We pulled up to an old cabin in the middle of nowhere. Trees surrounded the property and there were no neighbors anywhere close from what I could tell. The old cabin had seen better days. In fact, it looked like the cabin should have been demolished decades ago. How it was still standing was a mystery to me. There was no front yard but rather dirt littered with beer cans and other miscellaneous items. I spotted a toilet seat, an engine, a rusty bike and an array of odd nick-knacks and sculptures. Obviously, the place was a dump.

"You live here?" I asked. I couldn't keep the disdain out of my voice. The thought of having to stay here overnight was frightening to say the least.

"Yeah. Now get out," Daryl commanded rudely and exited the truck.

Clearly, he was still pissed at me. I let out a breath before following him out of the vehicle.

"Stay behind me," he ordered.

"You think there are corpses inside?" I whispered anxiously.

Daryl shrugged his shoulders before answering. "Dunno. Best to check."

Crossbow in hand, Daryl crept up the stairs to the front porch noiselessly, which seemed impossible with how old that porch looked. Obviously, the man had skills and I determined he must be a damn good hunter too.

I turned to my left and couldn't find Merle. Where the hell had he gone? Panic started to set in and I found my heart beat elevating along with my terror. I looked around the area with wild eyes trying to spot anything amiss. It was nearly impossible to see anything in the darkness of night. I heard a shuffling noise to my right and jumped in fear.

I heard cackling before Merle stepped out of the darkness. "Calm down little lady. It's just ya buddy Merle," he said smiling.

I frowned. That asshole did that on purpose.

I didn't get a chance to respond as Daryl stepped out of the cabin interrupting us.

"Place is clear" he announced.

Merle gestured for me to go first, so I headed up the steps to the porch where Daryl was. I noticed the porch creaked like nobody's business as I walked on it. It made Daryl's noiseless entry that much more impressive. When Merle finally joined us on the porch, Daryl turned around and went into the cabin. I took another deep breath and followed him inside.

I can't say I was surprised. The cabin had a horrible musty smell that clung to my nostrils. It smelled like mildew, beer, and something distinctly male. It was anything but pleasant.

The cabin wasn't as small as it looked from the outside. It had a decent size living room that housed a beat up old couch, a recliner and a TV set that looked like it was from the 90s. The kitchen was opposite the living room. It was smaller in size but it had a connecting kitchen nook with a small round table. A small hallway that separated the living room and kitchen led to the back of the cabin where three doors could be found.

"Where do those doors lead?" I asked Merle.

"The one on the right is my room, Daryl is on the left and the bathroom is behind the middle door," he explained.

"It's cozy," I lied.

Merle chuckled, "No it a'int." He made his way over to the living room and slumped down onto the raggedy couch.

Not knowing what to do, I turned around to see what Daryl was doing. His back was to me as he placed his crossbow on the kitchen nook table. Since the cabin had lights on, I was able to see Daryl clearly for the first time. He was tall in stature and wore a plaid cutoff shirt with some Dickies work pants. There was a red rag hanging out of his back pocket, which was probably the same one he let me borrow earlier. The man had some nice looking arms, that was for sure. He also had short, dirty blond hair that stuck to the nape of his neck from obvious sweat. I could relate; I was still covered in sweat myself from all that running.

"Mind if I use your bathroom?" I asked Daryl.

He finally turned around and I was shocked by how ruggedly handsome he was. He looked at me with startled wide eyes for a second then quickly schooled his features. There was an awkward pause where we both just stared at each other before his lips started moving. It was clear he was saying something but I was too distracted looking at the mole by his lips. It was devastatingly attractive and made his mouth even more alluring. Damn his lips looked kissable. I looked back up to his sea foam blue eyes before I realized he was giving me a weird look like I was freaking him out.

I shook my head and cleared my throat. "Sorry. Did you say something?" I asked, trying to play it off.

Daryl gave me a confused look a while longer before he grumbled out a "go ahead" and walked past me to join his brother on the couch.

For a second I just stood there trying to remember what we were talking about before I remembered asking to use the bathroom. I let out a small sigh and mentally berated myself. That encounter was so cringe worthy.

Saving what little face I could, I made my way down the hallway and to the bathroom. I was pleasantly surprised to find the bathroom decent. Don't get me wrong, it was decrepit and old—but it was moderately clean. In fact, when I thought about it, the whole cabin was fairly tidy compared to the outside. I closed the bathroom door and walked over to the mirror above the sink.

I looked like a train wreck. My long honey brown curls resembled something of a rat's nest that had been tossed in a tornado. No wonder Daryl was looking at me so funny. The tumble with those corpses and all that running mixed in with humidity did nothing for my curls. I tried to smooth down my hair but it was useless; my hair had a mind of its own.

I continued to just look at myself in the mirror. My skin was a tanned California golden color that always reminded me of peanut butter. I had hazel eyes that were a mixture of shamrock green, butterscotch yellow and cinnamon brown. They were my most favorite feature and I often got compliments about them. I had the same straight nose I inherited from my father but plump lips I received from my mother. I had a slight splattering of faint freckles that graced my nose and cheekbones, giving me an all-American girl feel.

Although I was pretty, I still felt awkward. I was 5'5 and 135lbs with curves that never went away, even with all my running. I had a small waist with large hips and a butt that definitely came from my mother. My 32C-cup breasts were just pure luck. I had a natural curvaceous body that I never felt fit my personality.

It might be because of my prolonged ugly duckling phase. I was chunky all throughout childhood and went through a pretty rough awkward stage in middle and high school. I really didn't grow into my features until I was well into college. I went from being totally ignored by the opposite sex, to borderline harassed within a few short years. I guess I still found it hard to see my current reflection as me and not the ugly duckling I was before.

Done analyzing myself, I bent down and splashed some cold water onto my face and neck. It felt cool and refreshing which was something I desperately needed. Standing up, I looked into the mirror again and noticed my clothes. My tank top was still in good shape, there were no rips or tears that I could see. Unfortunately, because I was still so sweaty, it clung to me like second skin. My burgundy lace bra straps were visible but everything else was covered. Good.

My mind wandered to Daryl for some reason and I revisited the memory of seeing him in the light for the first time. He wasn't what I expected. I'm not really sure what I was expecting…but that wasn't it. He had really intense eyes that seemed to demand a captured audience. It was hard to look away once caught in his gaze. I noticed he seemed to squint as if to hide his eyes from the magnitude of emotions swirling within them. Like his brother, Daryl had facial stubble covering his cheeks with a slighter, longer goatee. Overall, he was not bad to look at. And if I was being honest, I'd say he was damn sexy.

Whoa.

I needed to get a grip. My mother would just about die if I ever brought a guy like Daryl home. I laughed, imagining her face at such a scenario. Splashing my face with cold water again for good measure, I turned off the faucet and left the bathroom.

I walked down the hallway and joined the Dixon brothers in the living room.

"Looks like ya got in a fight wit your hairbrush…and you lost," Merle joked.

I gave Merle my best 'if looks could kill' face and flipped him the bird. He just laughed harder and I could even see Daryl cracking a smile.

"Do you have a rubber band I could use?" I asked Merle with a tight fake smile.

Once he was done laughing up a storm, he finally answered. "Sorry girlie. Fresh outta rubba bands."

"Here," Daryl said in a low voice. He slid a rubber band off his wrist and handed it to me.

"Thanks," I said, grabbing the band out of his hand. I started to pull my hair back into a ponytail and twisted it around into a bun. I then used the rubber band to secure it in place. It wasn't ideal but it would do in a pinch.

"What's that mean?" Daryl asked, pointing to my shirt.

Damn. He was looking at my True Blood tank top. Well this was embarrassing. It was dark green with the word "Fangbanger" written on it in large script accompanied by a picture of red lips with a tongue licking along the bottom lip.

Ugh. Just kill me now. I knew it was only a matter of time. If I'd have known the world would be going to shit today, I would have picked a different shirt. I could feel my face heating up which only meant one thing. Dammit, I was blushing.

"Uhh…it's from a TV show called True Blood" I answered lamely. I sat down on the recliner and looked toward the old television.

"That TV work?" I asked, trying to change the subject.

"Yeah, but what does it mean?" Daryl asked again. Geez this guy was not going to let it go!

I huffed loudly in annoyance. "It's someone who sleeps with a vampire okay? Can you let it rest now?" I answered, harsher than necessary.

"Wait. So ya tellin' me that there's a show where women sleep wit vampires?" Merle tried to clarify. "And they call 'emselves fangbangers?" he asked incredulously. "Whoa, girlie, you must be into som' kinky shit" he finally finished, chuckling.

"You wouldn't understand," I argued, feeling pissed and a little insulted. It was my favorite show after all. I crossed my arms over my chest and gave him my best bitch face.

"No need to getcha panties in a twist. No harm intended," Merle claimed, putting both of his hands up in surrender. Daryl just remained quiet squinting at me from the couch. Yeah, he was judging me. Whatever.

"Fine," I agreed to a cease-fire. "So does that TV work? It might be nice to get more information on the situation."

Merle didn't reply but just flipped the TV on using the remote. Most of the channels were nothing but gray fuzz but eventually we caught one channel still running.

There was a news anchor sitting behind a desk reading the teleprompter. He was dressed professionally, but it looked like he had been in the studio for days. His clothes were wrinkled, and his face looked haggard from fatigue.

"The military is actively trying to combat the infected," he began. "To secure your safety, please stay indoors. Military personnel will go door to door in order to secure the city and deliver supplies to residents."

Once the last sentenced was read, it looped back to the beginning. Merle clicked off the television after it played for the third time.

"That's a taped message. The city could have fallen for all we know. Do you have a radio?" I asked. "We might be able to catch a broadcast."

"I got one in the shed outside," Daryl said, getting up from the couch. He grabbed his crossbow off the kitchen nook table before heading out the front door.

"Well shit," Merle grumbled, clearly disturbed by the news.

"Yeah," I agreed. The world was really going south and fast.

We sat in silence together until Daryl entered the cabin again and tossed a small hand radio to me. I immediately started scrambling through the stations trying to get any information I could, while Daryl placed his crossbow back on the kitchen table. He joined Merle on the couch just as I got a clear signal.

"The government is having a hard time trying to control the infected population. There are six safe zones within the city. All other neighborhoods have been deemed unsafe and the military is actively combating the infected in those areas. If you are seeking sanctuary, do not come to Atlanta. The city is not taking any refugees at this time. If you can, stay indoors.

It has been reported that other cities across the nation have also secured safe zones at this time. Accurate and timely reports are getting harder to acquire. We will report every ten minutes while we can. Stay safe."

The report ended and some classical music began to play. We all sat in silence for a while as the music played in the background.

"Can I use your phone?" I asked Merle frantically.

"Ain't got one," he grumbled back.

"Well then, can I use your cell phone?" I asked. "I want to call my dad and let him know I'm okay."

"Ain't got one of 'em neither," Merle answered back. I looked to Daryl but he just shook his head no.

Damn. No phones.

I thought for a minute before asking, "What about a computer? I can send an email."

Daryl replied this time. "Don' have a computer."

Were they serious? This was the 21st century for goodness sake.

"How do you not have phones or a computer?" I jumped up shouting. I began to pace next to the recliner. I know I was misplacing my anger but I was afraid. I was terrified for my father and grandparents. I was even a little worried for my mother. My stomach tied in knots just thinking about them. For all I knew, they could be dead.

"Fuck!" I screamed, slumping back down onto the recliner in defeat.

"That pretty much sums it up," Merle added.

We all sat quietly for a few minutes while everything sunk it. Daryl was the first to break the silence.

"Why didn't ya stay in Atlanta?" he asked me.

I closed my eyes and rubbed my forehead trying to think of the best way to answer that. Instead, I questioned him. "Can you name one natural disaster or act of terrorism when the government acted effectively and quickly? Can you name one government agency that runs efficiently?"

When he didn't answer, I continued. "I don't trust the government. I pay meticulous attention to detail and I've noticed too many government reports that didn't add up. I did the math and I had a better chance of survival outside of the city. So I took my chance," I finished with a shrug.

"So what, are ya good at math too?" Daryl asked.

I smiled before replying. "What is math? Just details. If you're like me, math comes easily. It's just noticing the details and how they fit together. I actually double majored in Biology and Mathematics in my undergraduate studies."

Daryl just nodded while Merle whistled.

"Damn doc, ya one smart skank," Merle declared. Leave it to Merle to give me a compliment and an insult all in one sentence.

"I'm not a skank Merle," I shot back.

"Well you're shirt says otherwise" Merle argued with a smile plastered across his face.

I couldn't say anything back. Touché Merle. Nicely played.

Seeing my defeat, Merle got up from the couch. "Ima take a piss. Ya hungry?" he asked me. "Darylina here is a great cook. Ain't that right lil' brother? Why dontcha make ya stray somethin' to eat?" he questioned, petting Daryl on the top of his head.

Daryl brushed Merle's hand away. "Getcha hands off me."

Merle just chuckled before he strolled down the hallway toward the bathroom.

There was an uncomfortable moment of silence as we were both awkward in the other's presence.

"Ya want somethin' to eat?" Daryl finally asked.

I had never turned down food and I sure as hell wasn't going to start today. "Yeah that would be great."

He nodded and got up, walking into the kitchen. He opened the fridge and surveyed the contents before speaking again.

"Ya like sandwiches? Got ham and turkey," he yelled over his shoulder.

"Actually I'm a vegetarian," I hollered back.

He stood back up and turned around when I said that. "A what?" he asked.

"A vegetarian. I don't eat meat," I clarified.

Merle came back down the hall laughing his ass off. "It just keeps gettin' betta and betta. She don' eat meat," he cackled on his way back to the living room.

I gave him a glare before I turned back to Daryl. "Do you have any cheese and butter? I'd take a grilled cheese sandwich."

He nodded before responding, "Yeah, I could do that." He turned back around and I watched him getting out the ingredients when Merle suddenly walked in front of me.

"Hey Doc, could ya take a look at somethin'?" he asked.

"Uhh…sure," I agreed nervously.

He unbuckled his belt and started to unbutton his jeans before I stopped him.

"Merle!" I screamed, covering my eyes.

"Dammit Merle. What the hell ya doin'?" Daryl yelled from the kitchen.

"She's spose to be a doc, ain't she? I got somethin' I need checked out," he yelled back at Daryl.

I slowly uncovered my eyes. He wasn't trying to flash me; he needed a medical opinion. That I could do. "Just so we're clear, this is a medical examination. No hanky-panky! Got it?" I asked, raising one eyebrow.

Merle nodded. "No hanky-panky. Cross my heart n' hope to die," he promised, smiling. He did the whole motion, X-ing out his heart and everything. This guy could be such an ass. Although I had to admit it, sometimes he could be a charming ass.

I smiled and then straightened my face before going into doctor mode. "Alright, tell me what's wrong."

"Well it burns when I pee and there's some green shit leakin' outta my junk," Merle admitted with no shame.

"Fuck man. I'm tryna cook, not puke," Daryl called from the kitchen.

"Well ain't nobody tell you to listen little brother!" Merle shouted back at him.

I interrupted their little brotherly spat. "I think I know what it is but I need to examine your penis just to be sure," I explained confidently.

Merle looked like he was just about to crack a joke when I added, "no hanky-panky remember?"

His Cheshire grin faltered and he nodded. He unzipped and pulled down his pants. I was not expecting him to be commando so it was a bit surprising when penis was on display so fast. I tried to cover up my surprise and get back into my professional mode. "Is it okay if I examine you now?" I asked, waiting for his permission.

"Sure thing doc," he replied with a small smile. I could tell he was having a hard time keeping his sexual banter to himself.

I examined him and then gave him the go ahead to get re-dressed.

"When was the last time you had unprotected sex?" I asked.

"Shit doc. Honestly, I dunno. I always hit it raw," he responded, waggling his eyebrows suggestively.

Eww. That was gross.

"Well that's what got you in this mess Merle," I reprimanded him. "You really need to use protection when having sex. You have gonorrhea."

"Again?" Daryl asked from the kitchen. "Ya think you'd learn ya damn lesson."

"Shit happens." Merle claimed, shrugging his shoulders. "What do I take for it?" he asked me.

"Lucky for you, gonorrhea can be treated with antibiotics. Ceftriaxone, azithromycin and doxycycline all work. But the problem is getting the medication. With all hell breaking loose, getting the medicine will be tricky," I explained.

"Don' worry 'bout that Doc. Ol' Merle here can handle that. We can get 'em in the morning," he concluded. "Cops should be busy anyhow."

"Foods ready," Daryl announced, interrupting us.

"Just a sec. I need to wash my hands," I said before heading back to the bathroom.

I washed my hands twice and quite thoroughly before I joined the Dixon brothers at the kitchen table. Both brothers were already eating as I sat down to join them. I took a bite of the grilled cheese sandwich before humming in appreciation.

"Thanks, this is really good," I complimented.

"Don' know how you can eat afta that," Daryl commented, pointing his head in Merle's direction.

"I've seen worse during my residency. You get used to it and a bit desensitized. I can eat after pretty much anything now," I admitted.

We ate in silence for a while before Daryl spoke up with a mouth full of sandwich. "We should try and get some supplies and weapons tomorrow. We don' know how long this is gonna last. Like Merle said, the cops will be busy."

"Yeah, you're right," I agreed. "We should probably stock up on food too."

"I can hunt," Daryl proclaimed.

I smiled at him before responding. "Yeah that's great and all except I don't eat meat."

"Why?" he asked, still chewing a huge chunk of his sandwich.

I grimaced. "I don't like the taste of it," I answered honestly.

"Well ya might have to eat it to survive. Don' know how long this shit will last." Daryl asserted.

"I don' care what we do tomorrow as long as I get to take our pretty doc here to get my meds," Merle declared and it was obvious that by 'meds' he meant controlled substances. Man had the subtlety of an ox.

"Of course," I nodded in agreement.

That was the cost of my security in our little group. I had to do it. I had absolutely nowhere else to go. And if I was being honest, a part of me was a little excited. I had never done anything even remotely illegal. It would be kind of nice to partake in a little anarchy.

With that, we finished eating and I offered to clean the dishes since Daryl cooked. The boys both sat on the couch discussing the details of tomorrow's itinerary while I cleaned the dishes. When I was done, I walked over to the living room and sat down on the recliner.

"Now that that's settled, I'm goin' ta sleep," Merle said, getting up. "Sweet dreams Doc," he winked at me. He patted Daryl on the shoulder before walking off down the hallway, disappearing into his bedroom.

Now that Daryl and I were alone, that awkward feeling settled over us like a thick blanket. I don't know why the uncomfortable atmosphere was only evident when we were alone. Maybe it was because he was sitting there squinting his eyes looking sexy as fuck.

Whoa! Where the hell did that thought come from? Slow down there ovaries.

I cleared my throat and tried to rid the uneasiness I felt when alone with him. "Do you have a blanket I could borrow?" I asked him, purposely avoiding eye contact.

"For what?" he inquired.

"So I can sleep on the couch," I answered, a bit confused. Did he expect me to sleep on the couch with nothing?

"You can sleep 'n my room," he countered. "Best I sleep by tha door."

I was flattered for a moment before I realized that it was actually just the smartest move. He was a skilled hunter and took down those four corpses without a sweat. It made the most sense for him to guard the only door.

I thanked him before getting up and walking down the hallway. I was so consumed with my thoughts about how good his arms looked in that cutoff shirt that I didn't realize I opened the wrong door. Merle's naked butt cheeks were on full display as he rested on top of his comforter completely naked.

"Oh my gosh!" I yelled in panic. Merle slept in the nude!

Merle lifted his head off his pillow and looked over his shoulder at me. "See somethin' ya like Doc?"

I couldn't speak; I was so embarrassed. So I did the only thing I could think to do. Like a mute with wide eyes, I reached for the doorknob and closed the door. Then I hauled ass across the hall to Daryl's room and went in, closing the door behind me. I rested my back against the door and closed my eyes for a few minutes while I berated myself. The day just kept getting worse.

Opening my eyes, I flipped on the light switch and looked around the room. There was a full size bed in the middle of the room that was made in a haphazard way, as if the person didn't really know how to make it up properly. There was a worn dresser that had seen better days, under the bedroom's only window that had a closed curtain that looked like it had been around since the 70s. There was a toolbox on the floor next to the dresser on one side and a shotgun on the other side. A small nightstand housed a ridiculously tacky lamp that was a fishnet covered leg in black high heels with a lampshade on the top. It didn't really seem to fit with the room and if I had to guess, I would say it was a gift from Merle. The biggest atrocity was a giant deer head that hung on the wall above the bed. Other than that, the room was bare minus a few shirts and pants strewn across the bed.

In all, the bedroom was small and deteriorated like the rest of the cabin but it was also fairly clean. It was now clear that the cabin was as clean as it was because of Daryl. From the peek I got of Merle's bedroom, Merle didn't give a crap about cleanliness or hygiene for that matter. A picture of Merle's ass popped into my mind and I shook my head. Best to think of something else.

Walking toward the bed, I gathered up the few articles of clothing into a pile and placed them on top of Daryl's dresser. I took off my black Nike running shoes and placed them next to the dresser on the floor. I then made my way back to the bed and sat down on top of the crocodile green bedspread. The bed was not as comfortable as I was used to, but it would do. I lied down and smelled Daryl's scent permeating from the bed. That distinct smell of gasoline, oil and whiskey consumed me as I closed my eyes. I tried really hard not to think about the last time Daryl washed his bedding. Instead, the memory of his captivating blue eyes haunted me as I drifted off to sleep. I wonder if he always squints was my last thought before I fell asleep, exhausted from a horrible day.


Please review and let me know what you think of this chapter! I love to read comments as they help me stay motivated to write more!