AN: Well, earlier I was sleepy and couldn't seem to focus enough to write. Then they released the Season 4 trailer and I've had to be over here freaking out about every single second of it. Now I'm wide awake, so here's a chapter. If I can get my motivation going, I might even have another to offer later.
I hope you enjoy!
"I think this is seriously the most degrading thing I've ever been asked to do," Michonne said. She was sitting in one of the dining table chairs while Carol circled around for her to shorten the jean shorts that she was wearing.
"Andrea's right," Carol said. "If I want to make the big tips, I've got to dress the part, and I need the money if I'm going to get on my feet and not spend the rest of my life living up under you."
"How much would it cost for me to buy your dignity?" Michonne asked.
"Stop it, it's just for the tips," Carol said. "I can't count on the tip fairy to drop me twenties every night."
Carol stepped forward and turned around for Michonne.
"Are they even?" She asked. Michonne judged her handiwork with the scissors.
"Pretty much," she said. "I doubt anyone at The Watering Hole will know the difference anyway."
"Are they short enough?" Carol asked. Michonne cocked an eyebrow at her.
"Unless you were going for denim underwear, they are. Speaking of underwear, do you have any others or were you just going to customize those?" Michonne said.
Carol looked down, attempting to examine herself in the shorts from all angles.
"I didn't think about that," she said. Suddenly she looked at Michonne, worried. "Shit! I didn't think about the underwear!"
"Just don't wear any," Michonne offered. It was Carol's turn to cock an eyebrow this time.
"Are you serious?" She asked. The idea of going without underwear seemed absurd to her, especially in her newly made shorts.
"You aren't telling me that you think Andrea wears underwear," Michonne said. "You can either try to make those work by hacking at them or you can go without.
Carol tried again to examine herself, ignoring the fact that she could have simply gone to the bathroom and used the mirror there for an easier time of things.
"OK, I've got to try to fix this," she said. Michonne got up from her seat and crossed the room to get the broom so she could sweep up the parts of the shorts that were lying on the floor. She passed Carol the scissors as she walked past.
"Hack up your own underwear," Michonne said. "We've all got our lines."
Carol laughed at her and went off to the bathroom to attempt to make something that would work. She didn't have long before Shane Walsh was going to stop by and pick her up. He'd offered to drive her to the Watering Hole since he was off for the night.
Daryl was finally seeing what his first Friday night looked like in the bustling city of Sweet Junction. He got off work at the Greene farm and circled through town before taking the truck back the apartments. Town had been pretty much what he expected. A bunch of teenagers were out and about, occupying especially the parking lot outside of the A and P and hanging out at the Dairy-O. Once Daryl had parked the truck in the parking lot for the apartments, he headed straight down to the Water Ho where he was sure that Merle was likely to be.
Merle had, of course, assumed that he lost his job with Ed's company. As far as the two of them knew, Ed had not been seen since two days before when Merle let his fist be acquainted with Ed's face. Daryl wasn't sure if it had to do with the fact that Ed was avoiding Merle, that Merle was avoiding Ed, or that Ed simply didn't want to walk around town parading the black and blue proof that Merle Dixon had beat him at his own game. Daryl was curious to see if the man had the guts to show up at the Water Ho. In many ways he hoped not since he wasn't sure that either of them could keep their promise to the lawyer woman that no one would lay another hand on Ed, at least until after the court date.
Daryl slipped inside the dump which seemed to be more populated than usual. As he stepped inside he recognized immediately the office that had come to pick him up from Hershel Greene's farm. Rick had been the man's name, though Daryl couldn't remember his last name. Rick sat in one of the booths in the corner, still in uniform, and Daryl wondered if he was there to keep a check on them.
Daryl found Merle in his customary position at the bar and he pulled up a stool next to him.
"Did'ja find any work today?" Daryl asked, shaking a cigarette loose from his pack and putting the pack between the two of them as a gesture.
"Yeah," Merle drawled. "They puttin' up some kinda lil' housin' development or somethin'. Looks like a buncha damn doll houses, but I got me a job workin' down there. Ain't much, but I reckon it pays."
Daryl nodded. The promise of any income was a good thing, no matter what kind of work was tied to it. He hadn't gotten paid by Hershel today, not that he'd expected to be paid for at least a couple of weeks. The forward on his wages was going to take some time to work off.
"Place is kinda busy tonight," Daryl said, looking around. Nearly all of the tables were full and there were more men than usual congregating around the pool tables. Down from them at the bar sat a few others, and the bar was normally pretty empty.
"Friday night, lil' brothah, everyone done come out ta paint tha town," Merle said.
Daryl couldn't help but notice that his brother seemed in high spirits, even though he had no idea why. It wasn't like they had all that much to be jolly about. Andrea was there, he spotted her talking to a bunch of men who had attempted to crowd far too many people at one table. She was sitting on the lap of one of the men. He turned back to see if Merle had noticed, but if he had, his brother didn't care.
"Ya girl's over there sittin' on that asshole's lap an' rubbin' her tits in his face," Daryl said, trying to see if Merle was simply oblivious.
"My girl?" Merle asked, pouring himself another shot. He turned around on the stool and looked around the room.
"Andrea," Daryl said.
"Ain't my girl," Merle said.
"She done made us breakfast for at least the last three days, I reckon she's ya girl," Daryl said. Merle chuckled.
"Nah, ya gotta lot ta learn, lil' brothah. Andrea ain't my girl. Ain't got no interest in no damn ball an' chain, an' she knows that. Ain't my place ta tell her what she can do no way," Merle said. He took one of Daryl's cigarettes and lit it, puffing on it and turning his attention to something else.
Daryl watched Andrea a moment more. He didn't understand his brother sometimes. In his opinion, if a woman was sleeping in his bed every night and cooking him breakfast in the morning, he'd think she was his woman. He'd expect her to be his woman, but Merle wasn't like that. Most of the time Merle didn't even want them staying until breakfast. It was likely that the only reason he didn't run Andrea off was that she made it just as clear as he did that they weren't nothing more than friends…friends that made God awful noises and tried to keep him up at night.
While Daryl was pondering the confusing relationship beliefs and practices of his older brother, he noticed the Carol woman come walking through the door, closely followed by a man who split off from her and took his seat with the police officer he knew as Rick.
Carol didn't look like she had the other night, or even like she had at the diner. She was wearing a tank top with her breasts all pushed up like Andrea liked doing, and she had on a pair of jean shorts that hardly covered a think. Daryl wouldn't have been sure it was the same woman except for the fact that the bruises, which she no longer seemed to be trying to hide, were still there.
She walked in the door smiling, almost laughing, as though she were still recovering from the residue of some joke shared just outside the door with the man that followed her inside. Daryl let his eyes trail over to the man and didn't miss that he was watching Carol walk away with some interest. Carol stopped a moment to speak to Andrea and then made her way around the bar, tucking her purse into one of the cabinets. She walked up and stood in front of Merle and Daryl.
"Can I get you anything?" She asked.
Merle picked up the bottle of whiskey that was in front of him and examined the contents for a moment. Daryl looked at Carol, then at Merle, and then back at Carol. For whatever reason, whether it was the bruises or the intensity with which she was looking between the two of them, waiting for an answer, she made Daryl uncomfortable. The feeling was further compounded by the fact that her breasts were pushed up and almost out of the top of her tank top and Daryl caught himself glancing at them despite his resolve not to look at them. He turned his attention back to Merle.
"Weelll, sugah," Merle drawled, a slight smile crossing his lips. "Looks like this bottle's a little musty."
Carol looked at him a moment, confused.
"I think we musty have some more," Merle said.
Carol smiled at his joke and he returned the smile. She looked under the bar and came up with another half used bottle, putting it in front of him.
"Do you have a tab?" She asked.
"Andrea's takin' care of it," Merle said. "Don't'cha worry 'bout it, we'll square it up 'fore we go."
Carol looked in Andrea's direction and Daryl assumed that Andrea must have signaled that she was keeping track of Merle's intake because Carol didn't say anything else about it. She turned briefly to him then.
"You drinking whiskey too, or you need something else?" She asked.
For a moment Daryl locked eyes with her. He could have sworn that her eyes were twinkling. She looked so damn happy that he couldn't figure it out. Merle looked happy tonight, Andrea looked like she was on fucking cloud nine, and now here was this Carol woman in front of him, still looking like she lost a bad bar brawl, and she looked just as happy as a lark. Daryl couldn't figure out what was in the water around this place, but there had to be something.
When Carol raised her eyebrows at him and leaned forward a little more, Daryl realized that he'd never answered her question.
"I'm fine," he grunted, going for his cigarettes to give him a reason not to look at the redhead in front of him.
Carol lingered a moment longer and then she straightened up.
"OK, then, you boys let me know if you need anything," she said. She walked off then to go and check on some of the other patrons.
"Mmmm…" Merle said, after a moment, catching Daryl's attention. "Not a bad lil' number…still can't stand ta look at her fuckin' face, though, an' that's makin' it hard to get a good look at them tits." He leaned around a bit. "Don't take nothin' away from that ass, though."
Daryl glanced in her direction and then felt himself blushing over the fact that he was looking at her ass as she leaned over one of the tables taking the drink orders of three men.
"Don't be such a pig, Merle," Daryl growled, trying to cover up the fact that he'd looked as well. Merle chuckled at him.
"Ain't nothin' wrong with appreciatin' what the good Lord gave 'em, Derlina," Merle said. He poured Daryl another shot. "Ya ain't drunk enough or ya'd be lookin' too."
Daryl took the shot, but turned around on his stool to face out to the crowd instead of allowing his eyes to drift back over to Carol. He studied the police officer for a moment. He appeared not to be paying them any attention at all. The man who had come in with Carol was sitting with him, laughing about something and talking with his hands. They were apparently friends, but then Daryl had already figured out that in Sweet Junction most everybody was friends.
As Daryl was sitting, leaning against the bar, he saw Carol make her way down toward the officers. She stopped there for a moment, sliding into the booth next to the man that was talking to Rick. Daryl watched her smiling and chatting with them. Then, she leaned into the table a little, Rick speaking to her, and Daryl noticed Rick turn and glance in his direction. He quickly tried to turn his head to hide the fact that he'd been staring, searching suddenly in the room for Andrea or any other somewhat familiar face he could find.
Daryl turned around on his stool then and resumed his position staring at the bar. Two stools down from him, now, was a man that he didn't know, but the man was watching them both with some interest.
"Can I help ya?" Daryl finally asked, pushed by the unashamed staring.
The man somewhat craned around Daryl as though he was trying to get a better look at Merle.
"Is that man's name Merle?" The man asked. Daryl looked at him and then elbowed Merle to get his attention. Merle was busy ogling Andrea's ass from a distance.
"What tha hell is it?" He asked, turning.
"This man here, wants ta know if ya name is Merle," Daryl said. He wasn't sure what reason the man would have to be asking, so he wasn't offering any information until he knew. The Dixons had a tendency to end up in the bad graces of nearly every town they passed through, and Daryl was simply waiting for Sweet Junction to be the same way. He realized that not everyone might agree with Merle's decision to pound on Ed Peletier, and he'd rather avoid a bar fight if possible, especially with the Deputy Sheriff sitting just a few feet away.
Merle leaned his elbow on the bar, in an attempt to see the man.
"Yeah…" Merle drawled, "I'm Merle, who wants ta know?"
The man chuckled.
"Your workin' down there in that new housin' development they're putting up off of Vine. I saw you today, but I didn't get a chance to talk to you. Name's Theodore, but everyone around here calls me T-Dog," the man reached out a hand around Daryl and Daryl leaned back, feeling that he wasn't exactly invited to be part of this exchange.
Merle looked at T-Dog for a moment and chewed on the toothpick lodged in the side of his mouth. Finally he extended his hand and shook T-Dog's.
"This here's my brothah," Merle said. "Daryl."
"How ya doin', man?" T-Dog asked, smiling at Daryl. Daryl nodded at him. "Listen, is it true what they were saying today? Were you the one that beat up Ed Peletier?"
"News sure travels fast, don't it?" Merle mused. T-Dog chuckled again.
"Man, you have no idea. News big as that travels so fast you'll probably hear about it before you've even done it if you listen hard enough," he responded. "It's been a long time comin', though. I used to work for him. Sorry son of a bitch. Probably owes me two or three paychecks I'll never see."
"Yeah, well I had a debt fer him ta pay, but it weren't that one," Merle said. Daryl lit another cigarette and leaned his elbows on the bar.
"I hear ya," T-Dog said. "Well listen, man, if you need anything, just let me know. I've been working with Lester Jones' company for a couple of years now. You're going to like working with him. Sometimes we have to go a little out of town for work, but there's always a paycheck coming in."
Merle nodded at the man and watched as Andrea served him another beer. T-Dog took the beer and passed a couple of bills into Andrea's hands. Then he got up from his bar stool and clapped Merle on the back.
"Take it easy, man," he said. "See ya Monday."
Merle grunted his response and Daryl watched as T-Dog walked off, presumably to join another group somewhere in the bar.
"Friendly folks 'round here," Daryl said.
"Small town hospitality," Andrea said, leaning in front of them then. "Everybody knows everybody, and they want to know anyone they don't already know. It's good and it's bad, depending on how you look at it. Lots of people to talk to, but there are no secrets in Sweet Junction. As many people that talk to you will talk about you in a heartbeat."
Andrea reached under the bar and came up with a damp rag. She started wiping the bar from her side, and Daryl reached over and held up the ashtray and whiskey bottle in front of them so that she could wipe under it. She didn't say anything to him, and he kept his silence as well.
Just as Andrea moved down the bar a piece, Carol walked up, depositing some empty glasses in the tub they kept on the edge of the bar. She walked over to where Daryl now knew they kept their tip jars hidden and emptied her pockets. She wasn't smiling anymore. In fact, she was wearing the same facial expression she had the first night and looked as though she might hyperventilate at any moment. After she'd deposited her tips, she glanced in his direction and lowered her eyes again, pretending to be occupied with something else under the bar. Finally she stepped in front of him and Merle again.
"Good on whiskey?" She asked, the smile gone from her face.
"Yeah," Merle said. "Reckon we'll be headin' out 'fore too long. Don't wanta close the place down."
She nodded her head and remained there, quiet for a moment. Finally she leaned in a little.
"Are you Merle Dixon?" She asked.
Daryl looked at Merle then. He lifted the shot glass to his mouth and sucked down half the shot, continuing to hold the glass between his pointer finger and thumb as though he were considering whether or not he wanted the rest of it. Merle didn't respond verbally, but he did nod. His own face mirrored hers now in that neither of them were smiling like they had been earlier in the evening.
"I'm Carol Peletier," she said. She cast a nervous glance at Daryl then. "Daryl Dixon?" She asked.
Carol swallowed and Daryl felt sorry for her based solely on the expression she was wearing. He had no idea what she was trying to say, but it was clear that it wasn't coming easy for her.
"I don't know how to say this," she said finally, "but I wanted to say thank you."
Daryl looked at Merle again. Merle finished the shot in his hand and put the glass down. Carol stood there a moment, looking back and forth between the two of them. She suddenly picked the bottle of whiskey up and uncorked it, moving to pour Merle another shot. Merle reached out and caught her wrist. Daryl noticed that she jerked a little, and then froze, her eyes going to Merle's.
"Ya ain't gotta thank me fer doin' somethin' I did fer myself," Merle said. He let go of her wrist and she stayed frozen for a moment before refilling his shot glass. She immediately moved to fill Daryl's as well. Though he didn't really want any more whiskey, he didn't protest. After she'd filled the glasses, she looked at them both again. Daryl noticed that Merle wasn't paying her any attention any longer, but for a moment he accidentally locked eyes with her. She was wide eyed and staring at him as though she were going to ask him something, but she never did. He held the gaze for a moment until she finally broke it, turning her attention to corking the bottle and replacing it in front of Merle.
"All the same," she said softly, "thank you."
Since Merle obviously had no intention of addressing her, Daryl nodded his head at her and offered her a slight smile. She looked like she needed some sort of reassurance, though he wasn't entirely sure why. She offered him a soft smile in return. Then without explanation she sighed and smoothed the material of her tank top.
"OK," she said, nodding. "OK. If you boys need anything, just let me know," she said. She walked away quickly then, and Daryl let his eyes trail after her for just a moment.