Natalie pulled the blanket up over Allie's bare chest, thanking God that Mike found her out there in the wilderness. Allie was a busted up mess; broken ribs with deep tissue bruising, avulsions and lacerations. Natalie slumped into the chair next to Allie's bed; her tears flowing freely as she held her daughter's hand in her own. Allie survived a beating that was obvious; it was anyone's guess what else she survived through for the five days she was gone. Right now Natalie's chief concern was keeping Allie comfortable while the wounds in her back were tended to and healing. The wounds nearly mirrored the ones in Daryl's back. Natalie had no idea what caused Allie's wounds; Daryl's son of a bitch of a father used a belt, horsewhip, and crop whatever was in reach to project his anger upon his son. It would infuriate Daryl to know that someone inflicted that same kind of ruthless pain on his daughter. Hate like that ran deep;unless the person who inflicted it was stark raving mad. Natalie brushed Allie's hair from her eyes; sighing as got up from the chair and closing the door behind her.

Daryl stood across from Mike in the kitchen; eyeballing him over the cup of coffee in his hand. How this guy had found Allie was anything short of a miracle, Daryl had searched for days without luck. The trail had gone cold at the county line, Daryl had been getting the group together to go out hunting for Allie. His plans were shattered when Mike walked into the yard with a beaten and bleeding Allie in his arms. He was glad his baby girl was home, but he would have rather been the one to do it.

Mike took a deep breath before breaking the silence; "So you're Allie's Dad? Can't say I've ever heard anything about you." Mike knew about Allie's step dad in Germany, but nothing about Daryl. The man was trying to burn holes through him across the kitchen with cold blue eyes that screamed Allie. There was no denying Allie was Daryl's, too many idiosyncrasies matched up.

Daryl huffed, setting the coffee cup down on the countertop. "Yeah well I just found out not that long ago that Allie was mine. What's your story? I saw pictures of you and Allie in the McCaffrey house together. That's gotta mean something." Daryl had seen the pictures in the McCaffrey house before Glenn had brought them over and gave them to Allie. Now those same photos hung in Allie's room. Daryl had his ideas of what the story was, but he wanted to hear it directly from the man involved. It was the only way to get to the truth of the story as far as Daryl was concerned.

Mike sighed; the pictures told the story for him, what was there left to explain? Other than Allie accepting his proposal before leaving for his training school for the Navy almost two years ago, there wasn't much else to tell. Mike loved Allie without question, but he knew where he was going she couldn't go with him. Especially when he went to California to BUD/s. That was a men only training school. Allie was a year and a half younger than Mike, she was a junior when he was a senior in high school.

"Allie and I dated in high school. We were serious enough to get engaged before I left for BUD/s in California. I was home on leave when shit hit the fan, I left here to go check on my folks. When they got killed by looters, I took it upon myself to hunt them down and kill them. I got hooked up with a different group in an adjoining county before I could make it home to Allie. I always planned to come back to her and marry her, there's no one I want more in this world but her. It's my sincere hope that you'll still let me do the right thing and marry Allie."

Daryl took a breath, pausing to choose his words carefully; one wrong word and the man his little girl still loved could be gone before she woke up. That would break Allie's heart and Daryl didn't want to see her cry. Daryl tipped his chin up. "Look, I'm thankful you brought Allie home to her mother and I. But I think it's best to let Allie decide if she still wants you, rather than me giving my blessing and she kicks you outta here. Sound fair?"

Mike nodded as he drained the last bit of coffee from his mug, setting it in the sink. "Sounds fair. I'm going to go up and sit with Allie. I'll catch up with you later."

Daryl watched the younger man stride through the kitchen and up the stairs, quietly greeting Natalie as she passed by him. Natalie wrapped her arms around Daryl's neck, slowly pressing her lips to his. Daryl kissed her tenderly, his mind in a million places other than their kitchen.

"What's your thoughts on Mike? He's been a part of this family since shortly after we came back from Germany. Your daughter loves him Daryl, much like I loved you at that age. I'm thankful he found her and brought her home." Natalie kept Daryl's eyes trained on her own, looking for recognition, looking for compassion.

"The kid's alright. I ain't got nothing against him yet. But they damn well better not be fucking like we were. Last thing I need is my daughter pregnant in this hell. I don't want her having a miscarriage like you did and no way to get her into surgery." Daryl's eyes softened, tears threatened to fall from his clear blue eyes.

Natalie felt her heart wrench in her chest. She knew why Daryl stirred up the old memories; the past could become the future with no way of stopping it. It was still a raw wound almost 30 years later. If Natalie had any say in it, she would do whatever it took for Allie not to know that kind of pain.

Natalie laid her head against Daryl's chest, breathing in his scent. "I'll do whatever it takes to make sure Allie doesn't go through that, promise. You need to get out there and get things secured; there's a storm coming in from the west. Gather up some help while you're at it, and send the girls in the house to help me cook please?"

Daryl smirked at his woman; she was getting a bit bossy lately. Maybe he needed to remind her who wore the pants in the house. "Gettin' a bit bossy there ain't ya woman? Thought I was the one wearin' the pants in the house? Or did ya forget that?"

Natalie made a face at Daryl; feigning hurt as she swatted at him with the kitchen towel. He knew damn good and well who ran the place; it wasn't her who needed reminding.

Daryl flinched at the towel snapping against his bare arms. No matter what that towel hitting skin always stings. "Ow Jesus woman, ya ain't gotta beat me!"

"Get your mangy ass out of my kitchen! Go on git!" Natalie herded Daryl out the back door and into the blowing wind with a glare that made even Daryl shy away.

Upstairs Mike's hulking frame sat hunched over in the chair next to Allie's bed. His large hands swallowed her swollen fingers; the words of long forgotten and very seldom used prayers becoming stilted whispers from his lips in the near silence.

Mike was never a "good Catholic"; living this far from town mass was hard to attend on Sunday. But Jenny made sure he knew his prayers and the ritual of mass as much as it bored Mike when he was younger. It wasn't until he went to war that Mike remembered how to pray. This hell was much like war; any divine intervention couldn't be a bad thing. Especially with the woman he loved life in the balance between here and the here after.

Thoughts swirled in Mike's conscious like the shadowy depths of souls residing in hell. Never had such an anger flowed through him as it did sitting there watching Allie take shallow breaths. He knew Marcus was a sadist; he had heard rumors throughout the camp, but never witnessed first hand. Stories were told that rivaled the Huessian sons; of Marcus using women as play things. When he grew tired of them he would murder them and toss their bodies out, other times feeding them to walkers barely alive or maimed so they couldn't get away. Sickness like that needed to end, even if the ending was violent in nature.

"I need you to get better Allie. You're a fighter, you're too stubborn to give up. Don't you dare fucking give up on me. There's something I gotta go do, but I promise I will come back to you. I love you baby." Mike whispered in her ear before kissing her tenderly on the lips. He saw Allie's eyes flicker behind heavy lids, it was a good sign.

Daryl heard the soft thud of metal swinging against fabric as he shut the stable door. The footsteps stopped, waiting for Daryl to acknowledge the owner's presence. Blowing out a breath he turned; his gaze taking in the scene before him. Mike was armed for war; a knife strapped to his thigh, a pistol strapped to his other thigh with a rifle in his hands and a shotgun peeking over his shoulder.

"Care to share why you're geared for war?" Daryl could feel the anger radiating between the two of them. Daryl could sympathize with the kid, he was just as pissed that someone hurt Allie. Daryl had promised Natalie that he would kill the people responsible for kidnapping and injuring their daughter. He had planned to go out after dinner, during the storm and hunt them down on his own.

Mike's icy stare chilled Daryl to the bone. The tone of his voice was deadly serious; "Mr. Dixon, I know who raped and mutilated my wife, your daughter. I know where he sleeps, and I have every intention of making sure he never touches another woman again. Are you with me or am I taking the kill for my own?"

*****And there you have it dear readers, the end of Blood is Thicker. I apologize for it taking me so long to finish, the excuses as to why don't really matter even as valid as they may be. Know that I have enjoyed writing this story, and seeing your faves, follows and reviews have really made my day when I was feeling down. I appreciate you one and all. As far as a second part of this story goes; well that depends on what you readers tell me... It's really up to you if I write part two. My next project will be to work on my BDS piece "The Only Promise That Remains" the and venture into a little bit of the Longmire universe. Posting this from my phone, so any mistakes are mine and mine alone. I hope you enjoyed this story and I do hope you will check out my other stories as well.

Until we meet again,