In the particular world Waiting on You takes place, Merle is not a good guy and I am keeping him as such. I still find Merle so difficult to write.
He's never considered any place he goes to as home. Doesn't have a home and sure as hell doesn't want one. He has friends scattered along his route that are always happy to see him and let him crash on their couch when he comes or he'll find some hot number in a bar and he'll find himself at her place for the night. And if he doesn't have any friends where he is or a hot piece of ass, he finds a motel and makes some new friends. That's the great thing about himself, he knows. He can make friends any damn place he goes.
Except for Evergreen. The people of Evergreen don't really care for him much and he doesn't give a shit about any of them or their opinions of him. It's a small town, not quite two-thousand people but that figure's jumped up since his baby brother decided to marry some prissy goody two-shoes and stop wearing rubbers.
He hasn't been back to Evergreen for a few years but it's a good place to stop – a good stopping point between Atlanta and Jackson, two places two of his connections live in. And in Evergreen, it's like time has stopped. Nothing much changes no matter how much time has passed since he's been back last or what's happened in the outside world. None of that ever seems to touch this little town in the middle of nowhere. The same stores, the same houses, the same people.
Axel still glares at him when he comes in to get a room at the motel for a couple of days and Merle just grins at him. If Axel still wants to blame him after all of this time for his wife being some junkie and dying with a needle in her arm as most junkies eventually do, he can just go right ahead and keep doing that.
He takes room six like he always does because it's the furthest away from the office and the first thing he does is pull the curtains over the window and sleep for a couple of hours. He doesn't think about Daryl; doesn't think about going to see him. He knows he won't see him. The last time him and Daryl had seen one another – a jail in Wheeling, West Virginia that he had been brought into when he had been arrested for possession and he called Daryl because he knew that Daryl would always come and Daryl had proved him right – they had sat across from one another with a plate of glass separating them and phones in their hand and Daryl had looked tired from driving all night to get there.
"I'm married now," Daryl had mumbled and he hadn't had to tell him that because Merle had spotted the ring on Daryl's finger the instant he sat down.
"To that prissy little virgin?" Merle had sneered and Daryl had just stared at him, a coldness in his eyes that he hardly ever saw with Daryl.
"Don't talk 'bout her like that. She's my wife and the mother of my kid. I got a daughter now, too," Daryl said and Merle kept his face blank but inside, he felt like he had been knocked over with a feather.
How the hell had that happened? When had that happened?
Daryl shook his head. "I can't be comin' to bail you out whenever you need it," he said. "I got a family and a life and it don't… it don't have you in it anymore, Merle."
Merle was too pissed then to be hurt and truth be told, years later, he's still pissed. After everything he's done for his little brother in their lives, Daryl just pushes old Merle aside like it never meant anything; like he isn't his family? And for what? For some little bitch who usually spits on guys like them? Girl got his brother all twisted up and then she got herself knocked up so Daryl had to stick around for the next eighteen years and everyone knows Daryl is the good Dixon and he'll do the right thing and not abandon her or the little baby she claims is his.
He wonders if Daryl ever thought of getting a paternity test.
When he first started seeing that girl – Beth or some name just as stuck-up – he had come to Merle and told him that if it came to having her or Merle in his life, he was going to choose Beth. Merle had laughed at first because what the hell was he talking about? Daryl was just up and leaving him because some girl was giving him sex regularly and not disgusted with some redneck asshole touching her?
But Merle learned that Daryl had meant it and Merle had been so pissed, he had stayed away. Not because Daryl had wanted him to. Definitely not because of that. Because he had been pissed and his brother had been completely pussy whipped and he was ashamed of him, to be honest.
And he had stayed away all of those years but then he had gotten arrested and his first instinct was to call his baby brother because they were brothers, for fuck's sake. And Daryl had come just like he knew he would but Daryl slammed the door on him. Again.
Fuckin' kid can rot for all Merle cares now. Tried his best to help that boy get through life and he just drops ol' Merle the second some girl spreads her legs for him and has a kid she claims is his.
He wakes up from his nap and it's almost seven, the sky pink and purple with the setting sun. He groans as he pulls himself from the bed and goes into the bathroom to take a piss. There's really only one place to go in Evergreen for something to eat that doesn't come with an intercom and drive-thru lane and he doesn't stop to think before heading towards the Pine Tree Café down the street from the motel. He drives even though it's just a couple of blocks away but he figures he'll want to head out for a drink afterwards and Evergreen only has one bar and he was banned from it a long time ago.
It's past the usual dinner hour so when he goes into the café, there's hardly anyone there and he sits down at the counter on one of the vinyl stools. There's a new waitress – he remembers when Daryl's ball and chain used to work here – and her nametag says Tara. She sounds breathless and overwhelmed and just to be a dick, Merle orders six different things from off the menu.
The bell tinkles over the door when someone new comes in but Merle doesn't turn around as he chugs from his glass of Coke.
"Mama! I want that!"
"Don't even think about it, Molly. We're here to get dinner – just dinner – and we have cookies at home."
The hairs on the back of Merle's neck stands up because he recognizes that voice.
She came to his room once when he was still at the motel, offering him a cupcake from the bakery she was just opening and she had been scared out of her mind as she stood there but he remembered that she had looked into his eyes the whole time, which would have impressed him if he didn't hate her so much.
He hears her voice now and he doesn't have to turn around to know it's her. And there's a little girl with her – obviously that brat that she has convinced Daryl is his.
"Hi, Tara. Daryl called in an order and I'm here to pick it up."
She's still behind him and he doesn't dare turn around to look at her because if she sees him, she'll tell Daryl and he really has no desire to talk with his brother. Daryl made it clear he was done with him so Merle's done with him now, too.
She stands at the counter in front of the cash register and he watches her from the corner of his eye. He remembers that she was a little thing with blonde hair and pale skin and she looks like she'll break if handled a little too roughly. He can just imagine how boring Daryl's sex life with this one is. Probably nothing but missionary. What a poor bastard his brother has become.
There is a little girl standing beside her and Merle figures in his head that she's probably six now. She has brown hair – the same shade as Daryl's used to be when he had been a kid. But that doesn't prove anything. Plenty of kids have that color brown hair. He can't see her face too clearly but her hair's in two braids and she's wearing a tee-shirt with something written on the back in white block lettering.
Daryl's Auto Repair.
Merle raises an eyebrow at that. Looks like his brother went and got himself a business of his very own. Didn't even know that Daryl had wanted something like that. Probably told himself he did since he has a mouths to feed.
"There you go, Beth," Tara smiles at her as she hands her a brown paper bag of food over the counter. "$22.50," she says and Beth hands her a couple of bills.
"No change, Tara," Beth shakes her head. "We'll take a piece of chocolate cake, too."
Molly gasps with excitement and Beth looks down at her with a small smile.
"You and your daddy can share it. You and him have the same sweet tooth, I swear."
Tara hands the plastic container with the thick slice of chocolate cake in it to the little girl and she takes it, practically bouncing.
"Thank you, mama!" She exclaims as she hugs it happily.
"Don't you dare sneak any to your brother," Beth tells her as they leave the diner, the bell overhead tinkling again, and Merle nearly chokes on his gulp of Coke.
Brother? Did Daryl go and knock that girl up for a second time? What the hell is his brother thinking? He obviously wasn't when he got her pregnant the first time and if he got her pregnant a second time, he's dumber than Merle ever thought.
He eats his dinner and catches the frown on Tara's face when he leaves her just a dollar as a tip but he doesn't really care. What did she do? She wrote down his order and then carried the plates not even a foot from the kitchen to where he sat. Wasn't like she got down on her knees for him.
He has just stepped outside and has a cigarette lit when he hears his name and turns to see Len heading towards him. Merle grins. Len's always been a good customer.
"Hey, man, heard you were back," Len says once he's nearer, his grin wide, showing off his dirty meth teeth, and Merle wonders how Len knows that because hardly anyone has seen him yet but he doesn't ask. Small town. "Got anythin'?"
"For you, Lenny, always," Merle grins back at him.
They head back to the motel and after Len gives him the money, Merle hands him a small packet of meth rock and Len sits down right on the floor, taking the pipe Merle offers him and smoking it right then and there.
Merle lies himself down on the bed and blinks up at the ceiling.
So, his brother is married to the spoiled bitch with two brats and his own garage. Maybe time hasn't stopped in Evergreen after all. And Merle can't help but think that maybe he wants to see all of it with his own two eyes.
Len passes out on the floor and Merle drifts back to sleep and when they both wake up again, it's after eight o'clock in the morning.
"You know where my brother lives?" Merle asks him.
"Yeah," Len nods. Again – small town. "Want me to show you?"
And Merle doesn't really understand why he wants to see Daryl and the life he has now after just abandoning him like they weren't brothers but Merle's curiosity is too big to ignore now and he just looks at Len and nods his head.
Len tells him where to go and Merle drops him off at the gas station where he works even though he's two hours late for his shift and Merle drives his truck towards Creek Street, looking for the house Len had described. He parks across the street, a few houses down from it, when he finds it and looks at it. He suspects no Dixon has ever lived in a house this nice.
It's a small bungalow painted yellow with flowers planted in the front and a couple of trees growing on the curb, blossoming pink flowers in the springtime weather. He recognizes Daryl's pickup truck parked in the driveway and Merle figures the wife is already gone, going to her bakery that morning, so maybe Daryl's alone right now.
Don't matter to him if he is or not. He doesn't want to talk to him. He admits he does want to see him though. Wants to see how miserable his baby brother is with his own two eyes. Wants to see Daryl and know that he's worse off without Merle being there with him. It'll serve Daryl right if his life is a living hell for him. That's what he deserves since this is what he chose over his own blood.
Merle sits and watches the house and it's quiet on the street. A few birds chirp, a dog barks nearby, a paperboy is riding his bike down the sidewalk, chucking rolled up newspapers onto the porches of the passing houses. Merle leans over to the glove box and pulls out a packet of sunflower seeds, opening the bag and beginning to eat them, spitting the casings out onto the street.
The front door of the house opens and the screen door pushes and Daryl steps out. It's been a couple of years since Merle has seen him last and he leans forward in his seat a little, trying to get a better look at him now. He still looks the same. Tall and skinny but broad shoulders and he's wearing a tee-shirt and he's still got his muscles. He doesn't look like he's wasting away and Merle's a little disappointed at that. His hair's dark and cut not as long as it was the last time Merle saw him.
The screen door opens again and that wife of his steps out. There's a baby in her arms. Bigger than a newborn. Merle tries to remember when Daryl was a baby and figures that this is kid is just around a year-old. He's on his mama's hip and is chewing on a strand of her hair. Daryl stops on the top step and turns around to look at her, their eyes even. Merle can't hear what they're saying but he can just imagine. She's probably ordering him around and he's taking it. Anything that wife of his wants, Daryl will agree because he no longer has his balls.
She laughs then and Merle takes a second to look at her face. Beth. She's a pretty little thing. He hates to admit it but it's true. But she's not hot. Not the kind of women that he would see in bars and try to push onto his brother. This is a pretty girl who goes to church and bakes and plants flowers in front of her house. This is a girl who leads a damn boring life and what does Daryl even have in common with her? And who the hell is she that she wanted to get her claws hooked into Daryl?
"Molly! Your daddy's leaving!" Beth calls back into the house and Daryl takes the baby from her arms. The boy has brown hair, too.
Molly comes running out of the house with a bookbag on her back and she runs right to her mama, Beth hugging her and kissing her on the head. Daryl kisses the baby on his head and then passes him back to Beth's arms. He then leans forward and Merle watches as he kisses his wife on the lips. Merle chews a little harder on his sunflower seeds as he watches Daryl and Molly head towards the truck and Beth stands on the porch with the baby, watching them drive off.
It's like a life out of a picture. And it's disgusting.
He drives through the small downtown part of town where all the shops and businesses of Evergreen are, following far enough behind his brother where Daryl won't get suspicious. They drive past what Merle recognizes as Beth's bakery. Sprinkles. And it's dark inside. Closed on Mondays. Would explain why she's home.
They drive to the small elementary school, kids running around, busses and other cars dropping more kids off. Evergreen has the elementary school that serves a few of the other nearby small towns and Merle had no idea there are so many damn kids around this area. Where the hell are they all coming from?
Daryl parks his truck and Molly hops out and Daryl comes around the front. She says something, looking up at her daddy, and whatever it is, Daryl actually grins. He puts his hands on either side of her head and kisses the top of it. He then turns and watches her as she goes skipping off to the front doors of the school.
Merle has no idea where Daryl learned how to be a daddy.
Daryl's gone and bought himself Dale's old garage. Merle remembers it and he parks down the street, watching as Daryl parks at the side of the building and then unlocks the front door, going inside. A minute later, he's opening the three bay doors. It had rained the night before and the sun glistens off of the puddles on the ground and the air that morning is cool, shifting in from the south.
Merle figures that the other mechanics will start showing up soon and Daryl is going to be by himself for just a little bit longer and Merle tells himself not to, reminds himself that he doesn't care, but he seems to ignore himself as he gets out of the truck and crosses the street,
The door is open and Daryl is in the front office when Merle appears on the threshold. Neither say anything or make a move as they stare at one another. Merle wonders how he looks through Daryl's eyes. Probably just some dirty redneck and Merle wants to remind Daryl that that's all he is, too.
There are a couple of picture frames on Daryl's desk and Merle looks them over.
There's a picture of him and Beth at some backyard barbecue and Merle remembers the picture from being in the apartment he was living in with Beth years earlier. Daryl is sitting in a lawnchair and Beth is sitting on his lap, her head resting against his and she is smiling bright and happy and Daryl is smiling as much as he usually does, her arm around his neck and his arm over her lap.
Merle picks up the second picture. A fucking family portrait. Beth is sitting with the baby boy on her lap and Daryl is sitting beside her with Molly standing in front of him, the girl in the midst of laughing as Daryl tickles her sides and Daryl and Beth are just wearing these happy smiles. The perfect family.
Makes him feel sick.
The whole thing just feels like some damn fake life that Daryl has gotten himself trapped into and can't find his way out of.
"Had another one with her?" Merle asks, finally breaking the silence.
He sets the picture down and looks at Daryl and Daryl is just staring at him.
"Sam," he finally grunts out. "Thirteen months old now."
Merle doesn't say anything because he realizes that there's just too damn much to say and he doesn't even know where to start. He just wants to smack his brother up the head and demand to know what the hell he's thinking. Getting married and having kids and owning this place and having a house and paying bills and taxes and fooling himself into thinking he's an upstanding citizen. He's a Dixon and he needs to remember that. Dixons don't live lives like this.
Daryl is still looking at him and doesn't say anything either and Merle looks at him with a wry smirk pulling at his lips.
"And you sure both are yours?" He asks.
Instantly, he sees the muscles twitch in Daryl's face as he clenches his teeth.
"I've told you once. Beth ain't like that," he says in a hard voice.
Merle chuckles. "All women are like that, baby brother."
"They look just like me," Daryl adds and his arms cross over his chest. "What are you doin' here, Merle?"
"Good stopping point. You 'member that," Merle shrugs, looking around the office. There's a card made out of construction paper tacked onto the bulletin board behind Daryl's desk. A child-made father's day card.
"How long you stayin'?" Daryl asks.
"Not too long. But figured I'd come and see you. See if you were still livin' this bullshit and I see that you are."
Daryl just clenches his jaw and doesn't say anything.
"Wanna come with me?" Merle then asks with a grin. "Just like ol' times. Headin' to Jackson and then Baton Rouge after that."
"'m not lookin' to leave my wife and kids for the next eight to ten years when you get your ass caught and locked up again," Daryl says.
Merle chuckles. Maybe his brother still had some semblance of his balls.
"You think this happy little life is goin' to just keep goin'? I'm just givin' you an out."
Daryl stares at him and his facial muscles twitch and Merle wonders if his brother actually has enough balls left to punch him because it sure looks like that's what Daryl wants to do.
"I don't need you to give me nothin', Merle. Been gettin' by just fine without you."
And Merle swears he almost flinches as if Daryl had punched him and he wishes he had instead of saying that because those were the words he didn't want to hear. They had gotten into fights with each other, sure but they're brothers and brothers fight and though it's been a couple of years and Merle is still plenty pissed about the whole thing, a part of him had just assumed that him and Daryl would go back to being brothers to each other someday.
But that doesn't look like it's going to happen because Daryl's got it in his head that he's better than him and Merle wants to remind him that they came from the same place and the same blood.
He doesn't say any of that though. Instead, he just leaves the office with one more smirk and no more words.
Poor people living in the middle of nowhere with a few extra dollars in their pockets love meth. Gives them something to do and they get hooked on it right quick. Merle finds himself staying in Evergreen for a few more days, damn near selling everything on him when people all around the area find out that he's near with his quality shit and they're not able to cook their own without blowing up their trailers.
He doesn't see Daryl in that time and he's fine with it. More than fine with it. His baby brother went down a path that Merle can't pull him back from and that's just the way it works out sometimes.
Merle did everything he could for the boy when they were growing up but it just wasn't enough and Merle's gone one way and Daryl has gone the complete opposite. He'll figure it out though. Whether Daryl ever wants to admit it or not, they're pretty damn near the same person and Daryl's just living himself a lie. Merle isn't going to tell him though. It's up to Daryl to figure out for himself. Dixons don't have the life like the one he built for himself and Merle doesn't see how it'll last.
He stops at the grocery store on his way out of town to stock up on some snacks for the road and walking through the produce section, from the corner of his eye, he catches a flash of blonde. He's not sure why he looks – there are a ton of blondes in this world – but he turns his head and looks and sure enough, it's her.
Beth is filling a plastic bag with yellow apples and Molly is beside her, standing on her toes, reaching into the bin to help her pick them out. Daryl is standing at the shopping cart, Sam, in his arms, the baby boy reaching up and tugging on Daryl's hair and laughing as he does so. Daryl just smirks and lets him tug and he looks to Beth instead.
"Can't believe you're makin' us buy apples," he comments. "We got an apple tree in the backyard."
"You know it won't be producing for another couple of years and until then, we are not going to be depriving ourselves of apples," Beth says and looks to him and her face is stern but Merle swears that he can see her eyes twinkling all the way across the produce section. "Stop being so difficult," she then says and a smile breaks through, blooming across her face.
She really is a pretty little thing.
"Dixons are difficult," Daryl shrugs. "And you should know this by now. You've already brought two more into this world.
"Our children are not going to be difficult," Beth says. "They're going to be angels. They already are," she adds just as Sam tugs on Daryl's hair again.
He doesn't even wince though and he keeps looking at Beth, looking downright thoughtful.
"Yeah," he then says and gives a single nod. "You're right."
Merle makes sure they don't see him as he leaves the produce section, turning the corner and not looking back. There's nothing to look back to. That's not his family. They may all have the same last name but that's not his family and it never will be.
Thank you for reading and please review!