edit October 2016:
I'm currently doing a rewrite/ improvement run on this fic because most of the old chapters from 2012 annoy me. I managed to improve my English quite a bit compared to when I first published this fic, so I'm currently trying to get rid of some more grammatical errors and such. I'm still trying to get better anyway. I'll possibly delete some more stuff too and replace it with more of my own writing because it's not exactly great how much dialogue from the episodes is still in here. So just a heads up. Some continuity might be broken for a bit until I get through the whole fic.
currently improving chapter: 13
- I am German. The English and accents in here are obviously not perfect
- although I still continuously try to improve the chapters and get rid of typos and errors, there will still be some mistakes and the grammar might me off from time to time.
- This is my very first fic
- it was inspired by a fic called "Lost" which I loved, but it was so short that I decided to make it a whole lot longer.
- this fic can be read as a standalone with its original ending which I kept, or as part of my Arrows and Bullets series that covers WD seasons 2-5A.
- feel free to tell me what you liked or what you didn't like! I love reviews/comments!
Chapter 1 - The Lonely Saint
They found him in a church. The irony. As if someone was mocking them. Reminding them of their silly society that was long since gone. Prayers, believing in gods no one had ever seen.
No wonder most of them idiots are dead.
Daryl's father had always believed in god, too. Made all those speeches about the old man up there, interpreted his own distorted and questionable views into the bible, religion. Who ended up in hell, what happened to unworthy pieces of trash once they bit the dust. All that talk alone had made it pretty clear for Daryl that there certainly was no such thing as god. He didn't believe in any of the almighty and childish fairytale-like bullshit. He'd grown up relying on no one other than himself, learning to survive on his own. He'd grown up country. Field work, hunting, fending for himself instead praying, sitting around waiting for an invisible old fart - that's how he'd become the man he was now.
And that was the important part - he was the one alive now.
He hardly saw a priest or saint anywhere now.
And yet, here he was. Running towards a church the moment the bells started ringing. Maybe there was someone alive ringing them, he thought, maybe Sophia was even ringing them herself. Maybe she was hiding in there, somewhere, waiting for them to rescue her.
Daryl really wanted to find that little girl.
When they kicked the door open they were greeted by the awful stench of rotting flesh. There were a couple of corpses lying on the ground with flies circling them and slowly tearing them apart. Each and every one of them had been killed by stabs to their heads, but they hadn't been human anymore anyway by the time they fallen dead to the ground - really dead this time. Just like the countless rotting things they had seen during the past couple of weeks of all this madness each and every one of them had bitemarks and other wounds to their bodies, suggesting that they had 'died' and come back before the stabs to their heads had happened. Not human or not, it was still a mess. The once oh so holy ground, carpet and floor boards were stained with dark brown drying blood.
Daryl didn't get the chance to observe much of the carnage, because that's when the whole group suddenly noticed some slight movement by the altar.
One of them was actually sitting there. On the ground, head bowed, gently swaying. Daryl even scoffed once, noticing that there was little to no difference between the reanimated dead that was in front of the altar here and all those brainless religious nutjobs who had once swarmed the place before this whole global breakdown thing had started in the first place. Maybe nothing too much had changed after all.
Daryl got moving just like the other two members of the scouting team, hatches and knives ready to stab as they approached the last remaining occupant of this church. But when they got closer they realized that something seemed...wrong.
He still wasn't moving. He wasn't groaning or smelling like all the other walkers. Although the stench in here was still disgusting – he wasn't adding much to it. There certainly was no stench of rotting flesh and decay coming from the man himself, just the general smell of sweat and exhaustion they all carried under the hot Georgian summer sun.
Daryl frowned bit and looked back at the other corpses on the ground, figuring that maybe the guy really didn't belong to this gang after all. Shane was just about to strike the kneeling figure down nevertheless, but Rick immediately grabbed his hand to stop him. It was then when Daryl heard it too. There weren't any groans or moans like they were used to hear from the geeks. They could hear a prayer. That man was alive and praying.
Now that Daryl took a closer look at him he noticed that, although the man was covered in blood, his jeans and shirt weren't torn at all. His clothes were dirty and had some holes in them, but they didn't look like someone had been trying to tear him to shreds. The man was kneeling in front of the altar with his head down. His messy hair was covering his eyes and parts of his face and made it impossible for them to see him properly. But they didn't need to see his face to figure out that the man was alive.
"Hello?" Rick tried to speak to him while he pressed Shane's axe down.
The man was alive and probably dumb as a freaking potato by the looks of it, Daryl thought angrily as he rubbed his mouth to get rid of his budding rage and the sweat on his face.
"Hey, are you alright? Did you take out these walkers? Are you hurt?" Rick tried again, but still. No answer.
"Hey, man, we're talking to you" Shane said a moment later and walked forward to put a hand on the man's shoulder to get him to turn around. It was then when the man finally reacted, although not in a way they had expected him to.
Because he suddenly jumped to his feet, snapped out of his prayer, and then twirled around. He grabbed Shane's arm at the same time in a fluent motion and twisted it around, tackling the other man until he hit the ground hard, taken by surprise. He was pointing a gun right at Shane's face.
"Hey, calm down! We're not gonna hurt you!" Rick reacted on an instant and hurried towards the other two before the situation could escalate, managing to disarm the man. Daryl wanted to get into the scuffle, too, and he certainly moved a few steps towards them, but then quickly decided against it. Not just because it was obvious that the two policemen had the situation under control anyway with their training, but also because he fucking hated macho Shane anyway and he thought that it was a nice change to see the asshole in a headlock and not the other way round like when he'd been manhandled by him back at the quarry.
The man was fighting Shane violently as both policemen pressed him to the ground and told him to calm down and relax – until he eventually did as he was told and all fight left him just as suddenly as he had attacked Shane.
And Jesus, the guy really was a mess.
They could finally see his face, but it wasn't like it was much of an improvement compared to the previous mop of hair face. Because even with the tangled ash blonde hair gone, the guy was sporting a short and equally messy beard as well. His face looked unhealthily haggard and sickly. There were deep and dark shadows under his eyes. He looked like he hadn't taken care of himself at all. Not in the slightest. Probably for weeks. He generally looked like shit. Especially since he was also grimacing and pulling that weird face under their harsh grip.
"Just calm down, relax. We're not gonna hurt you. You weren't answering, we saw you and assumed you were a walker" Rick explained, and just like before his soothing manner and general leader-like abilities seemed to do the trick. Although still angered, the man finally seemed to decide that maybe they were worth reacting to.
"I ain't one of those things. Now, lemme go will ye?" he answered with a thick Irish accent and tried to shake Shane off as he craned his neck and tried to shoot Rick an angry glare. All three men looked at him, flabbergasted. It certainly took them a moment to process the words, to place the accent.
Daryl was the first to scoff and shake his head angrily. Just great. Not just stupid, dumb looking and weird. Also Irish. Probably explained the whole weirdness and not responding and looking like a fucking hobo. The guy was probably shitfaced. Shitfaced and slowing their search for Sophia down with it.
"They let anyone in these days? No wonder the wackjob didn't talk with that potato sniffin accent" Daryl murmured angrily and backed off.
He was pissed because Sophia wasn't there and he was pissed because he could've killed a survivor by accident instead – just because the guy hadn't bothered answering.
It was then when the guy turned around and suddenly stared at Daryl, his face turning pale. This made the hunter feel even more uncomfortable. The Irish guy looked like a nutter with all his dirty clothes and kneeling in a church, praying, with those things outside and no backup, all on his own. He most certainly was some nutjob. Nutjobs always meant trouble. Weird Irish nutjobs who were staring at him like that with wide crazy eyes definitely meant trouble. Well, shit.
Daryl glared back but backed off a bit, like a wary panther ready to defend himself. Three seconds and he already hated the wackjob and wished he had done it though. Killed him instead, even if he was a fellow survivor. At least that way, they could be back to looking for the girl by now instead of wasting time on him and his staring.
"Murph?" the man then whispered and continued to stare at Daryl.
"What did y'call me?" the hunter growled, still glaring right back.
The Irishman suddenly got back on his feet and sprinted towards Daryl. The hunter widened his eyes a little and flinched instinctively, trying to stay out of reach. When the guy was just about to come too close Daryl punched him in the face, once again purely on instinct, but entirely motivated anyway. He was shaking a bit but certainly tried to hide it. His heart was pounding in his chest in a perfect rhythm with the sudden pounding in his fist from the impact.
The man let out a single abrupt grunt, then fell to the ground only inches away from Daryl's feet. Motionless. Unconscious. Knocked out cold from a single blow.
"Daryl!" Rick immediately protested and ran for the man. Shane just looked at his friend who knelt next to the Irishman as he checked whether the stranger was alright. Shane observed them for a moment, then looked up at Daryl. He then scratched his nose and shook his head with a smirk, obviously amused by the outcome.
"What? I ain't gonna let no nutjob come anywhere near me!" Daryl spat, defending himself. He was already fed up with the whole 'always blame the redneck' bullshit again.
"Just look at him! He surrendered, he's in a bad shape and outnumbered. And you just punched him in the face!"
"Yeah, I'm gonna punch you next if yah won't stop ya deputy shit!" Daryl just growled. It made him furious how he was the one getting blamed for shit when the guy had just plain out tried to freaking attack him. But he wasn't one to complain or address his problems and concerns, so he simply turned around and walked away with an angry huff.
"The girl ain't here. Let's leave. We ain't got the time to look after another nutjob."
"Whoa" he heard Shane say somewhere behind him. A moment later Rick called after Daryl.
"What?!" he yelled because he could no longer control his anger, annoyance and frustration. He just wanted to find that girl. Was that so hard to fucking understand? He still looked back and saw that Rick and Shane were kneeling next to the Irishman. They were holding a wallet and a spare piece of paper.
"You better come back here and explain this to us" Rick said and Daryl growled.
"What? I told yah! The guy annoyed the crap outta me so I shut him up!"
"We're talking about this, buddy" Shane said and held out the piece of paper for him.
Daryl came back to them grabbed the paper angrily. It was a picture of some men in a bar. The Irishman was there, grinning like an idiot and toasting the photographer. He looked very different in this picture. His hair was shorter and spiky, and there was no beard hiding his face. He looked like he had once taken great care of himself, maybe even styled his hair and trimmed his beard. He'd once been your typical pretty boy scumbag type. Probably got laid a lot, judging by that stupid smug look on his dumb face.
Daryl looked down at the man who was lying to his feet now, a pitiable, dirty shadow of his former self. He almost couldn't even recognize him. Whatever had happened because of or next to the whole outbreak thing, shit had certainly taken its toll on him. When the hunter looked back at the picture he widened his eyes in surprise, because then he saw it, too. The most shocking thing about the picture was the guy who was standing next to the blonde, with one arm wrapped around the Irish guy's waist.
He looked exactly like Daryl.
"Wanna explain it to us? Look, if it's one of your old buddies you had a fight with... that's fine, but at least tell us the truth. Gotta know who we're dealing with here" Shane said as he searched the Irishman for any other weapons.
"In this world that we're living in, old stories don't matter any more Daryl. Friend or foe, every living person is a blessing these days..." Rick joined in.
The hunter frowned.
"What are ya talkin bout. This ain't me! I've never seen this clown in my life!"
"So what, you got a secret twin or something?"
Daryl glared at Shane and scoffed. He threw the picture right in his face and turned on his heels to get going again.
"I ain't got time for this bullshit. We came here to find that little girl, not a freakin filthy leprechaun" Daryl spat, kicked one of the benches and stomped out of the church. Shane didn't manage to catch the picture. Instead, it fell soundlessly to the ground close to the Irishman where his past self was grinning at the ceiling along with the man who was a perfect copy of Daryl Dixon. Frozen in time in a picture of nameless men in a bar.
Connor woke up with a splitting headache and immediately let out a little woeful groan. His left temple pounded heavily. Not in the way he was used to from endless amounts of alcohol and hangovers, but a really bad headache. The kind of headache you got from a hard punch, starvation, dehydration, crippling mental anguish and all these memories.
His eyes snapped open the moment he remembered what had happened, who he had seen. Just as abruptly as he had opened his eyes he almost immediately got back on his feet. Everything was spinning. His ears were ringing. He could hardly see a thing and he was close to fainting again but it didn't matter. Because he'd seen him. He knew he'd deserved the punch. But none of it mattered anymore.
"Murph!" he immediately yelled with desperate urgency and tried to move. He didn't even know where to but he still tried. That's when there were all these hands all over him again, grabbing him, holding him back.
"Fuck off'n let me go!" he snapped, struggling, blinking, fighting, not just the hands but also unconsciousness. He was slowly panicking because he couldn't believe it. He'd seen him.
"Easy! You just got knocked out cold!" he heard someone say and recognized it as the voice of the man with the sheriff's hat. Probably a policeman or whatever. He didn't care. Nothing mattered right now other than his quest.
"No, I've seen 'im, now where's he? Murphy!"
"There's no Murphy here. Just me, Rick, Daryl and a few other survivors" the other man said and Connor looked up and scoffed. He couldn't believe how dumb they were. How dare them suggest that he wasn't here? They didn't even know him. Murphy was his fucking twin brother. Of course he knew him when he saw him.
"What are ye talking bout, af course he's here, I've seen him!"
"Who are you?" the guy called Rick asked instead and Connor tried to sit up.
"It's Connor, alright. Connor MacManus, pleased ta fuckin meetcha. Now where te hell's m'brother."
"You mean the guy from the photograph? We don't know. You were all alone in here" the other man called Shane said and turned his head a little to let his gaze wander. "But we got a redneck with us who, I gotta admit, looks pretty much like that Murphy of yours."
Connor frowned a little, confused at the mention that he'd been found here alone. But then it was slowly creeping up on him again. That crippling feeling in his gut, the gnawing and scratching at his mind, the memories that were buried there. The real memories. He closed his eyes for a moment and then tried to get up slowly, rubbing his temple as his head still hurt from the punch.
"Right.." he muttered and everything started spinning again.
They immediately grabbed him by his arms again and this time he wouldn't fight them. Instead, he let them help him to the nearest bench so he could sit down. The Irishman buried his face in his hands and groaned softly, because now not just the headache was causing him trouble, but also the reminders.
"So are you all on your own? Or have you been with group but got left behind or something?" the man called Shane asked.
Connor shook his head gently.
"Just me" he said, swallowing bitterly.
"And how come you come all the way from Ireland?"
The Irishman looked up at this and gave him an annoyed frown.
"Came 'ere years ago. Used ta live in Boston til fuckin Apocalypse, now."
"What is it now? We haven't got much time you morons. Stop petting the leprechaun and move!" they heard Daryl shout from the entrance and all three men turned their heads to face him. Especially Connor reacted. He just kept staring at him, which made Daryl feel weird all over again. The staring never stopped with the guy. It was freaking creepy and annoyed the shit out of him. And when Daryl saw how the man mouthed "Murph" yet again, he flipped once more.
"Let's go!" he yelled, turned around and went back outside again, but not without angrily but subtlety kicking the door out of his way. Rick turn towards Shane and gave him a long meaningful look while Connor simply continued to stare after Daryl with wide eyes. Shane looked surprised at first, looked back at Connor and shook his head slightly, but when Rick continued to stare at his friend Shane simply scoffed and threw his hands up in the air.
Rick turned towards Connor then and made him look at him.
"You should come with us until your head's better again. It's our fault you got hurt " he said and his friend rolled his eyes.
"God, here we go again."
Connor just looked at Rick for a while, observed the man head to toe with a weary look, but deep down he already knew that the man was the proper deal, a real cop. His gut feeling told him that he could trust the man. The Irishman continued to just sit and stare at him for a moment, then he looked back at the corpses on the ground, the altar. He knew they were probably good men, okay, and this was exactly the point.
This was not why he had come here. Stayed here.
"You're safer within a group. At least for now" the sheriff named Rick told him, and Connor scoffed gently, still holding his aching head.
This wasn't why he had come here, but he'd made a promise.
He eventually let out a soft sigh and nodded.
"Thank you" he murmured.
Then he finally tried to get up with a grunt.
Both policemen tried to help him, but he just shook them off. He was pissed enough at them because they had come in here. Interrupted his plans.
He went back to the place where he had put his bag and everything else. He noticed the picture on the ground and felt his body tense, his lips forming an even thinner, much paler line. He eventually quickly leaned down to take it back without looking at it, stuffed it in his back pocket and battled the dizziness all over again. He shot a final look at the cross on the wall, considering for a moment to just fuck it all and tell them to leave so he could pull it through. But the statue was staring right back at him. Judging him. Reminding him of the promise. He fought his inner battle for a moment, then he finally grabbed the rest of his things, turned on his heels, and followed the small group outside.