The Hand

They were sitting' in the tower. Late watch, two am till six am, it was a bitch of a watch, but they could handle it. Had pulled enough all-nighters in their life, for less important reasons than this. Ever since the attack from the Governor, they'd put two up there, One for the cover and one for the kill. Wasn't often they had the two brother's out together, but this night Carol'd felt a little under the weather and Merle had volunteered. Didn't matter much to him, that he'd be pulling a back to back. He never needed much sleep, and besides better out there with his brother, than inside with those sons of bitches.

"So," Daryl started, with his slow tired drawl. "Ya wanna tell me about yer hand."

Merle snorted, "Nuthin to tell baby brother. Hand's gone…all there is to it."

"Well ya cut the damn thing off yerself," Daryl replied, "aint that somethin?"

"What?" Merle asked with a nod and a smirk, "ya didn't hear nuthin' from them boys when they came back without me? Didn't think ta ask?" he continued.

"Hell, I asked," Daryl snapped back, thinking back on that awful day, remembering what it had been like coming back to camp, lookin' for his brother in that sea of outsiders, and hearing that bullshit story. He'd known from the start that it wasn't gonna be a good idea for Merle to go along with them. Hell, he figured they'd throw some dogs at the most…but leave his ass out there…chained to a roof? "Even got into it with Shane."

"Ahhh," Merle laughed shaking his head lightly, "hated that son of a bitch…but he weren't the one cuffed my ass to a pipe."

Daryl never could understand why Rick had done that, over the past year they'd become as close as brothers themselves, he didn't much consider that the man had done the biggest wrong to his kin. He gathered some spit in his mouth, rolled it around the top of his tongue, then sent it flying. "So what the hell happened up there…exactly?"

"Well," Merle ran a hand over his beaten face. "There aint no exactly, I was pretty high…so I don't remember nuthin exactly. But I guess I got some amped up, started pickin' off geeks from the roof… then that nigga pal of yours…"

Daryl clenched his teeth. He hated when his brother said that, 'specially about someone like T. "T-dog." He said quietly.

"Whatever…yer pal T-dog, best I remember he musta tried to take the gun offa me." He pulled one leg up and rested his bad arm across it; he remembered slamming the butt of his rifle in that man's face again and again. "Next thing I knew I was seein' red….rage overtook me…"

Daryl shrugged and pulled himself to his feet. Yep, he'd been there when his brother got overtook. Most of the time it'd been at a bar, words got tossed around, then came the shovin' then just like that, bang, Merle was gone. A few times it had been against his ol' man. Almost killed him once or twice, if he hadn't been there to stop him, probably would have. Then there had been the one time, just the one time, with him. They never talked about that shit…never.

Daryl cleared his throat, "then…?"

"Then, my arm got yanked up and I was cuffed to a goddamn pipe!" Merle snapped. "Tried to get Blondie to set me free, then the china man…went through pretty much all matter of cussing' and screamin' …done none of it worked. Mother fuckers left me chained up there." Merle leaned his head forward against his arm. That had been one hell of a day, being up on that roof with them, all he'd really been thinking at that point was whose ass he was going to kick first when they set him free.

Fuck, Daryl thought the one thing he'd had running through his head since the day this first happened…if only he had gone along. Instead he'd stayed behind…tracking a damn deer. Lost his brother over a fucking deer.

"I was just…fuck," Merle started and then stopped, he hated this fuckin part. "I was just, shootin' my mouth off, ya know how I am….Next thing, I knew they'd found a way outta the city…everybody panicked…they all just took off." He closed his eyes, and inhaled. "That nigga friend of yours, guess he was the only one didn't wanna leave me…ran up to set me free. Fuckin tripped…and just like the worst fuckin Dixon luck didn't that key just go into the drain." Damn if he hadn't seen that key bounce slow motion and with exact precision into the drain at least a million times in the past year.

"Fuck Merle." Daryl said, leaning over the tower and using the scope of his rifle to scan the woods.

"Yeah, fuck Merle just about covers it…" his brother rasped, pulling himself to his feet. "Rest of the day's just a blur, ya know, the sun cookin' down on me and the fuckin' geeks tryin to push through that door. Just reaching their arms and hissin' and that ol' man's tool box…just outta my fuckin' reach!"

Daryl shook his head, and turned to look at his brother, "Wish I'd fucking come along brother." He said slowly, clenching his teeth together.

Merle whistled soundlessly through his teeth, "Don't I know it. First time us Dixons split since the quarry, and that shit went down." He stopped for a moment, leaned over the rail next to his brother, shoulders touching. "Tried to pull my hand out, tried to pull the pipe off…tried all sorts of everything… finally was only my belt I had to try an reach that old tool box. Fuckin thing had been tipped over…only thing I could reach was the damn saw. Hand saw….aint that a joke?"

Daryl shook his head, "Supposin' the thing wouldn't cut through metal." he said slowly.

"Nah, thing was so dull it wouldn't cut through shit….'cept my arm." Merle leaned over the edge and spit.

"Fuck Merle." Daryl said again, wasn't much else left to say.

Merle nodded and shrugged, he wasn't gonna go into too much detail here. Hurt him just to think about it. "Eventually, more and more Geeks kept comin' up, an' there aint no way, I was gonna be there fuckin supper, so I made a tourniquet outta my belt and did what I had to do. Aint gonna lie, hurt like a son of a bitch…can't believe I even had the strength to get through the goddamn bone."

"Merle…" Daryl started, turnin' to face his brother. He'd never forget findin' his hand up on that roof. Just fucking every ounce of hope he'd had just exploded in his chest. He'd just screamed, screamed and cried and stomped like a fucking kid…a kid who'd just lost his big brother.

"Don't," Merle said turning and reaching his hand up to grab Daryl around the neck…"Don't brother; I know…I know all about it." They'd talked vaguely enough about this, knew the boy'd gone up…found his hand….he knew, though Daryl'd never said, that he probably lost his shit up there. Hell, he was about to lose it now, just hearing about it.

That was the thing about Daryl, he was the sweet one. Before their mom had passed, and before their Pops had turned into a true son of a bitch, Daryl'd still had a chance. Boy'd always had such a way about him, he thought. He looked into his brother's eyes, pulled him close till their foreheads almost touched. Yeah, his Pops belt had wiped that all away. Daryl was hard as nails now, cept when it came to him.

Merle let go of him, and did a quick round of the tower. When things got deep for the Dixons, it was best to pull away. Give themselves a minute to collect their shit, man up to it. When he got back around Daryl was cool, doing a check through the scope. His face set in stone again.

"How long were ya in the city?" Daryl asked without looking away from the scope.

"Ahhh," Merle stretched, "Couple of days I think. Cauterized that shit with an old burner….broke into a pharmacy…got some supplies, a lot of pills." He stopped for a moment and thought back on those days… had any of that shit even happened? He could barely remember a thing. "Fuck brother, between the pain, the blood loss and the drugs…I can't remember much."

Daryl nodded, and swallowed hard. His brother was the toughest son of a bitch he'd ever known, and he'd grown up knowing plenty. These folks here at the prison, they didn't know Merle…only saw one part of him. Thought he was some evil freak….made him out to be akin to the devil. It wasn't like that, he thought, Merle was his brother…hell he'd fucking raised him…fed him, bathed him, all that shit.

Merle was just tough, he weren't no devil. He was a man. A man, who could face any damn thing, anything and come out the other side, yeah, he shot his mouth off and acted like a giant jackass ninety percent of the time…but, he knew… Merle had turned one way, and he'd turned the other… he'd gone all in his head, and Merle, he didn't like to spend a single second of the day in there. Stuff inside his brother's head…was just too rough to spend any time revisiting.

"Then ya landed on Woodberry." He said slowly, in a quiet drawled out whisper.

Merle shrugged, turned to look at him, didn't really wanna tell him he'd crawled his nasty, bleeding infected ass all the way back to the quarry, dug up a set of graves fucking one handed lookin' for him. Didn't wanna tell him about dropping to his knees with the bandage on his stump caked with dirt and mud, screaming and crying, until he basically passed out, when he realized he'd lost his baby brother. Didn't wanna tell him, about, hotwiring a car one handed, starving, and sick, and in pain, dirty as a mother fuck, and barely holdin' on…just desperate to follow, to not be left behind.

Nah couldn't tell Daryl that shit. That weren't how Dixons were made. Ya don't go tellin', your brother how ya fucking fell apart when you lost him. How ya fuckin drove till you was seein' double and the road just melted in front of you. A man like Daryl, he'd take that all in, and put it in his head, and he'd go round and round that an never let it go. It was best he didn't know. Wasn't important, for him to know. Merle knew that he'd gone to fucking hell and back for that boy, and that's really all that mattered.

He looked down, and shook his head. "The Governor's people found me on the side of the road. I was pretty much half dead, cookin' in a broken down car" He muttered, "Covered in my own piss and vomit, stench from my arm kept the walkers at bay I guess."

Daryl winced and nodded.

"Don't know why they bothered bringing' me back. But they did, and they had the medical supplies, and the people… got me cleaned up and healed up…." He stopped for a minute, and hung his arms off the rail, leaning over and looking at a small cluster of geeks that had piled up on the far end of the fence. "Place was fucking heaven, after that shit. I didn't mind any, being that fucker's muscle, not like I haven't done that half my life. And I moved up quick, from thug to right hand man. Dixon…I was like a fuckin' general in that town."

Daryl closed his eyes and thought back on that night, when the governor had pitted them one against the other, the cheers he's heard for his brother. "An, ya left all that huh?" he murmured.

Merle laughed softly. "Didn't have much choice." He said. "D'you forget that night?"

"Nah," Daryl shook his head and spit over the side. This prison was a piss poor place in comparison to Woodberry. Didn't take much to see that. "Bet yer regretting' that move huh?"

"Pfft," Merle shook his head. "Woodberry's just a place, like this fucking dump, like that damn quarry… its all the same to me brother, long as we're together."

"Aint talkin' so much about the place," Daryl said, he knew the group couldn't stand Merle's presence around them. His brother had gone from second in command to the shit ya wipe off on the bottom of your heel.

Merle shrugged. "Can't do much about that. Yer tied to this group brother, and I'm tied to you…aint nuthin' I can do but stay."

Merle'd never sacrificed shit for his brother before. Left him behind, when he'd known what kinda shit was gonna go down. He'd just never been ready to give up his own life, his own freedom, his own nuthin' for Daryl. Hell, the way he'd always seen it, he'd already given up plenty. More than most. His whole childhood had been spent takin care of that kid, and keepin in him outta his father's reach. Didn't take more than a look at both their backs to know who'd gotten the short end of that stick.

But when he'd lost him on that rooftop, when he'd seen the only connection he was ever gonna have to his baby brother run off that roof he'd felt like somethin' had been ripped right out of chest. Hell, when that son of a bitch prick, the governor had pulled that hood off Daryl, he'd know right there he'd do anything, anything at all to get him back. He'd have killed that china man, tortured his fuckin woman, done whatever it took.

And now, sittin' on this tower, cold and hungry and dirty, joined up with a group of pricks who though he was the devil….he'd shrug that off as well. He'd made it to the end off the fucking world, and he'd found his brother, and there wasn't a thing he wouldn't do to keep them both together. Not a fucking thing.

"Merle," Daryl started turning to look at him, and Merle could have sworn he didn't look much older than ten, "fuck man…" he started reaching his arm out and clasping his brother's shoulder, "I'm glad I got ya back." He finished pulling Merle in tight for a hug. "I fuckin' missed ya."

Merle closed his eyes and clenched his jaw down tight. He could feel it commin in his eyes, and damn Dixons didn't do that pussy shit. He squeezed his brother hard and tight for a second, before releasing him, "Come on, let go…" he said in a scratchy voice. "Ya don't gotta get all sappy on me fer Christ sake boy."

Daryl pulled apart and looked at him, his hand still clenching onto his shoulder for a moment, before he scrubbed it across his eyes, and nodded. "Right," he mumbled turning away, "I'm gonna watch the south end for a bit" he said as he walked to the opposite side of the tower.

"I'll keep an eye on this end," Merle returned the nod, and raised his scope.

That was as close as they'd come in a long time to letting' each other know exactly what they meant to one another. Dixons didn't do that shit. They weren't meant for love and feelings, they were meant to survive.