What if there was another reason that the Dixon brothers joined up with the group at the quarry and she wasn't what they thought her to be after all? Would they re-think some of the behavior issues...
Summary: What if there was another reason that the Dixon brothers joined up with the group at the quarry and she wasn't what they thought her to be after all? Would they re-think some of the behavior issues they had with a disgruntled Daryl and a prone-to-violence Merle? Meet M.J. and see her take on this new world that she is surviving in.
Disclaimer: I do NOT own anything from the Walking Dead. Although I do enjoy borrowing Merle and Daryl and tormenting the HELL out of both of them. All OC's are mine. Anything you recognize isn't mine and belongs to AMC and Frank Darabont. This story is AU. Transcripts used from online and Netflix, but changed to reflect on the speech of some of the people. Google and Wiki are my friend. Rated T because of Merle's potty mouth and his kin. Some scenes were cut because they had no value to my plot and words added for the effect of my OC. WARNING: If you haven't watched any of the series yet, this chapter is S01E03 Tell It to the Frogs.
AN: This story is currently un-beta'd but I use Libre so hopefully the only errors you find are verbs and point-of-views. If anyone wishes to volunteer to figure out the workings of my mind it would be appreciated. :) Reviews are much loved with helping along with a few of my plot holes. Flames will be used to fricassee walkers and light a fire under the Gov'nor's ass.
Chapter TWO: These City Walls Ain't Got No Love For Me
Thunder rumbles off in the distance promising a second possible storm. The air was sticky from the humidity that lingered from the brief shower not more than forty minutes ago. The faint sounds of groaning could be heard from the street below. But the man sitting on the rooftop, cuffed to a metal pipe seems to not hear them. No, he appears to be suffering the onset of heat/sun-stroke plus coming down from his high and just starting to twitch. At the present time, he was telling a story to a figment of his imagination. A little girl, around the age of seven or so, with long wavy strawberry blonde locks and big teal eyes. She was resting her head on his left knee and looking up at him like he hung the moon.
“Ya gots a problem? That's righ', ya heard m'bitch. Ya gots a problem? Bring it on iffin yer man 'nough.” Merle says as he plays with a braid of the little girl's hair. “Or ya can take it up the chain o' command iffin yer a pussy. Ya heard m', ya pussy-ass noncom bitch. Ya ain't deaf.” He sneers. “Take it up the damn chain o' command or ya can kiss m'lily white ass.” He chuckles and looks down at her. “That's righ'. That's wat I said. Ya heard me. And then, M.J., this idiot, he takes a swing, ya know. And well... ya know how Ol' Merle ain't one ta back down from nut'in' nor nobody M.J.; ya can ask Darylina 'bout half the fights I used ta get inta. 'Specially the ones ov'a ya Mama.” He laughs a bit hysterically.
“Oh ya shoulda seen the look on his face when I punched his front teeth out.” He chuckles some more and holds up his left hand showing all five of his fingers spread out. “Yeah, five o' 'em. Pow.” He balls up the hand and moves the fist slightly as if hitting someone. “Pow. Jus' like that. Huh. Ya know M.J., yer ol' man still has ta show ya how ta do the ol' one-two.” He snickers. “16 months in the stockade... oh that's wat 'em teeth cost m'.” He smiles with fondness. “That were... that was hard time girlie. But by God it were worth e'ry minute o' it. Jus' ta see that prick, spit his teeth on the ground.” He chuckles. “Yes sir, worth e'ry damn minute.”
He looks up and closes his eyes for a moment to enjoy the breeze that came out of nowhere. He opens his mouth to says something to the little girl, but when he looks down she's gone and his bootlace is untied. Peering around anxiously looking for her, he realizes he's still cuffed to the pipe and begins to struggle violently again. This causes his already scraped raw wrist to start bleeding again.
“Oh no. No, no. No! NO! NO!” He pulls roughly at the cuff as he begins to shout. “God. GOD! NO! no.” He kicks at the pipe several times. “God, Jesus. Oh God merciful Christ! No, no. No, NO! God help me. PLEASE! Jesus please! Jesus please. Help me now. C'mon now.” He looks up to the sky pleadingly as he yells. “Fer m'girl. Ya can't leave m'here. C'mon. I gotta get back ta M.J. an' Daryl.”
Merle freezes a moment when the sound of growling and the screeching of the door being forced open reaches his ears. Staring wide-eyed he sees two of those dead bastards faces trying to wedge through the small opening and the hands of a third one above them.
“Oh no, no, no.” He leans down and tries to wiggle under the pipe. “Oh my God. Shh, shh, shh, shh.” He tries to quiet himself. “Oh Jesus, Jesus.” he cries. “NO, no, no, no. Please.” he starts begging. “I didn't behave, I know. I know I'm being punished. But don't ya think ya took 'nough from me 'ready? I know. I deserve it. Oh I deserve it. I've been bad. I shouldna started the powder again after I promised m'girl.” The walkers are really struggling now to get at Merle. “Help me now. Don't leave her on her own. Show me the way. Go on, tell me wat ta do. Tell me how I can get back ta m'blood. Tell me. Tell me. Please get me back to my kin.” he begs. “Oh God!” He slams his head on the concrete. -WHAM- “God!” - WHAM-
Suddenly Merle starts growling and grunting and twists around angrily. Sliding further under the pipe he reaches for his belt once more and starts flinging it at the hacksaw again. “That's okay. Never you mind silly Christ boy.” he snarls. “I ain't begged you before. I ain't gonna start beggin' now. Not even when ya took Jenna from me. I ain't gonna beg you now!” he shouts. “Don'cha worry 'bout me beggin' ya ev'a. I'll nev'a beg ya!” he swings the belt trying to catch the buckle on the hacksaw. “I ain't gonna beg ya! I've nev'a begged ya 'fore.” He stretches out as far as he can go and tries to ignore the banging and snarls from the door. He looks back as his hand tugs more on the cuff. “Oh shit!” he exclaims as he hears the door squeal as it's forced open some more. “NO!”
“Best not to dwell on it.” Morales says looking over at Rick. “Merle getting left behind. Nobody's gonna be sad he didn't come back...” he looks away. “Except maybe Daryl.”
“Daryl?” Rick asks concerned.
“His brother.” Morales explains. “And possibly M.J.”
“M.J.? His girl?” Rick ask dejectedly.
“Sorta.” Andrea pipes up from the back. “She's a young woman, no older than possibly nineteen maybe twenty... if you stretch it maybe twenty-one.”
“All that dark make-up you can't really tell.” Jacqui shakes her head. “I mean who packs eyeshadow and liner during the end of the world?”
“She was with the Dixon brother's when they entered camp.” Andrea explains at at Rick's really dumbfounded look. “Battered and bruised, and scared to speak to anyone besides the children, if she even does that. She had a broken and vacant look in her eyes.” she shivers.
“She's never far from one of them. And if she is, that dog of hers is always there.” Jacqui points out. “The kids call her Dixon's Shadow or just Shadow.” she chuckles fondly.
“Merle caused a big ruckus a few days ago. Beat the crap out of Ed for something. Had to be restrained. When she finally came out of her tent, her lip was busted and her cheek was red from a handprint.” Morales snorts with disgust. “Wouldn't look any of us in the eye for two days and never left Daryl's side until Merle was released.”
“They've been taking turns sleeping in her tent. Sometimes I hear her whimpering.” Andrea adds with a look like she just sucked a lemon. “I've also seen her come out of their tent.”
“Hush girl.” Jacqui says. “We don't know what's really going on. Besides I've tried to get her to stay with me or even you and Amy.”
“She glares at Dale every time he tries to talk to her. And that pitbull growls at everyone else.” Morales shakes his head. “The only one's safe are the kids, and we still don't like it around them. Well, I guess we'll find out what happens in a few.” he sighs.
The sound of a car alarm approaching makes Morales look out the window and sees Glenn driving the red car just behind the van. Rick and Morales smile as they listen to Glenn rev the Challenger and 'Whoop' as he drove by.
“At least somebody's having a good day.” Morales says with a small smile.
After several more minutes the cube van finally reaches the top of the quarry where the group of survivors had made base camp.
“Come meet everybody.” Morales pats Rick on the chest before exiting.
Rick smiles wanly and pinches the top of his nose while he tries not to think about seeing his own loved ones. And also trying not to think about how Merle's brother and girlfriend were going to react to him not coming back with the rest of the group. The back of the van opens and Andrea jumps out to greet her sister Amy. Morales is greeted by his wife Miranda and two children Eliza and Louise. Once he had reassured them that he was fine he went and said hello to an elderly man wearing a fishing hat.
“You are a welcome sight.” The old man exclaims as he grabs Morales and hugs him. “Thought we had lost you folks for sure.”
“Dale.” Morales greets him.
“How'd ya'll get out of there anyway?” questioned a dark haired man holding a shotgun.
“New guy.” Glenn smiles. “He got us out.”
“New guys?” he asks confused.
“Yeah, crazy vato just got into town.” Morales nods his head towards the van. “Hey helicopter boy.” he calls out. “Come say hello.” Rick gets out and pauses a moment before walking to meet the group. “The guy's a cop like you Shane.”
Shane moves out from behind the hood of the Challenger and watches with an expression of disbelief as Rick walks towards him. A little boy around the age of ten or so, standing near a woman who he slightly resembled, looked at Rick like his Christmas present had come early. The woman besides him looks at Rick as if she was seeing a ghost. The little boy screams out “Dad! Dad!” and starts to run towards Rick, which causes the woman to follow. Everyone looks on at the touching reunion, happy for once.
Darkness falls and the camp can be seen sitting around three different campfires. Dinner was over and everyone was just trying to settle down after all the excitement and surprises from earlier. Mostly they listened as Rick explained how he ended up in Atlanta. After a brief disturbance at one of the other fires, between Shane and Ed, the discussion turned to Merle.
“Have you given any thought to Daryl Dixon?” Dale queries. “He won't be happy to hear his brother was left behind. And there's M.J. also to consider.”
“I'll tell him. I dropped the key. It's on me.” T-Dog spoke up.
“I cuffed him. That makes it mine.” Rick interjects.
“Guys, it's not a competition.” Glenn interrupts. “I don't mean to bring race into this, but it might sound better coming from a white guy.”
“I did what I did.” T-Dog states. “Hell if I'm gonna hide from him.”
“We could lie.” Amy, Andrea's little sister, buts in. “Plus M.J. can finally get away from them. Poor girl is so shy it's not funny. You wouldn't think so with how she dresses.”
“Or we could tell the truth. Merle was out of control.” Andrea chimes in. “Something had to be done or he'd have gotten us all killed.” She leans forward to talk to the woman sitting in Rick's arms. “Your husband did what was necessary. And if Merle got left behind, it is nobody's fault but Merle's.” Andrea looks down at Amy. “She's not that shy. She's just closed mouth because of them and their high-handed ways.”
“And that's what we tell Daryl?” Dale inquires in disbelief. “I don't see a rational discussion to be had from that, do you?” He turns to look at the group and stops on Andrea. “Word to the wise. We're going to have our hands full when he gets back from his hunt.”
“I was scared and I ran.” T-Dog says. “I'm not ashamed of it.”
“We were all scared.” Andrea states. “We all ran. So what's your point?”
“I stopped long enough to chain that door.” T-Dog confesses. “Staircase is narrow. Maybe half a dozen geeks can squeeze against it at any one time. It's not enough to break through that...” He looks back and forth between Rick and his wife. “Not that chain. Not that padlock. My point... Dixon's alive and he's still up there, handcuffed on that roof.” He looks one last time at the brunette woman, who looks away guiltily. “That's on us.” T-Dog slowly gets up holding his ribs and walks away.
After that, the camp slowly began to put out the fires and head to their respective tents to sleep for the night. The thunderstorm that had been brewing since late afternoon finally came to fruition. The sky opens up and seems to cry buckets of tears while the thunder took place of the screams of a man who was still chained on a rooftop in the heart of walking dead as if he was a rabid dog. Most ignored the ominous feeling that the storm foreshadowed and slept through the night as if naught was amiss. But for two others that were missing from camp, dread seeped into their bones and they huddled together for warmth and comfort.
The day starts clear and bright and the muggy heat from the day before had dissipated after the storm. The camp site slowly began to bustle and the day's chores were begun. Children were playing. The new car was being dismantled and the new scrap parts were being either put to use or tucked away for when they were needed. Decisions were being discussed about Merle being left behind and a possible rescue being made. Suddenly the screams of the children fill the air and everyone rushes to investigate. At once they find the culprit. A geek had made it up the mountain and was feasting upon a dead deer. The men proceed to attack and beat on the creature and finally cut its head off.
“It's the first one we've had up here. They never come this far up the mountain.” Dale exclaims with dread.
“Well they're running out of food in the city, that's what.” states a man in a blue mechanic's jumpsuit.
The sound of branches breaking and footsteps startle the men and they all prepare for an attack. A grimy man, with short brown hair and piercing blue eyes and a scruffy goatee, wearing a sleeveless t-shirt and carrying a crossbow appeared from behind a rock. His hair was sticking up in places and he had a bruised cheek and scraped knuckles. The group look at each other while holding their breath. They wonder where M.J. is.
“Oh Jesus.” Dale whispers.
“Son'o'bitch!” The hunter exclaims. “That's my deer!” He walks up to the now ruined venison that was to be a few days meal. “Look at it. All gnawed on by this...” he stomps over to the body of the killed geek. “Filthy,” kick, “Disease-bearing,” kick, “Motherless,” kick, “Poxy Bastard!”
“Calm down, son.” Dale tries to advert the coming storm. “That's not helping.”
“Wat'd'ya know 'bout it ya ol' man?” The hunter grumbles as he storms over to Dale. “Why don'cha take that stupid hat an' go back ta 'On Golden Pond'?” He glares before turning around and starts to remove the arrows from the doe's carcass. “We been tracking this deer for miles.” The group watches him as if he was a wild animal ready to attack at a moments provocation. “Gonna drag it back to camp. Cook us up some venison. Wat'd'ya think?” He leans forward and draws down around the neck where the geek had chewed. “D'ya think we can cut 'round this chewed up part righ' here?”
“I would not risk that.” Shane shakes his head.
“That's a damn shame.” The hunter sighs. “I gots som' squirrel... 'Bout a dozen or so. That'll hafta do.” He pauses and looks at the group queerly as they all stared at him like he had a bomb. The movement of the geek's head draws everyone's attention and he hears a muttered 'Oh God,' from of the women and draws his crossbow. “Oh c'mon people. Wat the Hell?” He shoots the head in the eye. “'S gotta be the brain. Don'cha know nut'in'?”
Rick watches as he walks back to camp.
“Merle!” The hunter calls out as he reaches the upper part of camp. “Merle! Get yer ugly ass out here! Got us some squirrel! Let's stew 'em up.” He puts down his crossbow and starts to walk away.
“Daryl?” Shane calls out after the hunter. “Just slow up a bit, I need to talk to you and M.J. Where is she?” Daryl pauses and turns back around.
“'Bout wat?” Daryl asks confused and a touch surprised that they were even speaking. “She's righ' behind me. Had ta take a piss or som'tin.” He shrugs. Now eying him shrewdly. “Ain't her nursemaid. Girl can get 'round on her own.”
“About Merle.” Shane states as he catches up. “There was a, ah... There was a problem in Atlanta.”
Shane pauses and watches Daryl warily. Daryl had a funny feeling when he came upon them back at the deer and seeing the majority of the women standing behind Shane at the camper, some of them were looking at him with either pity or sadness caused the feeling in the pit of his stomach to sour. A quick glance behind him, he notices that the men had formed a half-circle. Behind Shane's jeep he notices M.J. holding onto Rebel's collar. There was a look of worry on her face and she was biting her lower lip, nibbling on her lip-ring. She raises an eyebrow in question of him needing help, and he barely moves his head and twitches his hand to signal 'No'.
“He dead?” Daryl questions calmly. M.J.'s eyes widen in fear.
“We're not sure.” Shane answers softly.
“He either is or he ain't!” Daryl says loudly and startles M.J. and Rebel, but she quickly quiets him.
“No easy way to say this, so I'll just say it.” Rick steps forward.
“Who are you?” Daryl glares at the man who stops just in front of him.
“Rick Grimes, ya got som'tin' ya wanna tell me?” Daryl asks sarcastically.
“Your brother was a danger to us all.” Rick states. “So I handcuffed him on a roof, hooked him to a piece of metal. He's still there.”
“Hold on. Let me process this.” Daryl says as he takes a few steps away and motions with his hand towards his head. “Yer sayin' that ya handcuffed m'brother ta a roof.” he turns back around and steps towards Rick and shouts. “An' ya left 'im there?!” He tries to ignore the look of absolute horror on M.J.'s face. He knew that her heart had to be breaking from the disturbing news. But he couldn't get past that half of his family was lost. Chained like an unwanted dog and left for geeks to get him.
“Yeah.” Rick answers quietly.
Daryl steps back and then grunts as he throws the squirrels off his shoulder at Rick before charging him. He would do his damnedest to beat the shit out of them before going after Merle. It's what family did for each other after all. Blood and kin was all that mattered, a lesson that he learned early and quickly. In return Shane tackles him. T-Dog, who had returned to camp from gathering firewood, calls out “Hey!” but is ignored when Daryl pulls his knife on Shane and Rick.
“Watch the knife!” T-Dog warns them.
Daryl slashes at Rick and is kneed in the gut for his trouble. As he doubles over, Rick grabs his right arm and Shane rushes to grab his left. Quickly he changes tactics and grabs Daryl in a choke-hold. Rick pulls the knife from Daryl's hand and quickly steps back.
“Okay, okay.” Shane says calmly.
“Ya'd best let me go!” Daryl defies as he struggles. He watches with a pained grimace as M.J. stood up and pulls her G36 with her left hand and points it at Rick Grimes as she comes out of hiding.
“Nah, it's better if I don't.” Shane disagrees.
“Choke-hold is illegal.” Daryl gasps for breath.
“You can file a complaint.” Shane utters. “Come on man, we'll keep this up all day.” Shane tightens his arm around Daryl's neck.
“Pass auf!” M.J. commands and the men scatter as the fawn colored Pitbull known as Rebel burst out of nowhere snarling. “How 'bout I file the complaint for him Shane?” Shane quickly let's Daryl go and steps back. “Bleib!” Rebel sat quickly beside Daryl and looks up at Shane with his teeth bared, as if saying, 'Come on... try me'. M.J. looks at Rick as she pulls out a flint and bone knife with her right hand, the G36 still pointing at him steadily. “On your knees Pig.” Her lip curls slightly as if she smelled something unpleasant. “Both of you. NOW!” she shouts.
“No, please.” Lori gasps pleadingly.
“Please M.J., not my dad.” Carl cries out.
“Don't do nut'in' stupid Carl.” M.J. growls. “Iffin tweedle dee an' tweedle dumb-as-shit answer my questions an' refrain from beatin' on Daryl 'gain, ain't nobody else gettin' hurt.” She flicks her eyes over to Carl before looking back at Shane and Rick.
“Promise?” Carl almost whimpers.
“My word.” she nods.
“Some word from a slut.” Ed sneers. Daryl glares at him and he flinches as he looks away.
“Zip the lip Ed. Don't need nut'in' from the horses ass.” M.J. frowns. “'Memb'a wat Merle said. Jus' 'cause he ain't here don't mean Daryl won't back it up.”
“I'd like to have a calm discussion,” Rick says as he kneels down in front of Daryl, “on this topic. Do you think we can manage that?” Daryl glares and M.J.'s eyes narrow. “Do you think we can manage that?” Rick asks a bit more forcefully as he looks the girl over.
M.J. stood about five foot two, maybe three inches tops. With a lean athletic body that didn't border on anorexic. A slightly rounded face that leaned more towards oval that ended with a pointy determined chin. A cupid's bow shaped lips that had a silver lip ring with what looked like a sacred heart, on the left side of the full bottom lip. A button-ish nose that also had a silver hoop with blue on it in the left nostril. Wide teal eyes the color of the ocean where it meets the reefs and yet another silver hoop, that had a feather and turquoise dangling, through her left eyebrow. Eyes that stared at him with fierce determination that promised she would pull the trigger if she felt threatened enough. Even with all the dirt and sweat smears on her face, Rick could still see the dark eyeliner and light blue eyeshadow, like Jacqui described. Small ears that had a multitude of silver studs and odd shaped dangles, some turquoise, others blue crystal, maybe five on the right and seven on the left. Her hair cut was silly looking on such a little woman but he could tell that it matched her temperament perfectly, even if Amy had said she was kinda shy. Both sides of her head were shaved and the middle was wavy and parts of it reached to her bottom lip. A brilliant red, almost blood in color, was flipped over like a cockscomb.
Around her neck was a choker made of safety-pins and black feathers. Bare shoulders rounded down to a small but manageable chest, that was covered by a black vest similar to Merle's, but with a colored shamrock and words stitched on the back. Underneath was a filthy halter that was an indeterminable shade of blue. Between the bare shoulders and the exposed flat-toned stomach, which also had an opal set in silver with a dreamcatcher and then a feather hanging down, both had turquoise stones in the center of the silver; he noticed that although tanned, her skin had a slight sunburn. Dark jeans smeared with mud and it looked like streaks of blood, were tucked into black boots that came up to just under her knees. On her forearms were leather braces that had studs and turquoise in silver. Steady hands, covered with a few rings, held the handmade flint and antler knife, as if someone in the military had taught her how to hold it. The other held a Glock 36, which he knew only housed six rounds but he wasn't sure which caliber she used and didn't really want to find out, with Carl ready to run out at any second. He blinks and leans forward and notices the faint tattoos on both her pinky fingers.
“Ya dun wid the eye fuck yet Popeye, or ya need o'min?” As she looked at Rick her snarl flattens and becomes thin-lipped. “Shove it Bluto.” She all but sneers at Shane when he went to speak, which causes Daryl to almost beam with pride. “Though' ya had sum'tin ta s'plain po-po.” She notices Daryl wince at her elocution, because he knew that when she sounded like a redneck hick-hillybilly she was beyond pissed and bordering on homicidal.
“What I did was not on a whim.” Rick tries not to fidget beside Daryl. “Your brother does not work and play well with others.” he states as he looks quickly at Daryl.
“So 'cause 'e t'rew a tantrum, ya cuffed 'im an' left 'im ta die from 'posure or geeks?” the disbelief in her voice was understandable. “Eve' I wouldna dun t'at ta Ed,” Everyone looks at her then him and back to her in confusion. “Woulda least killed the sum'bitch first.” Now everyone glares, some halfheartedly, others just because they knew it was true.
“It's not Rick's fault.” T-Dog interrupts. “I had the key.” He looks away guiltily. “I dropped it.”
“Couldn't ya pick it up?” Daryl growls.
“Well, I dropped it in a drain.” T-Dog explains.
“So...” she stresses and her speech becomes slower and much clearer but with an edge that promised to do more that cut, “you just happened to trip and drop the only key to the handcuffs that chained him to a pipe on the rooftop of a building that was swarming with geeks in Downtown Atlanta?” she reiterated. “Do I look like I have 'Dumb-as-shit' tattooed on my forehead?”
“Look I’m sorry, okay. We got into a fight and he beat me pretty bad.” T-Dog winces slightly as M.J. looks him over. “Almost thought he cracked a rib or two with those boots of his.”
“Password.” She all but whispers as she closes her eyes as if in pain. Everyone looks at her in confusion. They had never seen her this mercurial and the quick-as-lightening change of moods of homicidal to calm-as-a-cucumber then to extremely pissed-off was a bit disconcerting. “I asked you to remember two simple words.” M.J. twisted her head to watch Glenn from the corner of her eye. Daryl's eyes widen in understanding, while Glenn began to shake with trepidation. “What's the fucking PASSWORD?” Rebel growled when she screamed this.
“M.J.'s Promise.” Glenn's voice shook as he repeated the short phase softly. “I'm... I’m sorry. I forgot. Merle was acting stranger than usual. Shooting walkers down below and beating up T-Dog and naming himself leader.” He shuffled his feet nervously before squaring his shoulders. “I know you made me promise not to go scavenging without you or Daryl along, but Shane said we couldn't wait for you two to get back from hunting, to get the supplies we were running out of.” Daryl and M.J. zeroed on Shane and both growled so low that it caused the fine hairs on the back of the neck and arms of just about everyone present to standup.
“So 'cause ya couldna live fer one more day wid'ou' T.P. or soap or fuck'n tampons,” she took a step forward and both Rick and Shane all but froze watching her like she was a rattlesnake. “I ain't got Merle? 'Cause ya had ta be all Mista-High-N-Mighty Lord o' all He Surveys, I los' one o' two mos' 'portant people in this whole God forsaken world.” Her voice got quieter as she spoke and they could barely hear her over the sniffling of the children in the RV. “'Cause o' yer arrogance a man t'at helped ta feed 'n' pra'tect this 'tire camp, wid'ou' a T'anks or ev'n a Screw ya Dixon, is prob'ly dead.”
Daryl sighs in disgust. Grunting as he slowly tries to stand, he storms off past T-Dog and throws some dirt on the ground. M.J. blinks slowly trying to process all this. Her face is blank and her left hand slowly lowered. Rick and Shane just as slowly begin to stand and nod to each other.
“I wouldn't iffin I was ya. Not that I wouldn't mind ya both dead before ya take that firs' step,” Daryl nods to Rebel, who also stood and was bearing his teeth in a deadly grin just egging them on. “He's been trained by a military attack specialist and ya'll have yer throat ripped out a'fore yer foot takes that firs' step.” He smirks now. “O'course ya can try, but also think 'bout this...” he nods slightly at M.J. “As soon as Rebel lunges, she'll come ta point an' ya'll have a bullet in yer brain a'fore she even blinks an' realizes wat she's done.” Daryl glares at T-Dog and scoffs. “Sorry... ya will be sorry. Iffin it's suppose ta make m' feel betta, it don't.”
“Well, maybe this will.” T-Dog states, which cause Daryl to pause. “Look I chained the door to the roof... So the geeks couldn't get at him... with a padlock.”
“That's gotta count for something.” Rick adds quickly.
Daryl walks over to M.J. and pulls her close in a hug. She sniffs and wipes at his eye which was watering. “Hell wit all ya'll!” he shouts. “Jus' tell m'where he is, so's I can go an' get 'im.”
“He'll show you.” Lori spoke up. She looks at her husband knowing that’s what he was planning to do all along. “Isn't that right?” Rick stares at her for a few seconds before nodding to Daryl.
“I'm going back.” Rick says.
Lori slowly enters the RV while Daryl storms off through camp practically dragging M.J. behind him. They both ignore the mutterings about 'crazy-ass-bitches' and 'demented-rednecks'. Slowly she crawls into her tent and gathers the items that were going to be needed on the rescue mission. Rebel's harness, because he wasn't going to be able to climb any ladders without help, some of his treats that she had been hording until her next run into town with Glenn, and a plastic baggie to hold one of Merle's shirts so that his scent would be fresh, in case he figured out some way to get loose and was wondering Downtown alone. And knowing the Dixon's luck they would probably be playing cat and mouse with the codgy old coot.
While rifling through her things, she came across her lock-box and softly ran her fingers over it. Pulling her key ring from her back pocket, she pauses as she looks at the agate stone that marked the key to the beautifully done Indian Chief Vintage that was parked next the blue '73 Ford that belonged to Daryl. She smiles faintly as she thinks back to the day she was first given the key.
May 22, 2010
The air was muggy as the sun crept higher in the sky. Being that it was almost the end of May, summer was announcing its arrival. Even though the ceremony started shortly after 8 am, it was now nearing 11:30 and everyone in attendance wanted to leave and make sure those last minutes changes were made before any of the parties started. And being outside in this heat was starting to put a damper on the festive mood. Thankfully the crowd, both in the stands and down on the field, perked up when the announcer made his next remark.
“And although I am sad to see this wonderful group of young adults leave my care and head out to make their way into the real world... Students... Parents... I give you the Graduating Class of 2010. Class dismissed.”
The crowd stood and started clapping for the seniors down on the field. Some hollered out their child's name. Others whistled loud enough to pierce an eardrum. And among all the spectators, two men stood and watched as the most important young woman in their lives, bounced along in the see of blue and gold. Her strange haircut and the vivid color of her hair made her easily recognizable. The two men might have looked uncomfortable in their surroundings and being semi gussied-up, but there was nothing that could have knocked the shit eating grins off their faces when she looked up into the stands and found them. Her smile was brighter than the Georgia sun. Quickly she said her good-byes and made promises to see them later at their respective parties. As fast as the departing crowd would allow, they meet her at the bottom of the stairs and watched as she unzipped her graduation gown to reveal a lovely below the knee cocktail dress inspired by a vintage worn by Audrey Hepburn. Sleeveless, with a high neckline, tapered waist, and a flared skirt, that when she twirled on her matching teal suede heels, showed a peek at a cute white and teal petticoat.
“Lookin' good there munchkin.” Daryl grinned and caught her when she jumped into his arms.
“Ain't no munchkin.” M.J. Thumped his shoulder and stuck out her tongue. “Darylina.”
“Where's the love, Leprechaun?” Merle playfully pouted and opened his arms. Daryl tossed her, shrieking with laughter, to his brother and he caught her grunting. “Damn girlie, yer getting heavy.”
“That's mean.” She pouted and rests her forehead on his and stared at him making them both cross their eyes. “I am not that heavy.” She tapped his shoulder to let him know to put her down. “Come on. I want a picture of us up at the arch.” She pointed to where some of the other students were getting their pictures taken.
“Hurry up. We gots places ta be M.J.” Merle reminded her gruffly.
“Jeez Merle. She jus' wants her picture taken wit her ol' man.” Daryl grumbled as M.J. pulled both of them along behind her.
“Shove it Princess Darylina.” Merle snorted. “Don'cha look so purdy in yer dress shirt an' tie. All dolled up like ya got a hot date or som'tan.” he chuckled. “We both know ya to 'fraid ta chase a skirt.”
“Shove it Merle.” Daryl glared. “Ya know I can get some ass iffin I wanna.” He flipped Merle the bird at his look of disbelief. “'Sides, ya know I’m jus' showin' respect for M.J. Being the first ta graduate highschool is som'tin big.” He smirked. “Musta got all them book smarts from Jenna.”
“Hey now I’m smart...” Merle protested and glared at Daryl.
“Made it through the Marines six years, didn't I?” Merle growled.
“Ya can't count the time in the stockade, bro.” Daryl snickered as he sidestepped the swipe from Merle. “C'mon, the Duchess beckons.”
M.J. rolled her eyes at them both and did a few poses, both with and without them, under the arch. Saying goodbye to her friends, they all left the football field and hopped into Daryl's truck and headed to their next stop... hopefully breakfast. Alas it seemed it would not be so, instead they pulled up into front of 'Chamber's Repair Garage' that Merle worked at. She looked at both men inquiringly, but they only smiled and exited the truck. She sighed. Hopping out, she entered the darkened building and frowned.
“'Lo?” she called out.
“SURPRISE!!!” A small group of seven people plus the two she came with jumped out shouting as the lights flickered on. It was her family, both by blood and claim.
There was Douglas 'Dougie' Chamber, Merle's on again/off again boss, that she had called Pawpaw Dougie since she was able to talk. He barely looked his age of 67, except for his short white hair and beard. Next to him was his younger brother Rafe, 62, and his wife Beatrice, 58, but everyone just called her Birdie or Aunni B. To the left of Birdie, was Dustin Mallory, a school chum of Daryl's that had been working for Dougie since he was 19. To the right of Dougie stood Callista McCray and her son Callum. Her Unca Callum, who was actually her mother Jenna's second cousin, but his parents, Nonna Calli and Poppa Jack, raised had raise her like their own after she had lost her parents when she was little. And last, but not least, was MacKenzie 'Mac' Turner who was standing next to Merle. They had been dating off and on for the last three years. At 32, she was just two years younger than Daryl and Dustin, she stood just over 5'7”, with long chestnut colored locks and had a quirky personality. She's known M.J. personally since she turned ten back in 2005 when she started teaching her to play the guitar.
The entire garage was decorated with blue and gold balloons, streamers, and signs saying 'Congratulations Graduate!' posted up around the room. There was a table piled high with gifts. Next to it was another two that seem to groan from under the weight of all the food arranged from breakfast to lunch to dessert. And on a forth table was a large cake box, that when she opened it had a large sheet cake with a picture of her from last Halloween and written in teal food coloring was 'We’re proud of you M.J.' She turned to everyone and smiled a bit tearfully. After greeting everyone properly, they sat down and discussed some of her summer plans as they ate. Which school had she finally decided to accept? Was she going to stay on campus or at home? When was she going to open her gifts?
M.J. quickly moved over to the gift table and tore through the gifts. Pawpaw Dougie had given her a collapsible bo and a 7-blades apocalypse kit styled after the one made by Gerber. All the blades were made out of used saws.
“Man Dougie, ya think she's gonna track down Bigfoot?” Daryl goggled at the loot.
“Or he thinks I need more practice on surviving the outdoors.” M.J. chuckles. “But really Pawpaw Dougie, this is to much.” she hugged him tightly. “I love it.”
“Now ya might be needin' some o' dat fer a bear pelt.” he winked.
“Now, now, bro don'cha be givin' 'er an' ideas.” Unca Rafe stated as he scooped her out of his brother's arms. “Okay girlie, mine an' Birdie's gifts next.” She looked over at Aunni B.
The first gift out of their pile was a teal-camo mountaineering pack with matching additional backpack that was filled to the brim with first-aid stuff. The second gift was another matching camo duffel bag over half filled with the rounds used for her G36 that Merle had given her for Christmas just a few months ago, along with a five extra magazines (since it only held six bullets at a time) that sat in the thigh belt included in the bag. The third gift was over 30 different heirloom seed packets.
“Those are the same seeds that you've been helping me to grow the last several years missy.” Aunni B said as she hugged M.J. “You've been helping me plant, pick, and can them so I figured you deserved to have some of my great-nana's seeds. Just remember what I taught you and they will never let you down.”
“Thank you very much Aunni B.” she squeezed her hard back. “I won't, I promise. Thank you Unca Rafe. This is too much.” she wiped at a stray tear.
“Figured ya be needin' som'tin ta wrap ol' Daryl up like a mummy 'gain.” Everyone snickered at that memory, and poor Daryl just sighed.
“Jesus, ya nev'a gonna let that go are ya?” Daryl grumbled.
“Hell no Daryl.” Mac butted in. “”Watchin' M.J. wrap you up like a mummy when she was practicin' for her 'Emergency and Disaster' class was priceless.”
“Screw ya Mac.” Daryl huffed as Mac rolled her eyes at him and smiled at M.J. as she giggled.
“Nah, tha's wat I’m for.” Merle swaggered over from getting a drink and swung an arm around Mac's shoulder. “Ain't that righ', MacKenzie m'girl?” He pulled her close and gives her a deep kiss and everyone chuckled at M.J.'s gagging noise.
“Hey Mac,” M.J. grinned, “are you still coming over for dinner? Aunni B is making seafood salad, fried chicken, and her nana's potato salad and sweet cornbread. I have orders not to pigout at my friend's parties so that I can eat dinner.” She looked innocently over at Aunni B who just shook her head.
“Yeah, I’ll be there. Afterward Merle's taking me to Joe's, right stud?” Mac looked up at her boyfriend and waggled her eyebrows.
“Wateva ya say sweetlips. 'S'long as we gets ta have some fun aft'wards.” Merle swats her hard on the ass and everyone either groaned in mock disgust or shook their heads. “Ya still takin' her ta the other parties?” He looks at Daryl who nodded in response. “Here M.J., open Mac's presents now.”
It was a large box that was a more awkward than heavy. Covered with teal and silver wrapping paper and tied with a large silver bow. Moving aside some of the packing popcorn, was a rectangular box with a skull motif on it. Smirking up at Mac as she ripped open the box, she pulled out an over the shoulder laptop bag with 'Zombie Survival Kit' written in red with blood splatter around it. Everyone laughed as she squee'd with joy over the silly bag. They all knew of her addiction to the 'Resident Evil' franchise, both the video games and the movies. Laughing, she dug back into the box and yanked out another rectangular wrapped box. Ripping it open, M.J. pulled out a weird gel filled canvas pad with wires running through it. Once it was unfolded, it was about three feet long and it had a USB cord hooked into the side. With a quizzical look at Mac, who motioned to keep digging, she flung the packing popcorn everywhere as she pulled out an even larger box from the bottom. With cautious hesitance, she ripped a corner and gawked at the logo beneath the paper. With a loud 'WHOOP' she quickly finished ripping the paper off and showed everyone the brand new HP laptop. Glancing at the other odd item, it dawned on her that it was a folding solar pad for the laptop. Placing it gently on the ground, M.J. jumped up and glomped Mac.
“MacKenzie its way too much.” she exclaimed as she hugged the older woman.
“Ebay is my friend.” Mac exclaimed as she grunted while catching the short girl. “Besides you need that for your classes and for when you head out on those nature hikes you like so much. And once you get Skype hooked up on it you can keep in touch with your friends from school.”
“Ok Midge, come and open mine and Nonna's gifts.” her Unca Callum stated. She rolled her eyes and stuck out her tongue as she walked over and grabbed one of the boxes.
“Nonna Calli, Unca Cal is picking on me again.” She wrinkled her nose as she ripped open the wrapping and revealed five books. Two of them were hand written with colored photographs. The first was a joint recipe book written by Aunni B and Nonna. The second was a joint book by both that was passed down from their families home remedies for the common cold to pneumonia; of how to treat a bee sting to a major cut. The third book was a guide on how to recognize safe and edible plants from poisonous plants. The forth book was tips about surviving the wilderness, which she knew loads about because of camping and hunting with Daryl since she was eight. And the last book was a gag gift, 'How to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse'.
Quickly running over to Nonna Calli and then Aunni B, M.J. hugged and kissed them both in thanks for the books. Then she turned to the two boxes that her Unca Callum sat down in front of her. The larger of the two held a printer for the laptop and the smaller was a 2-terabyte external harddrive for extra memory. Everyone started laughing when she began dancing a jig when he informed her that all the horror movies and some of the musicals that she loved were already downloaded on it; Aliens VS Predators, Dracula, Queen of the Damned, all of the Dawn/Day/Night/ of the Living Dead Series both original and the remakes, all three of the Resident Evil movies, the Underworld Series, and Wolfman to name a few and then the other end were 7 Brides for 7 Brothers, Sound of Music, Mary Poppins, Bedknobs & Broomsticks, White Christmas, and Gigi (1958).
Dustin came over bearing a reasonable sized box that had a new 8gb mp3 player and a SolBAT battery backup. They had even loaded it with at least 4 gigs of songs that they knew she liked listening to.
The gifts from Unca Daryl included a new harness for hauling Rebel up and down the cliffs she climbed now and then for her Search and Rescue training. And a make-it-yourself arrow kit, with 100-carbron fiber shafts and 3-packs of Arrow Combo Points (squirrel and small animal tips), 5-packs of Stinger 4-blade tips, and 8-packs of the replacement tips for her Mathews Bow she got two years ago from him for her birthday.
Now that the gift table was cleared Merle walked over and lead M.J. outside for her last gift. There, sitting in the back lot was a redone Indian Chief Vintage in teal and white. The chrome was glistening and the face-shield would give her added protection from bugs and grime. The double saddle bags and both seats were done in tanned leather, probably made from her and Unca Daryl's hunting trips. Sitting on the seat was a matching helmet done in teal, white, and black with butterflies and swirls over it.
“Really?!” M.J. gasped with awe. At Merle's nod, she raced over and began checking the motorcycle out. She couldn't believe it. It must have taken him months to fix this up. No wonder he had been working so much over-time this last year. She chuckled to herself. This must have been what Mac and Dustin had been grumbling about. Twirling around she raced back to Merle and flung herself into his open arms. “I love it. I love it. I love it. Thank you. Thank you.” She rained kisses all over his face and just about choked him with her fierce hugs.
“More than Ol' Merle?” he questioned with an eyebrow raised.
“Nope!” she popped the 'P'. “I love Ol' Merle more than a million bikes.” she grinned at his other eyebrow raising in mock disbelief. “I love you more than to the Moon and back?” she asked with mock innocence. At his growl she squealed with laughter. “Okay, Okay.” she grinned as they continued to play their game. “I love you more than Aunt Darylina.” she beamed at his huff of annoyance. “A smidge.” She held up her left hand with the thumb and index finger barely half an inch apart. Giggling as he threw her over his shoulder and gave her a quick swat, he sat her down on the ground and watched her race back over to the bike and put on the helmet. “Coming ol' man?” Everyone laughed as he strode over and started the bike up. As they pulled out of the lot M.J. laid her head on Merle's shoulder and whispered into his ear. “I love you Daddy. More than the whole world.”