As Daryl rode off, drifting further away from his best friend in the world his mind was full. Full of worry, wonder and anticipation of what comes next. He thought about what and who he’s leaving behind and almost turned back around. He could go home and be a dad to Judith and RJ and he would be happy with that. But don’t they deserve their REAL dad? Don’t they deserve the best chance at happiness they can get? Happiness…hmmm. Daryl didn’t think that word had any truth or realism until he met Connie. He just can’t wrap his head around how this one tiny woman could make him feel so many different things, including happiness if that’s a real thing, in such a horrible world. He didn’t even realize how much she made him have hope for a better future. The hope she gives him is what fueled his decision to not only search for his brother, but to venture out into the world and see if there was anyone else that needed saving. Like Henry said, there’s a whole world out there to see.
Heading off without a clue about which direction he should ride in has been worrying Daryl. Judith didn’t know very much information about exactly where her mom went, and the information he received from Virgil was minimal. The best thing is to ride toward Virgil’s previous home where his family is buried and go from there. There shouldn’t have been very much foot traffic there so he should be able to still pick up a trail, except of course for the boat. He had no idea how to follow that kind of trail. He’s honestly just having a hard time wrapping his head around this whole situation. Could Rick really be alive after all this time? If he has been, why didn’t he come home? There can’t be anything left in this world stopping him from being with his family, and if it is, it can’t be anything or anyone good.
Daryl sighs as he swerves to avoid a walker. Ugh, he is so sick of these mindless bastards. When would it ever end? He realizes that he has spent most of this apocalypse pessimistic about…well, everything, but he also didn’t think anyone would actually survive this long. He had always imagined the world continuously spinning, covered in snarling, stinking, mindless walkers until even the world didn’t exist anymore. But that didn’t happen. They didn’t lose the war. At least not yet. Maybe Rick was right when he said, “We’re the ones who live”. As the woods thinned out and the wheels of his bike met with the hot, smooth open road, he accelerated while he wondered what Connie was up to…
In the year since the explosion Connie and her sister Kelly had taken on much more active and important roles within the Commonwealth. The town didn’t need reporters as much as it needed help in moving on from the hell that Pamela caused. Making sure everyone had a place to live felt like a much more important job that she was happy to take on with Kelly. The best part was that everyone lived the same. No more large, ridiculous houses hiding behind a gate that almost no one had a key to. After all the losses from last year everyone was happy to live closer together. It helped them feel a bit safer than they did when everyone was strangers living lives that didn’t make sense for the world they are forced to live in.
Connie pulled her sweater over her head and wondered if Kelly was awake yet. She was sure that Kelly had started sleeping later since beginning to lose her hearing completely. With the state of things, she thought it better to let her sister sleep in. They didn’t need to be superheroes today. Connie honestly didn’t know what she was going to do today. She has had much more time on her hands since the change of leadership, and she thinks she’s been using it wisely. The unfortunate citizens that were too close to the blast have been very appreciative of the ASL lessons, and so have their families. Having them practice with each other weekly really jump started their understanding of the language and now they don’t need her anymore.
Now she thought about Abbey. She had come such a long way learning ASL, and something made her start to pull away. Perhaps she would go see her today just to check in. She didn’t want Abbey to think that she had abandoned her since taking on so many students. Maybe she just needed to know that Connie still cared. Being born unable to hear in an apocalypse has never been an easy or simple life for her and losing her mother so young only made her feel more alone in the world. Well now her mind was made up, she would definitely stop by and speak with Abbey today. As she turned to put her boots on, she noticed Kelly standing in the doorway. “Hey sis” Kelly signed. “Hey, did you just wake up? I was just figuring out what to do today. I thought we could stop by Christian’s and have a chat with Abbey. Perhaps take her out for some ice cream?” A very familiar look came over Kelly’s face as she signed “I was wondering when you were going to ask me that. It’s been a while and I was beginning to get worried myself. Christian still attends all of his lessons, and he told me that they communicate very well now and are closer than ever. I just can’t figure out why she doesn’t want to continue with hers.” Connie got a very determined look on her face and signed “We will get to the bottom of it TODAY”.
The look on Kelly’s face changed to something a little unfamiliar. “What?” Connie signed. “You haven’t had that look on your face since you marched off determined not to let Daryl leave. Why won’t you talk to me about what happened that day? He’s lucky he left, or I would be giving him a piece of my mind right now. I know he has feelings for you, I’ve seen it. Then he goes and breaks your heart…” Connie got the same determined look on her face as she repeatedly signed “Stop”. “He didn’t break my heart. I never quite told him that I wanted him to stay. You know it’s been so long since I let anyone in that way, and when he told me why he needed to leave I realized that I needed to let him go. I love that we talked, and I know we can talk more when he gets back…” Connie turns her head and thinks IF he gets back. She feels Kelly tap her on the shoulder and she already knows what she’s going to say. She turns her head and mouths I know before Kelly could start to sign. Kelly and Daryl were good friends, so she was very much invested in him coming back home for good. He was like a big brother to her when she needed it and neither one of them will ever forget it.
“Daryl ALWAYS comes back. Always sis.” Connie sat down and waited for Kelly to get dressed. She didn’t mind because it gave her time to remember…
“Shit!” If it’s not one thing it’s another these days. Daryl is thinking that he might have to settle for a different mode of transportation…or maybe he doesn’t. Maybe he could just cut his losses and head back to the Commonwealth. He would never complain about his time spent parenting Judith and RJ and he fully plans on getting back to that very important job one day soon. But are they the reason he wants to turn around or is it something else? Perhaps someONE else. Daryl knows that he needs to get his shit together and focus on the task at hand, but his mind just keeps drifting. He wished he had said more during the conversation he had with Connie before he left. That is a feeling he is very familiar with. Merle always talked too damn much, and Daryl never talked enough.
Daryl walked the bike over to the thickest bushes he could find and laid it down behind it. Then he gathered up fallen branches of all different sizes covered with leaves of equally varying sizes and threw them on the bike in a way that made it look like something that happened naturally. Daryl had done this dozens of times so this was a process that he could do without thought…which allowed his mind to wander…
“Hi, I’m so glad I caught you!” Connie signed as she ran toward his closing room door, huge smile on her face that tried to melt the ice Daryl put around his heart after Leah. “Did you have time to talk before heading out cowboy?” Daryl’s smile immediately changed to a look of worry. “Everything ok?” he signed. “You need me to take care of something before I go?” Connie stared at Daryl, making him wish he spent more time with her so he could learn to understand her “looks” better. A small frown started to form on her face as she thought about what to say next. “Well, I was actually hoping that we could talk…about…other things.”
No, he can’t get caught up in that memory again. Not right now in the middle of nowhere. Daryl looked around. Up and down both sides of the road were mostly large, beautiful trees, but there were gas stations and houses that he knew about from stopping at them in the past. There was a stash house that he created with Aaron about 6.5 miles away, but he was not sure he wanted to travel that far right now. Every nerve ending in his body seems to be pulling him in the direction of home, but the stash house is in the opposite direction. He needs time to think without his mind being clouded with memories of her. This lack of focus is bound to get him killed out here on the road if he isn’t careful. The guilt he constantly feels for not continuing to look for Rick is the only thing stopping him from running all the way back to the Commonwealth. But he looked EVERYWHERE. The places that were searched by him overlapped with all the places that Michonne looked because of their determination to find him. Years went by. YEARS. The need to get to the bottom of this and find his brother was overwhelming, just as overwhelming as this deeply rooted need to go back and be…happy? Na.
Daryl grabbed his backpack and his crossbow and started walking in the direction of the stash house. It was unrealistic to even think that was possible. Glenn and Maggie were happy. Rick and Michonne were happy. Hell, even Sasha and Abraham were finally happy. In the end though, none of them stayed that way. Half of every couple experienced the horrible reality of this world and in Sasha and Abe’s case they’re the only ones truly together now.
“So, what were you thinking about sis?” Kelly had gotten completely dressed and done her hair while her sister waited, yet somehow Kelly ended up waiting for Connie so they could leave the house. Connie furrowed her eyebrows and gave her sister a look. “Come onnnnn, don’t be like that. I tried to get your attention a few times and it’s like you just weren’t there. Your body was a shell for whatever memory you were caught up in, and I bet I know who you were thinking of. Big hint…it wasn’t Abbey.” This was one of the few moments that Kelly was glad Connie couldn’t hear her giggling, she may just have kicked her in the shin for this one. Hahaha. Uh oh, she saw that one. “And just what is so funny?” Kelly stopped and subconsciously and immediately guarded her shins. They both looked at each other and burst into laughter. “You know I’ve only done that one time!” Connie signs through laughter and giggles. “Ah it’s ok sis, it’s my own dumb fault. And I don’t know why I haven’t talked to you about that day yet. I guess I just didn’t want you to hear all about how much of a coward I am.”
“I know I told you I understood why he left, because I really do. If I thought you were gone, and someone found clues to you still being alive out there I would jump at the first opportunity I had to go and look for you. Nothing could ever stop me, and I didn’t want to put him in a situation where he may have felt the need to choose. There are others out there that need him more than we need him here. Including Michonne and his brother Rick, maybe especially. After everything he has gone through and lost, he deserves to be the one to find them and bring them home. He deserves that happiness.”
Kelly stopped walking and took a very serious look at her sister. Connie stopped when she noticed. “You could be that happiness. Don’t get me wrong, I want him to find Michonne. She saved our lives more than once. Also, we both understand how much Judith and RJ need their parents to both come back safe. But sis I’ve seen the way he looks at you, talks to you, wants to protect you. I know there is something there.” Kelly grabbed her sister’s hands and looked at her intently.
“We both also know that Daryl is not a very talkative or emotional person. It took me a long time to figure out how to approach him, and even then, I lost my nerve. He also cares about us all and wants to protect us all. I won’t deny that I feel very connected to him, I have since we went to look for Henry together. He is such a strong, capable man and that’s why I didn’t hesitate to follow him away from Hilltop to get on Henry’s trail. It took him a while to trust me but once he did, we were unstoppable together. We actually saved Henry…and Lydia. We saved them and we all made it back alive. I guess that was the beginning…”
“The beginning of what sis?
Connie sighs and looks up at the sky. When she looks back down, she has tears in her eyes. “The beginning of your big sister falling in love with Daryl Dixon.” Then she wiped the moisture forming under her eyelids, changed the look of anguish on her face, and marched off towards Christian and Abbey’s house.