I'd like to thank everyone who's reading; thank you all for giving this a chance and for being patient with me. I know it's been a while and I am so very sorry for that. I'd also like to thank Mari, for writing this with me. Thanks a lot, girl!
With no further ado, here's a new chapter. It's not Beta read so all mistakes, errors and whatnot is my fault. Hope you all enjoy!
XXVII. Beyond the horizon
Daryl followed Addison's retreating form as she crossed the cell area and headed back to the table she'd been having lunch with Analeigh and Carol.
He had heard the entire exchange between Addison and Rick and he was feeling very, very conflicted over everything they talked about.
She was all in? What the hell was that all about? And what did she mean if Rick didn't change his mind about having her around? Was he missing something? Because he felt as if he was completely left out.
"What was that?" Daryl's words were barely a whisper, muttered behind a wall of closed teeth, but he knew Rick had heard them, for the dark haired man diverted his blue eyes to him with a calm expression. The hunter immediately cursed himself for letting those damned words escape; it wasn't his business, so he should just stay out of it but, somehow, his curiosity had gotten the best of him.
"Looks like she decided to stay." The former Deputy Sheriff's face remained quiet, impassible despite of Daryl's meddling; his vague reply only made the hunter shift the weight of his body from one leg to the other while he furrowed his brows, glaring at Addison from the corner of his eyes.
Deciding he wouldn't let it affect him, Daryl Dixon shook his head and headed for the patio, where Glenn and T-Dog were checking the fences.
If it weren't for the dead corpses surrounding the prison, it was a rather pleasant afternoon: there wasn't a single cloud to overcast the sun and the breeze that blew was gentle. After lunch, the entire group was outside, scattered around the patio after finishing the few chores they had left to do. Hershel had his nose buried in his Bible, reading it out loud to his younger daughter, Beth; Maggie and Glenn sat further away from the majority of the group, soaking not only in the sun but in each other's whispered words. Rick and T-Dog were checking their weapons for the last time, while Carol and Lori sat near Addison, to whom Analeigh kept clinging to. From the top of the guard tower, the light haired man diverted his gaze back to the forest, but although his eyes were no longer bothered with the vision of that stubborn raven haired woman, his mind seemed to be clouded by the words she and Rick had exchanged earlier. The fact that Rick's answer had been as vague and plain as it could possibly get only made Daryl more… suspicious. It was obvious that there was some kind of trust developing between the two of them: the brunette seemed to be growing quite comfortable around Rick and vice-versa. For some reason, that bothered him.
Putting his idiotic thoughts aside, Daryl focused on his task, which was to watch over the prison. Although Rick had insisted he should get some rest after the previous night, he wasn't exactly in the mood for resting, let alone mingling and the guard tower seemed to be the perfect place to be alone for a while.
The rest of the afternoon went by smoothly and the sun soon began to set in the horizon, tainting the sky with various colours. It didn't take long for a bonfire to be set in the patio beneath him and the women quickly occupied themselves with the task of cooking dinner. The delicious smell of venison filled the air and Daryl soon heard his name being called: Carol stood in the edge of the circle the group had formed around the fire with a plate of food in her hands.
Taking a couple of few deep breaths, Daryl simply looked at the unusual group gathered around the small fire. It was easier to be up there in the guard tower; it was as if he was separated from all the madness that had taken over the world and things were almost like they used to be. Almost.
Trying not to get lost in that incredibly tricky and poisonous train of thoughts, Daryl threw his crossbow over his shoulder and began his slow descend. It took him almost three whole minutes to get to the place where the group was.
They were already eating by the time he joined them, but Daryl didn't mind that in the slightest. Taking the plate from Carol's hand, the hunter glanced at her and offered a simple nod to let her know he appreciated the gesture. Words weren't his forte and Carol certainly knew that by now.
He was just turning his back to her so he could go and find a spot where he could have a quiet (and rather lonesome) dinner when he heard the woman's soft and gentle voice.
"There's an empty spot. You can sit with us..."
He glanced at the "us"; they were Lori, Carl, Analeigh and Addison, but since Analeigh was sitting in between Addison's legs, there was indeed a spot on the bench they were sitting. He had nothing against all those women, but quite frankly, Daryl was not looking forward to be in the middle of that — too much estrogen and whatnot...
"Thanks," he replied slightly warily and turned to find a place where he could do exactly what he intended to in the first place: to have a quiet, maybe lonesome dinner... However, ended up not being exactly lonesome for Daryl found himself sitting next to T-Dog near the fire, and unintentionally, right across from Lori. And it wasn't exactly quiet after a while for T-Dog had asked Beth to sing something like she had done the other night.
"To lift the spirits a little," had T-Dog said and Daryl had to fight the urge to roll his eyes at that.
He was rather fond of T-Dog, just like he was rather fond of everyone else. Time did that to him—time and necessity, those two things most of all had made Daryl change a little. But there was only so much he could take, and really? Did the man really believe that something like a song would lift people's spirits? Really?
Nonetheless, despite everything—and mainly, despite himself—Daryl held his tongue. Something that old Daryl certainly would not have done... But then, there were plenty of things that old Daryl wouldn't have done. Like going after Sophia when she went missing, being friends with a Deputy Sheriff, letting people get closer to him to the point of thinking them as friends...
Shoving a couple of forkfuls of venison and canned beans into his mouth, Daryl looked away from his food and let his eyes travel around.
Beth's soft voice reached his ears as she sang some song that he had never heard before (or if he did, he did not remember), and he couldn't help but notice that there wasn't one person sitting around that fire whose expression hadn't softened a bit.
Carol was looking at the younger Greene with a peaceful look in her eyes while a ghost of a smile played with the corner of her lips. Hershel also seemed at ease, though he had his eyes fixed on the burning fire. Daryl saw Lori and how she had her left hand placed over her abdomen and the right one was holding onto Carl's; she didn't seem very cheerful, but she was almost... calm.
Surprisingly as it was, it seemed like a simple thing like a song had sort of eased the atmosphere. Daryl didn't think anyone's spirits were being lifted –whatever the hell that was supposed to mean– but he found himself thinking that maybe, just maybe, it had made people stop thinking about all the horror that surrounded them for a second...
And then, his eyes found Rick.
Much like Hershel, Daryl noticed that Rick seemed to have taken a deep interest on the flames and was staring at them like they were holding the answer of some important question or something like that. And, if his furrowed eyebrows, pursed lips and clenched jaws were anything to go by, one would say that, whatever it was that he was thinking about, was bothering him. Unlike the rest of the group, Beth's song wasn't exactly helping Rick relax... To be fair, it wasn't helping him either.
All that singing about love and how there's always a reason why someone's life has been spared, that was giving Daryl a mighty headache, that's what.
Shaking his head, Daryl turned his attention back to his food and busied himself chewing and swallowing. He had nearly cleaned his plate when he heard Rick's grave voice.
"I'll take first watch," he announced simply as he stood.
Looking around, Daryl suddenly became aware of the fact that silence had settled upon them all like a thick blanket. It was as if when the sing ended —which, by the way, the hunter wasn't sure when it happened for he had managed to tune down—, the momentary state of semi obliviousness of reality had ended as well.
"Then I'll take the next one," Glenn offered.
Daryl watched when Rick nodded at him, letting him know it was settled. Placing his place aside, Daryl rubbed his hands in his pants and he was just about to say he'd take over after the Asian when someone else spoke before him.
"Count me in."
All heads turned towards Addison. Even Daryl, who had been avoiding the brunette like the plague, couldn't help but glance at her. Addison didn't seem to have moved one muscle. She was still sitting there, the same way he had seen her when he had quickly spoken to Carol.
Daryl briefly wondered why was it that that girl always volunteered to do almost everything there was to do, before his attention was pulled back to the present.
"Absolutely not," Rick stated. "And that goes to you too, Daryl," he added quickly, turning to face the hunter. He had seen, out of the corner of his eye when Daryl shifted a little as he heard his words to Addison, and Rick knew the other man well enough to have a pretty good idea as to what had crossed his mind. "You two are out of watch duty for the night..."
"What? Why?" Both Addison and Daryl said at the same time.
They had spoken so in sync that they exchanged a look. Blue eyes met dark ones and they found themselves slightly frowning at each other; even their expression was oddly alike, scarily mirrored, which made Addison shift uncomfortably. Blinking a couple of times, she averted her eyes and turned her attention back at Rick.
"Because you need to get some rest," said the dark haired man. "God only knows how many hours of sleep you've had since yesterday... No watch duty for you two. T will change with Glenn."
Part of Addison wanted to argue. Even though she hadn't had much sleep the night before and she knew Rick's decision was reasonable enough, but still... part of her wanted to argue. Just for the sake of arguing. Because she wasn't the kind of person who would take someone's orders as gospel - that was some trait she lacked; she just did not have it in her DNA and she lost count of how many times she heard her father say that her stubbornness would get her in trouble. And it sure as hell did, more than just once, Addison would say. However, as she sat there, in the patio of the West Georgia Correctional Facility, with a five year old girl resting against her chest, holding tightly onto her hands while a good portion of the human population had succumbed to whatever disease that had spread a few months ago, Addison managed to curb her attitude and she simply nodded while muttering a very docile "all right".
After that conversation was over, it didn't take long for the group to disperse: gradually, everyone got up and headed for the cell block, in order to get some sleep, until the only people left were Addison, Daryl, Rick, Carol and, of course, Analeigh, who had fell asleep in the first one's lap.
"Well, it's time for me to head to bed too." Carol stood up slowly and turned to Addison. "If you want to stay here for a while longer, I can take Analeigh."
With the semblance of a smile on her lips, the brunette nodded and let the older woman take the little sleeping child from her arms. As soon as Addison gently set the blonde onto Carol's arms, the child opened her eyes.
"Dee-Dee." Finding herself in someone's arms other than the brunette's, the girl raised her head, desperately looking for her Auntie.
"I'm here. Carol's going to take you to bed, so you can have a good night of sleep."
"Aren't you coming too?"
"I'll be there soon, baby." Said that, Addison placed a kiss on the girl's forehead and caressed her hair. "Sleep tight." When she returned to her seat, she could swear she saw Daryl looking away from her.
Following the two silhouettes with her eyes, Addison waited until Carol and Annie disappeared into the building; then, she took a deep breath and turned her attention to the dying fire at which both Rick and Daryl were staring. While Rick's expression was rather calm, like someone who had just gotten lost in their thoughts, Daryl had that idiotic and constant frown of his plastered on his face.
Perhaps it was just her mind tricking her, but earlier that day, when she told Rick she would stay, it seemed that Daryl wasn't too happy about it. She didn't expect him to be happy, but she also didn't expect him to seem so… bothered by it. Addison knew the man wasn't exactly her biggest fan and all, but c'mon! If she was making an effort to tolerate him, why couldn't he just do the same?
Hesitantly, Rick stood up from the place where he had been quietly resting and, stretching out his arms, began to walk away from the remaining people.
Daryl only saw his legs moving, for he was hunched forwards and had his forearms placed in his knees which didn't allow him to have a full view of things.
"Where are you going?"
Addison's voice suddenly disrupted the silence that had settled; she sounded quite afflicted, as if she didn't want Rick to leave, or maybe she just didn't want to be alone with him. Without turning to see her face – or Rick's face for that matter – Daryl rolled his eyes.
"The tower. You two should get some sleep."
"Later." Daryl simply grunted, while Addison gave the Sheriff no response. The hunter kept his eyes locked to the embers of the fire, while stirring them with a stick in order to revive the flames. After a long moment of silence, Daryl assumed Addison had left. But, after a long moment of silence during which Daryl's eyes never left the recently stirred fire, a shadow crossed his peripheral field of vision; his eyes quickly turned to his left side, finding no one other than Addison, who was now sitting just a few feet from him. Although her dark hair covered a great part of her face, Daryl could see that her eyes were focusing on the fire and she was biting her lips. The light of the flame tainted her skin with a warmer tone, despite her still looking hauntingly pale and Daryl felt something stir inside him, feeling that made him shift in his seat.
"You know I'm staying, right?"
The woman's voice broke the silence in a passive, yet cold tone; her face, though, was still unalterable. Daryl simply looked at her, trying to show his most impassible expression while he waited for her to continue.
"Can you please make an effort to put up with my presence?"
What the hell was she talking about? Did he honestly give away the impression of being such a hostile human being? She wasn't exactly his favourite person in the world, but he wasn't exactly plotting her death or anything like that.
Instead of expressing his confusion, Daryl muttered a simple "Fine." and, in return, Addison repeated the word in the same lifeless way he had.
Silence settled in between them once more, while Addison gazed the outskirts of the prison with the same impassible face she had before and Daryl kept on stirring the fire, although it was already burning again.
"You never told me why you told Annie that you'd... accompany me." Addison's voice was low and almost a whisper, but in the quietude of that night, Daryl had no problem in hearing her.
Lifting his gaze, the light haired man found Addison's dark eyes looking straight at him while she waited for his answer. When he didn't respond, her teeth took a hold of her lips and her eyes diverted to the ground, biting them in what seemed to be regret. In Daryl's stomach, was that strange and warm feeling again. Damn it, did she even know what she was doing?
"She's…" Once the woman heard Daryl, her attention turned back to him and the man was overtaken by the truly curious look on her face. "… innocent."
The woman standing beside him didn't answer right away, which made him question his words. What kind of answer was that? Daryl didn't have exactly the ease most people had with words, but was that honestly the best he could do?
But, much to his surprise, Addison nodded, signaling that she had understood him. "You wanted to protect it… her innocence, I mean." To the sound of her reply, the younger Dixon simply shrugged while keeping his eyes fixed on that strange woman that was now looking at him openly, her eyes filled with nothing but curiosity.
"She's a kid, y'know? She doesn't deserve this fucked up world…"
Deep down, Addison wanted to ask him 'Do we? Does anyone deserve this fucked up world?', but he was trying and she was trying and because of the effort they were putting on it, she decided against it and a simple "yeah" escaped her lips.
With a deep and loud sigh, Addison left herself slide off her seat and was now sitting on the grass, with her head resting on the bench. Her eyes were now fixed onto the starless sky and her bare neck was illuminated by the fire while her face remained in the shadows. Her chest moved at a steady and peaceful pace as she breathed and her skin looked like some polished white stone. "Did you have kids? Before all of this."
Addison's sudden bombardment of questions was incredibly unexpected and Daryl had no idea why she was inquiring him about those things, but he tried not to question it.
"I have… had a brother." He pronounced the word had in a rather somber manner, while diverted his eyes from the woman. Mentioning Merle – even if it was just lightly – made him uncomfortable, especially because he had no specific idea of what had happened to him.
"Older." He simply answered. Something in his voice made Addison straighten her back and look at him. "Merle was my big brother." Then, Addison completely turned to him, genuinely interested in his words. The look on her face made him less uncomfortable with the whole subject of Merle and, unlike he would've usually done, Daryl answered her questions with a slight ease.
"What was he like?"
"He pretty much raised me… but that didn't make him less of an idiot."
Addison felt an urge to ask about his parents, to find out the reason to why Merle raised him and she also wanted to know why Daryl considered his brother an idiot. Surprisingly, Addison found herself wanting to know everything about that strange blue eyed man, but she decided not to question him. It was obvious Daryl was a reserved person, like she was, and it probably was a miracle that she got him to answer all those questions. Instead, she returned to her previous position and locked her eyes on the black night sky.
After a while, Daryl broke the silence once more. "And you?"
"What about me?"
Poking the embers a couple more times, Daryl asked, "Did you have any kids before this?". She had started it, so it was only fair if he had his turn as well.
"Siblings?" Addison faced Daryl once again and, once again, he looked at her without glancing away. His expression was soft and her eyes seemed plain and simply curious and, while she spoke, his blue eyes never left hers. It was… intense.
"Two brothers." Seeing that Daryl did nothing but patiently wait for her to continue, while still looking at her, Addison resumed her answer. "Gabriel and Luke. Both older. I have no idea if Luke's still alive; I hope he is, but I haven't talked to him in a while…"
"What about Gabriel?"
The man's words caught her off guard and made her lower her face in response, while simply whispering "He's been gone for a while now." The woman could feel the tears rushing to her eyes, as her breathing because heavier; she closed her eyes really tightly and inhaled deeply, holding the air in for a few seconds before exhaling loudly.
"Sorry 'bout your brother."
"I'm sorry about yours, too."
A semblance of a smile – that actually looked more like a grimace – played with Daryl's mouth while his eyes kept locked on the woman sitting in the ground, who replied with a shy and sad smile of her own.
"It's late," Daryl said after a handful of seconds. "Gonna go 'n try to get some sleep. You comin'?"
Instinctively, the man held out his hand to help her get up as soon as he got up. Dumbfounded, Addison hesitantly accepted his offer; her warm hand took a hold of his cold one and Daryl wished he hadn't offered his assistance, for there was that god damned stir in his insides again.
They walked silently to the cell block and climbed the stairs without uttering a word; once they reached the young woman's improvised room, Addison turned to face him with the same hesitance she had grabbed his hand just a few minutes before. Their eyes locked once more and they both stood in silence for a few seconds; words didn't really seem to be their strongest point.
Daryl nodded at her, and he was about to head out to his bed when Addison did something that got him stunned.
Closing the distance between them with one step, Daryl did nothing but stand there, rooted to the spot as he watched the brunette lean forward.
It didn't last more than a couple of seconds, but the feeling of her lips over his made Daryl's heart jumped a beat or two with the unexpected gesture and he forgot he had to breathe for a moment. And he wasn't any less astonished when Addison took a small step back and all but whispered "goodnight" before turning her back to him and disappearing into the darkness of her very own cell.
Daryl seemed to have lost his ability to move, although his brain appeared to be working more than ever. Did Addison's lips accidentally brush against his? She could've been aiming for his cheek, right? Or did she actually mean to kiss him? What the fuck? However, the youngest Dixon was even more surprised when – already lying in his bed – he found out that a small part of him wished she hadn't pulled away so quickly.
A/N: Title is a reference to Bob Dylan's song, "Beyond the Horizon", which is the song I've imagined Beth would sing...