Author: MarionArnold PM
Merle was separated from the group through his own actions - but we all know that wouldn't have been the end of him - and that somehow he would find his way back to his brother. This is how he got there and the strange pairing OC that just happened.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance - Merle D. - Chapters: 83 - Words: 297,281 - Reviews: 1,014 - Favs: 154 - Follows: 142 - Updated: 12-31-12 - Published: 06-11-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8206384
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Merle heard a scampering step and Joanna pulled in next to his shoulder.
"Good morning Mr Merle," she said politely.
"Mornin'" he grunted back, his eyes narrowed.
"Where are you going?"
He glanced at her, but her tone was light. She wanted to know but she wasn't interrogating. "Just out tha back," he shrugged. "See if t'ere are any geeks out t'ere."
"Can I come?" she asked and he stopped, she was past him before she realised and had to back track.
"Wha'?" he demanded. "Why?'
She shrugged. "Why not?"
Merle glared down at her, she looked back up at him fearlessly damn bitch spent too much time around the other bitch he decided. So this was going to be his guard – clever prick. He nodded once and turned to walk again, Joanna bouncing next to him, prattling away.
Marion hadn't wanted to talk much the night before. He'd come into the tent after the end of the meal, she'd been curled up in the bed feigning sleep. Dog had growled at him a little more loudly than normal and he'd taken a closer look at her face, it looked slightly red. She'd been crying. Oh classy work had crowed that voice inside his head. Make the only woman who's on your side cry. "Marion" he'd said quietly "I brought you something to eat" but she hadn't moved. Dog however had suddenly become very sociable and Merle had disrobed in silence except for noise of perfectly good turkey being wasted on the dog. She was stiff to his touch, and half rolled onto her belly, facing away from him. He'd sighed and lay out on his back, staring at the tent until finally he'd gone to sleep.
She hadn't spoken to him when she'd left the tent to feed the horses and knowing that she was angry with him he hadn't followed her to the shower, instead going for a walk around the camp, taking a look at the new padlock that had been placed on the door and the dour face of Amos perched on a chair next to it. He'd lost several years off his life as he'd walked back into the tent, glowering at Aaron who seemed to have scored the morning guard duty, and being met by the sight of Marion, dressed only in her bra and jeans – holding a knife to her wrist.
"Wha' tha fuck?" he demanded, covering the distance in quick strides and snatching the blade from her hand. "Ya optin' out or somethin' bitch?"
Marion started "Of course I'm not," she said indignantly, her chest swelling.
Merle couldn't help himself Fuck she had a good rack.
Marion turned and picked up her shirt, dragging it over her head.
"Well wha' tha fuck are ya doin' wit' a knife?" he demanded, still holding it in his hand – a simple kitchen knife, but sharp enough to do damage.
"I thought," she blushed a little, her voice small. "I thought that they might want proof."
Merle frowned proof and looked down at the table, the bowl in front of her and the other supplies that she had on it.
"I thought you were out, playing your games," she added a little defiantly.
"So wha' tha fuck else can I do?" he asked harshly, hearing criticism in her voice. "Ya want me ta just roll over and take it?"
"Of course I don't Merle," she stilled him with a hand on his arm. "I understand – this is how you fight."
"So why were you pissed wit' me?"
She raised her brows, then sighed. "I wasn't pissed with you," he snorted. "I was upset with you. You were... vulgar. Last night was an important night to those people and you pretty much shat all over it. My argument is with Elijah and Deborah and their demented scheme – and Samson for being too weak to stop them. Not the others."
He got it. She was wrong of course, every single one of them here were to blame – but he understood that she didn't assign blame that way. She didn't fight that way. He nodded.
Marion frowned, pulling back her sleeve and offering him her wrist. "Can you do it for me please? I'm a bit worried about cutting too deep."
Merle snorted, putting the blade between his teeth and lifting his foot onto the table.
His ankle was still sore as he trudged with Joanna through the paddocks. Tha girl could talk he thought, but at least she wasn't requiring much input from him. He let it wash over him, it was full of stuff about the farm and the weather she was expecting – given the coldness already she thought that snow was a possibility. She could see a whole range of things to do in the snow, he knew that when it was the end of the world that snowball fights and toboggan rides wouldn't be high on the priority list and that snow only presented an absence of game, dangerous cold and more danger. Of course, the good ol' methane express would be magic down that big hill that he and Marion rode down he grinned in memory of youthful days with his buddies in the northern mountains.
The growl was almost halfhearted and he almost missed it. Joanna was paying no attention to her surroundings, covering all other sounds with her prattle. "Ssh," he said insistently, swinging his stump across her chest to stop her. She gasped, and blushed, at his touch but he had no time for that – looking around and focusing on the sounds. There was no stock in their immediate vicinity, he looked around and located them about 50yards away – all looking in their direction. All hail the might tracker, so in tune with nature's symbols – walking straight into a feeding frenzy! He could hear some type of sucking sound, a rougher sound like the gnashing of teeth. "Git back girly," he snapped suddenly. "Git back ta camp – bring tha guns."
"Why?" she whispered, suddenly pale and a little afraid.
"There's geeks out 'ere," he replied and stepped forward slowly. The grass was so long out here that he couldn't see below his knees and there was nothing distinct in front of him. A hand came forward and grabbed onto his belt and he turned. "Git," he ordered, albeit in a low voice. Joanna shook her head, her whole body trembling. He growled in frustration, turning back to the front. He didn't want to go until he knew how many they were – he didn't want to go at all, if he took his eyes off them and they moved... But he could feel her trembling through her grip which had moved to his stump. Hell. "Come on," he said and turned.
Joanna screamed as the geek, fresh blood from where he'd buried his head into whatever he had killed rose out of the grass not three yards away from them. It groaned at the sight and smell of fresher meat and took a step. Merle flung the girl behind him and lashed out with this fist, catching the geek on the side of its head and knocking it over, then stamping on its head once, twice and three times until his heel cracked through the skull and the thing died for a second time.
He was expecting the second one, it rose from the carcass of the sheep that it was feeding off – splattered with blood around its face and up its arms. What he didn't expect was the second carcass sheep were fuckin' dumb that he tripped backwards over as he tried to draw it away from Joanna or the third geek that he landed next to. He swung his legs up and rolled all the way over and back onto his feet, reaching automatically for his knife. Fuck. The geek leaned in towards him, getting to its feet with almost normal dexterity and reached out. Merle hit it once across the side of its head, careful to back away from the gnashing teeth and anything that might damage his skin. The thing flinched, but kept coming – the damn thing looked almost brand new. Its clothes, while dirty, weren't at all ragged and there was no sign of decay – just the un-coordinated step and the white film over its eyes to announce it was a geek. Oh and the fact that he wants to eat you.
He slammed his fist into it again and again, it was still coming and he was running out of room – the fence was within a few steps. He lifted his foot and kicked out – the thing caught his foot between its hands and he went down hard. The thing landed on top of him, its teeth wide open as it reached in to grab at his throat. He pushed with his hand underneath its neck – pushing upwards – but the thing was strong, in life it would have been about the same size as Merle and in death it seemed to have strength and an obsession which could not be denied. He hammered at it with his stump, holding its head back. He felt the pressure in his stomach and grimaced the fuckin' t'ing was tryin' ta gut him and he pushed up harder, trying to get some distance between those clawing hands and his belly. It wasn't working – he lifted his leg up to try and dislodge it, but it could smell his blood and nothing was moving it.
The tree branch came swinging out of nowhere and the thing fair bounced off him. He rolled away from it, jumping to his feet while the thing was still unsteady. He kicked out – his boot landing in its temple and it dropped to the ground. He lifted his foot again and stamped again and again and again. A movement caught his eye and he whirled, grabbing the branch and stabbing it through the third geek's eye. It crumpled to the ground and he stood still for a few moments, waiting and looking. Clear.
He looked at Joanna, quivering as she stared at the bloody mess in front of her, still breathing hard.
"Ya did good Miss Jo," he nodded.
She started to shake, tears welled up in her eyes and then she started screaming.
"Hey!" he yelled at her, looking around for more geeks. He stepped forward and reached out to grab her – she backpeddled still screaming. "Hey!" he yelled again and this time he did grab her, pulling her close to him and wrapping his good hand around her mouth. She bucked and kicked, still screaming under his hand and a lucky kick landed on his knee – he grunted in pain and she broke free, still screaming.
Fuck he thought and took the last option open to him.
There was a crowd waiting when he carried her unconscious body out of the paddock. Samson met him at the gate, his eyes hard and the rifle on his shoulder. "Ya need ta fuckin' kill 'em wit' a 'ead shot," he snapped, "or at tha very least not lead 'em direct back ta camp "all but throwing the girl's frame at Abraham. Samson blinked but that was the limit to his reaction and Merle nodded in satisfaction. "I'm goin' ta wash tha geek blood off me if any o' ya want ta watch," and he stalked off up the hill, hearing the Major give orders to the men and head out into the paddock.
The hot water scalded his skin but he didn't care – he had geek blood and gore all over him and he was still a little spooked. That had been close – too close. He needed his weapons. He tipped his face up into the stream and opened his mouth, letting the water wash out the stench that had somehow accumulated in there. There was the sound of feet approaching and with a sigh he turned off the water, reaching for the towel and wrapping it around his waist turning to meet his accuser.
Dog padded in.
"Merle?" her voice was uncertain.
"Here," he confirmed and she walked in with her eyes delicately lowered to the ground. "I'm decent," he added and her eyes flicked up immediately. A slight colour washed over her face, perhaps her definition of decent excludes the sight of short and curlies, but she kept coming forward, her eyes examining him carefully. His body started to react automatically but he knew what she was doing. "I'm fine," he said. "It got close but t'at's it."
Marion breathed a sigh of relief, stopping a metre or so away from him. "What happened?"
"Geeks got into tha stock paddock," he shrugged and turned to where his clothes were. He gave her a brief run down of what happened as he dropped his towel, rubbing his hair and then body vigorously before looking in some disgust at his clothes. Well that was intelligent he thought in disgust and pulled the towel back around his waist. He smirked at the sight of Marion's back, her neck somewhat red. "I had ta shut tha kid up," he ended close behind her.
"You punched Joanna?" she gasped, turning quickly but retreating half a step at the sight of his naked chest right there in front of her. The horror in her tone was like a punch to his gut.
"I 'ad no ot'er option," he snapped angrily back at her.
"Oh Merle," she shook her head and she was gone, Dog running behind her.
They came for him about an hour later. He had made his way to the tent and dressed in clean clothes, he hadn't even bothered bringing the others back with him. They could rot as far as he was concerned. The horror in her voice was eating at him What else was he meant to do he wondered as he paced the tent. The girl had been screaming really screaming – she had panicked, she was having some type of fit. She'd fought him – it wasn't like he could talk her out of it.
"Merle," said Samson – not asking, just letting him know, because they walked straight in. Samson and Elijah. He felt the kitchen knife hard against his back and his hand twitched.
Elijah walked forward and reached out both hands, literally taking Merle's between them. Intense hazel eyes met mistrustful blue ones. "God bless you Merle," he all but worshipped. "Thankyou."
Merle was thrown off guard and his eyes flicked to Samson, whose own hazel eyes now had a twinkling of amusement in them.
"Joanna is precious to everyone here, we would have mourned her loss greatly even though we know that she would have been walking with the Lord," Elijah continued gushing and it clicked into place for Merle. They thought that he had rescued Joanna. "I trust that this heralds you joining us within the fold."
Fuck that he thought, but he offered a trace of a smile and a nod. That was enough for Elijah who beamed back at him and turned away, preceding Samson from the tent.
"They were not nice men," Samson said quietly. "You would not have wanted them near Marion."
Merle looked at the man and nodded once. He got it – Marion wouldn't it, but he did. The rules of the world had changed and what before was reprehensible was just now a survival mechanism. Samson nodded in return and turned away, presenting Merle with a perfect target. But he kept his hands still and the tent flap closed again, leaving him alone.
/ / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /
There were smiles waiting for him at the table that night. Joanna even gave him a smile, although it was a wan one (not that he recognised the signs of a massive headache). There was a definite shadow to her lower jaw and he felt a twinge of guilt which, coupled with Marion's raised brow and very pointed look, made him lean over. "T'anks Miss Joanna – ya helped me out today."
She smiled at him again, this one warmer. "I'm sorry I acted so silly Mr Merle. I was just so... so scared."
He nodded and absently patted her on the shoulder with his stump while reaching for the plate of food in front of him. "Ya did good," he repeated, oblivious to the look in her eye as she looked up at him. He took the plate from Marion and held it while she took their portion off it and then he turned, holding it for Joanna while the girl served herself before passing it onto Naomi. The baby made a noise and Marion ducked down to him as his mother turned – Merle turned to his left, meeting Caleb's eyes over the top of two women. His eyes narrowed as he took in the slight shadow and swelling around the man's left eye. The man flushed and looked back at his plate.
"Ya got somet'in' ta tell me 'bout ya day woman?" he muttered as she came back upwards.
She looked at him in surprise and he flicked his eyes once to where Caleb was seated. She followed his gaze and a slight smile teased at her lips. "Just a little disagreement about personal space boundaries," she shrugged. "Nothing I couldn't handle."
He nodded and turned to his meal. She placed her hand on his arm and he lowered his fork, waiting for Elijah to finish his prayer, in which he featured heavily, before commencing. Joanna staggered somewhat as she rose from the table and he reached out to catch her, she smiled somewhat woozily at him and he quickly transferred her to Deborah and Chloe as they came up to her. He grabbed Marion's arm in the crook of his stump and took her for bed.
"Next time Merle," she said quietly when they were alone. "Use your open hand – you only need to shock a hysterical woman, not knock her out."
"Next time woman," he countered and reached for her hand. "Tuck ya fingers into 'ere first b'fore ya fold 'em over into a fist and t'en fold ya t'umb ova t'ese knuckles. It'll give ya a 'arder fist and won't 'urt ya as much."
.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..