I am a huge fan of the Walking Dead. Obviously, right? Or else I wouldn't be writing this. The entire show has a slew of characters I love, one in particular who fascinates me as well as cracks me up. Daryl Dixon. Played by the beautiful Norman Reedus. I am aware that his character has a strange relationship with Carol and he may potentially die this season. I am aware that I may upload chapters that will contradict the way the season is going. Firmly understand that. But this has been sitting in my brain for awhile and I truly want it written just to see what happens. It is unbeta'd, as all my stories are. It is also set after the events of S1. The group has already gone through the highway, grabbing supplies, but they never lose Sophia. Instead, they find shelter further back from the city, in a former camp ground, and are able to rebuild again. The events in the story takes place perhaps a month later. And one final thing. I am aware of how many OC and Daryl stories there are. And how repetitive the storylines and characters can be. I have attempted to separate my character from everything I've read so far as well as make the relationship between herself and Daryl rather unique. Also, I am interpreting Daryl in my own way. This means you'll have access to his thoughts and they may be more personal than what's on the show. But this is FF. It's dessert for us authors who are inspired by characters. So, I guess you'll either like the way I write him or you won't. Otherwise, I'm glad you at least took the time to read this. Enjoy!
Paige never hovered in the same area for more than two days. That was the maximum. That was the #1 rule of survival in this new world. You keep on moving forward, blast some walkers into kingdom come along the way, then continue the journey on. No stopping to remember all you've lost and no crying.
That was key. Crying would force your body to stop, to pause, to cease and lower your guard. Through the tears, one remembers the pain. That was unacceptable.
With an outdated M24 sniper in hand, she submitted each stretch of land she ventured through. Walkers kept their heads for approximately seven seconds before Paige blasted them off. Once, she'd even gotten two walkers with one bullet. Or she thought she did. Might have just been a starvation induced hallucination.
How she had the talent to accurately lodge a bullet from more than 200 hundred yards away, into the head of a walker stumbling dumbly through two thick tree trunks, was just as lost on her. Perhaps her cousin Ronnie's aggressive isolation into the world of Call of Duty hadn't been completely harmful.
Whatever it was, she recognized her ability to kill as something of a gift in these trying times, especially since she'd been very anti-NRA before the current state of the world.
She remembered how it had first felt to pick up the sniper. Like the weapon had buzzed in her hands, understanding how special the bond would come to be between itself and the user. Cold, hot, sizzling, icy - all at the same time. Something happened when her palms, a calloused tan by this point, wrapped around the weapon. Something important.
Why Paige took the sniper when there were hundreds of various weapons to loot, again was one of those fickle mysteries. But ever since she'd swiped it up in the middle of a panicked street dead square in walker-ridden Atlanta, they could not be parted. It was like a friend she'd lost in kindergarten, just to rediscover them ten years later.
It was with her sniper and the disregard for rule #1 that would come to change Paige's life.
Of course it'd be imprudent to claim it hadn't already been changed multiple times. Parents dying in a car crash. Pregnancy scare her junior year of college. Zombie apocalypse. Near end of the human race. Getting her damn period on the very same day.
One gets the jist.
But on one blazing, Georgia afternoon, something occurred that not even Paige, a college whiz and self proclaimed pessimist, could understand the significance of at the time. It happened so quickly she'd barely payed any mind to it. Just a natural reaction to the scene before her.
She'd have never guessed it at the time that her life was going to change because of her actions. She was a wanderer. Rule #1 had to do just as much with logic as it did with her personality. Throughout life, she was pleasant, but distant. Experiences around her taught this to be a safe tactic.
So, it's quite lucky how unaware she remained. Blissfully, in fact, of how life would soon change. For the better, of course. She couldn't afford for it to get any worse.
And thus began Paige's journey into a decaying world where the happiness she thought herself so undeserving of, smacked right into her.
Trouble is...will she notice it in time?
Chapter 1 - Grass Fox
Paige inhaled carefully, ignoring the sheet of sweat threatening to trickle down and disturb her vision. She switched positions to her opposite knee with the sniper - nicknamed Winston - perched in between two rocks before her. The narrow length of the weapon fit perfectly in between the stones, and offered little detection to the person she was observing.
For the past day, she'd maneuvered through the very same grasslands she knelt in currently, undetected save for a few walkers. Her primary goal was to rid a few from the area. Nearby tracks in the plain indicated firm, human footsteps to have wandered through. The trick was killing the undead humans as opposed to the dead.
But more importantly, the area was solitude at its finest. And on the previous day, there certainly were no humans.
Her hand shook as the heat continued to soak into her clammy body. Only the remembrance of having survived worse, calmed her.
The figure she currently observed, was on one knee in the middle of a meadow. Or what once was a meadow a long time ago.
Now, it was unkempt with weeds having invaded the area like a fungi and wild grass running rampant over the once fertile land. No trees were in the near perimeter of the area, but a set of woods lay behind the man as well as ahead.
Paige, in her current position, stayed shaded in the woods ahead of him. When she was sure the man was fully preoccupied, a few more relaxed breaths slipped out.
She didn't hear what the man said, but his lips moved in an irritated manner.
"Of course," she muttered to herself. "Man just put an arrow through a walker. Has to congratulate himself."
And this she found impressive. Paige had heard sound attracted the walkers like a moth to a flame. The person before her understood this just as well, or perhaps simply had a natural talent for the crossbow. Whatever the reason, not only was his aim deadly accurate, but it garnered no extra attention from nearby walkers.
As evident by the clean shot through the left eye socket.
"He was a survivor," she realized softly. "Even before the beginning of the end."
For a brief moment, she considered getting to her feet and escaping before the man could detect her. The last thing she wanted was a confrontation. Or him accidentally discovering her.
But this sort of voyeurism didn't make her feel vulnerable for once. It was like observing nature in its rawest form.
Man kills zombie with arrow. Man is leaning over zombie, tugging arrow out of zombie's eye. One less dead bastard in the world.
The circle of life certainly knew no bounds...and decided to add in an extra step after death.
So, despite getting a move on and making sure her sleeping area was cleared of unfriendly visitors, Paige stayed crouched in her position, watching the man cleaning the arrow with a rag he'd fished out of his belt, right eye glued to the scope.
The man's eyes were focused on the task. Accomplished, perhaps? Or maybe bored?
All along, his lips were still moving. Still having an internal conversation.
A sudden wet invasion of saltiness caused Paige's eye to seal shut and finger to slip away from the trigger.
"Damn it," she mumbled, wiping at her forehead.
The sun beated down in reply, especially cruel this afternoon.
Momentarily wishing she'd had filled more canteens back at the river, Paige let out a tired sigh. Her head pounded at the gesture while her stomach rumbled threateningly. The vibrations no longer caused stomach pangs, however. She was far past the point of starvation.
With another careful breath, Paige rolled back her shoulders before leaning to the scope. One eye shot immediately to the man, still on one knee, still making sure every inch of the arrow was cleared of the diseased blood, still murmuring under his breath.
So into the moment was Paige, she nearly failed to catch the movement stir behind him. The grass was a bit taller now that no one was there to trim it, and from the man's focused position, he remained oblivious to the walker slowly crawling up to his knees.
Containing her initial panic, Paige waited only a split second before focusing her aim on the walker hiding within the grass. The aim she had was just of the walker's shoulder. Everything else was blocked out by the man's solid form.
Fortunately and unfortunately, the walker was far more agile than she realized. He'd lifted himself up in that split second and crouched like a childish boogeyman, ready to pounce on the unsuspecting victim.
Fortunately, his body was in an unobstructed view.
The same tingle broke through her fingers as she steadied the sniper. New life escaped into her lungs and with a final petrified breath, Paige released the bullet.
It only took less than a second for the bullet to enter the walker's jugular, and another for him to stumble back.
The hollow echo vibrated off of every trunk in the vicinity, effectively calling out all walker's within the mile.
By the time the man whipped around, crossbow in hand, the walker was splayed grotesquely on the ground, head just barely attached to the neck, bleeding profusely.
Hurriedly pulling back the sniper from in between the rocks, Paige crouched down behind her fortress, exhaling profusely. The excitement of killing the walker was nothing compared to the elation of having saved someone. If only for an hour or a day or a month, it didn't matter.
He didn't even have time to reflect over his life. That would have been a terrible death.
When a full minute had passed by, Paige clutched Winston tightly to her before deciding to peek up from the stones. Hopefully, the man would realize his luck and jog on back to wherever he was stationed.
She nearly ducked back down when she saw the man peering her way. He stood not even a full 50 yards away, crossbow gripped in hand as he scoured the area he'd thought the shot came from.
Crap...what do I do? If I reveal myself, he might get hostile. Damn it...I knew I should have avoided this area. Just skipped on through the pathway leading to the moistened soil. That's where the water is. Something I desperately need or I'll end up just like that walker.
Her thoughts soon became unnecessary. The man's gaze scanned each section of the outer woods before landing his eyes directly on her crouched form.
Feeling like a deer in the headlights, Paige hesitantly raised a hand. She didn't want to give him any reason for trouble. The reality of killing the man she'd just kept alive, didn't sit well with her.
To her relief, the man slowly raised a hand in reply. There was nothing trusting in the gesture, but he did so nonetheless.
Bringing her hand back to Winston, Paige exhaled before slowly melting back into the woods behind her, leaving the man on his own.
Her torn Reebox knockoffs stomped dutifully upon the ground, leading her body back into the shaded woods. It was only a fraction cooler beneath the leaves, but safer than being out in the open. And certainly much safer than being in the presence of someone who could turn out to be a real monster.
There was a trail her feet followed, just barely detectable to a passerby. She'd discovered it by accident at first, and silently saved a picture of it in her mind. This was her only way of determining what sort of climate and region she would encounter.
Winston was aimed ahead, unnerved at the silence. If any walkers heard the resonating blast, they'd be limping on their way over. And the last thing Paige wanted to be was caught off guard. While less walkers roamed through the woods rather than say a place like Atlanta, their complete surprise remained a constant danger.
So, she continued trekking through the woods, eyes scanning even the slightest bristle of leaves or branches.
Birds chirped in the near distance, and she was sure a few squirrels had decided to reveal themselves and see if lingering danger was present.
That is so strange. How everything else continues on no matter what sort of peril humans face. We've certainly given nature its fair share of destruction. Deforestation. Wildfires. Poaching. Hunting. In the end, we're the ones at the mercy of nature.
She nearly lost her footing as the toe of her sneaker lodged itself underneath a log.
"Fucking Wal-Mart. Cheap shoes for cheap brands," she mumbled, steadying herself as she lifted her foot out.
"Ain't that the truth."
Stilling, Paige's heart nearly lept out of her mouth as she whirled around.
In between two trunks stood the very same man she'd observed minutes ago, crossbow pointed down. His body leaned forward a bit, most likely a bit spent from the journey of catching up to her.
For a second, they just stared, taking the other in.
Paige hadn't been in contact, much less proximity with humans for a good month, probably more. Seeing the man reluctantly forced her eyes to drink him in hungrily.
Scraggly, blonde-brown hair was pasted to his head while his bangs hung wearily over the crown of his forehead. Whiskery facial features and untrusting, blue eyes, studied her. He wore loose jeans with blood stains soaked within and a cutoff t-shirt, showing off his glistening biceps.
When all he did was continue to stare, Paige risked a step backward. Now, things were getting a bit too comfortable.
"Wait jus' a second," he motioned roughly, throwing up a hand. "No need to scatter off when ya probably attracted some o' them walkers."
"I can handle them myself," she assured, neither bossily nor uncertainly.
Squinting, the man risked a step forward.
"Nice shot, by the way."
And back Paige traveled. She made a careful point not to aim Winston at him. Their détente was going well so far.
"You live out here?" he questioned, scanning the area quickly. "Not safe in the woods. Lots o' them walkers are shiftin' out here since the cities are runnin' outta food."
"Thank you," she repeated "but, I'm planning on moving on. Sorry for the inconvenience."
And with that, she dropped her head, continuing the path she'd been intent on going. Step by step, eyes back to scanning the area.
The man, however, continued to trail her.
"Can't believe I didn't see that walker behind me," he remarked after a minute of silent walking.
"They're a bit cleverer than we give them credit for," she acknowledged. "And spry."
More silence followed, broken only by the sound of their shoes snapping branches beneath them.
"Do ya hunt for food with yer weapon?"
Glancing down, Paige shook her head.
"Just for the walkers."
Paige physically restrained her tummy from answering.
"Just ate," she lied.
"Not an idiot. You look malnourished."
"Thank you for the observation."
"Damn it, woman, stop thankin' me!"
His comment was said with a grunt, as if he wasn't thanked all that often and suddenly didn't enjoy the prospect of it. This brought an amused grin to her face.
In the background, the afternoon sun began descending from the center of the sky. She reckoned based on its position, it'd be six o clock shortly.
"You're still following me?" she called back, a bit more at ease with the man.
She didn't know why. By all means, he could be a murderous looter.
Then again, she had saved his life. He must have felt some form of gratitude if he chased all the way after her.
"Free woods," he defended.
She nodded, leg swinging over a fallen tree trunk, hiding her smile.
They were far from the grasslands now and deep into the heart of the woods. The atmosphere was certainly thicker, but wouldn't be for long. Once night moved in, everything was the same temperature.
Paige's instincts urged her to stray toward her sleeping area, but logic kept her going the opposite way. She needed to throw her pursuer off, no matter how cooperative he was acting.
"Let me try this. Is there a reason you're following me?" she tested.
The man didn't answer for a long time. Such a long time that Paige actually paused in her tracks to look back at him, the sky having darkened considerably around them.
"You saved my life," he slowly revealed, shifting uncomfortably in his steps. "Tha's never happened before."
"Oh," she nodded. "Well...you're welcome."
"I ain't tellin' you I'm grateful."
"Then...you're not welcome."
"Tha's not what I meant."
Leaning on one leg, Paige tilted her head.
"You've been following me for the past thirty minutes. I'm kind of clueless as to what you do and don't mean."
He suddenly seemed anxious. Not in an obvious way, but his eyes didn't meet her face and a thumb shot up to his mouth, teeth nibbling on the thin nail there.
"Wha's yer name?" he asked after his anxiety faded.
Paige didn't answer.
"Not even a name? Sheesh. Afraid I'll tell one o' the walkers?" he laughed.
Smiling lightly, Paige continued her scanning of the man. She noted his nervousness still bubbled inside, but was confused what exactly it was doing there.
"Why'd you do it?" he finally demanded. "Take the shot. Coulda easily ran off. Shot coulda easily missed."
Surprised, Paige found the ground. Her toes stretched through the cheap material of the sneakers, seemingly begging for a good romp within the dark, cool soil.
"Instinct," she admitted, understanding this question to be the reason he'd followed her in the first place. "I saw trouble, you were going to die, and I took the shot. Didn't mean anything by it or for you to suddenly feel like you owe me something. You don't. It's an apocalypse. I'd like to think there are still a few decent people in the world that'd help someone in need."
Unconvinced, the man took a step closer to her. Paige didn't back up, but she was becoming tired of the conversation.
"I'm a wanderer," she elaborated, hoping to keep the man at bay. "I go from place to place. Try to scout out for danger. Not selfish enough as to only care about my life. I've saved persons such as you, but definitely with much less of a fuss."
"You disappear 'fore they see ya," he noted accusingly.
"Is that such a bad thing? I'm not trying to get involved or make it seem like this will be the start of a beautiful friendship. Just looking out for myself, and occasionally, others."
The man switched his crossbow to the other hand, eyes glued on to her. Paige was expecting him to begin the debate once more.
He surprised her, however.
"I'm a part of a group of survivors. We're based 'bout two miles northwest from 'ere. If you need food or water, I can show you the way back."
Sighing, Paige gave herself no time to think about it.
"I'll manage out here fine. Thank you."
The man's eyes stayed focused on her as she began backing up. She felt like he'd stay in the same spot forever, just watching her.
"How many you killed with yer snipe?" he finally asked, sensing her need to sprint.
Curiously, Paige's eyes fell over Winston. Not a single blood stain littered the mahogany handle coating, but that didn't mean he hadn't done his fair share of defending.
"Never missed a target as of yet," she ended up replying proudly, throwing him a smile. "Forty-one headless walkers are mighty pissed at me right now."
With that, she gave him a final nod before slipping back into the dense trees, failing to see the shock her words had branched over the man's features.
"I thought the walkers finally got you," Glenn shouted, alerting the camp to his presence.
Daryl only muttered, brushing off the man. The crossbow was still at his side, ready to unleash. The near attack had heightened his defense instincts to an almost unnatural level.
"You okay?" Rick called from his seat around the fire as the hunter stalked by.
For a moment, Daryl ceased in his footsteps.
"There's some girl in the woods," he blurted, unsure why the information was even being released.
Everyone around the camp stopped with their work.
"In the woods?" Rick clarified, standing. "Walker?"
"No," he grumbled back. "If it were a walker, I sure as hell wouldn't be talkin' bout them. It's...some girl who's accurate with a sniper. Caught a walker in the throat, nearly blasted his head off from 50 yards away."
He purposely bit down on his tongue before telling them she'd saved his life.
"Alright," Rick announced, processing the information. "Everyone, be careful when you go out. If there's no doubt in your mind that it's a walker, shoot it. But if you think otherwise, keep back the shot."
Daryl fought the urge to roll his eyes. Of course the point of his words were to not shoot the fuckin' girl.
"Did you talk to her?" Dale asked.
Feeling everyone's gazes on him, Daryl kept his fingers down from his mouth.
"Offered her food, but she said no. Don't know her name-."
He thought over how steady of an aim she'd have had to shoot the bastard without getting himself in the process. More accurate shooter than Merle...and that was sayin' somethin'.
"-Grass Fox," he muttered. "Like a damn Grass Fox."
"Well...everyone keep a look out for this...Grass Fox," Rick informed slowly, catching Daryl's eye at the last words.
The hunter shrugged off the sheriff's curiosity and instead, swept through the camp until he was safely inside his tent. With a long stretch, he threw his crossbow down and swiftly slung off his shirt.
It felt heavy with liquid, and a salty odor made its way into his nostrils. If he could admit it, most of the sweat had been after the walker was shot behind him.
"Didn't even know the damned thing was there," he muttered, leaning back on his sleeping bag. The muscles in his back stretched in protest before setting in their usual taut manner. As if at any moment, he was ready to strike.
But, he was denyin' his fault as well. Of not payin' attention when on any other day, just one little motion from a walker so close to him, would have earned the bastard an arrow through the eye.
What was different this time?
Oh, Daryl knew. Hated that he knew too.
He had been lost in thought. Something he thought only pussies did. Accordin' to Merle, at least. Not that he thought Rick was a pussy, and he knew the man thought more of the camp's safety than his own.
Still, he had let his guard down for a few minutes, first time since stompin' back to his tent after learnin' that the group had left Merle chained to the roof of a buildin' back in Atlanta.
And wouldn't you know it, just like before, his brother had been who he'd been thinkin' 'bout. Where he was. If he was still kickin' ass, even with his disability. If he was even alive. And then the thought that had dictated most of his time.
Realizin' that for once, Daryl was relieved to not have Merle in the near vicinity.
'Course this was such a fucked up thought, 'specially considerin' his brother was the only other person he had now.
So, with a few angry remarks at himself for bein' such a dumbass, Daryl rearranged his thoughts and completely blocked out anythin' that wasn't determined to find his brother again.
A second later and the air exploded with a loud BANG as a bullet whizzed behind him, inches away from branding itself into his own neck.
Which then set his current thoughts to the girl.
He didn't have a problem admitting, only to himself of course, that she'd saved his life. He may've been able to fight the bastard off, but it'd have gotten a good tear out of him beforehand.
Still, he felt uneasy with the emotions stirrin' inside him after the event. Nobody did somethin' for nothin'.
'Cept people like Rick, maybe.
Point was, there's always strings attached to people's actions. Probably the first lesson he learned as a kid.
She'd had to have been watchin' him for a steady period of time to have seen the walker. Really coulda left him there to die, but didn't. Took the shot, scampered off like a hare with its' ass on fire, and wanted nothin' in return.
Daryl was in the business of knowin' things didn't come for free. But this girl, hell, might be a woman, wasn't even able to tell, flipped over a primary lesson he'd been taught in infancy. And did so while the world was in fuckin' chaos. A time where people would be most willin' to take advantage of others hospitality.
Although the Grass Fox had refused to eat - he wasn't lyin' about her being malnourished – or come to the camp, he felt this reluctant sense of owing his life to her, seep in. And the only way he really knew the feelin' would disappear completely was if he returned the same favor.
All of this was processed within seconds and an unhappy frown soon fell over his lips. The decision was rash and unlike him.
Then again, he wasn't lyin'. No one had ever saved his ass before.
Probably long gone by now. Sure was in a hurry to get away from me.
And this action confused him as well. Who would want to be alone during hell on earth? He knew he'd traveled better with the group, even if he couldn't bring himself to say that. If someone covered his back, he had a better chance of survivin'.
But the Grass Fox wanted nothin' to do with him or his promise of a place to eat.
Might've not believed me.
Daryl grumbled again, flipping over on to his stomach, willin' the thoughts to stop botherin' him.
The balmy Georgia air was slowly making its' presence known and pretty soon, Daryl's entire body felt like a furnace.
He didn't feel much like eatin' after seein' the woman's thin form. Not sickly thin, but headin' there shortly.
Unfortunately, he couldn't rest either. For some reason, the event out in the plains kept on shuffling through his mind like a NASCAR race.
I coulda died today.
He hadn't even processed that til' now. If not for someone's eye on him, he'd have been a flesh eatin' fucker in no time. And that woulda been a hell of a way to go with all the shit he'd been through.
Daryl continued to stare up at the ceiling of his tent. When sleep came to him three hours later, the Grass Fox was no further from his mind than it had been when he first saw her.
An encounter and a nickname! Also, since Daryl's been around the group for awhile, opening himself up a bit to Rick and the others, I would think he wouldn't be so scared to go after Paige. Plus, while Daryl loves his brother fiercely, I can't help but think that not missing his presence would be a reluctant thought every now and again. Which is one of the things that fascinates me so much - how different Daryl really is from Merle. Let me know your thoughts in a review!