After much fretting and obsessing and general writing difficulty, I present my first TWD fiction. Daryl's head is impossibly difficult to get into, but worth the effort in the end, I think. I hope you enjoy it. And, of course, I own nothing.

If he'd been on his own, Daryl knew he wouldn't have done it. Not that he didn't have the stones. It was simple math. If you didn't have anything worth taking, no one tried to take it. He'd just be some guy in the woods to Randall's people; handmade ammo, no ass, no food, nothing worth having. But in a group, things were different. There was so much to lose, his chest tightened to think of it. Broken or not, they belonged to each other. You protected family. Even if you didn't like it. You didn't take chances.

But it wasn't like Dale said. Daryl wouldn't bury his head in the sand. He'd stand with Rick and do what had to be done. Frankly, he'd stand with Rick just to make sure Shane didn't take the gun and blow the kid away himself. Because if they were going to do this, if it was going to be their identity, if the group was going to be able to get past this, it had to be Rick. Shane was ruthless. Savage, even. Killing Randall was the right thing to do, but Daryl wouldn't sleep after they'd done it. It bothered him that Shane would sleep better.

At the shed, Rick fumbled with the lock and cursed when it didn't come loose the first time. "Are you sure you can handle this, brother?" Shane asked, breathing just a little too close, his gaze a little too dark.

Rick yanked the door open and offered nothing to Shane but a hard look and Daryl admired him.

"On your feet."

"What's going on?"

"You deaf? He said move."

"Where are we going? Stop. Where- Oh god. Oh God, no please."

Daryl grabbed Randall's shoulder as he stumbled from the shed to keep Shane from doing it and to keep Rick from having to. "Keep quiet," he growled as he pushed the kid forward.

Across the yard, a campfire burned and shadows gathered around it, not watching yet bearing witness all the same. Daryl shoved their prisoner harder to keep pace with Rick and to get them all into the screen of the barn as fast as possible. Dale was wrong there too. You didn't have to watch to remember that you were murdering a man. There were some things a leader had to do that the rest of the group shouldn't have to share. He'd rather the rest of them stayed away then if they'd all joined in like Shane, so certain and guilt-free. He thought of Carol, begging them not to make her choose and of Carl, who thought he was old enough to be a part of something like this and Daryl knew it was right to spare them.

As they shut the door, Randall fell apart and Rick was determined not to. "Would you like to stand or kneel?"

"No. Oh god no. Please don't kill me. Please."

Because he couldn't stand for this to go on any longer than it had to and so he wouldn't see the kid's body falling to the floor in his dreams every night, Daryl shoved Randall to his knees. He yanked his hair to tell him to keep his head up, to tell him silently to go out like a man, whatever the fuck that meant. Daryl wanted him to spit at their feet, to cuss, to curse them, to do anything but cry and plead. If he could hardly handle it, there was no way in hell Rick could. And it had to be Rick.

"Do you have any last words?"

"Please. Please don't."


Daryl kept his eyes on Randall. He kept his gaze hard and he kept his mind on the people outside the doors, the people he couldn't explain why he wanted to save. He thought of thirty armed men and despicable violence and he did not let himself feel pity. Clutching his arms until it hurt, Daryl waited for it to end.

And then the goddamn kid walked in.

"Get him out of here."

At first Daryl thought Rick was talking about Carl. It wasn't until he repeated himself that Daryl realized he was giving up. He couldn't do it. Pissed off, disbelieving, Daryl's lips curled in a snarl as he grabbed Randall by the collar and shoved him forward again. He pushed passed Shane who looked up from berating Carl to yell, "Hey. Where you going? This don't change anything," and barely heard Rick who said in no uncertain terms: "It's over."

"Hey. Hey man, what's going on?"

"Shut up."

"You're not gonna kill me anymore? "

"I said shut up."

"Yeah okay. You guys won't regret this. I'm not gonna hurt any of you. I wouldn't-"

Randall finally got the message when Daryl cuffed him upside the head and let himself be hustled the rest of the way back to the shed in silence.

Once inside, Daryl shoved Randall to the floor and he paced. He couldn't believe Rick would just pussy out like that. Sheriff sure as hell didn't have any problem putting metal to someone's head to get 'em to do what he wanted. Shouldn't have been that much harder to follow through.

Leaning against the wall, Daryl chewed what was left of his fingernails and stared down at Randall as he tried to figure out what to do. The kid was squirming around, moving through the limited range of motion he had, shifting away from Daryl. He wasn't a kid. He was a grown goddamn man, twenty-two or better; Daryl had been a man long before that. He was a man capable of watching his group rape innocent girls and who knew what else without standing up or bugging off. He was a rat. He'd do whatever he had to to live. He'd turn them all over to a bigger group to save his own skin. He had to die. Rick knew that. He knew that, but he couldn't act on it.

"Hey," Randall's voice was a whimper in the dark. "Hey, could you- I can't feel my hands. Could you loosen me up here maybe?"

Behind the blindfold, he was looking a few feet in the wrong direction. He was pathetic and Daryl growled at him, "What for? Ain't gonna need hands once we kill you."

"Please? It ain't humane. It ain't legal to treat prisoners like this."

"Legal? Legal's what I say it is, asshole."

"Jesus. Jesus Christ. We're still people aren't we? I mean, come on. We can still treat each other like human beings!" His words were a desperate squeal and it was only because they were an echo of what Dale had been preaching all day that Daryl bothered to listen.

"I don't know. You tell me. We seem like people to you?"

"Yeah. Yeah you do. I know you are. Rick- Rick is. The rest of you probably are too. Please. I ain't asking you to untie me. Just loosen me a little. I can't feel my hands. Please."

Rick would do it. Daryl could almost feel Rick in the shed with them. He'd rub his hands over his face and through his hair, exhausted, and then nod at him. "Loosen the ropes," he'd say. Rick would handcuff a dumbass stranger to the roof and abandon him there to keep him from blowing up a group from the inside. And then he'd go back to get him, to do right by that dumbass redneck's brother. Rick wasn't a wuss. He was better than all of them.

Grabbing his knife from his belt, Daryl stepped across the room. He grabbed Randall by his wrists and pitched him forward, ignoring the yelp he made at the strain on his shoulders. He sliced at the ropes binding Randall's hands, cutting them away easily with the sharp blade, and released him. "Sit still," he ordered. "Or I'll fucking gut you and I won't do it quick neither."

"'m not going anywhere." Flexing his fingers and trying to rub feeling back into his hands, Randall seemed to be telling the truth. He didn't even try to take off the blindfold.

Cutting a new length of rope from the coil in the corner, Daryl grabbed Randall's hands and bound them in front of him this time. He tied the knots differently, wrapping each of his wrists separately and more loosely, but keeping the length of rope between them short so as not to give him any more freedom of movement.

Then he stepped away, keeping his knife drawn, and thought about Rick.

The sheriff was a good man. Daryl'd met few enough of those to know the value of one when he found him. And he'd already made the call to kill Randall. Protecting his family was the only thing Rick cared about and if Carl hadn't shown up to make him wonder what kind of protection was more important, the job would already be done. Carl had sounded just like Shane. Now that Daryl had a minute to think about it, he didn't blame Rick for backing off. Lesser of two evils. He could understand that.

But Randall was still a problem. Their little group meeting earlier had made it pretty clear that they didn't have other options. It didn't matter how long they spent going around in circles; they weren't going to find another solution. How many times were they going to have to have the conversation? How many days were they going to let everyone get all riled up before they put an end to it? Rick couldn't do it. But Daryl could

Turning the knife over in his hands, Daryl tested the sharpness of it. He could do it. He wished he knew what had happened to his gun, but the sound of it would just draw attention anyway. Draw questions. Draw looks. The group needed this to be done, but they didn't know it. Rick was going to do it for them, but he couldn't. So Daryl would.

"Get up."

"What for?"

Daryl kicked him hard, "Get up."

"Oh no. No, man, come on. Don't do this. I'm just like you. We're just people, remember? You don't have to do this."

Grabbing him by his roped hands, Daryl lifted Randall to and nearly off his feet. "We're nothing alike."

There was a hook hanging from one of the beams running across the shack. When Daryl secured Randall's hands to it, only the tips of his toes brushed the floor, but he wouldn't be there long anyway.

"Don't do this! Stop. Don't do this, man. Don't kill me!"

"Shut up."

Pulling a rag from his back pocket, Daryl shoved it into Randall's mouth to stop his screaming. Do it quiet, solve the problem. There would be a lot of blood and he wasn't exactly sure how long it took a grown man to bleed out. Not long. But long enough for pain.

Randall thrashed and screamed against the fabric in his mouth. He'd been shocked into stillness in the barn, but now he was hysterical, fighting for his life. Daryl got close, lifted the knife, hesitated. This wasn't good. It wasn't fast enough. Wasn't merciful. Rick wouldn't do it this way. He stepped back.

Swearing, he whirled around and kicked the wall. He was trying to do his part, goddammit. He couldn't save his brother, couldn't save Sofia, could never do anything right his whole life, but he was going to do this. This was his part. Dirty work belonged to guys like him.

Turning back to Randall, Daryl lashed out and clocked him hard with the butt end of his knife. It was the hardest he'd ever hit anyone in his life and Randall slumped forward, hanging unconscious from his bonds. Taking a deep breath, Daryl raised his knife and looked the devil in the eye.