Lizzie edged closer to Daryl, their arms brushing against one another for a second. She hoped her slight movement conveyed her thoughts, her feelings, enough for him to understand.
It ain't about you an' me no more, it's about us… I gotcha back.
She felt the pressure between them as he leaned into her ever so slightly, letting her know that he understood and he felt the same way.
See, you can communicate without words while keepin' your clothes on! She thought, biting the inside of her mouth so she didn't smile- this was not a time to be smiling and she knew it.
"Do something." Carol ordered, fear and anger pushing the words out as she turned to Rick.
"I am doing something," Rick snapped, his cool fading rapidly, "I'm keeping this group together, alive," it sounded like he'd been wanting to say this for a very long time, "I've been doing that all along, no matter what."
"That's what the leader does, right?" Lizzie ventured, trying for encouraging, wanting him to know that they were still on his side (I think we're still on his side… Are we on his side?) but unintentionally only angering Rick more.
"I didn't ask for this!" He spat, fixing a look of borderline hatred on them all, one after the other, hammering his point home fast enough to make Lizzie's stomach churn slightly, "I killed my best friend for you people for Christ's sake!"
So there it was. The awful truth he'd been hiding. She had always believed that opening up, expressing your feelings and getting things off your chest was a good thing, a way to help you deal with them and move forwards… But she could already see that this confession had done untold damage to his family.
She looked down at Carl and Lori, watching the woman grip her son tighter, stroking his hair and kissing the back of his head as he stared coldly at his father.
The rest of them looked on in surprise. Rick wasn't a killer; he was the good cop, the one they followed without question… Things were, undoubtedly, going to change.
Rick sensed their hesitation, their worry, but he didn't stop and reassure them- he carried on, trying to justify his actions- the same actions that he had once condemned.
"You saw what he was like, how he pushed me, how he compromised us, how he threatened us," his attention fell on Lizzie as she touched Lori's shoulder, trying to offer her some sort of comfort, "he staged the whole Randall thing, tried to put a bullet in my back, he gave me no choice."
Lizzie's mind drifted back to her confrontation with Randall where he'd as good as confessed all his sins to her. He was guilty in her eyes; he deserved what he'd got… But had she known that Shane had done it solely to lure Rick away from the group and kill him, would she have still found some comfort in his death?
"He was my friend but he came after me." Rick continued, ignoring Lori as she embraced Carl, trying to silence his sobs.
"Stop," Lizzie said quietly, not meeting Rick's challenging gaze, "you're upsetting him, he doesn't need to hear that his dad's…"
"My hands are clean." Rick argued, trying to ignore their faces telling him otherwise. As he looked around them he realized that no one would meet his eye, telling him without words exactly how they felt.
"Maybe you people are better off without me so go ahead," he motioned behind him to the darkness beyond their fire, "I say there's a place for us but maybe that's just another pipe dream, maybe I'm fooling myself again, why don't you go and find out yourselves? Send me a postcard!"
Daryl looked over at Lizzie, watching as she raised her head, jaw clenched in determination as she made to take a step forwards. He reached out and caught hold of her wrist, drawing her attention and shaking his head- he wasn't going to let her run again. She frowned at him, shaking her head as she opened her mouth to speak but he silenced her- he slid his hand down her wrist, wrapping his fingers around hers as he held her hand, steadying her, reassuring her as best he could.
"Go on, there's the door, you can do better… Let's see how far you get," whatever madness Rick had been feeling since Shane's murder was suddenly erupting from him, his words cutting the group- not his group, not anymore- like knives as he lashed out at them, "no takers? Fine. But get one thing straight- if you're staying, this isn't a democracy anymore."
"Ricktatorship." Lizzie mumbled, feeling Daryl squeeze her hand tightly in warning.
Nobody spoke. They didn't know what to say. He had made it quite clear that if they weren't with him, they were to do without him, without anything and they weren't ready, not after what had just happened to them. They stood united in silence… But Rick knew it wasn't because they agreed with him… It was because they were suddenly afraid of him.
He looked around them one last time, saving his hardest stare for his wife, before he turned and stalked off into the night.
Once he had left, the spell was broken and they began to shuffle their feet, looking around at each other, all silently asking the same question- have we made the right choice?
Lizzie couldn't sleep. She hadn't been assigned a watch duty- her inexperience with firearms had seen to that although Daryl had argued that it was more because of the fact that she deserved a rest.
"So I get put in the same pen as the kids an' Lori?" She'd snapped.
"'cept the kids an' Lori know how to shoot." Daryl had responded.
"So then I'm a burden like Carol?" She'd asked, not waiting for an answer as she'd stalked away, flopping down against one of the walls.
She hadn't moved since, watching as the others had tried to settle down. Lori was spooning Carl, holding him tightly against her- it had taken him a long time to fall asleep and he had continued to cry a little while after his eyes had finally closed. Hershel and Glenn were slumped against the opposite wall, sitting next to each other, Beth resting her head on her father's lap as Maggie did the same with her lover. They looked like a pair of bookends, they looked like a family and Lizzie wished she had a camera.
Carol had stayed close to the fire, sat next to Daryl. He'd kept looking up through the flames at Lizzie but she turned her gaze away every time, not ready to speak to him yet- it wasn't that she was angry, it was more that she was embarrassed for snapping at him but she wasn't quite ready to apologize.
Daryl had taken the watch after T's two hours was up. She watched him hoist himself atop the wall, crossbow raised as he scanned their surroundings, before he began to pace back and forth, stopping every few laps to look around.
She pulled the vile green hoodie around herself a little more, the cold beginning to get to her, and drew her legs up, resting her head on her knees as she let out a sigh.
"You asleep?" Daryl's voice said.
She jolted awake, lifting her head quickly to see him crouching in front of her.
"Ain't you supposed to be watchin' out for…?" She began, her voice thick with sleep.
"I'm all done, Rick took over," she looked over his shoulder to where Rick- when had he even got back? She hadn't noticed- had taken over his post, "I didn't mean to wake you."
"I wasn't asleep," she shrugged, feeling stiff and groggy; "I was jus' restin' my eyes."
"Y'ain't a burden," Daryl said suddenly, looking at the ground, "an' if y'are then you're still my burden so…"
"So you can put up with my childishness an' my recklessness an' my downright stupidness?" She asked, watching as he smiled slightly before he nodded, "I'm sorry."
"You hadda rough day." He shrugged.
"We all hadda rough day, y'ain't gotta make excuses for me, I jus' wanted to do my part an' I guess I reacted badly," she admitted, rubbing her eyes, "it's been one of those nights, everyone's a lil' high-strung an' I ain't no exception."
"Rick sure knows how to make a speech, huh?" Daryl said quietly, careful not to disturb any of the others from their fitful sleep.
"He's losin' it," she whispered, her face full of fear, "I've seen it before, the anger, the madness…"
"Then we go," he said firmly, reaching for her hands and holding them tightly, trying not to over-balance, "if you ain't happy, I ain't happy."
"We can't leave them," she shook her head, "I can't do it to them," she looked at him sadly, "leavin' is what I do, I left my family, I left my friends… I did it all without even thinkin' what they must've felt," her thoughts drifted back to that night at the bar, when the outbreak had first hit, the way her colleagues, her friends, had screamed for her, begging her to stay, "then when I saw 'em drivin' off at the farm, leavin' me behind…"
"They didn't mean to do that…" Daryl said, trying to comfort her.
"That ain't the point," she shook her head, "point is… I finally knew how it felt. I can't put it into words but it was like someone doin' one of those tablecloth tricks, where they yank it off the table an' everythin' stays standin'… 'Cept I didn't stay standin', I jus' fell an' fuckin' broke an' it was the worst feelin'… One of the worst feelin's I ever felt," she looked up at him, tears glistening in her eyes, "I can't do that to anyone else, not anymore."
He nodded, watching as she sniffed and wiped at her eyes, trying to stop the tears before they fell. Shuffling around, he rested his back against the wall, settling down next to her and sliding his arm over her shoulders, pulling her against him.
"That mean I'm gonna be stuck with you?" He asked, smirking a little as she wriggled against him, making herself comfortable, resting her head on his chest.
"Looks like it," she replied quietly, smiling, "think you can cope?"
"Dunno about that," he shrugged, kissing her head gently, "I was kinda hopin' to ditch you on the road somewhere."
"If only it were that easy, huh?" She sighed, chuckling to herself a little.
"I think you might kinda grow on me." He nodded, pulling her closer.
"More'n I have already?" She asked, trying her best to look up at him from her resting place.
"More'n you have already." He repeated, looking down at her, watching as she smiled in satisfaction.
They sat quietly for a few moments, relishing the fact that they were together again- even though they had only spent one night apart, it had felt like days longer for both of them. Daryl cleared his throat and broke their silence.
"Y'know you mean the world to me, right? An' that as long as I'm livin', I'm livin' for you?" He asked suddenly, taking her by surprise.
"As long as this ol' thing keeps beatin'," she replied, running her hand over his body and letting it rest over his heart, "you're mine an' I'm yours."
"You're the closest thing I got to family now," he admitted, "that pretty much makes you an honorary Dixon."
"Daryl Dixon," she said, eyes wide as she pushed herself up to look him in the eye, "are you proposin' to me?"
"Jesus woman, I only known you two Goddamn minutes!" he hissed, panicking.
"Well good," she said, a hint of disappointment in her voice as she settled herself back down next to him, "I ain't too good at acceptin' proposals."
The silence dragged between them again and it was Lizzie's turn to sigh.
"Daryl, look…" She began, rolling her eyes.
"Don't worry yourself about it," he said honestly, "that's in the past an' we gotta whole future to look forwards to."
"If we last that long." She snorted.
"If we last another year then fuck it, I might well damn propose." He grinned, surprised at how (almost) comfortable he felt with the idea.
"I might jus' accept those terms." She agreed.
"Hush your mouth an' get some sleep," he said, moving away from her slightly so he could look at her, "don't want you thinkin' about it too much in case you go gettin' ideas."
"Wouldn't dream of it," she shrugged, kissing him gently before she smiled, "although Mrs. Lizzie Dixon has a nice ring to it!"
He bit down on her lip, silencing her, and she pulled away with a frown.
"Don't start these games," she warned, "I ain't too sure I fancy sneakin' off in the dark to…"
"Don't," he said sharply, cutting her off, watching as she grinned, "it's gonna be a busy day tomorrow an' we should both get some sleep."
"We could always get up early an' go… Scoutin'?" She suggested, a mischievous glint in her eye.
"I like your thinkin'." He grinned.
They both looked at each other for a few seconds, wondering what it was they'd done in their lives to deserve such happiness, before risking on last, chaste kiss as they readied themselves to settle down to sleep.
You gotta good one here, Lizzie thought to herself as she curled her legs up underneath her and rested her head on Daryl's shoulder, feeling him kiss her hair one last time before he rested his head against hers, don't you go doin' nothin' stupid to ruin this beautiful thing.
With that thought, she closed her eyes, smiling to herself as she let the weariness begin to creep in. She knew it wouldn't be long until she drifted off to sleep and she spent her last waking minutes trying to dream up big, bright future scenarios for her friends, Daryl and herself.
Life might've had a funny way of bitin' me in the ass but it's sure worked out well, she thought, her body beginning to relax as sleep took her, an' it's only gonna get better from here…
... If only she'd known how wrong she was…
Well hey there everyone, I just wanted to take this time to say a big THANK YOU to everyone who has read, reviewed, followed or favourited this story- an extra big one goes out to everyone who did all of the above!
I appreciate all the feedback and all the inspiration I've found from you and your stories and comments and a special thanks goes out to H. Chris .H , BellaBloodrayne, Mashella Snape, MAR76, writergrrrl and scoobydoo0811 for all your continued support.
Wanna find out what's going to happen to Lizzie and Daryl? Watch this space ;)