No Time to Mourn
This is my first fanfiction in the world of The Walking Dead. I mean no copyright infringement against AMC and everyone associated with the show nor Robert Kirkland. This story takes includes my thoughts about missing scenes starting with S3 "This Sorrowful Life" so there are spoilers. I plan to have the story finished before Oct 13, 2013 when Season Four airs. I learned my lesson with my Leverage fic; write out the entire framework first, so you don't write something you have a hard time concluding. I hope you like this. Warnings for language. Caryl but not romance.
The Governor shoved at the body of Merle Dixon with his foot. No response. If the traitor wasn't dead yet, he soon would be. No head shot for him. The redneck had actually surprised him. He had never thought Merle would defy him to that extent. Merle had followed the rules for the chance to stay in Woodbury. He'd even stopped doing cocaine.
Woodbury was a drug free zone. Anyone caught using ended up in the arena. Weakened from blood loss and starvation, Merle had still found drugs to put in his body, but he had cleaned up after a few ugly fights. Milton had watched over Merle as he came down from his last binge. Merle had talked a lot then. Milton had shared all with the Governor. Their neighbors hadn't liked the Dixon family because the father had had a temper and struck out at anyone who thwarted him, and Merle was a sneak and a thief. Merle's time in juvenile detention and, later in the stockade, had only strengthened his own racism and anger at the world. He struck out at anyone who didn't fit into his personal worldview. The Governor also knew more about Daryl than Merle would have guessed. He knew that they'd grown up in an abusive household, that their mother had died when Daryl was young, that Merle had bullied his brother mercilessly, that Daryl hated drugs and never did anything stronger than mushrooms. Merle seemed to think Daryl would fall under his thumb again quickly but Martinez, during their brief encounter outside the barn, didn't get the impression of anything other than strength combined with sense in Rick's own second. The younger Dixon would not have fit into Woodbury at all. His presence would have brought out all Merle's old habits and would have distracted Merle from any of the Governor's plans or orders.
Merle had been a bully to the other inhabitants but had always backed down from confronting the Governor. And now Merle had tried to ambush him and his men. He'd never have guessed that Merle would have the smarts to plan something like that. Now Merle was dead. But the Governor had additional plans for him.
Martinez had reported that the younger Dixon was extremely efficient with both bow and knife yet had seemed to have a tighter rein on his temper than did his older brother. He needed to be taken down fast if they were to take the prison. If Merle had never known Daryl was still alive, Merle would still be his own right hand man so to speak. Instead, who would have known that Merle had actually cared about anyone other than himself? He'd gone off the reservation and betrayed Woodbury and lied to him. For what? A brother who had left him to die? Well, now that brother would reap what had been sown. Merle would turn soon and hopefully Daryl would come looking for him. He wanted to stay to watch, but he had other things to plan. Other traitors to deal with.
Still, the Governor wondered if sending Merle had been Rick's plan. The other leader hadn't come off that way when they'd met. He thought that Rick would do anything to keep that group alive. That punk Allen had said the prison group had seemed a tight group and that they didn't like the outsiders. Michonne was an outsider too. She should have been expendable. If Daryl cared about his brother at all, he'd not have allowed Rick to put him in such danger.
Now Merle would be a distraction for Daryl. The Governor hated a man he'd only seen once in the arena. Things had been just fine, but the second Merle found out there was a chance his brother was alive, the Governor's hold over him slipped.
What confused Phillip was that if Merle had slipped back into his old habits, he should have gone after Rick. After all, that was the man responsible for Merle amputating his own hand. Daryl must have stopped that too. The Governor resolved then and there that Daryl Dixon would die. If not that day, then some day. Turning on his heel, he left Merle Dixon to turn. Kill and die or die then kill. Merle would do both. And so would all who betrayed him.
The increasing sound of growling walkers broke Daryl out of his grief. His right hand searched the grass to find the knife he'd dropped. It was still covered with his brother's blood. Wiping it off on his pants' leg, Daryl rose to a crouch, left arm up in a block. He attacked the three walkers in quick succession using the anger he felt towards this world he was forced to live in to add tremendous force to his blows. He scanned for other approaching walkers; there were none. He had a dilemma. He wouldn't leave Merle's body to rot. He had no shovel and no time. "We bury our dead. We don't burn them." Glenn's words echoed in his head. He had no choice. A sob escaped his clenched lips.
A search of the nearby buildings revealed glass jars and a garden hose. He popped off the gas cover of the brown car resting on the grassy verge and siphoned out gas. He gently pouring the gas onto his brother's body and, using a strip of cloth taken from a walker's shirt, ignited the body. Merle's face was soon obscured by flames. Black smoke rose while tears fell.
Taking up his now cocked crossbow, Daryl headed back to the prison. He'd promised Rick he'd return to the group, the only family that he had now. When he'd seen Michonne, he'd realized that Merle had some plan in mind. Without Michonne, it wouldn't have been a trade—her for the Governor leaving them alone. Merle had handled guns in the military before they broke his rank and kicked him out. Even missing a hand, he would still be a good shot. Nothing had been wrong with his aim. Scanning the ground in a widening circle, Daryl saw tire marks of trucks leaving the site. The tracks were fresh; it had rained during the night. As much as he wished, Daryl didn't think Merle had succeeded in his self-imposed mission. While Martinez was an ass, he hadn't struck Daryl as an idiot. Martinez would not have wanted to add another walker to the area. Merle had been shot in the chest only. That said revenge. Also. Merle had been tortured; his left hand had been missing two fingers. That implied that it was the Governor who had killed his brother. Or the Governor's direct orders, which amounted to the same thing. Daryl was going to rip his fucking face off the next time he saw him.
Leaving the area, Daryl went as the crow flew. Cross-country would get him there that much faster and his sense of direction was acute enough that he could find his way back even in the wooded areas. He took off at a ground-covering lope.
Night had fallen as Rick waited in the guard tower. Daryl and Merle should be back already. Something had gone wrong. Daryl's last words had shown that he accepted the group as his family; his earlier departure with Merle had shown them all how much family meant to him. Daryl would return. Michonne paced back and forth in front of the gate. Walkers still filled the courtyard, and the brothers would have to run that gauntlet in the dark. It was close to the full moon, which helped. It should illuminate the path for the Dixons. Rick scanned the horizon checking for dust. If the Governor attacked at night, he'd come with lots of backup in vehicles.
Behind and below him, the others were in C Block packing. They had voted to stay and fight but it would be an ambush instead of a straight up gunfight. They were clearing out everything from the cells and Hershel, Beth with Judith, and Carl would hide with a camouflaged car carrying all their gear. If things went south, Hershel would take them to a rendezvous point they'd already chosen. The others would make their way there as best they could.
Where was Daryl? He should be back by now. Rick was worried that the Woodbury people might have captured Daryl again. If that happened, Daryl would be dead before they could mount a rescue. The hunter was really stealthy but it only took one wrong step, one stray bullet to stop anyone no matter how good a fighter he was. The thought of losing another member of their dwindling group was gut-wrenching. Daryl had not only earned Rick's respect and trust, but the rest of the group had come to rely on him too. He'd even developed a strong friendship with Carol and a rapport with Carl and Hershel. His loss would hurt in many ways. Rick sent up a prayer for Daryl's safe return.
Quick movement at the edge of the clearing drew his attention. No walker moved that fast. Rick raised his rifle and looked through the sight. It was too dark to determine any distinctive features. Was it Daryl or one of the Governor's people? He whistled to get Michonne's attention and pointed with the rifle's barrel what direction he'd seen movement in. He headed down the stairs to help Michonne drag open the partially repaired gate.
Michonne angled her body against the wooden flat leaning against the fence. Alerted by Rick, she waited to see who was coming. A figure came up the road. She could see the silhouette of the crossbow on the man's back. That didn't mean it was Daryl, but she relaxed minutely. No other person moved behind him. It seemed Merle was right in saying he couldn't return. She hoped that the man had found some sort of peace with himself before the end.
Daryl kept his crossbow on his back as he approached the gate. He didn't want to risk losing an arrow in the darkness. His knife was out, and he stabbed two walkers in the head that got too close. He knew someone would see him coming and wasn't surprised when the gate was dragged open. Michonne stepped into the opening to slice off the head of a walker that was too close. She kicked another away and backed into the compound. Sweat was running down his face, and he was grateful he couldn't breathe easily at that moment. He had spent the time while running back to the prison figuring out what to tell the group. He'd decided that he wouldn't tell them about Merle turning. Not right now. It was too raw; he didn't want to deal with their pity. Their sympathy would be hard enough.
He'd been locked into this own thoughts for the past several hours. He'd once held out hope that they would find Sophia. That he could do something right. His failure then had cut deep. He'd also failed to find Merle in Atlanta. Had believed they'd find Merle back at camp wrecking vengeance. No Merle. No Sophia.
The rage he felt at this new world he was living in was nothing to what he'd felt growing up. Old pain. His mother's death. His father's rages, the pain, the shame. Merle's drugged rants were understood. Merle leaving him was some sort of condemnation against his younger brother. Back then, Daryl had used his rage to keep from being chewed up by the world. He needed that protection again but he wouldn't let it out. He'd bottle it, throttle it. He would not, could not strike out against this group. This new family that he had claimed for his own.
Rick stood to one side waiting for the news he was now certain he'd hear. Daryl had come back alone.
"Merle's dead," confirmed Daryl. "The Governor shot him." He didn't share the rest. That he had been forced to kill his brother. Not now. Maybe not ever. He throttled down the rage and used it to help him stay on his feet. He was close to dropping. He slumped against the prison fence exhausted in body and spirit. Rick and Michonne exchanged a look. They wondered how this loss would affect their companion in the days to come.
Daryl didn't look Rick or Michonne in the eye. Unconsciously, he'd reverted to his body language from when Rick had first met him. Daryl had his back against the wall, and no one was going to surprise him again. With them all infected, he knew, unless he was next, that he might have to stop someone else from turning or take them down once they had. The first person he'd seen turn had been his own father. Shock stayed his hand; his uncle had taken his own brother down before he himself turned after being bitten. Daryl learned from that. It was harder to see someone you knew turn into a raving monster. That's why he'd tried to take out Jim before he'd turned. People froze when seeing someone they knew as a walker. Andrea had earned his respect being able to take out her own sister like that. Carol's cries of anguish at the discovery of Sophia still haunted his dreams. He'd been cold once; he could be that way again. He had to for his own survival.
"They voted. We're going to fight."
Daryl was grateful that Rick was not asking any questions. This distraction would help. He knew the Governor was coming; they all did, and they needed a plan. It sounded like Rick had one. He nodded, turned, and headed toward C-Block.
Reaching the doorway, Daryl paused a moment to shove all his feelings down deep and hidden. It was a skill he'd had to develop as a child. He couldn't stand to see pity in anyone's eyes. Not now.
One by one, Carol, who had been keeping a close watch on the door, then Beth, Maggie and Glenn, Hershel and Carl turned to watch the three as they came into the dim light. There was no fourth person.
"The Governor killed Merle." Daryl's voice was thin and harsh.
Carol had eyes only for Daryl. His hair hung in front of his lowered face; Carol couldn't see Daryl's eyes at all. She'd tried to get him to cut it but no success. His shoulders were slumped with fatigue and something else. He'd been angry after they'd found Sophia. This. This was worse. Daryl had never given up, not once since she'd first met the Dixons. He looked defeated now. She'd threatened Merle about messing with Daryl. But Merle wasn't around to pay the price. He was the price.
No one said anything. No one knew what to say. Maggie put a hand on Glenn's shoulder. She knew he'd hated Merle; she did too. They'd put up with him for Daryl's sake only. But neither wanted their friend in such pain.
Hershel felt diminished. Each loss from their group lessened them all. Even Merle's. Beth opened her mouth to speak but her father stopped her with a gentle hand. No words of comfort would help right now.
Carol turned to the stove. She was sure Daryl had not eaten since the morning, and he needed something. Daryl had left them once for his brother's sake. That had reminded Carol how much someone could get into your head so that you returned to old patterns of behavior. She'd told Beth that Daryl had his code. Family. She remembered when the Dixons had shown up at the quarry. Luckily, the group was pretty large by then. Ed and Shane had not allowed Merle to get too out of hand. The brothers had set up their camp off to one side of the road. The group had been grateful for the offered game but the fact that Merle made such a big deal about their generosity had rankled with some. The fact that it was Daryl who brought in the game was not lost on Carol, but she had noticed he let Merle take center stage. No one knew where Merle got his drugs. He'd leave on his bike and come back when he felt like it. She'd almost walked into an argument between the brothers about his being high. Luckily, the surrounding brush had hidden her from the men. Daryl had stormed off and was gone for several days after that. He never criticized Merle in front of anyone but was very touchy after those fights. They'd all learned to stay away from Daryl when Merle had been loud and obnoxious the night before. But Daryl always stood by Merle no matter what. When it came down to it, he'd discarded his truck and kept his brother's bike when they'd consolidated vehicles outside Atlanta. It was as if he was punishing himself with constant exposure to the elements.
Carol took out the food she'd kept warm. It wasn't much. She handed the bowl and a spoon to Daryl and turned back towards the center of the room giving him space.
Rick crouched down next to a layout of the Tombs drawn out on the floor with a burned stick. "We need to finalize our plans," he said. He'd been waiting to see if he had one or two to add to his determined army. "We finish packing everything into the vehicle and move it out of the prison." He moved the lantern to one side so that Daryl could see better from where he sat on the stairs.
Daryl shifted his weight. He figured Glenn had drawn the map; he liked that sort of thing.
Rick continued to explain making sure everyone knew the part that they would plan when the Governor came calling. "That's pretty much it. Carl, you have first watch, Hershel second." Those two would be out of the fight and could afford to be a bit tired. "I don't think the Governor will try anything tonight, but that doesn't mean we can relax."
The group began to break apart each going their own way. Daryl had finished his meal to find Carol waiting for the bowl. She hadn't hovered exactly but he'd felt her off to his side the entire time. Leaving the commons area, he went up the stairs to the cell he'd ended up claiming as his own where he leaned his crossbow against the wall. His things were all stuffed into a backpack except for his poncho. Wrapping himself in it, he lay down on his bunk with his back to the door. A slight scuffling noise alerted him to someone's presence; he knew the only one bold enough to come would be Carol. She didn't say a word. She let her presence speak for her as his own had done when Sophia was gone. He was unable to stop tears from falling again. He'd said once that no one would mourn his brother. No one else. Daryl had wanted his brother back. A brother who took care of his younger brother and protected him. He mourned the brother he'd never really had. And now never would. Exhaustion sucked him down into darkness.
Carol waited. She had been certain that Daryl would not acknowledge her presence or her support. It wasn't his way. But he'd learned to accept it. Carol was worried. Worried and afraid that Daryl would withdraw again. Become cold. Mean. She hated Merle at that moment. Showing up in Daryl's life and then getting himself killed. How dare he! Destroying the peace that Daryl had found. She dropped her forehead to her knees and listened to Daryl breathe. As a master of silent tears herself, she could tell he was crying. Her heart ached for him. This man who had come into her life and had eased his way past her own walls without even trying. She wasn't even sure when it had started.
At the lake on the farm, she had been surprised to receive an apology from Daryl. She wondered if it was his first one. When he'd told her his reason for being so determined in the search, "I got nothing else better to do," she had begun to understand him better. The lost look in his eyes and the emptiness in his voice told her much more. He was at a loss within the group. He had no place, no focus. Hunting was his skill, and he wanted to use it to help the group. To help her.
When Daryl's breathing indicated that he had fallen asleep, Carol stood carefully and returned to her own bunk. She allowed her own tears to fall where he couldn't see them.
I'd love to hear what you thought about this. I'll update soon as I have my self-imposed deadline. I can't wait to see where they take us next though I'm kind of scared too.