AN: OK, this is an AU fic. It's completely and totally AU. I own nothing from the Walking Dead except my love for the characters. I make no money off of it, no infringement intended, and so on and so forth. This is just for fun and entertainment value, that's all.

This is eventually a Caryl fic, but in many places Daryl and Carol will both be, probably, more than a little OOC. The Sophia that will be in this story will be very, very, very OOC, pretty much to the fact of simply being an OC.

I'm giving it a try, since I love to have way too many irons in the fire no matter what I'm doing. The little idea has been pinballing through my mind, though, so I thought I'd see what you thought of it and what would become of it when I took it from being just an idea to being something concrete.

The chapters, as is normal for me, will probably be on the shorter side until I fall into the rhythm of the fic. I'll update whenever I can…I have to go with my moods when I write, that's just how it is.

I know it will take us a bit to get rolling well, but I hope you enjoy it. I'll give the warning that it may be a little "darker" in places than some of what you're used to with me, at least at the beginning. You also get the warning that domestic violence, physical abuse, verbal abuse, etc. will be talked about and "take place" in the fic. The one thing I can say is that even though it may be alluded to, I will not write rape in detail. I may mention it, and I'll give trigger warnings if and when I do, but I don't do the detailed stuff on that. It's not my cup of tea at all to write that.

Let me know what you think. I know it's early, and you don't have much to go on yet, but let me know what you're thinking. I'll try to update soon.

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Carol drummed her fingers on the countertop in the darkness and willed the coffee pot to percolate faster than it was. There wasn't any reason to turn any of the lights on. She would have known every square inch of this house, not that was any kind of a mansion or anything, blind. She'd spent fifteen years living here, and that was almost as long as she'd spent in any one place having left her parents' house when she was eighteen.

She had gotten the house almost six years ago, when her ex-husband had finally gone to prison where he belonged. She'd kept silent for all the years that she was married to him about his abuse, but finally it blew up in his face when he simply got too heavy handed and the neighbors had called the police. If they hadn't, Carol knew she'd probably be dead…and if she had managed to survive, she'd still be under his oppressive thumb.

But she wasn't. She was free from him and he was sporting the lovely orange jumpsuits provided to him by the county. As he'd been doing for two months shy of six years.

Carol celebrated the anniversary of Ed going to prison with more rigor than most people celebrate their wedding anniversaries. It meant far more to her, actually, than her wedding anniversary had. She'd considered, for far too long, her wedding anniversary to be like an anniversary to her imprisonment and to her torture. Ed going to prison had freed her from that, or at least from his overwhelming presence.

She couldn't really say that she was free from Ed, though, and she didn't know if it would ever be possible to be free from him. Ed had told her a million times that she'd never escape him, that she would always belong to him, and she had to admit to herself that she believed him.

His hands weren't on her body any longer, and all the physical wounds had healed and scarred over, but the physical wounds weren't really the ones that hurt so much. The broken bones, the bruises, the burns, all those things faded with time. It was the rest of it that never seemed to go away. It just lingered there, in the back of her mind, keeping her tied to him each and every day in some way or another.

She'd learned her lessons well from him. She had etched into her brain each and every thing he wanted her to remember. They were a part of her now. She wasn't sure she'd ever let them go, even though she would have liked to have known what it was like to live without them.

He'd gone to prison, and she'd been divorced from him, and that should have been it. For all intents and purposes, her life was no longer linked to Ed Peletier. She'd gotten the house, she'd gotten the car, and she'd gotten a decent sum of money that they declared "financial compensation". The money was compensation for the years of abuse that she suffered at his hands. It was supposed to make better everything that he had ever said and had ever done. She'd almost laughed in the lawyer's face when presented with the sum.

It had been like being told exactly what your life was worth, and finding out that all in all, you were worth about as much as the man had told you that you were worth…nothing.

Still, she'd taken the house, the car, the pathetic pile of money that put a dollar sign on her soul…because beggars can't be choosers and battered housewives have very little to call their own when the angry shadow is gone out of the room.

And now she lived a quiet life.

The house remained much as it had when Ed had been there. She'd replaced the broken furniture with thrift store finds that she spent her free time fixing up. It was her only real release to bury herself in one project or another. She'd burned most of the photos, though a few still remained here and there, tucked away in boxes and such because she'd simply been too tired to go and look for them. She'd considered simply ripping Ed out of them, but she didn't want pictures of herself either. She didn't want to look at how much she'd changed…how cruel the years with him had been to her. In fact, she didn't want to look at it so much that her final alteration to the house had been to remove every single mirror and place them in the attic. She'd only kept one in the bathroom, and she looked in it as little as possible, hating nothing more than the sight of her reflection staring back at her, taunting her.

Carol had a decent job, at least it suited her. She worked in the library of the small town in which she lived, about an hour outside Atlanta. The city paid her and the library continued in business mostly because the town council believed it would be a shame to have a town without a library. She could say that there were relatively few patrons of the place and she spent much of her time there alone, hidden among the stacks of dusty books.

She was the only one to read the books. She had an affinity for them. She almost loved the books emotionally. In the books she could find anything and everything that she'd never had in life and that she'd never have in life. She could lose herself among the pages and in the tales spun by authors long dead or in the new pages of the arrivals dropped off every now and again by the mayor who tried to keep the place "up to date" in hopes that reading would one day come into style for the younger generation that seemed to moving farther and farther away from it, lulled by the hum of technology and progress.

Carol supposed that most people would have hated the solitude of her library position, but that was probably what she valued most about it. People just didn't come very often to the library, and when they did, they preferred to be alone for the most part and didn't bother her unless it was to, very rarely, check out some tomb or another they actually wanted to take home with them.

Because of her job, now, she was almost invisible, just as she had been before, and being invisible was pretty comfortable to her.

Finally, as the sun began to flood the outdated kitchen of the small house, the coffee maker rumbled and growled to say that its job was done and the smell of coffee invaded Carol's nose. She slid her coffee cup over from the edge of the sink where it waited patiently for her every night and filled it with the dark liquid. She sipped at it and thought to herself that soon she'd need to get ready. It would be time to head from the quiet of her house to the quiet of the library.

It wasn't like getting ready for her was any big challenge. It mostly consisted of pulling on whatever was clean, whether it fit or not, and running her fingers through her short hair.

Once, not long after being married, she had made some mention of going to the beauty salon in town and getting her hair done. Ed had railed against her about her vanity and had accused her of being whorish and hoping to attract the attention of some of the men that she only knew as living in his mind. He'd beat her to teach her the lesson of thinking that she could do that…could ask for men to look at her…and then he'd given her his own hairstyle, cutting her hair off with the dull kitchen scissors.

As a result, she'd simply left it like that. He'd told her time and time again that she was ugly, undesirable, and no man would ever look at her…and he'd been right. She wasn't anything worthy of getting any man's attention. Ed had been the only man in her life, and look at what his attention had done for her.

She didn't feel the need to try to make herself something that she wasn't. There was no need to fuss with her hair or worry about her clothes, or even to wear makeup like other women did. Those things were for women who were pretty, and for women that wanted to enhance that beauty. She didn't have the beauty, so there was no need to try and pretend that she did. It would have been like hanging crystal chandeliers in a sinking ship.

That was another reason that she didn't need the mirrors. There was no reason to look at her reflection anyway. When she'd been with Ed, her face and her body had always looked back at her, covered in the marks that he left. He'd strip her naked sometimes, stand her in front of the full length mirror that she hated the most. The one that used to hang on the back of the bedroom door, and he'd talk to her. He'd go inch by inch over her entire body and show her…prove to her…that she was nothing and she was ugly. The mirror didn't lie either. It confirmed all the truths that he whispered in her ear and for all its years of taunting her it had been the first she'd banished to the attic.

No, getting ready was nothing special for Carol. She could be ready within five minutes and walking out the door to work if that was what she needed to happen. No one cared anyway. No one was looking at her, and the ones who did see her probably wished they could erase the image from their minds. She knew that she would erase it from her own mind if she could.

Carol finished her coffee and put the cup in the sink to be washed after she got back from work. It was cold outside and she walked through the house dressing in a pair of jeans she found on the floor, a bulky sweater that she'd acquired from some thrift shop or yard sale, and her worn sneakers. She quickly ran her fingers through her hair and then rushed out the door, snatching her purse over her shoulder.

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Daryl wiped his hands on his pants, not that his pants were any cleaner than his hands had been, and excused himself to the corner of the shop to light a cigarette and fumble with the half broken drink machine that was theoretically supposed to provide them with beverages but mostly only gave them headaches.

The body shop was a three car number run by a man that was only sober half the time. Daryl really ran the place, truth be told, but his paycheck didn't reflect the fact that the only reason the shitty shop brought in a quarter of the money it did was because everyone knew that Daryl Dixon was the best body man in the county.

He'd had plenty of time to earn his reputation, though, and plenty of time to hone his skills. His first job in a shop had been when he was fourteen and he'd been entrusted mostly with the job of pushing dust around a dirty floor with an ancient broom. Later, though, he'd found out that he had little use for school, but he enjoyed working on the cars and bikes that rolled through.

He'd moved a few times, but his reputation followed him. No matter where the hell he'd ended up…although he'd really only moved about in a forty or fifty mile radius…his reputation was on his heels. On the one hand, he was haunted by the reputation of being nothing but a piece of white trash that came from parents who were the same…and on the other he was the best body man there was. That was the thing about reputations, good or bad, earned or not, they seemed to stick the hell with you.

He shared a single wide trailer with his dead beat brother that was parked not fifty feet from the shop that he was currently employed at. The trailer had been part of the bargain that had brought him there. He paid the utilities, but the quality lot behind the dumpsters and the run down trailer was rent free.

He and his brother both worked at the shop, but Daryl could barely call what Merle did working. Mostly Merle did just enough to merit the pathetic paycheck that he earned, and the majority of that he spent on booze. The shop was just a place to work to Merle, but to Daryl it was more.

The shop, whichever one he happened to be employed at, was Daryl's whole world. He didn't give two fucks about anything outside of the space. His entire life had been something akin to one of the tear in your beer country songs that filtered over the radio while they worked, and it left him with little desire, even at the ripe age of thirty four, to go on even trying to experience anything more from life. The songs had taught him one thing. It would never fucking end well, so he might as well not even set himself up for the disappointment.

The shop, though, that was something different. It was the only place that Daryl had ever really felt that he was worth anything. His parents had been trash, and that was actually promoting them from what they really were. They'd drank and fought themselves into oblivion and Daryl hadn't even minded the fact so much that his mother and father both drank themselves to an early death by the time he was seventeen. He didn't miss them, and he was pretty damn sure the world didn't miss them either.

They'd raised him and Merle both to believe that they wouldn't be anything and they couldn't do anything right. They'd both been born, in his parents' minds, with their hands on backwards and their heads up their asses.

Both of his parents had been brutes, and Daryl could hardly remember a kind word being spoken to him in his life from either of them. People naturally put Merle and Daryl down, too, because of the impressive mess his parents had made of their lives. No matter what the hell you did good in life, no matter how much praise it was worth, your virtue was never enough to wash away completely the sins of your parents. For that, Daryl hated people, and for that he avoided them as much as possible when not under the context of cars.

As far as Daryl could see, though, Merle was living up to his full potential, fulfilling his parents predictions one soggy ass day at a time, but Daryl felt like he was different, at least in some ways.

Most of his life was a shit show for sure, but in the shop he was the king. He could turn chicken shit into chicken salad so to speak. No matter how bad the thing looked when it rolled in, no matter how rusted out and worthless it was or how severely it had been damaged, once he got his hands on it he could turn it into something beautiful. He could, somehow, coax out of the metal and fiberglass all the potential that was there. When it left his hands and rolled back out the shop, it was something to behold. That magic was what had earned him the only part of his reputation that he was proud of.

And so with life a bust and no desire to go chasing after rainbows, Daryl buried himself in the shop. It was his entire life. As part of the deal to work there, he'd gained his own set of keys to the place and access to work there any damn time he pleased. That allowed him to sink all of his free time into doing the one damn thing that made his life worth living.

Daryl loved restoration. He loved it more than anything else in the world. He worked on cars that had been wrecked, taking the dings out of doors and hammering out hoods to survive, but what he really got drunk off of wasn't the cheap whiskey his brother drank. It was the joy of finding some forgotten treasure in a junkyard somewhere and bringing it back to life. The bigger the challenge, the greater the reward. He'd buy clunkers, would-be classics being his favorite, and he'd work in his free hours, often giving up sleep for progress, to bring the things to their full potential.

He sold nearly everything he fixed, and it was always for an impressive profit. His interest wasn't so much in owning the beauties, as it was in proving to himself that he could rise to the challenge. The more impressive the car, the more he felt like he'd done something worthwhile when it rolled away, shining like a new penny, the apple of someone's eye.

One of the best parts of Daryl's job was that he had little contact with people beyond looking over the vehicles for estimations, and returning the keys when the job was done. Mac, the man who owned the business and theoretically managed it, did most all the customer service bullshit that had to be done. He liked shooting the shit and that saved Daryl from it. Daryl's reputation brought in the business, Mac handled it, and Daryl stayed behind the scenes…his only focus being to work his magic on the bodies of whatever rolled through the stalls.

Right now it was the dead middle of the day, though, and that was Daryl's least favorite time of the day. The car he was working on now belonged to some man…some banker…who had a little altercation with another car. Apparently the man was at a stop sign and considered it his turn to go, while the other car didn't agree. The wreck wasn't bad, though, and Daryl knew it wasn't a big job for him. He just hated the fact that the car was simply a boring black BMW…nothing really impressive no matter how great a job he did.

The days were like that, though. Daryl had to spend them on whatever wreck rolled in. The night was really what he really waited for. As soon as it was clocking out time he'd roll in his latest find, currently a junked 1940 Ford Coupe that he intended to shave down and restore, and then he'd really be happy. Under the cover of night, he could do what the hell he loved. He could invest his time an energy into something that would be a real beauty because of it. He just had to make it through the days first.

Daryl Dixon was a kindred spirit to anything with a motor, that much was true, but he could never bring himself to give a shit about people. Cars, bikes, and even the other odds and ends that came to him, they never judged. People were a different story. He knew the only time that people looked at him like he was worth the dirt that was sticking to his shoes was when he was handing them the keys to their precious vehicles. Then there was a smile on their face and praise on their lips. Daryl wasn't fooled though, he knew that all faded quickly and was replaced by their low grade opinion of him just as soon as they drove off, not even bothering to give him a second glance in their rearview mirrors.