A/N: Mostly back-story but vaguely set post 'Made to Suffer,' this is my attempt to delve into Daryl's worldview. Tiny hint of Caryl just because.

Order from the Chaos

Daryl Dixon never made it to school exactly regular. After his mama died there weren't no one to make him go for one thing, 'cept maybe the law and hell, not even the county sheriff seemed interested in telling Earl Dixon that his boy needed an education. Sometimes he was too tired to go or too sore from whatever walloping his Daddy or even Merle had laid on him the night before. Sometimes the woods and the solitude and peace he only seemed able to find there called him and how could being trapped in the back of some classroom compete with that?

But from the start of his fourth grade school year up right until Christmas break he didn't miss a single day. Merle laughed and called him a teacher's pet and a needy little bastard and he weren't wrong because at that point in his life a little simple affection still had the power to draw him like a moth to the flame.

He'll work out later how much safer it is to just do without.

Miss Martin didn't seem to care that his wrists and ankles poked out of last year's clothes or that his shoes had holes. She didn't mind when he stumbled over his reading or couldn't untangle the long division problem on the board without help. She surely was not in favor of the bloody nose he gave Jimmy Branson on the playground, but just as sure she marched into Principal Rawson's office and somehow managed to save his ass from a helluva paddling. (Anyway, Jimmy learned to keep his damned mouth shut about 'skinny school-teacher bitches' so there was that.)

And she told stories. Sometimes from a book, sometimes from her own head. The children who disappear into wardrobes and the children who find their way out of the woods with breadcrumbs and the children who are lost along the trail. Brothers who turn into birds and the sisters who don't say a word for years to turn 'em back. Tricksters and wise-women and monsters and desperate last stands all swirling around in his head, somehow making more sense than the real world around him.

He knew even then that a bunch of lies don't put food on the table or clothes on his back but something in them pulled him in anyway and he must have looked half-bewitched, so still as to be almost be holding his breath every time the woman spoke.

She got him a library card. Helped him find a book. Smiled warmly at him as she watched him sound out the unfamiliar words.

And then sometime just before the new year she was killed dead, her car hit head-on by some drunk on his way home from a tittie-bar on the edge of town.

Merle told him, clapped him on shoulder and said he should be grateful it wasn't their old man driving the other vehicle. Brought him out into the woods though after that, the two of them breaking into an old hunting camp and doing their level best to poach a few deer out of season. Even took the time to show him how to use a bow, even if he did howl with laughter every time he skinned his arm with the string.

He'd finally shown back up at school two weeks into the quarter and the teacher the school had pulled out of retirement to fill in wasn't surprised. What else could you expect from a Dixon?

He didn't spend much time thinking about fairy-tales after that.

Only, you know, what with the world ending and all, they started bubbling up in his head again.

Carol, the princess locked away in the tower until she wakes up with the help of a pick-ax instead of a kiss. Sophia, one of those lost children, found but not. His very own monster, his brother, both a warning and a comfort. The story of Cain and Abel, played out in front of them all and himself, the huntsman, reading the signs as best he can.

Carol again, brought back from the dark with the opening of a door, only now he's starting to wonder about those the possibility of those kisses.

And Miss Martin, dead these thirty years. Would any of her stories have prepared her for this world? Brought order from the chaos for her as they seem to do for him?

All he knows is that as he looks at Carl and at Jude, as he hopes for the others that may come, he'll pass them along as he can.

A/N: Thanks so much for reading and I'd love to know what you think!