So lately I've been wondering how the series would have gone if there had been another bamf in the group who doesn't mind getting their hands dirty once in a while and to be honest, I just don't want Sophia to die after all the effort Daryl put into finding her.
I hope I do the idea and the characters justice. And just so you know, I'm going to follow the main plot of the series although some details will be different (and Sophia's death of course, which is major).

If I don't describe a confrontation/conversation while you recognize the main plot, assume I just didn't write it out as it doesn't change with the changes I made. I don't want to bore anyone.

I want to point out that Daryl and Carol won't end up together in this story but they will be just as close compared to the series, just not romantically involved (even though I hope that is what will happen in the fall *wink*)

Rated Mature for violence, gore, mentions of drug use and medical mariuhana. Perhaps lemons if you ask nicely.
A lot of smoking going on here too, cigarettes mind you.

I do not own The Walking Dead franchise in any way, if I did, my ideas would be what everyone watches on Sundays. I wish I owned Daryl though. ;)

Hard Shell

Bullet's Another Way of Saying Hello these Days

Sometimes, she just didn't even make sense to herself. Yes, she admitted to herself, she had always had a weak spot for people in need or danger, but one would think that the end of the world would change that. Well, apparently it didn't, in fact she seemed even more prone to find people in need.

Only three days ago, the woman had found a little girl in the woods all by herself. The girl had been chased by two of the freaks and the woman just couldn't let them kill or worse, change her, so she had intercepted and killed them just as the girl had fallen over a log. After making sure that the dead stayed dead by stabbing their brains with her hunting knife, she had checked on the girl. Sophia, that was the girl's name, had either badly twisted her ankle or broken it, which seemed more likely. The young woman decided that she couldn't very well leave the girl now that she was injured and lost.

So she decided to strap the girl to her back, and go about finding her group that way. It came in very handy that she was fit, otherwise she wouldn't have been able to carry Sophia at all. Still, they weren't nearly as fast as she would have liked and since Sophia had no idea where she came from, only that it was some kind of road, they just began moving in the general direction where the woman knew a road was.

During the days, they walked and talked quietly about anything that came to their minds and the woman therefore learned a lot about both Sophia and her group. She didn't like the stories about the girl's father, Ed, and was secretly very glad that he was dead. From the sounds of it, the group as a whole was as balanced as possible and she was sure that once they found them, Sophia would be safe and she could move on. Sophia also got to know her rescuer and after a while started trusting her because frankly, the girl had been a bit scared of the woman at first.

And which child wouldn't be? The woman was tall and slender, it seemed kind of bizarre that she could carry the twelve-year old at all. She had long brown hair that went until the small of her back, but was shaven off on the left side, her face seemed relatively pretty but her nose wasn't entirely straight. Her ears were gauged and she had several other piercings in them. The thing that was really remarkable though, was that her body was covered in tattoos. They were beautiful but overwhelming at first look, as they covered nearly all of her skin, except her face and some of her neck. She wore black boots, skinny jeans, a formerly white tank top that was now bloodstained and covered in dirt, a leather jacket over it. Her name was Jasmin and as it turned out, she was originally from Europe. Her voice seemed to be at war with her brash and shocking exterior as it was smooth, musical even with just the barest of an accent.

She didn't like talking about her past and Sophia got that it had to have been painful because while she was on Jasmin's back, she saw her shoulders and arms from up close, and Sophia had never seen so many scars on a human being. Her back was crisscrossed in them, her arms had deep indentations and mounds on them, but somehow the tattoos seemed to incorporate them so that they weren't visible from afar.

Jasmin was well-versed with the knife and had a shotgun, though she had not used the gun in Sophia's presence. She kept Sophia fed with provisions from her backpack and once she even caught a rabbit while Sophia hid in trees. That's also where they slept because according to Jasmin, the ground wasn't safe at night.

They were trekking though the wilderness on the third day since Jasmin had rescued Sophia when they heard the shouting, it was far away but they caught it anyway because they were attuned to the forest's sounds. Someone was clearly calling out for Sophia and they quickly decided to go see who it was without making their presence known. It was no use telling someone they were there if they weren't friendly – and Jasmin had encountered those people since the world ended enough to be careful. It was unlikely that someone who didn't know Sophia would call out for someone with the same name, but Jasmin wasn't taking any chances.

They found the creek after some time and when Sophia spotted the man lying on the riverside, she promptly informed Jasmin that she knew the man, that he was a friend. He seemed to be pretty banged up and bleeding from an arrow to his abdomen, which was alarming but things got even more alarming when a freak walked up to him. In a split-second, Jasmin had Sophia untied from her back and ran for the guy, butchering the freak just a few feet from him. A second freak was just on his way, but before it could come near them, she ended it too by throwing her knife and piercing its brain through the eye-socket. She yanked her knife out of the skull then, rolling her eyes as a squelching sound erupted.

Next, she went back to Sophia and sat her next to the man who seemed to be waking up. Jasmin took it upon herself to speed that process up a bit and shook his shoulder. "Hey there, tough guy, wake up! I need to take a look at that wound of yours, your blood is attracting the freaks!" He started mumbling nonsense about Merlin and errand guys, so Jasmin rolled him to his uninjured side and pulled the arrow out quickly. He groaned then and started cussing.
"He never seemed to have a filter", Sophia said while Jasmin rummaged through her backpack looking for bandages.

Daryl finally woke up completely and sat up. "Fuckin' horse, I shoulda kill it."
"Shut up and get your shirt off, I'm going to bandage that wound of yours and then you can tell us where the rest of your group is so I can bring little Sophia over there back to her mum."
As soon as she said Sophia, Daryl's head snapped up and around, looking right at the girl he had been looking for for the last few days. "Jesus Christ am I still trippin'?"
"Just take off that damned shirt will you?! I ain't got all day. How far is it to your group?"
As if without thinking, Daryl finally lifted his shirt up so Jasmin could bandage his wound. There wasn't much she could do other than wrapping the wound, but that had to count for something, she hoped it would keep the freaks away at least and maybe stop or slow the bleeding. She said nothing but couldn't help noticing the scars that littered his torso and back, opting to let Sophia do the talking.
"Jasmin rescued me! She thinks my ankle is broken, has been carrying me for three days 'cause of that! Where's my mom? I miss her like crazy, not that Jasmin isn't nice. Jasmin, you're nice, really, but where is my mom? What about Carl and the others?"
"Jeez, slow down, will ya? Gonna take ya to them, dunno how they goina react to tat girl over here tho."

"Ready to go, that's all I can do right now. You think you're going to be okay until you show us the way to your camp? I really can't carry both of you so you're going to have to walk, buddy." Daryl, still wary and slightly doubting he was even sane, started leading the way back to the farm.

Jasmin followed behind after getting Sophia back on her back. The girl was nearly bouncing with happiness, eager to see her mother and friends again, which Jasmin could understand but the bouncing wasn't helping her carry the girl, quite the opposite actually.
"Slow down Sophia, can't carry you when you bounce around like a frog, be patient just a bit longer. Buddy, how'd you end up with an arrow in your belly? Maybe you should get rid of that crossbow if you can't handle it!"
"Handle it all right, missy, fell from the damned horse. Stupid thing. How'd ya find Sophia, been lookin' fer days!" he asked.
"Found her being chased by freaks, couldn't leave her there, been with me for three days," was the answer.

They walked for a while, Sophia chattering on and Daryl answering some of her questions when suddenly, he asked: "What was the name 'gain?"
"Jasmin, no nicknames or you're going to regret it."
"Aye, Jasmin, thanks for keepin the girl save, her mama's goina be real happy."
"Yes well, I seem to have a soft spot for strangers in danger lately." She laughed and he huffed, catching that she meant him too, as if he couldn't have saved himself. But alas, they'd never know what would have happened, had Jasmin and Sophia not heard him.

Daryl seemed to remember something then and gave the doll he found to Sophia, who happily received it and started bouncing up and down.
"Girl, calm down, you're heavy without the bouncing around, I'm gonna be walking like a grandma forever just because of you." It was true though, while she was strong, Jasmin wasn't made for carrying around twelve-year old girls which is why she was walking bent-forwards and slightly to the left because most of Sophia's weight rested there at the moment.

"Not long now, jus' behind the tree line," Daryl announced after another while had passed. One could never be sure of the time these days, and what did it even matter? There were no more appointments to keep, no friends to meet for drinks or dinner, only survivors and freaks, time seemed irrelevant when survival was all you thought about.

So when they finally passed the tree line, they were two prone figures, both filthy though Daryl was filthier than Jasmin and Sophia but the females appeared to be even taller than Jasmin really was and way wider so it comes as no surprise that when Andrea spotted them, she was instantly panicking. "Walker, walker!"
"Just the one?" asked Rick and Andrea grabbed the binoculars then and said.
"No, it's two of them. I can handle them with the gun, safer that way."
"No, put the gun down, Hershel wants to deal with this!" Rick tried to argue but Shane, T-Dog and Glenn were running forward with weapons in their hands, Shane shouting.
"What for? We can handle this!"

As the men, including Rick, ran forward, Andrea lined up her gun and aimed for the bigger walker's head. She couldn't see very well due to the sun shining so brightly but she decided that if she missed, she could always shoot again. There was no way she would let a walker near the camp, let alone two of them. Just as she pulled the trigger, the walker made an unanticipated move, so Andrea knew she hadn't hit the head. Then the shouting ensued.

When Daryl, Jasmin and Sophia heard the group shouting about walkers, they knew something wasn't right; thinking that maybe there were Walkers behind them or coming from a different direction.
"Walkers, where?"Jasmin said while turning around and straightening up to get a better look at their surroundings. She couldn't see any threat which confused her immensely.

Suddenly, they heard a bullet being fired and in the next instant, Jasmin was on the ground, taking Sophia with her.
"FUCK, YOU PEOPLE CRAZY OR SOMETHIN'?!" Daryl shouted while falling to his knees next to the girls.
"You okay there Sophia?" Jasmin asked even though her voice was laced with pain while blood seeped out of the gunshot wound.
"Yeah, but you're not!" Daryl had just unfastened the now crying girl when the men arrived, all of them too confused to really say anything except cuss.

They seemed relieved that Sophia was there, not really caring that Daryl seemed hurt or that a woman was lying face first on the floor, apparently just having been shot. That is, until said woman pushed herself up, holding a hand to her profusely bleeding shoulder, giving them a look that could kill.
"That's how you thank me for saving your little girl? Fuck, you people are sick, should've just left her or taken her with me. Everything's better than being shot, fucking hell." She then stood up, trying to get her things when she started swaying from side to side.
"You damned people gonna help her or what? HELP!" Daryl then shouted towards the house.
Rick and the others had not come out of their stupor when Andrea and Dale arrived.
"Mum, I want my mum. Jasmin, wait, she can help!" Sophia pleaded, to which Jasmin turned to look at her. Her eyes then rolled back into her head and she fell to the ground. "Nooo!" wailed Sophia.

As if the situation was not pandemonium enough, more people came running towards them, Carol one of them. As she spotted her missing girl on the ground crying, she assumed the worst and fell to the ground next to Sophia.
"Mum, I'm okay! Jasmin needs help, someone shot her! She's my friend! She saved me, someone help her!"
As this took place, Daryl had started applying pressure to Jasmin's wound but she would need serious help, as far as he could tell.
Finally, Rick started acting and directed T-Dog to help him carry the woman to the house, Andrea taking the newcomer's things and helping Daryl to the house while Shane and Dale helped Carol with Sophia.

Back at the house, Hershel had no choice but to help the three injured people, though his priorities seemed to be a bit backwards as he first looked Sophia over and decided that her ankle had been secured the right way and she would just have to wait it out until nature ran its course and her broken ankle healed. Next, he wanted to stitch up Daryl but he protested until Hershel finally looked Jasmin over. The bullet went right through her which meant that aside from stitching her up and securing her shoulder, there wasn't much to be done for her, though now Hershel too noticed the scars. He kept his mouth shut until he saw Daryl's exposed scars.
"What is it with you people and scars? You're not the kind of people I want with my family.." he trailed off.
Daryl meanwhile was getting pissed, no one commented on his scars, no one judged him on them, they were his own damned business. What did others understand of the violence he had to endure? What did they know of the impact it had on him? Nothing, that's right.

"Watcha know about it, huh, ol' man? Ain't none o' yer goddamned business what's on my body!" he exploded.
"Well, while that might be true, I can't have the girl stay in the house, no matter her condition. No one knows if she's trustworthy and one look at her tells me that somethings isn't right with her." Hershel said.
"Yeah, she only saved a little girl she didn't have ta save, huh? No big deal, you think? Think again!"
"I am glad the girl is back but a person like this will not sleep in my house at night, not with that metal and the scars!" Hershel's mind was set.

Rick and Carol, who were on their way to the kitchen, heard part of the argument and Carol decided that she would side with both Daryl and her own personal hero, the unknown woman. "You can't just throw her out, she's been shot!"

Just then, the door to the room where Jasmin was lying, opened and revealed said woman.
"Verdammte Scheiße, is it common for you people to say hello with a fucking bullet?" She looked a bit worse for wear but other than the bandage, nothing indicated that she had just been shot.
Rick started, "Whoa, are you sure you should be moving? You can rest some more, we'll take care of it."
"Nah, don't get your panties in a bunch, I'm just going to move on now. Ain't nothing I can't take. Now where's my stuff and where's the girl, I want to say goodbye."
"You can't just leave, we want to thank you, I want to thank you properly for saving my little girl! But your things are with Sophia, in the kitchen, we didn't take anything.

Jasmin headed in the direction of the kitchen but just before turning the corner, she said to Daryl.
"Nice meeting you, buddy. If you're interested, I have cigarettes, wouldn't mind sharing a bit before I go." Daryl, who had been wishing for just a bit of tobacco for weeks, was all for it and therefore threw on his shirt and was on her tail in seconds. His abdomen gave him a bit of trouble, but a Dixon wouldn't be deterred by scrapes like that.

After getting her smoking things, as Jasmin preferred to roll her own, she headed out of the door to the patio. Handing one cigarette to Daryl, she lit up her own and took a deep drag and asked "Are those people always this nice or is it my charm that made them shoot me?"
"Nah, people are alright, just 'fraid of walkers. First incident like tha', s'far as I know."
"Good to know, you should also know that there are other people in this area and they are about as nice as the my welcome here. Watch out for them, don't want little Sophia being shot or worse after I carried her around all that time."
"What're ya talking 'bout?"
"Just what I said, this area isn't secure and it sure as hell isn't yours or that grandpa's either. He might think that but that really ain't the case. Keep your guard up, move on I would suggest. You can't take all those people and their guns."
Daryl was quiet for a while, thinking through the information she had just given him. "Wait 'ere, gotta get Rick, he needs ta hear this."

So while Daryl went to fetch Rick, Jasmin sat down on the stairs of the patio. She hadn't been lying when she said that she could take the gun wound, she really had endured more but that didn't mean that it didn't hurt, that she wouldn't sit down when she had the chance. While she was waiting for the men to return, Carol and Sophia, with her mother's help, came out of the house, carrying water and some of the food they had prepared for that evening's dinner. Carol started
"Here, this is for you. You need sustenance with that wound. Thank you for saving my Sophia and bringing her back, it means the world and more to me to have her back!"
"That really isn't necessary - Carol, is it? I did what I thought was the right thing to do, nothing more nothing less and Sophia was a good passenger, so to speak." At that, she smiled at the girl, who beamed a smile back. "There is no need to thank me, just take care of her from now on. I taught her how to tell the cardinal points so if she gets lost again, she will at least not be as lost as she was."

"But you're not going to leave, are you?" asked Sophia then, her face crestfallen at the prospect of parting with her new friend.
"Doesn't look good at the moment, Süße. I'm not welcome here, grandpa especially doesn't like me at all. I wouldn't want to be a burden and I won't stay if my presence is going to cause problems. I'm better off on my own anyways."
"But you can't be alone out there!" Carol threw in.
"I made it this far, didn't I? This here," she pointed to her shoulder then, "is the first serious wound I have gotten since all this started. I can take care of myself."

"You don't have to do that, though." Rick then said, he arrived just in time to hear the last part of the discussion. "We could work something out, as far as our group is concerned, you saved two of our own already. We don't take that lightly and you've given us more information that will keep us save, hopefully. Why not stay with us, there is strength in numbers."
"There is only strength in numbers if every person has their strength. I won't say no right away. How about you let me meet the rest of your people and I will decide then? I will repeat what I told buddy over there then too for all of them to hear. Right now, I have things to do."

"Things like what?" Daryl asked.
"Get my stuff together, wash my clothes cause they fucking reek and find a place to sleep tonight. I will meet your people tomorrow morning, alright? I just want to rest a bit today."
"Please don't leave, Jasmin!" Sophia piped in again.
Jasmin felt touched at how badly the girl seemed to want to keep her with them, so she said "I will be there tomorrow morning, I promise."
"Pinky promise?"
"Yes, pinky promise" and they linked pinkies and Jasmin promised again. She then left to get her things and walked out of sight.

"She sure is something else", Rick then said to no one in particular.
"Don't know the half of it, that woman carried Sophia for days, helped bind my wound and those tats, well damn, that's fucking art."
"What I meant is that she could be a powerful addition to our group. I don't think there is much that will stop her."

With that, the small group went inside to have dinner with the Greene family and to celebrate the recovery of Sophia, but their thoughts also were with the woman that had brought her back.