Chapter Title: The Sixth Arrow
A/N: Thank you for all the wonderfully feedback! You guys are awesome.
Andrea is shaking.
Daryl thinks he sees it only because he's looking for it. He sees it in her hands as she clutches Dale's hand tightly. Carol is trying to pry Andrea away with little success.
Daryl doesn't like the shocked, broken look in Andrea's eyes, and he's not sure Carol's the right person to handle her. He glances at Rick.
The lawman seems to know what Daryl's thinking, even though Daryl himself doesn't. He claps Daryl on the shoulder and takes his gun back. "We'll take care of Dale, you go take care of her," Rick says softly. "And thank you."
Daryl nods, torn between embarrassment, confusion, and uneasiness. He moves towards Andrea, and he's aware of Shane's glare. Though if Shane thinks Daryl's letting him alone with Andrea like this, the man's got another thing coming.
"I got her," he tells Carol.
Carol bites her bottom lip but nods. She starts to speak, then hesitates for a moment. "Be careful with her," she says so softly Daryl barely hears her.
He doesn't want to think about what she means. He bends down and covers Andrea's wrists with his hands.
Andrea looks up at him, and it's the Andrea from the night in the woods. The pale, scared slip of a woman trying to hold the pieces of herself together and failing. Daryl wants the playful Andrea. The Andrea that snips and smiles at him. He wants the Andrea he kissed.
"C'mon," he tells her as gently as he's able. It still comes out rough.
She lets go of Dale's lifeless hand, though, and lets him pull her to her feet. Daryl doesn't let go of her wrist as he leads her into the darkened camp and to her tent. She's quiet, and it unnerves him.
He has this strange fear that if he leaves her outside of her tent, she'll just stand there. His own hands shake. Is this the thing that breaks her?
Something in Daryl's chest twists at the thought.
When he gets her into the tent, she sits down on her sleeping bag like her strings have been cut. He swallows hard and kneels down to take off her boots. There's blood on her shirt and his fingers tremble as he reaches out and grips the hem. Andrea doesn't protest, so he slides the shirt up, being careful not to touch her skin.
She raises her arms to help him, then lets them drop when the shirt is off. Daryl balls the shirt up and tosses it into the corner. Her bra is a green as pale as her eyes.
He could touch her he realizes. He could touch her and she wouldn't object. Wouldn't say no.
C'mon, son, take what you want for once. You a man or what? Merle taunts in his head.
Daryl looks away from her pale skin and finds a clean shirt in a neat stack of clothing along the tent wall. He presses the shirt into her hands, and she slides it on, then reaches behind herself to take off her bra.
He looks away again. "I'll let you get some rest," he says, but he doesn't move. He can feel her eyes on him.
"I'm sorry," Andrea whispers.
Daryl's eyes snap back to her. "What?"
"I'm sorry you had to...," her voice trails off, and she wets her lips. "It should have been my job. I should have been there for Dale."
He shakes his head. "Don't you eat yourself up over that," he tells her firmly. "You held his hand. You were there for him."
Andrea swipes angrily at her eyes. "It shouldn't have fallen on you."
Words bottle up in Daryl's throat. Merle's laughing at him, and Daryl's not sure he trusts himself. Instead he puts his hand in his pocket and pulls out the bracelet. He puts it around Andrea's wrist and starts tying the last bits of leather together so it's a perfect fit.
Gonna ask to go steady? Ain't that sweet, Merle mocks. You think some city breed bitch is gonna want something of yours, boy?
Andrea's quiet and still until he's done tying it on. Then she runs her fingers over it. "It's beautiful." She smiles at him even though her face is still wet with tears.
Daryl shrugs and ducks his head. Her smiles makes him want things. Things he doesn't deserve. "You should rest," he tells her as he moves towards the tent door. "I'll get you in the morning."
"Wait," Andrea says.
He stops and looks back at her.
Andrea pulls an arrow from a bag and holds it out to him. "Stay," she asks, holding his gaze. "Just stay, please, I don't want to be alone."
He almost runs. He wants to run, but he wants to stay just as much. There wouldn't be any harm, though, would there? To just lay beside her and guard her sleep?
Daryl takes the arrow from her fingers. He wipes just under her eyes with his thumbs.
He kisses her forehead.
The next morning Rick doesn't say a word about a fully clothed Andrea sleeping curled up at fully clothed Daryl's side. Rick just tells him they're going to bury Dale.
Merle isn't as silent in Daryl's head.