Daryl was just skidding on twelve when he realized for the first time that his brother wasn't all sunshine and good deeds... Okay, he'd realized before that; he's not a fucking idiot, now, and he ain't never been one. Hell, it was hard not to notice when the pair of them had grown up the way that they had; in the environment that they did. Smothered in mangled trepidation, neglect, and the stinging black burn of another another another shot of whiskey sliding down the seared depths of their Pa's throat. It had scorched the both of them and their mama with unmistakable change and temperament; lashing out whenever necessary at whatever necessary. Doing stupid as all hell things that a son 'a bitch couldn't take back no matter how much the devils on their backs drug the sharp points of their claws down their already scared flesh.

Merle Dixon was a tank of trouble in every which way. Always had been. Always would be. That's just the way that the Earth's soil turned and the blood boiled hot in the dark tunnels of his veins. The tunnels of Daryl's, too, more than likely. Way more than likely. Cut from the same ratty cloth, hatched from the same disparaging seed, and baked in the same shoddy shack on the far edge of town; right near the brown gravel road that eventually flattened out to nothing but the dirt and bare bones of the woods, where Daryl would hide when things got particularly bad at home. Merle wouldn't be there. He'd be out in the alleyways with the other bottoms of the barrel taking the blunt end of a baseball bat to raccoon's looking for grub in the bottom wells of state issue garbage bins. Securing the smooth of the base handle in grubby hands, swinging back with all his might, and forcing down into the innocent creature.

His brother's own way of coping.

Daryl hadn't been too aware of all those going's on, while he was on the younger side of the line of death, though. Not for a damn long while. Whenever his Pa swallowed another million gallons of liquid courage and all the hollering started up, Daryl remembers wondering where his brother would up and wander off to. Why it wasn't off into the quiet of the woods to mess around with the dirt and the ponds; rinsing blood of battered knees and elbows. Sides. Backs. He'd wonder why Merle sometimes came back with more, instead of less. It felt horribly familiar, looking back on it; the strongest creatures of the world, preying on the weakest ones. Merle doing what was done and it being just as wrong in it's own twisted way, as good 'ol William Dixon taking a belt to the pair of them or a hand to their Ma. Worse, maybe. Maybe not... Maybe around the same. Them little critters couldn't fight back against the wood, even if they wanted to. Not really. Their claws weren't ever gonna be much of a match to the unexpected impact of that damn hunk'a wood and that was just the same way as how he and his brother couldn't fight back against the metal of that belt buckle. The worn silver one, with the bull horns and rope carefully etched deep into the front surface; something expensive in their indigent shack. They couldn't and shouldn't fight back if they had any real desire to make it all stop for the night; the whistle of the metal sliding through the cigarette smoked air and the sting of the belt slicing against flesh. They couldn't fight back if they'd had any desire for Will to slip just past too far gone in his whiskey and pass out for the next day or two. For a simple sort-of silence to fall over them all; their Pa's snoring faintly falling out'a the back room, Ma cussing up a storm and banging around in the kitchen, looking for the money missing from the can on top of the far cabinet, and the static'd voices of the television, playing one of it's four channels, in the background.

To any other house, that was loud.

To the Dixon's? That was peace.

Daryl knows Merle's better than that front, in the long run, though. That for all of his bad and all of his wrong, he ain't never gonna be their Pa. He ain't never gonna fall face first down that slippery slope and be all of the worst kinds of evil in this world, bundled into one horrific package. For all of his bad and his wrong, Merle wouldn't allow it to happen to himself; to be that person. Daryl wouldn't allow it to happen to him, either, if he had anything to do about it. And he did.

But, the three fucking bags in the back bed of his truck aren't doing much to make him feel better about their current situation.

Before Daryl knew all of what he's soaked up, now, tattooed directly onto the bones underneath the flesh of his skin; he was in the dark. Alone in their mutual world of torment and unaware that Merle had his own demons, too. Things that he'd been struggling with, things that someone his age shouldn't have'ta deal with, and people who resembled something along the line of "friends" who weren't afraid to go along with whatever Merle told them to do; fuck the consequences. Daryl used to be one of them and worried that he probably still would be if he was ever pushed hard enough. Should'a known, really. Felt damn foolish for not being aware of the fact, once he'd seen the beginnings of who his big brother really was. After he had seen his brother get locked up that first time, Daryl had truly understood that Merle wasn't no angel who'd get him outta harm's way for as long at the both of them were still sucking air into the open space in their lungs. Yeah, sure, he'd step in against the old man every once and again; boldly take the lashing that was headed straight to the stretch of Daryl's skin. But, when he was going on twelve, he learnt for the first real time that he can't always look out for that; that a sixteen year old Merle (who came along with sixteen year old friends, who'd grown up in the same shitty way, even though it was a unspoken rule that no one ever talked about it) wasn't gonna be somebody that he could rely on, in the long run; even if Merle wanted to be that person for his younger brother.

A slight screechy scratching from his right draws Daryl out of his head. The length of his own fingers are gripped tight to the worn leather of the steering wheel and Harley is raking his paw against the dirt spotted glass of the passenger side window in a frustrated manner. His eyes flick back and forth from the outside world to Daryl, almost frowning from accusing neglect.

"Sorry bud," Daryl grumbles and focuses back on the road to take note of where he is. His truck is pulling up to a red light outside Mac's, the bar he likes to head down to after a long day. The outside of the building is black and more than a little off-putting in the middle of such a sunny day; the kind of place pretty young things stray far away from on their own, even though there's no real reason to. The crowd's decent enough; a few pieces of shit here and there (which Daryl thinks is pretty much standard in all places of life), but mostly alright guys who want to kick back. The outside looks run down and ratty; the yellow sign, with out of place black calligraphy, hanging just so off center and the awnings fraying at the edges of the fabric. It's ugly, but it's a landmark for his frazzled and distracted brain and let's him know he's eight blocks from his destination. When Daryl finally rolls the truck to a stop, he leans his body over to knock around the Rottweiler that's trying to break free and grab for the window crank. Twisting his wrist to spin it in a circular motion (with extra force, because it's been sticking for years), he gets the glass down half way. Enough for Harley to shove his head out into the fresh air; away from the muted smell of cigarettes and ash, that's etched it's way into the very fibers of the bench seat's cushions. He'd rather of taken the bike, but Harley had been sat in the apartment the whole day, by himself, and he more than needed the air.

"Happy now?" he pats once at the fur on Harley's back and watches his tongue roll out of his mouth; panting out into the air. "When we get there, look cute or somethin'. Keep the son'a bitch distracted." Harley ignores him and grins, as Daryl presses his foot back against the pedals and the wind starts to blow the fur on his face, back.

Only a few minutes later, he's pulling up outside of the red brick building that's mashed in between a liquor store that doesn't card underage kids and a strip club that let's anyone in, as long as they've got a roll of bills to shove into the elastic band of some trashy girl's underwear and are willing to pay for the all you can eat buffet. He's been dragged there more than once, so he knows that they've got chicken wings on Saturdays and baby back ribs on Sundays. The brick building is a nastier place than Daryl would like, but Merle can't stay with him at his place. It's more than not an option. The both of them know from experience that there's far too much drama when the pair of them get under one roof for too long of a time. They've got a tendency to butt heads when sat in the same room for too many hours. And then there's the fact that Merle's messier than he can really stand. Which says a lot, because Daryl ain't no spring peach, himself.

It's not a crack house, though, and Merle doesn't seem bothered about the neon light of the strip joint next door that flashes in through his bedroom window at just the most horrific angle. In fact, he fucking loves being so close to two of his favorite things; booze and tail. So, Daryl doesn't say anything on this particular matter; he lets it slide. If Merle wants to live in this shit hole, fucking let him. As, long as he doesn't start using any of the Something's that he sells, Daryl could give a rat's ass where he chooses to take his shoes off.

Which reminds him of the reason he's there to start with.

Daryl shuts down the engine of the truck and clicks his tongue against the roof of his mouth, to get Harley's attention. The shelter taught him that, although it's rare that his dog even listens. In fact, it's how he got caught up in the mess he was in when he'd been hurrying out of his apartment and down the stairs, earlier. Harley likes to move forward without him; never too far, though, because he's smart like that. But, his being smart don't mean he ain't dumb, too. Sort-of like Merle in that sense. In juggling them three bags, Daryl had lost control of the hand holding the leash and Harley had raced forward after the lady who lives a floor below him, who'd been getting her mail. She's short with grey streaked hair, quiet, and cowers a little in her stance whenever she passes Daryl in the front stairwell. Old bat thought he was gonna do something to her, more than likely. He wouldn't. Didn't appreciate much being accused without him actually giving her a reason to be afraid, either. But, Harley had run after her on her way out of the building and Daryl had only just managed to get his hand on the leash, again, as the door was closing. Too much happening at once, with the dog and the bags and his head swirling around about whatever fight Merle was gonna put up; if he'd even bother to try.

And, after he'd been struggling for a few minutes, he was choosing which item to drop from his grasp when the door flung open, again, and someone much much younger than the lady from the fourth floor was on the front steps instead, blubbering something out; he wasn't sure what. There was too much on his mind to register the syllables flying out of the space of her mouth, though. There was too much that he already had to be worrying about, to care what she was saying. Didn't need some blonde bitch complicating things with idle chit chat, no matter what her reasons or intentions were.

She'd looked scared of him, too, thinking back on it.

But the look on her face didn't matter none. Daryl had bigger issues to deal with than some teenager with a hero complex.

"Come on, boy," he instructs, twisting at his waist and pulling open the latch at the driver's side door to let the both of them out. While he immediately swivels on his feet to the side of the bed, Harley trots over to one of the few small city planted trees on the sidewalk, his leash dragging behind him for the millionth time, to piss against the bark. His fingers grip each duffel bag one by one and uses his strength to swing them over the edge. As each one makes contact with his back, Daryl let's out a puff of breath as the various contents slam against him; the plastic one being particularly painful. He can't believe he has to do this. Again. When Harley's finished, Daryl secures his stance, so he won't fall over, as he reaches towards the ground to grab hold of the leash. He doesn't need a dog running off, just now. He needs everything to not completely explode in his face, because it was a long day and he's just not feeling a big blow out, right now.

Sometimes when Daryl comes home from work, he pulls open the main street door and looks around at where he lives - taking it all in. It's not the nicest building in the world, but it's not the worst, either. Fairly cheap in rent (even though that isn't a priority - he's been doing well), a bedroom big enough to fit the necessary furniture, and a shower that works are pretty much the only things on his list of requirements. But, sometimes, he'll pull that main door open and glance up at the flickering light bulb and wonder if it's not screwed in all the way, or if there's a wiring issue that could be fixed. He'll pull open the main front door and glance for the smallest of seconds to the elevator that is literally never gonna be fixed (no matter how many times Dale tell's him he's got someone coming), before starting his way up the five flights of stairs to his floor. He'll routine it all everyday and think about his own living standards; that they're sub-par by most normal people's standards and probably his own if he wasn't so used to sleeping amongst worse. Much worse. Roofs falling apart and wind whistling through cracks in the wall. Daryl knew he could find a better place to park his ass if he really wanted to waste the time looking for a new apartment; he ain't broke. But, he can't seem to care and it doesn't matter anyway, because when he walks through the main door to his brother's apartment building, his own place suddenly becomes fucking Buckingham Palace.

Merle's building is dark even on the brightest day, the paint is peeling off of the wall in noticeable chunks, and there's always a weird smell, like no one's taken a rag to nothing since the first bricks were layed. Daryl saw a rat, once, chewing on some wiring that he's gotta feeling was important. And he knows for a fact that a prostitute name Pamela Peeves lives in the third apartment on the second floor, behind door 203. He's gotten an unfortunate earful on more than one occasion about what she knows how to do with her tongue and how quickly she's willing to bend over a coffee table. His brother always was a sharer. But, Daryl's been down here so many times, at this point, that this feeling he gets is something of second nature. Without much more than that same familiar beat, he's trekking up the stairs, two at a time, to the second floor; bags banging against his back some more and dog happily trotting along. He gives a courtesy knock when he arrives at the correct apartment and immediately hears a hollered dismal and the television raising to full volume, in return. A great start.

"Merle!" Daryl calls out, unconcerned about the racket either of them are are making (it's really a non-issue in this building) and turns the knob. It's not locked, of course, and Daryl thinks that it's just the most moronic thing. A drug dealer and all around middle business crook shouldn't be dumb enough to allow such quick access to his flesh and bones, especially when there's bound to be multiple people with ones to pick with the man in question.

"Well, hey there, baby brother," Merle says with a wave of the hand that doesn't have it's finger's wrapped around the neck of a bottle of beer, as Daryl shuffles over the threshold, along with Harley, and slams it shut behind him; the wood slamming into place, shaking the floor. "Just lettin' yerself into people's home's, now, I see. That's breakin' and enterin'! What'd that get me way back, huh?"

"Juvie for a year and that's 'cause it wasn't just no B and E. It was armed robbery, you dumbass." Merle's lounging out on his old bargin basement couch, with a smile and a shrug. There's a hole in the fabric and the legs it stands on are all scratched up from god knows what. Daryl takes note that he's in nothing but a untied robe and a pair of boxers. There's socks on his feet, a remote in the hand that isn't clutching the beer, and the coffee table set out in front of him is littered in empty orange containers. Waiting to be filled or hoping to be refilled, is where the problem lies. "Anyway, that ain't why I'm here," Daryl drops the handle to the leash (Harley does nothing but plop down pathetically to the floor) and swings the duffels Merle's way, one by one. They each land with a deafening smack against the coffee table, one after the other; little containers and their white caps flying every which way. Some spin in place, before flattening out and others roll off of the dusty surface and down to the filth littered floor. There's paper, clothing, bottles, cans, and pizza boxes everywhere and the caps settle in right next to them. Merle looks up with a sigh and presses the volume button on the remote down a few notches; silencing Scooby and the gang the barest amount. "You can't keep this shit at my house, Merle!"

"I just organized all them canisters, Darlina. That was a lot of work," is all Merle says. He barely even flinches at the newest mess. Daryl sets his eyes in frustration at Merle's deflection. And the name. "Ya see, I normally got myself this eager little Mexican to do this shit for me. But, he's on other job right now, if you catch my drift."

Ever since they were little, Merle had always had a knack for getting around the things he didn't want to talk about and he implored it in his day to day life. He was charming, in his own right. Always had been, for some strange reason. He had a weird way of making an insult come out smooth and clean, like melted butter on a piece of toast. Made people mad and have a irritated smile set on the plains of their faces, at the same time; not sure why they had a grin in place and disappointed in themselves for it succumbing so easily. Merle was rude and intentionally offending and they all knew that none of them should find it so captivating. It wasn't captivating. It was ridiculous. Daryl doesn't have time to be tricked into letting him keep three duffel bags of various pills next to his refrigerator, though. "Are you usin' again?" Daryl asks, with a pointed look of barely masked concern and a worried purpose in his tone. "Just tell me straight, Merle."

"Why don't you get yerself a beer and take a seat, Darlina?" Merle raises the opening of his bottle to his lips and nods to the television that's propped up on three green milk baskets. "Pretty damn sure that this old man's the one behind it all."

"The old man is always the one behind it all ... That's the whole point of the show," Daryl mumbles under his breath and heads to the fridge, despite it all. Merle talks about what he wants to talk about, when he wants to talk about it. They're similar in that way, Daryl supposes. If Merle wanted to know something off of Daryl, the likelihood is that he'd have just as hard of a time trying to drag it out from the depths of which it sat. "And that ain't giving it to me straight." He reaches in the fridge to grab a bottle and makes his way back to the couch to fall down into the weakly sprung cushion.

"You need to relax, baby brother. Do I look strung out?"

He doesn't. His eyes are as clear as someone who's two beers in can be and they ain't darting around looking for something to take the edge off. "Guess not... Fine, you're clean for now," Daryl wraps the edge of his shirt around the bottle cap and twists until it pops off. "But, that don't change nothin' about breakin' into my apartment and leavin' ... evidence and shit all around my place."

"What are you, now? A cop?" his brother asks; his tone implying that that would be the worst thing Daryl could ever be. "A few bags of stash here and there ain't gonna hurt ya," Merle shrugs his shoulders. "Just need'ta keep 'em in a place that ain't no one gonna look. Got'a few amigos I'm keepin' an eye on."

"No, I ain't a cop. But, I do know one," Daryl quirks his brow and takes a swig. "Did a job for him and his wife awhile back... Working on the plans for something new for them, now."

Merle's responding chuckle is low in his throat and he rolls his head on his neck to look over, "You wouldn't do nothin' like that and we both know it." They do both know it. It's an idle threat on Daryl's part because, he would never do something like that to family. Blood is thicker than water, is how that old saying goes, and Daryl has an attachment to it that he doesn't quite want to understand. Seems like it don't matter what Merle does with his time, how dumb and reckless he knows how to act, or what he sells; Daryl's never gonna go out of his way to make things worse. That first time that Merle got locked up for holding a gun in the direction of that petrified family a few blocks away from their own shit hole (while his friends shoved things in their bags), leaving him defenseless and alone with their Pa, and Daryl hadn't turned his back; he knew. Besides, Merle taking another stint behind bars isn't something that either of them want to deal with, at the moment. "Still don't know why yer not workin' for me, baby brother. Shumpert's been talkin' to one of our manufacturers and we've got some damn good product comin' in; gonna make a real good profit as long as-" and just like that, the previous conversation is over. Daryl's relieved at how things have gone down and, secretly, frustrated, all at the same time. He'd come home from a job to find those bags in his home and immediately started worrying about what the confrontation would be. He's glad that Merle doesn't have it in him to fight about this, today, just like Daryl doesn't. As long as the bags he just deposited don't come back with him and Merle isn't swallowing anything that's in the little plastic containers, he's okay. For now.

Daryl keeps his eyes trained on the repeated motions of Shaggy and Scooby Doo shoving submarine sandwiches down the very lengths of their throats on the television, whilst Merle goes on a horribly familiar spew of Daryl leaving his job and coming back under his wing. It's a tired conversation that he's heard on more than one instance. He hadn't really expected anything less, he thinks as he settles back with his beer to do nothing for the rest of the day.


Beth desperately needs to switch shifts, at work. She needs something later in the day and less likely affected by the newest morning ritual that's seemingly taken over her entire life. She needs a shift where she has more time and more patience and significantly less dark, drooping, bags underneath dull and tired eyes.

Back home, she used to really enjoy all of the morning chores that Daddy had assigned to her (at what felt like) the second she was able to walk around the land without constant adult supervision. That was farm life, though. You fed chickens at the crack of dawn, made sure all of the horses had their feed, and then you made your way to school.

She had always liked waking up to the lightly laced and familiar symphony of the morning crickets that lived out in the front lawn, by the porch steps. Early risers amongst early risers (except for her, of course - she wakes up because she's supposed to, not because she looks forward to it). She liked the smell of bacon cooking on the stove in a skillet and her mom humming quietly to herself; both coming up through the air vent in her floor. She'd hear her hum the songs she used to sing to Beth when she was just a little baby and couldn't sleep through the whole of the long nights. Songs she would hopefully sing to her own children, one day. Beth would stretch out in her sheets; her tired bones cracking, her fingers flexing, and crack one eye open to look through the soft white curtains that she'd forced Shawn to secure up and into place above the far window. The placement of the window looked off into the fields and she was able to look out at the sky, dark with the lack of the early sun. And after shuffling off the pajamas that she slept in and into something of a cotton dress, she'd make her way down the old stairwell, skipping the fourth step down that squeaked when you stepped directly in the middle, and find her way outside to do those works.

She'd think about how the fragrance of the morning dew clinging desperately against each individual blade of grass, was one of which cosmetic companies would never be able to duplicate no matter how hard they tried, as she made her way down to the stables; until the gravel path faded away and the shiny, wet, grass was all that remained. She would be tired, yawning and rubbing away at the sleep stuck in the corners of her eyes, but she'd be at peace. Comfortable. Back home, as well, she wasn't the only one who had to deal with their way of life. Daddy woke up earlier than anyone else did. He'd peal himself out of his and her mom's bed and shuffle his way on down those stairs, not bothering to skip stepping on the one the squeaked, and out the front door to greet their paid farm hand, Otis. He'd be chatting with the family friend about tractor parts that needed fixing, way before those crickets started in on their song and Beth's eyes cracked open. Mom would follow soon after and if Maggie had still lived at home, instead of in the canary yellow house in the middle of town with Glenn, she'd be pulling herself awake around the same time Beth was, to start in on her own chores.

Here, though, in this brick building away from those crickets and that bacon and those arresting melodies and her Daddy and Otis' voices drifting up through the glass panes of her window, she's alone in it and far far from comfortable.

Beth rolls off of her back and onto her side to look over at the alarm clock that she's got resting on her bedside table. The red of the letters, which she's starting to believe she's growing incredibly too familiar with, glow ominously in the dark black of the early morning; casting shadows across the plains of her face. Four. It's four in the morning and she's already been startled alert by the deep yips from across the hall. This isn't the cool awakening of the wind whistling soothingly outside her window, gently rocking the tall grass across the span of the back field, back and forth. This isn't the soft rapping of her mom's careful knuckles against the black-wood of her bedroom door, reminding her about the geometry test she's got later in the day and how she needs to make sure she eats a hearty breakfast beforehand. This is the remarkably loud, sudden, and irritating barks of the animal taking residence across the hallway. Every single day.

Beth thinks back to those few days ago, when she'd just gotten off of her shift and came upon the Rott, with it's butt planted firmly on the dirty pavement of her building's front steps. It was a normal sized dog, really. There was nothing either remarkable or abnormal about the thing, at all. Which seemed strange considering all the horrible thoughts she'd had found herself conjuring up about the darn thing, up until that point. She'd imagined horns or something; raised up higher than the Empire State Building looks in all of them pictures. She'd imagined fangs; sharp and dangerous and ready to strike against the misty morning air. She'd imagined something... dramatic. Something dramatic and massive and petrifying. Something worthy of making all of the noise that was rattling the very core of the apartment building, every single morning and right now. But, it wasn't. It wasn't scary and it wasn't large. The majority of it's mass was around it's midsection; fat and plump in the happiest of ways. In fact, despite it's collar being pulled tight against the strain of the door, with it's tongue rolled out past it's teeth and it's casual pants breaking out into the air, Beth thinks it was a cute lil' thing in retrospect.

Such a pleasant and hearty dog, with such a smile in it's eyes, should not make the sort of noise that it currently is.

It just doesn't make any sense, to her.

Beth cranes her neck in an odd sort of way, that she's more than sure she's going to regret later on, to mash her face into the softest flush of her pillow to try and will away the unwelcome light and the sound. Just go on and pretend that it's not there and it won't be, is what she thinks to herself, as the hairs of her lashes brush against the pillow case. There ain't no use getting upset over something so silly.

Those red letters burn against the backs of her eyelids, though. With her eyes closed tight, she can actually see each of the individual slashes of the alarm clock gliding together and glowing outwards to create the 'four' that she's so frustrated at. The horrific and unacceptable number feels branded against that patch of her skin, taunting her. Laughing. Beth has an early shift today ontop of everything else, as well. She's trying to get ahead of everything in this very moment, so that when the time comes, she'll be able to pay her rent in the least frantic manner as she can possibly manage. She knows that if she really needs help, of course, that she could always call Daddy and he'll lend a hand. After all, he was the one that purposefully made sure that his youngest daughter was set up in a "livable" environment. The cheapest rent apartment she'd showed to him had received a resounding rejection, that had had her rolling her eyes in the most dramatic possible way, at the time.

"If you're gonna be off on your own, Bethy, I don't want to have to be worrying about ya all the time. You might be an adult, now. But, you're still a teenager. Don't want ya getting mugged every other day, before you even step one foot out of the building. Your mom and I? We have to know your place is safe... if not clean," he'd argued outside on the sidewalk of a more run down apartment building.

Of course, when she'd asked for more hours, T-Dog had happily handed over the Crawl; that time so early in the day, that it felt like nobody was about and for those who were, coffee was apparently all that was on the menu. At the time, Beth hadn't said anything and felt zero momentum to protest. She'd asked for something and she had received, after all. But, she's still thinking that she needs a more drastic change if she's going to survive such long shifts. The last few mornings have been nothing but this; the noise across the way and Beth fretting over it. It's made her slower than usual and far more cranky than she'd like to be on a consistent basis.

Beth starts to feel the thump of her heart beating against her chest, built upon her frustration. Just a few deeps breaths later, however, the barking suddenly stops and her eyes glide back open, as if in shock. She waits for the swing of 5C's door to open and the inevitable clicking of nails against the wood of the hall, but it never comes. Silence. Pure and remarkable silence. Beth hovers in her spot for a few moments; neck still twisted 'round, face still mashed, eyes still cautiously open (trained against those same red numbers), right arm stuffed underneath the pillow in support. She hovers and she waits. Because, if she's learnt anything in this brick fortress, it's that things can sometimes be too good to be true. Rent can be miraculously be paid before Mr. Horvath comes rapping at her door in friendly reminder. The shower's water pressure can magically find it's courage to visit her bathroom, from time to time. And this is the perfect example of all of that.

But, nothing else happens to disrupt the suddenly welcomed peace and the moment of hush continues; stretching on and on for more sums of minutes.

Eventually, her body starts to relax back into place; happily accepting the change and silently thanking God for her chance to rest, before she's got to pull herself out of bed, once more, for work. Then, sleep begins to overtake her, as the shirted curve of her hip melts back against the mattress and her eyes finally slide shut. Beth swears on her life that she's only out for a couple of minutes, before the barking returns, surely more rambunctious than before. Okay, she's not sure if it's the dog that's gotten louder, this second time around, or if she's just slowly losing her mind. In her honest opinion, both options seem incredibly plausible.

"You have to be kiddin' me!" Beth's entire being shocks awake, as she shoves up on her palms to raise herself out of her small moment of comfort. She glares in the general direction of her front door and stews in her despair, running through her encounter with her arch rival, once more. The dog that's making all of the racket may of been a cute lil' thing when she seen it for that first time and his eyes may of been happy, but his owner's sure weren't. If there was any word in the whole of the English language that Beth wouldn't use to describe the man that was struggling the other day, it was "cute."

Alarming, comes to mind. Rude, does, as well.

Just the thought of him standing there, eyebrows drawn together and lips pulled into a tight line, causes Beth to let out a frustrated puff of breath. Who was he, to be so brusque, when she'd gone out of her way to offer a neighborly lending hand? She didn't have to go to help the dog and she didn't have to offer to help him, either. Beth just doesn't understand what's wrong with the people in this city. She can't seem to grasp this lack of courtesy. Back home, if she or anyone else had gone out of their way to try and make someone else's life easier, they'd receive a smile in return or they'd receive kind words in exchange for such an act. Sometimes, people were extraordinarily grateful for your assistance and the next time you saw them after doing your good deed, they were waiting with freshly baked bread, made from the grain they'd milled themselves on their farm. Here, though, Beth receives nothing of the sort and is regarded with caution when she presents the same to others that she meets. People squint their eyes at her smile and they ignore her when she holds the door open for them. People scoff when she bends down at the curb of a crosswalk to pick something up that they've dropped at their feet and at her "good morning's" they tell her to "fuck off."

She's not familiar with this distance.

She's not familiar with this city.

Now that she really thinks about it, despite the manners her mom had instilled in her very bones, she shouldn't of done anything for the man in the leather sleeves and his mutt. All he's done since she's moved into this building, was let his dog break all of the rules of civilized society. The fact that she's not heard of anyone else taking residence here, complaining, boggles her mind. Maybe they're all as wary as she is, about being on the receiving end of such a harsh glare? Or, maybe they're all superhuman's who don't twitch a single muscle whenever the barks start back up? She's probably alone in it, more than likely; Beth's so used to those quiet rises of her family's farm. She's used to carefully and casually rolling herself out of bed and making her way out of the door and across the grass at her own leisurely pace. These people are used to the noise, she supposes. They're used to the cars driving past their windows at all hours of the night and they're used to horrible neighbors, who don't give a damn about keeping the racket down during normal human being's sleeping hours.

And suddenly, Beth is angry at this man's disrespectful behavior.

She's angry that she's constantly startled awake by a ball of fur and his un-abiding owner. She's angry that she's angry, at any of this, at all. She's angry that she's thinking such negative thoughts about somebody she's never even had the proper chance to of spoken to, because she usually likes to give everyone she comes across the benefit of the doubt.

She wants to believe the most people mean no harm; that they mean good and well.

But, for some reason, she's skipping that step, this time, and her legs are swinging over the edge of her mattress to place socked feet against the carpeted floor. Beth doesn't give herself a moment to think about herself and her actions, as she pats at her legs to remind herself if she's wearing bottoms or not, before she's shuffling across her front room (bashing into the arm of the couch, of course) and out of her apartment door. It's cold out in the hallway; the air against her legs and arms making her shiver just so. But, she can't be concerned about any of that. Out here, the deep yips are even more attentive and aggravating then they are when she's in her bed, and that fuels the fire running through her blood, even further. Her closed fist comes up to bang against the door. She struggles, for a moment, about whether to knock against it politely or not. But, she figures annoyance for annoyance, in this particular circumstance. The barks grow, before they're right up next to the door and Beth looks down against the wood, as light scratches start up; the dog greeting her, before anyone else.

But, then, she hears the sound of the chain lock sliding out of place and the click of the handle lock being switched positions and the door is being pulled open.

Beth pauses the motion of her arm, allowing her fist to hover in mid air, while she takes in the sight before her.

The man with the leather sleeves has no leather sleeves, just skin on his upper half, as he's slowing the swing of the chain. She doesn't look for more than a second, though, at his bare chest and pajama bottoms. Instead she squints her eyes in the way she's been learning from all of the people who walk the city streets and scans up to meet his face. She's got to tilt her head skywards to meet his gaze and she's vaguely concerned that it takes away the ounce of "intimidating" she's trying to achieve. It's seems likely, because he's simply stood there, his eyes almost as tired as hers and waiting for her to speak. She can tell, because, unlike the other day, his hair isn't shielding the top half of his face, so drastically. Instead, it's scattered up and around his head in weird directions, as if he's just pulled himself out of bed, same as she has. But, unlike her, it appears he'd been sleeping soundly.

She's mad again.

"Hello," Beth starts, jutting out her chin and preparing for the storm she's hoping to provide. "I live across the hall."

The man reaches down to grab at the collar of the dog from before, who's trying to wedge his way out through the passage that's been created. "'hm. I know," his voice quietly croaks, as he tugs back on the collar more gently than Beth figured he would and clicks his tongue twice. The dog rolls his tongue out and looks up to meet the man's face, almost in defiance, before letting out another bark. Just one. As if making fun of the situation.

"Yes, that," she points down at the black coated being at his feet. "I'm not sure if you're aware Mr. ... Mister. But, your dog starts up it's nonsense at around this time every morning and I don't appreciate it," Beth lets her raised hand fall against her other arm, raising them both to cross across her chest. When his eyes scroll back up from his dog and scan across her face, she suddenly feels like this wasn't that good of an idea. Beth can feel him taking in the plains of her face one by one, registering the pull of her own brows and the sudden hesitation in her eyes; her Daddy's advice starting in on a loop, as it often does when she isn't sure what she's doing. "I've- I've got a feeling that there are some others in this building, as well, who'd more than love for you to get a handle on the situation," she chokes out and tells herself to relax. She can handle a man in a pair of grey sweats and sleep evident in his eyes. It's like Shawn. Shawn gave her more grief than she ever thought possible; his civil rights, as a brother. If she can deal with him she can deal with this man.

At her remark, her neighbor raises a brow just slightly and looks sleepily around her form and down the hallway, where all of the other doors on their floor are stock still and don't appear to be changing any time soon, and then back to her. He looks confused, almost. As if, it never occurred to him that there might be people who are bothered by his lack of control over his pet. As if, her standing in front of him is a strange sort-of amusement.

"Some of us got work in the mornings. Don't know what you're doin', but it's kind-of difficult being woken up by this thing and having to drag themselves in and, quite frankly, disrespectful on your part, to let it continue," Beth's grip on her arms tighten and she rocks her head in question; eyes pointedly meeting his. He shifts his own to break the contact and brushes a foot back to knock lightly at the animal's head, who's still on an escape mission. "Well? Are ya gonna gonna say anything?"


Daryl isn't particularly interested in anything that's currently happening. He's mostly amused at the tiny thing in-front of him. The same women from before, who'd attempted to play hero a few days ago, is stood outside his door.

He can't remember much from that day apart from dropping the too many drugs off at his brother's house and that he wrote himself a note after work to make a trip to Home Depot to pick himself up a new drill. But, he can vaguely recall this girl and the small of her hands coming up to grip a hold against Harley's leash. He can vaguely recall this girl and her frazzled appearance; hair just so out of place and skirt spotted with something brown and unpleasant. Other than that, though, he'd rushed right passed her; completely unfocused on anything she'd had to say, at the time. But, here in his doorway, somewhere in the back of his mind her recognizes it her and her presence. She's just as frumpled as she was outside of their building, the other day. Her hair is flopping out of place of her ponytail; little individual strands of blonde dancing across the span of her face. Her t-shirt is wrinkled in the way that sleep brings and it's so long, he hardly noticed the shorts she was wearing underneath, for a second. For a moment, it was just blonde, t-shirt, and the flesh of her legs, stretching down towards the floor.

He's certain that she's talking or yelling, even, in her own way. And at him of all people. But, his mind hasn't caught up with his sudden awakening, from the knock on his door and it's not registering in the way that it should be.

None of those things matter, though, because, it's the expression on her face that really catches his attention. When he'd first tugged the weight of the door open, she'd looked determined. Her face was pinched up all small and her gaze was settled downward, where he knew Harley was attempting to make his way through the wood. She'd looked determined for all of of a few seconds but, then her eyes flicked and she'd looked unsure. There was something in them, though, that made him feel like this was her going out of her way. That this was her biting at him and intending to get her damn point across. When she mentions their neighbors, Daryl turns his head to look down the hall and grins in his head. An old man who talks to birds, a middle aged women that runs a club, who sleeps in the day and stays out until mornings, and a whole bunch of other nameless faces. They didn't care, not a single one.

Daryl suddenly realizes that she's still talking.

"I'll take him out," he breaks through the words she's spewing out; soft words, intended to be hard. She startles some, at the the full sentence leaving his throat. Big blue eyes grow wide and Daryl has a fleeting thought that he's standing in front of a kitten who thinks itself a pit-bull. But, that ain't a bad thing, really. To choose to be strong. Especially against him, who, he knows, looks like something to not be approached.

Even the lady a floor below him, with the grey streaked hair, has been in his presence for five or some years, and she ain't never said none of her qualms to him; just stared in concern and worry.

"Oh! Wow, I didn't expect... Great, thank yo-" her surprised voice begins to sound out. But, Daryl's tired and Harley's flopping his head back an forth between them, with that weird grin he's always got on his face, like the putz that he is. So, he closes the door with a soft click, before 5A has a chance to even get the rest of her words out.

A/N: Alrighty then. Hi there, lovelies. This is me mentioning that I'm a fairly slow writer, in case that wasn't completely obvious. Sorry about that. I'm going to be weird for a second and say that this whole chapter is for NB, Norm, DP, Jen, Arya, and Queen. Because, I am literally so annoying whenever they bring this story up, to me. So ayyye look I finished chapter two! Ummm. Yeah, okay. Here you are then. Reviews and comments are welcome, of course. And thank you so much to those who reviewed as guests and I wasn't able to thank, personally. [tumblr/c-sand]