Disclaimer: I don't own AMC's The Walking Dead or any of its characters, wishful thinking aside.

Authors Note #1: This story is meant to fit in some point during the winter when they were going from house to house. Or even at some point in the future, the timing is subjective. It focuses on how Daryl views the concepts of "love" and "forever." – This story originally came out of a snippet of text I wrote for Shipperwolf on tumblr that eventually took on a life of its own.

Warnings: Contains minor season three spoilers, as well as references to Daryl and Merle's past. This story will have clear references to the following: child abuse, child neglect, domestic violence, adult language and mature content.

In Saecula Saeculorum

Chapter 2

He was half convinced that this whole mess was just the universe's way of getting even. Maybe even mocking him, he hadn't quite figured out which. Finally getting it's due for all the close calls and smack talk during his long history of tempting fate. It was a lot like death coming to collect or the IRS sniffing through old tax claims. And well, you get the idea.

Hell, it wasn't like he could say he was surprised. After all, between him and Merle he figured they'd probably given Fate herself a god-damned complex.

It fuckin' figured. It took the end of the world for her to finally get even. Ain't that just like a dame? He wasn't sure if he should be proud or worried about how far she was willing to go to even the score. Christ, the apocalypse? Even to him that was a bit over the top.

The only reason it was on his mind at all was that he'd overheard Beth and Maggie the night before. He'd been sitting out on the front railing of the latest hole they'd found to spend the night. It was a deserted two story heap that had little attraction save for the fact that it was made of brick, had few windows and was relatively secluded from the houses on the rest of the street.

At first he'd only been half listening as the petite blond managed to talk herself in circles trying to ask Maggie where she figured her and Glenn were going. That was when he'd really started paying attention. Hell, he'd nearly choked on his mouthful of creamed corn trying not to laugh.

But not for all the reasons you might think either. For example, the conversation itself had been so incredibly normal that he'd nearly done a double take. And for a moment it was almost like this whole end of the world thing had never happened and he was listening to two girls talking smack about boys and clothes and shit. Just the regular brand of teenage girl chit chat, yammering on like nothing in the world had changed.

Apparently there were some things that were simply destined to stay the same, end of the world or not.

Some things were timeless, he figured. Things like guys going moon-eyed over pretty girls and women having wardrobes the size of Merle's rap sheet. It'd been like that since the dawn of bloody time, so as long as humanity was still alive and kickin', that would never change.

Either way, one thing was clear. If Glenn wasn't careful, he was gonna end up with his very own feisty little ball and chain. Not that there was anything wrong with Maggie, o'course, but even a blind man could tell that the farmer's daughter was a firebrand in her own right. For fucks sake, it didn't take a rocket scientist to figure that one out. Not when their first fight had resulted in Hershel bunking with Glenn and Maggie sleeping next to Beth for close to a week before they made nice. The whole situation had been awkward in a way that even Glenn still refused to speak of to this day. God only knows what bunking next to his girl's old man had done to his nerves.

Either way, the point was that Maggie would eat Glenn alive if she was given half the chance. She was the stereotypical farmer's daughter in every respect. She was strong, capable and a force to be reckoned with. Not exactly his type mind you, but sure, he could see the allure.

Marriage? Jesus. Korea wasn't going to know what hit him.

That being said, he'd found a ring once. He'd found it in the breast pocket of a jacket that had been hanging from a chair in an abandoned bar. Safe and sound in a small, velvet lined box tucked beside two tickets to the Braves and a roll of moldy looking breath mints.

The tickets were dated for the weekend following that of the first news reports about the infection. It was a damn shame too, they were killer seats.

The ring itself was old, nothing fancy, but pretty enough in its own right. It wasn't like he was an expert on it or nothin', but as far as he could tell it looked expensive - old, but expensive. And it'd caught his eye regardless. For example, the worn gold band spoke of decades of use, but the set of its stone and the brightness of the sapphire that crowned it looked far too new to be some old antique. It was almost as if the dude had given his grandma's old piece a shine job and was banking on the new rock and his winning personality to get the job done.

Honestly, the whole thing only made him wonder about the guy that had owned it. It made him ask questions like, why had the stupid bastard had been holed up in that bar in the first place? Had he just been stopping in for a quick pick-me-up before the big date? Had he been there for a shot of liquid courage before he popped the question? Or had she turned him down and he'd been busy drinking off the down payment on that little fixer upper house that had been on the market for half of forever?

Because, either way you wanted to look at it, it certainly hadn't been forever for him. Hell, even if she'd said yes, forever had probably lasted right up until the moment when that lady from the CDC had walked onto the podium at the White House. Finally going on record about the new super virus that was spreading across the country like wildfire, spouting out a lot of fancy words about quarantine controls and safety zones while half the continent whipped itself up into one giant clusterfuck of a panic. The streets hadn't just been unfit to be on, they'd been downright impassable. And that was just the beginning.

Needless to say, it had all pretty much gone downhill from there.

But all that aside, he'd still taken it with him when they'd moved on. Making trails in the dust and shattered glass that littered the counter as he'd left the outline of his palm in the muted grey. Idly letting himself wonder what 'forever' would look like this side of the apocalypse as T-dog had called the all clear and Glenn and Maggie let the others in through the side door. Using the rare break as a chance to scavenge supplies and catch a few hours of shut eye as Rick and Carl kept their eyes on the street outside.

He supposed it made him a hypocrite when it all came down to it. But hey, life was a lot easier when you just didn't give a shit. When you decided that you didn't care what people thought about you. Or when you tried to convince the world that you weren't wounded, that you weren't damaged goods and that you actually liked the person you'd let life shape you into.

Either way, the point was that this was the type of ring that had a history. Something you could hold in your hands and actually feel as the gold gradually loses its metallic chill. Turning the moment surreal and strangely dated as time slows, and suddenly you find yourself back there. Steeped in the weight of the years it has seen - in all the things it has stood for and everything in between.

It was weathered and dull around the edges. Worn smooth by decades of use. But at the end of the day he found he liked it even more for it. Not just for what it stood for, but for what it reminded him of, something imperfect, but still brimming with potential. After all, just because something is a bit rough around the edges don't mean it's right to toss it aside. Hell, even broken things have value.

He kept it in his pack, folded neatly inside one of the only pairs of clean socks he owned. Why? Honestly, he didn't know. Near as he could tell he was waiting on something, but waiting for what? Well, that was the million dollar question. He figured that by the time he did he'd be ready, ready for…whatever it was.

At the end of the day, it didn't matter. None of it did really. Not the ring or the person it'd been meant for. And certainly not him and his hoity-toity thoughts on the matter either. The world, or at least their part in it, was done. Humanity had been handed the god-damned pink slip and all that was left to do now was to try to make the best of the time they'd been given. No matter how you spun it, it all added up to the same fucked up conclusion.

Only that was the whole point wasn't it? In a way, today was the new forever.

Because like he'd said before, he wasn't exactly sure why he kept it, but when he looked at Carol's hands - all small, lined and delicate; he certainly had half an idea.

After all, if there was anything he wished was forever in this world, it was her.

A/N #1: Thank you for reading. Please let me know what you think! Reviews and constructive critiquing are love! – Thank you so much for all your support during the course of this little story, every review was a delight to receive! Hope you enjoyed!

"I think maybe forever is what you make of it. Tomorrow may be the end of your forever. I think we should be more careful how we use it." - Unknown