This is purely fluff – just because I like my stories tied up with a neat bow. Preferably with a happy ending.

I want to thank every one of you that has travelled with me to this point, those who have followed, those who have favourited and those who have reviewed. I'm not going to mention anyone is particular – I'll end up forgetting someone and you know who you are. Your comments and theories have kept Polar going when it would have otherwise petered out tangled in a web of its own complexity. After 6 months, 426 pages and 293,472 words Polar has been an exhausting, but exhilarating experience and I'm so glad that I dived into the abyss of fanfiction. I have enjoyed meeting you all – hopefully we'll cross paths again, in this fandom or another. Xo MA

Epilogue

"Darylina!"

His tone was frustrated.

"Calm down Captain," she said placidly, with just a hint of a teasing grin.

As she knew it would, the endearment made him throw her a glare, giving her the opportunity to smile at him and the tension eased out of him. She had started calling him Captain and giving him an 'aye aye' with a cheeky grin as soon as she'd seen the first prosthetic that they had fitted to his stump. It hadn't quite had a hook on it, but it was a fairly basic design that let him screw on certain implements. Later designs had been more sophisticated – they'd been getting lots of practice at dealing with people with limbs missing Officer Friendly hadn't been the only one to figure out how to stop the infection spreading. He'd left all those behind though, the simple shell that surrounded his stump, protecting the sensitive skin from accidental hurt as well as giving him a solid base to thump with had been more his style – and beggars couldn't be choosers.

"Tha fuckin' pussy 'as lost it," he groused.

"I doubt that," she smiled again looking fucking contented. "Maybe we're just not in range tonight. Maybe," she added. "maybe he's asleep."

She looked tired he noted it was close to midnight. There were discoloured bags under her eyes; the constant stress of being on the road; travelling in an un-air conditioned HMMWV in the heat of the summer was wearing at any time, let alone in her condition.

It had taken them months to find the Centre to start with, working their way through or around the isolated groups of humanity that they'd encountered on their journey east. Some had had a semblance of authority and they had worked from their information further east. They'd hit the geeks full on as well, but with just the two of them they'd been able to get their way through mostly by avoiding and hiding rather than engaging. Of course on some occasions engaging had been the only option and it had been the way that they had dealt with a glitch of about two dozen that had first impressed the French Colonel – safely ensconced behind one of his walled outposts and watching them through a sniper rifle scope. The legionnaires that he sent to rescue them arrived to a wall of dead dead geeks and were met with bared blades – then blinked as Penny the chicken had squawked. The Colonel had been impressed with Marion's pronunciation of his lieutenant's rank, declaring that though her accent was épouvantable, that Australians were charmant and that she herself was ravissant – a welcome change to the vulgarité that he had found himself surrounded by. Merle's eyes had narrowed; he swore the Colonel looked at him at that last comment.

Colonel Chabrière was happy to take them east, his eyes narrowing slightly at Marion's rationale that she wanted to find someone who get her back to Australia, flicking to Merle with obvious uncertainty. He had confiscated their weapons, but upon finding Merle dealing (quite effectively) with a gênant of a sergeant (who had been silly enough to say something disparaging about Marion) he had immediately offered Merle his position in his legionnaires. Merle had been taken aback at the offer – uncertain as to how anyone could see him as a leader, but he had taken it if only to keep an eye on the Colonel and figure out whether he was to be trusted.

It was well over a month later that they had arrived at the Colonel's headquarters; Merle firmly ensconced as the Sergeant; generally liked but also feared. Marion and the Colonel were firm friends, she had told him about how she had come to be stuck in the country and in turn listened to his own experiences. The headquarters were set up close to Camp David – an area that had been kept free of geeks by the dedication of remnants of the Secret Service, the American military and foreign troops that had been stationed with the diplomats at Washington – and a brutal zero tolerance for the infected. They had been subjected to a blood test and it was only the Colonel's intervention that had stopped Marion being shot on the spot as her blood showed traces of the viruses.

The security had been disbelieving at first; Marion and Merle both having been subjected to seemingly endless interrogations, interviews and even lie detector tests in an effort to determine what sort of plan was in place to destroy the last vestiges of civilisation. Again it was the Colonel, extracting himself from his own interrogation with much flamboyance, with the aid of the last remaining member of the Australian Consulate, who had gained their freedom – simply by telling the scientists at the Centre that there was a potential cure on site. There had been a brief battle between military and civilian, American and foreign – but then the word had come down from the President. Then there were more questions and the blood tests started in earnest. Merle throwing a medical trolley through the window between the two rooms had brought a stop to the clinical trials on him and also seemed to shake some sense into the establishment. They had been released into the community, given a small pod with a bedroom, some living space, bathroom (they'd run the hot water out each night for the first week) and even a small vegetable garden which Penny loved. The Colonel had reclaimed Merle for his duty (to give him something to do the Lieutenant had confided to Marion) and Marion occupied her time between being the laboratory guinea pig and working on the alternative energy scheme that was providing the community with electricity.

There had of course been a church within the community and Marion had of course found it. Merle had tried, but as soon as his gruff "Ya be fuckin' wit' me" had echoed through an unexpected moment of silence during mass the Bishops hadn't been all that favourable of him (of course her own giggle at the words "Bless his Holiness, Pope Benedict, in Rome" hadn't made it to the Bishops' ears). Father Derek had been a little bit more pragmatic and had still visited their little pod on his rounds, his eyes taking in everything from the shared bed to the green rings on their fingers.

The pregnancy had been an academic act of sabotage. Not being satisfied with taking her blood, her hair, her skin, her fuckin' bone marrow (that they only did once – he be fuckin' damned if he would ever let them hurt her like that again) – everything which she'd given freely, but then they wanted embryonic fluid. If he had known he would have hightailed it out of there immediately, but she hadn't (as she confessed tearfully sometime later) even considered that they would do more than ask. His mind still boggled with the thought that someone had broken into their quarters and so painstakingly irradiated the packet of condoms to thin the plastic – not enough that they noticed, but enough. It had only been a matter of time then.

He'd walked up to the Centre one afternoon, early off his shift, to surprise her with a walk home – maybe even an icecream which she had been hankering for the previous couple of weeks. He'd walked into the laboratory to hear her tearing verbal strips off the whitecoat – it had taken him only a couple of moments to figure out the gist of what she was saying and then his legionnaires had had to forcibly restrain him from physically tearing strips off the whitecoat. Then of course he'd had to explain to Marion that that didn't mean he wasn't hanging around.

It had been a serious error on his behalf. Despite the Colonel's protests he was removed from active duty and confined to the pod, Marion similarly confined or escorted around the Centre on her business. This often involved needles as long as her broadsword and he would have to hold her until she cried herself into exhaustion each night as he fumed with impotence. He then took to going with her to mass again, the church being the only place where the Bishops held total sway (having the President brainwashed) and flat out refused to let any of their guards in.

"Ya feeling alright?" he asked.

She shrugged, propped up on one of their bags, one hand sitting on her extended belly. "As good as someone who is 8 and a half months pregnant does."

Wrong thing she thought as a pained look crossed his face and he yelled into the radio again.

In truth, despite the way she was perched up now and spent most nights, the heartburn was causing her more than mild discomfort. There was no history of twins in her family, so she had decided that it must be his or perhaps it was another one of those biological anomalies.

It had been a minor miracle coming onto Colonel Chabrière when they did but then the Lord God does help those who help themselves and they had been very careful in how they had approached their search for someone who could use her information properly. She had been so hopeful of the Colonel and when he had offered Merle a position in his Legionnaires she had been all but convinced. She had hid her smile at the pure look of disbelief on Merle's face, knowing that he had never imagined himself as a leader. But she knew that he had the ability to read people, much better than her own, and was quite frankly a master manipulator and a good motivator. The Colonel was a very canny man she thought affectionately. His Lieutenant was also an intelligent man, well read and mannered, but haunted by the sights he had seen. Merle was his perfect foil and she encouraged him to accept the position, convincing him that they would get closer to their goal and could figure out how trustworthy the Colonel was.

In the end it was only the character of the Colonel that kept them alive.

After the time on the road the pod was almost like heaven. Inside the community there were some children, although not many, some pets, also not many, and people from all cultures working together. The only vehicles were the ubiquitous HMMWVs and the occasional military helicopter with the majority of people walking or riding bicycles around the lush community. It was almost a sort of utopia and she loved almost every moment, even the constant need to give blood, hair and skin had been ok because she knew what they were trying to do. The bone marrow donation had not been as much fun and she had been glad to hide behind Merle's fury to avoid another one of those.

Saint Patricks had been made up from salvaged materials brought back, in the main, by the French Legionnaires but there were enough Catholics to justify mass being led by a Cardinal, Bishop and a priest – especially when the President was one of the faithful. She had found peace within the walls again, although normally alone after Merle had so effectively announced his disparagement of the whole establishment. Father Derek was a kind soul and she had found some peace in her confession to him, of the way that she had killed her family, how she had killed others, including Simon. She hadn't told him of the state of her union with Merle, but she had seen the way he looked at her ring and Merle's ring.

She had laughed at them when she was asked to get pregnant, but when she worked out that they were serious she had told them not to be stupid; that she was too old to be thinking about having a baby, especially with her birth history. She should have told Merle of course she knew – he would have sniffed out that something was wrong. She would always remember the sinking feeling as she had stared at the stick in the bathroom, the small pink cross seeming to magnify in size in front of her stunned gaze. It hadn't been until she saw the grin stretch across her case officer's face that she had realised the sheer scale of her naivety, her stupidity;that it wasn't just an accident, that it had been planned – just not by her and Merle. She had let fly, tearing his character to shreds, calling him every name that she had ever heard Merle utter (and there were a few). Of course Merle had walked in and had almost dismembered the man with his knife – if not for the Lieutenant walking past and hearing her screams she doubted that Merle would still be around – certainly the scientist wouldn't have been. The look of horror had driven a knife into her heart though; suddenly she understood what Carol meant. But he was still here, she smiled and remembering the look on his face when his son or daughter had first kicked his hand through her belly she knew that he was never going anywhere.

"Fold it up for the night Merle," she said. "Come to bed," she patted the ground next to her, "we can wait another night. I'm not due for another couple of weeks," she said, trying to keep her tone upbeat.

Merle eyed the way that her belly took a sudden move to the right. "T'at's a Dixon inside of ya sugar – no Dixon 'as ever followed tha rules. Daryl!"

She was scared he knew. She had to be – hell he certainly was.

He'd decided that he was getting her out, that he didn't care what havoc he caused in the community, didn't care that most of them were innocent; his woman and baby were being hurt and he couldn't sit back and not doing anything. Father Derek had walked in as he was emptying his secret stash of weapons into a bag – he'd frozen and stared at the man. Father Derek had stared back and then carefully, slowly, walked in and closed the door. "Do you trust me son?" he'd asked. "Nope," had replied Merle baldly and got a smile in response. "Do you trust God?" the priest had asked instead. Merle had hesitated. "I t'ought He and I 'ad an understanding," he'd finally admitted. "Will you answer me one question?" had continued the priest and at Merle's nod he had asked one simple question.

The Bishops had stormed the pod later in the afternoon; spouting a whole heap of twaddle about living in sin and the peril that her soul was in if she didn't confess her sins and marry Merle in a proper Catholic service. They'd threatened to excommunicate her and he'd been just about ready to step forward and give them what they wanted, cursing the stupid priest, when she had let loose. She'd called them on their hypocrisy, demanding to know whether they actually wanted a church or whether they wanted their own little cult, screaming at them for forcing them to be married when it was acceptable for the whitecoats to experiment on her unborn baby. Apparently it hadn't been acceptable for it was that night that their guards were suddenly overcome with a strange desire to sleep.

It hadn't been enough; alarms had sounded, dogs were released, lights were turned on. For thirty hours they had hidden in Father Derek's wardrobe, Merle with his knife braced, holding Marion as she dozed but not sleeping at all while the sounds of the search moved all around them, inside and out but never into the bedroom "As God is my witness I have been here all day and I haven't seen them" had professed Father Derek (he'd closed his eyes smirked Merle). Once the initial heat had died down Father Derek had escorted them to the wall; there had been a brief moment of tenseness when Colonel Chabrière had stepped out of the shadows, but he had smiled and handed them keys and papers and assured them that he had taken care of everything.

Marriage had still been part of the deal and Marion had become Marion Dixon (for the second time and officially in the eyes of the church) under the moonlight in the middle of a forest under the hand of Father Derek and witnessed by Colonel Chabrière and two Legionnaires. They had taken the laden HMMWV with thanks, driving through the rest of the night and the day without stopping except to refuel from the supplies in the back. He'd had no trouble consummating his marriage this time – he'd had her ride him into the night, her glorious breasts even larger than normal, her belly swelling ahead of her, skin glinting in the moonlight.

"If he doesn't answer, I'm taking ya back ta tha last outpost," he cursed.

"No Merle," she shook her head.

"Damn it woman!" he yelled and Penny clucked in protest, shifting a little in her cage and starting off a round of cheeping from the fluffballs beneath her before she sat back down and they quieted. Jess lifted up her head and growled slightly and he cast her a glance. "I'll stand in t'at room with a fuckin' shotgun and make sure t'at they don't 'urt 'im – but I am not going to lose you in fuckin' childbirth after all we gone t'rough."

He turned away from her, tugging at Jess's ear out of habit. He had given her a proper name – Kujo, appropriate at least for her breed if not her nature. But while Marion had not protested she had just started calling the dog Jess – shrugging and saying it was a tribute to Dog when he challenged her. Jess thump thumped her tail at his touch and a smile tipped his lips. Of course the bitch answered to Jess not Kujo so he had just given up. She was his dog, rescuing her from a fight (which she was losing) with three other dogs had assured him of that, and she would always be with him on a hunt – whether for food or geek. But when it was quiet she was often found cuddled up with Marion. Except of course when the fuckin' cat was there. He could hear the purr from here as Marion stroked his fur rhythmically. Snowflake he snorted "T'ere's not a fuckin' spot o' white on tha t'ing," he had protested as they were leaving one of the outposts that they had stopped at for supplies and checkin as per the Colonel's orders. But Marion, who had dragged the kitten out of the water, had just shaken her head and said his name had nothing to do with his colour but with his luck. Snowflake and Merle had set up a tenuous relationship; they tolerated each other for the sake of Marion, although Merle suspected that the cat enjoyed teasing him as he often woke up with a mouthful of fur, an Edinburgh Tattoo being danced on his back and a growing Ridgeback lying across his feet.

"They registered in Lincoln; we know that they came up this way. Herschel would be very experienced in C sections," she said. She hadn't broken the news yet – he was bugging out enough at the thought of one daughter arriving, let alone two. Then of course she might end up with two Dixon boys.

"On fuckin' 'orses!" he snarled and got another admonishment from Jess for his tone of voice.

"He'll know what to do," she said placidly. "If not – then we'll contact Samson."

"T'ere ain't time ta get ya back ta Lincoln," he snapped, although in truth there probably was. "Darylina!" he yelled into the radio again.

"Keep yer fuckin' voice down ya dumb redneck piece o' shit," growled a voice back at him through the radio. "Ya'll wake tha babies."

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Apologies if the French words I picked out of the Google translator aren't quite correct in context.

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