AN: Sorry for the delay again... I got sidetracked with a couple of other fics—a Daryl/Karen one-shot and a short, pre-ZA, multi-chap with Daryl and an OFC. Check out Drawn to the Rhythm (Daryl/Karen) and Champagne Room (Daryl/OFC on D's birthday), if you're looking for a shift away from the supernatural.
I've decided to expand this fic out a bit based on an idea I had for a potential sequel. Therefore, this will be a tiny bit longer than I had originally mentioned—probably 5 more chaps. I'd love to hear from you, so type something in that little box at the bottom of the page and hit "Post Review", if you have a second.
Disclaimer: All copyright and trademarked items mentioned herein belong to their respective owners. The remaining content is mine.
From chapter 10:
"You and me got the potential to tear each other apart," he says.
Faith knows what he means, because she can still remember wanting to hit him as hard as she could, to hurt him earlier that day, but Daryl doesn't just mean physically.
"I don't want that," she says, bare and honest. In that moment, she realizes she can make a choice; they both can.
He shakes his head, telling her he feels the same way. After a few beats, he slowly pushes a hand into the back of her hair, and asks, "Ya trust me?" There's sincere curiosity in his voice and his face, because he's just as unused to being trusted as she is, and wonders himself if he can and should be.
She nods in affirmation then pushes him to his back and spins to straddle his hips, running her hands over his ruined skin. He watches her and grips her wrist then pulls her down to kiss her. They take a few seconds to meld together before pulling away again.
"Ya blow my fuckin' mind, girl," he says.
Her grin is satisfied, and maybe a little smug. "Back atcha, baby."
The next few days are filled with training, then packing, then shifting vehicles and devising a driving schedule. Faith and Vi are both entirely focused on keeping the group together and safe, while getting to Minnesota as quickly as possible. Rick fully supports the plans they make and promises to keep the lines of communication open amongst the group.
Faith evenly divides the teams, each with ample manpower and strength: Daryl leads the caravan on his Triumph; Glenn, Oscar, and Axel are right behind him; Rick, Vi, Carol, Carl, and Judith are in the second car; and Faith and the Greenes bring up the rear. Even without the need to observe traffic laws, she spreads the thousand-mile trip over two days.
They drive for eight hours, stopping a couple of times for bathroom breaks and driver shifts. They come across several walkers on that first half of the trip, but not en masse, and they easily handle each encounter. Just past nightfall, they're through St. Louis and decide to stop and camp for the night.
"We'll head into the woods to look for shelter," Faith tells Rick. "The map shows a ranger station about two miles that way." She motions east of the road. "But I don't wanna take any chances hauling the whole group down these back roads. Vi and D and me, we'll scope it out first."
All Slayer Recovery team members are given the magic of a supernatural protection spell to use while they're in the field—all they had to do before they left Georgia was recite an easy chant. While it doesn't protect them from the biological anomaly of walkers, it covers up to three miles distance between the people under its initial cast, so Faith decides that Rick's group will be safe for the short time it will take to locate the ranger station.
Since Rick's an expert in walkers, Faith doesn't waste a lot of time telling him what he already knows about locking the car doors and keeping everyone quiet until one of them comes back for them. She turns and heads across the road to where Daryl is digging around in the hatchback of the Hyundai.
"Ready, princess?" Faith asks, getting a raised brow at the pet name from both Glenn and Maggie. Daryl simply nods in answer, like he's totally fine with the slight. He slams the hatchback shut and slings his crossbow over his shoulder, his gaze sliding over Faith's smooth curves, devouring her from head to toe.
"We gonna stand here'n chat, or we gonna find a place t'sleep for the night?" Faith smirks in response, as he towers over her, fighting his own smirk. Glenn and Maggie seem confused and slightly uncomfortable with her and Daryl's obvious and aggressive flirtation.
"Vi," Faith calls. "Let's move." Vi jogs over to meet Faith and Daryl, then the three of them say their goodbyes and head into the woods, fast and quiet.
Faith and Vi keep a slow enough pace to not explode Daryl's heart rate, but he's fast and has incredible stamina for a human, so they make it to their destination in just about 15-minutes. Faith is relieved, when she spots the larger than expected ranger station in the distance. It almost looks like a farmhouse.
Then she senses something else unexpected.
"Fuck." She stops dead in her tracks about 20 yards from the building. She instinctively blocks Daryl's path and diverts their progression. Her mind races to try and come up with a plan of action for what they've just stumbled upon as she shoots Vi a look. Her senses stretch to estimate just what they're up against in terms of numbers.
"What?" Daryl asks, breathing heavy, craning his neck, trying to see what he's obviously somehow missed. "Looks like we hit the jackpot wi'this place; wha's the hold up?"
He takes a step to the side and a quick scent of the air surrounding them, detecting a strong animal-like odor. He can't quite put his finger on exactly what animal it is, but he starts to strategize his kill because it'd be nice to eat somethin' other than crackers'n beans tonight.
Then Vi places a firm hand to his shoulder, pushing him back behind the tree. "Vamp nest," she whispers tersely.
"Fuck," Faith repeats, closing her eyes, her thoughts spinning. She'd dismissed the possibility of running across a pack of vampires, thinking most had more than likely disbanded, or were battling each other in an effort to increase their potential for fresh blood.
"What the fuck're they doing in a pack?" she wonders aloud, desperate to eliminate them immediately, but knowing the second she or Vi engage, the protection spell will be broken and need to be reactivated.
Vi shakes her head, her eyes searching the area surrounding them. "I don't know, but I'll bet they're hungry." Her worried gaze meets Daryl's, but he doesn't seem as concerned as he is ready for battle.
Faith catches Vi's eye. "Got a stake?" she asks, slinging her crossbow over her shoulder and reaching into the back of her pants where she's secured the stake that Wes brought her when he busted her out of the pen.
Vi nods in answer, reaching for her own weapon. Daryl's senses start pinging from the girls taking action. He's seen both of them fight, hunt, train, and kill; but now he's about to see what a vampire slayer is meant to do. The legend is unfolding right in front of him.
Faith takes a deep breath, bracing herself for some resistance from him. She turns a smirk on him in order to lighten her mood. "Got any wood in there." She nods toward his pack.
Daryl rolls his eyes at her thinly veiled double entendre, then pulls out the wooden bolts he carved and packed just in case. "Way ahead ya," he says.
Faith takes a step closer, inspecting and admiring his handiwork. "Aim for the heart, not the head," she says quietly, watching him load the wooden bolt. "You're not in Kansas anymore, D."
Daryl nods, slowly meeting her gaze. "Missourah," he mutters, his skin tingling from the intense shift in her and Vi's behavior and the most massive rush of adrenaline he's ever had.
He knows Faith isn't going to let him go in there with her and Vi; he can tell from the way they're both blocking his path to the building. He knows it's futile to argue with Faith when she's as set on anything as she is on this. He shrugs and shifts to get a clear view of the door, assessing his options and listening for movement from inside. Then he looks back into Faith's dark honey eyes—desperation and ferocity overshadowing her soft, lush features.
"Bitch, quit talkin'," he says, shifting again, hefting his weapon and realigning his position. "Get in there'n do your job."
She smiles, watching him physically and mentally struggle with being overruled by a couple of little girls, and relief washes over her that he isn't resisting. She didn't even have to try and convince him.
Daryl's eyes dart to that deeply creasing dimple from her smile. His steel blue and razor-sharp gaze glazes over for a brief second. Then Faith leans in and kisses him quick and hard.
"In and out," she whispers, lingering in his breath's space.
His eyes search hers for a guarantee, and he finds it right where he expected, right where it always is. He nods. "Got your back," he replies, letting her gaze calm him before he turns and readjusts his aim.
Faith and Vi leave him and hop furtively over a downed tree to get to the door to the ranger station. There's a screened-in porch surrounding the front and sides, but the slayers know that the six or eight vamps on the premises are all huddled in the front room, smoking and drinking.
"Hope they saved some for us," Faith quips to Vi, and Vi snorts quietly. They creep onto the porch and stop outside the front door.
Daryl is all eyes and ears in 360-surround, covering the girls' backs. He watches Faith give Vi the signal 3… 2… 1, before Vi kicks the door open and they barrel inside. The next 20-seconds is a flurry of action and sound, then two guys with twisted and disfigured faces stumble out of the building—one from the front porch and one from a side window.
They scurry to their feet, and they're fast, but Daryl has the advantage of surprise. He dusts one of them immediately. By the time he's reloaded and refocused, the second guy is just five feet in front of him. Daryl lets the bolt fly the short distance, and his target explodes, covering him in dust, momentarily disorienting him.
He blinks through the miasmic remains of the demon, muttering to himself, "'S like a fuckin' video game... in 3-D."
He coughs and clears his throat, retrieves the used bolts, then reloads and tentatively advances on the building. He can see and hear the girls moving, shadows mostly, and he hopes the place wasn't so full of those bloodsucking freaks that they're in a tight spot. He quickly scans the woods around them before deciding to head up to the porch.
"D!" Faith calls from inside the building. "You comin'?"
Daryl smiles and takes the first step up to the front door. Then he feels the air shift around him from behind. Before he can act or speak, he's lifted back and off his feet, and there's a sharp, slicing pain in the juncture between his neck and shoulder.
He has no idea what's happening, but his instincts kick in. He knows he needs to break free, and he tries to twist and kick. He can't move, though; he's suspended in the air, wrapped in two arms as strong and unyielding as a set of steel cables. Then he suddenly realizes he can't even call out for help because his breath and voice and blood are being pulled through the throbbing ache in his throat.
He's terrified. He hasn't felt this powerless since he was a child at his father's hands, and the panic overtakes him. In his mind, he's wildly bucking against his attacker, but in reality he's still and silent. His skin is hot and cold at the same time, and his vision is blurred. He thinks he might throw up. He's utterly helpless, useless, dangling two-feet off the ground.
Through a haze of shock, he sees Faith and Vi fly through the door, their stakes poised viscously in their hands. He thinks maybe he can hang on until they get to him, but he can't hear anything or feel anything, and all he can taste and smell is copper and salt.
Faith tackles Daryl and the demon who's tearing into him. They fall to the ground and its teeth are ripped from Daryl's wound. There's blood everywhere—Daryl's blood, spraying her face and chest and hands, as she grapples with the fiend. She violently yanks them apart, pushing Daryl into Vi's arms.
Faith is sobbing and screaming, and praying to fucking God because she will not fucking lose him. She sees Vi wrap her strong hand around Daryl's ruined carotid artery to stop his life from spilling into the dirt. She shrieks so loud and hard she swears there's blood in her own throat, as she rolls the vamp to his back, pins him with one hand, then drives the stake home.
The dust hasn't even settled before Faith is next to Vi and Daryl, running her bloody and muddy hands over his face and neck and chest. "Is he alive?" She's a mess of tears and demands, watching her lover bleed out on the lawn of a Missouri state ranger's station.
Daryl writhes and convulses on the ground under the slayers' hands. His mouth moves open and closed, like he's gasping for air, but he doesn't make a sound. His hands grasp at the air and the dirt and his eyes roll into the back of his head.
Blood seeps through Vi's fingers into Faith's palm, where it lays over the top.
"Faith," Vi says in a calm but urgent voice—the only one that worked when they had to leave Robin dead in the woods. "I need your full focus and strength. Right now. Look at me—take my hand."
Faith doesn't want to take her eyes or hands off Daryl, but she clasps one hand with Vi's and keeps him in her periphery. Vi nods encouragingly then starts to chant. Faith reminds herself to breath and focus and tries not to listen as Daryl's heart slows with every beat, pumping his blood through her and Vi's joined hands.
"Please," she whispers through her tears and tightens her grip on everything, praying and begging.
Vi's voice and cadence speed up and she gets louder. Faith feels their heat and power quickly meld together—shimmering and shining. The wound at Daryl's throat throbs beneath their hands and his body starts to shake. The magic they create grows into a burst of light; then suddenly, everything is dark again.
There's no sound apart from the girls' heavy panting. "Why isn't he breathing?" Faith gasps and frantically listens for a heartbeat.
"He's… frozen. For now," Vi says.
Faith stares down at Daryl's still and silent form as Vi explains that she's simply slowed the pace of everything inside him—that soon his cells will break down entirely. Vi takes Faith's hand and places it flat against the skin exposed by the opening of Daryl's shirt, their fingers resting together over his sharp collarbone.
Faith inhales deeply, feeling the warmth and slight tremor of magic wrapped inside his skin and bones.
"This is only temporary," Vi says, releasing Faith's hand and backing up to stand. "I need to get to the others and recast…"
"I'll do it here," Faith mutters, letting the heat and vibration from Daryl's chest stabilize her, even as each minute of his existence ticks away before her eyes.
"You have to get him to Angel," Vi says, looking down at the bloody portrait at her feet. "Tonight."
Faith nods, then slowly lifts Daryl from the ground and carries him inside the ranger station, as Vi sprints back to the others.
Faith knows she should start securing the doors and windows, but she spends a good five minutes pacing and watching Daryl lay still and silent on a bench along the wall. He's covered in his own blood—his clothes are soaked with it and it's drying. Faith wishes she had some way to clean him up, but what she really wishes is that she had never brought him here.
She finally decides that pacing and staring and wishing are all futile non-actions, so she starts barricading doors and windows until there's only the main entrance open for the others. Then the cars are arriving.
"Oh, my god," Carol sobs when she sees Daryl lifelessly draped on a hard wooden bench.
No one's taking it well. Beth is white as a sheet, and her big sister is barely together enough to console her.
Rick crosses the room to meet Faith, looking down somberly at his half-dead Lieutenant. Then his expression turns curious, and Faith realizes that she's pressing her hand over Daryl's chest again.
Rick meets her eyes. "What's the plan?"
"Vi'll stay with you—in case there're any more vamps," Faith answers, her voice hoarse from screaming and crying—all seeming like another facet to the nightmare they're in. "I need a driver… and someone to keep an eye on D, while..."
Rick nods. "'Course," he says, he shifts closer to her, keeping his voice quiet. "Glenn and Beth?"
Faith nods, then frowns down at her bloody hand on Daryl's bloody chest. "Maggie's gonna love that," she scoffs. "But it makes the most sense."
"I'll tell 'em," Rick replies.
After Rick's announcement, no one wastes any time in helping shift the contents of the vehicles. Faith walks out of the house with a bottle of Jack, takes a swig, then dumps the rest over the pool of Daryl's blood in the dirt. She watches Glenn throw a couple of bags into the back of the pickup with Daryl's bike as she strikes her Zippo on her denim-clad thigh then tosses it to the ground to burn the scent of blood from their overnight shelter.
"Don't be scared, Bethie," Maggie says, knowing that every bit of magic since the slayers joined their group has freaked Beth out; and judging by the look on her face right then, Daryl in a limbo state wasn't exactly reassuring to her.
Beth nods and kisses her father and sister goodbye before slowly climbing into the cab of truck with Daryl. Vi and Rick move to Maggie's and Hershel's sides, as Maggie quietly tries to hold back tears, watching half of her world prepare to drive away.
"Makes sense to take Glenn and Beth," Rick tells her, wrapping his arm around her shoulders. "Faith can't drive like she is right now'n Glenn's the best… Daryl needs someone like Beth with 'im."
Maggie nods and squeezes her eyes shut tight, hot tears spilling over her cheeks. "They'll watch over each other," she says, reassuring herself as much as she's agreeing with Rick before walking to meet Glenn at the driver's side of the truck. She presses her lips to his with a sound kiss goodbye "Be safe," she says, twisting his t-shirt in her hands.
"We will," Glenn promises. "And we'll see you soon." He holds her face in his hands and kisses her again, slow and soft.
When Maggie turns from Glenn's retreating form, Faith is just a few feet behind her. She's carrying two crossbows, and she's still covered in blood; it's on her clothes and hands and face and in her hair. She looks worn to the bone, too, but she's gripping the side of the truck so hard, she impresses a dent with her thumb.
"Thanks," Faith mutters, not really looking Maggie in the eye. "I'll… do my best to keep them safe."
Maggie nods slowly, knowing that the safest place to be is with one of these slayers, but the strongest member of their own group was just gravely wounded under their watch. Maggie doesn't doubt that Faith will do her best, but no one's best is really good enough anymore.
"I know ya will," Maggie replies. "Y'all watch over each other."
Faith finally meets her eyes. She pulls her wooden stake out her of her waistband again and hands it to Maggie. "Vi might need backup," she says with a shrug. "Works for walkers, too."
Maggie tentatively accepts the gift with a sense of awe. She doesn't know anything more than what she's learned in the last week about slayers, but she can almost feel the power in that small, sharpened piece of wood.
"We'll see you in Minneapolis," Faith says, realizing this is the longest conversation she's ever had with Maggie and hoping she really does see her there.
Maggie nimbly twirls the stake in her hand like a drumstick, then nods with a smirk and brushes past Faith just before Faith turns and vaults herself into the back of the pickup.
Then Faith shoots one last glance at Rick and Vi before tapping the roof of the truck to let Glenn know she's ready to go.
End notes: OneLilHopeful is absolutely amazing. Faith standing in the truck bed is dedicated to her.