Merle's raspy voice broke the mid-morning silence of the dusty cells. Daryl didn't answer.
Daryl debated answering for a moment from where he sat on the floor of his cell. He'd pressed his back up against the bars of the door to face the concrete wall, unwilling to watch Merle shiver and puke, wracked with withdrawals in the cell across from him.
"You know I was… I thought I was gonna make it. I just couldn't. Couldn't bear the idea of her all laid out in a fucking casket."
Daryl picked at the imperfections in his second-hand dress slacks, "Weren't no casket."
Then, after a momentary paused, "Coulda stopped by the house."
"Shit Daryl, I ain't been sober in… I don't even know. Hell, between the crank and the… liquor…Vicodin. I can't even tell you what day it is - was."
"Yeah" Daryl allowed. He'd known. Of course he'd known. It was just shitty. He and Merle shared a unique bond. They were the shell-shocked veterans of a war that nobody else would ever realize had even taken place. The only way to live was to victimize, but there came a time when that didn't work, either. Nobody had been his advocate more than Merle, and for that Daryl would forgive Merle for being brittle and fractured. No matter how far he slipped, he would always forgive him.
The silence extended between them, Daryl pulling at threads and Merle trying to hold his stomach, muscles aching with each wave of nausea. It was late into the afternoon before the sound of the door drew both of their attentions. Brisk boot falls approached down the hallway until the town deputy appeared in the door of Daryl's cell.
"Daryl Dixon." He announced.
"What?" Daryl asked impertinently.
"Looks like it's your lucky day, Son. You're free to go." He announced.
"Not hardly." Daryl muttered, pulling himself to his feet as the jingle of keys approached the door.
"Well, you're not entirely off the hook. I mean, using a fake ID, disturbing the peace... I'll have to cite you for those. No real need to hold you any longer though, I don't recon. Think we can let you go back home, so you can commence to settlin' your affairs." The officer lowered his head, removing his hat and tucking it into his chest earnestly.
"Was real sorry to hear about your loss."
Daryl stiffened, uncertain of the protocol for this unexpected display of sympathy. Particularly after he'd been running his mouth. After some consideration, a curt nod seemed the most appropriate response.
"Hey Rusty." Merle called out from across the hall.
"Yeah, don't start, Merle. You can go ahead and get comfortable. You went and got yourself into a big heap o' trouble."
"Yeah, yeah. I'm a real bad sort." Merle quipped dismissively, "Listen, I want you to give Daryl my keys when you release him. Daryl, I got a little cash put away, you'll know where to look. You go on and take what ya need to clear this up. This one's on me."
Rusty began to object, but Merle cut him off immediately, "Look, do whatever you gotta do, man. Don't act like you pigs ain't got your tricks for when you want things to go your way. Maybe you spilled your damn coffee on the property inventory or whatever you call that stupid shit, I don't care. He's my brother. Don't just be sorry for his loss. That shit ain't worth a damn… Help him out."
Rusty shifted uncomfortably, then sighed in resignation, "I guess I can probably work somethin' out."
Daryl glanced at Merle uncertainly, who winced out a pained smirk, "See? Just like old times. Ol' Merle's got your back."
The ghost of a smile flickered on Daryl's grim face, "Man, you ain't got shit."
"Yeah? I see you got that starter situation figured out."
Daryl raised his eyebrows at his brother incredulously, "Starter…serpentine belt, fuel pump, transmission… spent a lot of time under that hood cursin' your 'charity', Bro."
Merle chuckled, "Well… guess I maybe misunderestimated things a bit. I'll get it right one of these days."
"Now git! Go on and get out of here 'fore I change my mind."
Daryl nodded and followed the deputy out containment area.