealthily towards the campsite. When she approached the edge of the cleared area she paused and crouched, eyes squinting against the fading light to detect any movement. The truck and bike looked like they'd not moved, the tents remained closed. There was no fire and even the shirt that had been there earlier was still there, fluttering gently in the breeze. Taking in a deep breath and trying to calm the racing of her heart March crept forwards, she eyes trying to be a million places at once. As she crossed the open ground she felt her back tingle, the feeling of eyes watching her distracting her from the purpose of the visit. Turning she caught a glimpse of Sam's red shirt in the bushes and assumed they'd all come closer to watch her. Reverting her attention back towards the tents she picked up speed and stopped by the first one. She listened carefully for movement inside. After nothing alerted her to life she grabbed the zipper and jerked it up a fraction. Kneeling onto her hands and knees she pressed her eye to the opened seam. She pushed away the sigh of relief she felt when she saw no one inside. Pulling open the zipper the rest of the way she stepped in and looked around.

The first thing she noticed was the smell. Gagging lightly she placed a hand over her nose. It smelt of sweat, vomit and semen. Grimacing she shook her head to try clear it of the stench. The dead bodies they'd come across smelt better than this pigsty. There wasn't much in the tent either, only a trundle bed set up in one corner with the sheets thrown back showing the stained bedding underneath. There was a camping lantern beside the bed and a bag beside that. Grabbing the bag she started to go through it, hands grabbing against something loose wrapped in plastic. Pulling it out March gaped in surprise. In her hand were at least a hundred little blue pills. Dropping the bag March pulled out the rest and found only more drugs, three packets of Marlboros and a pack of playing cards. Frowning down at the stash she wondered if it was worth taking. Last thing she needed was for everyone to be going off their faces during an apocalypse. Not wanting to walk out empty handed though she grabbed the smokes and some of the labelled bottled items, she could check them out later to see what they contained inside.

She ducked out of the tent, her bag pretty much empty, and tried the next one. Then she was grabbed. She wasn't sure what she registered first, the hand pulling her long ponytail or the drawling voice asking her what the fuck she thought she was doing.

"Fuck!" she swore, trying to pull free of the vice like grip in her hair. Turning she felt herself freeze in fear. The man holding her was a bulky, shaved headed giant of a man.

"Goin' somewhere, sugar tits?" he demanded, yanking her head back with a forceful pull of her ponytail.

"Let go of me!" March demanded, flailing her fists to try hit whatever she could. It's okay, she told herself. Everyone is just near the site, they'll see me and run over.

"The fuck you think yer doin', gittin' in ma' tent?" the man demanded, throwing her to the ground. Her bag was ripped off her and thrown to the side.

March grunted at the impact and looked up in time to see her travelling group running in the opposite direction. Her eyes went wide with shock, mouth opening to call them back. She didn't get a chance to before those great big hands were hauling her to her feet and tossing a punch against her cheek. The impact of the fist sent stars spiralling into her vision.

"Help!" March choked out, blood trickling from her nose down into her mouth. "Help!" she screamed again before another fist connected with her gut. She tried to double over in pain but the hand on her arm kept her still.

"Asked you a question, bitch!" the man growled, moving her upright and shaking her. "You tryin' to steal my stash?"

"I didn't take anything, I was just looking!" March lied, she made to slap him with her hand but he caught it easily.

"Married, are ya?" he demanded, eyes catching on her ring. "Might take this as re-to-ri-bution."

"Take it, just let me go," March said, wincing as her diamond engagement ring was yanked off her finger. When she tried to move away another punch was landed onto her stomach, this one throwing her forward with the pressure.

The man cackled and mumbled something, releasing her hand so that March could properly look up at his angry expression. He had rotten teeth and his breath smelt foul as he huffed and puffed at her. It was his eyes though that made her worry, the crazy dilated pupils of an addict glared back at her, the blue all the more striking next to the fiery veins near the iris.

"I'm sorry," she begged, eyes beginning to weep tears. "Just let me go."

"Try steal ma' stuff and I'ma' s'pposed to let ya go?" the man demanded. He threw her to the ground and threw a kick at her stomach. "Ain't how the world plays, sweet'art." Another kick.

March whimpered in pain and attempted to run away, her breath catching in her though as her ankle was caught in the man's strong grip and she was pulled back towards him. Another hand grabbed a fistful of hair and brought her into a sitting position.

"I didn't take anything!" she confessed, hands wrapping around the fingers in her hand. The grip was creating waves of pain to flow through her scalp. "I swear!"

"Touched ma' stuff, di'n't ya? Ain't good manners."

She didn't even realise her eyes were closed until they snapped open at the sound of a zipper. Glancing upwards in fright she saw the man pulling his semi-erect dick out of his jeans. Struggling harder she tried to free herself but his grip was too strong and the sore encrusted cock he was waving at her face was making her tremble with dread.

"Please don't," she begged, starting to sob. "Please, I didn't mean to hurt anyone."

The hand from her hair moved to her chin, thick fingers stabbing her neck. She looked away from the dick that was dangling just inches away from her face, eyes closing to shut away the sight.

"The fuck?" Another voice broke her silent prayers and March looked up in hope, had someone come back?

"Well ain't it my baby brother 'ere to join in," the man cackled, releasing his grip on her.

The pit of fear in her gut grew deeper as March surveyed the new comer through strands of her hair. His dirty blond hair was plastered to his forehead and his eyes were squinted as they glared in her direction. It was the crossbow hanging from his hand that made her fear grow, that and the rope of squirrels hanging dead from his shoulder.

"The fuck is that?" the younger brother demanded, throwing the squirrels down. "Merle?"

March glanced over at Merle, his dick still hanging out of his pants. "Found her. Finders keepers."

"Fuck off," the brother retorted. "Whatchu' need her for?"

"Does it look like I've had a lay recently," Merle laughed, he turned back and grabbed another fistful of March's hair. "Old Mrs. Palma' and 'er five daughters ain't been satisfying me none. You can 'ave her afta' me."

"Please, tell him to let me go," March pleaded, eyes seeking the brother's as she tried pulling against the hold. "I haven't done anything wro-"

"Done anythin'? Darlin' I found you stealin' our shit!" Merle interrupted, giving her hair a firm tug. "Daryl, don't listen to that filthy mouth. Only good thing she can do with it is ta' stuff our cocks in there."

The brother, Daryl, glared angrily at her. "That true, bitch? You tryin' to steal our stuff?" He shook his head as if it was the most distressing of crimes. "Good Lord, can't trust no one these days." He made to walk away but stopped, expression furrowed. "What you goin' to do with her?"

"Gonna' git what I want from her," Merle told him.

March saw Daryl glance down at her, he looked uneasy with the decision. "Why don't we just git her to pay us back? What'd she take?"

"I just took the smokes!" March confessed but Merle's fist silenced her from saying much more.

"Don't matter what she took or didn't take, matter is she tried." Merle pulled her to her feet and started dragging her over to his tent.

"Stop him!" March begged as they passed Daryl. "Please, Daryl!"

Merle rounded on her then, eyes furious. "You dare talk to ma' baby brother? You think he's gonna' listen to some tramp who ain't worth shit?" He back handed her across the face and March barely had time to recover before she was thrown into the tent. The stench hit her again and made her gag, that and the pain throbbing from her face and stomach.

Merle was right on her heels and March found her strength was nothing compared to the rednecks, his massive arm muscles overpowering her frantic thrashing as he pushed her onto the bed and pinned her there. "Now now," he said, soothing her like it would make it better. "Can't have you kickin' ole' Merle as I'm getting my rocks off, can I?" he chuckled, leaning across her to grab one of the discarded bags of drugs. March watched with wide eyes as he grabbed one of the smaller packets and extracted two white pills. "These'll make you feel much better," he assured her, grinning down at her with rotted teeth.

"Oh God, stop," she sobbed, moving her mouth away when he tried to force the pills against her lips. A hand grabbed her face and made her face him and the sadistic expression on his face. She felt his fat fingers try pry open her lips but March gritted her teeth, eyes burning with tears.

"You ain't playin' fair," he chuckled down at her, covering her nose with his enormous hand. The smell of tobacco invaded her nostrils before clamping down and cutting off her air supply.

March waited as long as she could but she knew opening her mouth was going to be inevitable. Her lungs were burning in protest and her head was beginning to swim from the lack of air. The moment she opened her mouth the pills were in, their taste almost sweet on her tongue. Merle's hand clamped over her mouth to keep them in, despite how she struggled. His fingers started prodding her throat, helping the muscles to relax and accept whatever drugs had been forced onto her. As soon as the pills slipped down her throat she saw Merle grin at her with glee. He let go of her mouth but kept her pinned to the bed.

"You're a monster," March hissed.

"Oh hoe, you think I care whatcha' think?" Merle asked, running fingers through her hair despite March trying to pull away. "In two minutes you won't be havin' a care in the world."

March opened her mouth to retort but found her head was getting heavy and her eyes suddenly felt like lead. Dropping her head back against the bed she tried to grab a fistful of Merle's shirt. "Fuck you," she managed to say, turning her head away as his fingers trailed down her face.

She felt her shirt being pushed up and then darkness claimed her, its welcoming lull pulling her into nothing.

X

When March woke up she wasn't sure what bothered her more; the pounding in her head or the dry taste in her mouth. It took a few moments for her to collect herself together enough to realise she wasn't in her tent. It was then that it all came rushing back. The raid, getting caught and that hillbilly beating up on her. She remembered the fleeing backs of her 'friends' as he laid into her and then she remembered the last thing before she fell unconscious. Looking down at herself she saw her shirt and jeans were still on. Swallowing March focused on her lower body but the only pain she felt was still from the punches earlier, not any that suggested she was raped. Glancing towards the roof of the tent March noted the change of colour coming from outside, meaning it was nightfall. A spark of hope flared in her gut. Maybe they'd gone to sleep meaning she could sneak off.

Moving gingerly to her feet she crouched by the tent entrance and unzipped enough for her to crawl through. True to her guess night had fallen, the moon in the sky lighting the empty camp ground before her. Taking in a shallow breath March stumbled out and made herself ready to run.

"Goin' somewhere?"

The question made her shriek in fright, her head whipping around to see Daryl lounging in a camp chair a few feet away behind her. His crossbow was resting on his knee, an arrow loaded and ready to go. March eyed it for a second before meeting his narrowed gaze. A small fire blazed in a drum beside him, the flames casting an orange glow against his face.

"You can't keep me here."

"Order's are that you stay 'ere," Daryl told her, resting a hand on his bow. "Ain't gonna' argue with the man."

March clasped her hands together, her fingers catching on the spot where her ring normally sat. "Look, can't you just let me go? Your brother got what he wanted from me, didn't he?"

Daryl shook his head. "Pulled him out 'fore he started. You owe me one, girl." He got to his feet, crossbow slung across his back. "Don't make me throw you in there myself," he said, jerking his head towards the tent.

She wanted to cry, couldn't he just let her go? "Please," she tried, wiping tears away with the back of her hand. "Just let me go."

"Where you gonna go anyway? I scouted round, found no one nearby. Only thing I found was an abandoned site couple 'a miles from 'ere. Looked recent too, car tracks and footsteps. Some led here, some went back the way they came. They your people?"

March shook her head, the betrayal stinging. "I'm alone. If there were other people nearby they followed me." It wasn't entirely a lie. "Just let me go, I'll keep walking til I find someone."

"Find and get bit, maybe," Daryl snorted. "Go on, git back to the tent. Sleep some. Leavin' in the mornin'." He turned and went back to his chair.

"But I – I," March couldn't believe it. Was she a hostage? Could she try escape anyway? She quickly glanced around the camp. She couldn't see Merle, where had he gone? Glancing over at the other tent nearby she wondered if he was sleeping in there.

"Just fuck off back in the tent," Daryl grumbled, lighting himself a cigarette. His bare arms showed off his bunched muscles as he cupped the flame. If she ran he'd easily catch up and over power her. When she didn't move he stood up. March took the moment to run, her body trying its best to give her the strength she needed. Daryl caught her before she was even half a dozen feet away, his body crashing into hers and pushing her to the ground.

"Fuck off!" March protested, trying to turn and hit him.

Daryl grabbed her wrists easily and pinned them above her head, climbing over her to keep her still. It gave her a chance to look at his face. He was older than her, by at least fifteen years she reckoned. His blue eyes were glaring at her angrily, his lips pressed into a tight line.

"You 'ave any idea how hard it was to get him to stop?" he hissed in an undertone. "Had to convince the fucker you weren't worth it." He spat to the side and March cringed. "Look 'ere, girl. I ain't keen on you stickin' round. Another mouth to feed and a piece 'a ass to hide from my brother. But I got too much of a conscience to let you just wander off alone in them woods."

"Why'd you even stop him?" she demanded.

"What? You wanna' git fucked while yer doped up? By all means I won't bother next time," Daryl snapped at her. He released her wrists and climbed to his feet, quickly grabbing her and escorting her back to the tent. "Now git in there, shut up and go to sleep."

He turned and March grabbed his arm, hoping against hope she could appeal to whatever good sense he had in him. "Please, I didn't mean to piss anyone off. I just want to go home." The words were out of her mouth before she even knew what she was saying. She shut her mouth quickly afterwards, regretting the way she couldn't stop her lip from trembling.

"Home ain't a thing anymore," Daryl told her. "Now git in."

Turning without another word March entered the tent and sunk down onto the bed. Behind her Daryl zipped the door back up. Listening carefully she heard him get back into the camping chair nearby. Glancing down at her shaking hands she began to cry. The cries soon became sobs and all the pent up emotion she was feeling came out. The relief she had for being saved from rape was palpable, the confusion that Daryl had bothered to stop it was overwhelming.

Lying down onto the dirty bed she buried her head in the crook of her arm and allowed her body to shake with sobs. What did they want her to do before they'd let her go? If she had to sleep with one of them, fine. If it meant leaving them she'd do it. The guilt of the thought hit her harder than Merle had. Was she really that much of a loose slut to allow two backwoods redneck scum to use her body for freedom? Is that what Jason had thought of her. Is that why he just left her?

"Can't you shut up? Good Lord." The angry reprimand was flung at her from the other side of the thin tent wall and Daryl's boot connected with it soon after. "Bring down every damn geek goin' on like that."

March didn't know what a geek was but she forced herself to stop crying. Crying wasn't going to solve anything. Tomorrow she'd find a way to escape.

X

"You can't be fucking serious?" March spat, struggling as Daryl zip-tied her hands together.

"Can't have you running off wi'out proper payment," Merle told her, sleazy grin on his face.

"You took my damn jewellery!" March snapped. Daryl looked over at Merle then, as if asking him if it was true.

"Ain't worth shit these days," Merle drawled, accent elongating the word 'days'. "Til you prove some use yer gonna' 'ave to stick around."

Daryl moved her over to a tree and quickly tied her bound hands around the sturdy trunk. He walked off, ready to then help his brother dismantle the camp. March sunk to her feet, her body protesting its exhaustion. She barely managed any sleep the night before. Her eyes had just closed and Daryl was in, pulling her out and tying her hands together like the hostage she was. Dawn had just broken, the sun wasn't even on the horizon yet but the two brothers were keen on getting packed up and moved on.

March glanced over towards where she'd last caught a glimpse of her previous travelling party. She wondered where they were now. Has Jason protested against leaving her there? Who had suggested running off in the first place? She wanted to cry but was the numbing hatred and fear she felt was overwhelming anything else. How could they have just left her? The man looked fucking scary but it's not like he was carrying a gun? Why hadn't she had taken that damn bat, it would have at least given her more of a chance.

She growled with frustration and pulled frantically at the ties. She needed to get out of here and fast. If the redneck brothers were too busy pulling apart their tent they wouldn't notice her escaping. She pushed her feet against the tree and tried to rip her wrists in the other direction. It was no use though, the zip ties were solid she gave up with a sound that was something between a whimper and a huff.

"Ready."

March looked up at Daryl, his eyes seeming to look everywhere but hers. "Do I have a choice?"

The man grunted something and quickly undid the rope tie. March presented her wrists to him but he ignored them and instead opted for pushing her towards the beat up Ford. They got to the car and he swung open the door, its hinges squeaking in protest.

"Git in," he ordered waiting only a moment before pushing her in and slamming shut the door behind her. Walking around the front he climbed into his side.

"C'mon skanks," Merle called out, revving his motorcycle and coming up to the driver side door. "Let's git the fuck outta' 'ere."

He took the lead, Daryl quickly starting his car and driving after him. March pulled at the tie on her hands again. It was Goddamn uncomfortable. What was worse was that the ties were starting to break skin, the area already showing clear lines of red sores.

"Stop pullin' at 'em. You'll make it worse."

March looked over at Daryl in anger. "You didn't need to put them on in the first place."

"Can't have you runnin' off."

Huffing March turned away from him and stared out the window. Stupid imbeciles. Untying her hands while she was in a moving car wasn't going to cause problems. It's not as if she were stupid enough to try jump out. The road at first was rough, the brother's campsite having been off road a bit. They eventually made it back onto the small dirt road March and her friends had found a few days earlier. They'd not seen a single dead person since turning off it and it made March wonder why her captors wanted to move camp now. Maybe they were afraid her friends would come back. Maybe they were afraid of being discovered by those dead things. Soon the dirt road joined onto an actual chip sealed road and March was no longer feeling as if she was being jerked around in her seat.

It was horrible when they drove past a piece of road kill and March realised with a start that she was hungry. Neither Daryl nor Merle had offered her something to eat but as she lingered on the thought and her predicament the urge of hunger slowly faded away. As she stared out at the trees flashing by she wondered if she should try remembering any of the local sights, for when she broke free. But then she looked down at her hands and realised that probably wasn't an option.

Biting on her lip to keep her from making a noise March tried to calm herself down and think rationally. She'd get away, hopefully unscathed. If they were going to do something to her they would have done it by now. She surreptitiously glanced over at Daryl before reverting her gaze back to the countryside. They spent the next few hours in silence. Gradually they started to see the roaming dead people and more common now was the abandoned homes and businesses. Cars were starting to pop up on the road, all of them empty. March looked for Pete's car but it was in vain. It made her wonder what these people had been trying to accomplish when they abandoned their vehicles for walking on foot.

"What were you doing before this?" March asked softly, eyes flicking from one car to the next.

Daryl didn't reply at first, as if weighing up the options of getting into a conversation. After a while though he cleared his throat lightly. "Huntin'."

"That's all?" she asked after an extended silence. "Not hunting with family or trying to find them when this happened?"

"Merle's only family I need," Daryl told her.

"Your brother is a rapist," March growled, turning to face him.

Daryl looked over at him, expression betraying his fury. "Merle ain't nothin' of the sort. Told you he didn't touch ya."

"Only because you stopped him!" March snapped back.

"Listen, bitch. I ain't gonna' sit here and listen to you go on 'bout shit you know nothin' about. So just shut up."

His piece said Daryl tightened his grip on the steering wheel and stared stonily ahead. March curled her upper lip and turned back to the window.

"You're as bad as each other," she said sulkily, not even bothering to turn around to see if Daryl had heard. The man didn't respond but he revved the car more than required before changing gears.

It was at least another hour before they came to a stop. March had fallen into a light doze but the stopping of the vehicle woke her with a start. Looking out ahead she saw they'd stopped near an old RV, van and another car. A group of people were staring over at them in surprise. March opened her mouth in shock. Apart from Merle and his brother these people were the first she'd seen in almost a week. Jason and his friends excluded of course.

She felt Daryl's arm grip her elbow and she turned towards him. "Don't you dare do a fuckin' thing," he ordered before jumping out of the truck and slamming shut the door.

March followed him with his eyes and watched as he and his brother started conversing with a tall man with dark hair. Her eyes moved to the people behind them. There were quite a few. A few kids as well, all of whom looked understandably frightened of the two men currently talking to their own guy. The conversation didn't last long and soon Daryl was returning back to the truck. He didn't get in though, instead grabbed something out of the truck bed and headed back towards the group. Merle had gone back to his bike and was now sitting on the seat, his piggy eyes darting from the group and then back to her. March swallowed the feeling of nausea in her gut. She needed just a second with any of those people and she could tell them what happened, ask them to save her.

It was a while before Daryl returned. When he came back he got in without a word. March didn't say anything either until it looked like they were following the group of cars.

"Where are we going?" she asked, heart starting to beat with hope. "Are we following them?"

"Said they know a place to go, outta' the way," Daryl said gruffly.

They followed the convoy onto a winding road that eventually led them to a quarry. They drove up to the tip and parked in an open space big enough for quite a few tents to get set up. Daryl quickly jumped out providing her no explanation as to what they were going to be doing there. The rest of the group started getting out of their cars, each looking around. Her door opened then, Merle there and brandishing a knife.

"Now don't scream sweetheart," he ordered her as March violently tried to jerk away. "Just gonna' cut those little ties off now." He placed the blade between the two wrists and cut the plastic, March's skin sighing with relief. "Now we gonna set up some house rules, okay darlin'." It wasn't a question. "Yer gonna' be real good and say we're travellin' together, nothin' 'bout stealin' or how you owe ole' Merle something in exchange for touchin' my stuff. Un'erstand?"

March nodded dumbly, afraid opening her mouth would result in her screaming. Merle offered her a big goofy grin in return and pulled her from the vehicle. People had already started setting up their tents, all too busy in their work to notice the terrified expression on her face. Merle pushed her in the direction of Daryl and the two brothers exchanged a glance.

March turned to look over at the rest of the people. The tall man Daryl had been speaking to before was with a woman and young boy, obviously his own family. As if feeling her looking over he looked up. She saw him lean and say something in the dark haired woman's ear before striding towards them.

"Fuck, pig comin' over," Daryl muttered, brushing past March to speak with Merle.

March frowned at the reference but before she could speak the man was there beside her, dark eyes looking over her features in question. "Good God girl, what happened to you?"

March frowned, unsure of what he even meant by the question. Did he know? Could he tell?

"Nothin' happened," Merle said, stepping in. "What makes you say that?"

"Poor thing's covered in blood," Shane said, as if he were talking to a retard. "Bruises everywhere." Turning back to her he gave her a soft look. "Ma'am, you okay?"

March gave him a nod, unsure if she'd even have a voice. She was so close to telling the man, so close to begging him to save her.

"Found her," Daryl suddenly said. "Ditched by the group she was travellin' with. Still shook up some."

"This true?" the man asked and March wondered if the pig reference used earlier was because the man was a cop. He certainly talked like one. "My name is Officer Shane Walsh," he greeted, extending his hand. If the situation wasn't as dire as it were March might have smirked at the irony.

She almost quailed in relief. A police officer? Out of all people she might have a chance of getting away! "March," she told him, extending a hand.

Shane's eyes quickly narrowed onto the red marks on her wrists. "And what are these?" he asked, holding the arm up. He glared accusingly at the two brother's standing beside them. "You boys do that?"

"Found her like that, of-fa-sha," Merle drawled, rubbing a hand over his head.

"That true?" Shane demanded again, still holding on to her wrist.

March quickly pried it back. "Yeah," she managed to say, forcing herself to meet his eyes. "They did."

"Come get me if there's problems," Shane told her, wagging a finger in her direction. "And you should probably go use that lake down yonder to wash up. There's young kids here and I don't want you scarin' them half to death with blood all over your face."

Merle waited until the man was back with his family before rubbing a hand through her hair. "Nice one, ninety-nine."

March ignored him and instead ran a hand across her face. She could feel the crusted areas around her nose and the grime and dust that covered the rest of her. Her hair must look a fright as well.

"Daryl, take the girl down to get prettied up. Ain't wantin' to scare no kiddies!" Merle commanded, tossing a loud belch in Daryl's direction.

"Why do I gotta' do it," Daryl argued. "She's your piece 'a junk. I want nothin' to do with her."

"Won't be sayin' that when I brag about how the drapes match the carpet," Merle laughed, clapping his brother across the back. "Go along now, Darleena. Ain't got all day for the camp to set up."

Daryl grumbled something under his breath before turning back to March with a glower. "C'mon," he snapped. He quickly grabbed his crossbow from the truck and they headed towards the quarry lake.

As they passed a frail looking woman and her young daughter March looked over at them. The girl hid her face and the mother avoided her eyes. March grimaced, she must really look a fright. As they breached the lip of the quarry March stopped to admire the view. The water was a brilliant blue, the minerals from the stone turning the colour more vibrant than normal.

"Ain't got all day," Daryl told her, stopping a few feet ahead.

March shrugged and followed him down. The man let her pass him and then followed up behind, his crossbow out and ready to be used if need be.

"What kind'a stupid name is that, anyway?" The question came out of the blue.

"What do you mean?" March asked.

"Yer name. Said it was March di'n't ya? I wanna' know what sort'a dumb woman names her kid after a month."

"Maybe the same type that names her kids Merle and Daryl," March shot back.

Daryl grabbed her roughly. "Don't fuckin' say a word 'bout my mother," he sneered. "Ain't gotta' listen to none jumped up college girl who thinks she's better than me." He pushed her forward a few steps, jaw clenched.

"I don't just think it, let's just make that clear," March retaliated. She picked up her pace in case he tried to manhandle her again.

She kept up her furious pace until she hit the water, her Converse sneakers sending ripples against the tide. Taking a step back she quickly threw her shoes and socks off. The idea of a bath was so tantalising, she'd not had one for days and had instead been pouring water onto a cloth and wiping herself down with it. Now that she was aware of it the feeling of dirt and blood was starting to oppress her. She went to take off her shirt but remembered with a start Daryl was still there. Turning she saw, with much surprise, he'd taken a seat on a nearby rock formation and had his back to her. Glancing upwards she could see the campervan parked up top, someone had even gone to the trouble of putting an umbrella up there. Wiping a hand across her forehead she quickly threw off her shirt and shimmied out of her jeans. She left her underwear on though, she didn't trust Daryl a single bit not to look. At least she still maintained some semblance of dignity this way. Her first step into the water sent a shiver up her spine, the coolness sending a tingle of goose bumps up her skin.

Letting a small smile grow on her face she quickly wading further in, ducking to a crouch when it was deep enough. Raising her cupped hands to her face she rubbed vigorously, pulling away to see the water ran a dirty colour from the gunk on her face. Reaching up she pulled the tie out of her hair, releasing her ponytail into long sheets of red hair tinted with gold. As she quickly tucked the tie around her wrist she couldn't help but run her fingers over the torn skin. Angry welts were starting to form, her own fault she supposed for pulling so hard on the ties. That brought her eyes to her empty finger, the one where Jason's ring had sat there so prettily. She'd always been given compliments on the tri-stone round cut diamonds, each sparkling brilliantly under any type of light. Reflecting on the last twenty-four hours she realised with little shock she missed the ring more than the actual man it tied her to. Before her thoughts could stray to her old group she took a breath and dipped under the water where she started running her hands through her hair until she needed air. Rising to the surface she drew in a deep breath. Glancing over at the shore she noticed Daryl was standing now, facing towards the road they'd used to get down. A man with a bucket hat was coming towards him, something slung across his arm.

March watched them converse for a moment before the older man passed the object he was holding to Daryl. They spoke for a moment longer before the man gave her a cheery wave and then turned back up towards the hill. He had a rifle slung over his shoulder too, March wondered if she should talk to him about her situation.

"Oi!" She flicked her eyes back to Daryl, the man was waving her closer. "Shit's for you," he said, stalking over to her discarded jeans and shirt and throwing them to the ground. "And Good Lord, girl. Hurry up."

March gave a little sigh and ducked under again. She rubbed her hands over her body, her abdomen twitching with pain when she brushed against the bruised skin from Merle's kicks. When she rose to the surface again Daryl's back was to her leaving her free to dash out of the water and back to the clothes. When she reached her pile she saw the man had brought down a towel for her. Quickly grabbing it March wrapped the cloth around herself before picking up her white singlet shirt to inspect it. With a grimace she saw that you could almost clearly make out the imprints of Merle's boot. With a shudder she quickly dried herself off and threw on the old shirt and black jeans, luckily the dirt didn't show up on them at all.

Grabbing her hair she towel dried it for a moment before tossing it up into a bun on her head. Turning back to Daryl she wished she had a mirror, you couldn't trust a man's opinion. As long as the blood and dirt were gone, that's all she wanted.

"Done," she said softly, folding her towel. Daryl went to toss her a quick glance but his eyes were caught on her clean face and the way her clothes clung to her damp underwear. March bit her lip and realised the black bra she'd been wearing previously was probably clearly visible through her shirt, the material clinging to and absorbing the water in her bra. Pushing the towel up against herself March avoided his eye.

"Good," he finally said in a gruff voice and together they headed back towards the camp.

It was a changed site when they arrived. Everyone had tents set up and Shane and another two men were setting up a little fire pit. A few of the kids were chasing each other round and a group of four women were near the camper chatting and laughing softly.

Looking over she saw Merle had set up hit chair but that was it, obviously waiting for Daryl to do the set up. Daryl grumbled something under his breath which made March glance at him quickly. Their eyes met but he turned away, motioning that she follow him.

"Ain't half bad when yer half wet," Merle laughed at her when she was within ear shot. "Gonna' enjoy gettin' it on with a clean bitch for once."

March felt herself flush with shame, her cheeks heating up like a furnace. "Shut it, Merle," Daryl told him, kicking his chair as he walked past. "It's a good idea to git with these other guys, don't wreck it by openin' your mouth."

"Oh ho!" Merle laughed loudly, slapping his thigh. "Little brother's got some attitude! Don't make me belt it outta' you boy."

March clenched her teeth at Merle's attitude but didn't say anything. Why should she even feel affronted at his treatment of Daryl anyway? He was as much to blame for her predicament that Merle was. Their eyes seemed to meet again over Merle's head before Daryl busied himself in setting up camp. Turning away March identified the man who'd brought down the towel and looked over. When he noticed he waved her over happily. Frozen on the spot March wasn't sure what to do. She looked over at Merle but the man was lighting a cigarette and seemed too busy watching Daryl to bother with her. Turning back March put on a brave face and made her way over, ignoring Merle's protest as she did.

"Here she is!" the man greeted happily, turning from the two blonde women he was talking to when March got closer. "I see you got my towel."

"Thank you," March told him, smiling briefly. "Do you mind if I hold onto it for a while? Until my shirt dries out?"

"What's wrong with your shirt?" one of the blondes asked.

"It – well, it went see through," March admitted, hugging the towel closer to her body.

"You can have one of mine!" the other blonde said, this one younger. "I'm Amy! This is my sister Andrea and Dale."

Dale smiled at her widely, his bushy eyebrows almost disappearing into his hat. Andrea gave her a tight smile as well, her eyes trailing thoughtfully across her face.

Uncomfortable under her scrutiny March turned her head away. "I'm fine thanks," she told Amy. "I'll Just bring the towel over later, is that okay?" she asked Dale.

"Of course, keep it for as long as you need," the old man assured her.

March said another 'thank you' before retreating back to the camp of Merle and Daryl. Before she could get too far the young boy she'd seen talking to Shane ran up to her, a grin on his face.

"Hi!" he said to her. "I'm Carl."

"Hi, I'm March," she told him, looking over his head to try find his mom or dad. "Is something wrong?"

"No, I just wanted to come over and say hello. It's weird knowing other people are alive out there," Carl told her, shrugging.

"You're lucky you have your mom and dad," March told him. She could feel two distinct sets of eyes watching her and it was making her uncomfortable.

"Shane isn't my dad," Carl told her, almost with a hint of aggravation in his tone. "My dad died from getting shot."

March was taken aback. "I'm sorry."

Carl shrugged. "That's okay. Shane's pretty cool anyway. He said if you want you can come meet my mom?"

"Maybe another time," March said. "I better get back to my –" she couldn't help but pause before she said the next word "- friends."

"Sure," Carl said. "Later during dinner you can meet Sophia as well!"

Then he was running back to his mother before she had a chance to ask both what did he mean by dinner and who was Sophia? Turning back to the hillbilly brothers she tensed in fright when Merle approached her like a bull to a red flag.

"The fuck you think yer doin'?" he demanded. "Gettin' all chummy-chummy with the pig's brat and the old coot over there?" He pushed a finger into her chest roughly. "Ain't recall givin' you no permission to talk to strangers."

"I'm sorry," March instantly said, her tongue betraying what her mind wanted to scream back.

Merle chuckled darkly, "looks like the bitch is learnin' her place." He turned and crossed his arms as he watched Daryl work. "Come on now Darleena, ain't got all day."

X

They didn't join in with the group for dinner that night; instead Daryl lit their own fire and cooked some of the squirrels he'd caught the day before. It wasn't until the meat was cooking that March realised how hungry she was. Shane had strutted over earlier, inviting them to join the group but Merle had dismissed him with a rather offensive comment about blondes, chinks and police officers in general. They'd eaten in silence, Daryl almost begrudgingly passing her one of the smaller rodents he'd managed to cook. The meat was tough and stringy and March managed to eat a small amount. She was trying to avoid eye contact with Merle, she didn't want to remind him that she was there nor that she still 'owed' him.

"Well I'm beat," Merle yawned suddenly, rising to his feet. He didn't say another word as he entered his tent and closed the zip behind him.

March stared after him in relieved surprise. He wasn't going to make her go with him? She'd been fretting all evening he'd pull her in and take her on the mattress. Looking down at her shaking hands she clenched them into fists. Was he going to forget it? Let her go?

She looked over at Daryl. "Where am I supposed to go?" she asked, the first words she'd spoken since talking to Carl earlier. Or her unwarranted apology to Merle.

"Fucked if I know," Daryl said, poking the fire with an arrow. He glanced over at Merle's tent. "Got lucky tonight."

"I didn't want to steal from you guys," March confessed. She was staring into their fire, if you could even call it that. More embers was all Shane would allow. "I was desperate," she added, looking up to see Daryl watching her.

"Ain't no excuse for takin' a man's property," Daryl muttered, resuming his poking of the fire.

"But it's an excuse for Merle to beat me up?" March demanded.

Daryl shrugged, mouth twitching. "Eye for 'n eye."

"Unbelievable," March muttered, drawing her knees up to her chest. The towel she'd borrowed from Dale was sitting beside her, she was too worried to go return it for fear of what Merle would say.

Daryl leant over and poked the embers one more time before rising to his feet. He caught her eye and gestured to his tent. "Comin'?"

March felt her throat tighten. So if it wasn't Merle it looked like it was going to be Daryl. Leaving the towel on the ground she rose to her feet unsteadily and followed Daryl into his tent, ducking as she entered. His didn't smell near enough as bad as Merle's, in fact it looked a lot more orderly with his bed all set up and few belongings around the place. His crossbow leant against the edge of the bed, arrows all firmly tucked into the quiver. As he passed her to pull shut the zippier their skin met, the contact making her flinch. If Daryl noticed he didn't say a word and instead threw back the top sheet.

This is it, March thought, gripping the hem of her shirt and going to pull it off her head.

"The fuck!" A calloused hand grabbed hers roughly, pulling down the shirt over her stomach. "Warn me, dammit."

March blinked in surprise. "But ... but I thought you –"

"You need a place to sleep, don'tcha," Daryl spat at her, releasing her hand. "So git to sleep already."

March was open mouthed in surprise. Before Daryl could get angry at her again she sat down on the bed and pushed herself in under the sheets. "Where are you –"

"On the floor, where's it look like?" Daryl asked her, sarcasm dripping in his tone. "Better not fuckin' be crying again like last night either."

March ignored the comment and turned so her back was facing him. Strangely enough she didn't feel like crying. She just felt numb. She had no idea what was going to happen, no idea how she could approach someone to get them to help her out of her predicament. But judging by Merle and his actions what if going to someone else meant he hurt them? What if she became the reason he hurt one of the kids in camp? There was a Spanish family too, they had a couple of kids. She didn't want to be responsible for anyone getting hurt. There were so many time today when she had almost opened her mouth to scream for her, to run as fast as she could to the other men in camp. There was always that fear though, holding her back.

"Merle once was cheated by a man at poker," Daryl's soft voice said into the night. March sat there listening, not making the slightest movement to alert Daryl to the fact she was giving him her ear. "Got so mad, fuckin' went to the man's house and was confronted by his brother. Guy had shit his'self and asked his brother for help. Made no difference to Merle. He wanted his money back so he snapped both a' their wrists and took what he could from the house." He didn't elaborate but March knew the message was clear. Her blood seemed to freeze in her veins as she imagined Merle going and ramming his knife into Shane's chest, poor Carl sobbing on the ground at another lost father figure.

Squeezing shut her eyes March prayed she'd wake up tomorrow and the man would be dead. If only she were that lucky.

X

"March!"

The red haired girl turned in surprise at Amy's call. They'd been part of the group for almost a week now and the bulk of them stayed well clear of their set up. Merle turned out to be more of a racist, coke using redneck then March had thought possible. He'd managed to offend everyone and now all stayed well clear. Daryl had become sullen and tight lipped over the last few days. His mouth was either occupied by chewing his thumb nail or pressed into a tight line. He'd barely spoken a word to her since his little story the other night. In fact he'd avoided her as much as possible. Even at night he normally waited for her to be asleep before taking his spot up on the ground. In the morning he was gone before she even woke up.

Merle seemed to always be on some sort of drug. He was always sitting there zoned out on something, dumb smile plastered across his face as he ordered March to get wood for them or go down and get water. She'd talked back to him once and he'd began flogging into her, fists clenched into things as hard as rocks as he pounded them into her stomach. No one else had saw and she'd managed not to scream but instead curled into a ball and allowed him to vent out his frustration. When Daryl had strolled back from patrol with Shane he must have noticed the swollen lip and shaking shoulders but said nothing.

It was common knowledge now that they were getting low on food and everyone was starting to say they'd need to go out and catch more. Daryl was yet to volunteer his hunting skills. At least, March assumed he could hunt. He wielded that bow like he knew what to do with it and those squirrels prior certainly hadn't caught themselves. The one time she'd asked him why he not offered had resulted in Merle bellowing for her to mind her own business and that the only good her mouth was for was when it was around his cock.

The embarrassing thing was how loud he'd said it, everyone in the camp had heard. Thing was, Merle hadn't even managed to get her into his bed. Every night there seemed to be a reason for him to steer clear of her. Last night it had been Shane keeping him up and to one side questioning his erratic behaviour and if it was drug related. March sorely wanted to tell him of the substantial stash in Merle's bag but Daryl's bedtime story got the better of her every time. In fact the man in question was the one who'd been encouraging him to take a couple of downers during their evening meal. As soon as Merle popped the pills he lost interest in March completely, allowing her to sleep in Daryl's trundle bed completely unmolested.

"Yeah?" March responded, straightening up from the folding she was doing of Merle and Daryl's clothes. Carol had been kind enough to wash them for the boys and had brought them over to her earlier.

"Glenn's doing a run into town, what size shirt are you? You need something new."

March glanced down at the shirt Daryl had begrudgingly leant her. Her white singlet was somewhere, getting washed by either Jacqui or Carol down at the lake.

"I'm fine," she assured her, aware that Merle was watching her like a hawk. Like he did with any conversation she had with anyone who wasn't himself or his brother. On the rare occasion that it happened. People tended to avoid her too. "I don't need anything new."

"You definitely need something new," Amy told her. "You look smaller than me, I'll just tell Glenn to grab something if he can." She gave her a quick smile before returning back to Dale's RV where Glenn was sitting in the doorstep.

March returned the wave he gave her briefly before picking up the folded clothes to give back to Merle.

"Ain't they lookin' nice'n'pretty," he said as she put the clothes beside him.

"I don't think your clothes could ever be considered pretty," March told him, unable to help the comment from escaping.

"Talkin' bout those tits a' yours," Merle told her, standing up from the chair and grabbing her arm. Daryl's shirt was too big for her and did dip down lower than she would have liked. "Let's say them and I git better acquainted. Been a while."

He caught her elbow roughly and guided her in the direction of his tent. "Merle, don't," March complained, allowing her body to be led to the tent. If she struggled someone would see and come over. Or worse, do nothing and think even more low of her.

He pushed her in and started pulling off his shirt. "Now, now, now. Ole' Merle's come to collect," he said in a sing-song voice. He gave her a firm push onto the mattress. March allowed herself to go limp as the man undid his belt buckle. "Ain't kickin' and screamin' I see, better not turn into a banshee when the action starts either," he warned, reaching for her button on her jeans.

March trembled as his fingers caught the button and pulled her jeans aside, the zipper sliding down to reveal the black underwear she had on underneath.

"Merle!" Daryl's voice seemed to ricochet around them. "Let's go huntin'."

Merle's fingers left March's stomach, leaving the girl clutching her fingers tightly in hope that she'd catch yet another lucky break.

"Bit busy, brother," Merle told him loudly, sitting up on his knees.

"Food's all gone. Even we ain't got shit. We need to go now while the light's good."

"What part a' 'busy' don't you understand?" Merle questioned him as he got up and exited the tent, his voice starting to sound irritated. "Got myself that piece a' ass in there and you want me to go huntin'? Fuckin' deer and squirrels can wait."

"Merle," Daryl's voice was like a whip. "Do it tonight, when they're not watchin' us like fuckin' geeks wantin' flesh."

"I'm'a just s'pposed to rub one out then, am I?" Merle asked him, sighing dramatically.

March felt her eyes begin to water at the unexpected recoil of emotion she felt as Daryl's instruction for his brother to do her tonight. She knew he cared little for her, if anything at all, but out of the two Daryl seemed the one more decent. Not that he showed it to the others but it was small flickers of moments he showed his true character. There were little things like how he refused to watch her undress when he escorted her to the quarry, or giving her time alone in his tent to change or even just the fleeting looks of concern he offered her when Merle tried to backhand her or busted up her lip again. March realised that if he knew she caught him looking at her sometimes he'd probably cop out and go all redneck on her so she decided not to mention it and instead spoke to him only when urgent need required her to.

Afraid to leave the tent and pissing off Merle, March waiting and listened as the two brothers' bickered and got ready to leave. After ten minutes or so she heard them both trudging off and then it was silent. Letting out a sigh of relief she didn't know she was holding March quickly did up her jeans again and sat up. Rubbing her shoulder absently she wondered if going outside meant everyone would gawk at her. She could only imagine how it looked to them, her sleeping in Daryl's tent but getting pulled into Merle's. They probably thought of her as a class A slut.

Gathering up her courage March left the tent, pleased to see no one was actually watching her. She saw Glenn consulting a map over the bonnet of a car and strode over. Around the camp everyone was involved in some sort of domestic activity. It made March feel guilty as she wanted to help but was afraid of the reaction she'd receive if she did. Not from the group but from Merle and Daryl. They'd both made it quite clear to her she wasn't to go talking to anybody without them nearby and certainly wasn't allowed to go off on her own. She wasn't going to tell anyone what she'd managed to get herself stuck into but it didn't mean she couldn't offer to help around camp either. Daryl's story and Merle's more than volatile behaviour had convinced her telling would only lead someone to pain and suffering.

By now she'd reached Glenn's side and she could feel her courage fast disappearing. The girl she had once been, confident, sassy and not willing to take anyone's bull shit, had vanished that first time Merle had pushed her onto his bed. Even if Daryl said nothing happened the black hole of her memory that wasn't ever going to come back haunted her.

"Glenn," she said quietly. The Asian boy turned around and looked shocked that she had approached him. "I wanted to come into town with you." If he looked shocked he looked incredulous now.

"You – you want to what?" he asked, readjusting the cap on his head. He looked around nervously, his eyes crinkled in confusion.

"Go with you. I need new clothes."

"Amy told me your size, I was happy to get some." He gave an awkward shrug. "It's not that I don't want you coming," he said, noticing her crest fallen expression. "It's just I work better alone. Much better alone. I know the city, I can get in and out. If you're worried I won't pick your colour then what wo-"

"God, no. It's nothing that fickle," March assured him, crossing her arms across her chest. "I just need to get out, is all."

Glenn gave her a sympathetic smile. "I would, March, but I ... well, it's like this. We all know you're quite attached to Daryl and Merle and we jus-"

"Attached?" March asked, starting to feel a horrified sensation creeping up her spine. "What do you mean?"

"Nothing, it's just we know they keep a close eye on you. For protection reasons, whatever. It's none of our business." Glenn was starting to get nervous, as if she'd just pointed a gun to his head. "I just don't want us going off without one of them knowing prior, you know?"

March felt a surge of anger, but she supposed it was more at herself than at Glen. "They aren't my fucking family, you know. I don't need their permission to go anywhere."

Before he could respond she stalked back to Daryl's tent, glad he was gone so that she could just bury herself in bed and stay there. Wrapping the sheet around her, despite the oppressive heat, March let herself cry quietly to herself. She wasn't even sure how she'd allowed herself to get into this mess. She was afraid of Merle, afraid of what he would do to her if she ran, even more afraid of what he'd do to her if she didn't. Turning her face into the pillow March inhaled and was caught up in Daryl's scent. The sweet muskiness of it reminded her of the odd few sweet moment's Daryl had managed to display. Forcing aside the sick glimmer of affection she felt she pushed him into the same basket as Merle, the fucking head case basket. They were both downright vile human beings and the last thing she needed was Stockholm Syndrome because one brother let her sleep in his bed and didn't rape her while she did it.

The sleep she fell into was deep and it wasn't until a voice started calling out her name that she actually woke up. Sitting up March bade them enter, her grogginess stopping her from processing enough thought to recognize the owner. When Glenn entered with a bag she gave him a small smile.

"Peace?" he asked, offering her the bag.

"What is it?" March asked, taking it and opening it up. Inside was a few clothing items and some other personal hygiene products. Looking up at his smiling face March couldn't help but smile back. "Thank you."

"I managed to find a bunch of stuff you'd like," he said, gesturing to the bag. "A brush for your hair, a mirror, more hair ties. Daryl had said you lost everything. Now that your bruises are starting to fade as well you're starting to look much healthier."

"Bruises?" March asked, searching for the mirror Glenn spoke of. She found the compact and flipped it open, shocked by her appearance. Her green eyes looked faded, tired, puffy bags circling them. Her bottom lip had an ugly red scab on it, still healing from Merle's last slap. What caught her most were the shadowy bruises that blossomed around her eyes. She touched one gingerly, her eyes shimmering with horror.

"They are looking much better," Glenn assured her. "Before they were green and blue, now they've started to fade quite a bit." He took a seat beside her. "Good thing Daryl and Merle found you when they did, huh."

March gave a slight nod. "Yes, I guess so." She put the mirror away and continued to look through the bag. Glenn had thought of everything, even down to the dodgy underwear that looked a few sizes too big. "I might get changed," she said to Glenn, turning to give him a smile. "Thanks again."

As soon as he left March pulled out the mirror again to inspect her face. God, no wonder people had stared at her. Small wonder was that Shane hadn't broken apart the tent demanding to know what had happened, he seemed to like getting involved in everyone's business and making sure they all knew he was in charge. She pressed down against the bruised skin of her left eye and winced lightly at the pain that blossomed. With a small sigh she put down the mirror and pulled out what clothes Glenn had found for her. She was quite impressed, he'd managed to find a black sweater for when it started getting cooler, another plain white singlet top and a red t-shirt with a wide rounded collar. Pulling off Daryl's shirt March rubbed on the deodorant he'd found as well and threw on the red shirt. After she was done she pulled her hair out of the bun it was always in and ran the brush through it until all her knots and tangles were gone.

It was edging on night now and March was starting to get hungry. She could hear the voices of people outside and sat there for what felt like hours debating whether or not she could join them. Merle and Daryl weren't back and there was no guarantee that when they did return they would have food. Taking in the deepest possible breath she could manager March stood and went out to join them. The silence that greeted her when they saw her was awkward and she was only seconds away from turning back to the tent when Sophia spoke up.

"You look really pretty, March," she said before ducking her head in shyness behind her mother.

"The colour does suit you," Lori agreed. "Come sit down, we managed to scrounge together what's left in hope of Dixon and Dixon bringing back food."

March frowned as she took a seat beside Lori. "Dixon and Dixon?" she asked, accepting a cup of water Dale passed to her.

"Daryl and Merle? The guys you've been living with this past week?" Andrea asked. "Didn't you know their last name?"

March shook her head, hair shaking as she did. "No, I never asked." She accepted a bowl of stew that Amy passed over to her. She was able to get in a few mouthfuls of the piping hot mixture before conversation resumed.

"Bit weird, ain't it," Shane spoke up from across the fire. "You always hangin' out with them, never joining in. I'm sure Lori and the girls would love it if you chipped in once in a while."

"Shane," Lori chided. "We all know March was a little shook up when she first came here." Lori gave March a soft nudge. "You just let us know if you'd like to help and we'll find something. No pressure, we've got plenty of hands."

"Oh," March breathed. "I feel really bad." She glanced across at everyone around her and wondered if they were looking at her bruises. "I must look really lazy."

"Only thing that looks off is your relationship with those two Dixon brothers'," Shane muttered, loud enough for everyone to hear.

"Shane!" Lori snapped. "Now is not the time."

March started to feel her heart beat pick up. "I don't know what you mean?" she said, meeting Shane's eye. Her hands were starting to shake and March put down her bowl of food in fear that she might drop it.

"Sleep with Daryl at night, sleep with Merle during the day. Just sayin' you aren't setting the best example for the kids."

Her fists clenched before she even knew what she was doing. How could he just come out and say it so simply. "I should go," she said, rising to her feet. Holding her head high March tried to bring back the girl she used to be, the one she was at college. The one who wanted to be an author and used to day dream during class of the worlds and fairytales she would create. "Thanks anyway."

When she turned back to the tent she was just in time to see Daryl and Merle returning, both covered in dirt and with a dozen squirrels slung over their shoulders. March felt herself stop, her breath hitching in her throat at what their responses would be. Merle didn't even notice her, he just threw the dead animals down by their fire and disappeared into his tent. It was Daryl that stopped with his mouth open, his eyes squinting as if he didn't recognize her.

Ignoring the rest of the group March quickly moved back to the tent, not liking the way Daryl was gaping at her. She moved past him and reached for the zipper but before her fingers could even touch the metal Daryl had grabbed her arm and was dragging her out behind the tents and into the bush. It was early evening and the sounds of cicadas surrounded them. Making sure to stay well clear of the cans Jim had set up around them Daryl found a tree and pushed her against the trunk.

"What the fuck you think yer doin'?" he demanded, pinning her to the trunk with his hips. "Where'd you git them clothes?" It was the first time he'd spoken more than two words to her in days.

"Glenn brought them back from his run into town," March told him, hands gripping the bark behind her. "I don't see what's wrong wi-"

"Any idea what Merle'll do to yer when he sees you like that with yer hair down and lookin' all pretty and shit?" Daryl groaned in frustration. "I ain't gonna be able to hold him off forever girl, good Lord."

A strange warmth was spreading from where Daryl's hips were touching hers. Even though they both had jeans on March felt her skin flare to life.

"Daryl," she started but the man cut her off by slamming his fist into the bark beside her face. She jumped in shock, afraid the aim was for her.

"It was goin' okay with you lookin' beat up an' in my old work shirt. Then you pull a stunt like this." He thumped his fist again. "If he sees you like this he'll bend yer over and fuck ya' regardless of where you are."

"Daryl, stop," March begged, moving her hands to grab his shirt front. She was starting to feel dizzy, a strange heat was gathering between her legs and she was worried when Daryl stepped away from her she wouldn't be able to stand. "What are you saying?"

Daryl looked her straight in the eye. "You dumb or somethin'? Ain't you even noticed how I managed to get Merle knocked out before he can git it up? Or distract him with somethin' like huntin'?"

"No, I get that," March said softly, heart beating in her throat. "I don't get why?"

Daryl swore and pressed her harder against the bark, the sharp bits rubbing at her arms. "Dumb bitch," he mumbled, eyes flicking to her lips.

March noticed the distraction and couldn't help but look up at his own. The little mole he had above his lip was almost covered by hair, his stubble having grown to a longer length. Daryl shifted a little and March felt a new hard object pressing against her leg.

"Daryl," she whispered. He'd leant close enough now for her breath to have tickled his face.

"You really are a dumb bitch," Daryl said moving a fraction closer. She could feel the tantalizing feel of his warm pants against her lips. Her hand tightened against his chest and it seemed to wake him up because he was suddenly taking a step back and March was clinging to the tree to stop her from sinking to the ground. "For fuck's sake, tie yer hair up," Daryl commanded gruffly, turning away from her. "Any Goddamn walker could just grab it and you'd be a goner."

Without waiting for her he stalked back to camp, red grease rag swinging like a tail as he walked. March let herself sink to the ground, entire body thrumming with pent up energy. Placing her hands across her face she tried to contain the need she felt to cry. There was no need for it, she was just being stupid. Besides, kissing Daryl Dixon was the last possible thing she should do. She wasn't even sure why she wanted him to in the first place, anyway. It wasn't until she was back in his work shirt and under the sheets ready for bed that she realised he'd called her pretty. Pretty. It bothered her how much the simple word made her smile softly into the covers.

X

March wasn't sure what woke her, but something sent her eyelids flying open and her torso upright. Taking in a shuddering breath the nightmare she had been having rushed back to the forefront of her mind. They were running from walkers, at least that's what Daryl and Merle had started calling them, her and a few others. She turned to see how close they were behind her and 'Walker-Merle' lunged at her, teeth sinking into her neck. Her hand flew of its own accord the spot where she'd been bitten in her dream. She heaved a sigh of relief when she felt nothing but smooth skin.

Before she settled back into bed she noticed Daryl had curled himself up into a ball, his head resting on the bag he'd taken as his pillow. A flicker of guilt sparked in March's gut. He didn't have to give up his bed to her, but he had out of whatever goodness he had in his heart. Grabbing one of the blankets she had on top of her she gently covered Daryl's sleeping form, an unexpected wave of affection starting to blossom as she surveyed his sleeping face in the darkness. It had been a few nights past since he'd called her pretty and another few nights of him finding ways to distract Merle away from her. She'd not worn the clothes Glenn had found for her again like Daryl had asked but she could tell the Korean was hurt at the apparent dismissal of his gift. She hadn't had a chance to explain the situation to him either, or think of some excuse.

She pulled the blanket up a little higher, so it covered Daryl's shoulders. She didn't expect him to wake up and launch a fist right into her nose.

"Ah!" she cried out, hands clasping the area as pain erupted into her skull. "Fuck, Daryl!"

She could feel blood starting to trickle down her fingers and onto her lips. Squinting at him over her steeped fingers she couldn't help but aim a kick towards his gut.

"The fuck you doin'?" Daryl demanded, sitting upright. "Thought you was try'na' attack me."

"With a blanket?" March hissed back, pulling her fingers away and wiping them on the hem of her shirt. It felt like the blood had stopped but now she had another set of bruises for her to explain. She ducked down to a crouch, eyes hard as she confronted him.

"How am I s'pposed to know? What'chu' doin' touchin' me like that anyways?"

"You looked cold!"

"And?"

"And I wanted to help you out," March spat at him.

"Why?"

"Why not?" March demanded, her previous hushed whispering forgotten in favour of yelling.

"Shut up," Daryl snapped, pressing a hand to her mouth. The contact made her lips tingle. "Wake up the whole damn camp."

March rolled her eyes, sniffing lightly at the awkward feeling of blood drying beside her nose. There was a full moon over head and it lit their tent up with an eerie glow. Daryl still had his hand pressed up against her mouth and in the quiet she could hear how his breathing seemed to have picked up.

"You look a mess again," he scolded her. "Dumb bitch. Cain't jus' startle me like tha' when I'm sleepin'." He removed his hands and grabbed his bag, the one he'd been using for a pillow. Ducking his head he fiddled around before withdrawing a roll of gauze.

"What are you doing?" March asked, voice breaking with how quiet she was trying to talk.

"What's it look like?" Daryl mumbled back, grabbing the knife he had lying nearby to rip a piece off. He then used the water bottle he had to dampen the fabric. "Cleanin' you up."

He brought the wet cloth gently to her face and started gently pressing it against her skin. March swallowed awkwardly and looked down at her feet, suddenly uncomfortable with how close he was. It was a cooler night than average, considering the temperatures of recent nights and from where she was sitting she could feel the heat pouring off Daryl in waves. His faint musky scent washed over her and the heat that seemed to pool between her legs whenever Daryl was around was getting hotter and hotter with every gentle little press he made against her face. He moved down to her lips, cleaning off the trails the blood had left.

"You bleed too much," he grumbled, finishing his job and throwing the cloth aside. Then he tucked behind her ear a strand of hair that had fallen during their accidental scuffle.

March's wide eyes flew to his in astonishment and she knew her expression was mirrored by his own. He looked even more shocked than she felt, as if he never intended on pushing aside her hair. His fingers were still hanging beside her head, the calloused skin feeling oddly smooth against the shell of her ear. Then slowly, agonizingly slowly, they fell to her jaw bone and gently he cupped the side of his face in his giant hand. March felt her tongue dart out to wet her lips, something Daryl's eyes caught on straight away and were mesmerised by. When they moved back up to hers again she saw they were dark with lust, his frosty blue iris barely visible in the dark.

"Daryl," March whispered, pained. She just wanted him to kiss her, to push her down and relieve the furnace that he had sparked into burning.

He pulled her close, their foreheads and noses touching. Suddenly the throb that was emanating from the centre of her face was gone and all she cared about was how close Daryl was, how their faces were actually touching and how his lips were a scant quarter of an inch away from hers. Her hands came up hesitantly to touch his shoulders, his shirt rough on her fingertips.

Daryl drew in a shuddering breath. "We cain't."

March was almost tempted to push her lips against his, to show that they could. "Why?" she asked, voice sad.

Daryl brought his other hand up to clutch at her face. "Ain't right."

"What isn't?" March asked, frowning. Her fingers balled into little fists.

"You belong to Merle."

If March expected to him to say anything it wasn't that. She was ready for him to protest against her age, the fact people were sleeping a few feet away, that it was too cold for Christ's sake. But to say she was Merle's? She shoved him away from her, hand grabbing back the blanket she'd draped over him and clutching it to her chest.

"What the fuck did you just say to me?" she growled.

Daryl knew he'd said the wrong thing but didn't back down, eyes squinting more than normal. "Merle got first claim on ya, cain't go usin' his property without his consent."

"Property?" March wanted to scream. She was no Goddamn man's property. "Fuck you, Daryl," she snapped. "I don't belong to him or you."

"You still owe him for stealin' from us," Daryl reminded her.

"So he owns me now?" she demanded, throwing aside the blanket and stabbing his chest with her finger. "You men get to walk all over me because you caught me fucking stealing? Fuck, let me just pay the man so I get some semblance of sanity!"

"Money ain't gonna' do no good these days," Daryl reminded her, grabbing her wrist and tossing it away from him.

"I don't mean money," March snapped. "Let him fucking have his way with me so I can finally be free of the both of you."

Daryl grabbed her arm and drew him close to her. "You mean that?" he hissed, breath hot and wet against her cheek. "Well if you ain't wantin' my help no more then yer not gonna' git it." He shoved her away from him and rose to his feet.

"Where are you going?" March asked, a little concerned that her bluff had gone too far.

"You ain't my mother," he snapped at her, yanking open the tent flap and letting himself out into the cool night air.

She listened as he stormed off, his bare feet making barely a sound against the gravel. Letting out a frustrated growl March collapsed into the bed, heart thundering in her chest from the altercation. How had something that started off almost romantic ended up so horribly wrong? And was Daryl really just going to leave her to Merle? A spark of fear tickled her spine, she couldn't let Merle just take what he wanted. She needed to find a way to give him something else. Surely there must be something he wanted more than sex? A loud snore from the tent over gave her a start, March cursing under her breath that the man hadn't managed to overdose yet.

X

When March woke up Daryl wasn't on the floor, not that she expected him to be from the way he'd left last night. Slipping out of the tent she looked around, hoping to see him patrolling the perimeter or readying his arrows for a hunt. He wasn't around; the only other person up was Dale who was standing atop the RV. For a moment March wondered if he ever got off the roof, he seemed to always be up there.

She wandered over, trying to be quiet as it was just after dawn and most folk were still asleep in their tents. "Dale?" she asked softly, coming up and standing off from the front. "Have you seen Daryl?"

Dale had waved at her cheerily when he saw her coming over but now his expression was grim. "No, I haven't. You need him for something?"

March shook her head. "No, just wondering where he is." She gave him a small smile. "Thanks anyway."

She headed back towards the tent. He was probably out taking a leak, or down at the quarry. He wouldn't have just left her. Shaking her head she sat down at the small fire pit and started poking the embers with a stick, trying to bring them to life again like Daryl was so good at. Frowning she realised she didn't recall seeing his crossbow when she climbed out of bed. Quickly jumping to her feet she ran back to the tent, eyes frantically scanning the small area for the weapon.

"Fuck," she breathed. It was gone. Meaning Daryl was gone too.

Going back outside she stormed back over to Dale, climbing the ladder of the RV so she was on the top with him.

"Whoa, everything okay?" the old man asked, reaching for her arm. "You don't look so good."

"I need to find Daryl," she told him. "He can't have gone too far, it's barely light."

"Hey, hey, hey," Dale said in a soothing voice. "What's gotten in to you? Most of the time you look like you don't want those Dixon boys near you, now you're saying you want to find Daryl?" March looked up at him helplessly. "We've all noticed there's something odd going on between you three."

"I'm not going to talk about it," March told him forcefully. "I just need Daryl to be in this camp. Now."

Dale heaved a loud sigh. "March, you need to let us know what's going on. What's got you jumping like a rabbit at the thought of Daryl leaving camp? You were fine when he and Merle went off the other day." Then it dawned on him, March could see it in his expression. "You don't want to be here with Merle."

March nodded, the walls she'd built around herself starting to crumble. "I owe him a debt, and I can't pay it," she told the older man. He was nothing like her father, or grandfather for that matter, but there was something about his trusting expression and soothing tenor that made her want to confess everything to him. "Daryl's been helping me out, somewhat."

"Debt? What kind of debt could you owe in a world where everything we've ever known has disappeared?" Dale asked, confused. When March didn't answer he shook his head, she was unsure if he figured it out or not. "I haven't seen Daryl," he told her simply. "But I know Shane was telling him just last night food's low again and he promised to go out hunting in the next day or two. I don't know if that's where he's gone or if he's alone."

March pressed her hands to her mouth and took in a deep breath. She'd get through this, Daryl wasn't the only one who could protect her. Dale seemed to think the same.

"You know, Shane and T-Dog might be different to whom you're used to dealing with but if there's some sort of problem with you and Merle you can tell them. Jim and Morales too, they all would be much obliged to help." He gestured towards the camp where a few people were now up and about. "In fact every single one of us here would be willing to help."

March looked over and saw Merle emerging from his tent, his gut showing as he stretched his arms into the air. "I don't need any help," she told him, walls fixing themselves right again. "I just need Daryl."

She quickly scooted back down the ladder before Merle could catch her talking to Dale and headed back to the tent. She nodded at Lori as the woman called out 'Good Morning' to her.

"Well, lookee' here," Merle sung at her, slapping her ass as she walked passed him. "Ain't you a fine sight for sore eyes."

"What's that supposed to mean?" March asked, putting herself in front of the fire.

"Nose is lookin' a bit blue, fell down some stairs did ya'?" Merle asked, blue eyes sharp on her.

"No," March said. "Where's Daryl?"

"Darleena? What you wantin' with ma' baby brother when you've got a real Dixon right here?" Merle grabbed her wrist and pulled her closer to him.

"Just tell me where he is," March said, avoiding Merle's eye. Looking him in the eye seemed to infuriate the man.

"He and I had a little late night chat last night."

March felt herself freeze. Her eyes flicked up to his. His pupils were already dilated, meaning he'd popped something before coming out. "What?"

"You two ain't the only ones who can stay up all night chattin' away like a mother hen," Merle chuckled at her. "I just had to let him know who was boss, you know? Warn him off gettin' a little too cosy with what ain't his." The grip on her wrist tightened and March tried to pull against the hold. "Remind him whose the man 'round 'ere." His fingers tightened and March gave a little whimper of distress, it felt as if any moment now her wrist would snap. 'Gettin' me, lady?"

March nodded and sighed in relief when her wrist was released, her other hand lightly closing against it. "Let's just get it over and done with then," she said finally, forcing herself to meet his eyes. "Then you let me go. Deal?"

Merle gave a small chuckle, his voice wheezing. "Darlin', who said it was gonna' be a onetime thang'?"

"What? You gonna' make me pay for each of the smokes I took?" she snapped, still holding her wrist. She didn't even pick up on the slang she used.

Merle laughed hard enough to launch himself into a coughing fit. After he'd recovered he slapped her across the back causing her to stumble slightly. "Couldn't 'ave put it better ma'self. Now, I'ma go take a piss and afta' maybe we can work on cigarette number one."

He wandered off into the bush leaving March gaping after him. He wasn't serious? She assumed she'd be able to black out one experience, push the memory into some dark recess of her mind so it was never raised again. But more than once wasn't going to work. She couldn't let Daryl think of her as some gutter trash his brother used and discarded. Bile rose in her throat and March did all she could to keep it down. This wasn't happening, it couldn't be. It had been so long now since she'd been forcefully been made part of the Dixon camp that she'd hoped Merle had forgotten about her. Drugs seemed to ruin people's memories at the best of times, why the fuck were his still so sharp? And since when did Daryl's opinion of her become such a high thing on her priority list?

When Merle wandered back she thought about breaking and calling for help. Shane was sure to be up by now. T-Dog too. They'd hear her, come running. She'd probably get whisked away, the Dixon brother's pushed out into the wild. Daryl would need to look after Merle, the man got himself off on drugs at least once a day. She'd probably never see him again. The thought paralysed her and in that moment March knew she'd rather endure Merle Dixon and have Daryl in her life than run away and risk losing Daryl forever. Not that she had him in the first place.

"Yo March, you got a minute." March almost stumbled as Shane approached her, his expression stern. "See you've got a new bruise or two."

"It was an accident," March told him quickly. "I tripped and hit the frame of the trundle bed." It was a terrible lie and Shane knew it, his dark eyes moved right across to Merle and stayed there. "Glenn's goin' into town. You need anything?" His eyes flicked back to hers.

"I don't, thanks," she said.

"Little chink better bring me back some smokes," Merle ordered, taking a seat in his chair and leaning back. "If he knows what's good for 'im."

"You know what Merle, you want smokes so bad organise a run into town yourself," Shane suggested, his tone laden with sarcasm.

"Tell him to take that there bitch with him, ain't gonna' run across town when she can do it for me," Merle huffed, waving a hand in March's direction.

"Y'all need to start treating people 'round here with more respect, you hear?" Shane reprimanded him, hooking his thumbs through his belt loops. "We got better things to do then deal with your methed out tongue."

March started to worry when Merle rose to his feet, his arms crossed. "You got a problem with ma' extra-curricular activities, of-fa-sa?" he asked.

"Not as much as I do with your attitude," Shane responded.

Merle was silent for a moment before breaking into a barking laugh. "Yo, chink," he hollered, pushing past Shane and March. "Looks like youse got some company."

The horrified expression on Glenn's face was almost comical and March probably would have laughed if it was not for the serious situation. Shane gave her a bewildered look and stormed after Merle.

"Just what do you think you're doing?" he asked, tapping the redneck on his bare arm. "This isn't a sightseeing trip Glenn's going on."

"I know," Merle said back, holding his hands up like he was calling a truce. "But you just reminded me I'ma needin' some stuff in town." His hand went down to linger on the knife he had sheathed on his belt. "You ain't gonna' interfere wi' that, are ya' of-fa-sa?"

Shane seemed to consider it for a moment before throwing a hand into the air. "Fine, but I'm not letting you two go alone."

"Shane," Lori interrupted, coming over. "You can't be serious about going? You're the best shot we have here, if walkers come up we are going to need you."

"I know," Shane said, nodding. "T-Dog! Morales!" Both men were shaking their heads. "I need you to join up with Merle and Glenn here, provide back up if anything goes amiss while you're all in town."

"You 'ccusin' me of wantin' harm on our little gook here?" Merle drawled.

"Stop calling me that," Glenn snapped, irritation getting the better of him.

Merle laughed and slapped his thigh, obviously loving the discomfort he was putting everyone in. March couldn't help but snigger, why on earth had he changed his mind so quick about going into town? She was taken aback when Andrea and Jacqui volunteered to go too, saying they could collect things for the rest of the women. Everyone gathered what they meant and didn't press it except Amy who started getting a bit teary over her big sister leaving.

"What are you planning?" March asked as Merle walked past. She didn't want to be within a few feet of the man let alone have a conversation with him but her concern for the other members of the group overrode that. Despite not spending a lot of time with them they'd all become something of an extended family as such. They'd certainly made her feel more welcome than Jason's friends had ever done. "Let me go into town for you and let that be the end of this stupid debt."

"Ain't that easy sugar tits," Merle told her. He went into his tent and emerged shortly after with a gun tucked into his dirty jeans. "There's shit I'm runnin' a little low on and I'ma needin' supplies."

"Drugs," March said flatly. "You're going into Atlanta for drugs?"

"Ingredients, sweetheart," Merle corrected her, grabbing her chin. "To make my little blue pills you tried so very hard to steal." March jerked her chin from his grip. Merle just laughed and wandered back up to the group, all of them assembled with guns and bags to carry supplies. "Don't go runnin' off now, ya hear," he threw back over his shoulder. "I expect us to pick up where we left off when I'ma back tonight."

The shudder that crept up March's spine had nothing to do with the cool breeze blowing through the campsite.

X

"Need help?"

Carol looked up in surprise, her eyes and mouth looking tired. "Oh, no need. I can manage." Her tone was tight, as if March had said something offensive.

March kicked a loose stone that was sitting by her foot. The group had departed for town two days ago and they'd heard no word. March spent the whole time swinging from hope that they'd not come back to guilt at wanting good people to get stuck. It was only really Merle she wanted to get killed, if the best should happen, but out of everyone in the group it seemed that he would be the one out of them all to return. The entire camp was starting to get anxious and Amy was almost a sobbing wreck. March tried to steer well clear of them all. The only reason she ate was when Dale interrupted her solitude to give her a plate. She could barely manage anything down, anxiety for the future taking the better of her mind and hunger. The weight she was losing was rapid and she chuckled darkly to herself one night at how easy it was to lose weight and stay skinny in an apocalypse.

On the third day she had had enough of wallowing in her own thoughts and had emerged from the tent ready to start pitching in. Lori gave her a welcoming, though slightly annoyed smile, and had directed her down to the gorge lake where Carol was starting to wash some clothes.

"Let me help," March told her, taking a seat to her right and grabbing a random shirt from the basket. Of all people it was Daryl's and seeing it made her wonder where he was and if he was okay. "I'm sorry I haven't offered earlier."

"It's okay," Carol told her, tone softening slightly. "I know what it's like to be around men who like to be in charge."

March glanced over at her quickly, hands dipping into the water. She didn't know much about Carol, her daughter or her husband but she'd seen glimpses of the man's behaviour towards women and tried to steer well clear of him on the rare occasions she was in camp.

"I don't know what you mean," March said stiffly. Carol gave her a worn and forced smile and together they continued the washing in silence.

It felt good to be doing chores. As strange as it was it made everything feel so much more normal. Even though when she'd been with Jason she'd been forced to do all of the menial work it had only made her angry and frustrated. Now it was like meditation, thumping out the shirts on a washboard helped relieve the tension she held in her shoulders as she waited for both Daryl and Merle to return. It bothered her for a moment that she never even thought of Jason anymore, that her entire day consisted of thinking about Daryl or Merle, both in completely different lights. After helping Carol with the washing they both hung up the clothes in companionable silence, both at ease in each other's presence.

"You know, for someone doing laundry you're looking mighty happy," Lori remarked, coming over to help them. The dark haired woman eyed March with a critical eye. "Almost too happy."

March shrugged and reached for a set of pants. She didn't recognize them. "Happy to be helping," she told Lori, pegging the pants to the line.

"We are too," Lori told her. As if sensing she'd said the wrong thing she laughed. "I mean, we're happy you're feeling comfortable enough to want to help." She looked over at the Dixon lot. "Easier to do when the Dixon brother's are out, huh?"

March made a non-committed mumble and grabbed the next item of clothing. After they were finished Amy came over and offered everyone coffee. March tried to make an excuse but both the blonde and Lori insisted she come over and join them. It was awkward at first, being around people who weren't immature college students or a pair of rednecks as it felt to March as if they were the only things she'd ever been around in her entire life. The other life she led before the world went to hell was a distant memory.

"So where are your parents? The rest of your family?" Amy asked. Everyone had briefly told their story of survival, how they'd all manage to meet each other so far. Her eyes were red, as if she'd been crying recently. March was sure it was a terrible thing to be waiting for a loved one to return. She'd given up all hope of ever seeing her parents again, in fact she'd not spoken to them for about six weeks before the epidemic broke.

"Why are you with two men like Merle and Daryl Dixon, is her real question," Lori joked, stirring her coffee with a spoon.

"My parents were in Africa, last I heard," March told them, avoiding the question about the Dixon's. "They work with , writing feature articles about animals. They'd gone over with a group of scientists to report on the weird migrations that were happening." She shrugged. "They're the only family I have, no brothers or sisters." She avoided telling them about Jason. He was going to be family but that was another memory in the past, a memory best forgotten. "Last time I spoke to them they were both late catching their flight from Johannesburg up to one of the more remote national parks."

"What were you doing down in Georgia?" Shane asked, he'd joined them after he saw everyone taking a break. "Accent leads me to believe you didn't grow up down this way."

"We were –" March cut herself off as she realised she'd started talking about her old group. Everyone was watching her expectantly, waiting to hear her finish. "Some college friends and I were going down to Florida. We were separated."

"That how you fell in with their lot?" Shane asked, jerking his head in direction of the tents set up.

"Pretty much."

"And all those bruises you had when you got there, how'd they happen again?"

"Is this an interrogation?" March asked, back bristling. "Ran into some trouble, Daryl helped out."

"Daryl, not Merle too?"

March grimaced. "You ever think Merle Dixon would willingly help someone?" It was the truest thing she had said so far about the man.

"Didn't think Daryl would either," Amy muttered, clearly not a fan.

"He can surprise you," March said softly, her mind beginning to wonder again about where he was and when he intended on coming back.

"Obviously he's doing something right when you two go to bed," Shane muttered.

March felt her temper snap. "For your information he hasn't touched me," she hissed. "Neither of them have, despite your apparent high opinions of me."

Shane glowered, obviously not used to be spoken back to. "I saw you both the other night, him pinning you to the tree. Sure didn't looking like he wasn't touching you."

"You followed us?" March asked, embarrassed. Everyone else was silent, uncomfortable with the conversation.

"Saw him grab you and thought you needed to help, hell, you've got enough bruises on you to make me question if you're getting beaten at night." Shane's eyes flicked in Carol's direction momentarily before honing in on March. "Seems I was way off track."

"This really isn't a topic of discussion I am happy having," March informed him, rising to her feet. "Thanks for the coffee, Amy."

The blonde nodded once, her eyes darting to Shane. Everyone avoided March's eye as she walked back to the tent, back as straight as she could possibly manage. What did she care what they thought anyway? It wasn't as if she intended on sticking with the group forever. It made her wonder what Daryl and Merle's plans were for the future. They didn't strike her as people who would follow orders for long and Shane was certainly all for showing his authority. Would they move on with the group when the time came or would they go their own way? Would they let March stayed if she wanted to? Did she want to stay? It wasn't likely they'd leave her with these people if she still owed them something.

She spent the rest of the afternoon in the tent, wasting time by staring at the ceiling of the tent and day dreaming. It was the sound of a car alarm that had her returning to the outside, her eyes falling on to the bright red sports vehicle that had just pulled up. Shane, Jim and Dale ran over, panicked as to who would drive such an alarmingly loud sound right into the middle of their camp. Even when Glenn stepped out they didn't look relieved, more so concerned at how far the sound had carried and what it would bring. The bonnet was popped and Jim quickly pulled the cord to stop the alarm, the silence was almost deafening.

"Why isn't she with you? She's okay?" Amy was demanding, voice still raised as if she was fighting to be heard about the noise. "Is she okay?"

"Yes!" Glenn said, exasperated. "Yeah. Fine, everybody is." He seemed to pause and he glanced over at March, expression almost sympathetic. "Well, Merle not so much."

The world seemed to tilt at hearing that. March opened her mouth to ask where he was but found her voice caught in her throat. Merle wasn't okay? Was he dead? Did he run off? What had happened? Suddenly a million questions started bubbling up in her gut and March didn't even know where to start. She heard Dale scold Glenn about not being careful and she took the moment to interrupt.

"You sai-"

Her question was drowned out by the sound of another approaching vehicle. The small hope she had begun to feel died as she realised he was probably in the new set of arrivals. She could see the truck clearly from where she was standing, Andrea rounding the corner and running for Amy. It was touching but did nothing to make her feel better. The only person who'd be getting out of that truck was going to cause pain and misery. Morales, T-Dog and Jacqui all followed, each of them looking weary except Morales who leant down to give his kids giant bear hugs with a giant grin on his face.

"That's all," March said to herself in surprise. She turned back towards the tent. Merle wasn't coming back. He wasn't with the group. Looking up her eyes stopped on Daryl's tent. Oh God, what would Daryl say?

The slamming of a car door made her spin, heart in her throat as she prepared to see the giant redneck stepping out of the vehicle. Instead it was a man she'd not seen before, one in a cop uniform. She frowned and realised it was another survivor. The stranger seemed to stop, as if unsure what he was looking at. When he got a bit closer his face seemed to crumple and before everyone knew it Carl was running over towards him screaming 'Dad'. March brought a hand to her lips, eyes brimming with tears as she watched Lori and Carl reunite with a man they thought dead. It made her feel good, good to be alive and relieved that Merle definitely wasn't with them. Turning away from the family to give them privacy March retreated to her tent, the only thought on her mind was who was going to explain to Daryl what had happened. If he ever returned.

X

March was up early the next day, her early retirement the night before having brought forward her body clock. She grabbed the towel Dale had ended up giving to her and headed towards the lake, keen to have a bath before anyone else woke up. Stripping herself of all her clothes she dove into the lake, the icy water causing her to gasp. One of the many things Glenn had brought for her was soap so grabbing the bar from the edge of the water she scrubbed herself until she felt raw. Looking up at the RV she noted no one was on the roof so she quickly jumped out and dried herself off. Once her clothes were back on she sat down on one of the rocks bathed in sun and started to comb out her hair, her skin warming in the early morning heat.

Once her hair was dry she wandered back up to camp, everyone now awake and moving about with purpose. She saw Lori doing more laundry and gestured she'd be back in a moment. Quickly hanging her towel over a discarded wooden stump she moved over, pausing when she saw Lori's husband with her. He glanced over and saw her, mouth twitching into a line.

"You must be March," he said, as if he already knew all about her. "We didn't get to meet officially yesterday. I'm Rick Grimes."

March looked to Lori to see if she was interrupting but the woman was busy hanging up more clothes. "Yeah, that's right," she said as she came closer.

"I need to ask you something," Rick said. "About Daryl Dixon."

"I guess you're going to answer my question about Merle then, aren't you?" March responded, almost desperate to hear him say the man was gone.

"I've got some bad news," Rick said with a sigh. "And I'm worried Daryl isn't going to take it too well."

March gave him a nod. "I don't think he will." Shane's arrival via vehicle back from wherever he'd gone interrupted her before she could speak. Once he shut off the car she met Rick's eyes squarely. "What happened?"

"He's alive," Rick told her in a voice that was meant to assure her. Little did he know who it made her blood freeze. "And I'm going back to get him."

Lori threw down the basket she was holding, eyes angry and accusing. March tried to comprehend the statement. Merle was alive? And further more Rick wanted to go get him? Where was he that he needed to be collected from? Before she could even ask though a shrill scream interrupted them, everyone looking up in horror. A split second later everyone was running towards the sound, more screams echoing in the woods around them. March ran with them, her legs moving of her their own accord as the terrified noises continued. Rick and Lori ran ahead, Lori's own frantic screams for Carl echoing seeming to drown out the others.

It was Jacqui and Carl they saw running out of the bushes first, Jacqui falling to the ground. Carl flew into his mother's arms and once the men confirmed he was okay they continued on, each seeming to stop just past another clutch of trees.

"What's there?" Amy asked, coming up behind March. "Do you know? Is it a geek?"

March shook her head and followed as Amy and Andrea continued on to see what was happening. When they came upon the dead man tearing flesh off a deer Andrea gagged; Amy's reaction almost identical. March moved closer, apparently the only one who recognized the brightly coloured fletching of the arrows stuck in the animal's hind quarters. Her eyes then flew to inspect the walker more closely, relieved to see it was not Daryl. The two sisters gagged again when the men start laying into the dead body, Dale finally cutting off the head with his axe.

"That's the first one we've had up here," the old man started, puffed. "They never come this far up the mountain."

"Well they're runnin' out of food in the city, that's what," Jim said, looking around the clearing nervously as if he expected another walker to jump out at them.

When something snapped in the bushes beyond them everyone jumped, each with their weapons at the ready. Amy, Andrea and March all craned their necks to see what it was. Shane looked over at them and jerked his head, as if telling them to get back to camp. The three ignored him though, all desperate to see what was coming from around the corner.

"Oh my God, is it another one of those things?" Amy asked, hand flying out to clutch Andrea's.

"Shh," Andrea ordered, pulling both March and her back.

Then March saw the top of Daryl's crossbow and she'd never felt more relieved. He was back. He was safe.

"Son of a bitch!" Daryl spat, everyone seemed to exchange exasperated glances with each other as he came around the corner. "That's my deer!" He stormed into the clearing, eyes quickly roaming over everyone and upon seeing March they stopped. They maintained eye contact for a moment before he turned his attention back to the mutilated animal. "Look at it all gnawed on by this filthy, disease bearing, motherless poxy bastard." He started kicking the corpse.

"Calm down son, that's not helping," Dale sighed.

Daryl rambled something off at him angrily about his hat, Shane quickly pushing him away with the butt of his rifle. Looking over at Rick she saw he was looking mightily worried. He seemed to feel her glance and looked over at her, eyebrows raised. March shook her head and watched Daryl as he inspected the carcass. She felt her stomach turn when he suggested using what wasn't touched by the walker, bloody arrows clutched tightly in his hand.

"We cannot risk that," Shane said, gun now slung across his shoulder blades.

"Damn shame," Daryl groaned. "Got some squirrel though, half a dozen or so. That'll have to do." He caught March's eyes again as he readjusted the string of dead animals hanging from his shoulder.

"Daryl," March said softly, thinking it best to break the news of Merle to him now rather than him going back to camp. He seemed to be in a foul mood, expression sour as he looked back at the deer.

"Oh God," Amy suddenly said, clutching a hand to her mouth suddenly and running off back to camp.

"Come on people, what the hell," Daryl drawled, pointing his crossbow down at the now moving head that had caught Amy's attention. March felt her own stomach turn, her throat seeming to tingle with the need to barf. "It's got to be the brain," Daryl instructed, pulling the arrow out of the eye socket after it had landed. "Don't y'all know nothin'."

"Daryl," March tried again but the man just gave her a look and brushed past her, dirt transferring from his arm to hers from the contact. She looked at Rick helplessly, knowing it was only a matter of time before he realised his brother was gone.

Daryl sauntered back to camp, his voice carrying loudly as he called out his brother's name.

"Goddamn," Rick sighed, stopping beside March. "This is going to be a challenge."

March gave him a quick look before they both ran back to the camp, Daryl calling Merle out to help him skin the squirrels. They all caught up with him eventually, Shane asking him to slow down so they could talk.

"About what?" Daryl asked, he immediately sought March out as if making sure she was okay. She met his questioning gaze with a shake of her head.

"About Merle," Shane said, pacing past him. "There was a problem. In Atlanta."

Daryl shot another look at March, one she couldn't indentify. He rolled back his shoulders and looked at Shane. "He dead?"

"Not sure," Shane said.

"He either is or he ain't!" Daryl spat, noticeably furious. "What was he doin' in Atlanta anyways?"

"I should step in, this wasn't Shane's fault," Rick said softly, as if he were talking to himself.

"Daryl's going to be angry, no matter who tells him," March replied, eyes watching as Daryl paced back and forth.

Rick took in a deep breath and started walking forwards. "There's no easy way to say this, so I'll just say it."

"Who're you?" Daryl demanded, as if noticing Rick for the first time.

"Rick Grimes."

"Rick Grimes," Daryl drawled sarcastically. "You got something you wanna' tell me?"

"Daryl, it's not his fault," March said clearly.

"Shut up, bitch. This ain't none a' your business," Daryl spat at her, pointing a finger. He turned back to Rick.

As Rick explained what happened, a first for March as well, she noticed that how upset Daryl looked. She was surprised, she knew they were brothers but Merle treated Daryl with such disrespect and was in general such an asshole to him that she'd never imagined it would get the man crying over him. Daryl was trying to dash away his tears, muscles and jaw tensing. As his temper broke he threw his squirrels at Rick, diving after him and ready for a fight.

"Watch out!" March cried, unsure if she was talking to Daryl as Shane dived towards him or Shane as Daryl started swinging fists. She ran over to them, not seeing the knife Daryl started wielding as he fell to the ground. She was lucky that his aim was wild otherwise she would have been right in line of his swing.

"You crazy?" Rick demanded, seeing her come over and tackling her out of the way. "You almost hurt your friend," he snapped at Daryl, now firmly caught in Shane's choke hold. "Get away," Rick ordered, turning back to her. "Now. He's a danger to himself and others right now."

March didn't protest, her bones felt like jelly as she stumbled back towards the tents. When she turned Rick was crouching down in front of Daryl, talking in a lowered tone so she couldn't hear the conversation. When Daryl was released he got back to his feet and stumbled away from the group, expression tortured.

"Hell with all y'all," he snapped. "Just tell me where he is, so's I can go git him."

March had no idea why she hoped Daryl would leave Merle wherever he was. Part of her hoped from the moment she saw his face that he'd realise they were better off without Merle, safer without Merle. At least, she was. She clung to the idea that Daryl would wipe his hands clear of his brother and leave it at that. She never guessed he'd be so upset nor that he'd be willing to go after his brother immediately. She supposed it was only human nature though. Despite Merle's faults he had pretty much raised the man, from what she'd gathered. Daryl rarely spoke about anything let alone his childhood.

"He'll show you," Lori's voice spoke up from underneath the RV shade. "Isn't that right?"

March couldn't watch anymore, her despair was ready to overwhelm her. She turned and went back into the tent, her strength left her almost immediately and she sunk down onto the bed. She'd come so close, so close to being free of that racist, doped up, redneck bastard. And now Daryl was going to run after him like some lost puppy.

"Give us an hour," Rick's voice called out, as if he were yelling towards March's direction. "Then we'll be leaving."

Daryl appeared shortly after, expression still thunderous as he flung aside the tent flap. He gave her an angry look before stepping in and crouching down beside his bag. He started rummaging through it, obviously looking for something.

"Daryl," March started, getting to her feet.

"Not you, I ain't wantin' to hear 'nother word outta' your mouth," Daryl snapped, still searching through his bag.

"I haven't done anything wrong," March protested, affronted.

Daryl stood and rounded on her. "You let him leave! You let him go off alone with those jerks!"

"Like anything I might have said would have stopped him! Besides, you left me with him!" March said back. "You left me alone, I'm not going to lie and say I tried to stop him because I didn't!"

Daryl let out a growl and started pacing again, head almost brushing the top of the tent. "He touch you?" he suddenly asked, stopping and looking at her. "He do anythin' to you?"

March shook her head. "No. He was going to though. When he got back from Atlanta."

Daryl swore and ran both hands through his hair. "Fuck!" he spat, throwing his hands down.

He gave March a smouldering glare before stalking over and grabbing her face with both hands. "Daryl, what ar-"

His lips were on hers before her eyes could even register what was happening. Their teeth clacked at the force of the kiss, Daryl not bothering with gentleness or technique. It was a bruising, demanding kiss that left March breathless and heady. Nothing like she imagined a kiss would be like. It was so urgent, so raw. Daryl pulled away slightly, just enough to catch his breath.

"Daryl," March tried to say but he shut her up with another kiss. His teeth managed to nip and break her healing skin, the salty taste of blood infiltrating her tongue for a moment. His own tongue slipped into her mouth, grinding against hers almost desperately.

His hands suddenly left her face and were on her hips, colliding her roughly with his. She groaned as she felt his erection hit her thigh. When his fingers suddenly grabbed her shirt she backed off so he could pull the material off of her. His lips returned to her own for a moment before moving down to bite her neck, the teeth sinking in as he fumbled with his belt and button.

March was being pulled in a tide of heady seduction and lust. She knew what was happening, was registering that Daryl was now pushing her onto the bed, his hips rolling into hers. A gasp escaped her, Daryl now tugging her jeans down with some ferocity. She kicked her shoes off, Daryl then ripping the worn denim off her leaving her now only in the same black bra she'd been wearing for weeks and a dodgy pair of underwear Glenn had brought back. Daryl stood up and pushed down his pants and boxers, cock springing out as he did so.

"I – Daryl, we –"

He didn't want her to talk, that much was clear because as soon as she opened her mouth he was on top of her and kissing her again.

"Don't ruin this," he said to her, puffing in her ear as he curled two fingers into her wet panties and pulled them aside.

March nodded somewhat frantically as she rested her arms around his neck, body tensing as she felt himself get ready to plunge in. "Go," she whispered after she sensed a moment's hesitation.

He obeyed without question, hand coming up to slap itself across her mouth as a pleasured shout left her lips. March threw her head back against the trundle bed, body trying to frantically adjust itself to Daryl's size. He'd managed to push himself all the way in, his balls resting against her butt cheeks. He grunted something and then started up a rhythm, his belt buckle clicking as he thrust into her. Through the fog in her mind March was glad he'd pushed his hand across her mouth, she was groaning with every move he made and knew she'd be screaming if she could. He kept his hand steady as he continued to pound into her, little grunts greeting her ears as he tried to hit the wall inside of her with more force every time.

She managed to open her eyes and look up at his expression. His own eyes were closed and brows were furrowed as he ploughed his way through to his climax. When he reached his peak the outcome was strong, and March could feel a different type of warmth spread through her as Daryl shuddered and slowed down the speed of his thrusts. She gave a little whimper as she felt his cock twitch inside her. Once, twice and then Daryl collapsed onto her, breathing hard.

Sometime during their encounter March had thrown her hands up above her head. Now they sat there dying to come and wrap around him. Biting her lip she resisted the urge. Daryl wasn't like that. He had his head rested between the valley of her breasts, not looking at her at her lay there collecting his breath. Then she heard it. The first sob.

Her hands moved before she could stop them, wrapping around Daryl's shoulders to comfort him.

"They just left him there, like some dog," he murmured into her chest. March looked off to the side. She knew Daryl caving and getting her to bed must have had something to do with Merle. She didn't expect the knowledge to sting as much as it did. "What's worse is that I know you were safe the whole time I was gone, and fuck I'm glad to hear it."

"What?" March asked, confused.

Daryl lifted his head, eyes red. "You think I thought none of you while's out huntin'?"

March gave a little shrug. "I assumed you cared nothing when you left in the middle of the night."

"Merle told me to git out, threatened all sorts 'a shit."

"And now you want to go rescue him?" March asked tiredly.

"He's my brother." Daryl's voice was pained, as if he really didn't want to but obligation was making him.

March nodded. "I understand, but I don't want him to come back." She whispered it so quietly she was surprised Daryl even heard. "Daryl," she spoke up a little louder, eyes beginning to water. "If he comes back and finds out wh-"

"He ain't gonna' find out," Daryl told her, pulling out and tucking himself back into his jeans. "He finds out we're both dead."

"Then why do it in the first place?" March asked, pushing herself up on her elbows. "If you needed to get off you should have just done it yourself."

Daryl leant down to kiss her on the mouth. "Seein' you 'ere okay was too much," he said against her lips. He drew away and stood up. "Fuck, never thought a ginger'd make me feel such mushy bullshit," he snapped, temper and anger from earlier seeming to return. He turned to the bag and picked it up, hand checking to ensure his grease rag and knife still hung from his belt. He made to leave but stopped in the doorway. "Take care til I'm back, you 'ere."

Then he was gone, leaving March half naked in a tent that smelt of their indiscretion.

X

It had been a while since they'd left, too long of a while for March's liking. She was up top on the RV with Dale helping him keep watch.

"They weren't supposed to stay there overnight," she said for the tenth time. "Something's gone wrong."

"Let's hope not," Dale replied, scanning the horizon with his binoculars. "We need every one of those men to return." He put the binoculars down. "Well, maybe not Merle so much." He gave a little chuckle and looked at her. "So you and Daryl get on okay yesterday?"

March felt a blush fighting to come to her cheeks. "What do you mean?"

"Just that once he found out he sort of lost it, didn't he. Snapping at everyone and pulling his knife out. It was a little frightening. Then you both disappeared and he comes out of the tent looking happier, what'd you say to calm him down?"

"I doubt it was anything I said," March told him, shielding her eyes as she kept looking out across the terrain.

She couldn't stop thinking about yesterday, thinking about how Daryl had kissed her and how they'd had sex. She had never had such a good fuck as she'd had yesterday, even if it was hurried and not romantic in the slightest. Daryl was such a man, it made Jason's efforts pale in comparison. Looking down at her marital finger she rubbed against the spot her ring normally sat. If they didn't find Merle or found him dead she wondered if she'd find it amongst all his junk. If she even wanted find it. What was going to happen if Merle came back?

"Sometimes words fail us, most times actually," Dale sighed. He patted March gently on the shoulder. "Going to join us for dinner tonight? The girls are out catching fish."

March glanced down at the small boat sitting on the water. "That'd be nice," she said. Turning back towards camp she watched as Lori was pulling clothes down from one of the lines. "She looks worried."

Dale followed her glance. "Must be such a conflict of emotion going on," he said. "Finding her husband amongst all this only to have him run off after someone like Merle Dixon." Dale cleared his throat. "I hope I don't offend you by saying that."

March scoffed. "I'm glad he's gone," she said simply.

"But you want Daryl to come back."

March looked at him. "Yes, very much so."

X

Dinner was delicious, Andrea and Amy had caught a dozen fish and Morales had managed to cook them beautifully considering their lack of pots and pans. Everyone was having a good time despite knowing that it was the second night that their people were missing from the camp. Lori was forcing her smiles, that much was clear. Though for once Carol and Sophia looked to be having a good time too. March wasn't sure where the father was but he wasn't joining them for dinner. Amy stood up and excused herself for the bathroom and March went to stand to follow her, her own need making itself clear.

"Wait up," Shane said to her, nodding that she sit down again. "So any idea what y'all are going to do when they bring Merle back?"

March shook her head. "Why? Does there need to be a plan in place?"

"Just don't think y'all be welcome here no more, not after Merle's outburst in Atlanta and Daryl's the other day." Shane's gaze was hard and unrelenting.

"I think if those Dixon boys move on, or get encouraged to move on, then March should stay here," Dale said. He gave her a smile. "Do you good to be around people with more common interests."

"I agree," Lori said. "I don't know how you've managed to stick around them for so long."

March was sick of them bagging out Daryl. She cared nothing for Merle but hearing them lump Daryl in the same category as his brother irritated March more than she cared to admit. Granted, Daryl didn't show the side of him that she had seen, nor was he ever like to. She made to reply but Amy's scream interrupted her. Everyone looked up; eyes and mouths open in horror as they watched a walker bite right into Amy's arm.

"Amy!" Andrea screamed.

The camp was suddenly a hive of action. Everyone was on their feet, most were screaming but Morales and Shane jumped into action and started firing their guns. The women with children quickly grabbed their families and started herding them all together, Shane ordering everyone behind him. March didn't have a gun but she grabbed a bat left lying on the ground and moved with the men to try help out.

"March, get with Lori and Carl, now!" Shane ordered, his gun flying everywhere as he tried to shoot as many of the geeks as possible.

Ignoring the command March ran forward and swung her bat across a walker's face, skull crushing under the force and body collapsing to the ground. She turned and swung at another, blood spewing forth from the impact and splattering a nearby plant. Around her all she could hear was gun fires and screams. Right near her one of the women in their camp was taken down which made March stumble back a few steps, she didn't even know her name. Turning she saw Andrea running over to Amy, Jim close behind to kill the walker who'd been chewing on her neck.

"Everybody follow me!" Shane was yelling and when March looked over she saw most of the group bundled behind him.

March started to run over, eyes falling over the multitude of dead who'd infiltrated their camp. It was a disaster and there were just too many.

"Get to the RV, go!" Morales screamed, waving wilding at March who had accidently moved further away from the group.

She nodded and started to run but a shot fired from behind her made her stop in her tracks. From behind a set of bushes Rick, T-Dog and Glenn ran onto the scene, all of them wielding guns. Daryl was close on their heels, crossbow slung across his back as he fired the rifle he had in his hands. Such immense relief washed over her and she quickly darted up to the group, bat ready to be swung at any walker that got close.

"Get behind me," Dale ordered her, grabbing her arm and pushing her behind with Carol, Lori and the kids.

March tried to keep her eyes on Daryl, the man darting around like someone on fire as he aimed his gun and killed walker after walker. She lost sight of him though as she was pushed backs, her feet tripping over a dead body and forcing her to the ground.

"Damn," she complained, sitting up and reaching for her bat. She was surrounded by people now and could barely see anything through their legs.

"Baby! Carl!" Rick's voice sounded agonized and for a split moment March was afraid they'd been bitten.

"Dad!" Carl screamed and March let her head sag back onto the ground in relief. The shots were starting to stop now, obviously the intruders were all taken care of.

March pushed herself up and rose to her feet. The families were all gathered together, tears running down their faces. Stumbling a little she couldn't help but look over at Andrea, the woman sobbing hysterically as she tried to comfort her dying sister.

"That was too close," Shane muttered, coming to stand beside her. "You right? Saw you go down."

"I'm fine," March assured him. "Tripped."

"All this over Merle fucking Dixon," Shane snapped reminding March of the reason the four men had been absent in the first place.

She swung her body towards the camp and frantically sought after both Daryl and Merle. Her heart stopped when she couldn't see either. "Oh my God," she moaned, taking a few steps forward and looking. "Has anyone seen where Daryl went?" She turned to Shane but the man was too busy watching as Rick and Lori hugged on the ground, both crying with relief.

Starting to feel panicked March headed towards the back of the camp, trying to stop herself from fretting until she knew exactly where Daryl was. When she did find him, turning over dead bodies as if he was trying to identify them, she felt the biggest wash of relief she'd ever experienced. She stopped, hands covering her mouth as she watched him throw down a body in anger. He turned then, his own body stopping when he saw her standing a few feet away.

"Good Lord," he growled, loud enough for her to hear. And then he was running over to her, enveloping her in his arms and pulling her tight against his chest. "Fuck girl, you ever know how to stay in sight?"

March giggled through her tears of relief, arms weaving themselves around his neck. "You're here. You're actually here." His scent invaded her nostrils making her tighten her hold around him.

Daryl pressed his lips to her ear. "Couldn't leave you 'lone now, could I." He pulled away and surveyed her critically. "Go back to the tent, I'll make sure we're all good 'ere."

Too emotionally exhausted to argue March went back to the tent, her feet weaving through both the dead bodies of humans and geeks alike. Daryl was on her heels shortly after, his lips finding hers in the lantern light.

"What's going to happen to the dead?" she asked, pulling away.

"Dealin' with it tomorrow, we'll burn 'em," he said simply. He unshouldered his crossbow and tore off his shirt, muscles tensing as he rolled back his shoulders. "Merle ain't comin' back."

"What?" March asked, she'd even forgotten to ask.

"He's alive, cut his own damn hand off to git off 'a that roof. Took off with our van, thought he'd come back 'ere." Daryl grabbed her shoulders. "He didn't, did he?"

March shook her head. "No, I haven't seen him."

Daryl nodded and kissed her again. She had so many more questions for him. Why had they taken so long to get back? What was going to happen now? Were they safe sleeping in the tent? But when Daryl started guiding her onto the bed all the questions were forgotten, she cared for nothing but feeling him inside her and reaffirming that they were alive and together.

They moved apart so she could pull off her shirt and bra, Daryl's lips quickly clasping around a nipple as he pulled and sucked at the sensitive skin.

"Daryl!" March groaned. "Is this really the time?"

"Better now than when we're dead," was the gruff response, his breath warm on her neck as he pulled apart her button and fly on her jeans.

It felt too long before he was inside her again, their movements hurried as they both approached their limits. March came before Daryl did, his consistent thrusts bringing down crashing against waves of pleasure. He came shortly after, teeth sinking into her shoulder as he growled low in his throat. It was a tight fit on the camper bed with the two of them there but Daryl managed to rest March up in the crook of his arm.

"Are you okay?" March asked, fingers tracing invisible patterns on his chest.

"Fine," Daryl replied, obviously sensing her question was about Merle. "You?"

March nodded and laid an arm across his chest. For the first time in weeks she felt okay.

X

It felt good to wake up in Daryl's arms. Even if it was suffocatingly hot and they were already both damp with perspiration. He was already awake, a small smile on his lips when he noticed her opening her eyes.

"Hey," she said softly, smiling softly back.

"Hey," Daryl replied, smile growing a little wider.

"You been awake long?" she asked, turning so she could face him. They were both still naked, the sheet only covering them to their waists. Daryl must have noticed as well and he quickly grabbed the sheet and pulled it up to cover her chest. March couldn't help but blush at the gesture.

"Little," Daryl told her. "Thinkin'."

"About Merle?" March asked, moving her eyes down.

"Nah, 'bout those dead bodies we're gonna' 'ave to git rid of." When March looked up in confusion Daryl shrugged. "Merle's alive. Gone, but alive. Ain't my problem if his dumbass didn't come back."

March bit her lip. "I'm sorry," she said. "I know you'll miss him, as much as I don't understand it."

Daryl snorted softly. "Found someone better to keep my mind off 'a things."

March smirked and curled into his chest. From outside they could hear movement, people calling to each other as they started getting rid of the dead. "I suppose we should get up and help."

"S'ppose we should," Daryl sighed. "You wanna' stay with these guys or what?" He asked the question as he started getting out of bed, his hand grabbing the pair of jeans that had been left in a puddle after last night.

"I don't know. What do you want to do?" March asked, sitting up but keeping the sheet pressed to her chest.

"Ain't just my decision," Daryl told her, now grabbing a shirt and pulling it on. "Gotta' do this together."

March caught his gaze. "Thank you," she said. "For asking my opinion."

Daryl suddenly looked uncomfortable. "Yeah well I ain't putting up with that there bullshit 'nless I got you to bitch to."

March laughed and accepted the shirt Daryl was offering her. "I think it would be good to stay with them, safety in numbers sort of thing."

"You don't need stay with me no more," Daryl told her suddenly, avoiding her eye. "Merle got you into this, ain't expecting you to stick 'round none if you'd rather head off. No need for us to share a tent if yer' wantin' yer' own."

Instead of taking offence March took it for what it was and rose to her feet. She pulled the sheet around her so she wasn't completely bare and pulled Daryl into a hug. "I would have left a long time ago if not for you," she told him.

Daryl grunted. "Works, I guess. Glenn picked up some new fella' from in town. S'ppose we can give him Merle's tent."

"What'd you just say?" March asked, pulling away and looking at his face.

"Found a new guy," Daryl started, obviously confused.

"No, who found him?"

"Glenn?"

"Glenn?" March asked, unable to keep the smile from her face.

"Yeah, Glenn. Kid whose always wearin' that dumb baseball hat."

"Not that chink, or rice-eatin' terrorist, but Glenn?" March breathed. "You've come a long way, Dixon."

"Shut up," grumbled Daryl, embarrassed he'd lost some of his tough image. "Meet you outside?"

"Yeah," March said, quickly grabbing her clothes and jumping into them.

Once she was done she went outside. The devastation hit her like a mallet. Dead lay around them everywhere in a combination of geeks and people she recognized but couldn't name. Almost everyone else was at the firepit, gathered around as they discussed what was to be done. March went and joined them and listened in as they started organising where to burn the bodies. The most disturbing image was Andrea hunched over her sister's body, clutching her hand and refusing to let go. Out of all the lives lost Amy was who March would miss most.

"Oh my God, March?"

The voice was strange and cracked so March turned in confusion. Standing by one of the tents was a tall man she didn't recognize.

"Do I know you?" she asked, confused.

The man moved forward and then despite his ill fitted clothes, bloody hair and dirty face March recognized him. "It's me, Jason!" he cried out, running over and wrapping her in a hug. "I can't believe I found you!" March couldn't respond, she couldn't even hug back as she stared over her fiancés shoulder at Daryl, the man's expression a portrait of distrust and confusion.

"You know each other?" Lori asked, shocked at the unlikely event.

Jason pulled away, eyes brimming with tears. "Of course we do!" March couldn't stop looking at Daryl. She wanted to explain, tell him that she didn't want Jason back. She wanted to let him know in private that aspect of her supposedly forgotten life before it was blurted out for the world to hear. But then Jason was opening his mouth and it was too late. Daryl would never listen to her now. "March is my fiancée."


OMG cliff hanger, right?

I apologise in advance as I don't plan to make this into a sequel, sorry! And I apologise for all my Naruto fan's who may have been expecting a Naruto fic :P I have heaps going and will upload one soon, hopefully very soon now that this plot bunny is out!

Reviews are amazing!

Thanks!