First of all, I must warn you that if I do continue this there will definitely not be any regular updates (there aren't even for those stories I am focusing on so…). So read at your own risk. I just want to make that clear because I have a lot of stories started, but this will not be one of the main ones. I'll write when I'm inspired, but I can't promise to update often because I have others to worry about on top of my studies. Sorry.
That said, I hope you like this story and, although there are no pairings at all yet, if I get to a point where there are, the main pairing will be slash.
Thanks for reading!
Family of Four, Three, Two…
Daryl lifted his bow, ready to shoot. That deer had enough meat they wouldn't go hungry for a few days.
However, before he could shoot, the deer looked up as if sensing something and run. The redneck cursed under his breath.
Hearing something at his back, the hunter turned. A couple meters away, a man shuffled towards him, his jaw snapping angrily in the air and his body covered in blood.
Daryl almost took a step back at the sight. Almost. Instead, he lifted his bow again, this time towards the bloody man.
"Hey! Don't take another step or I'll fucking shoot you!"
At his shout, the man seemed to get even more frantic than before and kept walking towards the Georgian. When his eyes met Daryl's, the hunter nearly shivered. Those whitened eyes weren't human. Those eyes were blind. Dead. The arrow pierced the man's heart.
Yet the man kept moving.
This time, Daryl did take a step back.
The man was almost over him when a knife embedded itself on his head and he fell to the floor. Like a puppet with its strings cut.
It didn't take him long to find who had thrown it.
"The head, little brother. It's the only way to stop them. You have to aim for the head or they just keep coming at you."
Merle's ruffled and dirty figure stood atop the dead thing. He looked as if he had been rolling on the forest floor.
"What the hell are they? I shot him in the heart and he just kept walking as if it hadn't even tickled him."
"Yeah, I know. Found a couple myself a few minutes back. Came as soon as I got rid of them."
"But what are they?"
"Haven't you been listening to the news, little brother?"
"You mean what they say it's true? That there's a disease out there making people come back to live? Like zombies?"
"Well, I hate to say it, but I ain't seeing any other explanation for this shit."
Suddenly, Daryl fixed his gaze on Merle, something his brother had said finally sinking in and filling him with a sense of dread.
"You said you found more?"
"That's what I said, ain't it?"
Daryl broke into a run. Merle had been hunting closer to their cabin than Daryl. If he had run into those things, it wasn't so farfetched to think that they could have gotten to the cabin.
"Hey! Daryl! What the hell, brother! Wait up!"
But Daryl didn't. He had to go back. He had to make sure no more of those… things had gotten there. Never had the trek back home seemed so long before.
He only stumbled upon one of those things on his way and he shot it down with an arrow to the head, not pausing even to take the arrow back. As soon as he arrived at the cabin, however, he realized why that had been so.
There were at least four of those things, three men and a woman, at the front and another woman had broken one of the windows on the side of the rundown cabin.
He didn't waste any time in shooting them down.
"Harry! Kiaran!" shouted Daryl entering the cabin.
When it was clear they weren't there, he began to get even more nervous. A look at the backyard proved his fears right and his eyes widened.
He run for the backdoor, his crossbow already loaded and ready to be fired as many times as needed. It didn't take long for that to happen.
Both his sons turned towards him and in that moment, one of those things crawled towards Kiaran.
"No!" shouted Daryl enraged.
Soon, an arrow put the thing down, but there were another three around. Kiaran walked closer to his brother and thrust his knife into the eye of the one that was stumbling over to him, whilst Daryl shot another between the eyes. Merle arrived in time to take care of the last one, which was trying to sneak up on Harry.
An instant after all those fucking things had been put down, Harry was wrapped up in his brothers arms.
"Shhh… it's alright, Harry. We're alright, see? Dad and uncle Merle came. We're alright." muttered the oldest in his brother's hair.
Seeing another thing, this time a female, come out of the woods, Daryl shot another arrow and realized he didn't have many left. Gathering up the ones already used, he urged the boys to get inside.
Once in the safety of their cabin, Daryl dropped on one knee and put an arm on a shoulder of each of his sons.
"You both alright? Any of them hurt you?"
Harry shook his head fast and Kiaran followed swift. The hunter sighed in relief and gave them a brief hug before the door opening startled them.
"There ain't more fuckers out there for now." grunted Merle closing the door at his back and hanging his shotgun before looking at his nephews and unknowingly repeating his own brother's words. "You both alright?"
"Yeah." answered Kiaran.
"What were those things, dad?" asked Harry scared. "Kiaran stabbed one and it didn't even flinch."
Daryl looked at Kiaran and the boy explained.
"One of them appeared out of the bushes and tried to grab Harry. I stabbed it under the armpit, like uncle Merle taught us. It didn't affect him at all. Harry's right, he didn't even flinch."
Daryl frowned and looked at his youngest son out of the corner of his eye. He wasn't sure as to how they, an especially Harry, would take the news that dead people were coming back to life with a hunger for fresh meat. He was still trying to think of the best way to explain it when Merle spoke.
"The bloody fuckers are dead people that come back to eat the rest."
"What? I ain't gonna lie to them, little brother. They need to know what the hell's going on." answered Merle lighting a cigarette.
"I wasn't gonna lie to them, you idiot, but you didn't need to scare them, you know?" grunted Daryl looking with worry at his youngest.
"So they are infected with that virus they are talking about in TV?"
The Dixon's sharp gaze focused on Kiaran and then on Harry. The boys didn't seem as scared as he had expected.
"Yeah, we think so."
"What do we do now, then?"
Daryl and Merle exchanged a glance. That was a good question. If the things had got to them, it meant their cabin may not be safe anymore. They couldn't simply shut themselves up in there and wait for it to pass, because they didn't know how long it would take and they would need to hunt anyway, which was a danger. Not only would whoever went hunting be in danger, but they couldn't leave the children alone either. Which meant either Daryl or Merle would have to stay with them whilst the other went hunting and the probabilities of getting back with enough food for everyone would be cut by half.
"For now, why don't you and your brother clean up a bit and then we'll see about having dinner, eh?" said Merle in his normal gruff voice and forcing a smile on his face.
Kiaran nodded and steered his brother towards their shared room so they could grab a change of clothes before going to the bathroom for some clean water.
Daryl watched them go running a hand through his hair before getting up from where he was crouched on the floor and turning to look at his brother.
"So now what?"
"We clean up and we eat dinner."
Daryl frowned at his older sibling's rather blasé attitude.
"Then we watch TV. See what it says about all this and hope that it's not bullshit as usual."
Daryl looked up from where he had just finished skinning and gutting the few squirrels he had caught before having to rush back to the cabin in time to see his boys enter the small area they used as a kitchen and living room.
Kiaran was the first to enter. Although he and Harry were twins, Kiaran was the eldest and tallest of both. He had dirty blond hair that fell straight to his shoulders, the same blue eyes as Daryl and the body build of a fighter, with broad shoulders, like his uncle Merle. If you looked well enough, you could also tell he had sometime broken his nose. Daryl knew it had been from when he had gotten into a fight defending his brother and ended up being thrown to the floor. The other boy had lost three teeth from Kiaran's punch and hadn't even looked at Harry the wrong way ever again. Merle always said when Kiaran was older he would have the girls asking for a fuck left and right and Daryl had to agree with him on that. His oldest was gonna be handsome in a couple years.
Hadrian, or as everyone called him, Harry, was completely different from his twin. In appearance at least, they were like two different sides of the same coin.
Harry was rather short for his age and had raven black hair that curled at the ends like Daryl's hair did and went down almost to his shoulders. His eyes were a really uncommon shade of forest green with long lashes and almond shape. He was lean and lithe, his build often compared to that of a runner. His features were fey-like, giving him a delicate appearance. However, it was obvious he had the same cheekbones as Daryl and Merle. But if anyone in his family had to choose what they most loved about Harry, without an ounce of doubt, it would be his smile. Harry's smile could light up a whole room by itself.
In character, they were more similar, but there were also a lot of differences. They were both quite, yet where Kiaran was so in a dark brooding way, Harry's quietness was more of a deep shyness and fear of disappointing his family. They were generous, but Kiaran only to his family whilst Harry was simply kind to everyone. That was a reason he was targeted as the weakest member of the family and that sparked the small family's protective instincts towards him.
Kiaran didn't like to sit around idly; he needed to be always doing something to help his kin. Although Harry loved helping too and would do anything without even needing to be asked, he could just as well spend hours sitting around observing his surroundings.
They both had fiery tempers that made their wrath something to be feared, but Kiaran was rather impulsive when it came to his family, especially his twin, and his fury was easily sparked and often ended in physical fights. However, Harry was such a sweet boy. He wasn't easy to anger, yet if you did manage that incredibly stupid feat, you would soon regret it. Harry's strength wasn't physical, even though Merle and Daryl had made sure he could hold his own in a fight from a really young age. No, Harry's strength was his intelligence. If the offence wasn't too serious, you would get off with a few pranks. If you went too far…
"Do you need help, dad?" asked Kiaran pointing to the cleaned squirrels and causing his father's mind to stop wandering.
"Nah, I'm done. Ask your uncle though; I think he's getting slow in his old age."
In truth, Merle had been taking care of the bodies whilst the boys cleaned up and had just gotten back in a few minutes earlier and started to clean his own hunt.
"Careful with what you say, little brother." mock growled the man pointing his knife at the hunter. "Remember who taught you everything."
Then the man threw a squirrel to the boy whilst he finished gutting a raccoon. Daryl thought that may be just what they needed, a bit of normalcy for a few minutes.
He looked at his youngest only to find that he wasn't where he had been a moment before. A look around the room revealed the young child to be sitting at the table playing with a small old puzzle box Merle had brought for him from his travels when he was in the military.
Not at all uncomfortable at the familiar silence, the Georgian redneck stood up to take out some potatoes from a cupboard. Stew it would be.
During dinner, none of them were really in the mood to talk so Merle turned on the small TV they had set up on top of a cupboard. Unfortunately, the news didn't have any new information and, soon, they all went to bed.
Well, not really.
Daryl knew he wouldn't be able to do anything but stare at the ceiling in his room so he got up and left his room, intent on keeping watch to make sure none of those things got near again.
Apparently, he wasn't the only one with the same thoughts. Merle was standing next to the window in the small corridor that led to the bedrooms, the one that fucking bitch had broken. For now, they had closed it with tape and plastic, but they would have to change the glass.
"Couldn't sleep, brother?"
"Fuck! Really should think about putting a bell on your neck. You trying to kill me or something?" swore loudly the startled redneck.
"Will you lower your damn voice? The boys are sleeping."
"Yeah, yeah, whatever." grouched Merle settling back down on the rundown chair.
"Did you see anymore?"
Merle looked at him from the corner of his eye. None of them needed to say aloud what they were talking about to know what he meant.
"No. It's clear. For now."
Sometime during the next hour, they both decided standing around in the corridor like idiots wouldn't help and they both moved to the kitchen so they could both at least sit comfortably and look out the bigger window.
A sound from outside drew their attention to the edge of the forest that surrounded the cabin and they were both careful to be placed on the sides of the window were they would hardly be seen.
A man stumbled out of the bushes, his head moving in every direction as if scenting something out and limping. The Dixon brothers stayed quiet, not daring almost to breath, not wanting to attract the being's attention by making any noise.
The brothers wiped around instantly at the light being turned on to find a sleepy eyed Harry blinking at them while rubbing one of his eyes. Merle looked back out the window, hoping against hope that the man hadn't noticed the light.
"Turn off the light. Harry, turn off the light!" whispered Daryl urgently.
Now wide awake, the child stared at the silhouette outside. Rightly guessing what was happening, he started to tremble and the light flickered before going out.
Relieved, Daryl crouched in front of him so they were almost at the same height and brought a finger to his lips, knowing the moonlight coming in through the window would be enough for him to see that.
The three of them waited to see if the man would stop and lose its interest after the light had disappeared, but they weren't so lucky.
"Shit! It's still coming."
Merle grabbed his knife from the kitchen counter and went for the door.
"Stay inside and don't make a noise." ordered the man.
The only sound in the house whilst Merle dealt with the problem was their breathing in the darkness and the rustle of fabric as Daryl went to pick up his youngest.
"What are you doing up at this hour?" asked the hunter in a whisper seeing the shadow of Merle wiping the knife clean with a rag.
"Kiaran's got a fever." was Harry's answer muffled from where he was hiding his face in Daryl's chest.
Daryl frowned down at his son. Kiaran had a fever? Had he caught the flu? He had seemed fine during dinner, but years taking care of two children had taught him that meant nothing at all.
"Okay, I'll be there in a minute. Did he throw up or something?"
"No, but he's got a cut in a leg that looks nasty."
His frown deepened at that information. Not the flu then. Maybe an infection? He would have to take a look at the cut and clean it. Merle coming back in interrupted his thoughts.
"What the hell did you think you were doing, Harry? Why are you not in bed?" asked Merle looking rather angry.
Harry looked down at the floor. He always felt like a disappointment to his family whenever Merle got that look in his face because of him.
"Kiaran's got a fever." said Daryl as always hating to see that look in his son's face.
"What?" asked Merle taken aback by his answer.
"Harry came to tell us. Apparently, he got a cut and it may be infected."
Merle sighed and rubbed the back of his neck with a hand almost sheepishly.
"Okay, you go and see if he's alright, then. I'm gonna move the body so it doesn't attract any hungry animals."
Or of its kind, but his brother had more sense than to say that in front of Harry when he was obviously already worried.
"Yeah, you do that. And try washing that foul odour you got on you, at least what ain't naturally yours. You stink enough as it is." threw Daryl at his brother's back.
Merle left the room grumbling about cheeky little brothers and a small smile on Harry's lips was his reward for the usual banter.
Daryl lowered Harry to the floor when they entered his and Kiaran's room and approached the other boy's bed. Harry slipped by his side and hurried to his big brother's side. The hunter took a seat on the edge of his son's bed and stared at his son.
Kiaran was curled up on his side, covered by his warmest blanket and also Harry's. The boy was sweating, yet he was still shivering in cold. When he felt the bed sink under his father's weight he opened his eyes and the Georgian could see they were glazed over by the fever,
Bringing a hand to his sweaty brow to feel the hotness of his skin, he confirmed that Kiaran had a fever.
"Dad?" Kiaran closed his eyes with a groan and turned his head in the general direction of his brother. "I told you not to bother dad, Harry."
"Hey, your brother did the right thing by calling me. So don't scold him."
"No, you're obviously not. Show me the cut, you brat." ordered the man, the fondness in his voice belaying his harsh words.
"Harry!" protested the oldest child realizing his brother had revealed another detail he didn't want to make known.
Harry sheepishly looked away. He hadn't wanted to betray his trust, but he was worried.
"Kiaran." warned Daryl at his son's stubbornness.
The boy huffed and, after much grumbling that reminded them scarily of Merle, showed him a cut on his leg.
It was in the upper part of his calf, a bit to the side, and it didn't seem too deep. Still, it wasn't looking too good. It was oozing pus and there was some dried blood around the wound. It was clearly infected.
Daryl shook his head. His son's face said everything. He wasn't going to admit he wasn't feeling well.
"Harry, go and bring some water from the bathroom, will you?"
Harry nodded, as always eager to help and please his family. Daryl turned his attention back to his oldest.
"How did you get it?"
"When the first of those things tried to get Harry I got in the way and it scratched me."
Daryl frowned. For some reason, that gave him a really bad feeling.
"Why didn't you say anything?"
"Well, it's just a scratch and I didn't want to worry anyone."
The hunter shook his head in resignation. Sometimes, he wished his sons hadn't inherited his stubbornness. Before he could say anything else, Harry returned with the water, some rags and a cup. As usual, more than he was asked but just what was needed.
"Can I do anything else, dad?"
Daryl shook his head and thanked his son. Then, he turned back to Kiaran and took away his blankets, allowing him to keep just a sheet to ward off the real cold.
"But dad, I'm freezing!" whined Kiaran in a rare show of childishness.
"You're too hot. You're body doesn't need the extra warmth."
"No, buts." seeing Harry biting his lower lip whilst looking lost as to what to do, Daryl got an idea. "You know what, Kiaran? A couple minutes back Harry turned the lights off without using the switch."
That certainly got the boy's attention as his head snapped in his brother's direction.
"Really? You did it again, Harry?"
The youngest blushed and ducked his head, peering at his older brother and father from in between the strands of black hair that were covering his eyes nearly completely.
"I saw one of those men and I got scared. It wasn't on purpose."
Daryl stared at him pensively. Strange things had always happened around Harry. Lights going out, toys floating, things disappearing… For a long time, they hadn't known why that happened or how he did it. Until he received his acceptance letter to Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Unfortunately, the Dixon's couldn't afford to pay for Harry to go there. Daryl had wanted to. He and Merle had talked about getting a job, somehow. Merle had a couple of not very respectable contacts and he could introduce them to Daryl. They could do the odd job here and there and, even if they wouldn't be the best ones, they would be paid well enough.
However, Harry hadn't wanted to hear it. He refused to let them do so. Besides, Kiaran wasn't magical. Which meant he couldn't go to Ilvermorny. Harry didn't want to go to a school far away where he wouldn't be able to see his family.
So Daryl did the only thing he could. He bought him books. It wasn't a lot, but it's what they could afford and Harry liked it that way.
He hadn't progressed too much, though. He was able to do small things, of course, but he didn't dare try the bigger incantations without a focus for fear of damaging his still too young magical core.
Daryl and Merle had been saving money for a while now, hoping to have enough that they could buy Harry a wand as a surprise birthday gift. They had almost bought him a second hand one, but the wizard that had come to explain everything to them had told them it wouldn't really be of much use because it wouldn't match Harry's core. So Harry had stuck to low level spells and wandless magic.
Surprisingly, it had been Kiaran that had suggested it saying that if Harry had always been able to do magic without knowing what he was doing or using a wand, he should be able to keep doing the same now that he knew.
Since then, Kiaran always loved watching or hearing about every little thing that his twin did with his gift. It always amazed the Georgian how he never felt jealous of his brother. It's something he was really proud of.
Daryl was brought back to the present by Kiaran's voice.
"And why were you scared?"
"There was one of those men outside." repeated Harry confused.
"Yeah, I already heard that; but why were you scared? Dad and uncle Merle wouldn't have let it hurt you. And neither would I."
"I know." blinked Harry.
"Then why were you scared?" repeated Kiaran exasperated.
"Because what if it had hurt dad or uncle? Those things look nasty and I don't want anything to happen to you all."
Daryl shook his head at his son. Of course he should have guessed Harry would be more worried about them than about himself. It was so typical of him.
"You're an idiot, Harry." stated Kiaran simply.
Harry pouted at his brother.
"Cute." muttered Kiaran.
Harry, still pouting, glared at his brother. Both his twin and Daryl smiled. The youngest looked even cuter. Like an angry kitten.
Then Kiaran shivered again.
"Dad, can I have my blanket back now?"
"Not yet." The boy frowned. "I already told you, we need to lower your body temperature."
Not willing to listen to anymore protests, Daryl dipped a rag into the cool water and used the wet cloth to wipe the sweat from Kiaran's brow before getting onto the task of cleaning the cut.
Harry and Daryl spent what was left of the night taking care of a delirious and feverish Kiaran. Merle came in sometimes, bringing fresh water.
By dawn the next morning, Kiaran's fever had yet to disappear. In fact, it seemed to have got higher and Daryl and Merle where getting more and more worried.
"Daryl, can you help me in the kitchen with something?"
"With what?" asked Daryl with a frown.
"Does it have to be now?"
Merle gave his brother a 'what do you think? yes, you dumbass' look and Daryl stood up and with a last look at his sick sleeping son, left the room.
Harry looked after him with curiosity in his bright eyes and when he looked back at his brother, he saw he was looking in the same direction as he had been.
"What do you think he wants?"
"He wants to tell him something they don't want us to know." answered the oldest.
Kiaran didn't say anything for a while.
"You need to be strong now, Harry." he said finally.
"What are you talking about, Kiaran?" asked Harry confused.
Kiaran looked him in the eyes, his own unusually mature for someone his age.
"You'll have to be strong."
Kiaran didn't add anything and Harry frowned, mulling over the words of his twin. For some reason, he got a feeling of foreboding.
"Remember that spell you told me about? The one that can make something bigger on the inside?"
"Yeah, it's a charm."
"Have you tried it already?"
"Practice it. And put it on a few bags."
"I just have a feeling they will be needed."
Harry sighed, but accepted it. Although his brother didn't have magic per se, he was a squib and he did have an ability. Kiaran would sometimes get feelings about certain things, ideas he didn't know where they came from. In time, they had learned not to question it, just like with Harry's gift.
"What?" asked Daryl once in the kitchen.
"Things ain't seeing good with that virus. The radio announced there will be a briefing in the news that will be mandatory to see in every house at ten."
"Worse. Apparently it's begun spreading and reaching other places apart from the big cities."
Daryl snorted and raked a hand through his hair. As if they hadn't already noticed that. His brother nodded in agreement.
"How's Kiaran?" asked Merle after a minute of silence.
Daryl's face was enough answer.
"He's not good. The cut's infected and the fever has gotten higher. If this keeps up, we'll have to bring him to the hospital."
Merle nodded. It would be expensive, but they could use the little money they had saved to buy Harry's wand and a bit more he had stashed away for real emergencies. He just hoped it would be enough.
"Listen, I'm gonna hit the town for a few things. Milk and all that. There's nothing left and Harry must be hungry, it's well past breakfast time already. And Kiaran'll be hungry too when he gets better."
Daryl nodded at his brother and turned back to go into the boys' room again.
"Don't miss the news, alright, baby bro?"
"Yeah, yeah, whatever."
Merle shook his head at his brother's retreating back. He would put the radio on to listen to it too in case Daryl missed it. Grabbing the car's keys, Merle got out of the house and into the car before driving off.
When Daryl next entered the children's bedroom, he found Harry sleeping on his bed with his head resting on an open book. The moving images clued him in into the kind of knowledge he must have been seeking when he fell asleep.
Careful not to awaken him, Daryl removed the book from under his head and moved him so he was lying more comfortably on the old mattress before covering him with a blanket.
When he was sure enough Harry would be able to sleep comfortably, Daryl changed the water and went back to Kiaran's side.
Daryl sat in the kitchen staring unseeingly at the TV screen. It couldn't be. They had to be wrong. It couldn't be true.
They had said that those things could infect others, turn people like them, just by biting them. That a scratch was enough.
The fever killed the person and, then, they would return like those things. But with a hunger for fresh meat.
Just a scratch… No cure.
The words kept repeating over and over in his head. Just a scratch. No cure. But that couldn't be right. It had to be a mistake.
A scream from his sons' bedroom snapped him out of his stupor and Daryl run. The sight that met him would be stuck in his mind forever.
Kiaran, pale as the dead, with crazed eyes and a snarl on his lips was over his brother, who had an arm on his neck to stop the oldest from biting him.
Still in shock, Daryl jumped forward and grabbed his eldest by the back of his neck to throw him away from Harry.
Kiaran met the floor with a thud, but just as soon he was standing up again.
"Harry, get out!" shouted Daryl. "Come on, Harry, move! Get out!"
The youngest twin hesitated just a moment before doing as told and running out of the room.
Kiaran ran at Daryl and the hunter barely managed to dodge him. Unfortunately, he didn't count on Kiaran falling out the door and deciding to go back to trying to hunt Harry.
As soon as he realized what was happening, Daryl run after them.
"Harry! Harry, get out of the house! Now! Run!"
Harry had been sleeping when a strange sound awakened him. The boy yawned. Was that growling? Opening his eyes, he was met with the unexpected sight of his brother stumbling out of bed.
His twin turned to him at the sound of his voice and Harry froze. His eyes were… Kiaran shuffled over to him, growling.
"Kiaran? What are you doing?"
But Kiaran didn't answer. He just kept moving with a feral snarl on his lips.
"Kiaran, it's not funny! Stop!"
His twin jumped him, his mouth open and ready to bite.
The wizard screamed loudly.
Harry put an arm on Kiaran's chest to keep him away and it slid to his neck.
And then his dad was there, throwing Kiaran away from him and telling him to run. With a last look at his brother, he did.
Not long after, he could hear him following. Harry looked back and tripped in the kitchen when he had almost reached the front door.
His brother fell on top of him. Harry was so scared. He didn't understand what was going on, but Kiaran looked so scary. He didn't feel warm and safe anymore.
They struggled with one another as Kiaran kept trying to take a bite off of him until, suddenly, his brother simply went limp on top of him.
Harry looked up to see his father at the door, his crossbow clutched in a tight white knuckle grip and his face ashen white. He looked at his brother. An arrow was sticking out of his head.
Harry scrambled out from under his twin's weight, tears running down his face and sobs wracking his small frame. He didn't understand what had happened. He didn't want to understand it.
A thud was heard when his father's knees met the floor and the crossbow clattered to the floor. His father was silently crying too, staring at his dead son's body, but Harry couldn't do the same. He couldn't look at the body of what had once been his brother.
After a length of time that neither of them would ever be able to determine exactly, the door opened and Merle rushed in.
He stopped in his tracks at the scene that met his eyes.
His brother was kneeling on the floor, cradling the body of an obviously dead Kiaran —the arrow sticking out of his head didn't leave much room for mistake either in regards to his state or the one responsible for it.
In a corner, sitting with his arms around his legs and sobbing quietly, was Harry. The boy was pale and looked ready to pass out. He must be in shock.
It wasn't too hard to guess what had happened. Kiaran had turned.
Merle walked directly towards Harry and crouched down in front of him, putting a hand on each of the young child's shoulders.
"Harry, are you alright? Did he hurt you?"
When his nephew didn't react, Merle shook him until the boy finally blinked.
"Harry! Were you hurt? Did he bite you? Scratch you?"
Harry blinked again and shook his head slowly from side to side. Merle allowed himself a single horrible selfish second of relief and drew the child into an unusual hug.
"I came back soon as I heard it on the radio."
Daryl barely spared him a glance and Merle frowned. This wasn't good. This wasn't good at all.
Merle picked Harry up, worried when he didn't react, and carried him to his room. As soon as they entered, he regretted it. Harry started to whimper, burrowing in his chest, his arms tightening around Merle's neck.
"Harry? Harry, lad, calm down. I'm only gonna put you to bed."
"No… not here…"
Merle sighed, realizing right then that if Kiaran had turned it would probably have happened in their room and it might not be the brightest idea to get Harry in there anytime soon.
With that realisation, the oldest Dixon backed away from the room and went to his brother's. Harry fell limp in his arms and he looked down to find he had fallen asleep, the stress from the last day finally knocking him out.
The man laid the sleeping child on his father's bed and threw a blanket over his body. Then he went back to the kitchen and his distraught brother.
Daryl was in the same place he had left him, with Kiaran's body still cradled in his arms and the crossbow discarded on the floor.
Merle shook the younger man until his unfocused eyes looked in his general direction.
"Daryl, you have to react."
The man muttered something Merle didn't catch.
"I've killed him. I've killed…"
"That wasn't Kiaran anymore."
"He's my son and I've killed him."
"Listen to me, Daryl, Kiaran is dead. He was dead before you shot that arrow. He was already dead when he attacked you and Harry. That wasn't Kiaran anymore."
"I killed him."
His brother remained unresponsive and Merle did the only thing he could think of. He pulled his brother roughly up from the floor and punched him in the face.
The shocked hunter staggered back a couple steps before regaining his balance and looking clearly at his brother for the first time since his arrival.
"What the hell was that for, man!?"
"That's so you'll get your head outta your ass, baby bro."
"My head outta my ass?" hissed. "My son's dead!" roared the hunter.
"And the other's alive! Harry's alive, Daryl! And if you wanna keep him that way, you'll have to act accordingly. He needs you to be strong for him. Because if you don't, Kiaran won't be the only one you'll lose. Is that what you want!? Do you want Harry to…?"
"You fucker! Don't you dare…!"
Daryl launched himself at him and punched him in the jaw with as much strength as he could muster.
"That's it, baby bro. Get it all out."
When Daryl finally tired out, Merle was sure his face was going to be a nasty palette of colours for a few days after that beating, but for the first time in his life it was well worth it.
His brother broke down into loud sobs and had to put a hand on their old rickety table to regain his balance and stop himself from toppling over.
Merle pushed himself up from the floor and sighed, looking at his brother's sobbing form. He hoped he had finally gotten through his little brother's thick skull and to the strong man he was.
Daryl looked up from staring at his hands as if finally realizing something.
"Harry… Harry's alright? Is he okay? Was he hurt?"
"Now you ask, little brother?"
Daryl's eyes filled with guilt, but that was good. If he was feeling guilty, he would be less prone to fall into a depression that would get them all killed.
"Yeah, Harry's good. Shocked, of course, but unharmed. I put him to bed. He didn't want to go to his room so…" Daryl's face confirmed his theory in regards to what had happened there. "He's in your bed."
"I… I…" Daryl looked down at Kiaran.
"Go check on Harry, Daryl." sighed Merle. "I'll take care of everything here."
The hunter nodded and walked to the door before looking back at his son's dead body one last time. Taking a deep breath and visibly gathering his courage, the Georgian left Merle alone in the kitchen with the corpse of his nephew.
Looking down at Kiaran's pale face, Merle tried to tell himself that the tears in his eyes were only from the pain the beating had left him in.
Daryl entered his bedroom to find Harry curled up in bed, dry tear tracks on his cheeks and a small frown marring his brow even whilst asleep.
With light steps, the hunter walked closer and carefully sat on the edge of the bed. The man raked a hand through his hair and sighed before running a hand through the fitfully sleeping child's soft raven hair.
"I'm not gonna lose you too, Harry. I can't. I'm gonna protect you like I should've Kiaran. And this time I'm not gonna fail."
Looking out through the window, he saw Merle standing in the backyard, a shovel in hand and a bundle covered with a white sheet lying on the ground.
He looked back at his son and sighed again, then run a hand over his face to clean the fresh tears from his face. He felt like the worst most horrible parent in the world at feeling relief because of his son's rising and falling chest.
Daryl stayed like that for a while, the sound of Merle digging outside the only one heard in the room. Then, Harry started to stir.
The hunter looked at his son with new tears in his eyes, but blinked, unwilling to let them fall in front of the child.
"I'm here." he said taking Harry's small hand in his. "You're freezing."
Concerned, Daryl pulled the blanket higher up so it covered the small child better and took both his hands in his much bigger ones, rubbing them in hopes of getting some warmth into them.
Daryl looked away, trying not to lose it but with little success.
"He's gone, isn't he?"
"Yeah. Yeah, he is." replied Daryl, his voice hoarse.
"Why? Why did he… did he try to…?"
The Georgian took a deep breath and looked his son in the eyes.
"That wasn't Kiaran anymore, Hadrian." He said repeating his brother's earlier words.
That was the only comfort they had left.
"What do you mean?"
He would have to tell him the truth, he realized. If he kept him in the dark, Harry would be in danger. He needed to know so he would be ready. Besides, it would sully Kiaran's memory to lie about this.
"Remember what the TV was saying about a virus?"
"A bite, a scratch, is enough to infect other people. Then, they get a really high fever that… that kills them. And then they come back, but when they do they're not really themselves anymore."
"So those people from yesterday…?"
Harry swallowed and looked up at the ceiling.
"He didn't feel warm and safe anymore. Kiaran always felt warm and safe."
Daryl looked away from his son's empty gaze. He wanted so much to comfort him, yet he didn't know how to do so. Not with something like this. He didn't think it was possible.
"Do you think more of those men will come here?"
Daryl's head snapped up towards his son.
"I don't know, but if they do, we'll be ready." Harry looked away, but Daryl would have none of that and brought his chin up with a hand. "Hey, I won't let anything happen to you."
And he meant it. He would die before he let anything happen to his youngest son. However, as he soon discovered, Harry still kept surprising him.
"I'm not worried about me."
"What are you worried about, then?" frowned the redneck.
"What if something happens to you and uncle Merle?"
Daryl sighed, unable to keep the tiredness out of his voice any longer.
"We'll be alright. The three of us. We'll take care of each other. Deal?"
"Deal." nodded Harry with a little smile curling his lips.
Daryl felt relieved that his son could still smile. He had feared, and with good reason too, he would never see Harry's smile again. Granted, it was a really small short-lived smile, but it had still been there. He would do what was necessary to keep him alive, but also as happy as the circumstances allowed him to.
"There any place for one more?"
Harry moved a bit to the side, making space for his father, and the man sat himself there with his back to the wall. The child snuggled up to him and he dragged the blanket higher from where it had slid down Harry's back.
"We'll be alright, Harry. I promise."
The child nodded against his chest and closed his eyes. Daryl placed a kiss on the top of his head and, face upwards, closed his eyes against the tears gathering in his eyes. He just hoped he had what it took to keep Harry safe. He couldn't fail again.
It was in the afternoon when Daryl woke again. Harry was still asleep after having been up all night so he tried not to wake him when he got up. Once sure his son was warm and comfortable, he left the bedroom.
He paused at the door to the kitchen, swallowing heavily as his gaze went to rest on the spot he had had to shot his son down before he ate his twin alive.
The front door opening brought with itself a welcome distraction in the form of his own older brother. They stared at each other for a few seconds, not really knowing what to say or how to do it.
"He's next to the roses."
Daryl nodded, already knowing that. He had seen where his brother had started to dig Kiaran's grave, where he must have already buried him. Harry would approve of the spot. He had been the one to suggest planting the roses, saying they needed some flowers to cheer them up. Kiaran had agreed on the condition that he be the one to choose them so they wouldn't be all girly. Harry had planted them without a protest even when he had been told he would have to be the one to take care of them as Merle and Daryl didn't have time for those things and Kiaran... Kiaran didn't have a green thumb precisely.
"Harry'll like that." was all Daryl said, voicing his thoughts.
Merle took it for what it was: Daryl's own approval for the spot he had chosen to bury his nephew in.
"Yeah, I thought so too. How's he?"
"Still asleep. Didn't want to wake him up. He didn't sleep at all last night and when he did this morning…"
The redneck didn't say anything else. Just the memory of Kiaran standing over Harry in his bed trying to bite had his blood freezing. Finally Daryl noticed the blood stains on his brother's face. Following his gaze, Merle scowled.
"Another of those things found its way here. Had to behead it with the shovel."
Daryl frowned at hearing that. If another had come upon them, it meant their little cabin wasn't safe anymore. They would have to think of something soon.
"What are we gonna do?"
"We'll have to leave. Find a safer place, somewhere they haven't got to yet." replied Merle scratching his chin thoughtfully.
"How we gonna do that? We don't have another place and it's not as if we've got money to spare."
And it was true. The Dixon's lived mostly off what they hunted and used the money they got in the odd job they did here and there to pay the bills.
"I've heard they're organising a refugee camp in Atlanta."
Atlanta. Daryl frowned. Leave their little cabin for a big city they knew nothing about where they may even not be welcome. The alternative was to stay here and hope for the best. None of the options really appealed to Daryl.
"The odds are against us here, little brother. We've already encountered a few of those things and we lost Kiaran." they both winced at his crudeness, but Merle had never been good with words anyway. "In Atlanta we'd have medical attention in case Harry got sick and access to a larger supply of food."
"And the numbers. We'd be in a large group." admitted Daryl reluctantly.
"And if it didn't work out, we could always leave and search for another place."
The hunter nodded and looked out the window where a blue van was parked. They could hit the market in town and grab what they could in case Atlanta didn't work out.
A sleepy voice coming from the doorway startled them. Harry stood there looking at them while blinking sleep from his eyes. He was quiet obviously not fully awake yet.
Daryl tried not to let it show how much that sole word hurt and filled him with warmth at the same time. It had been a long time since Harry had last called him daddy. Since Kiaran stopped, actually.
His eldest had believed it was too childish and begun calling him dad and Harry had ducked his head and followed his lead, perhaps not wanting to disappoint his brother.
"Harry, darling, gather your things."
"Are we going somewhere?" asked the young wizard already turning to obey.
"Yeah, we're leaving for Atlanta."
"There's a camp there, with more people, protected by the military." explained Merle following him and placing a hand on his shoulder in support when he paused at the door to his room. "We're leaving as soon as we're packed."
"And you've slept." corrected Daryl, glaring at his brother when he went to protest. "You've hardly slept tonight either."
"I'll sleep on the…"
"You'll need to be alert on the way to Atlanta. We don't know how things are anywhere else, but the news didn't paint them pretty."
Merle scowled but didn't protest and looked back at his nephew. Harry had finally entered his room, the room he had shared with his brother since he could remember, and was looking around at everything with a lost stare.
The ex-military took pity on his nephew and gave him a purpose, something to do that would keep him distracted.
"Take only the essential, Harry. Just what you can fit in a bag. We can't afford to carry too much."
Unfortunately, he must have said something wrong because soon his nephew turned to look at him with those pretty green eyes of his full of tears that only made them appear to be bigger and brighter.
If looks could kill, Merle would've already been six meters under because the look Daryl was giving him was simply murderous. The Georgian entered the room and crouched in front of his son.
"Kiaran had a feeling this morning. He said I should learn how to make our bags fit anything. He said it would be needed." the little boy sniffed a bit. "He also said I would need to be strong."
Daryl felt as if someone had dumped a bucket of ice cold water over him as his son's next words registered in his brain.
"Do you think he knew he wasn't going to… to…?"
Harry sobbed unable to finish the question and Daryl brought him closer. He caressed the raven's soft wild hair, but a thought kept going around in his mind. Had his son already suspected he wasn't going to make it? Had he had a feeling he was going to die?
His brother's voice brought him back to the present. A look into his eyes told him what he already knew. It wasn't the time to think about that. It was the time to act so they wouldn't end like Kiaran.
"I don't know, Harry. But he was right in something. You need to be strong."
His son nodded, looking him in the eyes, trying to be strong as his daddy and brother had told him.
"The spell Kiaran told you… Were you able to do them?" asked Merle.
"Yes, I had to look up a spell to make things weigh less, but I managed to do it after a few tries. It tired me out a bit, but I charmed a few of our bags. Do you want me to do the same to yours?"
"Nah, we'll each take one of those you've already charmed for now and put ours in. We'll save time that way."
Harry nodded at his uncle's words. That made sense.
"Harry, now you have to pack away in that bag anything you wanna keep, okay? Can you do that for me, darling?"
Harry nodded at his father. Yeah, he could certainly do that.
"Harry? You done?"
The wizard nodded showing his bag and Daryl offered a few things from the kitchen for his son to take. Harry looked at him in confusion, but Daryl simply took his bag and put the food in himself. He would rather be overly prepared than suffer from lack of it later.
"Are you hungry?"
Harry shook his head and Daryl frowned before taking a bag of salty crackers out of his own bag, opening it and giving it to the child.
"Eat. You've not taken anything since we'd dinner yesterday."
Harry hesitantly took the packet and started to nibble on a cracker. When he was offered one, though, Daryl refused. He couldn't stomach the thought of food at the moment. He knew Harry felt the same, but his son needed to eat something.
Whilst the boy sat and ate the crackers, Daryl kept stuffing anything that could be useful into his now seemingly bottomless bag.
"I'm finished, daddy."
"Good. We've got something to do before leaving."
The hunter took a small hunting knife from a drawer and turned to the child, kneeling in front of him with a serious look and attaching it to his belt.
"I want you to always carry it with you, Harry. And if you ever are in a situation where you need to use it, never doubt. With those things, it's always the head. If you can't, go for the knees. That way they will have a harder time following you."
The little boy nodded softly to show he understood. Satisfied, the Georgian stood back up and opened the door.
It didn't take long for Harry to realize where his father was taking him. The wooden cross standing over disturbed soil was a dead giveaway. The child gripped his father's hand more strongly and Daryl squeezed back in a show of support.
"Do you think Kiaran would've been angry with me?"
"Why would've he?"
"You said it wasn't Kiaran that attacked us; that they die and then come back. But I didn't notice. I was there in the room, with Kiaran, and he… he… And I didn't notice because I was sleeping."
"Hey, there's nothing you could've done." said Daryl kneeling down to look him right in the eyes so his son would know his words were true. "Kiaran wouldn't have been angry with you."
His son looked away and bit his lip, as if he wanted to say something but he wasn't sure if he should. Then he looked up, determined.
"He wouldn't be angry with you either, you know?"
Daryl didn't say anything, but he did give his son's hand another squeeze. The thought that his youngest child was trying to comfort him over having had to kill his other son was just too heart-breaking to even contemplate.
They remained silent for a long time, each lost in their own thoughts as they stared at the grave of Kiaran and cleaned some tears from their faces once in a while.
The hunter wondered for a second if Harry was going to call him daddy always from now on. Not that he would mind, but he couldn't outright say he had missed it without sounding like a complete sissy to his brother.
"Will we ever come back?"
"I don't know."
Harry sighed sadly.
"At least Kiaran will be in a pretty place."
The Georgian didn't know if he meant the place he was buried in or if his little one meant any kind of afterlife, but he didn't ask. The hunter used his free hand to wipe away the tears from Harry's face and, keeping an eye out for anyone or anything, steered his son back to the house.
Merle watched his brother and his nephew standing in front of Kiaran's grave and stared as whatever Harry said almost had his brother breaking down right then and there.
He had already paid his respects so he simply stood by the window until they finally decided to come back.
By the time the other two reached the house Merle had already put their bags into the van and he was only waiting for them to get in. the sooner they left, the sooner they would reach Atlanta and the safety it may offer.
His dad opened the door for him to get in, but Harry paused and looked back at their little cabin. It wasn't much, but it was theirs and it was all Harry had ever known.
He had grown here with his twin, played with him, celebrated their birthdays, learned to hunt and to fight. Almost every memory of his life had as its setting this place. Almost because he had gone into town with his father and uncle and brother a couple of times, he even had to go to school there, but those weren't good memories. The Dixon's weren't well liked in town and, if there was something he was proud of, it was his family.
But every good memory of his life had taken place in that little cabin hidden in the woods of Georgia.
He was about to leave his only home ever for a city he knew nothing about except for what he had seen in TV or heard from his father and uncle. And he was scared.
At his uncle's voice, he looked up to see him and his father looking at him in understanding. He got into the van and the door closed after him with a resounding bang.
As his father walked around the car to the passenger seat, the wizard fingered the wrapped gift he had found whilst gathering up everything from his room and looked out the window towards the cabin. He didn't stop staring until it completely disappeared from sight and didn't bother cleaning the lonely tear rolling down his cheek.