Well, this is my new story and I'm really nervous to post this because its very different from what I write and different from what I've read. I'll be following the timeline as close as I can and keep with canon as best as I can, too. Some things will be drawn out and some things won't. I didn't think this would be very long, but as of right now, it's going to be decent-sized.

Also, Daryl is a bit different in this one. Not too different, but you will see early on that he's not the same season one Daryl. I'll talk more about that later when it becomes even more obvious. Well, I hope you all enjoy!

Chapter One

Late August

Thirty-one days.

That was the number of days the world had been thrown into chaos with the dead stumbling around eating the living. It was also the number of days Daryl had come home after a hunting trip to find Merle barricading all of the windows and doors, barring any unwanted company, and it had been just Daryl and his brother, since. This was nothing new for the Dixon brothers. It had always been just them, even when the world had been normal, but now, they could very well be the only living people in the world. A fact Merle had accepted readily, and didn't seem too bothered by, while Daryl hoped otherwise. However, it unnerved him a little to know that if they had never listened to the reports as the deadly virus spread, they may have never known what was going on outside the little bubble of their lives. They would have never known that the dead were walking around until they happened across one, and who knew what would have happened, then. They had been isolated from the world before the Turn in their shack of a home, miles away from civilization, and still were. This time, though, it seemed to be working in their benefit. They didn't have very many unwanted guests. Dead or alive.

"So, what's on the menu, today, baby brother?" Merle's voice sounded unusually loud and grating in the otherwise quiet of the little patch of land. It had also been thirty-one days of being stuck with Merle, and Daryl was itching to get away, if only for a day or two, or he'd go insane. The daily morning hunts had been a reprieve, but only slightly. Most days he came back to their house, and wanted to turn right around to head back into the quiet of the woods. It was getting hugely frustrating having to constantly provide them with meals every day and to come back seeing his brother sitting on his ass doing nothing.

Daryl loved his brother, and was glad they had been together, for once, when the world had gone belly up. But thirty-one days of constantly being in one another's presences was wearing both of their patience's extremely thin. One of them was bound to snap, and it would most likely be Merle. Daryl would get the shit end of it, too. That's how it always was. Merle did something stupid, and he would be the one to bear the brunt of it.

"Squirrel," he answered and dropped the string of three rodents in front of his brother. It wasn't much, but it was all he could find in the few hours he had been out. Game was getting scarce. "Why don't you skin and gut them while I wash this shit off my hands?"

While lining up a shot for a kill, a deer which he hadn't seen in weeks, a walker had managed to sneak up on him in his moment of distraction. A chunk of his shoulder would have been missing if he hadn't seen the thing lunge at him from the corner of his eye. His crossbow went flying out of reach as living human and walking corpse fell to the forest floor. Daryl wrestled with the rotting body before gaining the upper hand and reaching into the sheath at his side where he carried the knife. The sharp point of the blade went cleanly through the decomposing skull and dark blood sprayed all over his hands and forearms. Throwing off the now dead weight, Daryl had looked at himself in disgust and decided that it was time to head back to the house.

Early on, the Dixon brothers had found out that the only way to stop the walkers for good was to shoot or impale them in the brain. No place else would do the trick, as Merle had found out almost the fatal way. It been their first venture from their home and into town since the world had ended. They were running low on supplies and knew they needed to raid some stores, if no one else had gotten to them first.

They broke into the back door of the general store, and Merle, getting slightly cocky, had thought they were home free...until a woman who had been slumped near the door, grabbed his pant leg. He reacted quickly and shot the woman in the chest, the power of the blow had flung her to her back and Merle had thought that was it. So, had Daryl and they continued to walk by it.

They made quick work of getting everything they needed and could fit in their bags before they walked to the back door and their truck. Merle reached for the door, just as the same female walker from before grabbed his arm and nearly took a bite out it. This time, it was Daryl who had reacted quickly, and shot a bolt through its head. It immediately let go of Merle and fell to the ground, this time dead for good.

If Daryl had been seconds slower in shooting the walker, he knew he would be crudely amputating his brother's hand right there on the floor of the general store.

"Just three today?" Merle called to his back as he walked away. Reflexively, Daryl hunched his shoulders, waiting for a blow that didn't come. "Yesterday, you had twice this many. These ain't goin' to be more than an afternoon snack for us."

Then get off your lazy ass and go huntin' yourself! The words were on the tip of his tongue, but he knew if he were to speak them aloud, a fight would start and Daryl was too exhausted to have to deal, or fend off, a pissed off Merle.

"Game was scarce," he said, being smart. Turning to face his brother, who was wiping his knife on a pant leg, Daryl was struck with a sudden idea. "Was thinkin' about tryin' to go a few miles out to see if there's anythin' else out there. Thought I could take the truck and maybe find ourselves a deer or somethin'. I've been doin' too much huntin' around here, and there ain't much left."

Merle paused in his task of skinning the first squirrel, seeming to mull the idea over in his head. Daryl tried his best not to look anxious as he waited for his brother's answer. Merle would be able to catch up on it real quick and know something was up.

"All right," he finally said. "But you gotta get me more than three fuckin' squirrels to live off of while you're gone." Clearly, he had no plans on going out to look for his own food while Daryl was away. Really, Daryl wasn't that surprised.

A triumphant grin was stopped before it could spread across Daryl's face. It would only serve to make Merle suspicious. "Okay," he said, careful, trying not to sound too eager. He was still in a bit of disbelief that Merle had let him go. Besides his solo hunting trips, Merle insisted they went everywhere else, together.

"I'll go out tomorrow and try to find some more game to stock up," he continued. They had a root cellar underneath the house that was accessible from the outside. It was cool and was used as a place to store their meat. However, it was no where near the temperatures of a freezer, and within a few days the meat would go bad if it wasn't eaten.

"Then, the day after, you'll take the truck and head out?" Merle asked without looking up from his skinning.

"Yeah, that's what I was planning on doing," he answered, chewing on his lip. "That all right?"

"Course it is. Gettin' real tired of eatin' rodents. It would be nice if you could snag us a deer. We haven't had venison in awhile. Oh!" He looked up and pointed the bloody knife in his direction. "If you come across any house, might as well take a look inside and get anythin' else that could be useful."

Ransacking houses was Daryl's least favorite thing to do in this world gone bad. Some times they would be empty, their owners having fled when the outbreak started, and other times, they happen upon their remains, either as the walking dead or results of a suicide. Daryl couldn't help but feel like an intruder every time he walked into another person's home, but it was the end of the world and they needed to do what needed to be done to survive.

"Got it," he said. "I'm goin' to clean my hands, and then get a fire started so we can cook those up." Daryl found himself immediately in a better mood, now that his brother was allowing him to get away for a day or two.

At one of the far corners of their property sat an old water pump. It had been put there many years ago from an older generation of Dixons, but Daryl and Merle had never used it growing up. Their grandpa had fixed up the house with running water, and the water pump outside had been forgotten. However, now that the world had ended and running water was no longer, the water pump had become a very important asset to the Dixon brothers. They had been surprised that it still worked after all the years it had sat in that corner untouched.

Daryl pumped the handle, stuck his hands under the flow of cool water and began to scrub away every last speck of dark blood he could find. As he did this, he made sure to keep a sharp eye on the tree line, not wanting to be surprised by another stray walker. Even though it had been awhile since any walkers had made an appearance on their property.

Just a few feet from the pump, a small stack of wood was piled. In the beginning, Merle had taken over the job of gathering and splitting wood while Daryl hunted, but like most things, his older brother lost interest and the job fell to him. Sometimes, Daryl couldn't help but wonder how Merle would have fared if he was on his own. What of Merle hadn't been released from jail when the reports of the spreading virus had started?

Daryl knew what he would have done if that had been the case. He would have gone through hell to get his brother out of there. Merle was the only family Daryl had left, and it had been that way for a long time. The Dixon brothers had learned early on that they could only rely on one another. However, with each passing day, Daryl wondered if that could be considered true, anymore. Merle needed him, but Daryl wasn't sure if he needed Merle. Daryl had learned when he was younger that the only person who wouldn't hurt him was himself.

"Hey, Daryl!" Merle was standing, now. The string of freshly skinned squirrels were being held in one of his large hands. Daryl winced when he heard his brother yell across the yard. It didn't matter that he had told him that walkers were attracted to sound, his brother still insisted on doing it, sometimes.

"Yeah?" With arms full of twigs and dried bits of fallen bark, Daryl made his way to where they normally had a fire. They did all of their cooking outside, and really only went inside when the weather wasn't cooperating or to go to bed.

"Did you want these made into a stew, or are you goin' to fry them up?" Of course Daryl would be the one to cook them. Dumping what he had in his arms, he reached for the string. The slightly good mood from earlier was quickly dissipating.

"What do you want?"

Merle rubbed his chin, which had a few days growth of stubble on it. "Hm, if we have any of that canned shit left, a stew would make those three squirrels a filling meal."

"Why don't you start the fire and I'll get started on cookin'."

"You know what we need, baby brother?" Merle asked as he kneeled over the fire pit, hands paused in midair before he struck a match.

Daryl couldn't care less to know what Merle though they needed. There was already so much. Like electricity, so they could have hot water, lights and a place to store meat for several days at a time. "What?"

"A woman."

"Why?" He asked, immediately. They were doing just fine on their own and didn't need to add a woman to their little group. Merle would most likely lure the woman into his bed, eventually, anyway, and once that happened, things would go downhill from there.

"So she can do that cookin' and shit, instead of you. But I guess for now, I can just call you Darylina." Merle started to laugh, like he told some big joke and Daryl just shook his head before walking into the house.

Daryl definitely needed those few days away from there.

The next day, Daryl got an even earlier start than normal on his hunting. He wanted to bring as much meat for Merle as he could so that he wouldn't hear any bitching when he got back. It seemed like all Merle did nowadays. Bitch and sit on his ass, whittling. Nothing had really changed, and Daryl resigned himself to believing that it would be just him and Merle until the day they died. Once again, nothing had changed since the world had ended. They were Dixons and Dixons didn't do friends or families. Their pa had one, and he drove their mother to her death, and treated them both like shit. The scars on Daryl's back were proof of that.

Merle didn't know about his scars. Every time Daryl's older brother left home, whether it be the army or jail, their daddy turned to Daryl and left marks on the younger boy's skin that would be there for the rest of his life. If Merle had known what was going on as it happened, there would have be no doubt he would have killed Pa Dixon.

A noise to his left had him swinging around quickly with his crossbow. No rotten, undead fucker was going to sneak up on him this time. Observant eyes scanned the trees around him, and Daryl didn't see anything moving around, but he didn't let his guard down. This time if a walker surprised him, he might not be able to get away from the encounter bite free.

Several hours later, Daryl returned so exhausted that his feet dragged on the ground. Never had he stayed out in the woods that late. Most of the game went into hiding when the sun was high in the sky, anyway, so there had been no point. But Merle wanted more meat and Daryl planned on delivering.

All together, he had managed to successfully hunt five squirrels, two rabbits and a duck, which had been a welcomed surprise. If Merle complained this time, Daryl knew that he wouldn't be responsible for his actions. He was so tired and sore, that he knew if he stopped, even just for a minute on his trek home, he would fall asleep on his feet.

When the house finally came into view, Daryl saw that his brother wasn't lounging outside like he usually did during the day. However, he didn't think anything of it. If Merle wasn't lazing around outside, then he was most likely lazing around inside.

It wasn't surprising when he walked into the house, through the back door that led into the kitchen, to hear Merle's loud snores coming from the living room. Placing all the kills on the kitchen table, he stood in the doorway leading into the living room and saw his brother fast asleep on their threadbare couch, his face covered by a magazine.

Getting a closer look, Daryl saw that it was one of Merle's old skin mags. The woman on the cover was very scantily dressed and posed provocatively, and Daryl grimaced thinking about what kind of picture Merle had his face buried in.

Daryl crept into the room, a mischievous grin on his face, and stopped right by the long coffee table in front of the couch. Lifting one of his boot covered feet, Daryl kicked the table and sent it scrapping loudly across the hardwood floor, which had more scoff marks and scratches than he could count.

Merle jerked awake, instantly, and the magazine went flying to the other side of the room, fluttering down on Merle's boots, sitting by the front door. "What the hell?" He growled when he finally got his bearings and saw Daryl smirking down at him. "Can't you see I was nappin'?"

That's all you ever seem to do, anymore. Daryl wasn't fool enough to say the words aloud. "Brought you back some meat," he said, instead. "Figured you could be the one to skin them and store them, while I take myself a nap."

Merle rubbed the sleep from his eyes, stretched until his spine popped and stood. "You bring enough this time?"

Daryl bristled. "See for yourself," he snapped and pointed to the kitchen. He didn't stick around to see what his brother did after that, and headed straight to his room. Slamming the door shut, he toed off his boats and flopped on his bed. Within seconds, he was asleep.

It seemed like he had just closed his eyes, though, when he was jolted awake by Merle's shouting coming from the front of the house. "Daryl! Get your ass in here. We have some biters on the front lawn!"

Daryl up and slipping his boots on in seconds. He raced through the house and picked up his crossbow where he had set it just outside of the kitchen. Merle was in the living room peeking through the dark curtains of their front window. Daryl joined him and saw that there were about six walkers ambling about in their yard.

"Huh," Merle said in slight amusement, a grin spreading across his face. Daryl wasn't sure if he liked that look.


"I know one of them fuckers. He owed me money."

"Money ain't worth much, now, Merle." Daryl stepped away from the window and loaded his bow with a bolt and stuck another between his teeth for easy access. "You ready to take care of these fuckers?" He inched towards the front door, but wouldn't open it until his brother was ready to go. Even though six walkers didn't seem like much for the Dixon brothers, but it was better to be safe than sorry.

"Leave me the fucker with half his jaw missin'. I'm goin' to enjoy puttin' a knife through his cheatin' skull." Cracking his knuckles, Merle took one last look out the window before joining Daryl at the door. In one of his hands, he held a large buck knife that still had dried blood caked on it from the last time he had used it to stab through a rotting skull.

Daryl wrapped a hand around the doorknob and on Merle's signal, flung it open. The first bolt went flying, embedding itself into the nearest walking corpse's head before Daryl had fully stepped out the door. Merle had stepped from behind his younger brother with a whoop and had already taken out two of them with his knife before Daryl had reloaded his bow. He let another bolt fly, and then took out another one with his knife. Meanwhile, Merle started circling the walker with the half missing jaw and taunted it.

"Come on, Merle," Daryl called to him. "Finish him so we can clean this mess." They always burned the remains of the walkers that stumbled on their property.

"Aw, come on, Darylina. I'm just havin' a little fun." Merle cackled as he dodged to the left when the walker lunged for him. Daryl kept a sharp eye on the walker and a good grip on his crossbow, just in case Merle did something dumb and put himself in a deadly situation. The next time the thing lunged, Merle grabbed it by the collar of its torn up shirt, and finally, stabbed it in the head with knife. The walker slumped and Merle dropped it to the ground with a satisfied grin, breath coming out of him in pants.

Daryl rolled his eyes and slung the crossbow on his back so he could start dragging the bodies into a pile. Another thing he hated about the walking dead was their stench. The stench of burning walkers always made his eyes water. "Come on, Merle," he said, grunting as he began moving the dead weight. "I want to get this done before we lose light." He turned just in time to watch Merle lean over the body of the man he once knew and pull something from the back pocket of the man's jeans. His wallet.

Opening it, Merle whistled low. "Well, look here." He pulled out a good amount of cash. "Think you was holdin' out on me, Joe." He kicked the corpse and stuffed the wad of cash in his pocket before throwing the wallet down.

"You know the only thing that's good for now is starting a fire." Merle did a lot of odd things, but this one took the cake. They never took things from the walkers they killed, especially not money.

"You never know, baby brother. We ain't the only people alive, and for all we know, this whole thing could blow over. We could be something a Dixon's never been." He clapped his Daryl on the shoulder. "Rich. Also, you may never know, we could come across people who may use money or anything of the like to barter with. Best be prepared for anythin'." He walked past him and grabbed on the corpse's and began dragging it farther from the house.

Daryl didn't get his brother's logic. Why would people still value something that was useless, now? There wasn't anything to buy, anymore. You needed something, like food or water, you just took it. All the stuff people spent their money on, like TVs, phones and computers were utterly useless.

But he knew not to argue with Merle, and focused on the task at hand. Walker clean up.

The next morning, Daryl left at dawn, wanting to get an early start on his day. Merle hadn't been awake when he had thrown some supplies together, but he didn't mind. He didn't need to say goodbye to him. Instead, he scribbled a quick note and placed on the kitchen table in plain view explaining that he would be home sometime tomorrow. It only gave him a day away from the place, but hopefully it would be the start of more and much longer trips in the future.

However, it felt odd leaving Merle and going someplace on his own. Not that he had never been on his own before, because he had...for many years when Merle was away, but they hadn't spent any time a part from one another since the world had ended. Daryl was a bit nervous that he would come back to the house and find Merle gone.

An hour later, Daryl pulled the truck to the side of the road, satisfied that the woods were thick enough to be possibly hiding some good game. From the truck bed, he picked up his bow and a bottle of water. Later, he would make camp at a quarry he knew was a few miles away. He and Merle had gone fishing in the crystal clear lake when they were younger, and Daryl had always enjoyed that time with his brother. He would be able to pitch his tent on the shore of the lake and enjoy a peaceful night of looking at the stars. Thinking of that alone had him searching even harder for some animal to shoot.

It didn't take him long to shoot a rabbit. The small animal had ran right in front of him, and with his reflexes as they were, it was dead within seconds. Already it looked like the game here was plentiful and Merle would be pleased with the haul Daryl would be bringing back. Tying the rabbit to his belt, Daryl moved farther into the woods, ready to snag anything else that happened across his path.

A few hours later, Daryl returned to his truck, exhausted and proud. On his belt, he had several squirrels, which he would cook for himself, and a few rabbits he would save for later in one of the coolers. While out, he had seen a few deer, but had refrained from shooting them. He would have to save them for tomorrow so they wouldn't go bad under the Georgian heat. They would not fit in the cooler he had planned on storing in the quarry lake to keep its contents cool.

The quarry was about a fifteen minute drive from where Daryl was, but he planned on parking the truck a good mile away just in case anyone else came sniffing around the quarry, saw it there and spotted him. Even though they hadn't come across anyone living since the world had ended didn't mean there weren't people out there. It was impossible that he and Merle were the only two living men remaining.

Once he found a good place to park fifteen minutes later, Daryl grabbed his pack, which contained a small pop up tent, slung it over his shoulder, his bow and the small red cooler. The sun would be down soon, and he still had to set up camp, find some kindling for a fire and maybe wash up a bit in the lake. There wasn't a patch of skin on him that wasn't covered in dirt or blood.

As he walked through the woods, he began to hear a slight buzzing sound. Almost like a group of people quietly talking. Maybe he was going crazy. But as he walked, he made sure to keep his steps light so if there was someone or someones out there, then they wouldn't hear him and mistake him for a walker.

In the distance, he could spot the lake and smiled in relief. Nothing had changed about it since he was a little boy. However, before he could break through the line of trees, he stopped in his tracks. Kneeling down by the water's edge was a woman. A woman with short hair and whose baggy clothes swallowed up her small frame. She was by herself and her shoulders were shaking slightly, as if she were laughing...or crying.

Daryl took a small step closer to see that she held a cloth in her hand and dabbed at her lip with it. Crouching down, he set all of supplies down and moved closer. He was still under the cover of trees, but now, he could see the woman's features more clearly.

She could have been pretty if her lip wasn't swollen and bleeding and a bruise wasn't blossoming under her eye, which seemed to highlight the already impossible blue of them. Another bruise was on her arm in the shape of fingers, and that was when everything came together for him. A flash of anger went through his body unexpectantly. This woman was getting beaten by someone, most likely a husband. The dead had risen and some bastard was still beating on his wife?

"Mama!" At the sound of a little girl's voice coming from behind them, Daryl ducked even lower. There was a child involved, too? Memories of how his own father treated him and his brother burned hot in his mind. He had only had a glimpse of this woman, and he already wanted to jump out and protect her.

Yeah, like that will go over real well, dumbass! He chided himself. The two females would probably scream in extreme fright at the sight of him, and someone would shoot him on sight. No, it was best he stay hidden. But he couldn't keep his eyes of the woman.

The woman started at the voice, swiped at her cheeks and turned to face the little blonde girl running towards her. Those pretty blue eyes shown with happiness at the sight of her daughter.

"Sophia, honey, what is it?" The woman's arms opened and Sophia ran into them.

"I missed you, mommy. After our game, Carl had to go with Ms. Lori and get ready for bed, and I saw that you weren't by our tent. Are you okay?"

"I'm fine, sweetheart. I just needed to clean up a bit."

The girl cupped her mother's face between her small hands. "Daddy hit you, again. Mama, you're bleeding!" She took the cloth from her mother's hand and gently dabbed at the blood on her mother's lip. Daryl felt out of place watching the extremely tender moment between mother and daughter.

"It's okay, Sophia. I just-"

"I hate him." The words were spoken with such venom that Daryl was surprised that they had come from the little girl's mouth, and yet, Sophia hadn't stopped cleaning the blood off her mother's face.

"Sophia! Don't say that." The woman pulled her daughter close in a tight hug, which Sophia returned. "He's your father."

"But he hurts you, and I don't like it."

Once again, Daryl's fists clenched. If the next person to come down that hill was the abusive bastard, he would hop out of hiding spot and beat the shit out of him. He swore he would.

"Come on, Sophia, let's head back to camp. Everyone will wondering where we are." She stood, gripped her daughter's small hand, and together, began walking back to where their camp was.

As they walked, Daryl could still hear Sophia. "Mama, Glenn told me and Carl that tomorrow he, Ms. Andrea and Jacqui, and Mr. Morales and T-Dog were going to try to find us some marshmallows on the run they're going on, so we can toast them over the fire." She could barely contain her excitement. "Won't that be fun?"

"Of course it will." The woman smiled down at Sophia, but even from the growing distance of the two, Daryl could see that it didn't reach her eyes.

He watched them as they completely disappeared from sight, all the while his mind was reeling. That woman and Sophia were part of a group, and it wasn't just them and the abusive asshole, either. Maybe they welcomed newcomers. The Dixon's were tough, but he didn't know if they could live the rest of their lives just the two of them. Standing up, Daryl made his decision. Tomorrow when he came back with his load of meat, he would try and convince Merle to join the group at the quarry.

And all the awhile, as he tried to convince his brother of the good being with others would do, he would tell himself it wasn't because of the little girl and the delicate woman with the pretty blue eyes that was the reason he wanted to join the group.

Nope. It wasn't because of them at all.

Carol sensed eyes on her back as she wiped away the blood and tears from her face, but not the controlling eyes of her husband or the hungry eyes of a stray walker. These were curious eyes. Tilting her head slightly to the side, she peered at the woods to her back and didn't see anything amiss. Maybe being married to an abusive asshole for thirteen years was making her paranoid.

"Mama!" Jumping, she knew the voice was Sophia's, but she hadn't expected her daughter to follow her down here. Quickly, she wiped away the tears on her cheeks, knowing she couldn't do anything about her swollen lip and bruised eye, and opened her arms to gather her daughter close.

Do you see how different Daryl is? He's already enamored with Carol. This is just an introductory chapter. The next chapter will have the first letter!

Thank you for checking this out and reading. It really means a lot to me. :)