The sounds of so many feet running his way startled him. He tried to get up but the pain was just to much, he'd never be able to get far. He sunk back down and pressed himself against the trunk of a tree. Hopefully, whom ever it was would pass right by.

Daryl held his breath as the sounds got louder. A young girl, around twelve years old, broke through the bushes. Daryl stared at her defiantly as she took in his blackened eye and cut lip. The sounds of others crashing through the underbrush sent her spinning around and she ran back the way she came.

"Great," Daryl thought to himself, "Now they'll all come." Except they didn't. A few minutes later he heard the sounds of people moving away from him. Daryl wrapped his arms around himself as he felt his eyes begin to droop. He drifted back off to sleep.

Daryl awoke as hands pushed the blanket in around him. "What do ya think you're doin'?" he spat as he scooted away.

It was the same girl from earlier. "Well for starters I'm trying to make sure you don't freeze Daryl Dixon. In case you hadn't noticed you're not exactly dressed for the weather."

Daryl had noticed. He had run out of the house without his jacket last night and he doubted it had even reached forty today. "You know who I am?" he asked warily.

The girl knelt down next to him and opened up her backpack. "Sure. My daddy was real mad when you're father refused to sell him that land." She passed him a sandwich which he gratefully tore into. "Pointed you out one day in town."

"O's yur dad?" Daryl asked around the food.

"Jim Mitchell," she said matter-of-factly.

Daryl spit the food out in surprise. "Your Mayor Mitchell's daughter?" The Mitchells owned all the land surrounding the house Daryl's father had moved them to after his mother died. Daryl faintly remembered his father saying something about Jim Mitchell wanting to buy the place, but that was years ago.

The girl looked down at the half chewed food all over the blanket. She reached in and pulled out another sandwich. "Here, try to eat this one okay?" Her voice was filled with exasperation. "So what happened to your face?"

Daryl shifted uncomfortably. "Nothin', I just took a tumble is all."

She snorted. "My mama would say it looks like you took a tumble right onto someone's fist. Did you lose a fight or something?"

Daryl did what he always did when he was uncomfortable. He lashed out. "Why don't you mind your own fucking business. I don't need your help." He moved to push up from the ground but sank back down as soon as he put any weight on his ankle. He had twisted it last night trying to get away from his father.

She looked at him appraisingly. "Fine, it's your business." She pulled out an apple for herself and bit down. She looked away from him as she continued to eat.

Daryl felt bad for yelling at her. "What's your name anyway?" He picked up the second sandwich and began to eat. Slowly this time.

She smiled at him. "Olivia. I'm a couple of years behind you in school. I'm in seventh, so by the time I get to high school, you'll be a junior."

Daryl polished off the last of the sandwich and took the bottle of water she held out. "What else you got in that thing?" he asked indicating the backpack.

"Oh," Olivia gathered up the sandwich baggies and wrapping up her apple core in them, she stuck the trash into the front pocket. "I forgot. Here." She pulled out a bottle of ibuprofen and one of those chemical ice baggies. The kind that you have to pop to get cold. "You look like you could use it."

Daryl shook out a couple of the pills and tossed them back. "Do always carry this shi... stuff around with you?" Olivia looked at him for a moment and started to laugh. "What?" Daryl asked angrily. He didn't like her laughing at him.

She didn't seem intimidated by him in the least. "Why would I carry all this stuff with me everywhere? I went home and packed it up after I saw you earlier."

Daryl popped the ice bag and bent over to lay it against his ankle. He all but groaned with relief. "Who was with you?" he asked.

Olivia shrugged. "My friends, we were going to cut through to head to Amy's house. You didn't look like you wanted company so I told them that I saw a Copperhead. They all turned around real quick."

Daryl started to chuckle. "I bet. Guess they didn't know it's too cold for snakes today."

Olivia shook her head as she smiled. "No, none of them are really the outdoorsy type." She moved down to his ankle and started pulling off his shoe.

"Hey! What are you doing?" Daryl asked indignantly.

Olivia looked up at him patiently. "You might have broken it. I should see."

Daryl moved his leg away from her. "What are you a fucking doctor?" He didn't need her help.

She sighed with exasperation, "I've taken some first aid classes. If it's broken you can't walk out of here. We'll need to call someone." She sat there looking at him. Waiting for him to respond.

"Fine," Daryl spat out. "Just don't make it worse." He watched as she removed his shoe then started bending his foot gently in different directions.

"Anything hurt?" she asked. Daryl just shook his head. "Okay how about here?" She pressed on a spot below that bone that juts out of the side of the ankle. Daryl hissed. She sat back and nodded. "I think it's just a sprain, but you might have torn something. It's not broken though," she moved to put his shoe back on.

Daryl pulled his leg away from her. "I can do that." He gritted his teeth as he pulled the shoe on and started tying up the laces. "Where'd you learn that anyway?"

Olivia looked over at him. "Girl scouts. My friends might not spend much time outside but I'm an outdoor kind of girl." She packed everything up, including the blanket. "Come on, I'll help you."

Daryl couldn't go back yet. His father might still be mad. It would be best to wait till night and sneak in when the old man was passed out. That way he might not even remember when he woke up the next morning.

After a moment she spoke. "I can't bring you all the way back to your house, it's too far, but there's someplace close by we can go. Get off this cold ground."

Daryl hopped up. He wondered if she could tell he didn't want to go home. He tentatively put some of his weight on his foot. It still hurt, but the ibuprofen and ice had made it bearable. "Here, let me help." She picked up his arm and slipped under it, putting her hand around his waist. Daryl leaned very lightly on her. After a couple of small steps she looked over at him. "Gonna take us all night at this rate. Go ahead and lean on me. I can take it."

Daryl looked down doubtfully. She was tiny for her age. Still, she was right. Daryl put more weight on her. She smiled and nudged them forward. It was a while before he realized where she was taking him. "I can't go to your house." The thought itself scared the crap out of him.

She laughed lightly. "Don't worry, I have someplace else in mind." When they got to the edge of the clearing surrounding her house she followed the tree line till they came to an outbuilding. She pushed open the door and lead him in.

Daryl felt his jaw drop as he hobbled through the door. It was a large guest house. It was probably bigger than his entire house. "Come on," she urged him on and helped him sit on a bean bag chair.

"What is this?" he asked with wonder. There were all sorts of chairs and pillows everywhere. There was even a day bed. And there were books, everywhere. All sorts of books. They were on the shelves and piled up next to every chair.

Olivia looked around. "This is my place. My parents let me use it for a kind of hangout. There's a bathroom through there if you need it, or if you want to take a shower there's towels in the cabinet." She stood up and grabbed her bag. "I have to go in, but there's snacks in the cabinets and some drinks in the fridge. I'll be back later."

"Wait!" Daryl called out. Where was she going? She couldn't just be leaving him here.

She looked over her shoulder at him as she pulled the door open. "Don't worry, no one will come down here. Oh, catch." She reached into the bag and tossed him the bottle of ibuprofen. "Just in case you need more before I get back." She pulled the door shut behind her.

Daryl looked down at the bottle in his hand, and noticed his hand. It was filthy, for that matter, so was the rest of him. She did say he could use the shower.

Forty-five minutes later Daryl wrapped a thick towel around his hips. That had been an experience. Who knew a shower could be like that? There were water spouts all over the walls and they spit out water at regular intervals depending on where he turned the knob. It had sure succeeded in driving the chill from his bones.

He was just opening up the cabinets to see what was available when she walked back in. Daryl saw her eyes go wide as she took in the copious number of bruises and scars. He would've liked to turn around, hide the marks, but his back was worse than his front. He had to give it to her though, after a moment she just brought her eyes back to his face and asked, "Are you finding everything alright?"

Daryl nodded, "Yeah, I was just looking for something to eat." Her eyes travelled from him to the cabinets, a smile playing around the edges of her lips.

"So I see." She set down a plate on the edge of the counter and reached into her bag and pulled out some sweatpants and sweatshirt. "Here, these belong to my brother. He keeps a few things here still, but he'll never notice they're missing."

Daryl was hesitant to accept them, but truthfully his clothes were filthy and damp. He had been putting off getting dressed. After a quick debate, he figured his pride had all but been smashed to hell today anyway. He reached out to take them. Looking at the plate on the counter he asked, "What's that?" He yanked the sweatshirt over his head and hopped back to the bathroom to don the pants.

Olivia called out her answer. "Pecan pie. We had some for desert last night, and I thought you'd like some. Sarah makes the best pie." She looked over at him when he came back out. She pressed her lips together as she took in Daryl in her much older brother's clothes. "Why don't you sit down and I'll bring some over to you?" She turned her back to him and pulled out some disposable plates and forks.

Daryl shuffled over and sat down on one of the many chairs scattered throughout the room. When Olivia brought him the pie, he asked, "Why are you doing this?" As soon as the words were out of his mouth, he wished he could take them back. His eyes fixated on the plate in his hands as he felt the heat of a blush creep up his neck.

It took her so long to answer he finally chanced glancing up at her. Her eyes were thoughtful as she gazed at him. Finally she shrugged. "I don't know. Maybe I just wanted to try out my first aid skills." She flashed a smile at him.

Daryl knew she wasn't giving him a truthful answer, but he was glad. He had been afraid that she might say something like she had felt badly for him, or that he had looked like he needed help. Pushing it aside he asked, "Where's your brother?"

"Atlanta. He just started law school there. My dad was so proud when he got in." She chuckled lightly to herself. "Not like there was ever a chance that he wouldn't. Mike is so straight and narrow, I doubt he went to a single party all during college." She picked up a piece of pie. "What about your brother? What's he up to?"

Daryl just about choked on his pie. "You know 'bout Merle?" Olivia just nodded as she waited for his answer. "Merle's uh... well, see... he's uh... in prison." Daryl paused as he waited for her reaction. Olivia just speared another piece of pie and placed it in her mouth. "Merle's got a bit of a temper," Daryl explained. "He punched a sergeant. Got himself sixteen months. Probably wouldn't have been so long, except he knocked out the guy's front teeth."

The sound of Olivia's laughter was a shock. "A bit of a temper? Sounds like he has a whole lot of one." Daryl watched as she tucked her legs up under her in the chair.

Unable to help himself, he started to laugh with her. "Yeah, well, that's Merle." He looked around the room. "Did you read all of these?" He picked up a few of the books that were stacked up next to him. Some were fiction, but a lot were biographies or history books. There were other subjects mixed in too.

"Working on it." Olivia grabbed the plates and walked over to throw them out. "Want something to drink?" At Daryl's nod she grabbed a couple of sodas and passed him one. "You like to read?"

Daryl shot her a dry look. "Do I look like I read a lot?"

"Well what does someone who reads look like? Pocket protectors and cokebottle glasses? Do I look like I read a lot?" She sounded somewhat offended.

Daryl looked over at her, taking in her appearance. She had hair that was the color of copper that hung just past her shoulders in gentle waves. Her eyes were a surprisingly clear color of green. In a few years, she'd be a knockout. "Guess not," was all he said.

They spent the next few hours talking about inconsequential things and playing cards. She was surprisingly good at poker. So good, she had the majority of the jelly beans stacked up in front of her.

When the phone rang, Daryl just about fell out of his seat. This place seemed so private, he had almost forgotten that there was a whole other world out there. Olivia jumped up to grab the handset. Without even saying hello she said, "Okay, be there in a second." She hung up and turned back to him. "Dinner. I have to go. I'll come back later, bring you something to eat alright?"

"Won't you have to stay at the house?" Daryl asked.

She shook her head. "No. My parents are used to me being out here. Think they like it better that way anyways." She turned and headed out the door as Daryl was left wondering what she had meant by that.

Sure enough she was back about an hour later. They resumed their poker game after Daryl ate the dinner she brought back for him. When she cleaned him out, he threw down his cards in disgust. "Let's do something else."

He could see Olivia trying to suppress a smile. "Sure." She popped up and walked over to a stack of books. "Here." She held out a book. "Try it, I think you'll like it."

Daryl reluctantly took the book that she had thrust at him. It was a book about Cherokee indians. He looked up at her with a disbelieving look on his face. "This wasn't what I meant."

She only chuckled in response as she spread out some pillows on the floor and settled in with a book of her own. Daryl sighed and opened the book. "Jesus," he thought to himself. "It doesn't even have any pictures. Why would anyone read this for fun?" However, he soon became engrossed in the story. Hours later he shut the book and was surprised to see Olivia curled up asleep on the floor. The clock on the wall said it was two-fifteen in the morning.

Daryl tossed back some more ibuprofen and threw a blanket over the sleeping girl. He gathered up his things and headed home, hoping that his father was passed out for the night.

It was two weeks later before he saw her again. He was down at Daly's Pharmacy, buying a soda when she walked in with a group of girlfriends. When she saw him, she skipped lightly to his side. "Glad to see that your face healed up nice."

Daryl looked over her shoulder at the girls behind her. They were all staring at them with surprised expressions on their faces. "What do you want?" he asked harshly.

Olivia's smile faltered. "I just wanted to say hi. See how you've been."

Daryl looked down at her. "I'd be great if you weren't bugging me." He tossed the coins on the counter and pushed past her out the door.

Three hours later he stood in the trees looking at the guest house. Finally he took a chance she'd be there and pushed open the door. She looked up from where she was sitting, shock written all over her face.

Daryl cleared his throat and shuffled back and forth. "I'm sorry 'bout earlier." He waited for her to say something but she just kept looking at him, her eyes wide. "Anyways... I just wanted to say thanks for the other day." He turned to leave.

"Did you like the book?" she asked softly.

He turned back and shrugged. "It was okay as far as books go I guess."

She smiled gently at him. "Come on in. Grab a few sodas out of the fridge too."

That was how it started. They were friends after that day. Although in public, they didn't so much as look at each other. But Daryl would sneak away and they would hang out for hours in the guest house. She'd pick out books for him to read, and for the most part he enjoyed them. She gave him a key, and whenever he needed to get out of his father's house he'd head there. She started stocking foods that she knew he liked in the tiny kitchen, and he taught her how to hunt. When her prom date got drunk and refused to let her drive, it was Daryl she called to come pick her up. He borrowed Merle's bike and the two of them spent hours driving along the winding roads of north Georgia.

Even after his father took off one day and never came back, by unspoken agreement she never came to his house. That was until two weeks before she was supposed to head off for college. Daryl had been laying in his bed, trying to block out the sounds of Merle and his group. They were all drunk and were predictably going on and on about how much better white people were from everyone else. The incessant rapping on the door had him bolting up in bed. Usually when he heard knocking like that it was the cops coming to pick Merle up for something or another.

As soon as he pulled his clothes on, he threw open his bedroom door just in time to hear Merle let out a whistle. "Well, well.. lookie what we have here. Come on in honey. Come make ol' Merle feel good." The cackles from the other people around the room drowned out her answer.

Daryl looked around the people clustered in the doorway. He was shocked to see Olivia standing there. It had to be something major to bring her over here. When she saw Daryl step out, she pushed her way past Merle and ran across the room. As she threw herself in his arms she started sobbing. Daryl wrapped his arms around her and pulled her back to his room.

When the door was shut, she managed to choke out, "She's dead, my momma's dead." Daryl sucked in a sharp breath. He knew her mom had been sick for a while with cancer, but Olivia kept saying that she was starting to get better.

Suddenly there were catcalls and rude comments about Olivia being shouted through the door. Daryl let go of her and marched over. He threw open the door, a furious expression on his face. Merle was standing outside thrusting his hips in a lewd manner. "Knock it the fuck off Merle! Her mother just died!" Daryl growled. Even as the smile was fading from Merle's face, Daryl slammed the door shut.

He turned around to find Olivia sitting on the edge of the bed. "Do you have any tissues?" She asked tearfully.

Tissues? This house? Half the time they were lucky if they had toilet paper. Daryl hurried over to a stack of clothes and grabbed an old t-shirt. It had been washed so many times there were holes everywhere, but it was soft. "Here," he said, passing it to her as he sat down on the bed. "What happened?"

Olivia shook her head, her breath catching in her throat. "I don't know, I don't know why she did it." The sobs over took her again. Daryl stared down at her in dismay as he realized that her mother must have killed herself. "It was just us at the house today and she asked me to go get her some tea. I went downstairs to get it and she must have swallowed the whole bottle of pills while I was gone. I didn't know. I swear I didn't know. I would have called someone." She turned and buried her face in his chest.

He ran his fingers through her hair and pressed his lips to her forehead. "Of course you didn't know. How could you have?"

Olivia's head shook rapidly back and forth. Daryl could barely understand her through the sobbing. "My father.. he told me I should have been watching her closer... He said it's my fault." The last part came out as a wail.

Daryl felt his jaw tighten. He never much liked Olivia's father. Once it became clear to him that Olivia wasn't going to let him shape her into whatever he thought she should be, he stopped paying attention to her. He seemed to treat her as an afterthought. But Daryl never thought he would be so cruel to his only daughter.

"Your father's wrong," Daryl said bluntly. "He'll realize it when he calms down." He continued rubbing her back until the sobs slowed into the occasional gasp. He pulled her head back and looked down at her. "I know you loved your mother and she knew it too." He kissed the tip of her nose lightly.

She looked up at him, her green eyes even brighter from crying. "Can I stay here tonight?" She asked hesitantly. "I don't want to go home."

Daryl nodded. "Sure. Stay here for a moment. I'll go get you some water." Daryl pulled himself away from her and stepped out into the kitchen.

"All done already?" Merle's friend John asked. He opened up his mouth to say something else when Merle's hand smacked him hard enough on the back of the head to cause his forehead to bounce off the table.

"Shut up," Merle snarled. He walked over to where Daryl was searching for a glass that was clean. "She alright?" he asked quietly.

Daryl nodded tightly. "Yeah, she's gonna stay here tonight though." He finally found a stack of paper cups and filled one up. Merle just watched as Daryl headed back into his room.

When Daryl pushed open the door, he stopped dead in his tracks. Olivia was just finishing up buttoning one of his shirts. The hem skimmed the tops of her thighs and when she lowered her hands only her fingertips peaked out from the end of the cuffs. "I hope you don't mind," she said, brushing her hand over the front. "My clothes weren't that comfortable."

"Uh, no... It's fine." Daryl felt like someone had just hit him in the head with a hammer. For the first time he realized how beautiful Olivia had really become. Not only was her face amazing with high cheekbones, and a small straight nose, but her legs were shapely and firm, and the tips of her breast jutted out against the cotton of the shirt. Her hair had darkened slightly over the years and it now hung almost to her waist. Never did he ever think that old shirt could be considered sexy. Until now.

He was so caught up in looking at her, he didn't realize she was speaking to him. "Sorry, what?"

She pointed to the cup in his hand. "Is that for me?"

Daryl looked down at the cup he had forgotten he was holding. "Oh, yeah. Here." He passed it over to her. As she took a sip Daryl said, "If you need anything else, I'll just be..." he jerked his thumb over his shoulder.

Olivia put the cup down on the table. "Daryl? Could you just stay with me? I don't want to be by myself." She climbed under the covers.

It wouldn't be the first time they had fallen asleep together, but it would be the first time that Daryl was thinking of her as something other than a friend. Still he couldn't tell her no. He peeled off his shirt and climbed in next to her. "Don't you want to take your jeans off?" she asked.

"I ah.. well, I was already in bed when you came. I just pulled these on." Daryl stuttered.

Olivia looked at him for a moment and then started to laugh. "Do you mean you go commando?"

Daryl did not want to be talking about this. "Shut up Olivia." He wrapped his arm around her and pulled her down. She laid her head on his shoulder and snuggled up to him, wrapping one arm around his waist and threading her leg through his. Daryl had to bite back a groan.

After a few minutes of silence Olivia whispered his name. "Hmm?" he replied.

She stretched up to kiss him lightly on the cheek. "Thank you Daryl. I don't know what I would have done if you hadn't been here." When she settled back down, Daryl lightly laid his hand on her head and stroked her hair gently. It was a long time before he got to sleep that night.

The next morning he was cooking some breakfast when she stepped out of his room. Daryl was both disappointed and relieved that she had put her clothes back on. Disappointed because she had looked so good in his shirt, relieved because a few of Merle's buddies were passed out on various furniture. "Want something? We got eggs."

Olivia shook her head. "No, I have to get back. People will start to notice I'm gone." Daryl knew she meant her father.

Daryl pushed the eggs off the burner. "Come on, I'll walk you home." Olivia started to protest. "Knock it off, I said I'd walk you home," he said brashly.

The trip back to her house was quiet, each of them preoccupied with their own thoughts. When they reached the edge of her lawn, she turned and gave him a tight hug. He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her in even closer. Suddenly she turned and ran silently up to the house and went in through the back door.

Daryl headed back to his house. Merle was sitting at the kitchen table eating the eggs he had cooked earlier. "So who was that?" Merle asked.

Daryl grabbed a couple more eggs from the fridge and moved over to the stove. "A friend," was all he said.

Merle shoveled more food in his mouth. "Sum friend. Wish I had a friend that looked like that." When Daryl only grunted in response, he continued. "So where you been hidin' her? Hope you're at least getting some of that."

"Shut up Merle, don't talk about her like that." Daryl scooped out the eggs and sat down across from him. He was so focused on eating that he didn't see the look Merle gave him.

Olivia was so busy with the funeral that he didn't see her again till the night before she left for school. When he stepped into the guest house she bounded up from the books she was packing and ran over to give him a hug. "Oh, I was hoping I'd see you tonight." She tugged him over to the counter. "Here, I picked out a few for you to keep."

Daryl looked at the counter. It was covered in books. "A few? Livi, I can't take these." He looked over the stacks. One book in particular caught his eye. It was the book about the Cherokee she had given him to read so long ago. "How 'bout I just take this one?"

Olivia nodded. She looked at him for a long moment. "Daryl? I'm scared. What if I don't do well, or I don't fit in?"

He looked at her surprised. Livi had always seemed so sure of herself. "Of course you'll do well. You got what? Like one A minus your entire high school career?" He wrapped his arms around her. "And don't worry about fitting in. You'll be the most popular girl there before you know it. Duke's lucky to have you. Okay?" He ran his hand over her hair, amazed at the silky feeling of it.

She pulled back. "Okay. How about you help me pack some of these books up before I go?" They spent the rest of the evening talking as they packed up the guest house. When it was time for her to head in, they stepped outside.

"I'm going to miss you, but I'll be back for Christmas break." She said quietly.

He gave her a hard hug. "It'll be here before you know it." He brushed his lips lightly against hers. "I'll see you then."

"I'll see you at Christmas," she said softly. Daryl watched as she walked back to the house. As she pushed the kitchen door open she turned and gave him a small wave.

Daryl walked back to his place. He wondered how many days it was until her Christmas break. He never knew for sure. Sixty-two days after she left, her father put the house on the market and moved.

So please review. I like seeing what everyone thinks about the story. It helps keep me on track, as well as see what does or doesn't work for everyone. Thanks!