I know what you are thinking. Like I really need another story, right? But this one is different. No crazy plot twists. No serial killers. No weird time traveling. This is just a simple Caryl story that is almost already complete. It was really refreshing to write. I was watching The Breakfast Club a few weeks ago and this story popped into my head. After that I watched the movie Dazed and Confused and it kind of solidified the idea. So this is me, attempting to write a regular, simple but still entertaining story about some runaway kids trying to survive the best way they can.

Oh, and for those of you that are familiar with a few of my other stories, Buck Dixon may or may not show up in this ;) Thank you all for giving it a shot! You are awesome!

Chapter One

July 3, 1976

Daryl jerked awake and scooted his body backwards until he was cowering in the corner between the headboard and wall. The room was dark and at the moment he only had one functioning eye. The other was swollen shut. Someone had touched him while he slept and the fear had him acting like a wounded animal. Now days that's how he felt anyway. Like a wounded animal.

"It's just me, brother. Just me."

"Merle?" Daryl's voice climbed up his throat, setting a fire in it's wake. He swallowed, wincing.

"Yeah, it's me. Just me," he repeated in a steady but gentle voice that had Daryl frowning.

He thought maybe he was dreaming. He had to be, right? His brother was gone. He had been gone for a few years now and Daryl had already talked himself out of hoping to ever see him again. "Do they know you're here?" He croaked, sounding much younger than his fifteen years.

Merle didn't answer. Instead Daryl heard him moving about and then suddenly the room was illuminated by the bedside lamp. He saw, through his one good eye, his brother tense when he finally looked at him. Daryl pulled his knees up to his chest and rested his forehead against them. He didn't want Merle to look at him. He didn't want to be pitied. He especially didn't need any pity from the very asshole that had left him on his own three years before. He didn't need anything from Merle or anyone else. He could take care of himself.

"She do this to ya on her own?" Merle asked from between clenched teeth.

Daryl shrugged and lifted his head, knowing that his face was too banged up to show the anger he was feeling. "Nah. Got herself a new man. Mean mother fucker, too."

"If the ol' man knew..."

"The ol' man ain't here. Neither was you. What the hell do ya want, Merle? You gotta want somethin' or you wouldn't have showed your face here. Take what'cha need and leave me be." He tried unsuccessfully to force as much hate in his voice as he could but his throat was still killing him and his voice came out cracked and filled with nothing but sorrow and defeat.

Merle's face hardened further. "I had to get outta here, goddamn it," he snapped. "If I didn't I woulda ended up killin' the bitch."

Daryl screwed his mouth up into a sneer, even though it hurt. He felt the healing cuts split open again. "Yeah. Musta been nice to get to leave it all in the dust. Hope ya had yourself a good time."

"I tried to take you..."

"Fuck you, Merle. Like I said, take what you need and leave me be. I can handle myself just fine."

Merle ran a hand over his face and then looked down at him, his own face unable to hide the regret he must have been feeling. "I came for you. Pack your shit before the bitch wakes up and end I up guttin' her."

Daryl had dreamed of this for a long time but he never imagined it would actually happen. After the first year after Merle had ran away past by without so much as a phone call, Daryl had stopped waiting for his brother to come and save him. Instead he endured the beatings silently and hoped that the parole board would release his dad soon. Merle became nothing but a disappointment and Daryl's hope had settled on his dad's release. So now he wasn't sure what he was suppose to feel. He felt slightly numb. That was how he usually felt. Numb and pissed off. He had every right to be. Merle was his brother and he had left him.

He kept his eye on his brother, just in case this was some kind of trick. He didn't think Merle would hurt him but most people never thought someones mama would hurt them either. Daryl learned from experience that that was bullshit. Merle stayed where he was, watching as Daryl stood up stiffly.

His hand went to his abdomen and covered it gingerly as he winced. He was already dressed. He rarely slept and when he did he refused to be caught anymore vulnerable than he had to be. All he had to do was shove his feet into his boots and then he would be ready. But ready for what?

"Where you gonna take me?" He asked Merle wearily. "I ain't goin' to no goddamn orphanage or some shit."

Merle grabbed a backpack that was hanging from the doorknob and dumped the contents onto the bare mattress. "Don't know where we're goin'. Made a detour to pick you up out here and then I figured we'd head on to Atlanta. Just me and you."

"You ain't got a place or nothin'?" Daryl asked as Merle started shoving some clothes into the bag.

Merle didn't look up. He just shook his head and kept on packing the bag. "Ain't had a real place since I left this one. But that don't make a damn difference. I ain't leavin' you here. Go on and grab anything else you need."

Daryl didn't want to get his hopes up about this. Any minute now his mama and her new boyfriend could come in and this could all end. More hopes dashed. "You still gonna be in here when I come back?" He asked quietly as he edged towards his bedroom door. He wasn't sure if he could trust Merle not to bail on him a second time.

Merle looked over his shoulder. "Go on and get your shit. I'll be right here waitin' on ya when you come back."

Daryl nodded and then slipped silently out the door and into the dark hallway. Once his bedroom door was closed behind him the house was plunged into pitch blackness. He wished his other eye wasn't swollen shut. It would have been easier to adjust to the darkness if both of his eyes were functional. He made his way slowly to the bathroom and left the light off until he had the door pulled shut.

Once the light was on and the grimy bathroom was illuminated he snatched his toothbrush from the medicine cabinet and scanned the shelves for anything else he might need. He grabbed a bottle of Anacin, knowing he was going to be even more sore later on. He was always worse for wear the day after his mama decided it was time for him to suffer the consequences of whatever made up crime he had committed against her or one of her bastard boyfriends. He avoided his reflection. He always avoided his reflection now days.

Once that was done he cracked the bathroom door open and peeked out into the hall. All was still clear and he was about to make a break for his room and the promise of escape when he stopped with his hand hovering over the light switch.

A thought slammed into him, causing his heart to jump in his chest as adrenalin spiked his blood and brought a slight tremor to his hands. Merle had mentioned that he didn't have a place of his own. So it was just going to be him and his brother out there on their own and he was pretty sure Merle was as broke as he was.

He glanced towards his mama's closed bedroom door, knowing that if he was caught then Merle was here to save him. Surely Merle wasn't tricking him. He had came for him. Sure he was about three years late but he had come for him all the same. He wouldn't leave him again. Surely he wouldn't leave him for the second time in his life.

He took a deep breath and stepped out into the hall, leaving the bathroom door cracked so that the light spilled out enough for him to see. Once he made it to his mama's door he put his ear to it and listened for a few long seconds. He could hear nothing but soft snores coming from the room and he grimaced. He should have known. They had been shit faced drunk when they had finally stumbled out of his room. They were probably passed out cold.

This knowledge gave him the courage that he needed to finally open the door. When he did he could see them in the bed, both asleep on their stomachs. His mama's bare arm was hanging off the side of the bed. He looked away from them, searching the floor for the man's pants. When he finally spotted them he made his way towards them cautiously.

The man's wallet wasn't hard to find. It was a thick leather one that he had to fight to even remove from the back pocket of the pants. Daryl had noticed a few weeks ago, when the man first started coming around, that he must have been well off. What he was doing with Daryl's mama was a mystery. The man didn't spend the night often. This was only the fourth night he had been here. Daryl was suddenly glad that he had shown up on this night in particular.

He opened the wallet and almost dropped it when he saw the all the bills folded inside. He snatched the money out, folded it up and then stuffed it in his back pocket. He knew his mama didn't have much but he went to her purse that sat precariously on the messy dresser and rummaged through it. Fifty more dollars. He would have smiled if smiling wasn't so painful. The fifty dollars alone would have gotten them far. With the money he had taken from the wallet he was pretty sure they would be okay. For at least a little while.

Once he made it back to his room he let out a breath he didn't even know he had been holding at the site of his brother standing next to the open window. Merle scowled when he looked at him. Daryl wasn't sure what his face looked like and he was embarrassed at what his brother may think of him. Here he was, fifteen years old and still getting his ass beat into oblivion by his own mama and whatever garbage she happened to drag into their home.

Merle was two years older than him. By the time Merle was fifteen he had ran away from home. He had gotten away. In those three years he had changed a lot. He was bigger, of course. No longer the scrawny fourteen year old that had left home. His curly light brown hair was buzzed close and his face was harder. He looked more like Buck than Daryl remembered.

"You ready baby brother?" Merle asked.

Daryl shoved his feet into a pair of worn boots he had picked up for a few cents at a garage sale and then nodded. Merle swept his hand towards the window that he was standing in front of and Daryl didn't hesitate to scurry out, flopping gracelessly into the overgrown hedges that lined this side of the house.

Merle wasn't as clumsy with his movements. His longer legs made it easier for him. He didn't bother shutting the window or turning off the light as he pulled Daryl up from his ass and started walking calmly towards the truck. Daryl had to hurry to keep up with Merle's longer strides and he nearly slammed into his brother's back when he suddenly stopped, looking at the car parked in the drive.

"That the new boyfriend's ride?" Merle asked, gesturing towards the brand new 1976 Impala that sat there in the drive, moonlight shining off of it's white hood.

Daryl nodded.

Merle looked down at his brother and then back towards the car. A small smile graced his lips and he started walking towards it quickly.

"We need to get the hell outta here Merle. If they wake up..."

He spun around, causing Daryl to stop mid sentence. "Ain't nobody gonna lay a hand on ya ever again, you hear me!" He snarled, causing Daryl's one eye to widen at the intensity in which that statement was delivered.

Daryl nodded, too afraid to anger the bigger boy. Merle gave him a swift nod back and then continued on towards the car, Daryl following, glancing around nervously. Merle opened the drivers side door and peered inside as Daryl came around, the open door the only thing separating them. He looked over his shoulder towards the house again. All was clear. When he looked back at Merle he took a few steps back.

Merle was standing there, grin on his face, pissing all over the front seat and floor of the man's car. "Jesus, Merle!" Daryl hissed.

Merle shook himself a few times and tucked himself back into his pants. He looked at him and nodded towards the car, "Your turn."

Daryl looked from Merle to the car and then shrugged, nudging Merle with his elbow, "What the hell ya gonna do? Watch?"

Merle snorted and rolled his eyes. "Just hurry up, I'll keep my back turned, princess."

Daryl waited until his brother had his back to him and then, just like Merle had done, relieved himself all over the seat of that piece of shit's brand new ride. He upped his aim, drenching the steering wheel for good measure.

Once he was finished they walked away from the car, drivers side door standing wide open. Daryl took in a lungful of air just as they reached the truck. It felt good. It tasted sweet. Daryl figured that that was the taste of freedom. He was about to climb up into the truck, new excitement causing his heart to speed up, when he felt Merle's hand on his shoulder.

He looked over his shoulder curiously. Merle had grown somber again, looking at him with a strange expression on his face. Daryl waited for a few loaded seconds before Merle finally cleared his throat. "I ain't leavin' ya again. Ya understand that? From now on it's me and you. Ain't nothin' gonna happen to ya so long as you got me, alright?"

Daryl felt hope blossom in his chest, lightening a heavy weight that he hadn't even noticed was crushing his shoulders. With all the trust that his fifteen year old self could muster he nodded. Merle gave him another swift nod, patted his shoulder and then hurried around the truck. When they were a few miles away from the house, his own prison, he couldn't help the smile that lit up his face. Split lips be damned.