Connor walked out of the bathroom area, scrubbing a towel over his wet hair. He dug into his duffel and found a clean pair of underwear and another pair of jeans. He tugged them on over his wet skin with some difficulty but he enjoyed the way the water dampened the cloth. When the cool air hit it felt wonderfully chilly. He put a fresh bandage over the bite on his hip, drizzling some anti-inflammation crap the good doctor had given to him. Once he wiped the stuff from his fingers he found his rosary still nestled on his pillow and plucked it up, letting it fall around his neck like it always had.

There was a knock at the door. He buttoned up his pants before walking over, throwing the door open.

It was Daryl, leaning against the door frame with three bottles in his hands. He looked up when the door opened, head ducked in shy uncertainty. The Irishman didn't miss the slight widening of his eyes as they danced over his bare chest, taking in his ink and scars. But the redneck was quick to look away, instead holding up one of the bottles.

"Found some Jameson," Daryl shook the liquor, making it slosh noisily, "You micks drink this stuff up like mother's milk, don'tcha?"

"Jameson" Connor took the bottle with a note of awe, examining it, "Good stuff, yeah. Speaking of good stuff..."

Daryl wasn't the only one noticing. The redneck himself was scrubbed clean, much like himself, revealing the tan skin that he'd always known the man had beneath the dirt. There were some sun spots peaking around the collar of his sleeveless shirt, some ink curling across the bulge of one arm, and more scars than he'd managed to see before. His hair was actually lighter without all the dirt and sweat, almost blonde in this harsh light. It was sticking up a bit like he'd run his fingers through it.

"Look at that," Connor grinned wolfishly, "There's a man under all that dirt. And he ain't half bad lookin', either."

Daryl had this blush that went right up into his ears, the blonde couldn't help but think they'd be hot to the touch, "You want it or not?"

"I'll take that," Murphy hurried by and snatched one of the bottles of Jameson, tossing off the lid, "I'm gonna go to the rec room and chill. You two drink and swap war stories. Don't fall asleep on your rockers."

"Brat!" Daryl called after him fondly. Murphy flipped them off, the bottle already to his lips. The redneck shook his head and looked back to Connor, pointedly lowering his voice.

"We can go to my room and drink in quiet," Daryl offered, more than friendly but not suggestive, "Found a cot and a lot of blankets in my closet, think it's better than my own bed."

Connor smiled fondly, more than glad they'd made up. Daryl had been ready to kill him but he'd hesitated, he'd gotten angry at him for being bit, but things had settled back to normal between them. Maybe even more, maybe something else had grown from his near-death. He must've waited too long to answer, Daryl started shifting his weight and looking back at the ground.

"Nevermind, man, I'll just-"

"I'm down with some quiet," Connor cut him off, stepping out and closing the door behind him, "Let's go."


Jenner stared at the empty vial for far too long to be considered healthy. It was still wet from the Irish kid's thymus fluid, something he hadn't thought he'd pull off. He never thought he'd see the immune gene again and here it was, resting in the hearts of twin boys. That's what they were, children. Barely twenty-five, probably just sampling life before the world went to hell.

Two pretty boys out of their country but not their element.

Where were they half a year ago when the virus started cropping up?

"Hell, three months ago," Jenner corrected himself out loud, tilting back in his chair. Three months and there could've been some time to fix things, to do some real good. He looked up at the clock, watching the numbers slice away in clean ticks.

They had run out of time. There was nothing left to do.

Jenner chucked the vial, only managing a slight smile when it shattered against the floor.

Barely a day left now


Daryl's room looked just like their own. The Dixon had found an extra wide cot in his storage room, apparently this room had belonged to some "fat, dead bastard" who'd slept here a lot. The closet had revealed some plush blankets, just like the twins' own had been packed to the brim with throws.

Connor sat on the bed with his back against the wall, liquor cradled between his thighs. Daryl was laying on his side with is legs half hanging over the side of the cot, braced on his elbow so his hands could curl around his own bottle. It was unlabeled but it was amber and harsh on his throat. It was only made for one big dude not two fully grown men, but they made do.

"Murph and I used to share a bed 'bout this big until we were about six or seven" Connor patted the bed pointedly, "Our Mam scrimped and saved. One day we got home and the old bed was gone, sold, and there was two relatively new ones ready for us. She even made us some new blankets to go along with it. They were nice, we slept in 'em 'til the day we left for America."

"How was it?" Daryl ran his thumb across the grooves along the bottle, "Gettin' here and findin' a job and stuff?"

"We didn't hide in a boat the whole way or anythin', the people were nice," he assured him, "Boston was kind to us, the community really took us in. We didn't have much but we didn't care."

"We didn't either, you're not alone there," Daryl swirled the bottle around, "It was really tight growin' up. Merle and I shared a bed for a bit too, but only about a year. He had a couple years on me."

"How far apart are you two?"

"Eight years" he blew out a sharp breath, "It's a long time but we were close anyway."

"Good. It's important to be close to your brother," Connor leaned forward, putting an elbow on his knee, "Speaking of and Murph are kinda close."

"Murphy was real worried about you."

Daryl brought his hand up and tucked his thumb between his lips, chewing on the side. Connor was starting to become familiar with that gesture, it was one the man did when he was nervous about his words. Whether he was holding back or afraid of revealing too much, he bit at his nails and cuticles.

"You must've done somethin' to encourage him" Connor pushed "He doesn't normally warm up to people. I've only seen him do it this fast when someone sticks up for him or helps him out. You had to have said somethin'."

"For a minute there...I thought you and Merle were both dead," Daryl finally confessed, "I thought Murph was the only family I had left."

"Family?" it came out shocked and sudden, startling them both. Daryl bristled up much like a cat would. He'd never seen such a manly man do anything so cute.

"What?" he hissed out through is teeth defensively.

"Nothin'," Connor clinked their bottles together, "I'll share all I got with ya, includin' Murph. He's a little shit though, I'm warnin' ya."

"I believe it" Daryl laughed in a little huff of breath, relieved as the other man showed that easy-going nature he liked so much.

"I'm glad we can talk alone like this," the blonde took a small drink, letting it warm his chest, "We're all always cramped so close together, it's about time we got some space."

"Yeah," there was that shy dart of his eyes over his painfully bare chest again, "That needle bruised you up."

True to his words there was a bloom of color radiating from the small puncture, the beginnings of something that would darken.

"Ma always said I bruised like a yella' apple," Connor prodded the skin, "It doesn't hurt much now. Jenner said it might color up a bit but it's nothin' 'ta worry about."

Daryl took a nervous gulp, "Merle sure did a number on ya."

Connor dug his thumb into the scaring sliver of a wound on his forehead, the one that disappeared into his hair, "It doesn't hurt either. What about that scar on your chin? That must've hurt."

"This?" he ran a hand under his chin, tilting it back to show off the silver bump of flesh, "Fell over my dad's work boots when I was a kid. Busted my face on the coffee table."

"I got this on the playground when I was a lad" Connor held out his arm, the back of his right arm littered in dark little scars "Some shit head punched Murphy in the stomach and made him throw up. I just saw red and started beatin' the kid into a pulp. Didn't know until I got home that I had gravel embedded in me."

"Shit, yeah" the redneck leaned forward and touched one of the dips, the blonde always had them covered up "Did the other kid crawl away?"

"Hell yeah he did," he nodded, flexing for the few moments of contacts, "No one hits my brother but me."

"Agreed," Daryl toasted him on that, stretching back his neck to take a long drink. Connor couldn't help but notice the red scar across the redneck's right collarbone, the flesh puckered into a thick line. He couldn't stop himself from leaning forward and running his finger down the length that was visible past his shirt. Daryl's breath hitched and he could feel it beneath his finger.

"I've seen this a hundred times but I've never asked about it," Connor tapped the scar, goosebumps cropping up, "What happened?"

"It was my dad," Daryl slowly admitted, trying to keep his breathing normal, "He got real drunk one night and I tried to get him to stop. I wanted him to sit and calm down. He broke his beer off the table and took a swing at me, caught me right here."

"I'm sorry."

"Don't be," he waved it off, though he missed the touch the moment it was gone, "Got anything else cool?"

"These," Connor held up his wrists, moving them around to show off the slanted line where the handcuffs had cut into him, "Those bastards we'd gotten into a bar fight with? They came back to our place and took us by surprise, handcuffed me to our toilet and dragged Murph out. They threatened to put a bullet in his hand and I snapped, pulled so hard it shredded my wrists. I tossed the toilet on him from like ten stories up, then I jumped. Nearly broke my legs and back, but saved Murph."

"You two," Daryl chuckled, admiring the scars at the same time he wished he'd been there to stop it, "You're really somethin', you know?"

"What about you?" Connor asked around a mouthful of liquor, "You got any cool bar fight scars?"

"A few," Daryl tapped a finger onto the scar on his left shoulder, "Mostly I drink at home, but this guy was mouthin' off to me. Pulled a fuckin' butterfly knife on me, if you can believe it. He nearly cut his own fingers off, I let him walk away. Dumbass like that will just off himself eventually."

"And all these?" Connor was brazen in the way he stroked down the redneck's arm, cheeks starting to darken with alcohol. The redneck's arms were littered in tiny lines of scars, without rhyme or reason. Most were faint and bronzed rather than the usual white.

"I know they look nasty," Daryl was self-conscious now, hishing he'd worn a shirt with sleeves now, "They're from hunting and wanderin' about in the woods. Gettin' bit by animals or gettin' stuck in barbs. I'd catch myself against a tree or somethin' and walk away with a new cut."

His lips quirked, "So you were a squirrel before you were a boy?"

"I love the woods, man, there's no place better," the brunette took another drink, trying not to get hard from the stroke of fingers down his arm, "I only felt right when I was out there. Whenever dad got too bad or Merle got into trouble and raised hell, I went out there. I only ever got lost a few times."

"A real mountain man."

"Shut up!" Daryl shoved him, getting a push to his head that made him grin, "Tell me you don't miss workin' in Ireland? I've seen your hands, I bet you worked on a ranch or somethin'."

"A few. Mostly my Ma's friends who needed another hand around. Murph and I did everything from dock work to bailing hay. There's a lot of work there if you knew where to look. Every little bit helped. We had to earn the money ourselves, ya know? The people there were accommodating but nothin's free."

Daryl could almost see it. The twins out on some stretch of land, standing on the low rails of a fence with only the sun on their faces to keep them company. Hay piled in a truck behind them, dirt under their nails and across the breadth of their arms. For a moment, he could almost picture himself there. Leaning on the fence, laughing with them, enjoying the damp air and the company. He could trick himself into believing he was there, that he was one of them. A brother.

More than, at least with Connor.

Daryl blinked hard as a phantom grip seized his arm, a sense memory leftover from his brother's disapproval. He took a few quick sips to erase the feeling of fingers digging into his skin, pulling him, forcing him to pay attention to his harsh words. It was a memory he wanted to repress.

"You know, there's a scar on the back of your neck too," Daryl pointed out quickly, trying to change the subject, "It looks like somebody hit you pretty good. What happened?"

Connor dropped his head down to feel for the scar, wincing when his fingers skimmed across it. He'd nearly forgotten the mark though the memories that went with it would stick to him forever. He wet his lips as he wondered whether to tell him the story or not. Murphy wouldn't want him sharing it but Daryl was someone they could trust, he'd proven that over and over again.

"You know that bite mark on Murph?"

"Yeah, what about it?"

"That was from the first time we ever saw a walker."

Daryl perked up at this, "Seriously?"

"I'm gonna tell you somethin', and I don't want you to interrupt me. I haven't told anyone before and if I stop I might not start again."

Daryl sat up, turning toward him and giving him his full attention.

"We had been camping for about a month in the woods. I was tryin' to start a fire. I wasn't very good at it then and I ended up blowin' ash into my eyes. Stupid, I know. It was the worse mistake I could've made. While I was bitchin' and moanin' about it, about a dozen men ambushed our camp. They took Murph down while he was tryin' to help me, I couldn't even see 'em but I think I killed one. But they had my brother and..."

Connor slowly choked through the rest of the story. Telling the man about getting knocked out, waking up in the dark, searching for weapons, getting drugged, the barbed wire, all of it. But he couldn't catch his breath on the word rape and it was all he could do not to throw up all over the bed. Daryl's hand inched over to cover his on the liquor bottle, squeezing his fingers reassuringly.

"I know what men like that can do," Daryl husked, tight in the chest as well, "You don't have to say it."

"He can't know I told you, he's barely copin' as it is."

"I won't let on that I know, I swear. It can die with me."

Relief pulsed through Connor like a clean drug, easing the weight in his chest.

"Keep goin'. If you want to."

"A-After we got out of there, we went back to camp. We were low on supplies so I suggested we got into Atlanta, get ourselves some stuff then head back home."

"The city? Were you fuckin' crazy?"

"We were in the woods when the walkers attacked everyone, and those bastards sure as hell didn't give us a run down on what exactly they were tryin' to sic on us," Connor explained defensively, "We didn't know they were people, not really. We got into Atlanta no problem. We couldn't believe what that place looked like. We must've been asleep or somethin' during the bombs because we'd never heard it. There was no one, it was terrifying. Those men who attacked us..they'd kept talkin' about the end of the world but I didn't know what they meant until then. We saw them, swarms of whatever those thugs had gotten a hold of. People, but not really because they were eatin' other people. We just drove through them until we found a bare patch, we couldn't believe it. We ran out and got ourselves into a gas station. We were raidin' the place when they came in. We were cornered before we could think straight. All our stuff was in the truck, we wanted to fight but there was nothin' we could do. I grabbed Murphy and prayed as hard as I could, trying to will those God damn demons away, but something was different. They were eating those people outside, but only one of them even touched us. They started dropping to their knees all around us and they stopped growling."

"What did you do?"

"What the fuck would you do? We ran and tried to forget," Connor tipped his head back and chugged, throat burning, "We said fuck it and got back to camp. Neither of us could sleep or eat, we were terrified that it was hell. That those men had actually killed us and we'd been dumped into a world without flames but overrun with monsters. Murphy couldn't stop cryin'. We'd barely convinced ourselves it had all been a nightmare when a walker stumbled into our camp a few days after. We were gonna kill it but the thing took one whiff of us and just froze. He kept fuckin' starin' at us."

Daryl kept their hands clasped, grip tight.

"Murph wanted to stab it, keep it a quiet kill. He was sure there were hundreds just waitin' for us just behind the trees," he was hoarse now, "But I couldn't do it. There was somethin' off about the dead and I needed to know what the hell it was. I pulled out my rosary and took Murph's gun. I told it to kneel and it did. I...I prayed for it - him – and then shot 'im in the head. The guy didn't move the whole time. He'd just kinda...accepted it."

"Shit," Daryl breathed, "I can't believe it."

"Neither could we. There was nothin' more to fear but Murphy was a mess. He'd wake up screamin' every time there was a sound outside the tent. I went out one morning to find him sittin' in front of the fire. He'd been awake all night, throwing up, tryin' not to wake me. I knew we couldn't stay there any longer. We went back into town and we found some survivors. Decided to stay with them instead."

"Is that what the spick was talkin' about? Is that what made you sick?"

"We were there when they were eaten alive," Connor rubbed a hand over his eyes wearily, "The walkers wouldn't touch us and we couldn't shoot enough of them to get them to stop."

"There's more, ain't there?" Daryl needled, "You didn't trust us for a reason."

"Those people..." he couldn't say it, "We just went back to the woods to hide. We didn't want to find anyone else. We couldn't trust anyone else."

The redneck frowned, "You trust me, don't ya?"

"Yeah," Connor looked up at him, eyes wet "I guess I do."

"What ever happened to those men?" his brow furrowed, "They still out there?"

"Don't worry about it," the blonde scoffed, "I killed every last one of them with my bare hands."

The harsh intensity of those words would've scared the Dixon if they didn't turn him on so much.


Shane found Lori outside her room and made his way toward her, full of some dark intent that he wasn't sure he liked.

"Listen here," he backed her up into the wall, "I've got some things to say and you're gonna listen."

"Are you out of your mind?" she thumped against the wall but her glare was sharp, "This is not the time."

"When is there ever time?" Shane countered, jabbing her in the shoulder, "I wanna know how the hell you can treat me like this, after everything I've done for you and Carl! I love him and I love you, and you can't tell me you don't feel the same way."

He ducked in to kiss her but she slapped a hand over his mouth, ducking under his arm.

"I couldn't love a liar," Lori's words were like ice across his skin, she threw open her door, "And you told me my husband was dead, you son-of-a-bitch, so don't dare tell me what I can and can't do."

She was gone before he could even try to follow her, door slamming shut between them and locking solidly. He glowered but there was nothing he could do short of trying to break the door down. And fuck it, he didn't care that much anyway. Sure he loved her but he loved Rick more, always had. He loved Carl too. The kid had Rick's attitude and his same shade of hair, how could he not? Some days when he got too drunk to walk a straight line, like now, he would imagine what it would've been like to raise Carl with Rick. An alternative family, of all things. Waking up to Rick every morning with Carl jumping on the bed, demanding they make him breakfast.

It was a sweet thought that churned up bile in the back of his throat.

Shane put his shoulder against his door, trying to twist the handle open. He needed a long nap to lick his wounds and sober up, he knew this, but the alcohol was still buzzing hot between his ears. The bottle in his hand was getting more empty than he had intended but that wasn't going to stop him. He'd barely gotten it cracked before he heard something that gave him pause. Deep, light-hearted humming. Against the better judgment of his small, sober voice he started down the hall. He was unsteady on his feet but his ears worked fine. The humming turned into murmuring, then soft singing.

"What a bit of luck, everybody follow me...down to the cellar, if the fire's not there..."

What a pretty little accent he had.

Shane leaned against the doorway, peeking into the room. It really was Murphy humming along, running his fingers across book spines with no real intention of plucking one out. He was idly taking swigs off a dark bottle of Jameson, letting it swing by his hip when it wasn't at his mouth. He was dressed pretty scarcely, droplets of water still clinging to his skin and in his hair. Murphy's boxers were clinging to the swell of his ass, his t-shirt ratty and exposing some of his waist. It seemed a little too big for him. He looked ripe, ready.

"Hey," Shane spoke up.

The Irishman turned to face him, singing cutting off mid-tune.

"Hello there."

Murphy shamelessly raked his eyes up and down the other man's body, admiring him. He cut a fine figure, especially now that he was clean. His pale blue shirt was unbuttoned and open at the chest, revealing smooth skin and thick muscle. A shiny, silver 22 necklace stood out against his skin. His cheeks were flushed, he'd obviously indulged a little too heavily in that whiskey they'd found. But he couldn't lie, the man looked good.

"Looks like you're beatin' me," Murphy held up his own bottle, shaking it pointedly, "I'm catchin' up, don't worry."

Shane walked closer, uneasy on his feet, "Where your brother?"

With Daryl as always, nearly left his tongue but he swallowed it.

"Restin' up. He's been through a lot."

"Would've been a shame to lose him. Wouldn't want to break up the set."

"Would've been," Murphy sighed, turning back to the books. He thumbed at the gold leaf of one in particular, a classic he'd never gotten around to reading. The title was nearly worn off and the pages wer discolored, but it looked pretty solid.

"You haven't been to see Lori in this state, have you?" he threw out casually, "Won't end well if you do."

The poor man started to rant, words falling from his lips like water. How he'd tried to save Rick in a hospital, how he'd listened for a heartbeat, explaining that he'd done what he had for the good of all the Grimes family. Murphy tuned it out while he put the Jameson on the floor, giving the man the moment to vent his thoughts. Shane must've been going crazy keeping all that in his head, bottling up everything he loved and thought for the sake of trying to stay the leader. He heard the door shut but didn't think twice about it, continuing down the line until he reached a pinball machine. He ran the pads of his fingers over the cool glass, smiling a bit as remembered all the times he'd helped Connor fish quarters out of drains to have a go on one. There hadn't been any change to spare but they'd made to. There was even one machine they'd found outside a candy store that would give you three games if you fiddled with the wiring just right.

Connor had always known how to make the world work for them.

Fingers fiddled with the too-long strands of his hair, reminding him once more of how badly he needed to cut it. Goosebumps cropped up along the back of his neck, he froze when he felt Shane's solid form press up behind him. Murphy actually jolted when the other man's nose brushed the nape of his throat.


"You smell good," Shane murmured, other hand braced on the machine to close the Irishman in, "Clean. Nice."

"Thanks," he turned, surprised to find them almost nose to nose. He stepped back but the pinball machine stopped him. Past the stench of liquor, Shane smelled clean to. The older man's eyes held something darker than usual, his expression almost hungry. It was unnerving but he couldn't help the curl of arousal that found it's way around his cock. Fingers ran down his bicep, tracing the muscle.

"Always doin' those fuckin' pushups in the dirt, gettin' filthy," Shane was slurring, things just spilling out of him, "You pretend you can't see us watchin' but you know. You like it, you little shit."

"Maybe," Murphy watched the man's hand go up so his fingers were twisting themselves in his hair, urging him closer.

"Wonder if you kiss like Rick does?" Shane wondered aloud, then his face pinched up like he hadn't meant to voice it.

"I kiss like me," Murphy replied boldly, wondering just how far the tough man would take it, "Bet it's twice as good. Wanna find out?"

Murphy couldn't help but make a sound of surprise as he was dragged up into a harsh kiss, the man taking more than exchanging. His breath was sour with liquor but his mouth was generous, lips darker than his own. Darker than Connor's, maybe the shade of Glenn's. Not as full as the Korean's though, jaw harsher than the boy's.

There he went, unfairly comparing again.

Shit, he'd be lying if he said he hadn't thought of this a few times. The man was built like a tree and he was craving a little climb. He kissed back and Shane took it like permission, his hands clinging greedily as they ran down his neck and across the plane of his back. Fingers hooked in his hipbones, thumb nails just biting through the thin cloth of his shirt. The pinball machine dug into his back as Shane bit down on his lip.

"Wait 'till you're inside, man, you'll change your tune."

He could feel the hard line of the other man's arousal through his jeans, brushing against his thigh. It was too harsh. Too much, too soon.

Murphy ripped his mouth away, putting a hand on the older man's chest to push him away. He was hot to the touch and it was tempting, it really was, but he couldn't. It wasn't the best plan. Connor had been right, he was trying to push himself too hard to get over what those bastards had done to him. First Amy, now wasn't fair. To them or himself. It was Shane, for fuck's sake. The man was in love with a married couple in the middle of an apocalypse. He may have taken a back seat to Rick but he was still powerful in the group dynamic. Connor had begged him not to get involved with him and that was exactly what he was doing.

He wasn't going to let Shane drag him into his sick love triangle. He had his twin to think about.

"Listen, man," Murphy sighed out sharply, "I know you're sore about Lori and you're still all doe-eyed about Rick, but you can't just try and fuck the first person who'll-"

Shane backhanded him, hard. His head whipped to the side, pain lacing up through his cheek and down into his neck. His lips stung as he was dragged back into a kiss, a contact almost too violent to be called that.

Don't let them do this to me.

"Fuckin' quit," Murphy rasped between their mouths, he could feel fingers curling into the hem of his shirt. Shane didn't let up. Threads tore in the older man's haste, exposing part of his stomach as the cloth gave in to his strength. Fingers dragged down to his ass and into his shorts, brushing dryly along his entrance. The younger man jerked away, grabbing a wrist and twisting the man's hand away.

"What the fuck do you know, huh?" Shane snarled, hauling him up and slamming him down, onto the pinball machine, "What the fuck do you know?"

The glass threatened to break under the force, metal creaking with the Irishman's weight. Murphy thrashed, stubble burning down his neck as tried to land a solid punch. But the bastard was pressed right up against him, easily knocking back the smaller man's fists Shane was drunk enough to handle him, Murphy was too almost too drunk to remember how to stop him.

In that moment he realized something. He'd left his rosary in the bedroom.

Murphy finally struck him in the temple, shaking the older man for only a moment. Meaty fingers left his hip and found their way onto his neck, cutting off his breath enough to make him sputter.

Stop. Stop. Stop, please, don't.

Murphy hiked his leg up between them, getting a heel wedged in until he could kick Walsh in the stomach. Shane lost his balance and tripped over his own feet, going down even harder when the Irishman launched himself at him. Murphy was quick, like a cat, landing on top of the other man and letting him taste his fist. Shane tried to sit up but the Irishman grabbed his throat, slamming him back down into the floor. He only got two hot punches in before the man managed to swing back, catching him just on the chin. It only pissed him off.

"Motherfucker!" Murphy hissed, grabbing those thick shoulders and using them for leverage to drive his knee up and into his crotch. Shane went breathless beneath him, curling in and cupping his throbbing groin. The Irishman let his nails score the flesh across the man's collarbone, forcing him to the floor once more.

"You put your hands on me again and I'll blow your world sky high!" Murphy back handed him when the man's eyes started to fall shut, "You fuckin' look at me when I'm talkin' to you!"

"God damn mick," Shane wheezed, still cradling himself.

"I'll tell Rick all about your sick affair with his wife and your creepy fuckin' obsession with him."

Walsh made a grab for him but the Irishman dodged easily, rolling off him. He snatched his Jameson off the floor and got to his feet. He took a heavy swallow, looming over Shane with a striking expression that actually made him freeze.

"And I'll confess everythin' just long enough for you to suffer before I make you eat my gun."


Their bottles were more than half gone and the conversation had turned lighter. They talked of botched hunting trips, of how Merle worked at a fast food place for a whole summer to buy his bike, of all the times Connor had let his twin make a plan only to watch it fall through.

"He's a creative brat but he's got no imagination when it comes to strategy," Connor slurred, waving his hand, "He's too impulsive. My plans may start to fail but they always come through in the end."

"Merle's always barreling into crap," Daryl was sitting crosslegged beside him, fingers busy peeling the wrapper off his whiskey bottle, "I had to bail him out of jail at least once a month. Half the skins I sold were to get him out in a night. If I let him rot in there he'd just start another fight."

"When he was here I noticed he had a stash of drugs," the blonde was hesitant to mention it, brow knitted up, "Has that always been a problem?"

"He's never seen anything else, don't judge him too hard," there was a plea to his voice, "You didn't come from much but you had somethin' growin' up. You had God and your Ma. Merle only had me and only when he would fess up to it. He spent more time locked up and pushing me away than he did anything else."

Daryl sniffed sharply, chipped nails tapping against the glass, "I'll tell you this. When he's sober and content, he's the best big brother a guy could ask for. He's never let me go hungry, he's been there every time I've been sick, and when he was home he kept dad off my back. Maybe he's not a good man, but he's...he's..."

"He's your brother," Connor grabbed the older man's forearm, wrapping his fingers around the muscle, "You don't have to explain that 'ta me or anyone else."

Daryl took a deep breath, trying to distract himself from the warmth that touch sent up his arm, "He gave me that crossbow, you know. When I turned eighteen he practically threw it at me and told me to get my shit in the car, that I needed to learn how to rely on more than a gun. He was rough about it but he's the only reason I'm still alive right now. He gave me that bow, he shoved me in the truck...I shoulda' been dead by now but he wasn't gonna let this fresh hell take me down."

Connor ran his thumb along the inside of the man's arm, breath shuddering in his chest. The mere suggestion of Daryl not around sent his heart into a harsh flutter, forcing a new adrenaline through his veins. It was almost like the fever, disorientating him as it flushed his skin.

"I've always been a bit jealous of that crossbow," Connor found himself admitting before he could stop himself. The muscle beneath his fingertips flexed, almost subconsciously


At least Daryl sounded just as breathless as he felt.

"Because you take care of it so well," Connor let his fingers drift to the other man's wrist, slowly raising it up, "I find myself wishin' that...that I could have all yer focus like that."

Daryl watched this with the kind of sharp focus only too much liquor could bring out in a person. Connor's eyes were soft lidded and downcast as he brought his fingers up close to his mouth, hesitating only a long moment before finally bussing his lips across the thickest of his calluses. The Dixon jolted like he'd been shocked, fingers frozen in the blonde's grip.

"What are you doin'?"

Connor laid his hand down, gathering enough courage to take what he'd wanted for so long. He got up on his knees and crawled closer, watching the hunter shudder as he slid his hand over his legs until it could lay flat against the bed. Right there behind Daryl's calves and just an inch in front of his groin, taking up so much space with just the spread of his fingers.

"Conn?" Daryl breathed, a note of worry in his voice even though he didn't move, "Connor?"

"Hush," the blonde scolded gently, "Just let me..."

Daryl almost flinched when Connor leaned in, getting so close he could smell the soap on his skin. No, this couldn't be. This was a dream, this couldn't be. The redneck clenched his eyes shut and knew – not thought, knew – that when he opened them again he'd be in that house. Glenn and Murphy would be making out on the couch and they'd be in their room, naked and spread out on their bed. Not here, not in the world of walkers and fire and bullets and-

Beads touched his chest, the rosary through the shirt.

Daryl opened his eyes just in time to see Connor kiss him. It was so light it could've been hummingbird wings, just a chaste brush that sent dizzy bubbles to his head. He'd never had a panic attack before but this is what it must've been like to start one. The blonde pulled back, his own eyes half open to look at the other man's face.

Something in their minds quieted. Maybe it was the liqour, maybe it was the inevitability of it all, but it stomped down their doubt. Lashes fell shut as they came together once more, this time without anything holding them back. Not the thought of no attachments/impending violent death, not Merle's homophobia, not Murphy's worry of being abandoned, nothing.

It was firmer this time, just presses of smaller kisses to drink in the contact. Daryl's hand came up, fingers shaking from his racing heart and firing nerves. He threaded them into golden hair. It was just as giving as he thought it'd be beneath his palm, those brief touches he'd taken had never been enough.

Connor broke the kiss, brushing their noses instead as they panted softly. He couldn't get enough air nor enough of the man's taste, he wanted more of both but couldn't decide which was more important. Daryl felt brave enough to keep his hand in the other man's hair, he didn't want to break the spell but something was welling inside him.

"I never kissed anyone sober before," Daryl confided lowly, throat scratched up like he'd been screaming instead of kissing, "No one has ever wanted to...least before they had a few."

A self-deprecating smile twisted his spit-slicked lips, "Guess I look better after some shots."

"I've wanted to kiss you for a while now," Connor swore, pecking his lips, "Whenever you want. Sober, drunk...I wouldn't mind."

The Dixon brother brightened up, "You'd let me?"

"Shit, Daryl, you don't get it," Connor brushed his knuckles across the man's forehead, pushing back his bangs, "I'd do more than let you."


Murphy barely got halfway down the hall before he started shaking. He knees threatened to give out and he opted to lean against the wall, nursing the bottle greedily. He couldn't believe Shane had just...that he'd tried to...he couldn't handle it. He could feel a dozen phantom hands on him, pulling at his clothes and digging into his skin. He took harsher gulps, searing his throat. He finally had to rip it away from his lips, panting for breath so hard he almost threw up. Acid scorched the back of his throat but he managed to shove it back down.

A door opened, he flinched.


Glenn. Sweet, safe Glenn. The kid came up to him and grabbed his shoulders, trying to steady him.

"What the hell happened?" Glenn questioned, lifting his hand to touch the other man's chin, "You're blood red and what happened to your shirt?"

"Shane," Murphy wheezed, "He just...he's fuckin' crazy!"

Sharp, dark eyes darted down the hall before the Korean dragged him into his room and locked the door. He urged the Irishman to sit down on his quilted cots, two pushed together so he could sprawl out greedily. Murphy set the bottle down shakily, it tipped and spilled across the carpet. Glenn couldn't find it in him to care as he watched the darker twin drop on the bed and put his face in his hands, shoulders shaking. He sat down beside him, laying his hand across the pale expanse back. While Connor had absorbed the Georgia sun like a sponge, Murphy's skin had rejected it and retained it's indoor complexion and freckling.

He started to confess in a hoarse whisper just what Shane had done.

Glenn thought he would be sick.

"I should've known," Murphy rubbed the heels of his palms into his eyes until all he could see was splotches, "I saw it. I saw how drunk he was. I fuckin' knew I shoulda ran because that look in his eyes – I knew it."

"You couldn't have known."

"I should've!" Murphy dropped his hands, they balled into fists in his lap, "This...this has happened before."

Glenn's mouth dropped open wordlessly, eyes rounding out in disbelief.

"These fuckin' bastards took over our camp, dragged us off somewhere, drugged Connor up and wrapped me down with barbed wire," he held out his trembling hand to the light, showing off the scars that marked the flesh, "See these? Kept me strapped to a table with it. Every time I moved it just went deeper and it fuckin' hurt. And here."

Murphy grabbed the kid's hand and let his fingertips touch each cheek, digits following the faint grooves carved into them, "They gagged me. It looks like dirt but they're scars, they'll never fade."

"They raped you?" the Korean could barely choke the words out.

"Six or seven of 'em, maybe eight," he shook his head, letting the other go, "I can't remember. I don't want to. I've been tryin' to block it out since it happened but it keeps comin' back."

Murphy bent over, burying his face in his knees and lacing his fingers across the back of his head, "Every time I dream or relax I can feel them, I can feel the wire and I can hear the walker."

"There was a geek?"

"They had a pair of them on leashes, they made one bite me," Murphy raised his head, "It was the first time I've ever seen one, it was..."

He trailed off as his gaze fell to the kid's lap. Glenn was half hard in his khaki's, the soft bulge obvious along the tan cloth. Arousal went through him like a pulse, anger chasing hot on it's heels. It was a disgusting mix that hollowed out his belly but spurred him into action. He tucked away his raw emotion and buried the real Murphy deep down below his heart, safe and sound as he slipped into the self he put on around the group. Confident, flirty, easy-going. He had thought the kid could be trusted but he was reminded, not for the first time, that this was a man. Glenn just wanted what all men wanted.

It was better to be easy than battered. Simpler to fake sensuality than to show how broken you really were.

"That do it for ya?" Murphy purred, an edge to his voice as he leaned into the Korean so he could brush his lips across his smooth cheek, "Picturin' me all helpless get you hard?"

"What? No!" Glenn looked down at lap and winced, "No, it's not that. No way, I'm not sick, it's just – I – you know – really, it's not that."

"So the pretty little chink has a power kink, huh?" Murphy trailed his lips down the other's jaw, kissing his neck, "You'd like to see me spread out for you, wouldn't you? Tie me down, fill me up."

A moan burst from Glenn's lips as the other man's hand came down and laid over his clothed cock, petting him with a certainty that made his head spin. He tried to stutter out something like an explanation but it had been too long since someone had touched him, let alone someone he'd been fantasizing about for a while.

"I know what you want," Murphy eased him down on his back, straddling his hips with one easy motion, "I can make it so good for you, sweetheart, I can make it feel like heaven."

The smirk melted off his face, expression too solemn for his handsome face, "It's what all men want in the end. I've learned that. This new either get fucked or do the fuckin'."

Glenn took him by surprise and overpowered him, pushing him up and over onto his back. Murphy tensed all over and prepared to strike but he absolutely melted when the sweetest kiss he'd ever received came across his lips. Glenn kissed him with all the reverence he himself had kissed the feet of Jesus with back at the church in Boston. The savory taste of beer lingered on those pink lips.

"It's not what I want at all," Glenn lifted up, staring down at him with more affection than sympathy, "You. You make me this way. You sitting here in my bed...the way you sound, the way you smell, everything just drives me up a wall. You know that. I've always...since I met you, I can't look away."

An embarrassed flush came over the Korean's face, "I'm pretty sure you don't want to hear this. Maybe it's just the beer helping me, but I'm serious.

"Glenn," was all the Irishman could say, lashes fluttering against his cheeks when the boy laced their fingers beside his head. A pale thumb swept across the width of his palm, marked with light farm work and the handles of his knives. No one but Connor had ever taken the time to stop and touch him for touching's sake. He'd done it for girl's just to make them feel nice but the few boys he'd messed around with had never really cared about slowing doing, they'd only wanted to suck and stroke. But this guy right here, this unassuming little runner, was transforming right before eyes. Growing, stretching out of his harmless shell into something more.

"What those men did to you, what Shane's done, it wrong," Glenn pressed his thumb down onto the other man's wrist, laying it right over his pulse, "And when Connor looks away from you to Daryl, I see how hurt you are. There's so much I wish I could change for you but I can't."

Murphy scowled as his eyes filled with tears, heart swelling up almost painfully in his chest. He sighed out the tension he felt, his world narrowing down to the sensation of the man nuzzling down his chest. Even through the shirt it took his attention. He could only watch as Glenn pushed up the material enough to expose his stomach, finally kissing the skin below his belly button.

"I just want to help you," Glenn poured the words into his flesh like a brand.

"What are you doin' 'ta me?" Murphy's breath hitched in the middle of his words, "Your helpin' me all the time and you keep bein' nice so just tell me what the fuck you want already and jus' leave me be."

"I don't want anything from you," he promised, running his fingers along the edge of the elastic, "I want to make you feel good. If you want me to stop, just say so and I'll never push you again. But if you don't care, let me do this."

Murphy huffed out a curse as he fingers worked his underwear down, he lifted his hips in silent agreement. He heart was racing but he felt like he needed it. Something soft and slow, something he'd never had before. Breath fanned across his pubic bone, mouth hesitant as it traced the path down to his hardening cock. Maybe for a few moments he could pretend like they were in an apartment somewhere, a white-washed place that would smell like mint and laundry detergent. They'd be spread out on a bed with plush pillows and they'd be bare, sunlight would stream in through blinds and across their bodies. They could be any two random people in the world, just two hearts in a bed with nothing but pleasure on the brain. In a perfect world they would've met a coffee shop or at a bookstore, chancing to talk after picking up the same brand of paints or having ordered the same kind of pastry. Maybe he'd catch Glenn's eye in a bar or maybe they could've stumbled into the same cab. They could have met a hundred different ways, each one more bland and normal than the last.

Hands stroked down his thighs, parting them to give himself some more room.

Tonight he could pretend they were in love.

Glenn swallowed his nerves as best he could. He'd never done anything like this before, even going down on a girl had eluded him. But he'd meant every word he'd said earlier and he wasn't about to back out now just because he was getting some butterflies.

Murphy tipped his head back and closed his eyes, the alcohol was starting to get to him. It was making his blood flutter like wings through his temples, curving up into his mind and tilting his world on it's side. It was dizzying but the true disorientation didn't come until he felt the first wet slide of lips over the head of his cock, something he hadn't felt in a long time. That first touch had him moaning like a teenager, his back bowing up in surprise pleasure.

He managed to pry open his eyes long enough to look down at his partner. Glenn was fisting his cock, brows knitted up as he stared down at he swollen flesh. It was curiosity and desire, a sense of wonder, before his mouth closed around the length again. The kid sucked cock like he kissed. Worshipfully. He swam in the feeling, letting it take over everything else. Though Glenn's technique was a little amateur he didn't let it stop him from giving it everything he had, taking the other down his throat with quiet little gagging sounds.

"Josim, yeppeun," he barely heard the words and he wondered if they were his own, "Don' hurt yourself."

It was as close to blissful as he was going to get.

Pressure started to build up low in his stomach. Glenn's hands were along the backs of his thighs, curving up around to splay his fingers across soft hip bones. Each glide of his lips was wet and smooth, going down only most of the way but using his tongue in a way that made the other twitch and try to thrust up into his throat.

Murphy ripped his hand from it's death grip on the blanket above his head, bringing it down to find a fistful of dark hair that wasn't as soft as he'd thought it be. It gave Glenn another edge, the coarseness beneath his fingers sending little sparks up through his hand. He sucked in a great breath and held it, heat burning through his gut and up into his chest until it was almost choking him.

Glenn sunk down on him, taking every inch with a harsh flutter of his throat.

The breath was punched out of him, the pressure burst. It was sharp and tore through him, eating up every feeling until it took up his entire world. And just like that it rounded out and bled through him, easing up as his entire body sunk into the blankets. The kid's tongue was dancing across the cut head of his cock, licking up every drop he could find. Just the touch of his lips now sent shivers up his spine, hips shifting restlessly as he tiredly let him have whatever he wanted.

Murphy let his fingers relax in the mass of raven hair, he'd acquired a death grip in the height of his climax. He let them trail down the back of Glenn's neck, almost petting. The runner pulled off, mouth still shiny as he nuzzled along the Irishman's thigh. Murphy caught his chin and tipped his head up, thumb smearing cum and saliva along his lower lip. It was almost obscene across the full flesh, breath stuttered over his knuckles in excitement.

Glenn was still wanting.

That was easily fixed.


Daryl's back was to the wall now. Both bottles sat near empty on the floor and out of reach, no longer needed to get the high they were seeking. Connor was perched in his lap, palms cradled along the redneck's throat as he ate at his mouth. It felt like they'd been kissing for hours, just tasting each other, indulging heavily in the one thing they'd denied themselves in a time when it was encouraged to live for the moment. It was a flood wall. After that first peck they'd barely contained themselves, Daryl had even dragged the Irishman into his lap for better access. His hands were anchored onto Connor's hips under his shirt, thumbs finding a home in the slight hollow of his hips.

They broke away but just barely, enough to pull fresh air into their lungs. All they could taste was each other, liquor and cigarettes and human. There was no hiding their enjoyment, they could feel how hard the other was by the crush of their hips. It was maddeningly delicious.

"We should stop," Connor suggested roughly, wanting anything but.

Daryl whined in the back of his throat, beyond words as he pulled him closer by the grip on his waist.

"We keep goin' and I won't want to stop," Connor pointed out as he started to slide out of the man's lap. Daryl darted one hand up to the back of his neck, grabbing him and yanking him down into another kiss. The blonde gave in for a moment, letting the man taste him. It had taken a few minutes but Daryl had picked up on proper kissing quick for someone who'd rarely done it in the past.

Connor dropped his hand into the older man's lap, cupping his groin firmly. Daryl jumped back into the wall, having nowhere to go and jolting his head against the surface instead. A distressed sound escaped his lips without his consent, his own hand dropping down to grab his wrist. He let go the moment he realized what he was doing, eyes darting to the bedspread. Connor moved his hand away, point made.

"You said you never kissed anyone sober," Connor reminded him, running his knuckles down the line of buttons on the redneck's shirt, "God be damned if I let our first time be when we're both pissed."

Daryl looked back at him, surprise taking over his expressive face, "First time?"

The blonde pulled his hand away, "I didn't mean...I assumed, I guess."

They were quiet for a long time after that but they didn't move away, absorbing body heat like sponges.

"I can barely concentrate," Connor half lied, he could honestly only concentrate on the feeling of Daryl's chapped lips against his own, "Maybe gettin' drunk wasn't the best way to go about this."

"Maybe it was the only way we'd do this."

The near-resigned, unsteady tone of the older man's voice pulled at his heartstrings.

"I've wanted to," Connor decided to lay it all out, "For a while now."

Daryl fingers flexed across the nape of his neck, almost anchoring himself, "Me too."

Connor took a hold of the hand along his throat and dragged it to his face, nuzzling it in a way he'd never admit to in a room full of men. He let the rough palm lay along his cheek. They were both blood hot and flushed from their encounter and the alcohol, a comfort they hadn't felt in much too long.

"I don't want to push you into anythin'," he whispered, too afraid to break the soft spell of the room, "But I want more."

"I think..." Daryl swallowed, honesty drying up his throat, "I think I do too."

"Then I'm gonna go now," Connor slowly got off the bed, balance still off, "We'll sober up and try this again later, if that's okay."

"More than," Daryl already ached to hold him again, "The others-"

"Hush," the blonde stated firmly, finger tapping his lips, "It ain't none of their business, is it?"

The hunter's smile was beyond grateful.

Without another word Connor left, shutting the door behind him. Once he knew he was alone in the hall he let his back rest against it. His heart was fluttering madly in his chest, his breath was coming in little gasps of excitement. He couldn't believe what had just happened. After months of waiting, agonizing weeks of frustration, he'd finally gotten somewhere. His heart, usually so chained up when not wrapped around his twin, was as lively as if he were being chased. In a way, he was.

Connor forced himself to push away from the door and head to his room. If he lingered he was sure he would give in to the urge to go back inside and finish what he started.

What he didn't know was that Daryl was sprawling out on his bed, wishing desperately that he would give in to those urges and join him.


They dozed together on the makeshift bed, washed out from the day and completely spent. Murphy was flat on his back with Glenn half curled on him, head resting on his shoulder. He didn't really think twice about wrapping his arm around the Korean, letting his fingers trace the line of his arm through his shirt sleeve. Glenn's pants laid on the floor somewhere, a long casualty of their tryst.

After a while Murphy took a deep breath, eyes fluttering open as he took in his surroundings. He was still a little tipsy but he knew he wanted to sleep in his own room with his brother. He slipped out from under the Korean and threw his legs over the edge, stretching his arms high over his head before standing up. Fingers caught his wrist, thumb rubbing the inside of his wrist. The touch was painfully intimate in his retreat.

"You should stay," his voice was rough with sleep but serious.

Murphy swung his hand pointedly, grinning, "I'm gonna go back to my room."

Glenn tried not to grimace at the words but it was hard, "Don't leave."

"I'm right down the hall," Murphy laughed quietly, leaning down over the other, "I'll see you in the morning. I always do, don't I?"

Glenn accepted the light brush he wanted to call a kiss, forcing a small smile of his own. The Irishman slipped out of his grip and through the door in moments, as quick as ever. The vulnerable, soft Murphy he'd seen only an hour ago was gone. Shoved under a dozen layers of mirth and easy smiles, buried from the world. He'd never seen someone so practiced at hiding.

He'd known what this was from the start. He may have been a virgin to most things like this but he wasn't an idiot. Murphy may have been nice and flirted with him, but he didn't belong to anyone but his twin. Sex didn't equal love. Whatever made his heart tender for the Irishman didn't matter because the facts were set in stone. Murphy didn't owe him anything and getting upset over it would only result in him never seeing the man in his bed again.

But it had been so nice while it had lasted.

Glenn yanked off his shirt and tossed it, pulling the quilt the other man had been laying on up to his nose. He inhaled deeply, catching clove and sex and sweat and those fucking cigarettes. Even that unscented, strong soap from the showers hadn't washed away the tar and chemicals.

As he settled down to try and sleep, the night replayed behind his eyelids. Of Murphy dragging him back up into a kiss that tasted of pure sex, of getting rolled onto his back and touched everywhere by those clever hands. Teeth across his chest, a hot mouth across his cock, whispered endearments in Korean that made him breathless. Yeppeun was probably carved into his flesh somewhere from just the heat of Murphy's lips. Glenn buried his face his pillow and tried not to think about it anymore.

His heart already hurt, he didn't want it to break.


Murphy couldn't stop smiling as he found his brother waiting for him at their chosen bedroom door, more drunk than he'd been before he'd left but satisfied all the same. Connor ushered him inside, closing and locking the door behind him.

"You look like hell," Connor eyed him carefully, "What happened to your chin? And yer shirt's torn up. Did you get in a fight out there or somethin'?"

Murphy shrugged as he stripped off his clothes, flesh bared for his brother's gaze if he chose to see it. The blonde kept his tongue clipped as he shed his clothes too, at ease with his twin enough not to give a rat's ass about propriety.

"We should push the cots together and put a shit ton of blankets on top," Murphy suggested as he helped his brother pull two folded up cots out of the closet, "It's nice, actually."

They worked like clockwork, one tossing down blankets while the other flicked them open and spread them over the cots. In minutes they had a pretty comfy looking bed. Murphy was the first to plop down, testing it out. Connor went to turn the wall lamp off but he saw the little nip marks on his brother's throat and bristled.

"What did you get into?"

The brunette rubbed a hand over his neck, feeling his twin's gaze, "Glenn."

Connor's jaw dropped dumbly, "Murph..."

"I don't want to talk about it," Murphy snapped. His treacherous mind kept flashing to Shane's mouth slanting across his, hands groping him through his clothes and down into his pants.

"I wasn't goin' to tear you down or nothin', you know that," Connor assured him, "But you're not okay. Did he do somethin' to ya?"

"It wasn't Glenn."

Connor fingers curled into tight fists, "Who, then?"

His brother kept his mouth shut as he pulled the sheet into his lap.

The archer thumped his fist against the wall, "Who?!"

"It doesn't matter, just let it go," he implored. Connor tucked his fingers beneath his brother's chin and tilted his head up to the light, revealing blood shot eyes and fresh tears. He'd clearly been drinking and someone had shaken him up. Glenn couldn't have done this but he could think of a choice few in the group who could have.

"My dear brother."

Murphy dropped his head in shame and laid down in their new bed, bunching the pillow up under his head so he could put his back to his twin. Connor flicked off the lamp and let his eyes adjust to the dark before he laid down as well, slowly easing up behind his twin. The moment his chest touched Murphy's back the other released a shuddering sigh before pressing back into him.

Connor forgot all about his giddy excitement over Daryl for a calmer, more precious emotion that only came out with his twin. He wrapped an arm around Murphy's waist and laced their fingers together across his pale stomach, just an inch from his fading walker scar. It wasn't the light touch of digits they used to comfort one another, it was stronger and much more like an anchor.

Connor pressed his mouth to the back of his brother's neck, not quite a kiss, "Love you."

Out of his sight, tears still trickled.

"Love you too."


Murphy was the first up the next morning, though he only knew by the clock on the wall what time it really was. Too early to matter but he couldn't go back to sleep. Between the nightmares and the sense memory flashes he'd barely got a few minutes at a time, at least it felt that way. His brother was still sound asleep and flat on his belly, arms rucked up under the pillow to support his head. He looked just as tousled as he did awake, though his cheeks weren't as flushed as they had been last night. Nonetheless he seemed content, a welcome relief from the fever induced delirium he'd been suffering only yesterday. Their mother had always told them they were fighters and Connor had proven it. His twin had gone through the hell that he had escaped, his fever hadn't been half as bad as what his brother had managed to get through.

He had always been the lucky one.

Murphy dropped a kiss in his twin's golden hair and dropped his forehead to his tan shoulder, letting it lay there for a few moments before getting up. He quietly dug around the room, pulling open every drawer and opening every cabinet until he found a pair of jeans that were only a size too big and a belt. He found a few shirts folded up in the very bottom drawer of a small dresser, he took a navy blue tank top and yanked it over his head.

He slipped out of the room and went down the hall on eggshells, mindful of the group's snores. He got to the cafeteria and started rifling through the cabinets, this time for food. He found powdered milk and lots of bottled water, dehydrated eggs, powdered orange juice (but a really good brand), coffee, a working coffee machine, frozen bacon, dry pancake mix but no syrup. Thankfully the lazy susan revealed brown sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla.

"Look at me, Ma," Murphy was grinning ear to ear as he laid all the ingredients out on one of the counters, "No hands."

He started mixing and soaking and frying until he was starting to come up with real food, though he dirtied a dozen dishes trying to do it. Once he had a moment he set cold water bottles out for everyone, paper plates and forks in front of each chair. He took the urn of orange juice he'd whipped together and poured half-glasses, enough for everyone. He left little powder prints all over everything he touched, including broad swipes across his shirt and pants when he brushed his palms across it.

The group had been kind to them except for the panic when Connor had been bit. But they hadn't shot him. Even though they'd wanted to, if just a moment, they hadn't and most had been happy to see his brother immune and walking. That, and they all deserved as many good meals as they could get into them.

Dale was the first to arrive, looking well-rested and even smiling a little beneath the tuft of his beard. Murphy quickly served him up a cup, getting an even wider grin. They exchanged nods, one of gratitude and one of forgiveness.

T-Dog came next, only he came with an apology, "Anything I can do to help?"

Murphy tisked but he ended up nodded, "You're in charge of the eggs. Think you can handle that?"

He flashed his teeth in a smirk, "Yeah, I got it."

Andrea came in, silent but hungry, and Jacqui soon followed. They talked with Dale about nonsense things and tried to keep up the pretense of normal. Murphy didn't perk up until he spotted Glenn stumbling into the kitchen, the kid obviously hung over as hell. Maybe he shouldn't have encouraged him to drink so much but it had been so much fun watching him try to chug a beer.

Glenn was rubbing the sleep from his aching eyes when he heard something, a soft whistle. He squinted to adjust to the light but he managed to focus on the man leaning across the counter. Murphy had one hand braced on the table and the other held out, one finger offered up as it dripped thickly with something amber and shiny.

"Is that syrup?" he croaked.

"Come taste and find out," Murph winked, "Hurry up or you'll waste it."

Ignoring the looks from the others, Glenn walked up and took hold of the Irishman's wrist. After a seconds hesitation he licked a clean stripe up the digit. The too-public display sent a jolt of fear and arousal through his groin, the syrup exploding across his tongue. His hangover was bad but he hadn't had syrup in months and it was too good to pass up, even with the nausea.

"Sit down and get some water, don't look at the light," Murphy sucked the rest of his finger, watching the other's eyes go wide at the shameless display, "There's a good lad. You'll be fine."

Almost in a daze, Glenn took a seat and grabbed a bottle of water for his own. Jacqui raised a brow at him but didn't say anything. They were all getting used to Murphy's severe bursts of flirtation but this was pushing it. Her look didn't pass judgment so he only forced a smile before he dropped his head, concentrating on the ripples the bottle made every time he moved it. His head was pounding through a warrior's rhythm and it was taking everything he had not to throw up on the table, he didn't have time to worry about what the group thought of him.

Connor wandered in, he had pulled on that filthy red sleeveless shirt he loved to hunt in. He didn't look too worse for wear, all things considering. Wanting to show his brother he was okay, Murphy started bustling around the table forking out bacon and small pancakes drenched in syrup.

Jacqui took a bite and made an obscene sound, patting his butt when he walked by, "Marry me, boy, because these are amazing."

"Get in line, love," Murphy shot her a wink, giving Glenn a good bit of the bacon, "You need protein for that head 'a yers."

"That's too-"

"There's more to come, hush up," Murphy commanded, going back for the second round.

Jenner appeared as silent as a snake, weaving through them to place a bottle of aspirin beside the Korean. Glenn moaned out a thank you and practically ripped the cap open with his teeth, taking down three with a gulp of water and some pancake.

Carol and Sophia joined them in time for the first helping of eggs. Connor turned in his chair and grinned at them, all charm now.

"Look at you two, just lovely as the mornin' sun and all it's splendid glory," his accent came out a little thicker, voice breaking in for the day, "Come sit by me. Please, I insist."

Carol laughed as she sat down, thanking T-Dog as he gave her a pile of scrambled eggs. Sophia went to sit down but Connor scooped her up gracefully, getting a high pitched giggle out of her.

"No, princess, you sit right here and you eat everythin' you can get your hands on," Connor handed her his fork, "Go on while it's hot."

"Are these pancakes?" she sounded stunned.

"Of course."

Her mouth pulled in a frown, "There's no butter?"

"Sophia," Carol whispered in a sharp tone, one that told her daughter what she said was inappropriate.

"Hmm, let's see here," Connor hummed, plucking up a sticky pancake and examining it, "Looks good to me. Let's see how it tastes."

He popped it in his mouth noisily, making faces that made her smile.

"Tastes just perfect," he promised her, "Addin' butter would be a sin."

She tasted it and brightened, shoveling more into her mouth as fast as she could.

"Slow down, slow down!" Connor implored on the tail end of a chuckle, "There's plenty."

Daryl wandered in with just a bit of a headache, mouth sour from the whiskey. He hid his smile at the way Connor and Sophia laughed together and playfully fought over the food on his plate, he battled with his fingers while she threatened to spear. He only saw Connor smile so freely with the kids. He'd been graced with that smile a few times but only when they were alone. It was like seeing a rainbow or some shit.

"Sit. Food."

Daryl rolled his eyes at Murphy's curt command, taking a plate and some water and hanging back near the counter instead. The darker twin glared at him for his choice and they had a nice stare off before food was piled onto his plate. He ate gratefully, even gave a nod at T-Dog when he passed. He watched Connor wet a napkin and wipe the girl's face, clearing it of all the syrup she'd managed to get on herself.

"There we are, lass, clean like spring," Connor wiped his own, "And now we match. Go get some juice and sit here by your mum while I stuff my face for a bit, yeah?"

He easily picked her up and set her on her feet, sending her on her way to the fridge.

Lori and Carl came in and he greeted them just as warmly, calling for his brother to fill up their plates. Murphy obliged, dropping a kiss on the woman's cheek when she thanked him. He gave Carl extra pancakes, the boy bumping fists with him in thanks.

"Any time, little man," Murphy promised, turning around to head back to the kitchen. He caught sight of Shane at the mouth of the kitchen, gasping hoarsely as the empty plate slipped through his fingers.

"Whoa!" Lori caught the plate, arm stretched almost painfully around the back of her chair, "Are you okay? What's wrong?"

"Nothin'," Murphy breathed out quickly, taking the dish as he ripped his eyes off the approaching man, "Jus' startled it all."

Murphy quickly slipped back into the kitchen and out of Shane's way, busying his hands up to make more food. His breath may have been a little quicker but he looked calm on the outside, face purposefully blank. Connor missed the whole exchange, too busy dancing his fork teasingly at the edge of Sophia's plate. She squealed in protest, their utensils locking in a mock sword fight.

But Lori saw it. When Murphy had seen Shane she couldn't mistake the look on the darker twin's face for anything but fear.

Rick came in, patting his best friend on the back as he passed him, "Hey."

"Hey," Shane muttered, keeping his head ducked as he went over to the coffee.

"Are you hungover?" Carl asked his dad, grinning around a mouthful of eggs, "Mom said you'd be."

Rick managed a smile at his son, sitting down carefully so not to jostle his head, "Mom is right."

Lori picked at bacon, "Mom has that annoying habit."

"This'll help," T-Dog spooned eggs onto his plate, "Bet you can't tell they're powdered."

"Thanks," the sheriff rasped, accepting the water his wife passed to him.

"This too," Glenn kept his head down as he moaned, pushing the aspirin toward the older man.

Rick looked around, "Where'd all this come from?"

"Murphy," Jenner waved his palm toward the Irishman, "I just supplied the medicine."

"Thank God for both," the Korean slowly spooned eggs into his mouth, wincing as the metal brushed his teeth, "Don't ever ever let me drink again."

"How about you, brother? How you holdin' up over there?" Rick called, his partner blowing across the surface of his coffee, "Feel as bad as I do?"

"Worse," Shane grunted, coming toward the table.

T-Dog got a good look at him, "The hell happened to you?"

There was a small bruise forming along his temple and three perfect fingernail scratches down the line of his throat. They started out deep and tapered off like a smooth rock through the water, little dots of reddened flesh.

Shane only shrugged, "Must've done it in my sleep."

"Never seen you do that before," Rick commented.

"Me neither," Shane met Murphy's eyes as the Irishman set the container of mixed orange juice in the middle of the table, "Not like me at all."

"You should be more careful," the darker twin advised off handedly, "We don't want you hurtin' yourself, Shane."

"I'll try to be more careful next time," the older man emphasized, getting a narrowed glare from the slighter man.

"Doctor," Dale spoke up, plate clear, "I don't mean to slam you with questions first thing-"

"But you will anyway," there was a half-smile around the rim of the doctor's coffee mug.

"We didn't come here for the eggs," Andrea stated, the steadiest thing she'd said in days.

"After breakfast," Murphy clicked his tongue warningly when the doctor tried to stand, "We've all been waitin' for answers since we first saw a geek. We can wait another hour for our bellies to fill up and the aspirin to kick in."

Glenn grabbed his shirt, tugging it, "You too. Sit down and eat."


Connor got up and took the pan from his brother, shaking his head. He filled up a plate and put it on the table, shoving his protesting twin in a seat between him and Glenn.

"Eat, brat," Connor scolded fondly, ruffling his brother's hair only to get his hand swatted at.

Daryl was the only one who saw the heated glare Shane was shooting at the Irishman.


The group followed Jenner into the big screen area, sitting and scattering around the circular room. The doctor had Vi pull up recordings of TS-19, someone's brain in their last moments of life. It was a hauntingly beautiful display. An enhanced internal view showed brilliantly firing synapses, so alive and bright it was hard to imagine them as anything but.

"What are those lights?" Shane asked, eyes fixated on the screen just like everyone else's.

"It's a person's life," Jenner replied, a breathy note to his voice, "Experiences, memories. It's everything. Somewhere in all that organic wiring, all those ripples of light, is you – the thing that makes you unique. And human."

"We are so small," Connor declared softly, brow furrowed up as he studied the firing synapses, "So tiny compared to the world. Just a bit of circuitry. Lights and clockwork."

Murphy grabbed his hand, lacing their fingers. The blonde blinked over at him as if he'd forgotten he was there, slowly squeezing back.

"Sorry," Connor muttered under his breath.

"Contrary to what you said, you are just as pretty on the inside," Jenner joked, bringing the lighter twin back out of his thoughts.

"It's all spiritual, scientific mumbo-jumbo to me," Daryl crossed his arms over his chest, leaning against a desk, "Don't you ever make sense, Doc?"

"Those are synapses," Jenner explained, pointing up toward the screen, "Electric impulses in the brain that carry all the messages."

Some were still frowning in confusion.

"It's what determines whether we like butter on our pancakes," Sophia grinned behind her doll's woven hair, "It's what creates the monsters in our nightmares and the beaches in our dreams. These little bits of light determine how well you skin a squirrel or how well you shoot a gun. It's what makes us love our brothers," Murphy bumped shoulders with his twin, "It's what makes us crave a kiss from a certain set of lips, even if we think it's wrong."

Daryl glanced over at Conner too quick for anyone to notice.

"They determine everything a person says, does, or thinks from the moment of birth to the moment of death."

Rick wet his dry lips, "So this is a vigil?"

"Yes," the doctor blinked out of his daze, "Or rather the playback of a vigil."

"This person died?" Andrea crept closer, hands stuffed in her pockets, "Who?"

"Test Subject 19. Someone who was bitten but didn't have the luck of her coworkers. She volunteered to have us record the progress. Vi, scan forward to the first event."

"Scanning to first event."

The video scanned forward, something like tar creeping up through the subject's neck and into the brain. It was expanding up into the synapses, eating up bits and pieces as it spidered out.

Glenn glanced over the doctor, "What is that?"

"It invades the brain like, say, meningitis," Jenner gestured.

"We both had meningitis as kids," Murphy threw his chin up at the screen, "Ma said we were nearly down for the count. In bed for two months after."

"Maybe that was it," Jenner smiled weakly, "Maybe almost dying has kept you alive."

The subject on the screen writhed, the doctor swallowed audibly, "The adrenal glands hemorrhage, the brain goes into shutdown, then the major organs. Then death."

The subject's brain went black, destroyed.

"Everything you ever were or ever will be...gone."

Sophia put her hand on the hem of her mom's shirt, "Is that what happened to Jim?"

Carol nodded, petting through her daughter's hair, "Yes."

Jacqui and Andrea looked visibly shaken.

Murphy let his brother's hand go and looped his arm around his neck, banging their heads together, "Glad it wasn't you."

There was no mirth in his voice, only unbelievable relief and an edge of despair.

"I'm glad you dodged that bullet, Murphy," Jenner's voice was low and sympathetic, "It's devastating. To have someone you love most in the world ripped away from would've destroyed you."

Connor gripped his twin's hip protectively.

"Scan to second event."

"Scanning to second event."

"The resurrection times vary wildly. We had reports of it happening in as little as three minutes to the longest of eight hours. The gestation period of the fever can can be any amount of time. Connor's fever lasted, what? Twelve hours? More?"

"More," Murphy wiped his mouth with the edge of his sleeve, "Mine only lasted five hours or so."

"You were so, so lucky," the doctor breathed before speaking up, "In the case of this patient it was two hours, one seconds."

Some red light started appearing at the base of the subject's brain, flickering faintly up through the rest of it. Like a ghost.

"It restarts the brain?" Lori awed.

"No, just the brain stem," Jenner corrected, "Basically, it gets them up and moving."

Rick came forward, "But they're not alive?"

The doctor shrugged, holding out his arms, "You tell me."

"It's nothin' like before," Rick shook his head, "Most of that brain is dark."

"Dark, lifeless, dead. The frontal lobe, the neocortex, that human part – that doesn't come back. The you part. Just a shell, driven by mindless instinct."

"God," Carol gasped sharply, "What was that?"

"He shot his patient in the head," Andrea answered, voice strained, "Didn't you?"

Jenner turned his back on the screen, walking away, "Vi, power down the main screen and the workstations."

"Powering down main screen and workstations."

"You have no idea what it is, do you?" Andrea accused.

"It could be microbial," Jenner shook his head, "Viral, parasitic, fungal."

"Or the wrath of God," Jacqui spat, jaw tight.

The doctor looked over his shoulder, "There is that."

"God would never do this, He wouldn't put this hell upon us," Murphy protested, "This is Man, pure and simple."

"Somebody must know something," Andrea rubbed her hand over her forehead, "Somebody somewhere."

"There are others, right?" Carol implored, "Other facilities?"

"There may be some," the doctor confessed reluctantly, "People like me."

"But you don't know?" Rick persisted hotly, "How can you not know?"

"Everything went down. Communications, directives – all of it. I've been in the dark for almost four months."

"So it's not just here?" the blonde woman sounded exasperated, "There's nothing left anywhere? Nothing? That's what you're really saying, right?"

Jenner didn't reply, his expression said it all. Disappointment flowed through the group, breaking over them in waves and quickly followed by despair. Andrea could hardly get a full breath and Rick had never looked so crestfallen.

Jacqui leaned against one of the desks, hand to her heart, "Jesus."

"Man, I'm gonna get shit-faced drunk," Daryl drawled, digging the heels of his palms into his temples, "Again."

"Dr. Jenner," Dale approached, "I know this has been taxing for you and I hate to ask one more question, but that clock – it's counting down. What happens when it hits zero?"

"The basement generators," the doctor reluctantly let go of the words, " out of fuel."

He turned away quickly, unable to take their sharpening stares.

"And then?" Rick demanded, but the CDC worker wasn't giving an inch, "Vi! What happens when the power runs out?"

"When power runs out, facility-wide decontamination will occur."

"Decontamination?" Murphy whispered, blanching at the taste of the word in his mouth.

He sounded as terrified as everyone suddenly felt.


Rick led a small group in search of the generators, yearning to prove the doctor wrong. They spread out like ants across the ghost town Jenner called a basement, quick in checking every container to confirm it's contents. What they found robbed them of hope. Dry bottoms, bare walls, nothing to go on. And when the lights went out Murphy jumped, shrugging off the hand Glenn put on his shoulder to calm him.

"I'm not a child, jus' startled me is all," Murphy snarled, squinting around, "Who the fuck turned out the lights?"

T-Dog appeared around the corner with the other Irishman, "Not us. Must've just gone off on their own."

"Shit," Connor's dread was starting to choke him, "It can't be down to just that last tick, could it?"

But Shane's flashlight was trained on the level gauge, proving just how horribly true it was.


Rick's group met up with the others in the main lab, they were hovering around Jenner demanding to know why the lights and air had shut off. Apparently Zone 5 was shutting itself down, eliminating all sources of nonessential functions to keep the computers running until the last second. Until the end. The doctor finally answered the question of who would know what this was, the French. They were the last to hold out in the face of the apocalypse.

Jenner ascended the stairs to the upper platform, "They thought they were close to a solution."

"What happened?" Jacqui inquired.

"The same thing that's happening here," the doctor turned to face them, looking more haggard than they had seen before, "No power grid. Ran out of juice. The world runs on fossil fuel."

A bitter laugh escaped his lips, "How stupid is that?"

"Let me tell you somethin'!" Shane charged at the man but his best friend grabbed his arm and dragged him back.

"Would you stop for a second?"

"Doctor," Murphy pleaded, chasing after the older man, "There has to be somethin' we can do. There's cars outside, we can get fuel."

"And you," Jenner whipped around and grabbed him by the face, thumb digging into the hollow of the Irishman's cheek, "You little miracles just dropped into my lap after months of pointless research. You and your brother could salvage this world but it's too late."

Murphy shoved him away, eyes wide in fear.

"Don't you put that on us!" Connor snarled, moving in front of his brother, "You had your little subjects just like us. It's not our fault you didn't learn anythin' from them!"

"If guns weren't so God damn tasty we would've had them longer!"

The almost manic scream silenced the group, the lighter twin jerked back and away from the other man. There was something dead in his eyes now, a resignation that could only lead to certain end.

"Saviors," Jenner breathed, hands clenched into fists at his side, "God just sent you too late."

"I've had it with this," Rick declared, grabbing Connor's arm and stealing his attention, "I don't care what he has to say, don't you listen to him. Lori! Grab our things. Everybody, get your stuff. We're getting out of here - now!"

And alarm started to sound.

"Thirty minutes to decontamination."

"Doc, what's goin' on here, damn it!" Daryl demanded fiercely.

"Everybody, y'all heard Rick!" Shane shouted over the alarm, "Get your stuff and let's go! Go now! Go!"

There was a mighty roar before the door to the hallway rose up, sealing them inside. Fresh terror seized the group, they stilled like a herd of gazelle in the face of a predator.

"Did you just lock us in?" Glenn's voice sounded tight, like his hair was being cut off, "He just locked us in!"

Realization hit Daryl first. His face scrunched up in a scowl, feet quick to take him at the doctor. Rick saw it and yelled for Shane, pointing at the bull run of the redneck.

"You son-of-a-bitch! You locked us in here! I'll kill ya!"

Shane barely managed to catch the Dixon around the neck and drag him back before he heard Rick's next shout, "Connor, stop!"

The Irishman barreled forward and tackled the doctor out of his chair, getting a hand around his throat, "Motherfucker!"

"Whoa, man!" T-Dog wrapped his arms around his waist and pulled him up, muscles straining against the thrashing blonde, "Don't do this!"

Connor was screaming and prying at the black man's forearm with one hand while the other reached for the doctor still, trying to claw his eyes right out. It was a task hurling both men off the upper deck and down the ramp, Shane and T-Dog physically blocking them from getting back at Jenner.

The doctor started to explain to the others just why he couldn't open the door, saying he didn't have the authority and that this place had to be sealed because of all the things within the CDC's vault. Connor couldn't hear a word of it past the pain in his hip and the heart beat in his ears. Daryl saw him cradling his wound, face pulled in something more than discomfort.

"They fuckin' hurt you?" Daryl crawled closer, blocking the slighter man from view of the others with the breadth of his shoulders.

" 'M fine, just got handled the wrong way," Connor gasped as he pulled away his hand to see a smear of blood, the skin had broken and was leaking in some places across the bite, "Oh fuck me."

Daryl wanted to tell them everything was going to be okay but he couldn't find it in him to lie. Instead he put an arm around the Irishman's shoulders and helped him sit up off his knees, looking him right in the eyes. There were a hundred things he wanted to say but he couldn't, not with the prying ears of the group so close. Even if they were about to die he couldn't admit to the fact that he could maybealittlecompletely be in love with this man.

"As long as I'm breathin', ain't no one gonna hurt you," Daryl promised lowly before he got up on his feet, leaving him behind. Connor just sat there breathless, stunned, but only for a moment. He quickly got up and followed the Dixon brother back up the ramp to the level. Vi was explaining just what was going to happen when the clock ran out, the deployment of something called 'HIT's.

"HITs: High-impulse thermobaric fuel-air explosives consist of a two-stage aerosol ignition that produces a blast wave of significantly greater power and duration than any other known explosive except nuclear. The vacuum-pressure effect ignites the oxygen at between 5,000 and 6,000 degrees and is useful when the greatest loss of life and damage destruction is desired."

Murphy was close to hyperventilating, "You're goin' to burn us alive."

"It sets the air on fire," Jenner was looking down at the ground, as if he were imagining it, "No pain. An end to sorrow, grief...regret. Everything."

"Who made you judge and jury?" Connor spat.

"Someone has to," Jenner's mouth pulled up at the irony of it all, "God stopped calling the shots. I'm just stepping up to the plate."


Glenn and Daryl pushed and pulled at the door but there was no give. The Korean dug his nails into the edges and tried to pry it down but there was nothing. No latch, no buttons, not even a keypad to try and play with. Daryl roared in frustration and Glenn only had a moment to duck out of his way before he hurled his whiskey bottle at the door, glass shattering loudly and clinking to the floor like rain.

"Open the damn door!" Daryl bellowed, rage outweighing his worry.

"Out of my way!" Shane roared, going at the door with an axe. Sparks danced along the surface as the blade hit it but it didn't even leave a scratch. T-Dog threw Daryl an axe and the redneck joined him, trying to cut their way out. Murphy was looking over the control panels, trying to find and emergency stop or abort button or anything that could help them.

Connor stayed by the doctor, silent and staring at him with morbid fascination. His bite had stopped bleeding, it barely hurt anymore. Carol and Lori sat with their backs to one of the desks, their children curled in their laps and crying. Jacqui and Andrea lingered as well, unsure what to do with themselves.

"You know what's out there," Jenner sighed, "A short, brutal life and an agonizing death. Your sister – what was her name?"

"Amy," Andrea replied.

"Then you've seen it. You know what it can do. Is that what you want for your family? Your friends?"

"I don't want this," Rick insisted emphatically.

Shane came up to them, panting, "Can't make a dent."

"Those doors are designed to withstand a rocket launcher," if he hadn't sound so resigned they could've sworn Jenner was mocking them.

Daryl approached with the axe still in his hands, "Well yer head ain't!"

Dale, T-Dog, Rick, and Shane all had to hold the redneck back this time. They screamed at him to stop, to back up, to calm down. T-Dog took the axe from him, practically ripping it from his hands.

"You do want this," Jenner pointed out, "Last night you said it was only a matter of time before everybody you loved was dead."

"What? You really said that?" Shane frowned, "After all your big talk?"

"I had to keep hope alive, didn't I?" Rick countered.

"There is no hope, not anymore," Jenner pointed at Connor's hip where just three pinpricks of blood had soaked through, "Any fighting chance we have is inside those veins. It's walking with you, eating with you, and it's scattered in the rotting corpses of the hundreds of thousands who weren't quick enough to escape the dead. Realistically, how many of them do you think are left in the world? A thousand? A hundred? Maybe a dozen? And who am I kidding? The chances of getting one of them to powered facility for the year it would take to make a small amount of vaccine is slim to none. And what if we did create a vaccine? What then? I pretty sure we don't even have a proper breeding pool anymore."

The doctor scrubbed a hand over his eyes, his laugh sounding more like a sob, "Hope. There was never any hope."

"There's always hope," Rick protested vehemently, "Maybe it won't be you, maybe not here, but somebody somewhere-"

"What part of 'everything is gone' do you not understand?" Andrea snapped.

"Listen to your friend," Jenner advised, "She gets it. This is what takes us down. This is our extinction event."

"This isn't right," Carol sobbed, "You can't just keep us here."

"It's one tiny moment," Jenner soothed, leaning forward in his chair, "A millisecond. No pain."

"My daughter doesn't deserve to die like this."

They started to get up and move away from the set-minded doctor.

"Wouldn't it be kinder, more compassionate, to hold your loved ones and wait for the clock to run down?"

No one saw Shane disappear so when he came back with a shotgun it was more than unsettling.

"Shane, no!" Rick tried to stop him but the man shoved him off.

"Out of my way, Rick! Stay out of my way!"

"This isn't helpin', man," Murphy nearly got the butt end of the gun in his face but he dodged too quickly, "You insane fucker!"

Walsh pointed the gun right in Jenner's face, "Open that door or I'm gonna blow your head off. Do you hear me?!"

"Brother," Rick implored, just inches from the bigger man's face, "Brother, you do this and we will never get out of here."

"It's too late," Shane grit out, the muzzle of the gun digging into the doctor's cheek.

"He dies, we all-" he was cut off by Walsh's sudden yell, "-we all die! Shane!"

And just like that Shane started firing. Some ducked behind whatever they could find, Lori shielded Carl with her body, and Carol covered Sophia's ears. Jenner looked like his eardrums popped, face twisted in pain before he covered his head. Almost an entire row of computer monitors were taken out, only a pause for breath and the sharp click of the gun in between shots. He took out a light before whipping away from Rick's hands, looking through the site for a new target. What he saw was Murphy's frozen form, staring at him with wide eyes. His finger kissed the trigger, ready to take him out, but something inside him couldn't do it. He looked so vulnerable, pink mouth parted in fear and eyes all round and shiny like marbles in the emergency lights. He shifted his aim just a few inches and let the shell fire, taking a twisted sense of enjoyment out of the way the boy jumped and yelped like a startled animal.

Rick finally got his hands around the shotgun and wrenched it away from him, shoulder-blocking him so hard he knocked his best friend to the ground. He stood over him with the butt of the gun raised warningly, but as he looked down in the man's face he decided not to hit him. Not Shane, not his Shane. Walsh looked away from him, unable to bare the sympathetic look on the other's face.

"Are you done now?" Rick lowered the gun a bit but his voice was unwavering, "Are you done?"

"Yeah, I guess we all are," Shane mocked his tone.

Rick walked away from him and handed the gun off to T-Dog, giving the man room to breath. Glenn rushed over to Murphy and started checking him for wounds despite his quiet protests, the lighter twin watching the exchange with a sharp eye.

"I think you're lying," Rick observed, slowly turning to face the doctor.

Jenner frowned, "What?"

"You're lying about no hope. If that were true, you'd have bolted with the rest or taken the easy way out. You didn't. You chose the hard path. Why?"

"It doesn't matter."

"It does matter. It always matters. You stayed when the others ran. Why?"

The dam broke as Jenner gave the truth about Test Subject 19, his wife. She had been a genius in their field and she'd sworn him to continue working til the end. She wanted him to fight for humanity, to not give up. He'd kept that promise as best he could and now he believed it was time to give up. Daryl refused to hear another word of it and started swinging at the door with his axe, a rhythmic clanging that echoed through the room.

"She could've done something about this, not me."

"Your wife didn't have a choice, you do," Rick had been trying to appeal to the man's humanity and it seemed to be working, "That's – that's all we want...a choice, a chance."

"Why?" Jenner demanded to know, "Give me one reason why you would choose that world? A world of blood and pain? Just give me one reason!"


The simple word fell from Connor's mouth without a second thought. The others quieted, looking to him curiously. The Irishman stepped forward, Jenner went back and fell into his chair. He kept going until he could drop and kneel at the doctor's feet, looking up at him imploring. He grabbed Jenner's hands in his own, holding them in the older man's lap.

"Because between all the fightin' and dyin' and screamin' there's still love out there," a smile tugged up on his lips, "The kind you don't have with you, the kind you aren't born with...that special kind between two complete strangers. That stupid, mixed up feeling is out in the world waitin' for us to find it. And don't all the stories say that's worth more than anythin' else? Conquering all the wrongs and triumphin' over evil and what not?"

Connor dropped his eyes but just for a second, "I found me somethin' real nice but it's so small and new, it ain't had time to grow. And I don't think that's real fair of life to give me somethin' so pretty only to rip me out of the world before I get a chance to see where it goes, do you?"

Jenner squeezed his hands back, expression finally cracking. He opened his mouth a few times but he couldn't choke the words past his dry throat. He couldn't say no to the man's earnest look and honest words, not when he'd seen him and the brute of a redneck disappearing into a room together. He'd seen their reactions, the way they stayed close to each other and protected one another. It was touching to see love even now with the world in the fires of hell.

"I-I told you," Jenner managed, "Topside's locked down. I can't open those."

Connor let his hands fall out of the older man's, slumping on his knees as the thought of death set in on him harder than before. While the doctor got up and went to a different station, Murphy came over and grabbed his twin beneath the arms to get him to stand. Connor hugged him tight, whispering to him in Italian how much he loved him.

Jenner swiped his card and put in the code, "You two really are miracles."

The door made whooshing sound, like it was unsealing itself.

"Never let go of each other. Ever."

The door slide back down and open, revealing the hallway.

"Come on!" Daryl boomed from the entrance. The group roused themselves and hurried to the exit, the clock ticking down with only four minutes and some change left.

"There's your chance," Jenner offered to both the twins and Rick, "Take it."

"I'm grateful," Rick promised, reaching for the man's hand in a thank you.

"The day will come when you won't be."

Jenner took his head and dragged him closer, whispering something too low for the twins to hear. Devastation came over the sheriff's face, his movements sluggish as he backed away.

"Connor!" Daryl called, "You get your ass movin' or I'm gonna throw you over my shoulder, I fuckin' swear!"

"What are you waiting for?!" Glenn yelled, hovering at the doorway, "We've got four minutes, would you come on already!"

Lori rushed forward and grabbed her husband's hand, dragging him to the ramp. The brothers shook themselves, putting fire in their heels. T-Dog had his hand on Jacqui's back and was pulling her forward, telling her to hurry.

"No, no I'm stayin'!"

Murphy froze at that, his twin rushing past him in his haste to keep up with Daryl's quick pace.

"I'm stayin', sweetie," Jacqui told him, keeping her ground.

"But that's insane," T-Dog growled, trying to pull her by her hand.

She got out of his grasp, "No, it's completely sane. For the first time in a long time. I'm not ending up like Jim or Amy."

"No," Murphy rushed her into a hug, holding her tight, "No fuckin' way I'm leavin' you here. Stop it and run already."

"I won't," she cupped his face gently when she pulled back, staring into his eyes, "You are blessed, Murphy. And if God had touched me the way he's touched you I would go on too."

A tear fell from his eye, she wiped it away with her thumb.

"There's no time to argue, and no point," Jacqui looked to the rest of them, "Not if I you want to get out. Get out."

She pushed the Irishman away, he was biting his lip as he tried not to sob, "Out! Go!"

"I can't leave you," Murphy fought as Glenn grabbed his arms and started dragging him up the ramp, "Nobody gets left behind, Jacqui! You didn't abandon my brother, I won't abandon you now!"

"Go, baby," she patted T-Dog's cheek, "You too. Don't you think of me again."

Shane was the one to pull T-Dog away, telling him to let it go.


It was a mad scramble to get all their things out of their rooms. Thankfully no one had unpacked much and it only took a minute, one precious minute. Murphy spared an extra few seconds to stuff the clothes he'd found in his duffel. The group hurried to the top floor, stairs just one more milestone for them to conquer. It was nothing in comparison to the death that awaited their loss.

It was a relief to see the light of day once they reached the top but they weren't nearly out of the woods. They tried the keypad but there was no power there, no combo to use. The doors wouldn't budge beneath their weight, not even when Connor ran a full ten feet into them. Shane and Daryl were fast to turn into a team against the windows, bringing the axes down with all the might they could muster. They got out of the way so T-Dog could try a chair against the glass but it was useless. The twins split up, Murphy working on kicking one of the locked doors open while Connor tried to cut a starting crack into a window with the Rambo knife.

"Dog, get down!" Shane warned after he loaded up the shotgun, heading up to the window, "Get down!"

They moved out of the way and he fired, the bullet knocked clean off the surface. Not a scratch, not a ding, barely a sound past the initial blast.

"Jesus," he muttered, dropping the muzzle.

"The glass won't break?" Sophia asked, her tiny voice only adding to the desperation of their situation.

"Rick?" Carol dug in her purse, approaching the sheriff, "I have something that might help."

"Carol, I don't think a nail file's gonna do it," Shane snarked unhelpfully.

"Your first morning at camp, when I washed your uniform?" she pulled a small, round object out and help it aloft, "I found this in your pocket."

Daryl spotted it and cursed, running over to Connor and grabbing him by the collar of his shirt. He dragged him toward the wall and threw him down, dropping down next to him and covering his head for the soon-to-come blow. Connor mimicked him for only a second before he remembered he didn't know where his twin was.

"Murph?" he picked his head up only to have the redneck put a heavy hand in his hair and shove it back down between their bodies. He realized quickly that if there any damage from the blast, Daryl had positioned himself to take most of the damage.

Murphy cursed and dropped between Glenn and T-Dog, hiding himself against the stairs as best he could.

Rick carefully laid the grenade against the window, panic seizing him the second he let go of the lever. He ran for the others, falling to a slide across the floor. Relief flooded his chest when one of Shane's meaty arms seized him before he fell down the steps, bringing him into his best friend's body to shield him from the blow. It was just a few moments in the warm scent of his partner before it blew, sending a shock wave and bright light through the facility. Glass shattered beneath the force.

They made a run for it, bags strapped to their backs and weapons in hand.


Pistols and axes were the heroes of the day, taking out most of the walkers. They headed toward the cars like demons themselves were nipping at their ankles, bold strides leading them past the scattered dead. Just when they got inside and were about to leave, Dale and Andrea appeared out the window. They made a run for the cars, dodging the walkers. Daryl hurried Connor into his truck while Murphy jumped into the RV.

They had seconds.

Once the pair was close enough, Lori screamed at them to get down.

"Hurry!" Murphy grabbed Glenn and pulled him into the back, Rick yelling at them to duck down. He pulled the Korean down onto the floor with him, pressed close.

In the truck, Daryl laced his hands across the back of Connor's head and pushed it down. He covered the Irishman as best he could, hoping the windows didn't bust on the blow. Fingers suddenly curled in his hair, heavy pants shaking the body half beneath his own. This was his. This connection, this man, these feelings – they belonged to him. This warm, living man could take care of himself but at the moment he felt so fragile beneath him. Like holding a squirming, mewling newborn kitten in your palm and knowing you had the power of life and death over it.

"Daryl," Connor rasped, "I-"

And then it blew The entire building, gone. Most didn't see it but everyone heard it, a deafening boom that rocked their cars on their suspensions. There was a heat and light, stronger than the grenade and twice as dangerous. Slowly they started to sit up, finding only the smoldering remains of the CDC. Rubble and flames, it looked as if it had been swallowed down into the Earth.

Glenn would later deny the way he was clutching to Murphy's hand behind the seats, too scared to do anything more than watch the fire swirl like an inferno.

Daryl slowly raised up, bringing his friend up with him. They were both trying to catch their breath, Connor's hand laying on the redneck's thigh and squeezing as he saw what had become of the CDC. Daryl let out a sharp breath in relief, letting the seat take all his weight. They didn't look away from the scene but the older man shadowed the fingers on his thigh, lacing them together. They'd made it.

And more importantly, they'd made it together.

Josim = Be careful

Yeppeun = pretty

THAT WAS SEASON ONE! Can you believe it? I totally can't. That was such a big chapter too. I won't rant, I'll just let you enjoy what we just shared. I just have three things for you:

1. Would you like to see a whole chapter dedicated to what happened to the boys and the other group in Atlanta? Or just have Murphy dream about it or something?

2. Give me your ideas for Season 2, maybe even 3 if you have strong thoughts. What do you want to see? What do you want to change? What do you just NOT want to happen?

3. Review, I beg you! Shameless begging!