41. Epilogue

"Watching your pets again, Paschar?"

"They're not pets, they're people." The angel who wore the guise of a young woman said chidingly.

"Why this particular pair in this particular universe then? What makes them different from all the others we see? Was it the boy? Glenn? He's the one that drew your attention to them wasn't he?"

"How many times they tried..." she said softly, watching as the crouching man with the tattered wings on the back of his leather vest held his arms out to the small boy with dark curly hair and big blue eyes as he took his first steps, his mother putting her hand to her mouth as he teetered away from her.

"What?"

"It's how many times they tried to be together..." she said more distinctly. "How many times their fates almost intertwined, how they tried and failed or were kept apart by others actions or inactions..." She waved her hand over the pool of water in the basin of the elaborate Victorian fountain and the scene changed,

Daryl drove his old pickup to the top of the quarry camp, the bodies of the dead killed in the walker attack in its bed. Ed Peletier approached, his shy daughter walking behind him.

"Well, ya better get it before they put her in the ground." he said harshly to the little girl. Daryl squinted at the blowhard of a man, his face still bruised from the beat down he'd been given the day before by the deputy. After Dale had treated his wounds, Ed had been locked in the Winnebago to keep him away from his wife and child when the walker attack had happened. Carol had been killed when she'd tried to bring Sophia into the safety of the RV. Ed had refused to open the door and Carol had sheltered her daughter from the walkers by pressing her against the camper and covering the girl with her own body. She'd been bitten several times and must've been in agony, but Carol had refused to abandon Sophia.

"Whatta you need, sweetheart?" Daryl said to the little girl, his voice softer and gentler than anyone in camp had ever heard it before.

"My...my mom wore a necklace...a little gold cross..." Sophia said, her reddened eyes looking shyly up into his. "She always wears it." Daryl winced. No way was he letting this little girl look inside the blanket shrouding what was left of her mother.

"I'll check, honey—you go stand over there." he said, gesturing over to the tree line about 10 feet distant. Grumbling, Peletier and the girl retreated, watching the tracker as he found the pink blanket that held Carol Peletier. His back to them, blocking their view he opened the cloth and saw the serene face of the mousey woman who'd been like a lioness as she defended her baby, fighting to the death. Though he'd used a pick axe on the rest of the dead to keep them from turning, he'd silently and quickly slid his knife in at the base of her skull instead, preserving her perfect features. She'd been beautiful and he'd never even noticed...so caught up had he been in trying to keep Merle sober and find game in the surrounding woods to feed the hungry group. He ran his dirty hand down her cheek and jaw, his heart oddly heavy. Shaking his head to clear it, berating himself as a fucking fool, he moved his hand to her neck, searching for the necklace. A delicate gold chain caught on his rough skinned fingers and he turned it until he had the clasp, almost too small for him to work it. He lifted the cross, his knuckles brushing against her soft skin one last time, and then drew the blanket over her face.

"Sophie?" he said, holding up the necklace and turning towards the girl, who started back towards him, smiling through tears to see he had found it, but she was stopped by her father's hand coming down hard on her shoulder.

"Slow down there, girl. Redneck scumbag can just bring my property on over here."

"You lousy son of a bitch!" Daryl yelled, stalking over to Ed, "You good as killed that good woman," he pointed back to his truck, "bein' too yellow to come outa the RV and help defend this fuckin' camp!" Sophia cowered back at the show of rage from Daryl and it brought both Shane and Rick immediately to his side from where they'd been working with Jim to finish the graves he'd dug the day before.

"Daryl, we got a problem here?" Rick asked, striving for calm. It had been a horrible night and tempers were still on edge. Daryl had been a big help in getting Glenn back from the Vatos, but he was still mostly an unknown quantity.

"Asshole stole my wife's necklace offa her body." Ed said, smirking at Daryl and pointing at the necklace that the other man still held, releasing his hold on Sophia to gloat.

"You lying piece of shit!" Daryl yelled, pointing his finger at Peletier. Shane moved to restrain Daryl, but Sophia jumped in front of him, protecting the tracker.

"He didn't!" Sophia screamed, stopping them all in their tracks to stare at her in amazement. Lori and Carl came into the clearing and ran over when they heard the young girl's distress.

"Sophia, honey!" Lori said, rushing to take the girl in her arms, but Sophia resisted, backing up to Daryl instead. Daryl chewed his lip, wincing uncomfortably as she took a hold of his hand.

"I asked him to get my mom's cross for me and he did...I wanted it to remember her by." she looked up at Daryl and smiled shyly. "Thank you Mr. Daryl." Daryl looked into her eyes and nodded, handing her the necklace.

"Sophia Peletier, get yer ass over here right now!" Ed bellowed, but the girl, though shaking, shook her head no.

"I don't think she needs to go with you, Ed." Rick said, exchanging looks with Lori and Shane and then he looked pointedly at Daryl, who nodded in agreement as well.

"She's my daughter—ain't none a your concern, you ain't the law here—ain't no law no more!" Ed said indignantly, trying to push past Lori, almost knocking her down to get to Sophia, who held on tight to Daryl's hand and melted into his side. As Carl cried out, "Mom!" a pair of loud clicks on either side of his head arrested Ed's forward momentum. Both Shane and Rick had drawn on the man, the big Colt Python and the pump action Remington pointed at his head.

"Daryl, would you be so kind as to escort Sophia, my wife and my son back to the RV while Shane and I have a little chat with Mr. Peletier about the state of law enforcement here in Georgia?" Rick said, his voice a menacing purr.

"Happy to oblige, officer." Daryl drawled, taking Sophia's hand and drawing it up to the crook of his elbow. He looked over at Lori and nodded his head towards camp, "Ma'm?" she gave him a frowning smile, not sure what to make of him, furious one minute and courteous the next, but fell in beside him, holding Carl's hand, as they walked back down the hill.

"I think that child just got herself a guardian angel." Jim said, leaning on his shovel, starting on a new grave.

Paschar sighed.

"So much potential—one little decision changes everything." her companion said.

"Sometimes he dies before they even meet—or they meet as young people and date but have a falling out, or they make it all the way to the farm and save Sophia, but all die when the herd hits without warning..."

"And in some she ends up with Rick and in some Daryl does." and then he waggled his eyebrows at her, "And in a couple of real twisty ones all three of them are together... What's your point?"

"In this one, this one universe, they will be happy, I have your promise." Paschar said firmly.

"And what's your definition of happy?" the handsome Angel of Death asked. "They're still in the middle of a worldwide epidemic that made the dead walk—it makes the Bubonic Plague look like child's play, and that was some of the Horsemen's best work."

"I'm not saying someone has to come up with a cure, although that would be nice...weren't the French working on something?" she wheedled, but he made a gesture of dismissal. "All right then—they're together, they have a child—they should both be there to raise him and teach him how to survive in this world..."

This time it was Azrael who waved his hand over the waters.

"Andrew Wisdom Dixon, get your sorry ass out here!" Carol's stern voice echoed down the cellblock. 13 year old Drew Dixon stuck his head out of the third cell down, his tousled dark curls, turned up nose, crystal blue eyes, pointed chin and high cheek bones the perfect blending of his parents features. He was almost the same age as Carl had been when they'd come to this place; and now they were finally preparing to leave it.

"Now whatta ya want, ma?" the boy yelled back, highly put upon, and a girlish laugh came from behind him, amused at his bellowing insolence.

"Judith Grimes, you get your fancy little butt out here too!" at 14 going on 15 Judith was the spitting image of her mother, lanky, sloe eyed with long dark hair, just on the cusp of womanhood. She and Drew had grown up together like brother and sister, even closer after the death of her father when she'd been ten and Carol and Daryl had taken both she and Carl in, just as Rick had wished. Losing Rick had been a blow to the whole community, coming not from a walker attack, but in a stupid accident, falling while working to repair a leaky roof high up on the prison's far side. Daryl had taken it especially hard—the men had been as close as brothers—but he'd rose to the occasion, becoming the leader that the community needed.

At 44 Daryl looked much the same as he always had, a bit more grey in his beard and hair—not quite ready to give Hershel a run for his money, but getting there. He was still vital, his sinewy muscular fitness intact, but he had a more settled, contented look to him than he'd had in the early days at the prison. He smiled more, laughed more and exuded an easy confidence that put people at ease, unless someone crossed him or was perceived as a threat. The dangerous Dixon was still there, the big dog ready to get in your face, literally butt heads if the situation called for it, but better held in check, the hair trigger tempered now by his calm and steady wife.

Carol had kept her short hairstyle, but now dressed a bit more steam punk meets hippie chick, with her buckled Doc Martens and her still slender figure hugged by comfortable pants under colorful interesting blouses and leather vests. She looked pretty, but formidable, the thigh strapped pistol, katana at her back and smaller version of Daryl's buck knife at her waist showed she was always prepared to defend herself and her extended family.

The teenagers groaned but came out of the cell, masks of surly innocence slapped on their young faces.

"What?" Drew asked.

"I am told by reputable sources that you two were seen up in the south tower kissing." Carol said, her arms crossed in front of her. The two young people blushed and looked at the floor, the walls, anywhere but at Carol or each other. "Is that true?"

"It's not like he's really my brother..." Jude mumbled, pouting."That would be gross."

Her "real" brother, Carl, at 26, was a handsome, quiet young man, and he and Beth were progressing towards a real relationship at long last. Eight years ago, she and Miguel had been together for four years and had just had a baby daughter, when he had given his life to save his best friend, Carl, and the rest of the scavenging crew from a herd. His last words to Carl were, "Take care of our girls," and then he had stood his ground, covering Carl and the others so they could make it to the vehicles. As he was overrun, Daryl's sure bolt to his head ended his suffering.

"Drew, what do you have to say for yourself?" Carol asked her son. Drew cocked his head and squinted at her, so much like Daryl that Carol had to suppress her grin.

"We was on watch so we shouldn't've been screwin' around?" he ventured. Judith frowned at him. Tall for his age and well formed, smart mouthed Drew Dixon was just about the cutest thing she'd ever seen and she'd had a crush on him for as long as she could remember. She'd finally got up the nerve to lean over and plant one on him in the tower yesterday and after his initial shock had worn off he'd decided kissing wasn't half bad. Just their luck that some busy body had told on them.

"Exactly." Carol said, nodding. "When you are on watch your attention needs to be focused on what you are doing—especially now—you know we're packing up to leave here because Negan and his crew are on their way. It's vital that we keep an eye out for his spies or raiders," she came closer and tousled her son's hair, which he tried to duck. "And I guess it's about time you and your father had a little talk..."she said pensively, wishing he could remain her little boy a bit longer. Sex was the last little bit of innocence kids retained growing up in this world. Drew knew the mechanics of it from working with the animals, but the feelings and the preventative measures, well; it was high time Daryl dealt with that.

"You can go find him—go on." Carol said, and the boy grinned at her and took off at a run, whistling for his dog, Ass Kicker, one of Gus's offspring, abandoning Judith. Carol turned to the girl who'd become like a daughter to her. Judith swallowed hard but met Carol's eyes defiantly.

"I love him, Aunt Carol." Jude said firmly, her lower lip quivering.

"I know honey." Carol said, smiling, "Dixon men are mighty hard to resist." she held out her arms and the girl rushed into them.

"You're not mad at me?" Judith asked as Carol hugged her.

"That you let him distract you from watch—that worries me, but no, I'm not mad at you for kissing him." she smiled wistfully, "Everyone's first kiss should be from someone who loves them."

"What was yours like? With Uncle Daryl?" Judith asked, making Carol chuckle in remembrance.

"Well, we were out on a run to Senoia to save your Uncle Glenn, got in a car accident when we hit a giant herd; I had a concussion and had just thrown up..."

"What?" Judith said, "Yuck! That doesn't sound very romantic..." and she pursed her lips and grimaced. In her well worn romance novels the hero always swept the women he loved into his arms in some exotic setting in the midst of danger...and while Uncle Daryl was definitely the hero type, stupid old Senoia, where they were moving to, was hardly exotic.

"It was the most romantic thing that had ever happened to me." Carol said dreamily.

Paschar smiled as she watched. Her observations of the lives and trials of these people were endlessly fascinating to her. The connections and interrelationships, the myriad possibilities of the ways their lives could progress or fail—if she had to put a word to it—well, it would be entertaining.

"Have you seen enough?" another masculine voice brought her out of her reverie.

"Sir." Azrael bowed as the Supreme Being walked past him.

"Don't you have somewhere to be?" Bob asked the dark winged angel archly.

"Always." Azrael sighed and with a surreptitious wave at his friend, he vanished.

"Dude gets around more than the Dead." Bob punned, but at Paschar's confused look, added, "The Grateful Dead—American Rock band—toured a lot—oh screw it, it's not funny if I have to explain it." he splashed his hand in the fountain's waters and they turned red; raising a handful he let it drip back out of his hand like bloody tear drops. "Like this? Used it back in Egypt on a pharaoh to help my main man Moses."

"Yes sir, I remember."

"You can't call Azrael off them forever, my dear." Bob said patiently. "Everything dies." he touched the water again and it turned clear, showing a wedding in a decorated hall.

"Well, better late than never." Daryl said to Carol dryly as he watched the very pregnant Judith walk down the aisle to meet her groom, their son.

"He's twenty, Daryl—I'm amazed they made it this long." Carol said.

"Don't know why they needed all this..." he waved his hand around and she captured it, pulling it to her lap and holding it still with hers. His fingers found their way between her knees, inching up her skirt and she dug her nails into his wrist.

"Behave." she hissed.

"Remember our wedding?" He whispered, leaning close, their heads touching. She smiled and nodded. "All I needed was you." he told her and kissed her. "Still do."

"No one knows what comes after this life, so I can't promise I'll love you forever, but I'll love you the rest of my life." Drew said from the front of the room, part of their self written vows. "I will understand when you need me to hold on, and when is the time for letting go."

Paschar turned to Bob.

"That sound about right to you?" she asked him, and he frowned at her, then he smiled a rueful little smile and nodded.

"All right, little one. You win. Just this once. They get a long happy life."


Yeah, I killed Rick & had Carol raise his kids. Writing this right after watching S4 "Indifference" & I'm pissed at him, LOL!

That's it, folks! Thanks so much for sticking with me through all of this. I have enjoyed getting to know you readers and reviewers so much and hope you'll continue to enjoy my little (& not so little) stories here. I'll be adding to my new chapter story "Bittersweet," which I hope you take a look at if you haven't already.

And some fun news, the wonderful BLuIcy delivered some gifts from me to Melissa & Norman at Walker Stalker Con in Atlanta! It was so special to be able to give them something back for all of the hours of enjoyment I have gotten from TWD and for being the inspiration for my stories! So if you see any pictures of Mel sporting a pair of turquoise & silver angel wing earrings (like Daryl's vest of course!) I made those or of Norman wearing a tie tack that says "Art" in script—send me a link; )