The Laws of Unnatural Selection
by Mahiri Chuma
Summary: On an impromptu hunting trip, Glenn learns there's more to their resident Dixon brother than they may have thought.
Disclaimer: It all belongs to THE man, Kirkman and Mr. Darabont – I am wildly jealous.
The Laws of Unnatural Selection
"How long are you going to wait?" Glenn grumbled from behind the moss-covered log. They had been lying there, completely still, for what had to be hours – he couldn't be sure seeing that time had very little relevance nowadays.
"As long as it takes." Daryl answered from behind the sight of his crossbow, his tone bordering aggravation. "Now shut up."
"But it – it hasn't moved, it's right there." Glenn said in slight disbelief, his voice a harsh whisper. His eyes darted between Daryl and the large –huge- deer that was grazing quietly fifty feet from them. It didn't seem to notice them.
"Ya'll really don't know nothin' do you." Daryl glanced sideways at the young Asian.
The kid might have been a good tactician but he was proving to be a lousy hunter. He was fidgeting, asking too many questions … he had scoffed at the idea of anyone in the group besides his long gone brother accompanying him on a hunt, but he had to be realistic, he needed the help.
Food was becoming scarce as the winter months approached. Andrea and Dale were catching less and there was little to forage, not that anyone truly knew what was and wasn't edible.
As they drove further into the country, man-made resources became scarce; they hadn't found anything more than a few candy bars and half a dozen canned items during their last search and it was becoming clear, they needed to hunt.
Daryl had seen very few deer in the past weeks; the cold was driving them deeper into the forests and marshland and unless he could take a week or two to track them to their winter feeding grounds, he had to settle for the few that lingered on the borders near the roads.
They had pulled the camper over at a small camping ground in the North Hills and without a word Daryl had stalked off into the woods. No one questioned him as he disappeared into the dense foliage; they had gotten used to his impromptu solo scouting trips by now. Though Rick thought it was dangerous and terribly stupid, he didn't say anything. They needed the food.
Within the first hour of his patrol he had caught sight of a buck –too large to haul back to camp alone, over two hundred pounds and with a rack just under his arm span; a proper trophy buck.
He could take it down, that wouldn't be a problem, but hauling it back to camp …
He returned to camp, a hunting plan already playing in his mind, and informed Rick and Shane of his find. It hadn't taken much time before the camp was salivating at the prospect of fresh venison and a good two weeks worth of smoked jerky.
Upon hearing of the animal's size and Daryl's rather unexpected request for help, Glenn immediately volunteered.
He was a good scavenger, that much was true, but as they got further and further from the city, he was beginning to feel rather useless. It was clear that they all needed to brush up on their survival skills and if he could hunt he could provide for himself and the others. Not only would it be an incredibly skill it would ensure that someone besides Daryl could provide for them; it was no secret that no one fully trusted the man. Not yet.
Daryl had snorted in disbelief when Glenn had offered to come all to eagerly; he had looked him up and down with a smirk.
"You sure about that, kid? 'S hard work."
"I think I can handle it." And Glenn had been pretty sure he could. He had seen plenty of deer before and sure, they were quick, but they weren't all that large …
But then again, he had been wrong before. He swallowed heavily; it was huge, the biggest he'd ever seen. He didn't even want to know how the hell they were going to drag it back to camp.
The deer stepped forward, continuing to graze. Glenn truly didn't know what Daryl was waiting for and his whole body was beginning to ache from being in the same position for so long.
Daryl didn't seem to mind.
Unable to stand his throbbing arms any longer, Glenn shifted as quietly as he could manage – Daryl had already berated him for being to loud with a swift jab to bicep and he wasn't keen on receiving further punishment.
"If you don't stop movin' I'm gon' make you."
"Alright, alright. I'm sorry, I must've missed deer stalking 101." Glenn would never have said something even remotely sarcastic to the volatile Dixon brother had they not been hunting.
Daryl kept his eye on the deer, ignoring him completely as his muscles tensed in anticipation, his finger hovering carefully over the trigger.
Glenn couldn't believe it. Back at camp if you so much as looked at Daryl wrong a conflict was sure to arise. The Daryl they all knew and tolerated would throw punches without hesitation and seemed to attract conflict like bears to honey. He was always moving, and when Glenn thought about it, he had never seen Daryl still outside of sleep – he was always cleaning arrows, skinning an animal, building a fire, patrolling camp …
This Daryl was totally freaking him out.
"You gotta wait for it to let its guard down," Glenn glanced over as Daryl eyed the deer with the intensity of a longtime hunter, "if they sense you they'll be gone before you can take the shot."
Glenn listened, amazed that he was not only receiving a lesson from Daryl but that he was engaged and was intent on remembering his advice, storing it for later use.
The deer's head ducked down as it continued to graze and Daryl took in a slow breath.
Glenn's eyes darted between the hunter and his prey; he looked dangerous, very, very dangerous.
"The neck. You want to aim for the neck. Severe the arteries or the spine."
Daryl's finger closed over the trigger ever so slightly.
Glenn's stomach twisted in anticipation and he leaned forward, pushing himself closer to the log.
Something under his arm snapped and the deer's head shot up. Daryl pulled the trigger and Glenn's ears rang from the sharp twang of the bowstring as it propelled the deadly arrow forward.
He blinked – just blinked – and the deer was gone, leaves swirling where it had been standing moments before.
"Son of a bitch …"
"I'm sorry," Glenn sputtered as Daryl stood, his eyes fixed on the direction to which the deer had fled, "I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to."
"I knew bringing you along was a right mistake." Daryl yelled as he hastily pulled the crossbow string back.
Daryl cast him with a murderous glare and the irrational part of Glenn's brain was relieved because this was the Daryl he knew. The rational part had him moving backwards, hands up in submission, because he is pretty freaking sure Daryl is about to kill him.
Instead Daryl reloaded the bow with practiced ease and hopped over the log in pursuit.
"Wait, where are you going?" Glenn said as he stumbled forward, his muscles stiff from inactivity.
"Goin' after it." Daryl darted through the Georgian woods, crossbow held erect in one hand as he ducked under branches and Spanish moss.
"Wait, what? You hit it?" Glenn struggled to keep up as Daryl sped through the thick undergrowth, darting every which way as he followed a trail Glenn couldn't see.
As he ran after the surprisingly fleet-footed hunter his stomach tightened. Maybe this was a bad idea.
Glenn took his hat off, running a hand through his hair and grimacing as a particularly fat raindrop hit him in the center of his forehead with a loud thwack.
"Oh, come on." The small storm clouds that had rolled in had hardly seemed menacing, thus, Glenn hadn't believed Daryl when he said they were in for a big one.
It was a cold rain and harkened the departure of summer. Glenn pulled his arms around himself as he considered what life would be like come winter. He hadn't even thought this mess would last that long but it was becoming apparent that this was pretty damn permanent.
He shivered slightly, watching Daryl as he traced his fingers over the mud and pulled at twigs and leaves. What he was doing he had no idea.
He didn't particularly care as long as Daryl's attention was focused anywhere but himself.
The deer had eluded them and Daryl hadn't been happy. He had whipped around with a growl and Glenn stumbled backwards, tripping over a root and falling hard on his ass.
"You're either deaf or just plain dumb, I told you to stay quiet!" He had yelled, standing over him menacingly. For the second time Glenn found himself stuttering.
When he had volunteered to go with Daryl, Rick had given him a pointed look and said, 'Just be careful, okay? Don't do or say anything stupid.'
He had found that peculiar before. Now, not so much.
They all knew Daryl was a survivor; that if anyone could go out for days at a time, alone, in the woods and with just a hunting knife, it was him. They also knew, however, that he was incredibly hotheaded and that if he was the one calling the shots, things might go a little differently than they would at camp.
Rick had let him go, however, so Glenn was fairly confident that they trusted Daryl enough not to kill him.
Glenn had muttered several more 'sorrys' and to his relief, Daryl backed down and turned his attention to the now swamped and muddied trail left by the buck.
"It's like ya'll don't want to survive." Glenn looked over at where Daryl was currently crouched in complete disbelief.
"What? What d'you mean? Of course we want to survive…"
Daryl stood and began walking forward, his boots making a sloshing noise as they stuck to the mud. He was soaked to the bone and covered in mud but didn't seem to take any notice.
Glenn extracted himself from the ground and hurried forward, not exactly wanting to be left alone to fend for himself – he was already turned around after their run through the woods.
"Ya'll have a fish fry when you know those things can smell you from miles off, y' don't burn the infected," Glenn furrowed his brow, wondering where he was going with this, "y' let that girl turn instead of puttin' her down – it's like ya'll are askin' for it."
Glenn couldn't help but feel a rush of anger at Daryl's almost nonchalance concerning the matter.
"That girl … her name was Amy. You might not care but the rest of us do. And excuse us for trying to preserve some humanity." Daryl huffed but continued onwards.
"Humanity has nothin' to do with survivin'. It's only a matter of time …" Glenn closed the gap between himself and Daryl in a few short, angry steps.
"We don't want to just survive!" Glenn shouted. He didn't know why he was getting so worked up but he couldn't help it. He was tired of the constant moral tug-of-war they were always playing. He was tired of death and just trying to get by. He was tired of the tenuous relationships within the group.
Daryl was watching him, squinting through the rain. Above them the clouds swirled, letting loose the low grumble of thunder.
Glenn swallowed heavily; he didn't know what he expected Daryl to say. Of all the people in their group, Daryl was the least likely to delve into the philosophical or the 'whys' and 'whens' and 'whats' of their new lives. He accepted and moved on, unfettered by the rules and laws associated with the pre-apocalyptic life.
Glenn would never admit it out loud but he was envious of this trait.
"If there's no humanity, we're – we're no different from them." He pointed out into the wilderness, out at nothing, but there was no question to what 'them' meant.
"What's the point of just surviving?"
Glenn was breathing heavily as he awaited an answer. Dale would say something thought provoking. Rick would promise him a future. Shane would tell him not to think about it.
Daryl seemed to be considering his outburst. Glenn watched as something unnamable flashed across his features, coming and going before he could even begin to figure it out.
"Who said there was one?" And with that, Daryl turned away, moving on, as he always did.
Glenn didn't move. It was the most honest thing he had heard since the world had ended and the implications had his blood running cold.
It was dusk when Daryl decided they would stop and set up camp for the night. He had lost the trail during the storm. The rain had washed away the any prints and spots of blood and the wind had broken enough branches to make the trail unreliable.
He shook his head as he set his crossbow against a log, taking a seat on the damp ground.
He had lined up the shot perfectly. It would've been clean, a quick severance of the jugular vein. It would have bled out fairly quickly and it would've only taken one or two arrows to the flank to bring it down permanently.
Daryl was pissed, that much was true. The kid had cost them an easy kill and now, if they could find the damn buck, they would have to drag it across twice the distance.
He figured they could catch the trail again come first light. His arrow had found a place just behind the buck's right shoulder – not a kill shot or extremely debilitating but enough to slow it down and leave a neat little blood trail to follow.
Across from him Glenn twisted miserably, trying to find some way to make his damp clothes comfortable as the chill of the night bit into them.
He had looked simply miserable when Daryl called a halt to their hunt. It didn't compare to the misery; however, when Daryl told him they wouldn't be building a fire.
Sure it was cold, almost freezing – even Daryl fought the urge to shiver as his own damp clothes clung to his body – but starting a fire would only alert the buck to their presence as well as any other potential prey and any lingering Walkers.
"You never start a fire when you hunt?" Glenn shivered from his place against the tree.
"No, an' I don't usually bring dead weight with me either." Glenn shook his head and looked away as Daryl pulled the crossbow into his lap, settling down for the night.
"I said I was sorry about that. It was an accident." Glenn was getting tired of feeling guilty and he figured his current situation was punishment enough. For a moment he thought about the CDC - hot showers, food, books and, of course, a more amicable and drunk Daryl. Those few, stress free hours in the CDC had probably been the best of his new life.
"Yeah and it don't fix nothin'." Daryl fingered the crossbow in his lap and it seemed as though the matter was closed, for now.
"Whatever." Glenn muttered as he shivered again. He almost wished it was August again – hot and sweaty sounded like heaven compare to cold and damp.
He must have looked particularly miserable at that moment because Daryl huffed loudly and stood, kicking up the dirt between them.
"What? What are you doing?"
"What's it look like, buildin' a fire." Daryl turned away to reach under the log, grabbing at dry, soft wood – perfect kindling material.
"I thought you said no fire." Glenn didn't know why he was reminding Daryl of his previous words, he wanted nothing more than to lay directly in s fire pit at this point.
"Yeah, well, I don't want to have to explain to Officer Do-Right why I came back with nothin' because I had to drag your sorry, frozen ass back."
Glenn could barely keep the stupid grin from blossoming on his face. He watched in near giddy excitement as Daryl set down the small mound of kindling and set a stack of sticks to the side.
He felt a stab of dread when he realized they had nothing to start the fire with.
"We didn't bring a lighter." Glenn said, almost forlorn. Glenn had brought his backpack and all it held was a small canteen and a tarp Daryl had extracted from the camper – Daryl hadn't given him time to collect much else and now Glenn was kicking himself for not thinking to bring anything else. He hadn't thought this was going to be an overnight excursion.
In fact, it probably wouldn't have been had he not blown the whole thing from the beginning.
"Don't need one." Daryl said as he pulled a flint stone and striker from his pocket; it was the most beautiful thing Glenn had ever seen.
He watched with no small amount of fascination as Daryl struck the stone until a few small sparks caught the kindling. He pulled the kindling into his hand and blew lightly until it smoked.
"Grab those sticks." He muttered as he nursed the flame and Glenn was quick to do so, eager to redeem himself.
"Stack 'em over that kindling," Glenn made a quick tepee formation with the sticks over the spare kindling and watched as Daryl carefully transferred the flaming bunch from his hands to the ground.
The fire took to the kindling quickly and Glenn sighed as he hovered his hands over the small flame. He had never been more thankful for someone taking pity on him than at that moment, and it had been Daryl of all people.
Daryl slid the small striker set into his pocket and leaned back against the log, crossbow back in his grasp.
"Keep it low." He warned and Glenn nodded.
For the second time that day, Glenn was seeing a completely different Daryl. To his surprise, he was beginning to see where Dixon might be coming from. He didn't know what he had expected of this hunt but it certainly wasn't to gain some insight on their resident redneck.
The guy knew what he was doing. That much was clear. He understood, maybe more so than any of them, what it was going to take to survive this. And despite his track record with the group, he wasn't beyond the occasional altruism.
If he had learned anything thus far it was that Daryl didn't need them – not to survive. He didn't have to be hunting for anyone but himself and yet, he was tracking what had to be the largest deer in Georgia so they could eat.
Glenn regarded the other man over the fire and couldn't help but think that maybe the hotheaded exterior was just as simple and shallow as that.
Daryl almost felt bad about waking the kid up. Almost. He was curled up next to the fire, almost on top of it and looked a little worse for wear. He really didn't know how these people expected to survive – once the gas and food ran out they were finished.
He rubbed his eyes and reached down to reload his bow, the action sending warmth back into his freezing limbs.
He had slept maybe two hours, but he was used to that on a hunt. He had spent most of the night alert, watching for any signs of the injured buck or walkers. Usually he wouldn't have been as concerned about a stray walker but he wasn't alone this time.
He stamped out the embers of the small, pitiful fire. Next time he would drag the damn thing back himself. He didn't like this new sense of responsibility – it didn't suit him one bit.
He kicked Glenn's boot and bit back a grin when the younger man let out a shocked yelp.
"'S time to go. Get up." Glenn blinked up at him groggily.
"Huh? It's not even light out."
"You wanna eat ever?" Glenn grumbled loudly, and got to his feet, groaning as he stretched out his sore, stiff limbs.
"How'r we gonna find it?" He slurred as he tried to rub the sleep out of his eyes.
"Spotted some blood over there." Daryl pointed towards the East. He had woken up hours earlier, once the rain had died down, to search for fresh blood. Once the storm passed the sky had become clear, the moon casting enough light to aid him in his search, He was rewarded when he found a glistening spot of crimson, dripping from the fronds of a fern.
"Got a solid hit to the shoulder. They lie down after a while when you tag 'em like that. Shouldn't be too far from here." Glenn nodded, not sure what else to do, and hoped that Daryl was right. At this point he had no reason to believe otherwise.
The sun finally rose above the tree line and with it the trail became more pronounced. Daryl moved swiftly but quietly and Glenn did his best to do the same until he threw up a hand, signaling him to stop.
Daryl pointed at something, ducking low. Glenn followed his gaze, squinting through the thick foliage until he spotted something brown – barely noticeable in the dense Georgia bush.
The Dixon brother crawled slowly forward, his crossbow raised.
The deer was lying down, just as he had predicted, and was panting heavily. The arrow's shaft was sticking sharply out from the buck's shoulder and its fur was matted with blood and dirt.
It was exhausted and one arrow to the throat would end it. Daryl glanced backwards at Glenn and gave him a look that clearly said, 'don't fuck this up.'
He inched forward and carefully squeezed the trigger.
The arrow flew through the air with a short whistle and a moment later it was buried deep in the deer's throat.
It bucked for a moment, attempting to stand, and then fell forward.
"You got it." Glenn said unnecessarily from the ground. The prospect of fresh meat had just become a reality and his energy had returned. He couldn't contain the excited whoop as he lurched forward to join the hunter, standing over the dying buck.
His excitement was short lived, however, when Daryl unsheathed his knife and quickly cut the dying animals throat.
"Oh god …" Glenn turned away, his stomach rebelling against the sight.
"Hey, none of that," Glenn said as he made quick work of the deer, cutting it's stomach open with a quick slash allowing the innards to fall out, "Gotta dress it quick – the smell will attract predators and we need to salvage what we can."
Glenn's stomach flip flopped violently as Daryl cut through the spine with practiced ease, severing the head.
"You've got to be kidding." Glenn mumbled as blood stained the ground and the smell of fresh guts became unbearable.
He heard a snap and he glanced over to see Daryl cut the deer's legs off at the joints. Bile rose in his throat and he swallowed it. No wonder he was such an efficient killer when it came to walkers.
"Here, pull here." Daryl was gesturing towards the neck stump and Glenn did as he was told, digging his fingers into the muscle. He tried to ignore the cracking sound Daryl's blade made as he sawed through the spine.
It was slow work but eventually they had a bisected deer carcass.
Daryl dragged the back of his hand across his forward, wiping away the sweat of his hard labor. Butchering in the field wasn't easy and with the threat of walkers and the possible cougar he wanted to make quick work of it.
"Alright. Not bad." Daryl said as he stood over his work trying to ignore the hunched over form of Glenn, his face a sickly shade of green.
"It ain't too heavy, should make it back to camp by dusk." He offered. Glenn could only nod as anything else made him feel uncomfortably close to vomiting.
Daryl dug through Glenn's backpack, pulling out the large, blue tarp. He lay one bisection on the tarp, folded it and then lay the second half on top before wrapping it around once more.
"That should do 'till we get it back to camp." Daryl swung the crossbow onto his back and signaled Glenn over. They had to get moving. They didn't want to get caught out there at night with a fresh carcass – not only was a beacon for walkers, it was also prone to spoil.
"C'mon. We don't got all day."
The buck was heavy – heavy enough to have warranted another's help. Behind him, Glenn shifted the tarp on his shoulder, huffing as they crossed a small brook.
The going was slow; the carcass slid around within the tarp, threatening to fall from either end (mostly Glenn's) and they had to stop multiple times to readjust. He couldn't help but dwell on how much easier this would be with Merle; together they were an efficient team – field dressings were nothing and a single buck had never been a problem before.
Daryl had to give Glenn some credit; he hadn't complained when the blood caught in the tarp dribbled onto his shoulder or about the pace he had set (uncomfortably fast). He had only thrown up once.
Daryl didn't think much of the survival abilities of the others, but if he had to place bets, he figured Glenn would stick around for a while. He had proven he could handle himself in the city and it would be a lie if he said he had been completely useless during their hunt. He had a lot to learn, but Glenn would make it.
Rick, too. He had that indestructible quality about him and he suspected Shane was a real tough son of a bitch to kill.
The others … Geek fodder in his opinion. At least if they kept going the way they were. It wasn't like he wanted to see these people killed, contrary to the belief of some; he just didn't have high expectations. Expectations had you looking to a future that didn't exist. Expectations got you killed.
He couldn't afford to expect much out of these people.
They walked for another hour before he called for a break. Glenn was wheezing behind him and he was beginning to feel his lack of sleep catching up to him.
"How far do you think we are?" Glenn said from the ground onto which he had so gracelessly collapsed.
Daryl surveyed the land, looking for anything he recognized and did a quick estimate.
"Two hours at most." Glenn looked moderately pleased as he dug out a knot in his shoulder.
"I don't care what Rick says, we are having a feast tonight."
Daryl checked the buck meat, watching for any signs of rot; no maggots, no discoloration. It was holding just fine and it looked it was going to make it.
"Maybe Dale will let us use some of his spices." Glenn smiled, fighting the urge to lick his lips.
Far off in the distance, something snapped and Daryl stood.
"And salted jerky. They are going to freak." Glenn hadn't seemed to notice and Daryl was inclined to think his mind was fried, that maybe he was a little over-tired …
Daryl froze as his eyes caught movement.
"We haven't had real food since the CDC …" Daryl lunged forward, his hand landing tightly over his mouth. Glenn bucked, his eyes wide in fear as he tried to force Daryl's weight from on top of him.
"Shh." Daryl hissed as he looked to his right.
Glenn followed his gaze, eyes wide in terror as he spotted the four Walkers making their way steadily towards them.
Thus ends the first installment of Daryl and Glenn's Fantastic Adventure. I didn't intend it as slash but hey, I can't stop you from reading it that way!
I hope you enjoyed and if you have a moment, reviews are always very welcome! Help the WD fandom by reviewing! We need more ficage, inspire those authors!
The next chapter to 'The Day the World Went Away' will be up this week – this just wouldn't leave me alone. Hope you enjoyed! Happy Holidays my friends. Brains!