10/10/2013 Hey guys! It's my first story for The Walking Dead—I've been lurking for a while reading all your wonderful fics, so I'm excited to start one of my own.

This story takes starts a little over TWENTY YEARS in the PAST. There's more I want to say about this, but I don't want to spoil the prologue for you. Also, I've decided to make Daryl and Merle the same ages as their actors, and you'll discover why in later chapters. ( I'm warning you because it's a significant age gap.)

This story came to be when I was wondering about the various 'abusers' in the Walking Dead—what they might have had in common, and why they turned out the way they did. And in that same vein, I wondered about their victims, and what they may have had in common. I'll shut up now lest I ruin the whole shebang.

May 1990

The Dixons were a land owning family.

Everyone drinking their pints over at Annie's knew it, as did the guys who owned the Taco truck off of Drury Road. The Girl Scouts selling cookies in the church basement knew it, Postal Worker Shirley knew it, and the skinheads hanging out behind the Texaco knew it.

Why? Because Merle Dixon had opinions. Loud, beer soaked opinions involving his vehement belief that only white, property-ownin' men should be allowed to vote. In other words, men like him—just like in the old days. Depending on who he was speaking with, the conversation would carry on in any manner of fashion before he concluded with the same "and if that pink-faced jackass Clinton from Arkansas wins '92, I'll cut off my own arm."

Reactions ranged from polite consideration to a hence undiscovered loogie in his taco, but Merle's favorite had to be the free box of Girl Scouts Thin Mints, currently half-eaten on the kitchen counter, though it was merely a bribe to get him to leave.

Merle found that it was a useful tidbit of information to drop into a conversation to help back up any point he was trying to prove. That, and, you know, it was always a rush to use his status as a reminder to some poor bastard that he was better than him.

And that's why Daryl wasn't entirely too surprised when he pulled up to the unfinished house after his double-shift to find a George H. W. Bush campaign sign in the grass from the '88 election, the words "Kinder, Gentler Nation" emblazoned in white.

He rolled his eyes. "Dumbass ain't never registered to vote in his whole life."

He parked his truck backend towards the house and started unloading the scrap plywood from the bed and stacking them onto the porch.

Merle wasn't really talking out of his ass—about the land, anyway. The property was rightfully theirs, and had been since their Granddaddy had managed to pay it off in the fifties. The actual house, on the other hand, was a more recent addition, considering the original burned down when Daryl was ten, damn near 11 years ago. And the way Merle had left, not too long after that, you'd think someone had lit a fire under his ass too.

Daryl slammed a few more boards down, the dust curling up under the porchlight.

He got the idea to help rebuild the house his freshman year of high school. Just thinking about all those woodshop classes made his fingers sting with the memory of ghostly splinters. Hell, he had pestered his shop teacher so much after class that Mr. Perouli helped get him a small job at his friend's construction company for "hands on learnin'."

Merle would come back if there was a house, he had bet his life on it. He thought maybe his Pops wouldn't be such a prick all the time neither. There was no way he was able to get a loan from the bank, so most of his waking hours were spent working numerous jobs, and every spare dime he had went into that house.

Daryl remembered pulling up to the Grand Peachtree Reception Hall when he was 17, his arm languidly hanging out of the window of a red 1959 Cadillac. He could have just kept going, rolled the passenger seat window down and flipped off the couple waiting for him to deliver their car from the lot and driven straight outta Georgia. He coulda chopped her up and sold off her parts in Detroit or New York for thousands. By the time he got out of the vehicle and handed over the keys to the man, Daryl had just about crossed the Mason-Dixon line up into Pennsylvania, the gentleman in the sweat soaked dress shirt none the wiser.

He looked up as the woman gave her date his jacket back. She stood on spindly legs in heels much too high, looking quite small in her tacky gold lamé cocktail dress. Daryl had opened the passenger door for her and she'd looked up at him through clumpy lashes as he slammed it shut. Her man was about to round the car and hop in himself.

"Jerry!" the woman had huffed, rolling down the window in agitation and sticking her head out at the both of them. Daryl was alarmed for a split second, thinking that he had maybe stared a little too long at the woman's bare shoulders, at how the soft light from the glowing reception hall had misted over them.

He was seconds away from ripping off his burgundy clip-on bow-tie and matching vest in the event that Jerry swung at him, but instead a crisply folded bill was wedged into his front breast pocket.

"Here kid," muttered Jerry. "For your trouble," before getting in and taking off.

He had other jobs like that, over the years—though none ever tipped as well. Hell, if it weren't for the money problems, he'd have finished that house in under a year for sure. The construction job grew to be his principle income, once he proved himself capable. Every scrap of material he could filch from a construction site went missing. Weekends were spent bribing the other guys on the construction team with cheap beer and barbeque to help him put it together. The plumber charged out the ass though. Fuck that guy.

His Pops ended up dying only a bit after it was inhabitable, and apparently Merle found that to be the perfect opportunity to drop in on his brother.

"That's a hellava job lil bro," Merle had said his first day back, throwing his arm over his brother's shoulder and staring up at the mostly finished house. "It don't completely look like shit. When I heard what you been doin', I figured it'd look like mama's birthday cakes, leanin' to one side." He had slapped him on the back, and went right inside like the house had been there forever.

Years later, Daryl would wonder why he didn't just use his time, energy and money trying to get himself the hell away from the both of them and the concrete gash on their property in that podunk town the second he turned 18, like all the good young American boys from all the songs they played on the radio.

Daryl shook his head and stood up, looking at the stack of wood in front of him. It had to go into the attic, which he was still working on, but he figured it could wait till morning.

Years later still, he would wonder about this night—wonder why he didn't jump off the porch, get in his truck, and drive the hell away the moment he realized there was boisterous, drunken laughter coming from the living room. And only one set of guffaws were Merle's.

There you have it folks!

I know it's 1990 and that the democratic primaries weren't until a bit later for the '92 U.S. elections. But Merle had a feeling about ol' Bill Clinton. Just run with me on this one.

Let me know what you guys think, constructive criticism welcome!