June 5th, 2013

Okay, so here we are. After eight moths of writing this fic, I'm posting the last chapter. *sobs* I know that it's not perfect and got some flaws, that sometimes it was boring and too slow, but I'm still proud of this fic, and especially the relationship that I have established here. Sometimes I go back to Salvation and I'm like "holy shit! They were so different back then!" because I forgot about how much Connor's and Daryl's relationship really changed during this fic, but I'm really glad it did. I had no idea that this fic was going to be 70 chapters long, and now that I look back I realize how much has happened in here. Really. Wow, holy shizzles. No wonder this fic has so many flaws *laughs* hard to keep it interesting and intense.

But whatever. Thank you all for reading this story, faving it, following it, and writing more than 320+ reviews on it so far. That is a -lot- of feedback, and you people have been -so- amazing. I got so many lovely reviews that made me so happy, but you also criticized me and told me what I could change to make it better, and that with respect and honesty. For that I am very grateful, and I couldn't have finished this fic without you all. Last time I finished a fic I was bawling my eyes out because of the ending, but I am happy to tell you that I did not do that this time. Maybe I did cry a little, but only because it is over and because I am really proud of this one. I know it's just a fic, even "worse", a crossover but it really means so -much- to me, and the whole series is a major part of my life now.

Sooner or later (might be next month) I'm going to get an autograph on my Salvation book by the incredibly awesome Sean Patrick Flanery (aka the one and only actor who plays Connor) and although I SO do not want him to take a look inside of that one it actually makes me happy to know that one day he will know about the existence of this series.

So thank you once again for keeping me going, people.

What am I up to next? Just like I've said before: the fic that follows this one is going to be shippy, and more like an extra part of this series, one that doesn't need to be read by people who do not want the shippy. As for season 4 and me writing it: I do not know yet. It depends on the season, and the material it offers for me. I feel like after writing about 110 chapters about the Connaryl it does get a bit old and I'm not sure if I got much more stuff that can be explored about them (apart from the next obvious step) but yeah...let's see. So just a heads up that I'm going to write another shippy little fic based on this series and it's going to be called "Resurrection", and I'm going to try to finish my 256 Days fic as well.

Thank you thank you thank you and I love you!

About this last chapter here, I wanted to explore some more Daryl before we get started on the new fic, and I used these two Norman quotes to tease the "new" Daryl:

"It's more like anger at this world right now. Rage is one of those things that is fear based. That sort of rage comes from being afraid. Daryl is the type of guy that's always had his back up against the wall. He's always had to fight. It's just at the world and this is my life, and these are the cards I was dealt and it's just frustration and anger at everything. It's not just Merle. I'm not like, " I hate you Merle!" It's more like "Life sucks! And I hate it! I hate it! I hate it!" It's more like that.

I think it shuts him down a little bit more. I think it hardens him a little more. That rage is still there and I don't think stabbing him over and over again is releasing that rage. It's just opening a new door. I would expect Daryl to become more introverted and be a more hardened person. He just grew up a lot right then."


Chapter 70 - Duty

Connor wasn't really surprised when he woke up in the middle of the night. He had been doing that a lot lately, so he just wanted to turn around and sleep on. He wanted to get back to his dream, because it had been a rather nice one. Both Daryl AND Murphy had been there, and they had been in Ireland on a trip through the woods. He wanted to get back there, to smell the grass and make fun of his brother and best friend, but something was different, something kept him awake, something...

A gentle sob.

He waited a moment, and then there was another one. All his previous happiness and peace vanished like a balloon that was losing all its air at once.

Another sob.

The Irishman shifted and turned around to see where it was coming from. Daryl was still lying in the bed, and for a second it looked like he wasn't moving at all.
But then there was another gentle and quiet sob. Connor held his breath and swallowed hard.

Oh great.

Just for a moment he had forgotten all about that. He had been selfish about his own happiness, about the fact that all his wishes had become true.
He was finally doing fine after losing his brother, almost killing himself and being depressed for more than a year, and now this.

Daryl had lost his brother a little less than two days ago. He had not been able to really process it and grieve until now, because the hunter had been shot and comatose until earlier today. But now it was night, now there was time and now it was quiet. So of course he was grieving now. Connor remembered the many, many times he had been awake every night. Replaying his brother's death, asking himself why? and how? and could I have saved him somehow? He remembered the pain and countless tears, remembered that terrible time back at the farm when he had been alright during the day and how he had acted like he was fine and happy, only to start bawling during the night.

Daryl was just like that now, although he knew that it probably wouldn't be that bad. Maybe this was the only night his friend allowed himself to properly grieve, and Connor was actually ashamed of himself that he had not really interpreted earlier signs. He had thought that Daryl had been so quiet because he had been tired and in pain because of the bullet wound and blood. But it was neither the wound nor the blood. It was his devastation over Merle's death.

The Irishman sat up and stared at his friend, uncertainty growing bigger inside him.

"Daryl?" he muttered and the gentle sobbing stopped abruptly.

Daryl stilled and wouldn't answer, and it was obvious that he was trying to act like he was asleep.

Connor just sat there for a while longer and tried to come up with a solution. He tried to remember what his friend had done when he had been in a state like that. He knew that Daryl always liked to pretend that he was tough 24/7 and how he didn't want any help or comfort, but months of getting closer and closer had taught Connor that even his grumpy friend actually needed that, although it was hidden deep inside of him. The Irishman sat and just listened, but no more sobs could be heard. Daryl shifted after a while and Connor took it as sign that it was his turn to do something.

He walked over to the bed and let himself fall down on it. He could feel how Daryl tensed but refrained from wrapping an arm around him right away, because he didn't want to make it worse for his friend, and because he seriously didn't want to fight right now. He just moved and grabbed the other blanket to get underneath it, and then he just lay there on his back and stared at the ceiling. He just wanted his friend to know that he was right there if he needed him, and after all the locking each other up and forcing each other to do something he just waited for Daryl to make the first move. It took the hunter a pretty long while and he just lay there, back turned on him and head bowed, with arms wrapped around his pillow.

Connor turned his head after a while and looked at his back, breathe even and waiting.

"How many people and walkers did yah kill t'make yah feel better after your brother died?" the hunter eventually said and broke the silence between them.

Connor shrugged gently and turned on his side so he could keep looking at Daryl.

"Couple 'a hundreds? I don't know."

"Did it help?"

The Irishman snorted gently and shook his head.

"No. Just made me feel even more dead inside."

The hunter sniffed gently and groaned.

"I killed that son of a bitch. Stabbed him over and over again and gutted him like a pig" he said and Connor just listened.

"But somehow that don't change shit about it."

The Irishman felt a big lump in his throat because he didn't want his friend to feel like that. He knew what it felt like, how painful it really was. A gunshot or bite was nothing compared to that kind of pain. And sadly enough he also knew that no one could really help Daryl help out of there, that no one could really help him feel better. Not even him, no matter how much he wanted to. This was something his friend needed to come to terms with on his own, because otherwise the pain wouldn't go away, he would just bury it underneath a shitton of false promises and feel-better bullshit talk.

"I'm so fuckin angry" Daryl said and hit his pillow once and that very hard while kicking his blanket away at the same time.

"And I ain't even angry at that Governor freak. 'm so angry at Merle. At everything. I thought stabbing his face over and over again would make it go away, but it don't. It's still there. I'm so fuckin angry I could slaughter this entire town for his death and it still wouldn't be enough."

Connor gritted his teeth and shook his head.

"Stop that shit."

Daryl ignored him and kept talking.

"Whenever I fuckin needed him that bastard left me t'rot. He was more than ten years older than me and it was me who had t'watch his drug-crazed ass all the time. He was such a fucking moron and bastard, always getting himself into trouble and now he got himself killed and left me in this shitty world all alone that. fuckin. bastard" he went on and hit the mattress with his flat palm this time, as if he was trying to punch his dead brother.

Connor eventually had enough from all the punching so he moved closer to his friend and grabbed his arm to stop him.
Just like the many times before Daryl started struggling and tried to fight him off.

"Just stop that shit. Letting yer grief dominate you won't make anything better, alright? You gotta let go, man" Connor demanded.

"I ain't grieving his death" Daryl growled and managed to fight his friend's hand.

He shifted closer to the edge of the bed and moved his head until he was in a comfortable position.

"I ain't. He don't deserve it" he said, but it was obvious that he did grieve his death and that Merle did deserve it.

Connor just lay there, his upper body resting on his cocked arm and kept looking at his friend. He had enough then and stopped fighting the urge, so he just moved closer to Daryl and put an arm around him to comfort him. He knew it was silly. He knew it wasn't "masculine" enough or whatever people had said when he had been like that with Murphy back then. When someone had seen them touch and hug and pat each other all the time. He had always been a physical person with people that mattered to him, and despite all the violence in his life and despite the fact that he enjoyed murdering other people he actually enjoyed being tender as well.

Back on the farm this sort of thing had really helped him, and he wanted it to help Daryl as well now.
He endured all the struggling, complaining and fighting until his friend finally relaxed and let him comfort him.

"Everything is so fucked ,man" Daryl growled after a while and threw one of the smaller pillows away. "And that town here ain't gonna change shit about it. Now we got a five star waiting room at the end of the world. Sooner or later all these fucks out there gonna bite the dust as well. Their big walls don't even matter. It's gonna be another herd of walkers, or another bunch of psychos with grenade launchers who wanna take what we have and kill everyone."

Connor was quite surprised to hear his friend talk like that. The hunter had always been optimistic, had always been looking for something. Whether it had been Sophia or Merle, whether it had been him looking forward to Judith's birth or him trying to find Carol again. There had always been something he had looked forward to, and even if he'd had doubts then he had never voiced them like that. But something had been stolen from him, the foundation of his optimism and longing, because Merle was gone, his secret rock, the one person that had truly kept him upright and safe with his sheer existence.

The Irishman wrapped his arm even tighter around his friend, to a point where it actually hurt him.

"We can always leave if ye think that's better. Try our luck out there on our own" he suggested, although he really didn't want to leave this place.

After running and living like shit all his life he wasn't surprised that he actually wanted to be safe now. That he wanted to settle down and watch kids grow up, no matter if they weren't his own and never would be. Just like Daryl he was tired of running and fighting, but he wanted to spend the rest of their probably short lives in peace.

"Milton told me about Augusta."

There was silence and Daryl wouldn't fight him or answer for a while. He finally shifted and shrugged.

"I know" he mumbled but then shook his head.

"Guess we can go there sooner or later. But I just need a fuckin break right now. From all that shit."

Connor nodded behind him and shifted a bit.

"Aye. Myself as well."

No more answer would come then, and it looked like Daryl really wanted to sleep now. Connor sighed gently and let everything he had heard sink in. He was glad that his friend really shared his thoughts and problems with him now, because he was pretty sure the hunter would never tell anyone else about that. Not Rick, not Carol. This was far too personal, and now that he had heard it the Irishman wasn't even really sure anymore if he had wanted to hear it himself. It really upset him to see his friend so sad, although he knew that it was just a natural reaction to his brother's death and this war. Daryl was tough but even he had his breaking point, and it would be even harder for them to make him heal because the hunter was also stubborn and loved to shut down completely.

The Irishman had no idea how he was supposed to fix this. All he knew was that he was with his friend now, and he wanted it to stay that way. He wanted to fix everything in fact. He wanted to make Merle's death right, he wanted to make this place secure, he wanted to get to Augusta and find out what was wrong with him, his friend and their blood. Maybe they could even find a cure and make everything better for them, for Daryl. He just looked at the black mess that was his friend's hair. He wanted to be there for him and help him just like Daryl had helped him get over Murphy. And he was determined to pull this through.

The first couple of weeks were hard. There were some more uproars and fights within Woodbury, since hardly any of the old residents wanted Rick and the others to take over. New shifts and positions really needed to be assigned but there were two very distinct groups which caused problems every single day. Rick kept insisting that they should base this town on some sort of democracy. There were town meetings, there were votes and discussions, and the whole structure was hard to built up, but it was manageable and the rivalry eventually stopped when the people noticed that they were being included rather than being trapped. Some still left until there was a total number of 64 residents in the town of Woodbury, including the former prison group. 64 people that were given jobs, houses and tasks to keep it running.

Daryl was still healing and although he insisted that he was fine he was not allowed to join the scouting troops that left the town regularly to find supplies and weapons. Connor was asked to join the group but declined because he didn't want to leave Daryl alone, and people were actually surprised when he signed up for some work with the children instead. There was a small church within the walls and no one really was a priest, but Hershel offered to do mass from now on, and Connor volunteered for that as well. He was quite surprised himself, because within the first weeks of the repopulation of Woodbury his talents and personality were actually really blossoming. He had never thought that he was capable of the whole settling down and doing calmer things, but he actually really enjoyed not having to kill someone or something for a whole week. He taught kids maths and languages every morning and showed them how to shoot guns after mass.

He and Daryl didn't really see each other much anymore during the first 6 hours of the day and he really didn't like that. They still shared an apartment and even a bed sometimes, but that was about it. Connor felt guilty because of that but really wanted to help Rick and the others rebuilt this town, and it wasn't like Daryl really let him help anyway. That first night in Woodbury had been the only time where the hunter had opened up his heart. Now he was just cold and quiet all the time, sometimes even angry and even more introverted.

The hunter wasn't allowed to do anything but keep watch and rest, since his bullet wound was still healing. Despite the grieving process he actually looked quiet good, though. Just like all the others he was no longer dirty as hell (because Connor forced him to take showers regularly, mother hen that he was) and the wound was healing nicely. The Irishman was doing quite good as well. Now that he was back to civilization and "city" life he got back to his usual 'take care of yourself and look good' routine. His wounds were healing as well, and he was even prouder of the fact that after months of being underweight because of his depression he was actually gaining weight again.

Not only because Woodbury had better food (and no more fucking squirrels), but also because the town had a small gym where not only he trained every day, Daryl actually did the same. And that despite Connor's pleas to stop that shit because of the injury. The hunter only backfired at him and told him he wasn't doing anything else with his broken hand and fucked up shoulder, so Connor let him be.

Something seemed to be driving Daryl, like he was trying to reach something, achieve something. Now that he couldn't hunt or get out of Woodbury he wouldn't stop working out, like his arms weren't muscular enough already. He and Connor barely spoke anymore although they still spent most of the day together, and it was after almost three weeks of being here when the Irishman could no longer take that current state of their friendship.

They were sitting on one of the walls and kept watch in the afternoon sun, although Connor didn't even want to call it "watch" anymore, he called it "working on their tan". Life in Woodbury really could be boring sometimes, especially when you didn't work for the scouting troops, when walkers did no longer attack you and didn't pass by anyway. The walkers were another story. They still didn't attack neither him nor Daryl, and although Milton had been working on their blood samples for weeks now they still didn't know why the hell this was happening. Or more like not happening.

They were sitting on top of the wall and watched one lonely walker down the road when Connor finally had enough and broke the silence.

"How are ye doing?" he muttered and turned his head to look at his friend, who was sitting there, crossbow in his hands and cleaning it.

"Fine" came the short answer, tight muscles working and moving underneath sun-burned skin.

"Milty still don't know shit about te blood" Connor answered and turned his head again to watch the walker stumble around, and for a second he thought about daring Daryl that he could shoot the undead in the head from here with the crossbow. But he didn't say something like that, because he wanted the conversation to be about the blood, and their lack of knowledge regarding that.

"Yeah, told yah that freak don't know nothing about nothing" Daryl muttered and spit on his red rag so he could use it to polish his crossbow even more.

Connor searched the pockets of his shorts for cigarettes and then grabbed two to light them. He took a deep drag on both of them, leaned his head back and blew some smoke out with a loving groan, and once again he noticed how Daryl was watching him. He finally handed the other cigarette over and shifted.

"Got me thinking. How's te wound doin?" he went on and Daryl shrugged.

"Fine" he said once more, which made Connor roll his eyes. He stretched his back and pointed at the abandoned dirty street in front of them.

"Well I just thought, since you'n me are doing pretty fine now and I'm startin ta get bored as fuck, might as well head fer Augusta. Been talking about it fer weeks now" he suggested and Daryl turned his head to look at him.

"Yeah of course, people don't even let me go on scouting trips, and people are watching each others' every step even when they're taking a shit, but they're just gonna let us go to a fucking city like Augusta. Dream on, leprechaun" the hunter answered and resumed the cleaning process.

Connor grinned.

"Well.." he said and took another drag on his cigarette.

"Who says they gotta know?" he went on and kept smirking to himself while blewing out the smoke.

"You'n me we could happen ta fall down these walls during our night shift. By accident, of course. And our feet could keep moving. By accident. I mean it's not our fault our blood makes us head fer Augusta, is it? Could be a weird immunity reaction."

Daryl turned his head and checked if there was someone close by.

"And I would I do that" he said then and avoided direct eye contact with his friend, since he was now considering the possibility. For weeks he wanted nothing more than to get out of here for a while, to get back to the woods, to get back to hunting, fighting and surviving. Although he wanted to stay alive and safe and sound as well he couldn't help but hate their new life at Woodbury, because he hated domesticity and towns in general. He was no use in here, and he felt terribly out of place.

He wasn't himself anymore. He was Daryl Dixon, the hunter. He was used to being dirty and gutting animals and tracking and killing walkers, not all the town hall meetings and cool drinks and lemonade and kids and old people talk bullshit while wearing clean clothes, having showers and even watching the same three dvds on their only tv. So yeah, he didn't even need an answer to that, but he didn't want to make it too easy for Connor, because he still wanted to be on his own and wanted people to keep their distance after everything that had happened to him.

"Cos you wanna know what's wrong with us. And cos yer exactly like me. No matter how much I really love this life here, how pretty and nice it is, even I gotta admit that I'm addicted to the old shit. Once you start killing and getting your hands dirty, you just can't stop doing it and thinking about it anymore."

Daryl turned his head and just stared at his friend. Connor smirked and took another loving drag on his cigarette.

"Blood and killing's just like nicotine in that regard. It's nasty, it kills ye, it's dangerous and ugly, but you can't stop."

Daryl tried to get back to cleaning his crossbow again, but now he really couldn't stop thinking about it either. Connor had a point. He could feel it itching in his fingers. Both men looked at the street for a while and watched the walker stumble away from them, almost like he was trying to lure them out, make them go after him.

"Well, that wall's pretty thin" he said and looked down. Connor did the same and wouldn't stop smirking.

"Don't surprise me that people fall off that thing. Make their feet do weird things" he mumbled, and after a moment of staring at each other Connor ended up chuckling.

"Tricky thing. Walls" he agreed and nodded.

They didn't speak after that but didn't need to. They knew the pact was sealed, that the idea was set. They were going to escape this town for a while. Their next destination was set. They were going to leave and look for answers, and they wouldn't return until they found what they were looking for. Whether the others wanted them to or not.

Augusta was waiting.