They find Merle again, after a three day drive from Bessemer. They aren't looking for him, or Glenn isn't at least, and they probably would've driven right past him if it hadn't been for that detour to the river for fresh water.
"Is that a snake?"
"Is what a snake?"
"That sound – that hiss?"
Daryl's quiet for a moment, then curses with every ounce of his little hillbilly heart, bounding up the incline, running all out toward their jeep. It's just the two of them out here, Glenn and Daryl, scouting ahead of the group camp in Bessemer. It pretty much went without saying that Daryl was going to be one of the people going, and Daryl picked Glenn to go with him, for reasons unknown to Glenn at this point in time. Don't get him wrong, Glenn knows he's useful, but in more of an urban setting. Out in the open fields and forests, he's kind of lost.
"Motherfucker – " Daryl's clearly agitated by the time Glenn catches up, still hauling the tanks of fresh water they trooped down to the river to gather. Daryl's sort of jumping around, weapon up and armed, aiming into the surrounding forest. Glenn hoists the water into the back of the jeep as quick as he can, then grabs for his own rifle. He's not entirely sure what they're aiming at, scanning the horizon, fingers itching to pull the trigger, shoulder tensing in anticipation of the kickback.
"I'm guessing it wasn't a snake?" Glenn asks after a moment of silence.
"Our tires got slashed. Some asshole - " Daryl raises his voice here, as if expecting said asshole to be within hearing distance, and with decent enough moral fiber to be shamed by this. Glenn imagines them kicking at the dirt, muttering shucks. "Slashed our motherfucking tires!"
Glenn's mouth goes dry. Walkers don't slash tires. This is a new danger, one he's not really prepared for. They should've sent Rick, should've sent Rick, the thought thrums through him like a heartbeat.
"Take another step, asswipe," Daryl suddenly growls, eyes zeroing in on his target. It takes another moment for Glenn to make him out, a large man, hiding just inside the foliage – followed by another large man. And another. And another, and pretty quickly, what Glenn felt was a pretty imposing force, two men with a crossbow and rifle trying to defend their jeep, just isn't.
Glenn doesn't drop his weapon, though, swallowing hard and following Daryl's lead. He's still got his crossbow aimed at the first guy's forehead, and if Daryl decides to go for it, Glenn'll be ready to back him up. He keeps his rifle bouncing between the targets.
"So, what the fuck?" Is all Daryl says after a beat.
"Not very smart to leave your car like that," says one of the men.
"Thanks a fucking load," Daryl is pissed. He's grinding out the words like he forged them himself in the hellfire of his stomach. "You gonna tell us what you want or should we just skip to the beating?"
Something cold, metal and circular is pressed to the back of Glenn's neck. His poor, worn heart, already going entirely too fast, is whipped into overtime. "Daryl," he whispers, out of fear of startling the man, and because his throat isn't exactly in working order at the moment. The pistol at the back of his head cocks.
Daryl gives the man that snuck up behind them a double take, then sneers, and drops his crossbow.
"No girls." The guy who says this is huge, obviously the group's Tank. He drops the duffel bags he stole from their jeep into the back of a truck that pulled up not moments after Daryl and Glenn's hands were tied behind their backs. "No porn. Food and weapons, though. Water. Half a tank of gas."
"Nice," one of the men says. This is the guy who held a pistol to his head as their hands were tied. Glenn dubs him Asshole.
Asshole's looking over the both of them, head to toe. Sizing them up. Glenn's always been small, used to being seen as small, as non-threatening, and he's learned to work that to his advantage. It's only just now, though, that he sees Daryl through Asshole's eyes and realizes Daryl's only a handful of inches taller than Glenn himself. Not small, really, but stocky. There's a solidness to Daryl, coiled up strength, it's saved him dozens of times now, and Glenn finds himself annoyed that Asshole is clearly overlooking it, marking Daryl as an easy target. This will only play to their advantage later, he knows, but still. It's annoying. He can practically hear Daryl's teeth grinding in agreement.
"Some entertainment tonight?" This spindly guy sitting behind the wheel of the truck says it. He's small, too, and he's sneering at Daryl and Glenn, playing it up because he knows he'd be in their shoes if the circumstances were tossed around a bit. Glenn grew very used to these types in high school, the suck up, the Wormtongue, and they're always the first to suggest a beating.
"I donno. This one's kinda squirrelly lookin," says Tank, poking Daryl so hard with the barrel of his riffle that he stumbles. Glenn makes an abortive gesture to – what? Help Daryl form falling? Stop the guy from pushing him? The men find the idea that Glenn could do anything to stop this situation as laughable as Glenn does, snorting to each other and grabbing Glenn by the scruff of his shirt, jerking him harshly.
They're tossed into the back of the truck, hogtied, and within moments they're heading down that dirt road.
"You're not squirrelly," Glenn mutters under his breath, face still pressed against the dirty metal of the truck bed as they bounce along. Daryl proceeds to stare at him as if he were insane, and Glenn supposes he can understand, but still. After the walking dead, mundane evil of humanity isn't enough to shake him anymore, not really.
That is, until Daryl hisses between his teeth, "You got any idea what they're gonna do to us?"
Glenn frowns. "Ransack our supplies? Leave us to die when they're done?"
Daryl stares, eyes dark. Glenn knows he's missing something, but. "I don't think they're gonna – kill us, right? I mean, they obviously don't see us as threats. They've got all our weapons," Glenn says. Daryl shakes his head, saying nothing, and Glenn feels his fear beginning to rise. "What would they have to gain?"
Daryl just grunts, rolls so his back, and wiggling hands, face Glenn. "Get over here. I'm gonna try to get you loose. We can make a jump for it."
The thought of jumping from a moving vehicle is hardly Glenn's favorite, but getting over there proves to be the bigger problem. Glenn's been wrapped up tight, hogtied, and struggles to even wiggle. The truck takes a sharp left turn, suddenly sliding Glenn, and the duffel bags, straight into Daryl's back and hands, but before Daryl can get anywhere with Glenn's knots, the ride's over. They've arrived.
"Ooh, got a pretty one," a new man says, mockingly, once he's yanked the back of the truck open, manhandling Glenn with about as much care as Tank does the duffel bags, harsh enough to get a surprised yelp out of him.
"Pretty?" Wormtongue is sneering. Jesus, this guy has issues.
"Prettier than you," another man laughs. He only gets a glimpse of the outside of the building he's being carried into, sees walls made of concrete, reinforced with sandbags, and bodies. Lots of bodies. Too old to tell if they were walkers or just meals.
"Eh, no accounting for taste," says yet another new voice. Glenn looks up in surprise. There's at least nine people here, nine living, breathing people, which is, sadly, a unique sight these days.
"Have to see what Merle thinks."
Glenn freezes. Merle. He sneaks a glance at Daryl, who's heard it, too, eyes wide. Is it possible? Merle is kind of a rare name, right? Unless that kind of name never goes out of style in the hills.
"Merle? Merle Dixon, you in there?" Daryl hollers at the top of his lungs, fighting the ropes as much as possible. "You tell these piece of shit boys here to cut me loose, Merle!"
They're in the center of the building now, and a silence falls over the group. Nine, ten . . . Glenn counts fifteen men. All frozen and staring as Daryl wiggles. A door opens.
Glenn's tossed in some back room so quickly he's not entirely sure what happened, surprised to see that his hands are free. The door's double bolted, the window's barred, and shoved into a corner there's a filthy mattress with enough stains that Glenn would really rather sit on the concrete floor, thanks all the same.
There's not much to do in there but wonder what the heck he should make out of Merle Dixon's presence – he doesn't need anything profound, just. Is it good or bad?
Merle and Glenn got along. Sort of. As much as possible? Merle mostly ignored Glenn, and Glenn got supplies when Merle asked for them. They never fought, because Glenn never rose to his bait. He could tell a wild animal when he saw one, knew to keep his distance, and he's not particularly surprised that Merle's fallen into a group of men as dangerous as he is.
'No girls, no porn,' Tank had said. Glenn shudders and, despite everything, is glad that they decided scout ahead, that Lori and Carol and – Jesus, Sophie, weren't caught in this mess. Sorry, assholes, but if you want it that bad maybe you should just go grope a walker.
The door starts clunking and shifting as it's unlocked, swinging open and Asshole's standing there with a friend, a man thin and tall like a scarecrow. They kick the door shut behind them.
"Pretty nice, huh?" Asshole says. He's got a drink in his hand, undoubtedly alcoholic and Glenn's hit with a sudden wave of jealousy. The strength of it is honestly surprising, and it's not for the drink itself, but for the way the man sways jerkily, body numbed and relaxed by the drink. That sense of security – feeling safe enough, anywhere, to let your guard down enough to get wasted, to laugh at yourself when you fall back into a door.
Captured and tossed around like this, at the mercy of these two low rung dingle-berries, it's hard to believe he's ever felt particularly safe in his life. Glenn glares at the both of them, but he knows the fear is obvious in his face.
"Whatever," Scarecrow grunts. "I liked the white boy better."
"You know you can't touch him."
"I know it!" Scarecrow snaps. "Fuck!"
He's looking Glenn over, now. Same probing stare, up and down, and Glenn frowns. He's never really met many people who were this particular about who they were about to beat up on. Because there's no mistaking that look, that angry, predatory look; the look of someone who wants to cause massive amounts of pain to something smaller and weaker than him. Glenn supposes Daryl wasn't completely successful in negotiating his release, and closes his eyes, bracing himself for a beating.
But the kick never comes. Glenn opens his eyes in surprise when Scarecrow crouches in front of him. He looks old. Maybe fifty, sixty, gray at his temples and lines crisscrossing harshly across his leather-like skin. His eyes are a disturbing shade of sharp blue, and they look. Hungry.
'No girls, no porn.'
It's a strange sort of horror that washes over him, similar to the moment he first realized that the stumbling, disoriented people clamoring down the street actually wanted to eat him, a profound kind of violation that's too horrifying to even contemplate until it's forced on him, until he's watching it happen, and then he has to, has to come to grips with it or die.
Glenn's learned to live in a constant state of survival mode lately, hair trigger away from fight or flight, but now there's nothing to fight with and nowhere to run. He still finds himself trying, though, pressing his back into the wall, and when Scarecrow reaches out – hands huge and skeletal – he has to bite down on the horrified scream bubbling up his throat, trying to squirm away, twist to the side, pull free –
Glenn blinks owlishly up at Scarecrow, his cheek singing at that sudden backhand.
"Knock it off," Scarecrow mutters, almost absentmindedly, pawing at him again. Asshole watches in the doorway. Smirking.
"No – this – you can't – " Glenn stutters, he feels like there's a mistake, like if he could just explain reality to this man, this wouldn't be a problem.
"Can't?" Asshole laughs. He's – he's got his hand in his pants, rubbing at himself slowly, getting off on Glenn's struggle.
Scarecrow is focusing on Glenn's shirt, eventually getting it up, over his head. Glenn's breathing starts to go crazy, fast and hard like an animal that's been overworked. Wild. Panicked.
"No, no – "
He doesn't even seem angry when he smacks Glenn this time, but it's hard enough to make the room spin for a moment. Scarecrow manhandles Glenn til he's face down on the mattress, yanking down his jeans.
A numb sort of calm, akin to denial, settles over Glenn. This isn't happening. This isn't happening. It can't be. But if he was the kind of person who could slide into the comfort of self-delusion, he wouldn't be the kind of person who could survive a zombie apocalypse. He hears a condom wrapper opening, and knows that it is happening, it is going to happen.
The hands on his hips, forcing him down, down, impaling him even as he gives weak little attempts to squirm away, clawing at the mattress. His eyes start to water, though he's not sure why – just the pain? The humiliation? The complete and utter violation? Fear? Helplessness? Probably a mix of it all.
It's pushing into his body, ripping open flesh, it's happening, it's happening, he's being taken, in his mind's eye it's not some skinny man holding him down in the back room of a testosterone fortified building, he's in the middle of a horde, he wasn't fast enough and he got caught, and there are dozens of dead, rotting hands forcing him down as he's literally ripped to pieces, held down and taken apart to feed some drooling, ruthless creature's hunger.
Except that should stop, eventually, eventually he should be dead, his body will collapse and the pain will fade – but this doesn't end. The guy's thumping, rutting off on him like an animal, the hot, wet exhales feeling like they're being tattooed into the side of Glenn's neck and his stomach turns, revulsion snaking up his back, telling his body to escape, get away, but he can't, his thighs are pulled further apart by Scarecrow, and he's stuck, he's impaled.
Scarecrow finishes, eventually, but he's not the last. The men come in at their leisure, overpower his shocked, starved, shaking body easily, and take what they want.
He can't really stop himself from crying, which visibly disturbs a few of the men, and visibly pleases most of them. He shakes his head no, he begs, he fights, he curls into the corner, but the end result is the same. The weak get taken. It plays over and over again in his head. But Glenn is not weak. He's really not. He knows he's not. But he also knows that he doesn't have the kind of strength that these kind of people – bullies and monsters – value.
The sun has set and there's no light in this room, but Glenn can't imagine sleeping. Can't imagine moving, can't imagine living, staring into the darkness and feeling completely disconnected from his body.
"– know he's got a quick pair of hands. He's useful, Merle."
He looks up as the voices approach the door. Daryl. It's all he can think in a desperate, broken little loop. Daryl, Daryl, Daryl.
He scrambles to his feet, swaying wildly for a moment then diving for his shirt, his pants. Daryl's getting him out of here, and he's not – he shoves the shirt on over his head, stabs his legs into the jeans. He wouldn't be able to handle Daryl seeing him like this.
The door unlocks, opens. Daryl. Glenn wipes at his face furiously, he thought he was done with the crying but apparently not, the tears welled up suddenly at the sight of the other man, and won't stop pouring.
Daryl just stares at him for a moment, then stomps into the room, lifting his chin.
"They hit you?" he sounds enraged by this, and Glenn isn't sure how to answer, he feels like it's obvious: the pain throbs at various points of his body, and he's sure the bruises on his face look angry and red, if not already purpling. "Merle, what the hell?"
He's leaving – he's turning around to leave, to go talk to Merle properly, and Glenn can't help the sudden stab of fear, "Daryl," he can't be left alone in this room, he can't, oh god, he's sobbing, sliding down the wall, hands fisting in his own hair.
It's honestly a surprise when he realizes Daryl's stopped, bent down on one knee and put a hand on his shoulder. "You gotta keep it together, short – " his expression freezes. He looks to the mattress. There are used condoms tossed haphazardly on the ground, cold now and oozing slowly.
Daryl takes a sharp inhale, the hand on his shoulder tightening. "Alright," he says, cold and slow. "Alright." Glenn blinks in surprise, Daryl's forehead suddenly right up against his, looking him dead in the eye. "I'll be back."
Glenn still has to bite on his tongue to keep himself from calling out after him.
He didn't need to worry, Daryl doesn't go far. Glenn can hear the deep, angry cadence of an argument, Merle's grunts, sudden, hard thunks, what Glenn assumes to be Daryl punching the wall in emphasis. It doesn't last long, Daryl throws open the door again and paces angrily. Glenn watches.
"There's only so much Merle can do," Daryl says, finally. "'N that means there's even less that I can do. The dumbshits here call themselves the Hunters. Merle says – well, I just got back from bagging them a deer, Merle said that would keep you safe."
Glenn blinks slowly, feeling out the space of things left unsaid, gathers this information, piecing together the clues.
"The deer meat should last until tomorrow," Daryl says. "But I gotta go get something else, cause when it runs out they're gonna," Daryl shrugs vaguely.
"They're cannibals?" Glenn says. "They're cannibals? Merle's a cannibal?"
"Obviously being handcuffed to that goddamn roof roasted his brain!" Daryl suddenly bursts, defensively. The door starts to open, Daryl out and out snarls at it, "It's occupied, numbfuck!" Daryl shouts, kicking it shut.
Glenn might be having a panic attack. He's not sure, he's never had one before, but the immense panic welling up inside him certainly feels something like an attack, something that's afflicting him from outside sources. He doesn't even realize he's practically chanting, oh God, oh God, oh God until Daryl snaps at him to knock it off.
"I got 'em a deer," he mutters, repeating himself. "So they'll – they'll let you be for now."
Like they 'let me be' today? Glenn covers his face, hiding any tears, any despair, any reaction. "We have to get out of here. Daryl. We have to leave."
"You think I don't know that?" Daryl snaps. He's pacing back and forth now, hands in fists. "I'll figure it out. It's just gonna be a trick to get you out. They got four men keeping watch on the roof and a fucking mile of ground with no cover on all sides of this place. The only way I can see getting you out of here is a bloodbath, and I can't take down twenty men with a crossbow and ten fucking arrows!" Daryl frowns, kicking at the ground. "I figure. Eventually Merle'll give me the code to that supply room. Get some decent firepower."
Eventually. But Glenn nods. The realization that Daryl could escape – that they're trusting him to leave long enough to go hunting! He could put so much distance between him and this place that they'd never be able to track him down by the time they realized he wasn't coming back – hits him hard. Back in reality, Glenn never even felt comfortable asking friends for an extra couple of bucks. He doesn't know how to react to someone willing to start a bloodbath for him other than cowed silence, and doesn't know how to silence the sobbing, terrified child inside him, the one who's shaking at the thought of another day of this, another minute of this, who wants to cling to Daryl's pant leg and ask why he can't leave now, they're hurting him, doesn't he understand?
They sit in silence for a moment. Daryl is staring at those used rubbers again.
"Which ones?" he asks gruffly.
Glenn takes a breath. He doesn't know the names, but he can describe them well enough, and Daryl nods, committing this to memory.
Then it's almost sunrise, and Daryl leaves. Twenty minutes later, the door opens again.