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Way of Fate

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  Daryl rubbed an absent hand over his stomach as they sat by the camp fire a bit away from the rest of the people in the camp. Merle insisted on it, keeping their distance for their own safety, Daryl’s in particular. Ever since his brother had found out about the baby in his belly, he had been incredibly protective even though he had never been too fond of Daryl’s alpha. His alpha that he had been out of town visiting old friends when the whole world went to shit. His alpha who could well be dead and even if he wasn’t then they may well never see each other again.

  Merle had conceded after long arguments and let them stay for an entire fortnight at their home before they had to move on just in case Paul turned up. He hadn’t though and day by day Daryl had lost hope. He had watched restlessly at the window or sat on their porch, waiting, listening. It had driven his brother up the wall, the older wanting nothing more than to get their shit together and leave. In those weeks, they had found how to kill the geeks, to aim for the head.

  In the end they were Dixons, Daryl was a Dixon, they had never been very good at being dependent on others, it’s why most Dixon’s were alphas, why it came as such a surprise to his family when Daryl had presented as the polar opposite. This pregnancy changed things though. It had been the biggest struggle when Paul had started their relationship, Daryl excepting that he could be with this alpha without giving up himself.

  Now here they were in a camp full of strangers, had been for over three weeks now. There was and alpha cop and that shy grey omega woman and her pup, that Asian beta and the old alpha Dale who Daryl had never directly spoken to but couldn’t help but admire and respect- a fact he would never admit to Merle. In all though, Daryl didn’t trust them, especially now. Merle was there and was always getting between Daryl and the others, something that he had always done since the younger’s presentation but had gotten worse at in the months since he’d told him of his condition. At first, it had annoyed Daryl to no end but now he felt so unsure without Paul there. He needed Merle more than ever.

  Tonight was tense though, the pair of them sat together in silence, even Merle refraining from his usual quips. The fire crackled between them, the smell of cooked squirrel and unwashed bodies enunciated by the heat, worsening his nausea at the smell brought on by the baby. Tomorrow, Merle was going into the city with a group from the camp who just could not fight, some of them it was a wonder that they had lived this far. Daryl was needless to say mad, his brother had offered to go, offered to leave Daryl behind.

  The hunter was also mad at himself though because he was mad at Merle. He wasn’t some quivering omega that needed the protection of some big, tough alpha, he was big and strong in his own right. Hell he was taller and more muscled than his own alpha, sure he would never win in a fight against him but that was because the younger man was an honest to God ninja. He was also mad at himself because he had planned to go hunting at first light. He tried to convince himself that it was because it was needed but really he was hiding, that nasty voice at the back of his mind hissing at him that he was cowardly and weak.

  They sat there for hours even after their food was gone, Merle fiddling with his hunting knife and Daryl cleaning his bolts and crossbow. Eventually though, Merle grunted that they should turn in. By that point, the moon was high in the sky and everyone else from the camp had gone to bed, their camp fire long put out.

  Daryl crawled into their tent first, getting onto his makeshift bed and onto his side and turning so that his back faced the wall. It was a habit instilled years ago from a childhood living with his father; always face the exit. Merle settled in a moment later, looking over at Daryl before taking a deep breath.

  “It’ll be fine baby brother, can’t be worrying about your old Merle now, gotta look after yourself and that baby,” he said.

  Daryl didn’t say anything, just nodded and chewed at his lip before curling into himself further and closing his eyes.

  He didn’t sleep that night. Merle did, Merle always seemed to be able to sleep no matter what. As soon as the sun started to filter through the fabric of the tent, Daryl was up. He pulled on his boots and grabbed his crossbow before quietly making his way out of the tent.

  The treeline was close to their little camp, easy for Daryl to disappear into the forest, something that brought great comfort. When he was a boy, he and Merle would go off hunting, especially when Dad was in a particularly bad mood. Then, when Merle was gone, Daryl would disappear into the woods for days, even a week at a time, would live there alone and safe. When he had met Paul, he had taught him to hunt, their relationship had strengthened and grown in those days. When they had moved in together, they had brought a small home as close to the forest as they could get.

  Daryl didn’t really have bad memories from his times among the trees, this was his safe space. Always had been, hopefully always would be. Even now, Daryl could feel the calm come over him as he focused on his surroundings, searching for tracks or signs of any kind.

  He hunted all day, trekking further than usual so that night came about before he could turn back. Weak. Coward. Omega. The voice was some kind of mix between his dad and brother, the distain that his father always held towards his secondary gender and his brother’s distain of weakness. Merle would sure be disappointed with him now, it was no accident that the night had crept up while he was out.

  He had shot a good lot of squirrels and had the tracks of a deer that he was hopeful to track down when the sun rose, for now though he’d prefer not to be eaten by an undead bastard. He knew that both Paul and Merle would have a fit knowing he was doing this pregnant but he wasn’t anywhere near as fragile as they seemed to think. So, without any regret, Daryl pulled himself up into the nearest tree.

  He took his spare rope and tied himself to the branch, securing himself in for the night. He’d done this so many times before he’d met Paul, spent nights up trees, he wasn’t worried, it was Georgian summer, swelteringly warm even at night. This might actually be a nice relief to the tent that they had to zip up for their own protection.

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  Daryl had dreamed of Paul that night. It wasn’t a sexual dream, he never had those. It was the same dream that he had constantly had since the world went to shit and his alpha was no longer there. In it, Paul simply held him. Daryl’s alpha was smaller than him, leaner than him, younger than him even. They made such an odd couple, the young delicate alpha and the older, gruff and muscled omega. Despite his lighter form, Paul was strong, a much better fighter than Daryl and someone would could definitely hold his own. His arms were leanly muscled, firm and always strong when he held Daryl.

  Those were the dreams that he had of Paul as soppy and weak as they may seem. Never once had he had a wet dream about his alpha or anyone else for that matter. In fact, when they had first started their relationship, Paul had asked him if he was asexual. Of course, he had to explain to Daryl what asexual was, then he had had to think about it, eventually coming to the conclusion that no he wasn’t. His current state proof of that.

  Daryl had never had anyone before Paul, had been shy as anything at first. He hadn’t been able to get his head around the fact that such a handsome alpha would want to sleep with someone like Daryl. He had found that he loved the sex, loved being so close and intimate with Paul- not that he would verbalise something like that. What he also loved was the cuddling afterwards. They would fall asleep tangled together under the sheets, Daryl’s head on Paul’s chest or his back pressed against his alpha’s chest.

  Those were the moments that he dreamed off. Those times when he was happy and safe, two things that he just didn’t feel these days. He was also left feeling terribly numb whenever he woke up. That morning was no different. One moment he was wrapped up warm in his sheets and alpha and the next he was tied to a tree in the cold morning air, bark digging into his back.

  When he had first started having such dreams he had woken and struggled with tears- ones that he couldn’t let fall because his brother was always nearby. It wasn’t long though before the sadness was replaced by a hollow pit in his chest, one that he would carry around for the rest of the day.

  This morning was even worse though, he woke from the dream only to realise that not only was Paul not there but his brother wasn’t either. The two people in the world that he cared about. Merle and his big head going off into a city swarming with walkers like it was nothing. Chances were the whole lot of them were dead by now, not that he could truly believe that, just that he didn’t really believe that Paul was dead, he was just someplace else.

  He couldn’t dwell on it though, he had a deer to hunt, he needed to stop being a pussy and actually get back to camp. Even though Shane would be there. He was one of the most alpha alphas Daryl had ever seen outside of his own fucked up community of rednecks. The man had something about him that Daryl didn’t trust. It was stupid though because he didn’t need Merle to protect him, he could stand up for himself.

  With an annoyed huff, Daryl untied himself and climbed carefully down from the tree, landing on the ground without knocking himself about too much. A hand came down to rub over his stomach, the three month old pup inside starting to show itself in the tiniest of swellings. At first he had thought he was imagining things but there really was some growth to his stomach and it sure as hell wasn’t too much food with the way they had to ration things.

   The morning sickness had stopped just over a month before, was one ailment that he hadn’t suffered at all during this shitstorm that was the modern world. The smell of cooking meat still got to him though, something that he tried desperately to hide from the camp and Merle lest he make jabs at him and put him even more on edge.

  He just wished that his alpha was here, he’d know what to do.

  All Daryl could do right now is swing his crossbow over his shoulder and pick up the trail of the deer.

**********

  He had been so close to the camp when he had heard the tell-tale groan of a walker, too near the camp to be of comfort. With a grunt, Daryl deposited the deer on the ground, raised his crossbow and made his way back into the trees in search of the creature.

  Sure enough, he found a rotting woman, reanimated corpse that wanted nothing more than to rip chunks out of his flesh. He put a bolt through her eye, dropping her down. It was as he was pulling the bolt back out that he heard yelling.

  Quick as he could, he ran back to the small clearing he had left the dear in to find a bunch of the camp folk around a headless male walker and his chewed up kill. That was really where the day went completely downhill. The idiots had cut the walker’s head off so off course he yelled at them as he stuck the arrow still in his hand into the head. Then he killed at the corpse, checked over his deer and had it confirmed that all his work was for nothing.

  It was then that he had noticed the new alpha, the one that hadn’t been there in all the weeks that he and Merle had been. The man was wearing a sheriff’s uniform and carried himself in a way that made Daryl sure he belonged in it. Another cop on camp, brilliant. The man looked him up and down in a way that made Daryl uncomfortable, in a way that told him the man was trying to get an image of Daryl but the redneck had no clue what conclusion he came to, the alpha’s face unreadable.

  The new alpha didn’t hold his attention long though because there was the painful absence of his brother. If there was a walker to kill then his brother should be there, would be there with glee to kill the bastard. But he wasn’t and that made the panic well up inside of him. It meant nothing good.

  He pushed past them all, yelling for his brother even though he knew really that no one would reply. When the new alpha, Rick Grimes, told him what had happened though… what they had done to his brother… His heart sank because Merle was a tough son of a bitch but he wasn’t Jesus- the son of God, not his alpha. They had left him handcuffed to a roof in a city full of walkers. Then the group had the audacity to be hesitant about getting him back, like it wasn’t their fault.

  He had attacked him then and Shane had pinned him down, the other alpha’s touch seeming to burn him, make his skin crawl. He snarled at the man and eventually the others pressured him to let Daryl go. Stupid alpha trying to control every omega they came across.

  That Rick Grimes though, and the Chinese kid, fought his case. They would go with him, as would the black man with a typical black name, T-Dog or some shit. Daryl could see the guilt in his eyes but he couldn’t bring himself to feel for him, to accept any apology, not at least until he stood by Merle’s side again.

  They were going the next day but that wasn’t soon enough for Daryl, not when he was back at the camp with Shane prowling around, glaring at him every other minute. He spent the night in his tent if only to hide from the rest, curled around his stomach, a firm hand over it, protecting it. The baby was the last thing he had of his mate, was something that Paul had been so excited for. If they didn’t find Merle, if they found Merle dead, then the baby would be the last of his family. The baby would be his life, his reason to live and survive, something that would be infinitely easier if he had his brother with him.

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    Daryl decided that Rick Grimes had a horrible moral compass. In that it was firmly set on the “right thing”, he was definitely not one of those cops that were easily corrupted, that was for sure. The man tried his best, even though he did hold a gun to Daryl’s head, even if he was responsible for Daryl finding nothing but his brother’s dismembered hand on that rooftop. Daryl had yelled and screamed and postured, just like Merle had always taught him, just like a tough alpha would then and the cop had not been impressed.

  They had been travelling here since the morning though and Daryl had been nothing but a ball of nerves and frustrations. He had found himself reaching to his stomach more than ever, rubbing over the barely there bump in an unconscious search for comfort. He was surrounded by these people that he didn’t trust in a dangerous place, it set him on edge straight away. Reaching that roof and finding that his brother was no longer there had just tipped him over the edge.

  Things hadn’t got any better as then they had made their way back down into the streets, to get that damn bag of guns. He had learnt that the Asian boy had been nothing more than a pizza delivery boy before the world went to shit, the same boy that had helped put the plan together and who climbed about with ease. Daryl couldn’t help but respect something like that but then there had been those men, that idiot boy that attacked them and then Glenn was gone.

  Rick and T-Dog had rushed in pretty quickly, obviously hearing the gunshots. They had got the kid from this new gang secured in a building, the guy looking like he was trying to be tough while being obviously terrified at the same time. Daryl was about to lay into him, too wound up and frustrated with the loss of his brother, needing to let it out, he knew that he was an open book, knew that the ex-cop could see exactly what he planned just looking at him. He never got the chance to yell and gesticulate though as Rick had given him a look and pulled him away into another room with T-Dog looking on in confusion.

  Daryl shook the hand off of his arm angrily, skin crawling at where Rick had touched him. He turned to the alpha ready for a fight. He wasn’t going to let this other man pull him about and dictate to him just because Daryl was an omega.

  “You can’t do this shit Daryl, running around and taking on strangers with guns,” Rick hissed after backing up a step.

  “The fuck you know? Just cause I’m some omega, that it? You think I can’t do this? That I ain’t capable?”” Daryl growled, hands clenching into fists. Really, he knew that he wouldn’t win in a fight against an alpha like Rick but he would do some damage if he had to, if this man tried to get in his way anymore.

  “No Daryl, I’m not one of those alphas that assumes just ‘cause you’re an omega you can’t fight or be strong. I’m saying this cause you’re pregnant, I don’t know where or who your alpha is- I hope for the baby’s sake it’s not Merle. You just can’t be putting the baby in danger like this,” Rick half whispered, hands out placating.

  “What the fuck? How do you know and fuck no, Merle’s not my baby daddy that’s disgusting man,” Daryl grimaced, shifting on the spot at such a thought.

  “You keep touching your stomach, you’re very protective of it in the way you move and you’ve got that baby glow,” Rick smiled softly in a way that Daryl hated, made his uncomfortable.

  “That obvious?” he asked. He hated the thought of this man knowing, let alone anyone else finding out because he’s been a twitchy dumbass.

  “No, I’ve just been a cop long enough to see enough pregnant teens and prostitutes, plus it was only really a guess, I take it that the others don’t know,” Rick shrugged.

  “Oh, right, um... Nah they don’ know, ain’t gonna neither,” Daryl replied, feeling very much an idiot, very much feeling his background at being compared to hookers and dumb pregnant teens. Just some stupid knocked up omega, hiding it all like it was some dirty secret.

  “I can’t imagine why you’d want to hide that from everyone, not when they could help you. They could give you extra food rations, maybe take the load off of you, cause you hunt, right? Someone else could do it, I know Shane used to hunt some when he was younger,” Rick said, hands on hips, face contorted into what could only be concern.

   “It ain’t none of your business pig, I ain’t some snivellin’ omega that needs some alpha’s help,” Daryl grunted, pushing past the cop to get back to the task of getting back the china boy.

  In the end, they got the guns and Glenn and got back. The whole while Daryl had held onto the hope that maybe Merle had made his way back to camp, carefully trying to avoid the thought that he may not ever see the older Dixon again. He had gotten out alive, Daryl knew it, it just had to be the truth, the only thing that could kill Merle was Merle. His brother knew where Daryl would be, knew that he would be at the camp, he would come back if he was okay. He’d come back for Daryl.

  Rick was watching the entire time, all protective alpha now that he knew for sure Daryl was carrying a pup with him. It didn’t make sense to Daryl why he was behaving this way, alphas protected omegas sure but they protected their omegas, they definitely didn’t protect an omega that they didn’t have a chance to mate. They didn’t protect someone else’s pup. But there was Rick Grimes putting himself subtly between Daryl and the guys with guns. It was probably that horrible moral compass.

  When they finally reached camp though, it was over tun with walkers, people were screaming, people were lying dead on the ground. The chaos was certainly too much for Officer Friendly to put too much mind to him, letting him fight in the thick of it, save people’s lives and put those undead bastards down for good. It was enough to distract from Merle for the moment when they were fighting them, burying the dead and arguing over Jimmy’s fate. Nevertheless, from the moment that they had set foot back in the camp Daryl was constantly aware that Merle wasn’t there.

  Then they were leaving, Rick it seemed had taken the role from Shane as top alpha, backed by his strong beta wife who in all honesty was a bit of a bitch. It didn’t surprise Daryl really, Rick wasn’t like the usual bolshie alphas, there was a quite power to him, the kind where he didn’t have to shout to make a crowd listen. Daryl hadn’t argued with them then, it had never been his place to make decisions in his family or in this group, they wouldn’t have paid any attention if he had opened his mouth. He wouldn’t have blamed them. Even if he desperately wished that they could stay, that Merle would have somewhere to come back to, he knew after the attack that they couldn’t. They couldn’t stay here just for his brother, if Merle was going to turn up he would have done by now.

  Instead of putting in his piece, Daryl had stood on the side-lines, waiting until they had finished and he knew what was going on before retreating to his own campsite trying desperately not to feel anything at all. He didn’t bother lighting a fire, hadn’t gone hunting and couldn’t exactly ask the camp for food after all the trouble that he and his brother had caused in the last few days. After they had come to this place with the intention to rob it blind and leave into the night, leave all these people to fend for themselves. It was warm enough anyway with the Georgian summer.

  Daryl didn’t think he’d be able to sleep tonight and so settled in at the edge of the dead campfire. They would be leaving the next day, if Merle didn’t turn up tonight then he would never see him again, he had to stay up and out in the open just in case. It weighed heavily on him, tears threatened at the corners of his eyes and made him hunch in on himself, making him feeling disgustingly weak. The hunter ran a hand over his stomach, over and over, gently, soothing, imagining the pup tumbling around beneath his hands, barely human right now. It was just him and the baby now. His and Paul’s pup, the one thing he had left of his mate. He would do anything to make sure the child would survive, as long as he was alive he would protect it with anything and everything he had.

  He wasn’t so lost in his grief though that he didn’t notice Rick walking up to him and sitting down in the seat that Merle usually occupied. Daryl didn’t say anything, barely glanced up at the man before returning his gaze to the dirt, the ex-cop was the last person that he wanted to see or talk to right now. He was sick of this alpha meddling with his business but he was just too drained to feel angry about his presence or what he knew right now. The hunter sure wasn’t going to start any conversation with the alpha across from him and Rick seemed as if he was content with just watching Daryl so the silence stretched on. The only sound was the cidias chirping in the background and the distant murmurs from the others at the main camp.

  Daryl glanced up at the alpha again after a long while before glancing at the people sat around at the other camp. Rick was looking him over from his place opposite him, that Lori woman was staring from the camp as was that blond one who just lost her sister. Dale and Glenn were also casting sideways glances over at the two of them. It was too many sets of eyes, too many people putting him in their line of attention, it wasn’t anything that he was used to or wanted to get used to. It made him squirm uncomfortably, made him want to hide away in his tent where they couldn’t watch him.

  Instead, he straightened up slightly, the hand around his stomach tightening in a way that Rick didn’t miss if his pointed glance meant anything. It seemed that he wanted to protect the omega, particularly the pregnant omega now that the big bad alpha brother was out of the way. Daryl just wished he and his good intentions would fuck off.

  “You know you can’t leave without your brother, right? I know you were planning on leaving, you would have tried to hide you conditions otherwise,” Rick said, stated.

  “Well fuck, ain’t you the next Sherlock. I know, I ain’t as stupid as they think I am,” Daryl huffed, not looking at the other man.

  “Good,” Rick replied, Daryl glancing up just in time to see the pleased smile on the man’s face.

  Fucking alphas.

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  There was something about Carol, the only other omega in the group. Her alpha had beaten her and no one in the group had any right to step between because they were mates and Carol never asked for help. Of course she wouldn’t though, he’d heard the group talking about it, none of them understood but Daryl knew why. He had been beaten by his dad since he was small, he knew what it felt like, knew that she probably thought that she deserved it, that she was lucky to have the asshole. She probably felt as worthless as he had before Paul.

  Merle had looked on her with disgust, he saw her as nothing but weak and so looked down at her but Daryl had just wanted to help her. Of course he never did. He, like everyone else, knew that he had no right, knew that even if he offered that she wouldn’t take his help. It didn’t matter because now though as Ed was dead and they were leaving the camp and the last memories of him behind. Carol and her shy little pup were free of him.

  The pup’s name was Sophia, he had learnt it like he had leant most of the names of the people in the group; overheard in conversation rather than an introduction. She was a sweet little thing, caged by her father’s temper, taking on her mother’s timid mannerisms, staying small and quiet, unnoticeable in order to survive. The little girl was twelve, a beta, one that had only recently presented. Daryl couldn’t help but feel pleased for her, pleased that she didn’t have to be an omega in this world where it was dangerous to let your guard down. Needless to say, Daryl wasn’t looking forward to his first heat after he gave birth or any that followed that when he would be defenceless against alphas and walkers alike.

  Sophia often hung around with Carl, a pup of ten that was too young to present though Daryl strongly suspected he would be an alpha like his dad. They both spent a lot of time with Lori as she taught them and kept an overprotective eye on them. Carol was there too, she would teach them with Lori now that they had no teacher and Daryl would sometimes watch from afar because Carol was good and kind and gentle. She was all of these despite her husband, despite the harsh treatment she herself endured. 

  Daryl could only hope that he was anything like Carol was with her pup. That his pup would look at him with as much trust and love as Sophia looked at Carol.

  The thing was, Daryl had obviously watched too much because Carol had noticed. When morning came and Daryl was there packing the last of his stuff into the truck ready to move on with the rest, she approached him. She had watched him, he knew, he had caught her at it. When he had though, she hadn’t looked away, not once, just offered him a smile each time. That was the something about Carol, she was battered and timid, scared of his husband, of the walkers, scared for her daughter, kind, caring and sweet but if you looked close enough there was a strength there too. One that hadn’t been crushed by her alpha. Daryl hoped that that would become more prominent now that Ed was gone.

  Now, as she stood before him, she didn’t look scared or nervous even though they had never shared a word. She stood and smiled when he turned to her, smiled even when he didn’t, even when he just stood there and didn’t say a word. Daryl knew he was an asshole, he knew he was unpleasant and rough around the edges, it meant that not many people smiled at him, especially not real, sincere smiles. It was nice, he appreciated it more than he ever thought he would.

  “Would it be okay if Sophia and I rode with you in your truck today?” she asked after a moment.

  Her hands were clasped in front of her, fingers fidgeting. Maybe she was a bit unsure after all, nervous about asking him this. Nervous not scared though, not of him and his broodiness. Maybe that was because of his gender, maybe she felt an affinity to him because they shared it, the only two omegas in the group, maybe not.

  The question itself threw him because, other than his brother and his mate, he couldn’t see why anyone would want to condemn themselves to be stuck in close quarters with him for hours on end. The hunter searched her face, trying to find some hidden motive- whatever the hell that could possibly be- but finding none. So she wanted to, but did he? The thing about this woman was that she didn’t make him feel uncomfortable, she had been through things that he had, out of anyone here she would be one that would understand him. She was a mother. She was just good.

  “Sure,” he grunted after a moment.

  His answer was a beam and a big thank you. She looked like she wanted to come forward and hug him, though she didn’t in the end. Daryl wasn’t sure if he was glad or disappointed. In that moment he realized that he really missed human contact now that Paul wasn’t there, it was nothing he had ever had before but his alpha’s gentle touches were something that he had quickly come to crave.

  “You can put your stuff in the back, pack it around the bike,” he said, squinting up into the sky at the sun. It was getting to midmorning already and these people weren’t done packing up the camp. He and Merle would have been done in half hour.

  “Okay, thank you,” she said again, turning around and making her way back to where her tent had stood.

  She was so delicate, thin and dainty and perfectly omega. Even the way she walked then, picking her way along. Exactly what any alpha would want, exactly what he wasn’t. It was a thought that never really used to bother him, he had resigned himself to the fact that he would never have a mate as soon as he presented, not being the way he was. Then Paul had happened along and turned that all around. Now Paul was gone, Daryl was alone but not for too much longer.

  No one was looking, no one was there to see him caressing his stomach, hands gentle and careful in a way that they weren’t with anything else. There was a slight swell where his pup was growing, the baby that he had Paul made together, half him, half his alpha. As long as his pup lived he would have Paul with him, he would have someone to love unconditionally, someone to love him unconditionally.

  He leaned against the side of his truck and stretched the material of his sleeveless shirt over the bump, showing it slightly.

  “We’ll be fine little pup, I’ll always love and protect you,” he whispered before straightening up and coming back round to watch the group.

**********

  They were eventually ready, Daryl slipping behind the truck’s wheel, Sophia beside him and Carol by the window. The three of them entered the convoy at the back, Daryl quickly falling into the monotony of following the car in front, the quarry growing further and further away along with his last chance of seeing his brother.

  It wasn’t long into the drive that Sophia fell asleep, her head lolling onto her mother’s shoulder. Up until that point it had been silent, not one of the three of them saying a word. Daryl hadn’t minded, he had never been very good with words and hated making himself seem like an idiot. When the pup fell asleep however, Carol shifted slightly, turning to him and Daryl knew that she was going to speak.

  “You have a pup in your belly don’t you?” she asked softly, hand petting through her own pup’s hair.

  He wasn’t really surprised that she had caught on. The woman had been watching him and Daryl knew from her actions that she was intelligent. Probably the only reason that more people hadn’t caught on was because they didn’t want to acknowledge or pay attention to him. He knew that now he was putting on the weight around his hips and face despite the lack of food, knew that soon his belly would be too much to hide. Now that he was stuck with these people, the thought of them finding out didn’t scare him as much. It was inevitable now.

  “Yeah,” he sighed, not looking away from the road.

  “Is that a good thing?” she asked.

  That got her a sideways glance. He hadn’t expected that question, no one really asked that question but Daryl couldn’t help but respect her a bit for it. It was a question that he had mulled over a lot both before and after this whole end of the world.

  “Yeah, it’s a good thing,” he replied.

  “I’m glad Daryl, I know you’ll make a good mum just on how much you care about that bump already,” she smiled.

  Daryl looked around, lips twitching up in a half smile. His alpha had been the only one other than this omega that had ever thought he could be anything but a terrible parent.

  “Is your alpha… I mean, everyone knows you’re mated but what happened to them? Are they alive?” see stuttered, obviously trying to avoid assuming the gender of his alpha. When Daryl glanced at her he saw that she was red.

  “He um… I hope he’s alive. He was out of town when everything happened,” Daryl said.

  He hadn’t talked to anyone about Paul to anyone, didn’t feel comfortable or safe enough, didn’t want to confront his fears. For some reason though, he felt perfectly at ease with this woman.

  “I guess it’s horrible not knowing but at least there’s a chance he’s okay,” Carol comforted.

  “Yeah, he’s tough,” Daryl smiled sadly, turning his full attention back to the road.

Chapter Text

  He didn’t expect to have this reaction to the walkers, hadn’t for a while. Driving through Atlanta, the redneck couldn’t help but look out of the window at the dead, rotting faces that they passed by, glancing at every one that he could make out, looking for a familiar face. In the beginning he had watched out for Paul, hesitated before every walker he killed, that is until Merle caught him at it and smacked him upside the head. This time as the truck trundled in the convoy with him behind the wheel, Paul wasn’t the only face he looked for. It only got worse when they actually had to stop and get out to fight them off, God he was such a pussy.

  The CDC itself brought mixed feelings for Daryl. It was a place of safety for his pup, somewhere where he could go through the pregnancy, go through the birthing and raising without the fear of some undead bastard trying to take a bite. But the thing was, Daryl couldn’t see himself staying here long without going mad, not with the thick metal walls and lack of windows which made it feel like they were underground, a million miles from the outside world. There were no woods, not trees and wildlife, not rivers or streams. He knew that he couldn’t be the only one that would be affected like that either, they couldn’t possibly stay here for long.

  The first night was fun, everyone but him drank in celebration but the lack of alcohol didn’t stop him from joining in the laughter. Shane eyed him in a way that he didn’t like, less subtle than usual, loosened up by the alcohol, it had become a more frequent occurrence since Rick had returned and Lori refused to bang him anymore. It didn’t matter too much though because the rest of the group all there. Shane would lose interest in him soon enough anyway.

  Of course it didn’t last. The CDC along with that woman and nearly some more were blown up, the fire only inches from killing them all. Then they were back on the road, Daryl took Merle’s bike down off of the truck and led the way down the road that they had mapped out, making sure the way ahead was clear. Carol had gripped his arm before and warned him to be careful while she held her pup close to her. It had made him pause to think that she worried for him and it warmed him through.

  He rode along until they had to stop for the old RV and then that heard came. Everything happened in quick succession, one moment he was scouting out the area on foot while they waited and the next he was pushing T-Dog down to the ground, covering him up with a walker that he had stabbed through the skull. For one moment he was tempted to drop down himself but then the frightened whimper carried over to him.

  Daryl knew that it was Sophia and he found himself getting up, stabbing a couple of walkers through the skulls in time to get to the rest of the group and see the little girl dart out from under the car. She had crawled out from underneath the car and was being chased by two walkers with Rick just about to follow but Daryl got there first. He didn’t know what had come over him but he felt the burning need to get to that little girl if it was the last thing that he did.

  He dashed after her in front of Rick quickly caught up to her, running with her through the woods and down into the river. Daryl wanted to turn around and shoot the walkers groaning behind them but he needed to make sure that Sophia was safe first just in case. Wildly, he looked around and found a hollow beneath some tree roots, directing them both towards them. He held her arm and placed his other on the shoulder, guiding her into place.

  Sophia was gripping his arm tight as they huddled into the dark space, small whimpers escaping her, sounds that pulled at the hunter. Daryl pulled her close and let her bury her head in his chest to muffle the sounds as he watched the walkers stumble by though the roots. He was going to stay with her, he needed to, could practically smell her fear and it may have been his omega biology- it definitely was- but he couldn’t not comfort her. He hated it and didn’t all at the same time. The affection didn’t make him feel weak, didn’t make him feel like a pussy omega, it simply made him feel like he was doing the right thing.

  He knew very well that it was some pack mentality, when a community of people banded together all the omegas cared for all the children, all the alphas protected everyone and betas helped with both. Daryl had never been part of a pack before, the Dixons all hated each other despite all Merle and their Pa’s bullshit about blood being the most important thing. All his life it had only been his parents and brother, a beta and two alphas, then it had just been him, Merle and their dad then finally just him and his brother. Alphas, that’s what he knew. Even with Paul he had tried to keep away from his friends, not sure how to interact with them, not wanting to do anything wrong and risk them judging Paul for him.

  No, ironically, he had found a group, a pack, in the apocalypse. He was hesitant to call the pack because he figured they probably couldn’t see him that way but that didn’t mean that he had to ignore a pup in distress. But damn was she strong. Her father had been like Daryl’s own dad; an abusive prick, and yet she still played and smiled, she had that doll still clutched in her hand. She was a child being chased by undead monsters, being held by a relative stranger and yet apart from a few small whimpers she was holding strong, she wasn’t shaking and his shirt was still dry.

  They waited there in the dark, surrounded by dirt and soil, for hours, until the light stopped filtering between the roots. Every time that Daryl had been tempted to leave they had heard walkers nearby and he had aborted the movement. There was a strange flickering in his belly that he refused to acknowledge could be anything to do with the tiny little pup in his belly. The only pup that mattered in that moment was the one in his arms.

  She looked up at him, watched him and he knew it was for guidance and reassurance. It scared him that, no one had ever relied on him. But his pup would, his pup would have to rely on him and he would have to be reliable. So it was that looking into the girl’s eyes he first really feared having his baby, of caring for and raising the baby.

  As the sun set though, he finally pushed through the roots, stepping back down into the murky stream and grabbing Sophia’s hand to pull her along. They splashed through the water and made it to the other side before making their way back to the road. The girl stuck close to him, practically melding into his side while holding his hand in an iron grip that was rather respectable.

  Finally, they made it through the trees and out onto the road. Carol was there, she clambered over the barrier and rushed towards her daughter. Sophia’s hand ripped from his as she rushed to her mother, the two colliding half way and wrapping up in each other. He could hear Carol’s sobs and whispered words as he trudged up the incline.

  People were watching, Rick and Lori and Shane, Dale and T-Dog and Andrea. They were glancing between the reunited mother and daughter and him. He hated it. Screw every warm thought he had about pack back in the tree, he couldn’t do this. He was an outlier, that’s what he was, what he had always been and always would be.

  He started away, more than ready to rest or, better yet, get away from this place. Just as he was about to slink away though, Carol appeared before him, launching forward and wrapping her arms tight around him. The hunter tensed up for a long moment, not used to anyone not Paul touching him. After a moment though, he reached round and patted her on the back before pulling away.

  Daryl ducked his head down and walked away, not looking back, not looking to see who was watching him. He couldn’t do this, he couldn’t be a part of a pack. He couldn’t but he needed to be. His baby needed someone other than him to rely on because he couldn’t be relied on on his own. He would let it down. But Carol wouldn’t, if he kept Carol close she would know. She raised Sophia through an abusive husband, she was strong inside, weak on the outside. The opposite of him. She would help him.

Chapter Text

  He didn’t understand his distress at Carl being shot. Lori ridding off on that horse with the strange lady, the news she’d given them ringing in his ears. Sure Carl was a sweet enough kid although annoyingly naïve in a way that Sophia wasn’t and he never was, the kid thought that he was bigger than he was. That was the point, he wasn’t the best kid and Daryl had never gotten close to him, never really tried and when he had inadvertently got too close, he had been fended off by Lori’s bitch glare. Despite that, he felt an overwhelming panic at the thought of the young alpha being in danger like that.

  The hunter turned to Carol, looking at her like she could give him the answers. In all honesty, she probably was the best bet. The other omega looked at him, blue eyes wide and full of understanding.

  She came over to him when they were packing to leave, Shane desperate to get off although whether that was for Carl or to make sure Lori was safe was up to debate. Carol took hold of his elbow, moving slowly so that he had every chance to pull away, he both appreciated and hated it. They moved apart from the group slightly before she let go and turned to look at him.

  “You don’t understand what you’re feeling do you?” she asked. It wasn’t condescending or pitying, more stating a fact.

  “No,” he mumbled in return.

  “It’s natural, it’s instinct. Any omega will feel a pull towards a hurt pup but your feeling will be even worse than usual because you’re pregnant. Your hormones are sending you into super protective mode. There’s also the fact that you’re starting to come into the pack mentality,” Carol explained, the last part coming with a cheeky smile.

  “Yeah, yeah whatever… Thank you though,” he said quietly.

  They made their way back over to the rest of the group who were waiting for them impatiently, Shane openly glaring at them as they got into their vehicles. Sophia and Carol got into his truck again, Daryl coming up at the rear of the convoy.

**********

  The farm was nice. Was the only word for it really. Well, nice and strange. It was as if the world hadn’t ended around them and all these Jesus freaks were playing happy neighbours. Daryl wasn’t about to complain though, not when they had a refuge, when the old man Hershal was the only one keeping Carl alive.

  He was happy with it for the moment, watching the others in his group- because despite what Carol said, they couldn’t be his pack. They were all relaxing after weeks of tension, their camp set up outside the farmhouse without a walker in sight. Daryl watched them from afar, keeping to the outskirts, out of the way. He knew that Carol and Rick were watching him, Carol and Sophia were actively seeking him out, but the rest seemed more than happy to forget him. He had no doubt that if he wasn’t pregnant and if he hadn’t run out to save Sophia, then the two people that cared wouldn’t either.

  Days passed and Carl’s life stabilised, he was weak but he was going to live. The remaining tension that ran though the group seemed to just seep out when Rick left the house and announced the good news. Then of course there was the fear that Hershal was going to kick them out, he hadn’t seemed to reach his conclusion yet and everyone was muttering about it. Daryl knew that Rick was working hard to get the man to change his mind and the redneck couldn’t say that he was upset about it.

  His pup was growing inside of him, he could feel the bump now if he ran his hand over his stomach. It was more real now, now that he could physically feel it. He knew that it wouldn’t be too long until people would no longer be able to miss his condition and, even though he would never admit it out loud, he was terrified of that moment. Already he caught the glares that Lori would throw him, no doubt because she had caught her husband coming over and muttering to the redneck omega. She wasn’t the only one though, there was Andrea who was aloof and always looked down her nose at him and Shane.

  Daryl couldn’t figure Shane, the man seemed unstable at best. He was pinning after Lori, the beta, it would seem, he stopped the affair behind with the return of her husband. It seemed to Daryl at least that the man was getting angrier and angrier, the glares and distrusting looks that he sent Daryl unsettled him.

  He may not have been a stereotypical delicate flower of an omega but Shane was still a powerful alpha. If Shane got him alone and wanted to hurt him then there wasn’t going to be much that Daryl could do about it. Maybe before he wouldn’t have cowed away from the thought so much but now that he had his pup it terrified him.

  So there was Shane watching him, there was Rick and there was Carol but there was also Hershal and that alpha daughter of his. He couldn’t really blame the last two for watching him, he wasn’t exactly interacting with the rest of the group, wasn’t friendly or social. Hell, if his group didn’t trust him then why would a bunch of strangers.

  The way that they looked at him though, it wasn’t how he would have expected. The daughter, the one who had first come to tell them about Carl, she watched him with caution but also consideration. Hershal however, the old alpha watched him like he knew, watched him as if he was keeping an eye on him to care. Daryl didn’t like that.

  Because of that, he tried to keep out of the old man’s way even more, he took to the woods more and more frequently, staying out longer and longer hours. There he didn’t have to worry about how he was behaving, about the eyes that were watching him, he could rub a hand over his stomach without having to check around him first. He could relax and focus on hunting, bringing back food for the group so that he could be at least a little bit useful.

  He left at dawn the morning a week after Rick had announced that Carl was going to be okay. He had seen deer tracks the day before and wanted to follow them despite the talk that Rick had given the evening before. The alpha had come to him when he had been sitting outside of his tent- set off to one side- he had sat down opposite him even through the silence that ensued as Daryl refused to start the conversation. Eventually, he had spoken, he told Daryl that he was out hunting too much, that he didn’t eat enough of the food, that he didn’t eat enough even if he wasn’t carrying a baby. He had begged Daryl to slow down and to eat more. Daryl had told him to fuck off.

  So, in an extra fuck you to Rick, he got up at the asscrack of dawn, leaving his tent and slinking off into the woods with his crossbow. He followed the tracks and first saw the deer just before the sky started to change colour. Bagging the deer, he slung it over his shoulders and started to make his way back, following his tracks back towards the farm as the sun dipped lower and lower in the sky. It was bright crimson by the time he broke through the tree line.

  Daryl dumped the deer and stretched his arms above his head. Everyone else seemed to be around the camp fire far off, the fire flickering warm and inviting, soft laughter drifting over to him. None of them noticed his return though which left him to rub a hand over his eyes and then over his stomach, exhaustion clouding his mind.

  It was probably that that stopped him from noticing Hershal. Just as Daryl sat down, head in hands, he sensed the other presence.

  Head snapping up, he watched the old man sit down in front of him where Rick had sat the night before. Daryl really hoped that this wasn’t another lecture coming his way.

  There was a long moment of silence where Hershal just watched him and he watched Hershal. There was something about the man, a sort of wisdom and an age that didn’t come with years but experience instead. It just emanated from him and it made Daryl want to listen to him, made him feel like it would be the right choice.

  “You’re pregnant aren’t you?” the man spoke after a while.

  “Yeah,” Daryl said, not even hesitating to tell the truth.

  “And your alpha ain’t one of those here,” Hershal more stated than asked.

  “Yeah,” he replied again.

  Hershal sat there for a long moment more, watching him. It wasn’t pity in his eyes though, more contemplation, it was as if he was trying to figure something out.

  “Okay here is what I am going to do,” Hershal started, “you and your group are going to be able to stay here for as long as you are pregnant, until your pup comes. In those months your group will have more than enough time for them to prove to me who you are as people. If I like what I see you can stay indefinitely.”

  Daryl took a moment to process the words, eyes scanning over the old man’s face for any sign of a lie but finding none.

  “Thank you,” he said.

  “Well, young man, if you want you and this pregnancy to last you best be taking better care of yourself now,” Hershal said, standing and smiling before walking off back towards his house.

Chapter Text

  Hershal had told the group that they could stay but it seemed that he hadn’t explained his reasons why he had made his choice. Daryl was unbelievably grateful that the old man hadn’t spilled his secret though he suspected that he had clocked on to the oblivion of the rest of the group. It didn’t matter, his baby was a secret for now, he had more time where he didn’t have to worry about being a burden. More time where he didn’t have to suffer the dirty looks of all those judging him for being knocked up.

  Daryl kept his mating mark hidden where it rested on his shoulder, it wasn’t hard to do when he was already so well versed in hiding the scars on his back from the world, only Paul knew that they were there. Even Merle had no clue. The omega had heard the scoffs for folks before when they had caught sight of his mark, heard the comments about how much of a desperate loser his alpha must have been to mate with an omega like him. Because of that, because none of them really knew he was mated, he knew that the whispers were going to be worse.

  Even Rick and Carol only knew that he had obviously fucked some alpha, they didn’t know he was mated. The fact that he had been knocked up meant that he was connected to the alpha father of his pup. That was all that anyone would know.

  One person that certainly didn’t know anything was Shane. The asshole had hated Daryl and his brother from the moment that they had stepped into the camp, only tolerated them because they could hunt. Now that they had settled at the farm, now that Merle wasn’t there, now that Lori wasn’t giving him any, the alpha had been sniffing around a lot more. The man would leer at him, would make derogatory comments when no one else would hear. He’d never actually touched him before though.

  There was about a week of peace from the point of Hershal officially accepting them. A week of peace for Daryl at least, one where Shane had kept to distant glares. Then there came the evening where he cornered Daryl by the barn on the way back from one of his hunts.

  As ever, he had told no one when he left that he was going or for what purpose but he knew that they would know as soon as they realised he was missing. Only Carol and Rick kept tabs on him anyway and they only cared because of the baby he carried. This though meant that no one knew when he was coming back, meant that no one knew he was pinned there with Shane.

  The alpha shoved the omega into the side of the barn, hands pushing blocking Daryl in with his arms, elbows tucked down so that his forearms were resting against the side of the barn and they were pressed chest to chest. Daryl felt like he couldn’t breathe, panic swallowing him up as the scent of angry alpha washed over him, Shane’s hot breath fanning against his face.

  “I don’t trust you Dixon,” Shane growled,” you’re shifty, you’re in a position you’re not meant to be in. You are a weak little omega that is playing at alpha because obviously no one has ever taught you your place. I don’t want you here, I don’t like or trust you around the people I call family.”

  Daryl bared his teeth and brought his hands up to shove at Shane’s chest, omega or no he was a Dixon and he wasn’t going to stand for this shit. He pushed hard against the broad chest and knocked the other back a step but before he could do anything else, Shane had grabbed him round the throat with one hand and slapped him across the face hard.

  The ex-cop slammed Daryl’s head back once, twice, three times against the solid wood that made up the side of the barn. He let go then and Daryl slumped back dazed, grabbing for grip on the barn.

  “You’re a little bitch and someone needs to teach you your place,” Shane growled, leaning down so that he was in Daryl’s face once more.

  Straightening up, Shane shoved Daryl back once more before spitting on him and striding off.

  The hunter let himself slump to the floor and wiped the spit off of his cheek as soon as the cop rounded the corner out of sight. His heart was racing, his head pounding. Normally, Daryl wouldn’t have hesitated to beat the shit out of the alpha that thought that he was better than him just because of his secondary gender. Well he would have tried at least, he was tough but not invincible and Shane had already bested him once.

  It was that once that made him really afraid. He couldn’t get into anything with someone like that, not now, not when one thing to his stomach could destroy the last thing that meant anything to him. The thought made his chest ache, made it tight and- to his horror- felt a sob crawl up his throat.

  He ended up burying his head in one hand, the other clutching at his stomach as he sobbed. He cried and he hated himself for it, he felt weak and useless. He felt so omega.

  Eventually he got himself up and got back to it, continued on as if nothing had happened. Apparently Shane didn’t appreciate that though. The very next day he cornered him again and warned him again, when Daryl snarled at him, he hit him, in the ribs this time, way too close to his stomach. He had stumbled back and fled, ducking underneath the alpha’s arm.

  That night he stifled sobs into his fist, hating himself for being so weak.

**********

  It continued for two weeks in all. Not everyday but most there would be some kind of physical confrontation. By the time the third week began it had made him more than a little paranoid and shifty and he knew that people were noticing. He wasn’t making eye contact- more than usual- and was staying close to the edges of the camp, reluctant to hunt in the last few days for fear of being cornered again.

  Sue him, he was scared, terrified even that Shane was going to hit him one day and that that would be the blow to kill his unborn pup. Still, he felt guilty, the only thing that the group really kept him around for was his hunting ability and he hadn’t been doing that, it made him even more guilty to eat any of the groups food and had more regularly skipped meals. It was that guilt that finally drove him out into the woods after four days of not hunting.

  The day had been a success, he had an entire deer to bring back, a doe that he had slung over his shoulder. He struggled back to the camp, the weight along with that of his crossbow was slowly getting harder and harder to bare, particularly since he had stopped eating. He made a mental note to get a good bit of food later, knowing that he really needed to eat for his pup.

  When he reached the edge of the trees, he kept a weary eye out but it wasn’t enough. He was weighed down by the deer and his crossbow, unable to move out of the way in time as Shane came at him from behind a tree.

  The alpha grabbed him by the throat and shoved him back against the rough bark of the nearest tree. The deer was dislodged from his shoulders, falling to the leaf strewn grown with a thud that made the hunter jump. His heart was racing as he faced Shane, the alpha’s breath puffing over his face with their proximity.

  “You are so stupid ain’t you? I’m saying be more omega, learn your place and yet still you go out hunting, you should be here protecting people at camp, be watching Carl to make sure he is safe, be helping the women. You. Are. An. Omega. You are not an alpha. Get that through your thick head,” Shane growled.

  “Who else is going to get the meat for people? I need to hunt,” Daryl gritted out. He may be cautious of Shane because of his hidden pup but he wasn’t a cowardly omega, no matter how much the alpha wanted.

  Shane pulled back then and slapped Daryl across the face, the sound of skin on skin loud and harsh. The omega flinched and clenched his jaw, refusing to bring his hand up to the stinging cheek.

 “The fuck did you just say to me?” Shane spat.

  That was the last that he got out though because at that moment he was pulled away from Daryl.

  The omega tensed up, eyes widening as they landed on Rick. The other alpha had his forearm pressed to Shane’s throat, holding him against another tree. The man looked furious as he held his friend and Daryl couldn’t really understand what was going on.

  “What the fuck are you doing Shane?” Rick half yelled.

  “He was being shifty, I don’t trust him and you shouldn’t either. A filthy redneck omega trying to play at being alpha,” Shane told him.

  “The hell does that have to do with anything?” Rick scoffed.

  “He’s hiding something Rick. He is shifty and for all we know he’s going to rob us all blind and leave us with nothing,” Shane said.

  The comment struck Daryl hard, causing him to look down and away because that was what he had planned once upon a time. Well, what Merle had at any rate, a plan that he was going to help his brother carry out before Rick locked him to that roof.

  “Big secret? He ain’t gonna rob us dumbass!” Rick shouted.

  “How do you know?” Shane challenged, straining against the arm holding him down.

  “Because he’s pregnant idiot,” Rick hissed.

  Everyone froze, the alpha’s turning to Daryl in an instant, Shane’s gaze filled with shock and disgust, Rick’s with guilt.

  Shane shoved Rick off, spat at Daryl’s feet and stormed off leaving just him and Rick.

  “Daryl I’m so sorry,” Rick breathed.

  “Gonna get out at some point though so hey,” Daryl brushed it off, rubbing his knuckles nervously over his nose.

  “Why didn’t you tell me he was doing this. Carol and I noticed that something was off for weeks with you, it’s cause Shane was hitting you ain’t it?” Rick asked. He sounded heartbroken.

  “Wasn’t your problem to worry about man, he wasn’t doing any harm to my baby,” Daryl reassured him.

  “But he was doing harm to you. You, our pack Daryl, it’s our job to help each other out,” Rick said softly.

  “I’m sorry,” Daryl said.

  “Jesus, this can’t go on. He won’t do this anymore to you and I am so sorry about blurting your secret,” Rick sighed.

  “It’s fine,” Daryl said but he didn’t mean it, his heart was racing. He wasn’t ready for the judgement and the whispers.

  “I’ll help you Daryl, I promise. They won’t say anything,” Rick promised.

  “You can’t stop them but it don’t matter, don’t give a shit what they say about it, won’t change nothing,” Daryl huffed, looking at his feet.

  He made to move to grab his fallen deer but a hand grabbed his arm. Daryl flinched but righted himself in time for Rick to pull him into a hug. For a moment he stood tense but then he relaxed into it, the first real physical affection that he had received since the end of the world came. He relaxed further and further, feeling a sob building in his throat, but refusing to let it out.

Chapter Text

  The news about Daryl’s state spread like wild fire through the camp just like he knew it would. Rick had left him alone after their hug, neither man speaking about the tears that had been shed. The moment that he slunk back up to the farm house he felt the eyes on him, glancing around he could see the people watching him. It was Maggie that had approached him first though. He had never spoken a word to the young alpha woman, one who had distrusted him from the start.

  She came up to him as he stepped up onto the porch, his deer slung across his shoulders ready to deposit outside the door ready to prepare tomorrow. He put the kill down and turned to her, ready for the judgement. There she stood, hands on hips, gazing at him.

  “You know, you were always shifty. You can’t blame me for not trusting you if members of your own group didn’t,” she said, it sounded almost like an apology, “is it true that you’re pregnant?”

  The question shouldn’t have upset him so much but hearing it out loud from a relative stranger really drove it home that his secret was known, people knew now. He sniffed and ducked his head down.

  “Uh yeah,” he muttered.

  “Was it planned. Did you know the alpha without sounding like an asshole?” she asked.

  There was something about the way that she said it which made him believe that she wasn’t making assumptions about him.

  “Nah, I knew him, we were together,” Daryl told her, looking up shyly.

  “Were you mates?” she asked.

  “Yeah,” Daryl admitted. She was the first person in this new life that knew now for sure that the parental father of his baby was his mate- although he was pretty damn sure Carol knew. She was a very perceptive woman that hid behind a timid exterior.

  “That’s good then,” she smiled.

  Daryl frowned at her, not sure why it made any difference. Maybe it was her religious views, the fact that this baby wouldn’t be a bastard made the whole thing a little better.

  “It’s proven that babies of mated pairs are stronger than those that are not,” Maggie shrugged in response to his look.

  “Oh, right. Didn’t know that, thanks,” Daryl mumbled, feeling rather stupid.

  “You know, you need to take better care of yourself, eat more than you are for sure. I’ve seen how you’ve denied yourself food for the others. If you want this pup then you need to eat a hell of a lot more or you’re going to make yourself really ill or you’re going to abort it, neither of which you want to do now that there are no hospitals,” She said, pointing at him with a stern finger.

  “Yeah, a’right,” Daryl nodded, knowing that he had gone red.

  “Good then, I hope you do well with this all,” she smiled before simply walking off.

**********

  People were surprisingly supportive of him. Dale thought that he would make a good parent, Glenn nodding along from where he stood beside the old man. Rick and Carol of course already knew and supported him, Maggie and her father had shown him their support but Maggie’s little sister Beth seemed to be excited even over the news. Sophia just smiled at him, already having known. It was Shane, Lori and Andrea who looked down on him.

  Andrea told him that he would struggle and that he would need them in order to have a hope in raising his child properly, Shane and Lori just glared.

  Then there was the whole drama two weeks after people learnt about his pregnancy. First it came out that Shane had killed Otis and even though the man denied it, Daryl knew that he must be lying. Then there was the whole this with Lori being pregnant also but with the twist that the pup may either be Shane’s or Rick’s.

  Daryl had already known that Lori and Shane were sleeping together, the two were no where near as subtle as they thought they were. What the hunter hadn’t realised though was that Rick already knew about it. The whole thing was testament to how good a cop Rick was to discover it and how good of a man Rick was to still stand by the woman without so much as a word.

  The omega had sat back through everything, hanging on the outskirts with Carol and Sophia. The other omega and her daughter were both sweet and strong, both wanting to stay away from people in the same way that he did. All three of them had abusive pasts which had shaped them and they seemed to bond strongly over their shared wounds.

  Often, Carol and Daryl would stay up into the night next to the fire outside of Daryl’s tent. They often spoke of irrelevant and silly things but sometimes they spoke about things that mattered. Carol gave him pointers on his pregnancy, what to expect and what to do to make sure that things went smoothly. Daryl told her about hunting, sometimes drew little diagrams to show the plants and mushrooms that were good to eat, how to look for tracks.

  Time passed and Daryl’s belly became noticeable, Glenn and Maggie started to go out on runs together, the two getting closer and closer. They got him vitamins and clothes that would fit him when he got closer to his time. People watched to make sure that he ate and generally took care of him. It was disconcerting at first to have all these people paying attention and making sure that he was okay in a way that only Paul had ever done.

  Only Shane, who focused on Lori, Lori who, focused on herself, and Andrea continued to scowl at him and mutter about slutty omegas. Shane in particular made comments about filthy redneck whores but thankfully kept his hands off of Daryl since learning about his state.

  For all of that though, he couldn’t think about having his pup with them. Although he hated his family name, one that had been sullied for what seemed like forever, it had always been the way for Dixon’s to have pups on their own. It was weak to have help and as stupid as he knew it was, he just simply wasn’t comfortable with the thought of anyone seeing him in such a vulnerable state.

  Daryl knew that he could do this thing on his own, knew that he was strong enough. Before the whole world ended, he had researched how to birth a baby on your own, knowing from the start that the only person that he would want near him for the time would be Paul. Now, all he needed was to find a safe place away from everyone where he could have his child.

  People always seemed to be watching him, reluctant to even let him leave for hunts these days- a battle that they often lost, unable to match his stubbornness. Because of that, Daryl snuck out one day just as dawn coloured the sky and everyone was still asleep. He went into the stables and took out one of the horses, riding off into the woods in search of somewhere that he could possibly use.

  Daryl had never been the most confident of riders, horses weren’t something that he had really had access to when he was younger, only having ridden once or twice before the apocalypse hit. He rode out with some caution because of it, keeping to paths that he had previously wondered when hunting at first.

  The sun fully rose above him and he continued out, confident in the fact that the horse left noticeable trails in order to find their way back. Hours passed and he travelled far further than he ever had before when he happened upon and old cabin.

  Jumping down from the horse, Daryl tied its reigns to a nearby tree as he went to explore. The place was in a state of disrepair and looked a lot like the place that he had grown up but it was somewhere with four walls, a roof and a door. It would keep walkers out and that was all that mattered.

  The door screeched on its hinges as Daryl pushed it open, stepping cautiously inside with crossbow held high. There was no movement however, only dust motes flying up as he moved through the place. There was a kitchen, a living area and a bedroom, all riddled with must and mould and dust but whole.

  After inspecting the place, Daryl left, making sure that the door was closed and no unwanted walkers would invade the space. The horse stood patiently where he left it, untying it and remounting, setting back off to the farm.

  Although he wanted to get back quicker, he restrained from pushing his mount to trot both because he was nervous and because he was feeling delicate with his pup that day. Not that any of that mattered when the snake struck at the horse’s hooves.

  The beast screamed and reared up, Daryl toppling from its back. The world became a blur for a moment and he was only aware that he was falling and tumbling. Finally he landed, an immense pain shot through him and he looked down only to see there was an arrow piercing his side, blood slowly pooling out and staining his shirt.

Chapter Text

  Daryl woke to see his brother standing over him, face wavering and hazy to his delirious mind. He couldn’t believe that he was here with him but he couldn’t quite feel the joy through the pain in his side. What had happened?
  “You need to get up baby brother, can’t be lying here like this is you want to keep that pup of yours,” Merle said in that gruff voice of him.
  Daryl rolled his head to see if he could get a closer look at his brother but the older man didn’t get any closer or any clearer. The ground was hard, pressing into his back, his side ached, it burned. He’d fallen off of that horse, fallen on one of his own arrows. 
  “What you doing down there boy? You some weak omega that can’t help themselves out?” Merle growled.
  “No, no,” Daryl gasped.
  “Think you might feel a lot better if you pulled that there arrow out your said,” Merle said as he began to tug at Daryl’s foot.
  The growling from his brother changed, it wasn’t his brother anymore. He looked down and saw a walker, grizzly and struggling to gnaw at his boot.
  The omega struggled, every movement sent jolts of pain through his side. The walker was coming after him and he couldn’t kick out anymore. Desperately, Daryl gripped the arrow poking out of his side. The shaft was slick with his blood but he gripped it tight and pulled it out, letting out a long, loud scream at the intense pain it caused. 
  The walker was nearly upon him when he managed to get the arrow into his crossbow and shoot it into the walker’s head. The creature slumped down and so did Daryl, letting himself fall back against the ground again, watching the motionless body as he tried to catch his breath.
  The moment didn’t last long though as he forced himself to sit up, pain radiating though him making him well aware of the stickiness of his shirt. Gritting his teeth, he ripped a rag from his shirt and wrapped it tight over his wound.
  Growling to himself, Daryl fought down the panic that everything had come crashing down. He would be fine, so would his pup, this was just a minor setback. He struggled to his feet, making his way over to the bank and attempting to claw his way up through the dirt and leaves. Raising his arms above his head was painful, trying to pull himself up was even more so.
  Huffing in large painful breaths, Daryl took a break, leaning heavily against the bank. That was when Merle decided to show back up, Daryl didn’t know where he had gone to but the bastard had decided to show his ugly mug now to taunt him.
  “You sure are weak little brother. No alpha around to protect you, how do you ever hope to protect that pup of yours if you can’t even pull yourself to the top of this hill? If you even still do have a pup that if,” Merle snipped.
  Daryl growled again, determined this time to get to his brother to throttle him. 
*********
  He finally managed to get back to the farm, dragging his crossbow behind him. The omega was only half conscious by that point, barely standing through a mixture of pain, blood-loss and fear. It got even worse when the others were running towards him guns raised and then the bullet gazed his temple. The day was just getting better and better.
**********
  Daryl woke groggy in bed. An actual bed, not his bed roll in his tent. Why was he on an actual bed? Shifting slightly gave him his answer, the pain lancing through his side brought everything rushing back to him. It also brought back the panic. A shaky hand came up to smooth over his stomach, carefully avoiding the swell of gauze. Was there anything in there anymore?
  “Oh thank goodness, you’re awake,” came a female voice from besides him. 
  Daryl jumped and whipped around, grimacing as he pulled on the stitching.
  There on a chair besides his bed sat Carol. She looked frazzled like she had been there a long while and it warmed Daryl’s heart. She smiled softly at him in a way that he couldn’t not return.
  “Don’t worry, Hershal had an old ultrasound in the barn that he used to use on animals. He used it for you, said that the baby was fine,” Carol said, face serious as she glanced down at his hand.
  “Really?” Daryl breathed out.
  “Really?” she smiled.
  The relief washed over him so powerfully that he felt tears well in his eyes. Embarrassed, he clapped his hands over his eyes as the tears leaked out, only- to his horror- a sob followed. He felt arms come around him, gentle ones careful not to jostle him.
  The affection only made him cry harder, everything just becoming too much. Carol let him cry though, she held him and pressed soft kisses into his hair, she didn’t push him away or call him weak like his bother would have.
  Eventually the tears dried up and he was able to pull himself together. He pulled away from Carol and wiped a harsh hand over his eyes, not quite able to look at her. 
  “You don’t have to be embarrassed Daryl. I know how much this pup must mean to you, especially now. I just want to know what happened Daryl?” Carol said.
  It took him a moment but he was finally able to make eye contact before speaking,” was just looking for something, took a horse, it spooked and I fell on one of my arrows.”
  Carol looked carefully over him for a moment, trying to suss him out it seemed. Her lips were pursed and she looked disapproving. 
  “What were you looking for?” she asked after a moment.
  “Doesn’t matter,” Daryl replied sullenly.
  “Well did you find what you were looking for?” she asked. 
  Daryl wasn’t expecting that but he was grateful, she was an amazing women really, one that he wished he had met before the world went to shit. Though if they had met before it would have probably been passing in the street, they would never have been able to share a world.
  “Yeh I did,” he confessed, looking shyly at her out of the corner of his eye.
  “That’s good then,” she replied.
  He just offered a small smile at that, looking down at his belly where his pup still tumbled.  

Chapter Text

    Paul had made his way back across the states as fast as he could, panic clinging to his heat with each new hour that ticked by. He had already been anxious to leave his pregnant omega even if it was only early on in the pregnancy. Daryl had been the one to talk him into visiting his friends in Virginia, telling him not to worry and that nothing could possibly go wrong. To be fair to him though, no one had seen the end of the world coming.

  When he had reached the steps to their home, he had bounded up them, heart in his throat as he prepared himself for whatever he may find. The young alpha hoped desperately that he would find his mate holed up in their house, he would be scared but would be hiding it behind a brave, strong mask. Paul never felt afraid when he was with Daryl, despite being the alpha of the pair of them he was the one that was protected by the hunter.

  Paul had always been a bit different, he had always known for one that he was attracted to male omegas as opposed to female ones. Something that wasn’t as much as a problem as those alphas that were sometimes attracted to betas and other alphas. Paul also knew that he preferred older omegas, ones that weren’t the stereotype, he himself had never been the stereotypical tall, strong and commanding alpha that the media presented.

  Stronger omegas, they happened. Those types often fought against mating, fought against alphas. A lot of the larger, stronger omegas that roamed society coupled with betas and sometimes other omegas. They were few and far between, the vast majority about the size of Paul himself at the most. Daryl, he wasn’t much taller than Paul but he was much broader. That hadn’t been the first attraction for him though.

  Paul had first seen him in a bar with what he later found out was his brother. He had seen him from across the bar, arms muscled, voice gruff but quiet. He hadn’t been backing down around the group of alphas that he was with, he had been holding his own.

  It had taken Paul a long time to convince Daryl that he wasn’t messing him about, that this wasn’t all some big joke. The man was so insecure that it was painful, a male omega born into a redneck family. He thought that he was undesirable to anyone, thought that he was scum of the earth, that he would never amount to anything and would die alone. His omega hadn’t really talked about such thoughts until Paul pressed about a year into the relationship but he had been able to see it in the man’s eyes.

  The first time that they had attempted to together, Paul had been excited more for the extra intimacy than as a lust driven act. They had kissed and cuddled up- despite Daryl’s gruff nature he loved cuddles- and had been together for nearly ten months before they even tried anything. That night, Daryl had been shaking as Paul removed his shirt and took in his naked torso for the first time, there had been fear blatant in gorgeous blue eyes.

  The scars were bad, they spoke of years of abuse but so did the shake that ran though the omega. He thought that Paul would leave him after seeing them, that he would no longer desire him or that the supposed allusion he thought Paul was living under would shatter.  It had made Paul cry which had in turn made Daryl cry, the first time that Paul had seem him show such emotion.

  That night they hadn’t had sex, Paul and Daryl clung to each other half naked while Paul confessed to the omega that he had already fallen completely in love with him. Daryl had looked at him in awe, it was the most beautiful thing that Paul had ever seen, that face filled with hope and wonder. He had told Paul in return then and they had kissed deep and full. They had fallen asleep together, a mess of tangled limbs, Paul tracing down Daryl’s scars.

  They weren’t a blemish or a curse, the scars just showed Daryl’s strength, they showed what he had survived. Paul thought that the marks were sad and terrible but beautiful. They were part of Daryl and Paul thought that Daryl as an entirety was beautiful. Paul told Daryl that the next night after the sun had set, the omega’s eyes had gone glassy with unshed tears that never felt. They made love for the first time that night and it was amazing.

  It was five years that they had spent together, fights and arguments and dealing with Merle Dixon. It was more happiness and joy, Daryl was perfect for him in every way and Paul knew from their first failed attempt at sex that he would never want anyone else.

  Growing up, especially growing up and orphan in a group home, the thought of mating never really appealed to him. There were plenty of couples that lived together without ever mating, mating was for life, it wasn’t live marriage and divorce, it was a biological tie that couldn’t be broken, one that would link them forever. That seemed hell for young Paul. But Daryl was different.

  Daryl had never brought up mating but Paul knew that was because he would never want to press something like that on Paul just in case it was something he didn’t want. Daryl was liked that, even five years down the line he still held residual doubts that one day Paul would leave him. Paul saw Daryl glancing at the mating marks on other omegas’ necks though, almost longingly.

  He planned it all romantically, a dinner with candles, movie on the couch. Daryl was tired from a full day at the garage. It was lovely and beautiful, Daryl had been smiling and watching him, he had been curious but hadn’t asked any questions. They had ended up in bed, Paul on top of his half naked lover when he pulled back to ask.

  “How do you fancy becoming my mate,” he asked.

  Daryl had paused for the longest time, frozen beneath him with one hand still placed on the small of Paul’s back, the other in his hair. The omega had searched his face looking for any lie before pulling him back down for another kiss.

  He could feel the dampness from Daryl’s eyes as the older man muttered “yes” over and over again into his skin. It didn’t matter though because Paul was in the same state. Their mating was the best sex of Paul’s life, the best moment of his life.

  He had rubbed a possessive hand over the mark for weeks to come, a rush of pride coming over him every time that he set eyes on it. It was over two years since they mated that Daryl came to him in a panic with a little stick with little plus sign. He had been in a right state, terrified over any possible reaction that Paul may have.

  It was the second time ever that Daryl had actually cried in front of him. He had been a mess terrified to keep it, terrified to get rid of it. Paul had said he would support whatever Daryl decided but hoped against hope that he would keep it, that they could have a little baby of their own. When Daryl came to him, nearly two weeks later, and told him that he wanted to keep the baby his heart broke and melted at once.

  His omega, his mate, came to him practically begging for the child. It saddened him that his omega thought that he would have to fight so hard for something like that. He had reassured him and they had laughed together over it, both overjoyed at the thought of the new little life.

  His omega was his world, had been for over seven years, that world was going to grow when their baby was born. His entire world crumbled when he threw open the door to their home to find his omega and all the clothes in his side of the wardrobe gone.

 

Chapter Text

  Turns out that the stress of a zombie apocalypse can have an effect on a pregnant omega, he struggled through the final few months, his body protesting and seeming to fall apart. Hershal told him that he should have been more careful, said that if he was anyone else he would have him bed bound by his seventh month.

  Daryl did concede to stop hunting after he entered his sixth month of pregnancy and his belly was visible pronounced. He hated it, every moment of being idle because no one would let him do a thing. Carol and Rick watched him closely, both of them often coming over to chastise him if they saw him doing something they deemed he shouldn’t.

  He ached all the time, his back killed and he could barely sleep. They had moved him into the farmhouse, into a bed away from the cold ground of his tent. Daryl hated it, hated the looks that he got from Lori and Shane, Lori was pregnant too with Shane’s baby but wasn’t moved into the house until she too was showing. The scowls he got made his life even harder.

  The day that he first felt his baby moving under his skin was the most magical day of his life, after a few weeks he felt the pup moving strong enough that when he lay a hand against his stomach he could feel the kick against his fingers. Without any shame, he had rushed off to find Carol who had been out pumping water.

  She had started towards him worried as he reached her out of breath but smiled broadly up at him when he had grabbed her hand and held it to his stomach. She had pulled him into a hug and thanked him for sharing such a precious moment with her.

  The only other person that he had let feel his stomach was Sophia. The pup had grown on him, her timid nature giving away to a beautiful curiosity and enthusiasm to learn. Daryl taught her how to skin small game, Lori and Andrea looking on from afar with disapproval. The little omega never shied away from the blood or guts, learning with enthusiasm. At first he had been worried that Carol would disapprove, that she wouldn’t want her pup around him so long, him teaching her such things. However, the second time that he had been giving Sophia a lesson in skinning rabbits, Carol had happened upon them and simply plopped down and asked if she could join in.

  The omega woman had taken him aside one day late on in his pregnancy and actually thanked him for the time that he had been spending with her pup, for the things that he had been teaching her. Daryl had spent hours with her, sitting in the grass under the sun sketching pictures of plants, telling her their uses and sometimes their dangers. He had promised that when he baby came he would teach her how to track and hunt too.

  The baby coming came right about when it should. He had been off all week, he had just felt that something was going on, false labours becoming more frequent. It was night time when Daryl was woken by the stabbing pain through his abdomen, he sat up with a groan, hand pressing against his stomach.

  “Daryl, you okay?” came the sleepy voice.

  He whipped around to see Carol there, rubbing her eyes and sitting up in the arm chair. He had forgotten she had fallen asleep there, worried about him that day. She had pestered and pestered him until he had told her about his journey into the woods and why. He had admitted to what he was searching for, what he had planned. She was also the one that had talked him out of it, promising to try and be the one to be at his side, her and only her.

  Seems like she had a promise to keep.

  “Baby,” he grunted to her, hand resting firmly on his stomach.

  “Ah shit, showtime,” she breathed, standing up and walking over to kneel on the bed besides him.

**********

  He didn’t want to draw attention to his condition, didn’t want anyone else but Carol there, only trusted the other omega to be near him when he was so vulnerable. The problem with that was the pain, he wasn’t weak or quick to tears but child birth was hell. He felt like he was being torn apart and wanted to scream out the pain. It was a problem he quickly identified, grunting at Carol to pass him his belt so that he could clench the leather between his teeth to stifle his cries.

  It went on for hours and hours, seemingly forever. The contractions came quicker and quicker, more and more intense. Through it all, Carol was there muttering encouragement and holding his hand even when he squeezed it in a bone-breaking grip. There were tears streaming down his face, weakness in every line of his body.

  Finally, when the sun had risen up for the new day the baby came, slipping out of Daryl’s body. The omega collapsed down against the bed, shaking arms giving out as Carol took hold of his pup, cut and tied the cord. As soon as the baby took its first breath it started to bawl, the best sound that Daryl had ever heard.

  Struggling slightly, Daryl sat up to look at his pup just as Carol brought it up to him, placing the newly wrapped up baby in his arms.

  “You’ve got a son Daryl,” Carol told him as he looked down at the baby.

  As soon as the pup, his little son, was placed in his arms he stopped crying. Vivid blue eyes looked up at his out of a tiny, wrinkled red face. Impossibly tiny hands reached up, all of his movements uncoordinated and twitchy.

  He looked like Paul. His nose and his mouth and his ears, it was all Paul. It was everything that Daryl could have hoped for, his beloved mate reflected back at him. This little pup was the most important thing in the world, he loved the little boy completely even now.

  “Got any names in mind?” Carol asked quietly, she’d come to sit further up the bed so that she could see the omega father and son.

  “Ben,” Daryl told her, not looking away from the baby.

  “You seem sure on that,” she stated, glancing between the two.

  “Yeah, me and Paul talked about it before. He was so excited that I was pregnant, that he was going to be a father. We talked about it, I mean he did more, god he could talk when he got going. He decided that he wanted Ben for a boy and I liked that one, he wanted Sheila for a girl. Heh, I’m glad he’s a boy,” Daryl smiled.

  Carol smiled besides him, it was a bittersweet moment. She could see how much her friend missed his alpha, how much he was hurting because of it. From the few times that Daryl had talked about Paul, she could see how much love there was there. She had never had that with Ed but she had had a good life before him, Daryl hadn’t, the majority of his life had been shit. Paul was Daryl’s saving and now all he had left of the man was an old mating mark and that little pup in his arms.

  “Does he look like him?” she asked.

  “Yeah he does,” Daryl replied, pulling his shirt up as the baby started fussing, allowing him to feed.

  It had felt like a natural thing to do but the feeling of gums clamping down on his nipple was unpleasant and made his grimace if only for a moment. It felt special, intimate. He couldn’t believe that it was happening. He was sore and exhausted but so happy. Though through it all was an underlying current of sadness. He just wished that his alpha would be there to see this too.

  It was as little Ben finished feeding and started to fall asleep against his chest that there was a knock on the door. Daryl started, having forgotten for a moment that there was a world outside of the three of them.

  The door opened a moment later and Hershal stepped in only to stop dead at the sight before him. Daryl blushed, knowing full well that he was a mess, overcome with the urge to growl at the alpha coming too close to his pup.

  “Congratulations Daryl, you should have called though, I could have helped you,” Hershal said calmly with a smile.

  “Carol helped me,” Daryl grunted in return.

  “And she quite clearly did a fine job. Have you got a son or a daughter there then?” the old man asked, warm smile still in place, calming Daryl.

  “Son, his name is Ben,” Daryl said, hand moving over the damp downy fluff on the little baby’s head.

  “Ben Dixon, welcome to the world,” Hershal smiled.

Chapter Text

  Daryl couldn’t believe how quickly his son was growing, how when he was first born he was tiny and defenceless, he couldn’t so much as lift his head. Daryl had never had babies or children in his life before, he had no experience with them and was the opposite of what an omega was meant to be anyway. He had made it through the first day stressed to the hilt as everyone came to see the newest member to their little pack. It was at the end of that day though when Daryl put the tiny pup down in his temporary cot that he felt a different stress. The stress of “what the fuck am I doing”.

  They were staying in the farmhouse with the Greene’s because, as Hershal said, it was too cold for such a young infant out in Daryl’s tent at night. Daryl still felt guilty though, guilty for the cries of a hungry or uncomfortable baby that called through the night. He was paranoid that it would ruin everything for everyone.

  Especially when little Judith was born. Two little babies, a couple of months apart. Two little babies and one with two warring alphas.

  Shane and Rick.

  The latter was trying to keep out of it, trying to stay back but Lori had claimed him as her pup’s rightful father even though her scent told another story. It happened before plenty in the old world, a mate cheating and the pup’s scent easily told the story. Some alphas took them in, some didn’t. But Rick was a good man, a good alpha. The pup wasn’t his and yet he held the little girl in his arms to reverently, letting tiny little fingers clasp around his large one, nuzzling his nose close to soft downy hair.

  Daryl would find himself often watching the alpha with his little pup- because she was his by all but blood- and would often think of Paul as he held Ben in his arms. Paul had been so excited to be a father, it had been the best month of Daryl’s life, watching the new life that had been breathed into his mate at the thought of extending their little family.

  Still at night, Daryl would close his eyes and imagine Ben and Paul together. Rick was a good dad and a good alpha but Paul would be better. He wouldn’t hold back any time or love. He would teach their son everything in his power, spend his time with him, have fun with him.

  But Paul wasn’t there. Paul would more than likely never meet his son because the chances were he was dead and even if he was alive, there was small to no chance of the two of them crossing paths again. Though Daryl never liked to think of Paul dying, he was a martial arts master, practically a ninja, he was smart and Daryl had taught him years ago how to hunt and track, which plants were good for what and which to avoid. Paul would be better suited to this world than Daryl.

  Even through his hopeless wishing and pinning for his mate, Daryl couldn’t help but feel happy. He had Ben, the most perfect thing in the world and he had a bigger family now than he had ever had before.

  Carol had been helping him with his pup, giving him advise on any problems that arose or anything that he was worried or nervous about. And there was a lot. Because Ben was a baby. Ben was a baby and babies rely completely on their mother or omegan parent. Complete dependence. It was a lot at times to look at him and realise just how helpless he was.

  But he had Carol. He also had Sophia and Beth, the girls loved to cuddle Ben, to look after him. Just after Ben had turned three months old, Daryl convinced himself into leaving his infant with the two for a few hours while he went hunting. It had been months and months and he was feeling now more than a little guilty for all the trouble he had cause when giving nothing in return.

  That day, he had been on high alert, wanting to get everything done and dusted in order to get back to Ben. That high alert had helped him snag a deer so he couldn’t complain any, bringing his kill back to camp only to find Rick and Shane in the middle of a full blown fist fight.

  Now Daryl wasn’t a small omega, not in any way was he dainty. He had broken up fights between Merle and other alphas on many occasion so he didn’t hesitate to get in the middle of the two now- especially when he no longer had to protect his stomach.

  Both Rick and Shane growled at him as he bodily shoved himself between them though when Daryl growled back Rick backed down. The display, so non-typical for an omega, just seemed to enrage Shane more, the alpha growling again and showing bared teeth. It was a pathetic display of dominance that did nothing to Daryl.

  “You need to learn your fucking omega,” Shane growled, getting right up in Daryl’s space, pressing their foreheads together.

  Daryl pressed back, growling in the way his alpha father and brother had taught. That was until T-Dog and Rick pulled them apart. Shane continued to posture but Daryl wasn’t fussed, he just wanted to get back to his little boy. Screw the alpha and his precious pack standing.

  The omega waved a dismissive hand at the alpha and growled out, “leave it be you stupid fuck. Olive oil is Officer Friendly’s mate, the pup belongs to him by right.”

  “Keep the fuck out of it omega. You’re nothing but a filthy whore, you and your dirty little bastard disgust me,” Shane spat but Daryl just laughed.

  “And what the hell makes you think he’s a bastard then?” Daryl smirked.

  “The fact that no one in their right mind would mate a fucked up omega like you,” Shane snarled.

  “Well you’re wrong,” Daryl replied, pulling his shirt aside to expose his mark before turning and pushing through the crowd of assembled people and making his way to where he saw Beth stood, Ben balanced on her hip.

  The pup made a happy gurgle at the sight of his father, tiny little hands reaching out in uncoordinated movements. Daryl took him and nuzzled his nose into his son’s soft hair, breathing in his scent. Pulling back, he looked down into huge blue eyes that gazed innocently back at him. Shane could say what he liked about Daryl and Ben but the truth was his little boy was perfect.

Chapter Text

  Paul raised his face towards the heavens as it poured down hard and fast. It soaked his hair so that it lay heavy down his shoulders, his shirt and pants so that they stuck to his body and made his skin slick. The water dripped down his neck and down across his cheekbones. It was cold, viciously so and he shook with the low temperature but he made no move to get out of it all.

  Thundered rolled and roared, the clouds dark and heavy. He was standing outside of an old cabin in the woods, the wooden panels rotting, nails hanging loose and the door swinging to one side. It was a dump but it was shelter. The only problem was that it looked too similar to the cabin where Daryl had grown up, the same one that he and Merle had stayed in after their dad had died. As Daryl had told him, Will Dixon had been drunk and hand fallen and hit his head on the corner of the coffee table. A rather anticlimactic end.

  Being in the little shack had just brought up all the memories of his mate, taken him back to the time that he had met. Back then Paul had been a bit lost, he had been moving around the country, taking up odd jobs, settling for a while before moving on. He had just been trying to find a place in the world.

  He enjoyed his life somewhat. He moved about, met new people, made new memories. Paul wasn’t the stereotypical alpha, he was short and lean, easy natured. He also was different to other alphas in the fact that he was not solely attracted to omegas, not even just betas. Moving around meant that Paul had met and fucked his far share of all three secondary genders, though he preferred males of all three.

  However, despite all his ‘conquests’, he had given up on relationships. The alpha had had his fair share of relationships but they had never ended well. He had been too needy, too annoying, not alpha enough, sometimes it had just been outright cheating. In the end, after he had found his last ex- an alpha named Matt- in bed with an omega woman, he had decided to just stick with one-night stands.

  That was until he had met Daryl. He had first seen the omega in a crumby bar in the backend of no where in Georgia. The omega scent hit him first, it was the most divine thing that he had ever smelt. There was research that showed there was a certain number of people in the world that would have the most attractive scent and that they would be the perfect mate. It was all biology and Paul had never paid attention to that, would never get in bed with another alpha if he did, but when he caught Daryl’s scent he was hooked.

  Seeing him though… He knew by the scent that Daryl was an omega but he, like Paul, didn’t fit the stereotype. He had broad shoulders with muscled arms- accentuated by a shirt with cut of sleeves, something that Paul greatly appreciated. There was also the narrower hips and the most amazing ass. His hair was short and dirty blond and when he turned to the side Paul saw that he had deep blue eyes. From that moment he knew that he had to get to know Daryl better.

  He had been sat with a group of alphas though- one that he later learnt was Merle and his friends- the alphas were stereotypical rednecks, all drunk and rowdy. Daryl wasn’t though, he was sat beside the other with a pint looking wearily at the bunch. He eventually left the group, pushing up from his stool and making his way towards the exit.

  As he passed Paul, he stopped and stared and the alpha knew that he had smelt it too. Being the subject of that wonderful gaze sent shivers down Paul’s spine but there was something about it. It took a minute but Paul realised that Daryl was looking at him in fear more than anything before he broke away and rushed from the building.

  Naturally, Paul followed after him and it was the best decision he ever made.

  Turns out- and this was information that Paul earned over months of trust building- Daryl’s father hated the fact that he had an omega son. He had beaten the shit out of Daryl before he had presented but it got worse after he did. If Will Dixon had so much as caught a whiff of strange alpha on his youngest son then it would be over. Omegas were thought of as the weaker sex, the only sex to have childbearing males. Males that were weak. A redneck father’s bane.

  Even though Will Dixon was dead by the time that Paul met Daryl, he was still scared. Still never been with an alpha ever, not so much as a snog. The man had left mental scars as well as physical, it didn’t help that his brother had been reinforcing alpha ways and mannerisms in him for years.

  Paul had been with Daryl for so many years, had earner the man’s trust and love through hard work. It hadn’t been easy and it made it all the more precious. Daryl was loyal, probably the most loyal person he had ever met, it was easy for Paul to trust him but when Daryl smiled at him or cuddled into him, that was when he really fell in love.

  Now, it had been over a year since the world had been over run by the dead, over a year since he had seen his omega. If the man was still alive- and really he had to be for Paul’s own sanity- then he would have had their pup by now. Paul would be the father of a little boy or girl.

  As he let the rain and the cold soak into his bones, Paul tried to imagine it. He closed his eyes and pictured his mate somewhere warm and safe, holding a little pup in his arms. Daryl would be the most beautiful parent and their pup would be the most perfect being. The pup would look like Daryl, have his eyes but maybe Paul’s own nose. It didn’t matter if the pup was a boy or girl, omega, beta or alpha, Paul never had a preference. He just wanted a kid with his mate.

  He closed his eyes and let the tears fall and mix with the rain, washing away like they had never been there. Paul had searched a searched for a year but with each passing day it got harder and harder to hold onto hope, not when he had absolutely no clue where his mate could have gone. Standing there in front of the falling apart cabin in the middle of a wood in the pouring rain, Paul came to the realisation that he should stop looking because the hope was slowly killing him.

  The silent tears turned into sobs that wracked his body, his head fell to his chest and his shoulders shook. Not a moment later, his knees gave out and he collapsed down into the mud. He curled into himself and just sobbed. The realisation that he would never see his family again, never meet a pup that may never have actually been born, broke his heart.