1. iIn a dead man's tent./i

They sleep in the hanged man's tent. At least Andrea sleeps. Daryl lies awake and wonders why he's out here in the woods with her. It'd be easier and faster searching for Sophia on his own. Andrea's emotional, fragile, and pale. Not at all fit to be searching zombie-infested woods in the middle of the night.

In the light of the flashlight, as she looked up at the hanging zombie, Andrea reminds him of a picture of Ophelia from one of his mama's art books. Or maybe she just reminds him of his mama.

He stares at the roof of the tent waiting for the light to creep back into the woods. He tries not to think about Andrea or his mama or that little girl lost in the woods. He tries not to think about anything.

The light is barely coming into the tent when he goes to wake Andrea. She looks more like Sleeping Beauty now. Peaceful and serene.

He leans over her a little so he can shake her awake and he suddenly can't breathe for how pretty she is.

Daryl's always known she's pretty and hot, Merle wasted little time pointing it out, but this is the first time ihe's/i found her pretty. He thinks about kissing her. Just like in the fairy tales, the fair princess woken by the handsome prince. He leans a little closer…

Then he's pushing himself away from her. He's no handsome prince, and she'd probably hit him.
The movement wakes her and she blinks open pale green eyes.

"Daryl?" she says sounding disoriented but not like she was going to shatter to pieces.

"C'mon, time to get going," he tells her.

Andrea might nod, but he doesn't know. He doesn't look at her for the rest of the day.

2. iAt target practice/i

After Andrea almost blows his head off, Daryl decides he's going to give her lessons with that gun of hers. If only to keep the Andrea that's willing to pick up a gun and fight from disappearing, leaving behind the pale shadow that followed him into the woods that one night. He likes this current Andrea better.

This Andrea smiles, gives him books, and faces things instead of hiding away. There's a new set to her shoulders that he likes.

She just keeps getting prettier to him. Even now with her hair in a sloppy ponytail and dirt on her jeans.

"Shouldn't you be resting?" Andrea asks him as she follows him.

Daryl shrugs. "Been hurt worse," he tells her. "Stop worrying about me."

Andrea snorts. "Fat chance of that. You're not Wolverine, you're allowed to take a bit of healing time."

His mouth feels dry, but he manages a chuckle. "Don't worry, City Girl, you'll be doing most of the work. 'Sides, I'm more badass than Wolverine."

"No one's more badass than Wolverine," Andrea protests with a laugh of her own. "Not even John McClane."

Daryl grins. "Now that's a fight I'd pay to see," he says, looking at her out of the corner of his eye.

Her smile is broad and the bridge of her nose is slightly burned.

There are still some cans and bottles set up on the fence and Daryl gestures to them. "Knock one off," he orders her.

Andrea frowns slightly. "Should we be wasting ammo like this?"

"Few bullets in exchange for you hitting your mark is a fair trade I'd say," Daryl drawls and raises his eyebrows.

His lips twitch as she sighs and takes up a firing position. It's terrible. Her feet are all wrong and as small as her hands are her grip should be different.

"This ain't CSI," he complains. "That might look good but…here."

Daryl gets into her personal space, shoving at her feet with his own to get her footing right. He puts his hands over hers and corrects her grip, showing her how to hold the gun in a way that will work best for her. It might not look pretty, but he'd rather her be alive.

Andrea huffs, but otherwise puts up with his manhandling.

"Now try," he says, dropping his hands. "Breathe in, then fire on the exhale. It'll get more natural in time."

She nods, just a little, then aims and fires.

The can falls off the fence.

Andrea grins.

"Again," he orders her.

She frowns, but takes aim at a old bottle this time. She hits it.

"How's that, Teach?" she asks turning her head to look at him.

Her mouth is mere inches from his. Daryl's still pressed up against her, close enough he can feel her breath.

"You did good," Daryl says, sounding as rough as he feels. "But don't get cocky. You need to keep up practicing. Gettin' cocky is what gets folks killed."

Andrea wets her lips with her pretty pink tongue and he's not even sure if she's teasing him. He needs to step away. He needs to get away from her.

Because, Jesus, he's hard in his pants for her and there's no way she's not going to notice. She'll get pissed, maybe smack him and…

She leans back a little more against his chest. Her pale green eyes flicking from his mouth to his eyes then back.

Daryl lets out a shaky breath and thinks ifuck it/i. He starts leans in to kiss her.

iDidn't know you liked seconds, baby bro/i, Merle laughs in his head.

Daryl's brain unbidden calls up the image of Andrea getting out of Shane's car the day before. The way she moved. And all he can remember his the way his mama would walk after his father would drag her into the bedroom and lock the door.

He stumbles back from her. "You and Shane," he says, like the words have been kicked out of him.

Andrea looks at him in confusion. "Daryl?"

"I don't need pity or other men's rejects," he sneers at her.

There's no satisfaction watching her pretty face go from confusion, to hurt, to anger. He turns and stalks away before she speaks.

Merle laughs at him in his head the whole way back to his tent.

3. iIn her tent/i

Daryl's not sure what brings him to her tent.

iShit./i He knows what. It's her.

Her warm smiles. The way she laughs with him, not at or about him. The curve of her hip. The way she looks holding a gun with the sun in her hair. Brave and fierce, and making him want.
Daryl takes another drink from the bottle of bootleg he's holding. Merle always kept a few bottles stashed in the saddlebags of his bike. He normally hates this stuff, it makes him feel numb.

Right now he wants numb. He's done.

Daryl Dixon is done. With this group. With this icaring/i bullshit.

Caring didn't do poor little Sophia one fucking lick of good.

Yeah, he knows why he's outside Andrea's tent.

iFuck her and get it out of your system, baby bro/i, Merle whispers in his head.

"Daryl?" Andrea's voice is soft, questioning. He sees her outline through the tent, a dark shadow.

"Yeah, it's me," he answers her.

Andrea unzips her tent door and steps out. "Something wrong?" she asks. She's holding her gun and he can't help, but be pleased at that.

In the light of the moon she looks like some woodland nymph set to lure men to their deaths. Her hair is loose and wild, her legs and feet bare, her skin pale.

"Nothin'," Daryl says roughly. He takes another drag off the bottle. It doesn't make the burn of want any less. "Just —"

The words fail in his throat.

Andrea looks at him. Just looks.

Then she takes the bottle from his hand. She takes a drink from it herself and he's impressed that she doesn't even cough. Sitting the bottle down by the tent, she takes his hand.

Daryl's surprised at himself when he doesn't even flinch. Her slim fingers are wrapped around his rough ones, that one point of contact starting a fire in his gut. Andrea wets her lips and tugs him into her tent.

She zips the tent closed behind him and Daryl shudders full body. He's not sure if he feels trapped by the tent or her.

Andrea puts his hand on her hip, only the thin cotton separating him from her skin. "This what you want?" she asks.

He can feels the fine tremble that runs through her as he tightens his fingers. "You willin'?" he asks.

Even with Merle whispering in his head and the booze running through his blood, he's not…he's not his father. He never wants to make Andrea cry like his mama did. He never wants that pale ghost from the woods to be who Andrea is again.

"Yes." Andrea flushes slightly as she takes his other hand and presses it between her legs. Her panties are damp under his fingers. "I was thinking about you," she confesses.

Daryl groans low in his throat and his fingers twitch against her. She gasps softly, going up on her toes. He licks his lips and moves his fingers against her again. Andrea bites her bottom lip as her hips jerk.

"Daryl," she gasps.

"Hush," he tells her, moving his hand to grip her other hip.

He pulls her against him, biting back a groan at how she feels pressed against his body. His dick is aching for her. And while he's never fucked a girl before, he knows how it's done.

Merle is thankfully quiet.

Andrea raises her head like she's looking for a kiss. Daryl tangles a hand in her hair instead and bites at her neck, drawing a startled moan from her. "Get undressed," he tells her.

She laughs. "I'm more undressed than you, Dixon." She cups him through his pants then moves her fingers to the buttons of his shirt.

Daryl stops her with his own hands. He raises her fingers to his lips and nips at them. "Could fuck you just like this," he tells her roughly. The words pulled from remembered boasts from Merle. "Tug your panties aside, unzip, and take you."

Andrea's lips part in a soft gasp. And, yeah, fuck there's something hot about that idea. Just - something in his chest twists at treating her like that. He steps back from her and bends to take off his boots.

He hears her breathe out shakily, but he doesn't look up. He strips quickly, even shucking his shirt after a seconds hesitation. It's dark and he can keep her from touching his chest and back. When he looks up, Andrea's all bare pale skin against the dark sleeping bag.

She tosses him a small foiled wrapped square and bites her bottom lip. "How do you want to -" she gestures between their bodies.

Daryl's staring at her mouth and has to drag his eyes away so he'll stop thinking what she'd taste like. He's not going to kiss her.

"I don't — I don't care," he says, voice sounding strained.

Andrea licks her lips, before leaning back against the sleeping bag and spreading her legs for him. Daryl moans at the sight, his hands shaking as he rolls on the condom.

When he pressed up against her, it feels like she'll burn him alive. Her breasts rub against his scarred skin. Daryl slides into her, one hand gripping her hip. She's hot and tight, and fuck he's not sure how long he'll last.

It's nothing like his hand around his dick.

Andrea moans something that sounds like his name when he bottoms out. Daryl bites his lip against the answering one that threatens to spill from his throat. He rests his forehead against her shoulder trying to pull himself together.

She takes matters into her own hands when she pushes up against him, her inner muscles clenching.

"Fuck," he hisses against her skin.

"Move," she pants.

So, he does.

He fucks in and out of her. He's rough, maybe too rough, he's got no fucking clue. He looks at her face, her eyes, just to make sure he's not hurting her. Her lips are parted slightly and he just —

He just — he just —

This can't mean something. It can't.

Daryl bites her shoulder, hard. Andrea cries out sharply, but doesn't protest.

Her fingers are in his hair, on his back.

Almost too gentle.

He bites her shoulder again. It feels like he's going to shake apart at the seams. It's nothing like jerking off.

Daryl presses his hand between them and touches her. Presses and rubs, until she's gasping and moaning, until she's shaking under him like she's the one being taken apart.

When Andrea's back arches and her body tightens around him, he's not ready for it. She might call out him name as she comes but he's choking off his own cry in her skin. His vision goes white and it's good, it's so fucking good.

He lays on her trying to get his breath back, listening to the thundering of her heart. Andrea's fingers are gentle in his hair. He lifts his head and she smiles at him.

Daryl cups the back of her head briefly. His mouth hovers just above hers. Her eyes watch him, wide and searching.

He pulls away.

"Thanks," he says gruffly, not looking at her as he pulls his clothes on.

"Yeah," Andrea says. "No problem."

Her voice is so neutral, that he almost looks at her. But he doesn't. He leaves her tent, leaves her.

Daryl picks up the bottle outside the tent and goes to relieve Shane from watch early.

4. iAgainst the barn/i

Daryl wonders, as he takes the gun from Rick, if the ex-sheriff knows he's not doing this for anyone but her.

Andrea clutching Dale's hand. Andrea with her face wet with tears.

"Sorry brother," Daryl says softly to Dale, keeping his eyes on the older man.

Daryl doesn't look at Andrea as he pulls the trigger. He doesn't look at her after either.

He helps the others move Dale's body and nods in agreement when Rick says they'll bury him in the morning. He can't bring himself to even look Rick in the eye when the man pats his shoulder.

"Thank you," Rick says.

But Daryl doesn't know if he deserves thanking. He did what needed to be done for Dale. It doesn't make him less of a killer. It doesn't make the gazes of the others that he refuses to meet say 'murderer' any less.

Daryl retreats to his tent and tries to lay down to get some sleep. He has a feeling he'll need it. His eyes barely close before he's sitting upright gripped by a sudden fear.

No, not a sudden one. An old one. One he's buried since the night in the woods, since the CDC.
Andrea just lost someone she cared about and she's alone with a gun in her possession.

Daryl doesn't run, but he curses himself for moving his tent further out.

Merle is strangely quiet in his head. Like he was in those days after Daryl came home to find their mama…

He spots Andrea first, her hair golden in the firelight. Daryl almost staggers with relief he wants to pretend he doesn't need to feel. Andrea's still there.

Then he recognizes who's sitting with her. Who's got his hand cupped all possessively on Andrea's shoulder.


The rage that floods him is so sudden and violent that Daryl is momentarily blinded by it. He wants to tear Shane's hands off her. He wants to punch Shane until he can breathe again. He wants to scream at Andrea for letting Shane touch her again.

Merle laughs in his head. iSee? You can't trust cunts like her. She had her fun slumming an' now she's run back to the clean cut law-man. Ain't no one but me gonna be there for you, bro, /iMerle taunts. i'Sides, not like you gave sugar tits any reason to think you weren't done with her./i

Daryl watches as Shane leans closer to Andrea, saying something to her. The man's smile even from this distance looks like a pale copy of the ones Daryl had seen Shane give Lori what feels like years ago.

He turns away furious with Andrea, with Shane, and with himself for ever giving a shit about any of these people. He tries to even out his breathing as he walks back to his tent. Tries for that Zen he can never get unless he's hunting.

Daryl's fists are still clenched when he gets into his tent. He punches his pillow a few times, imagining its Shane's face. When he lies down he drapes his arm over his eyes and tries to fall asleep.

A voice that sounds a lot like Dale's asks if it was smart to leave Andrea alone with Shane.
Daryl tells the voice to shut up and wills himself asleep.

The next morning they bury Dale.

Daryl avoids meeting anyone eyes. He helps dig the hole along with Rick. He tries to ignore the soft looks Carol gives him. He tries to keep his eyes on the ground and his head down.

He can't stop himself from noticing the dark bruises on Andrea's wrist in the shape of fingers. Or how she stands next to Daryl himself, instead of Shane. The back of Andrea's hand brushes his, as if by accident, when she steps forward to say a few words about Dale.

Daryl realizes he's going to miss the older man.

After, when everyone else starts to move away, Andrea's slim fingers catch his wrist.

"Daryl," she says softly. He feels pinned under the soft wet look in her eyes, but he shakes her off anyways.

"Got things to do," he tells her gruffly turning away. He walks towards the barn hoping that'll keep her from following.

He should have know better. Andrea keeps pace with him, but she holds her peace until they round the side of the barn.

"Daryl, what you did for Dale - " she starts.

But he can't let her finish. "Save it," he snaps. He means to stop there, he does, but the words just come out. "I didn't do it for Dale."

Daryl freezes.

"I know," she admit and it feels like a blow. She reaches out to him and he sees her wrist again. He flinches away from her hand.

"Daryl?" she asks. "You want to tell me what's going on?"

"You wanna let me know what you were doing with Shane last night?" he growls back.

Andrea raises an eyebrow and puts her hands on her hips. "He wanted me to go with him when he leaves. I told him to go to hell," she says crisply.

Daryl grabs at her bruised wrist and holds it up between them. "How'd this happen then?" he demands. As soon as the words are out he's even more pissed off, because he's not sure he rightly wants to know. Because he might have to kill Shane.

She raises her chin. "He wanted a repeat of the car. I said no. He tried to press the point. I told him I didn't peg him for being a rapist and he backed off," she tells him evenly. "That's all that happened."

"That's it?" Daryl snaps. He's shaking and he wants away from her. There's a reason he prefers the forest to people. There's a reason he doesn't get involved with people. He doesn't want to feel this much. He doesn't even know where to start with what she does to him.

"I'm not your girl, Daryl," Andrea points out, something like hurt in her voice.

Something brittle inside him snaps. He grabs her shoulders and shoves her against the barn, pinning her there.

Andrea lets out a soft 'omphf' and looks up at him with wide, but unafraid eyes.

He pushes his body up against hers, holding her in place with his weight. His fingers curl into her hair and tilt her head back. He'll kiss her until her mouth is red and slick under his. He'll kiss her until everything burns away and he can think.

Her lips part like she's inviting him in. Like she wants what he's thinking.

Like maybe he's got her as messed up as she's got him.

Daryl jerks away from her. "Stay away from Shane," he says his voice rough. "He's not himself these days."

He turns on his heel and stalks towards the barn door.

"Daryl," Andrea calls out to him. "Daryl, stop."

But he doesn't listen.

He hits Randall until the boy confesses everything. Until the sound of his fist hitting flesh drowns out her voice in his head.

5. iIn the Yard/i
Daryl's fists ache. His knuckles look raw and it reminds him of his old man's hands. It's information he doesn't know what to do with. He flexes his hands like he can shake off the pain and the memory.

He hears Carl's footsteps in the grass and glances up at the boy.

"Did it hurt to punch the guy?" Carl asks edging closer, like he doesn't know if he'll be snapped at.

Carl's both braver and more wary than he was when Shane, Lori, and the kid joined the group.

Daryl's not sure if any of that is a good thing and wonders what kind of nonsense Shane's been filling the boy's head with.

"Been hurt worse. You too, little man." Daryl says with a shrug. He wonders if Lori knows Carl's out here talking to him. He doubts she'd like it much.

Carl kicks the dirt. "I don't really remember it," he says.

It's an obvious lie, but Daryl lets slide.

"Can you teach me how to shoot that?" Carl asks. He points at the crossbow by Daryl's leg.

Daryl sees Andrea crossing the yard towards them. He's not sure what she wants or if he even wants to deal with her. Andrea always makes him want and feel things he has no business with.

He looks back at Carl and judges the kids arm. "Your arm ain't long enough, yet."

Carl puts on a stubborn frown, and Daryl can see Rick pretty clearly in the kid. "Yeah it is," Carl protests.

Daryl snorts and shakes his head. "Stick to guns. Crossbow takes a lota skill and strength. Maybe when you're bigger," Daryl tells him. He thinks he'd be a lousy teacher anyways and he's not risking Rick's good will by teaching his boy about weapons without his say so. "Where's your old man? Why don't you pester him?"

Carl grumbles something and kicks the dirt again.

"Carl? Your mom was looking for you," Andrea tells the boy, coming up behind him. "You'd better get back in the house."

Carl makes a face, but turns and walks in the direction of the house. Daryl figures Lori can't blame him or Andrea if Carl goes looking for his dad instead. He squints up at Andrea, the sun behind her head setting her hair a glow. It makes him think of halos and angels.

"Come to lecture and yell at me?" he asks, flexing his hands again. "Gonna rail at me for beatin' on a kid?"

Andrea shakes her head. She moves forward into his space and sits beside him on the log. "I think you're probably doing that enough by yourself," she says gently.

Daryl turns his head and looks at her. There's nothing like forgiveness in her face, but its not judgment either. He wonders if he left bruises on her skin. "Don't need your pity," he grumbles.

She sighs and grabs one of his hands. "Good because you're not getting it," she tells him firmly.

"What the hell you doing?" he demands as she puts his hand in her lap. He doesn't yank it back though.

"Hold still," Andrea orders him. His fingers twitch against her thighs as she opens a bottle of rubbing alcohol and dampens a cotton ball from a little plastic bag. He wonders how he missed her carrying those.

Daryl hisses as she starts to dab the moist cotton ball against his knuckles. She's gentle, almost tender, but it still stings like a bitch. "Hershel know you took those?" Daryl asks.

"I got them from Maggie," Andrea answers.

He chews on his bottom lip watching her work. When she reaches for his other hand he gives it to her, leaving the first hand still resting against her thigh. She doesn't object.

He tries to ignore that his hands are trembling. His teeth sink into his bottom lip harder in an attempt to keep the feeling threatening to choke him at bay. The last time anyone treated wounds on him with this much care and affection it was his mama.

Merle was always rough and any affection was dampened by cruel humiliating taunts. He doesn't remember Hershel treating his head or side wound, but he figures it was probably rather clinical.

Andrea looks like she's upset he's hurt. Maybe a little angry, but not at him.

Daryl wants to pull her to him and bury his face in her shoulder. He wants to just hold on to her until shit makes sense again. He wants to tell her why he got so violent with Randall, how he couldn't stop picturing her and Amy as the girls and Dale as their father.

She drops the last cotton ball, and gives him a small smile. He expects her to let go of his hand, but she doesn't.

Andrea raises his hand to her lips and kisses his knuckles. "Let someone else get hurt next time," she says softly against his skin. "Please."

Daryl turns his hand in hers and brushes his thumb across her bottom lip. "Can't promise that," his voice sounds as rough as a mile of bad road. He pulls her hand to his chest, which pulls her closer to him.

She tilts her head towards him, and he slides his free hand across the back of her neck. It's like moving through water or molasses.

But for the first time, he's not afraid of what kissing her will mean.

Because it's all already there in his chest and some things need to be named.

Daryl lowers his lips toward hers, and he can feel her breath mix with his.

"Daryl!" Carol's voice breaks through, shattering the moment to pieces.

The world starts moving at full speed again. Both him and Andrea jerk away from each other like guilty kids.

Carol's standing a few feet away staring at them. Her eyes are wide, but her mouth is set in a firm hard line. Daryl watches Andrea's eyes dart from Carol to him.

"Come to my tent tonight," she says softly, soft enough that Carol probably can't hear.

Daryl nods, and manages to unclasp his hand from around her as she stands to leave. Her smiles is warm as she goes, and Daryl decides he's going to kiss her breathless when he sees her in her tent.

He'll kiss Andrea because she's his.

6. iBy the side of the road/i

Daryl's voice doesn't want to work for several long moments after Rick declares they aren't going back for Andrea. He feels Carol's eyes on the back of his head. He swears Glenn is watching him like a bottle rocket about to go off.

"I'm going back for her," Daryl finally says. Because even if this loses him all the respect he's earned piece by bloody piece from Rick, he can't - he can't without Andrea.

Rick shakes his head. "Daryl, we can't risk - "

Everyone is looking now, but Daryl doesn't care. He's not leaving Andrea behind. He'll find the biggest group of zombies and kill as many of them as he can before eating his gun first. He moves forward into Rick's space.

"You'd go back for Lori?" he asks, quietly.

Rick blinks once. Twice. Then slowly nods. "Every damn time," he says, just as quietly.

Daryl nods then. "Then you know why I'm goin' back for my girl."

There's understanding and sympathy dawning in Rick's eyes. Daryl's not sure if he likes either. "We can give you a day. That's it," Rick says.

"But Rick -" Lori starts.

Surprisingly its Carol that cuts her off. "It's not right leaving her behind," she says in a even voice. "We already made Daryl leave his brother, we can't ask this of him too."

Daryl turns and gives her quick smile. Then he's on his bike.

"You want backup?" Glenn calls.

He shakes his head. "Need to keep the seat free for Andrea."

Daryl pushes the bike as fast as it will go, trying to keep his eyes on the road and the woods around him at the same time. Looking for a flash of white yellow. Trying to judge how far she could have run.

Praying she ran. Was still running.

He stops sometimes. He yells her name into the woods and gets nothing by bird calls back. His hope starts to flag. He imagines getting all the way back to the farm and finding what's left of her body.

Or worse, finding her among the walkers.

Bile rises in his throat.

When he does see a flash of yellow in the trees he almost doesn't believe it. He stops so fast he nearly loses control of the bike.

"Andrea!" he all but screams into the woods.

He hears the sound of running, twigs snapping. Then - "Daryl!?"

It's weak, but it's her.

Daryl scrambles off the bike just as she comes into view. He's got his crossbow out, ready to put down any walkers that could be following her. There's one right at her heels that he takes out quickly.

Then she's literally falling into him. Daryl drags her up against him, and scans behind her for more. He drags her towards the road.

"You came back," Andrea rasps. Her bloody hands cling to his shirt and she looks like she's been through hell. He doesn't want to think that she could be bit.

Daryl's not even thinking as he knocks his forehead against hers. They need to get out of here. Andrea needs medical care. But he's not letting another second go by without this.

"Always come back for you, Angel Face," he tells her. He slants his mouth over hers.

It's sloppy, desperate, and rough. Andrea clings to him and kisses back with just as much fervour.

Daryl promises himself that he'll give her gentle kisses later. Sweet, lingering kisses later.

But right now, this is what they both need.