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Broke. Daryl felt broke.

It was a culmination of all of the losses that broke him. He didn't have time to mourn Sonora after the farm, not when Little Asskicker was on the way. Her loss was a quiet ache that was ever present, but bearable. As time passed, her memory drifted in and out of his mind, but more often out. Forgetting what you had is easier than wondering what could have been.

He was careful not to get too attached to anyone, after that. He was careful not to get close. Even when things were good, when the prison was safe. He didn't reach for the flame that was intimacy, he would only get burned. And he was right. When the Governor took Hershel from them, he was the strong one. He was always the strong one. Even when he lost Merle. But when the prison walls fell, his did too. Maybe it was because he thought he'd lost it all, and that was the end. Who did he have to be strong for?

But Beth was there. She was there, and she was what was good. And now he had lost the good.

His mind wanders back to the hospital, the gunshot...

He can't lose anymore. He just can't.

He's too thirsty to sweat. Instead, the heatwaves of the summer attack him full and head on, like he's standing in front of an open oven.

He props himself up against a tree overlooking a long abandoned barn. Soundlessly, he slips a pack of cigarettes out of he's pocket. He hadn't smoked in a long time, but something about them made him feel normal, like back in the old days with Merle and the boys. He loathed that about himself, that he craved normalcy. He lights a single cigarette, taking a long drag from it. The smell brought him back, and so did the taste. But not like he had hoped. He wanted to feel something, anything. He studies the lit end of the cigarette, then mindlessly presses it to the back of his hand, skin sizzling and pain waves shooting up is arm. This wasn't the first time. His dad had done it before, lots of times. What a strange thought, that he would give anything to be that battered boy, cowering from his father in the backwoods of Georgia. Daryl Dixon tucks his head into his chest and silently weeps.


He makes his way up the bank , body aching and mouth dry. The pine needles crunch beneath his feet, just another symptom of the drought.

When he hears low voices and the shuffling of feet, he knows he's found the group. He steps out onto the road, blinking once when he comes eye to eye not with Rick, who usually leads the charge, but with a girl. And not just any girl.

"Sonora." Daryl breathes almost inaudibly.

"Daryl." She utters, a blanket of caution draped over her voice.

She looks strong and sturdy, not like the skinny girl from the river so long ago. Her hair is tightly wound into a bun at the base of her neck, not running in a braid down her back. She has a faint scar on her chin, and he wonders where it came from. The angles of her face are sharp, like a hawk's. She looks like a warrior, not like the naive girl he knew before. Her eyebrows seem to be knit together permanently as she scans his face calculatingly. Her arms are toned and tan. Besides a few smudges of dirt here and there, she looks clean and healthy. A line of rabbits are slung over her shoulder.

Rabbit girl.

Sonora swallows, still like a statue. He can't read her. Uncharacteristically, her heart is tucked away, not on her sleeve.

Daryl blinks once, then twice. She was alive this whole time.

He takes one step towards her, then takes her up in his arms. Hesitantly, she loops her arms around his neck. He can feel her breath on his cheek, but something about the embrace feels wrong.

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