All of my completed TWD stories, short and long, have now been posted here under Maddie and on Archive Of Our Own (AO3) under the user name maddie_amber. For a complete list of my stories in chronological order please see my profile page. As always thank you for reading.

"I had to." Merle answered, an uncharacteristic note of entreaty in his voice. "Or I'da killed the bastard."

"I was ten. How was I supposed to stand up to the old fucker?" It didn't matter what Merle's excuse had been, to a ten year old his leaving had meant only one thing – betrayal of Daryl's trust and all the things he dreamed his family might one day be.

"You could stand up. You did." Merle shouted back, anger flashing in his eyes now. "If I'd killed him you'd of ended up in foster care. No blood of mine was going to be farmed out to some strange family while I was alive."

"At least it would have been a family." Now Daryl was fighting to keep the tears out of his voice. He had a family at the prison, still had them if they would take him back. He had walked out on them because he felt he owed loyalty to his brother, his blood. Now he realized how much more important than blood or genetics his adopted family was. They had accepted him. He had earned his place, gained respect, he belonged, like he never had with his own kin.

"Ya really don't understand, little brother," Merle said. Daryl looked up at the contrite tone of his brother's voice. Merle stood with his good hand jammed in his pocket, his shoulders slumped and suddenly he looked incredibly weary. "Ya don't understand," he repeated earnestly. "I didn't leave. I stayed. I put myself between you and the old man more times than I can count. I stayed until I knew you was old enough to survive. Then I had to go. For all our sakes."