(Oh yes, I went there. I’ve finally done more than write ASOIAF fanfiction. This has been something that has been brewing in my head for the past week; and I just needed to get it out there. In the long run, I do think it will help with my ASOIAF requests since I’ve felt so bogged down and uninspired recently. Yes, it will be a chapter fic. It’ll be all from Daryl Dixon’s POV. This is a prologue of sorts. Each chapter will deal with Daryl’s relationship with different members from the group. Because he’s one loveable bastard, OK? This isn’t going to be shippy or whatever, just Daryl being Daryl with different people. You all get two guesses as to where that title came from. One thing I need to add is that I was going to have Merle use the “n” word, but I felt uncomfortable doing it, so you can pretend he does, for the sake of literature.)
W H E N T H E L O N E W O L F D I E S
prologue: compare and contrast
Daryl will always remember the way his brother’s eyes raked over each person in this not-so-merry band of idiots that had somehow managed to survive the beginning of the apocalypse despite all odds being against them. Merle was trying to determine who the weak ones in the group were, because you are only as strong as your weakest link, or some shit like that. Daryl himself had never been one for groups, but being alone wasn’t an option in this new day and age. You needed a group to survive; and as tough as the Dixon brothers were, it would take more than just two people to survive this shit hole. He’d begrudgingly followed his brother’s lead and now they were part of a group.
And hell, did Daryl hate fucking groups.
“I don’t know how most of these people are still alive,” Merle said one night while Daryl was fixing up his tent. They were camped some way’s off the highway, because being anywhere near a highway was a lot like asking to be eaten alive. When they’d decided to pitch their tents, Daryl had chosen to stick his as far as he could away from everyone else without being in a whole new camp or stupid. Merle’s tent was in between his and the rest of the group’s, effectively creating a nice barrier between Daryl and stupidity personified.
Daryl sat down on a log next to his tent. “Lucky, I guess.”
“Luck is only gonna get you so far, baby brother; you best know that.”
All Daryl could do was shrug his shoulders in response. They may have been some tough sons of bitches and killed more walkers than any of these folks combined so far, but they had had their lucky moments as well. If Daryl didn’t know what he knew, if he hadn’t been taught how to hunt and kill, then they might’ve starved a while ago, seeing as how Merle was shit at packing end of the world supplies. They hadn’t even been in the same city when all this shit had started; and yet somehow, they’d managed to find each other. Merle was the only person in the world that Daryl gave a shit about; and he was more than certain that Merle was the only person that gave a shit about him in return. It wasn’t like he’d had a lot to lose, but he’d come to a startling realization that maybe his big brother was all he had to lose besides his own life.
Merle picked up a stick and shoved some of the embers of their fire around, his eyes trained on the other people in the camp. They’d been with these people a few days. It was only thanks to Merle that they’d been allowed into this group. He’d somehow charmed their way in, although Daryl knew that Merle’s charm could only go and last for so long before he snapped. There had already been a few small instances, but either Daryl would indirectly intercept or Merle would somehow manage to keep his cool. All he’s gotta do is stay outta his stash… But who knew how long it would last before Merle got an itch.
“The cop, he’s probably half the reason these dumbasses are alive,” Merle said, flicking the stick momentarily in the other man’s directions. Daryl followed the line of sight and spotted Shane Walsh prowling through the camp. Merle was probably right. Although he didn’t particularly like Shane (or anyone really), the other man was quick on his feet and brutal and calculated when it came to walkers. He knew how to dispose of them quickly and handled a gun well. Still, he had an edgy look about him as he looked around the camp, making it look like he was close to snapping, before his body visibly relaxed as he walked up to a woman named Lori Grimes and her son Carl. At first glance, Daryl had thought them a family, until the young boy had muttered something about his father, a sheriff, being dead.
Not that they weren’t really a family. Daryl had accidentally come across Shane and Lori fucking in the woods while he’d been on one of his hunts. It would’ve been awkward had he not been able to discreetly leave the scene before being discovered. They hadn’t even heard him coming. Idiots would’ve been caught dead with their pants ‘round their ankles if it’d been a fucking walker. Then again, he was good at being quiet in the woods. He’d learned how to soften his steps at an early age. Shit came in handy when you needed to get around walkers without drawing attention, even though Merle usually jumped out and killed them anyways, laughing and hollering like always.
“If that kid doesn’t get eaten up soon though, I’ll be fucking damned,” Merle chuckled.
Carl did seem to wander around a lot; and though his mother tried her best to keep an eye on him, well, there were clearly times when both she and Shane, his new dad, were too preoccupied to notice him. That was what happened when people got that whole, “I just want to feel alive again,” shit stuck playing in their heads, as if they were the only ones left on the planet and had nothing left to live for. God, shit like that made him sick.
“What’s the old man’s name?” Merle asked, pointing at the RV.
“Dale,” Daryl answered. He’d kept track of everyone’s names while Merle just gave them an assortment of crude nicknames. He rarely ever used their names when talking to people, so Daryl sometimes had to remind him who was who when they were talking.
“Guy is old as shit, but he’s a resourceful motherfucker, I’ll give ‘im that.” Merle gave the RV a careful look over. Upon first glance, he’d wanted to try to take the RV away from Dale, but when they’d found out that he was just the tip of a larger group, Merle had decided against it. Not that Daryl would’ve gone along with the plan. It hadn’t been exactly the brightest one and Merle had been kind of fucked up at the time. Merle was his brother, but he made some stupid ass decisions when he was high. “RV’s closest thing to a tank that people can get these days, but no doubt he’s gonna bite it. I bet he can’t run for shit.”
Daryl didn’t want to say that he kind of liked Dale. Because he didn’t. But the old man was nice. He was too trusting though. He was the one person in the group that had welcomed Daryl and Merle with open arms. Daryl was smart enough to know that people like him and Merle were both good and bad people to have around. They knew how to hunt and track, but Daryl knew for a fact that he wasn’t the warmest of people to be around. He made a habit of staying away from people and Merle knew how to make people hate him quicker than sand. Shane had been iffy about them, had even tried to get them to move along at first, but Dale had insisted they stay. Something about leaving people out to fend on their own wasn’t humane.
Maybe no one had told that old man the world wasn’t exactly a humane place anymore.
“That one guy brought enough MREs t’ feed ‘is family for weeks. I bet we could get our hands on some. Not like he’s up t’ sharin’ shit. Man’s funny as fuck, but he’s a stupid bastard through and through.”
Daryl’s eyes flickered to the family in question: Ed, Carol, and Sophia. Out of all the people in this camp, Merle got along with Ed the best. They’d play poker together with Dale’s pack of cards. If there’d been booze here, no doubt they would’ve been the ones to drink it. (Well, there was booze, but Merle wasn’t the sharing type either.) To be honest, Daryl thought the two men were more alike than either one of them would admit. They were also the first two to grow volatile should any arguments arise, though Shane suppressed any quickly enough with his equally high temper. Merle may have gotten along with Ed, but that wouldn’t stop Merle from turning on him if it meant surviving or getting a few MREs.
None of that mattered to Daryl. After two nights of sleeping too close to the family’s tent, he wanted the fucker dead. It didn’t take a fucking genius to see the way he treated his wife. Merle should know fuckin’ better. It wasn’t rocket science to figure out that Ed was an abusive asshole and had only gotten worse with the strain of the apocalypse bearing down on him. There had been one occasion when Daryl had woken up to the familiar sound of a smack, flesh on flesh; and he’d sat frozen in his tent, tense as coil, and it had taken every ounce of energy to not grab a large stick and beat Ed over the head with it. He’d lost his temper only once in camp so far, but it had been large enough for Shane to threaten his place here. He wasn’t going to get them kicked out over a piece of shit like Ed, but it fucking stung nonetheless. He’d felt like a stupid kid again, not a grown ass man.
And Daryl wasn’t even going to open the can of worms that was Ed’s relationship with his daughter Sophia. That was enough to make him see red; and the last time he’d truly lost his temper had resulted in him beating the shit out of four walkers with nothing but a crowbar. Shit.
“It’s gonna be real funny when the walkers get ahold of them Negros,” Merle pointed out, a dark grin on his face. “Walkers don’t care much about civil rights and shit, that’s for sure.”
Merle was right about that last part at least. Walkers certainly didn’t discriminate when it came against who they wanted to chomp on: they tore up gays, straights, whites, blacks, Asians, and everyone alike. They didn’t care about little old ladies or rich assholes. All they cared about was the blood pumping through the veins of anything living. Daryl had even seen a walker chewing on some rich girl’s poodle. Nothing mattered to them. Everyone and everything was an equal opportunity to munch. Everyone that had looked down at him for being a hick was on his level now in walkers’ eyes, though Daryl knew that he was one step ahead of most people. He knew how to survive with jack shit. These people here were scraping by with what they’d taken from their old lives. Daryl knew that a time would come when all the stuff he’d packed would mean nothing and would be gone; and all he’d have was himself.
And Merle, he’d have his brother too.
Still, Daryl had yet to see what T-Dog and Jacqui could contribute to the group. Jacqui was nice enough and, if Daryl could bring himself to admit it, she was smart. He saw the way she paid attention to how the group worked. She didn’t stick her nose into anyone’s business, unlike other people; and he liked that. She was smart enough to know that Daryl didn’t want to be bothered and left him be, but she had been the first one to talk to him about starting to hunt for food. Everyone else had just thought he was weird and messed up in the head. She may have been a city slicker at one point, but the girl knew something, black skin or not. T-Dog was always up for checking the perimeter for walkers and he did heavy lifting when required of him, but he didn’t do much else. People seemed to like him though. He was cheerful when need be, which in Daryl’s opinion was never, but no one asked him.
“Did you see that Asian kid runnin’ away from those geeks we ran across the other day?” Merle chuckled and shook his head. “Never seen someone run so fast. I thought he was gonna piss his pants.” He laughed some more and then shook his head. When Daryl looked up, he saw Glenn sitting on top of the RV, looking around. He was playing with the hat that he wore all the time, wringing it and then flopping it back on his head. He’d grab Shane’s binoculars, look around, and then fiddle with his hat again. “The only thing that shit head’s got goin’ for ‘im is that he’s quick as shit. He’ll outrun everyone and let them get eatin’.”
Well, about that, Daryl wasn’t so sure. Glenn was quick on his feet – that much was for sure, the way he was able to scavenge faster than any of them – but he was smart too. It wasn’t that Asian smart either. He just was. Merle was right in saying that the kid looked fit to piss himself though. He didn’t have any confidence or bravery; Daryl could see the fear in his eyes and he knew that was likely to get him in trouble. Sure, he was brave and he did a lot of things that most people wouldn’t, putting himself on the line of the geek’s buffet for people he barely knew, but that was completely different from the type of person he was at camp. If Daryl so much as looked at him sideways, the boy ran the other way. He stammered when trying to talk to Shane or Merle. One time, he’d tried to tell Ed to maybe, if he could, please, not to yell so much at Carol, and Ed had barked at him so loud that Glenn had taken off and not showed up for the rest of the day.
Daryl didn’t know how Glenn could be so ballsy when it came to walkers but nearly wet himself when it came to people. It was like he was more afraid of getting chewed out than being chewed on.
“That Mexican and his family are gonna die soon; I can feel it,” Merle said, nodding over to Morales and his wife, daughter, and son. He was a loving father and husband, the perfect man back when society had meant something. Apparently he was from Atlanta and knew about the city, hence why he was the one that was going to lead the scavenging mission there in a week’s time. He didn’t look like much, probably just some family man with a city job, but the apocalypse can make softer men into something hard. There was no telling what it did to harder men – turned them something fierce and feral.
Daryl couldn’t help but feel lucky that he didn’t have anyone to really care for. He would always have Merle’s back, but in the end, Merle could take care of himself. People that had a wife or husband had the pro of having someone they loved to keep them in good spirits, but it made people stupid. People did stupid things when they were in love. Daryl didn’t have anyone that could make him stupid. And if you had a kid to look after, you did double the stupid. No doubt people put themselves in greater risk to save their children. They would probably give up their lives, just hoping that it might save their child. God, that was stupid. Self-preservation didn’t mean a damn thing when children were involved, even though it should’ve been the first thing a parent worried about. Like when a plane is going down and people are instructed to put their oxygen masks before helping their child with theirs, people should watch out for themselves so they’d be alive to take care of their children as well.
But people were fucking stupid, especially at the end of the world. He’d seen a man gunned down for a TV when the looting happened. A fucking TV, when there was no electricity! What an idiot. The guy with the TV had had his arm ripped off just ten minutes later because he’d been too busy carrying the TV around to notice the walker right in front of him. At least these people seemed to have some sort of sense about what was important; and that was just staying alive.
“Y’know, I was thinkin’ some the other night,” Merle suddenly said, bringing Daryl’s attention back from scanning the edge of the woods. “Those pretty little blondes oughtta offer us some fun.” Daryl chewed on the inside of his cheek, wishing for a pinch of a tobacco, as his eyes settled on the women in question. They were sisters, he knew. Both of them had sunny blond hair and cleaner complexions than what should’ve been normal for an apocalypse. Nearly every other day, the younger sister would drag the older one out of the little dingy in the quarry so they could go fishing. Daryl hated to think that they were better fishers than him, but he’d always been more of a hunter than a fisherman. “What’re their names?”
“Andrea and Amy maybe.”
“Nah, you’re right. I remember ‘em tellin’ us their names. It was like pullin’ teeth t’ get the older one t’ tell us ‘er name.”
Well, no shit, what with the way you were leerin’ at ‘er.
Daryl didn’t say anything though. Sure, they were pretty and it was probably growing harder and harder to find a good-looking girl, but that wasn’t really what he was concerned about these days. He hadn’t even really concerned himself with women before the amount of them had begun to dwindle right before their eyes. Sex was probably one of the farthest things from Daryl’s mind, but of course it would be on Merle’s. He’d had plenty of women before and liked to recall in excruciating detail the way they’d squirm and squeal under him. He liked the way it made Daryl uncomfortable, said it was teaching him to be a bigger man.
“End of the world will get a girl hornier than anythin’ else,” Merle had said weeks ago, after he’d fucked his first post-apocalyptic girl in the back of her jeep. They’d stolen her jugs of water after that. That had been the only reason they’d talked to her, but Merle had decided to get something else out of the deal as well.
“I’d get the older one, o’course,” Merle told him, sounding almost serious. Andrea was not likely to be a willing participant with anything to do with Merle though. She’d already taken a pronounced disliking to him and seemed intent on keeping herself and her sister as far away from the Dixon brothers as possible. She had told both Shane and Dale that she didn’t trust either of them, not that Daryl cared what she thought. He had shot back that he didn’t trust her, though Merle had hushed him up quickly enough. Shit, he could be really charming when he wanted something whereas Daryl just never really gave a shit. “I’d let you have the little one though. She’s prob’ly your type – all young and doe-eyed and weak. Bet she’d be limp as a sock though.”
Daryl didn’t even want to think about that. She may have acted chipper sometimes, but he could see the hollow look in her eyes, like she had nothing left going for her. As far as they knew, her parents were dead and all she had was her big sister. Well, all Daryl had was his big brother, too, but his parents had died years ago and it hadn’t hurt him that much. Still, Andrea probably didn’t have to worry so much about keeping her sweet little sister Amy away from Daryl, seeing as how Daryl did his best to stay away from her as well. Try as he might, he kept thinking about Amy just lying there underneath him, not even moving or fighting or saying anything, just that hollow look in her eyes and that flat look she wore on her face when she thought no one was looking.
“That older one, Andrea, man, she’d be a firecracker,” Merle added in an almost wistful tone. He whistled lowly, his mind obviously preoccupied on what could possibly happen between him and the former lawyer. It was a long shot. The only time lawyers had paid Merle any attention was when he was paying them to keep him out of jail or they were trying to throw him back into one. Andrea wasn’t likely to warm up to the idea of rolling around in a tent with Merle Dixon, no matter how persuasive or forceful he tried to be. She’d be more likely to kill him than anything or bring Shane into the matter, what with him being a cop and all, and things would get messy.
Daryl looked away from the two blondes and thought for the thousandth time that, no matter how much he loved his brother and blood was blood, he would be fucking pissed if Merle got high and got them tossed out of this (admittedly stupid) group because he tried to get laid.
“Jus’ leave ‘em be,” Daryl muttered as he fiddled around with one of his arrows.
“I’m just lookin’ out for our needs, baby brother,” Merle said with a laugh. “Somebody’s gotta. You ain’t ever gonna get laid again if the only thing you sleep with is your bow.”
I need my bow to protect myself; I don’t need this fuckin’ group, Daryl thought sourly, but then he looked at them again. They were a sorry lot, but they’d managed to survive somehow and maybe that was saying something. Maybe they had something that was keeping them alive when other smarter, stronger, and braver people were getting eaten alive out there.
Standing up, Daryl moved to his tent and unzipped it. Merle was lucky that Daryl had thought to pack two; Merle was fucking lucky that Daryl had even thought to pack shit for him, in the off chance that they’d actually find each other. Sometimes, Merle was a lot luckier than he’d admit. Maybe Daryl was the one looking out for him. “I’m goin’ to bed.”
“Not gonna stay awake for some genuine kumbaya shit?”
Daryl glowered at Merle and then looked at the group, which had started to gather around the fire. They weren’t going to sing kumbaya, but they seemed to think it important that they all got together as a group and talked or whatever. As if it was going to make them feel better about the fact that the world had gone to shit and practically everyone they knew was either dead or the living dead. “Fuck that shit. I gotta get up early t’ hunt.”
“Always the lone wolf,” Merle said as he stood up as well. “No wonder it took you ages t’ get some.” He reached out and ruffled Daryl’s hair, like he used to do all the time when Daryl was a kid and Merle was his punk ass older brother, back when their mama was alive to take the beatings that their father dealt. Daryl hated it when Merle treated him like that now, but he’d yearned for it when he was little and Merle was in and out of juvie. “You go to bed. I’m gonna work on gettin’ me a slice of some blondie.”
As Daryl lied in his tent that night, listening to the crackle of the fire and the low voices of the group, he couldn’t help but think about Merle’s words. He had always been more of a lone wolf, but now he was stuck with this group. He didn’t think he’d ever feel like he was part of the group, part of the pack, and even Merle was on the outside because of his antagonistic nature that he just couldn’t hide, but maybe that wasn’t the way it worked anymore. You needed others to survive; and as much as Daryl was loathe to admit it, maybe, just maybe, he couldn’t depend on just himself to stay alive, not like he’d done that one time when he’d been lost in the woods as a kid. Maybe he needed a pack and these people would have to do.