The drive was silent; words needn't be spoken as everyone's minds filled with apprehension and fear of what was to come next. Eleanor had peered back through the window as they left the farm, the slowly burning barn in the distance while her heart ached for the group, questioning who had made and if she would ever see them again.
A tear rolled down her cheek as she thought of Daryl, a million scenarios flicking through her mind none of which provided any comfort. She felt a warm hand rest on top of her own, her eyes closing briefly before turning back in her seat to Carl who had worry in his eyes, "It'll be fine" He whispered but even as he spoke she could hear the uncertainty in his voice, the slight shine to his eyes as he held back tears and she had pulled him close, trying to gain her strength as they continued their journey through the night.
It didn't feel like long before the sun rose, their surroundings becoming clear as abandoned cars littered the highway and Rick slowly pulled to a stop, them sluggishly leaving the car while they scanned the area.
"Where's mom?" Carl asked, Eleanor a few steps behind him, seeing a car with a variety of canned foods and water bottles on the bonnet, a smeared message on the windscreen that she instantly knew that this was where they lost Sofia.
She could filled her eyes begin to fill with tears again, the frustration of them fading in with the grief. Where is he? She questioned as she turned her eyes back to the road, a few stray tears escaping her eyes which she quickly wiped away. She knew that if anymore could make it through this it was Daryl but she couldn't rid her mind of the doubts, the spilt second mistakes that may have cost him his life, the worry that he may not come to the highway, that she'd never see him again and that her last words to him would be a lie.
"I have to go back…" She whispered as she came to face Rick, meeting his concerned expression feeling her pulse escalate as panic set in.
"No, we're not splitting up" He replied sternly.
"What about Lori? D- Daryl?" Eleanor begged, feeling her voice shake as she spoke, her heart tightening in her chest as she fought back the tears.
"They'll be here" He said calmly, avoiding her eyes as the doubt met him.
"You don't know that Rick…" She whimpered and Rick's eyes met hers for the first time, "I have to go back" He shook his head, the guilt present in him as he tried to reassure her of things he didn't know.
"Eleanor…" He hushed, bringing his hands to her shoulders but she stepped away as she began to cry, "No you don't understand I have to, I told him I would. I – I can't just stay here -" She wept the fear of the unknown becoming too much for her, feeling completely helpless, what if he was dead? "I need him…"
"Listen to me he'll come here, they all will" Rick stressed as he gripped firmly onto Eleanor's shoulders, coming to meet her eyes sternly, "You have to stop worrying"
"…I can't" She whispered, Rick expression turning to that of sadness before concern as he peered behind them, hearing the deep rumble of engines in the distance.
Eleanor stepped passed Rick, her eyes frantically searching the highway before they settled on cars coming towards them a familiar motorbike leading and she let out a whimper, feeling her knees weaken and she brought her hands to her face, wiping away the tears as she questioned if what she was seeing was real.
He had circled around the farm before he drove back to the barn where she and Jimmy had gone, feeling the heat from the inferno and his eyes settled on the RV, frowning in concern. He had told them to go there thinking that maybe Rick had lit the barn on fire but there was no one in sight, Daryl ready to drive closer in pursuit of her when he heard a scream, instantly starting up his motorbike feeling himself begin to panic as he drove off in its direction, hoping and praying that she was ok, the anger and guilt filling him as he told himself that he should have never let her go without him.
Daryl desperately searched the area where the scream came from, hard to distinguish what may be the living from the dead, it not being until he reached the fence that he could see Carol staggering towards him.
"Where's Eleanor?!" He spat with urgency, feeling his heart tighten in his chest, "Where is she!?"
"I don't know!" Carol wailed as she scrambled onto the back of Daryl's bike, "Go! Just go!" She screamed, hitting his back hysterically as the walkers neared them and Daryl started up his motorcycle looking back over the farm one last time before he drove away.
Daryl quickened on his motorcycle as he spotted the place where they lost Sophia, his eyes urgently scanning in search for her, his stomach swirling with fear. He didn't know what he was expecting, the whole journey back to the motorway he was battling with his mind trying to keep himself distracted but failing as those dreaded scenarios ran through him and the guilt cut deeper.
However, his mind finally silenced as he neared seeing Rick, Hershel and then finally her. Eleanor stood timidly, her eyes wide with concern before they finally met, Daryl instantly seeing the relief fill them and she took a few steps forward, the heaviness his chest once felt releasing. He quickly came to a stop, Carol clambering off the motorcycle but his eyes never left hers, watching as she came closer to him, her eyes beginning to tear as her lip trembled.
Eleanor watched as Daryl climbed off his motorcycle, his face strict as he strode closer to her, his eyes staring straight through her and a moment of concern flicked through her mind before he finally met her. Daryl pulled her roughly into his arms, the desperation in him clear as he ignored the presence of the group around them, holding onto her tight and she wrapped her arms around him unable to hold back her tears as they clung onto each other.
He pulled away, his hands coming to cup her face as his eyes scanned frantically over her and the small cuts that littered her face but Eleanor only smiled, a chuckle of pure disbelief and happiness to see him stood right here in front of her leaving her lips making his eyes snap back to her, a smile appearing on his own face before he pulled her back to him.
"Where'd you find everyone?" Rick asked as he pulled them back into reality.
"Saw this guy's taillight zigzagging all over the road," Daryl said nodding over to Glenn, Eleanor clutching tightly onto Daryl's jacket as she turned to face the rest of the group, his arm holding her close for once not caring that the group could see how much they cared for each other, "Figure he had to be Asian driving like that."
"Good one" Glenn laughed and Eleanor's eyes wandered around the group, the absence of some members being all too obvious.
"Where's the rest of us?" Daryl asked, noticing it as well.
"We're the only ones who made it so far" Rick replied, an unsure expression on his face and he turned towards the group.
"Shane?" Lori questioned with concern but Rick only shook his head blankly in return. Eleanor looked to the ground shocked by the response, they hadn't always gotten along her and Shane but she couldn't hide the hurt she felt knowing that he was gone, just like that.
"Andrea?" Glenn asked in unease.
"She saved me and then we lost her" Carol answered weakly, "We saw her go down" T-dog added, the pain the group felt emerging as the numbers of those lost began to rise.
"Patricia?" Hershel questioned and Beth hung her head, "They got her too" She whimpered, her voice shaky as she began to cry, "…What about Jimmy did you see him?"
"The RV, it got overrun… I just about got out of there" Eleanor hushed and she could feel Daryl's grip on her become tighter as her mind relived those last few minutes in the RV, how close she had been to having the same fate, "Beth I'm so sorry" She added and Beth nodded faintly before she burrowed closer into her father while she cried.
The next few minutes were spent deciding what would happen next, some firm in wanting to return to the farm to try and find Andrea as the question of if she had been bitten remained unknown. However, Rick wouldn't allow it, not after the amount of time they spent looking for Sophia to only find her dead and they were never going to make that mistake again.
Therefore, the final decisions were made, the group taking to their vehicles preparing for the unknown journey ahead, the details not quite distinguished but moving on seemed liked the best course of action.
"I'm sorry" Daryl muttered from beside her and Eleanor moved to face him, her eyes filled with concern while his expressed guilt, "Why?" She asked softly and she brought her hands gently to his arms as she looked up at him.
"I didn't think yer would make it," He said quietly, his eyes scanning all over her face before they settled back to her eyes, "I should of"
Eleanor smiled softly, "I didn't think I would either… but I just had to do it" she replied and she slowly ran her hands down his arms, stopping as she reached his hands where she took them in her own.
"Yer a lot stronger than ya think" He hushed, gently squeezing her hands, her smile widening before it seemed to fall altogether.
"I was worried that something happened to you… that the last thing I said to you would have been a lie" Eleanor whispered, the sadness present in her voice and Daryl slowly wrapped his arms around her, pulling her close.
"Next time ya won't have to come back" He said and she peered up to him in a moment of confusion before he continued, "Cos I ain't ever leaving yer side" He smirked and she let out a quiet chuckle, burying her face back into his chest, his heart beating soundly in her ear.
"I guess I'm stuck with you now huh?" Eleanor joked and Daryl brought his hands to gently cup her face, the devilish smirk still present as his thumb softly caressed her jawline.
"Yup" He said simply, "Forever" Eleanor's smile widened and he slowly brought her lips to his where he kissed her delicately, savouring every moment he had with the women he loved, the women he was going to spend the rest of his life with.
When the sound of car engines began to rumble they took to Daryl's motorcycle, Eleanor following as she climbed on behind him, wrapping her arms tight around his waist, leaning her cheek against his back and she closed her eyes for a moment while he started up the engine, feeling the comforting warmth that radiated from him and his familiar scent as a tired smile appeared on her lips.
And as the group took to the highway there was no time to dwell over their losses and the past, all that mattered now was each other and what was to come. It scared her, diving back into the unknown but as she held tight onto Daryl she knew that as long as they were together that everything would be ok, that as long as the group stuck together in the end they would make it.
Well there you go guys, this story is done!
I hope the ending was satisfactory; it could have been a lot of worse. I'll tell you guys that I had actually planned on having Eleanor being bitten and making Daryl be the one who had to put her down before she turned but I couldn't do it, aha so I went for the easy option but I wanted a happy ending! Hope it wasn't too cheesy.
Anyways, I really want to thank all of you for the support! Altogether we reached 111 follows which is just awesome! Thank you to everyone who left a review, hearing feedback is really nice not to mention reassuring.
If any of you have any questions don't hesitate to PM me, I'll always answer.
I know some may be wondering about a sequel and I really can't give a definitive answer because writing is so time consuming and I have a lot of university work however, I will ask that if I was to do one in the future would you guys want me to set in during the winter or skip the winter and march forward to the prison?
Thank you again and I really hope you enjoyed reading as much as I did writing it. (Also for those of you who like it when people include songs to go with their stories check out Flyleaf- Great Love, I'm in love with this song right now and I think it fits quite well.)