A/N: I hate racial slurs, but it's all for characterization. These slurs don't reflect me or my beliefs about people and I really don't want to offend anyone at all. You're talkin' to the girl that broke down and cried when she had to say the f*g word while reading an excerpt for her speech class on hate crimes. So please, don't be offended. If I hurt any of my readers at all in any way, it'd break my heart.
Chapter Four: Trial
Daryl was floored. He couldn't believe it. Merle was the governor. It took him a moment to regain his breath, as he stared in shock at the brother he hadn't seen in months. It seemed like forever ago since he had last seen him.
"Merle? You're the governor?"
"Yeah baby brother, I am," Merle grinned, "While you took off with Rick and his gang, I had to fight and fend for myself. When I stumbled upon Shannon, it seemed like the perfect plan. It was just sittin' there waitin' for somethin' to come along. So I went out and recruited some guys like us, Daryl. Some guys who know how to handle other guys. They helped me take over Shannon. We marched in with our whole arsenal that we worked to stock up and took over. We gave the people two options – side with me and be my men, or be thrown into the prison cells."
"You took over a whole town?" Daryl was still utterly shocked.
"With the help of my men, it wasn't hard. I never stopped thinkin' about you, baby brother. I figured you'd be safe…but I still fussed over you. And now look at you! All 'a Pa's hard work gone to shit. You're hangin' around with chinks and niggers…"
"You don't even know them," Daryl objected.
"An' I don't wanna. If Pa could see you now…he'd knock your skull in," Merle smirked, "But I like you, baby brother, so I am gonna give you the option of bein' my right hand man. You and me, we'd be partners. We'd run this prison with iron fists and it'd be just you an' me."
"Right hand man?" Daryl raised a suspicious eyebrow.
He knew better than to trust Merle about anything. This was his brother, after all. The brother who'd make up lies about Daryl just to watch their father beat him. The brother that'd laugh when his dad beat him until he could no longer stand. The brother that'd lock him in the cellar as a kid just to hear him cry. Daryl always assumed it'd be him and Merle forever, that he was stuck with him. It wasn't until being with Rick and the rest of the group, that Daryl realized how people that care about one another treat each other.
Merle never cared about Daryl. Merle never cared about anyone; and now here he was, asking Daryl to be his right hand man? The prospect was overwhelming to Daryl.
"Merle…I don't know what to say?"
"Simple," Merle grinned a twisted grin, "Say yes, baby brother. Say yes and together, you an' me, we'll run Shannon and this prison. We'll make sure we are safe. We'll watch out for each other…"
"Like you'd watch out for me while Pa went at me?"
"Pa was doin' what needed to be done. You were weak," Merle jeered, "You were weak an' Pa did what was best for you. He tried to toughen you up. He made you a man."
"A man?" Daryl ran a hand through his messy hair, "Pa didn't know a thing about bein' a man."
Merle stood from the desk, and snapped his fingers. Lincoln approached Daryl and, right on cue, the butt of his gun collided against Dale's shoulder. The man let out a cry of pain.
Merle only laughed, "Seems like you done forgot everythin' Pa instilled in you. Looks like I'm gonna have to be the one to teach you about your values."
Daryl clutched his shoulder and tried to fight against the pain that was searing through his arm and his spine. The pain of the impact was enough to make Daryl dizzy.
"You've gotten soft," Merle leered, "but don't worry – I'll fix that for ya," Merle nodded toward a screen on the wall, "I've been watchin' you since you arrived. That skinny whore, the one with the dyke hair, you seem soft on her."
Daryl managed to choke out, through the pain, "She just lost her whole family. I…I look out…for…her."
"Ah," Merle nodded, "But that bitch will get bored of you. What good are you to her? She's just desperate. She could care less about what happens to you. But you…you seem to care an awful lot about her…"
Daryl suddenly realized the thought that was going through Merle's head, "No," he cried out, "You leave her alone, Merle."
Merle sat back down in his chair and propped his combat-boot-clad feet up on the desk, "If you don't side with me…I'm just gonna have to hurt her, baby brother."
Daryl's mind was racing with pulsing thoughts. Everything was just too much for him to comprehend. All he could put together for the time-being was that Merle intended to use the group to get at Daryl. He'd hurt every one of them until Daryl finally agreed to side with him.
Carol already considered him Rick's henchman…what would she think of him now that he would be Merle's right hand man? All this time she had tried to tell him that he was better than his past. Now, he'd have to abandon everything – his friends, his loved ones, his brothers, his sisters…for their safety. He needed to protect them. If siding with Merle meant that they would be kept from harm, then that's what he would just have to do.
"Alright," Daryl gave in, "Alright. I'll do it. I'll be your man."
"Good," Merle stood and embraced Daryl, "I'm so glad to have you back, baby brother. Welcome home."
Daryl's first order of business was to address the group with Merle. It was a task that he was not looking forward to at all. What would they think of him? Rick…Rick had confided in him and asked him to be his right hand man. He was abandoning Rick for Merle. Rick was more of a brother to him than Merle ever was or ever could be. Rick believed in him. Rick respected him. And then there was Carol…Carol who had tried so hard and for so long to convince Daryl that he mattered, that he was more than just the sum of his past and his past mistakes. She'd seen a heart within him that he didn't even know he had.
And now, he'd have to face them and tell them all that he wanted to side with Merle. It was the only way to ensure their safety. Daryl hung his head as he and Merle stood up on the balcony overlooking the first story of the prison.
"Howdy," Merle called, "Remember me? Remember leaving me on the roof to die? Remember taking off and leaving me as if I was nothin' to y'all?"
Rick's face was as white as a sheet. All this time, Merle not only had survived, but had taken over a town and practically built up a small army? Then he noticed Daryl standing right next to his brother, his head hung as if there was a yoke resting on his shoulders.
"My God," Lori put her hand to her lips in shock. She couldn't believe that Daryl was standing right there next to his brother.
"Daryl would like to say somethin' to y'all," Merle shoved Daryl forward.
"Um…" Daryl cleared his throat, "I…I finally found my brother," he attempted a smile, "and it's good to be reconnected with him again. Merle's offered me a pretty big position…and I couldn't say no…um…he asked me…" Daryl paused, earning himself a glare from Merle, "…to be his uh…right hand man. I couldn't say no to my brother…so I…I will be workin' with him now."
His eyes fell on the woman whom he had come to care so deeply about. She was standing there, shaking her head, looking as if she had just seen a ghost. He longed to run to her and to hold her and to tell her that this wasn't him…that he was doing this all for her, for all of them. But he couldn't. He just had to stand on that damn balcony, and say the speech which Merle had instructed him to say.
"…So I will be with him from now on."
Merle clapped as if Daryl had just given an inaugural address, "Our first order of business," he smiled that same twisted smile, "is to make sure our lovely guests are taken care of. Daryl, go downstairs and put half of them in Cell 94 and the other half of them in Cell 95."
Daryl hung his head as Merle handed him the keys to the prison cells. Daryl slowly walked down the steps and over to the group. He had never before felt such shame as he divided up the group to lock them away as if they were animals.
"Um…Rick, Lori, Kid, and Hershel," Daryl nodded to Cell 94, "y'all will be together in that cell there. Uh…Carol, Maggie, T-Dogg, and Glenn...y'all will be in Cell 95."
"Why are you doing this?" Carol asked him, her eyes swimming in tears. That one glance was enough to break Daryl's heart in two.
"He's my brother…" Daryl said coldly, feeling Merle's stare on the back of his neck. He paused, and looked right at Rick as he continued, "…workin' with him? That's one of them good decisions."
He herded the two groups into their designated cells. Merle clapped again as the door shut on the last cell, "Good job, baby brother. We'll worry with them tomorrow. Tonight, you and me have a lot of catchin' up to do."
"I can't believe Daryl," Lori hugged Carl close to her as she sat down on one of the beds in the cell, "How can he just do this to us?"
"Yeah," Glenn held on to the bar's that separated their cells, "I mean, I know he's a jerk but I never thought…"
"Guys," Rick interrupted, "Daryl said somethin' to me that I think was a code or a hint at somethin'. He said that workin' with his brother is 'one of them good decisions.' He said earlier this morning to me that same line, 'one of them good decisions.' I think he was trying to tell me something."
"Like what?" T-Dogg asked, "That's he's a piece of shit?"
"We all know Daryl," Rick continued, "somethin' must be up. I have a feelin' that Merle is using him. I think he's done something to him to make him act like this…maybe threatened him…or even threatened us to get at Daryl. All I know is that we can't turn our backs on him. Think of all he has done for us. He has risked his life for us on more than one occasion. He's fought for us, he's fought for our children. He's been there for us."
Carol glanced up from the bed she was sitting on, "You really think that's why he's doin' this to us?" She asked, "That he was threatened into it?"
Rick sighed, not really knowing the answer himself, "I know Daryl is a good man. We can't doubt him now. Whatever he's doing, he has his reasons for doing. We can't give up on him."
"He's given up on us," Carol's comment was acrid.
Rick shook his head and went over to Lori and wrapped an arm around her. He knew Daryl. He knew Daryl had risked everything to save them. What about what he had done for Sophia? He had taken a bullet for that little girl…how could they all just forget that?
"One of them good decisions."
He was doing what he felt needed to be done. As hard as it was, Rick knew that he needed to just trust Daryl on this one. Daryl was the leader now. Daryl was the one deciding. And now it was up to Rick to back him on it.