Safe Haven in the Chaos

BY : IdrilsSecret
Category: S through Z > The Walking Dead
Dragon prints: 3986
Disclaimer: I do not own the walking dead or any of the characters. No money is being made from the writing of these stories

Chapter 12 Hunter in Training


After waking up in Aaron’s bed, and enjoying a very satisfying morning, Daryl finally got up and got his day going. He made a pit stop at his house to change his clothes, and appear slightly more presentable than usual before going to Deanna’s house. There, he withstood her accusations and tried to explain his actions for breaking into the weapon room. In the end, he was banned from the room for an indefinite amount of time. Someone would have to sign out his weapons for him, and if he was seen anywhere near the facility, he would be escorted away immediately. Small price to pay, he thought. Deanna had been lenient, probably because she didn’t think he was a threat, but to appear to be in charge of the situation, and send a message to others not to try. Daryl was alright with it, and he promised her it wouldn’t happen again. She was quick to forgive, and the whole thing seemed like it got blown out of proportion.

As he was leaving Deanna’s home, he heard the front door of the adjacent house close, and looked up to see Caleb descending the stairs of the front porch. Caleb looked up and saw Daryl, smiled, and came right over to him. Daryl hadn’t seen much of him since bringing the boy to Alexandria.

“Hey, Caleb, how’s it going, man?” Daryl said enthusiastically.

“Ok, I guess. I heard you left for a while. Glad you’re back now,” Caleb said, skirting the question and turning all the attention onto Daryl.

“Just needed a break, you know.”

“They said you broke into the weapons room. Dude, that’s bad ass,” Caleb said, like a fan admiring his idol.

“It was a stupid thing to do,” Daryl said to discourage him.

“So, what happened, Deanna ground you? Send you to your room without supper?” Caleb joked.

“Something like that,” Daryl mumbled as he looked back at the house where Caleb came out of. “Who lives there?”

Caleb looked back, the sun making him squint his eyes. “That’s the shrink’s house.”

So, he’d just come from one of his sessions. Daryl was glad the boy was still getting help. It seemed to be working. Caleb wasn’t depressed or suicidal. Then again, he was young. Daryl was young too, and he kept going, choosing to suffer in silence. Yeah, Caleb was strong. He’d get through this just like Daryl did. He was a good kid, and he knew how to keep fighting through tragedy.

“So, uh, what are you doing?” Caleb asked.

“I gotta go meet with my people, find out what’s on the agenda for today.” As they talked, they walked down the street in the direction of Rick’s house.

“Hey Daryl?” Caleb asked, as though needing permission.


“So … I’ve heard things … like … some of the people here don’t like your group, and they’re trying to get you banished,” Caleb commented.

“Who’d you hear that from?” Daryl wondered.

“I was hanging with some of the kids in town, and they were talking about it. I was wondering if it was true.”

Some kids, Daryl thought to himself. Probably overheard it from their parents, most likely. Better tell Caleb what was going on. “Yeah, there’s certain people who don’t like how quickly we’ve made places for ourselves here.”

“They say you want to take over the town and run Alexandria,” Caleb said carefully.

“We want to make sure this place stays safe, that’s all. Some of the people here don’t understand how easily things can turn to shit,” Daryl told him honestly.

“Yeah, I get that. I’ve seen it happen … you know … at the fire station.” Caleb’s tone turned sullen. It was a difficult thing to think about and mention. “But I’ve seen you fight. You know what you’re doing. Some of these people here have been behind these walls since the beginning. They’ve never had to go out there and survive. I think it makes perfect sense to have you guys here. You all should be teaching the others how to fight, just in case.”

Caleb was definitely smart, and he’d seen things while he was out there. He knew the dangers too. This gave Daryl an idea. “How much do you know about fighting?”

“Not much,” Caleb said sadly.

“You handled that gun pretty well,” Daryl said.

“Beginners luck. I’d never held one, let alone shot one before. I’m good at hiding and making my way through the shadows … not getting caught, that sort of thing.”

“That might have worked for you so far, but you’re going to need to know how to protect yourself and others. Knowing how to shoot a gun is important, but not always the best option. Walkers are attracted to the noise.”

“What about a bow like yours?” Caleb asked eagerly. Daryl thought that maybe he’d been giving this some thought already.

“Do they have one here?” Daryl asked.

“Don’t know, but I could find out.”

“Will they even let you have a weapon?” Daryl wondered. “They got some kind of age restriction or something?”

“I don’t know, but I’m turning eighteen next week, and legally that’s considered an adult,” Caleb said.

“Kid, in this screwed up world, you become an adult a lot sooner than that,” Daryl said, thinking of Carl and what all he’d seen and done. “Tell you what. You get a weapon, and I’ll teach you how to use it. You’ll need a couple knives too, and I don’t mean some cheap ass shit either. Hunting knives with a good grip and something to holster it in. If we’re going to do this, we’re going to do it right.”

“Alright, I’ll work on it,” Caleb agreed.

They walked on a little further, and Daryl waited until there was a lull in the conversation to ask something else he was curious about. “So, that shrink, she helping you any? Or you just going through the motions.”

“Alison? Yeah, she’s cool, I guess. We don’t talk too much about what happened, but we do exercises, as she calls them. It helps me reroute my thoughts and dreams when they gang up on me. It’s tough though. Still too fresh in my mind.”

“Yeah, some things are difficult to forget,” Daryl muttered. They went a few more yards in silence.

“So, it happened to you too?” Caleb asked.

“What?” Daryl replied on the defensive.

“I, um … at that place in the woods … that night … I … I-I overheard you talking to Aaron. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, and I didn’t hear everything, but–”

“Yeah, it happened to me,” Daryl admitted. “A long time ago.”

“How’d it happen?” Caleb dared to ask.

“A family friend broke his trust,” Daryl said.



“Alison said since I’m turning eighteen, I can decide on where I want to live,” Caleb informed him.

“What do you mean? Who you living with now?”

“Oh, I’m staying with the Caviarti family. They’re nice and all, but sometimes I feel like I’ve overstayed my welcome.”

“I know the feeling,” Daryl said, thinking back to when he lived with Aaron and Eric. It seemed like an age since that time. So much had changed since then. “So, what you gonna do? Get a place of your own?”

“No, I really don’t like being alone, but I don’t want to stay with a family either. I … I was wondering if I could come live with you?” Caleb asked hesitantly.

Daryl remembered what Aaron had said about Caleb bonding to him, but he wasn’t ready to let the kid move in with him. “I don’t know, Caleb.”

“It’s ok. Just thought I’d ask,” Caleb responded sadly.

“It’s not that I don’t want you around,” Daryl justified. “But you said you don’t like to be alone, and I’m gone a lot. I’ll be recruiting with Aaron again, and I’ll be gone for days at a time.” The truth was, he’d already taken responsibility for a young kid once before. Beth. And in the end, he couldn’t protect her. He didn’t want to risk it again. “You know who I think you should ask is Rick, or if you want I’ll ask for you. It’s just him and Carl. It’s not your typical ‘family’ with them, you know? Carl’s got a lot of responsibility, and his dad has taught him all he knows. And Carl is only a couple years younger than you. You all get along, don’t you?”

“Yeah, I like Carl. I guess that would work.”

“Good, I’ll talk to Rick.”

“Cool,” Caleb agreed. “You’ll still teach me to shoot won’t you?”

Daryl roughed up Caleb’s hair and flung his arm around the kid’s shoulder. “Of course I will. You gotta learn from the best, right?”

* * * * *

Daryl eventually talked to Rick, who agreed to take Caleb in. They also discussed bringing Caleb into the group. He’d be good at spying on some of the town’s people. Daryl was hesitant about that idea. Caleb had gone through some pretty tragic stuff lately, and he wasn’t sure involving the boy in their schemes was exactly the right thing to do. Rick seemed pretty set on it, though. Daryl liked Rick, and trusted him about a lot of things. The thing was, Rick could sometimes forget about people’s personal lives and how some of his decisions to move ahead with a plan affected those around him. To Rick, what mattered most was protecting those who didn’t oppose him, and expunging those who did. That was all well and fine, but when he didn’t take into account the people he used to see that his plan went through, that’s when people got hurt. Daryl wouldn’t see Caleb hurt any more than he already had been, and playing spy could be dangerous. He voiced his concerns delicately, and Rick agreed. They’d keep Caleb’s role with the group to a minimum.

As for these people who opposed Daryl’s group being in Alexandria, they didn’t know who all the players were, but there was definitely at least one person running the show. Rick explained. “We’re being watched and those people are reporting to someone. Someone is organizing it, gathering information, learning our routines, watching us. I don’t like it, but we have no choice but to put up with it for now. Everyone needs to do their best at sticking to the rules. Keep clean and do your jobs.” Here, Rick turned to Daryl. Daryl rolled his eyes.

“Man, I know … I know. I already talked to Deanna this morning. She just said I couldn’t go near the weapons room for a while. Have to let someone else check out my weapons, give them to me at the gate, that sort of shit. I feel like I’m in first grade and the teacher took away my toys.”

Rick raised his eyebrows like he always did when he was trying to get a point across. “Just stick to the rules. Got it?”

“Yeah, man.” Daryl’s voice rose a few octaves, as though to say, quit pestering me, I get it.

“Carol, you keep friendly with the wives. Any of them start acting suspicious, then we know they’re rooting for the other team,” Rick suggested.

“I’ll keep doing what I’ve been doing,” she agreed.

“Maggie, you stay at Deanna’s side. We need to know if any threats come to her.”

“Will do,” Maggie smiled.

“Glenn, what’s your situation?” Rick asked.

“I’m still head of the supply search team, but I usually have someone with me that I don’t really know. It’s a mixed group of us most of the time,” Glenn answered.

“Just watch your back out there. It’s too easy to get into a situation where someone can see that you don’t come back,” Rick warned, and Glenn nodded.

“Well, Daryl, looks like you and Aaron are the only ones who don’t have someone looking over your shoulder when you’re out there,” Rick mentioned.

“Yeah, but the hounds are waiting to pounce on any newbies just as soon as we bring ‘em back,” Daryl said.

“That’s why you have to choose wisely, and earn their trust quickly before you get back here. We can’t stop the others from trying to manipulate new recruits, but we can make ourselves look like the stronger people, and hopefully they’ll choose to side with us. I just don’t know what kind of tactics they’re using against us.”

“You’ll never know that,” Michonne said. “That’s why we need to cut the head off the snake first, and then take down the smaller threats.”

“We’ll all be on the lookout, Rick,” Carol said convincingly with a smile.

Rick finished up by talking to Abraham, who was in charge of construction projects. He had the most people under his leadership, and probably the largest concentration of these rebels working for him. It seemed like a good place to start to try and find out who they were going to with information, though it wouldn’t be easy.

The meeting was over in a timely fashion, and everyone was heading out to start their day. Carol caught hold of Daryl and pulled him to the side. “You’re still coming over tonight, right?”

“Doesn’t this meeting count?” he jested.

She scowled at him with her eyes. “You promised.”

“I know, yeah, I’ll be there.” He was actually hoping to spend another evening with Aaron, but maybe that would look kind of suspicious. They better pace themselves, he thought. Carol would be a good distraction.

Daryl stopped Rick before he left. “Hey, I was wondering if you could get a hold of a crossbow. It’s for Caleb. Thought I’d teach him to use one. Poor kid, no one has actually taught him any kind of good self-defense. He needs to learn a weapon.”

“Yeah, I’ll keep my eyes out,” Rick said.

* * * * *

The sun was low in the sky, and a blinding orange with no clouds to block it out. Daryl was getting ready to head to Carol’s house. He was on his way to see his source for some moonshine, and came upon Aaron. Aaron invited him to come over, but Daryl had to refuse. “I promised to hang with Carol tonight.”

“Oh, that’s ok. You two need some time with each other.”

Daryl watched him a moment. “You sure you’re ok?”

“Of course. Hey, I’m not like some people. I know you have a life and friends that were there long before we met. And I like Carol. She’s like a police dog, sweet and loving to the people she knows, but vicious to strangers, especially ones who she deems as a threat.”

Daryl gave a laugh. “You’ve got her pegged. That’s Carol.” He turned to leave, but stopped. “We’ll get together soon, though. Right?”

“Tomorrow too soon?” Aaron offered.

“Not soon enough,” Daryl said, putting his sunglasses on as he walked away, the slight trace of a smile forming on his lips. But as he walked past this one house, he noticed a man eyeing him from his chair. Was his innocently watching people pass by, or was he deliberately watching Daryl, one of the others? He’d have to be more careful, especially when he was with Aaron. He decided that maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to get the moonshine, and instead went directly to Carol’s home.

She was outside on her porch, watering her petunias. Daryl still had a hard time seeing her like this, and wondered if this was what she was like before. He could imagine it. Carol, weeding the garden, fertilizing the flowers, hanging laundry out to dry, cooking, cleaning and all that. Maybe this was her … before … but the world changed her. She wasn’t that person now, and she never would be. This was all just for show. He gave her a smile when he came up the steps, and stopped to watch her finish watering the flowers. He looked like he was about to make some smart ass remark.

“Oh, shut up,” she said, beating him to it. “I’m only doing this for looks. I hate gardening. Always have.” She set the watering can down and Daryl followed her into the house. He was actually glad to hear her say this. He didn’t really know why, except that could identify better with the Carol he knew well, the one with a gun and a brass knuckle bowie in her belt, wearing army boots and cargo pants. That Carol wouldn’t give two shits about flowers. Perhaps this was who she was always meant to be. It was amazing how freeing an apocalypse could be, he said to himself, laughing internally.

“You come here empty handed?” she teased.

“I was afraid I was being watched,” he told her.

“By who?” she asked, her tone turning more serious.

“I don’t know, a couple streets over, just some guy sitting on his porch. I couldn’t be sure though. Felt like he was giving me the stink eye.”

“Yeah, I get a lot of that lately. I just smile sweetly and offer to make them a pound cake.” She rolled her eyes. “It gets exhausting, you know? Playing this stupid game with everyone, I’m hardly ever myself anymore. I’d rather be out there sometimes. Out there, I’m not fake.”

“I know exactly what you mean,” Daryl commented, although, being with Aaron gave him the same comfort, minus the walkers.

As though she read his secret thoughts, Carol smiled slyly as she invited him to sit at the kitchen table. “So, how is Aaron?”

“Oh Christ, you’re not gonna start that kind of shit, are you?” he complained. It made her laugh genuinely and warmed his heart upon hearing it.

“Hey, you promised me the whole glass slipper and pumpkin carriage story, remember?” she jested. “So how … when did you . . .” she stumbled on her words. “I’m sorry. I just never imagined that you … you know.”

“Took me a long time to come to terms with it too. I wasn’t exactly raised in a place that welcomed people like me. I guess I pretended for so long that I stayed in a permanent state of denial.”

“Actually, I thought that maybe you and Beth–”

Daryl interrupted. “First of all, she was too young for me, even if I was interested, which I wasn’t, obviously. And second, she was a good friend, someone to confide in.”

“You told Beth?” Carol asked surprised.

“She figured me out first,” Daryl said on the defense. “She just … knew, and I couldn’t lie to her. Actually, I think it was her young age that made me trust her. She understood, like it was natural to her. Before all this happened, kids her age were accepting of people like me in a way that older people weren’t. I don’t know. Whatever it was, I was comfortable talking to her about it,” Daryl confessed.

Carol made them some coffee. It was good to have coffee again. They didn’t have those luxuries out on the road. During one of their many talks, they talked about coffee, and she remembered that they both took theirs strong and black. She set a mug in front of him and sat in the seat opposite.

“I just want you to know that I don’t have a problem with it, and I don’t mean to tease you either. It’s just … I care about you, and if anyone deserves a little happiness, it’s you. And I really do like Aaron. I don’t know, even when we first met him, back in that abandoned barn, I just got a good vibe from him. I know Rick didn’t trust him–”

“That’s putting it lightly,” Daryl interjected.

Carol shrugged and nodded in agreement. “I think he does now, though. Aaron’s proved his loyalty. And the fact that you like him … well … Rick trusts your judgement of character. Its’ something he lacks, but you can’t blame him after everything he’s been through.”

“Yeah, well, we’ve all been through a lot, and we all deserve a little peace at times. Speaking of which, how are we going to deal with these townspeople?” He was trying desperately to change the subject.

Carol wasn’t easily fooled. “I see what you’re doing here. So, no details?”

“Hell no.”

“Not even a little? Did you two … you know . . .” She wiggled her eyebrows up and down while biting her lower lip and smiling.

“Fuck you,” he said, but he said it in a bashful manner as he was trying not to smile.

Carol ignored his outburst. Instead, she took another sip of her coffee, held the cup in her hands, and peeked at him over the edge. She already had her answer. “Wow, so this is pretty serious then.” Daryl just stared at her, tight lipped and silent. “Alright, I’ll shut up. It’s just exciting, you know, to think something good is coming out of all this.”

“Yeah, I guess it is,” he admitted. “Now, that’s enough. No more talk about it, ok?”

His left hand was resting on the table. Carol put her cup down, reached across, laid both of her hands on his, and smiled warmly. “Ok,” she agreed.

 To break up the private moment, Daryl cleared his throat. Carol released him and he sat back, the moment faded away. “As I was saying, what are we going to do?” he started, and the conversation went his way for the rest of the visit.

* * * * *

Daryl never got together with Aaron like they talked about. They were supposed to meet for dinner at Aaron’s house, but their time together got delayed. Some scuffles were breaking out with certain townspeople and some of Daryl’s people. Too many sets of eyes were on them, and they agreed that it was better if they laid low for a while. Although Aaron was working with Daryl’s group, he wanted to remain seemingly neutral on the subject, at least until they could figure out who was the leader behind the others. What was only supposed to be a few days of separation turned into a few weeks.

And then everyone seemed to calm. The weather was turning slightly cooler. Maybe that had something to do with it. People were more uptight when it was stifling hot. With the cool down, more people got together at each other’s houses, sitting on their porches and talking, laughing or having the occasional bar-b-que. Aaron decided to take advantage of the slow down, and invited Daryl over. Just in case someone was keeping tabs on them, he told Daryl to bring Carol along too. She was happy to come over. The three of them got along extremely well. She was still the only one who really knew what was going on between Daryl and Aaron, and her tight lips kept it that way.

Since Daryl couldn’t spend much time with Aaron lately, he had been spending a lot of it with Carol. As a matter of fact, some townspeople started to suspect that something romantic was blossoming between the best friends. They thought it was better not to say anything and let the public continue to draw their own conclusions. It was a good front anyways.

The night was getting late, and during a break in conversation, Carol took the opportunity to say her farewells for the evening. “You think it’s alright if I left now?”

“If you must,” Aaron responded with a smile.

“I’d stay longer, but I think the two of you need some time to yourselves. It’s a quiet night. Take advantage of it. If anyone asks, I’ll tell them Daryl got a little too tipsy to walk home and passed out on your couch,” she jested.

“Hey, why do I have to be the town lush?” Daryl laughed. “Besides, everyone knows a redneck can hold his liquor.”

“Not after drinking that diesel fuel you call moonshine. That stuff would make the hair disappear on your chest and pop up on mine,” she said, making the men laugh. “Alright, I’m out. Have a nice night gentlemen.”

Daryl and Aaron sat on the porch a while longer, both men silent as they enjoyed the cool evening air. Then, Aaron’s eyes turned to Daryl. “You want to go inside?”

“Thought you’d never ask,” Daryl said, getting up from his chair. He opened the screen door, the hinges squeaking loudly. Aaron followed. From there, it didn’t take them long to get reacquainted with each other, and they quickly made their way upstairs to Aaron’s bedroom.

Early the next morning, before the sunrise, Daryl awoke on his back, hands behind his head, staring at the ceiling, and a satisfied grin on his face. It felt good not to have to worry. Even within the protected walls of the town, Daryl still slept light, senses tuned in to everything around him like a defense barrier. But when Aaron was beside him, he slept soundly. Funny, he thought to himself, how the presence of one individual could change your whole sense of security.

Aaron was on his side, back to Daryl, still sleeping after their exertive evening. Just thinking about it made Daryl twitch to life, his body swelling with every memory of the sensations Aaron gave him last night. He turned towards Aaron, spooning up behind him, making slow gyrations until he got a response.

“Again? Already?” Aaron said with a groggy voice.

“Mmph,” Daryl moaned behind Aaron’s ear while pushing against his body with more force.

“You’re like a machine,” Aaron responded in a failed attempt of complaint.

“Just making up for lost time,” Daryl said in that gravely seductive voice that sent chills of excitement running through Aaron’s body.

Aaron rolled back, arms stretching up over his head as he yawned. “Ahhh, what time is it?”

“Who cares,” Daryl said, capturing Aaron’s mouth.

Aaron had no choice but to yield to the power of his insistent lover. He thought of how different Daryl was now, compared to when they first met. His confidence in himself was what made him an incredible lover. Aaron took pride in the fact that only he got to see Daryl this way. These were their private moments. No one else would know this Daryl, right here, right now, making love, consumed by desire.

Aaron reached back and felt along the side table until he grasped the small bottle, and then handed it to Daryl. Daryl felt a jolt of excitement and satisfaction in knowing he would get his way. “You’re easy, you know that?” he jested.

“No,” Aaron protested. “I’m just horny,” he laughed. “Besides, nothing’s better than morning sex.”

“Except maybe night sex,” Daryl suggested.

“Or ‘against the wall’ sex,” Aaron answered.

“Lake sex,” Daryl said, thinking back to their time at the cabin.

“Oh yeah, definitely lake sex,” Aaron agreed as Daryl assumed position atop his partner. He kissed Aaron’s neck for some quick foreplay, but they didn’t really need any warm up time. They were both ready and willing.

“You think we’ll ever get back there?” Aaron asked while Daryl seduced him with eager lips.

“I hope so,” Daryl answered between kisses.

“Maybe next time, we’ll just stay there. We’ll disappear and never come back to Alexandria,” Aaron dreamed.

Daryl stopped what he was doing and looked into Aaron’s eyes. “Don’t you like it here?”

“I do, but I like having our freedom even better,” Aaron answered. “Here, we have to be careful of what we say and do. You know, life was getting to a point where we didn’t have to hide. We could be ourselves and not care what anyone thought. Now, it feels like we’ve fallen back years, like we’ve stepped back in time.”

Daryl abandoned his previous attempts at seducing his lover, and laid his head on Aaron’s chest. “It’s because of me. I’m the one holding us back.”

Aaron lifted Daryl’s chin so he could look at him. “Hey, it’s not your fault. I understand why we have to be careful. I just miss the old days, that’s all.”

“That’s just it, though. Life has changed so drastically, none of us can go back to the way we were.”

Aaron ran his fingers through Daryl’s hair. “I don’t want you going back to who you were.”

“Me neither. So I guess something good has come out of this craziness.” Daryl took up his previous position, moving Aaron along with him. He looked down at Aaron, laying beneath him, longing filling his eyes. “It might have taken an apocalypse for me to accept myself, but one thing’s for sure. There’s no one I’d rather be with. I’ll take the good and the bad. I don’t care what gets thrown in my path, as long as I know you’re with me.”

“I’m not going anywhere,” Aaron smiled, as Daryl moved forward and set his rhythm.

* * * * *

Daryl fell to the side, panting, a light sheen of perspiration glistening on his body. He threw his hands over his head and laid naked on top of the sheets. Aaron rolled towards him, draping a leg over Daryl’s, an arm laying across his belly, and his head resting on Daryl’s chest. Aaron was smiling as he tried to regulate his rapid breathing. He huffed a laugh between breaths.

“Hard to believe you haven’t been doing this for very long,” Aaron said.

“I’ve got a good teacher,” Daryl responded.

“You’re a quick learner,” Aaron said back to him.

Daryl laughed. “Yeah, well, that may be true.”

They laid next to each other for a while, silently enjoying this time together, the feel of their skin touching, the sound of their breathing, the scent of masculinity wafting in the air. The sun had come up. Birds were chirping their good morning song to each other. There weren’t as many, Daryl noticed. Fall was just around the corner, and the summer residents had already headed south. The leaves on the trees were losing their luster. Soon they would turn to bright reds, yellows and oranges, a beautiful display of colors splashed across the land. And laying here, thinking of it all, enjoying a private moment with his lover, Daryl could see why the residents of Alexandria could so easily forget about what was going on outside the walls. This was how you got weak. This was how you let your guard down. As soon as you got comfortable, everything would turn to shit. No matter how much he wished he could stay like this, he knew what was out there, and it would never stop looking for a way in.

Suddenly, the closed off feeling of the town started to make Daryl feel trapped. His mind conjured up a horrific scene of walkers surrounding the walls, trying to climb up, pushing on the gates until the force of the herd’s weight broke the doors from their hinges, and like a tidal wave after an earthquake, they would flood the town, consuming everything in their wake.

Daryl sat up unexpectedly, throwing Aaron off of him. He didn’t mean to interrupt their peaceful morning, but he couldn’t help it. He was in a panic on the inside.

“You ok?” Aaron asked.

“Yeah, it’s just getting late. Probably should get the day started,” Daryl said in a calm voice, but internally, his nerves were jolting with invisible electrical shocks. He leaned down and kissed Aaron, trying to keep up appearances, smiling while they were still close so as to hide his anxiety. Then he stood from the bed and started rounding up his clothes, which were strewn about the bedroom.

Aaron took in the sight of Daryl’s naked form as he gathered his clothes. His body was gorgeous from ass to abs, but it was Daryl’s toned arms that was his favorite part. Arms always had been his weakness, the way the muscles pulled and flexed, knowing there was strength hidden beneath the bronzed skin whether he was crushing roamers or crushing Aaron against his body as they made love. He couldn’t help it. Arms were the sexiest thing on a man’s body, in his own opinion.

“What’s on your agenda for today?” Aaron asked. He watched Daryl step into his underwear, and then into his pants, leaving his torso exposed a while longer. Unable to help himself, Aaron got out of bed too, and went to Daryl.

“I promised Caleb I’d work with him again today.”

Aaron picked up Daryl’s shirt, but he kept it away from him as he reached for it, playfully teasing. “How’s he coming along?”

“Kid’s got an eye. Shoots straight. I think today we’re going hunting. He needs live moving targets to hit, not beer cans and bulls eyes. It’s time to move to the next level.” As Daryl spoke, he reached for his shirt again, but Aaron pulled it away. It turned into a game between the two of them. Aaron was quick, but Daryl was quicker. He snagged the shirt, yanking it from Aaron’s hands, and then in the same move, captured Aaron around the waist with it, pulling the man into him. Aaron was still naked, and Daryl glanced down and back up, noticing he was half hardened from their play.

“Just a little longer?” Aaron asked, hoping Daryl wouldn’t leave yet. He pushed his body against Daryl to entice him. Their naked chests crushed together as they kissed again.

Daryl moaned, feeling himself come to life once more. He was always surprised at how quickly he was ready. However, the day was getting on, and the town would be abuzz with residents soon. Daryl wanted to sneak out before there were too many people to see him leave Aaron’s house. But Aaron pushed against him again, and Daryl felt the solidness of the man’s fully erect cock against his own, hidden within his pants. Unable to help himself, Daryl slowly got to his knees and gave Aaron what he was begging for.

Aaron threw his head back as Daryl swallowed him. His hands went into Daryl’s hair, fingers wrapping around the back of his head, holding him in place. Lips slid along his shaft, tongue caressing the underside where the sensitive nerves made him pulse and jump. He slid in and out of Daryl’s mouth, sometimes the tip of his tongue teasing around the rim. Daryl’s hands clasped onto Aaron’s ass, squeezing, kneading, spreading him. Aaron braced himself with his hands on Daryl’s shoulders. His balls tightened. His ass clenched as he thrust forward. Daryl engulfed him and held him deep as Aaron spilled.

“Fuck me,” Aaron said in a long breathy moan as he came.

Daryl got back on his feet. He reached for a half glass of whiskey left over from the night before and downed it. Then he grabbed Aaron in his arms, pulled him against his body and kissed him roughly, possessively, as if to say, ‘You are mine and no one else’s.’

The mixture of whiskey and his own essence was unusual, but somehow sensual. Aaron didn’t mind. He liked it when Daryl took control, and right now, the kiss was making him weak in the knees. Or it could have been the fact that Daryl just gave him the best blowjob he’d ever had. He really wished they didn’t have to do anything today. To spend the entire day in bed would be utopia, but there was no such thing, even in the arms of his lover.

“I gotta go,” Daryl whispered with regret.

“I know,” Aaron answered disappointedly.

“But I’m going to get you alone again … soon,” Daryl promised.

“You better or I’ll hunt you down. Tie you up and hide you away from everyone,” Aaron told him.

Daryl allowed a half smile to curl the corner of his mouth. “I like the sound of that.” Daryl slipped his shirt on and adjusted it. Then he turned to leave.

“Daryl,” Aaron called out. He had a sudden urge to make his true feelings known. He’d been thinking about it for a while now. He knew how he felt about Daryl, and it wasn’t just some passing fancy. His heart beat a thousand times a minute whenever he saw the man. Hell, he just heard Daryl’s name and the excitement that coursed through his veins was almost uncontrollable. “I … I uh–” he stammered. Should he tell him? Should he say those three words that could never be unsaid once it was out there? God, he wanted to, but he was afraid Daryl wouldn’t reply the way he hoped he would. Aaron had pushed Daryl in the past, and it usually never turned out very well.

“Yeah?” Daryl said, waiting to hear what Aaron had to say.

“I … uh … I-I … let’s not allow so much time to pass like before, ok? I … I can’t stand being away from you for that long of a time.” Damn it, Aaron berated himself.

“It won’t be as long. I promise,” Daryl reassured him. He gazed upon him a moment longer, taking in the sight of Aaron’s lean body. Then he smiled slyly. “You better put some clothes on, or so help me, I just might come right back in.”

“You’re not giving me much incentive to dress,” Aaron said.

Daryl bit his lip to keep himself from going back to Aaron. There wasn’t any time left. He had to go. Daryl went to the door, paused before opening it, glanced quickly back to Aaron, shook his head, and slipped out the door.

Aaron stared at the closed door another moment. The thought of Daryl finding it hard to leave excited him. “God, I love that man,” he said to himself. “Now, if I could only find the courage to tell him that.”

* * * * *

As he promised, Daryl started working with Caleb, teaching him how to use a crossbow. Rick managed to find one and saved it for the kid. Since Daryl was still suspended from checking weapons out, Rick did it for him, bringing both Daryl’s and Caleb’s bows to the gate. They were given their weapons as they left, and upon returning, they were collected by whoever was on duty. Daryl found the whole punishment preposterous, but he played by their rules and didn’t make a scene. Once outside the walls, though, Daryl was a free man, and that’s when could let go. He hated the façade he had to display, pretending to be sorry for what he’d done, and acting like he learned his lesson. The truth was, these people were weak. Sure, they had rules within the town, and that was a necessary part of living together in harmony, but they had nothing in place for what was outside the walls or for what might come inside. Daryl was explaining this to Caleb as they were waiting for their weapons at the gate.

“If this place was invaded today, all hell would break loose, and most of these people wouldn’t know what to do,” Daryl told him.

“But that’s the thing about Alexandria. It’s well protected. Nothing can get in through these walls of steel,” Caleb said.

“Kid, if you believe that, then you’re just as naïve as the rest of them,” Daryl countered. “If someone wants in, they’ll find a way in … living or dead. You can’t let yourself believe that you are ever completely safe. That’s when things go wrong. Why do you think I’m out here teaching you how to fight? You need to be ready because there ain’t no where really safe in this world anymore.”

This made Caleb think, and Daryl saw the light go on in his eyes. Now he understood what Daryl was talking about. “How do you think they can get in?”

“Well, the gate is the weak point. And I know what you’re thinking. There’s guards on patrol round the clock. Human error is usually the first reason for a breach. The guys might be talking, thinking it’s quiet, and miss seeing someone sneak in beyond their level of sight. Or maybe the gate doesn’t get locked. And then there’s the wall. It’s in pretty good condition, but with people constantly working on it, there’s always room for a mistake, not enough bolts holding the sections together, support beams not secured well, all kinds of things. Those are just a couple scenarios, but there’s other ways, ones we haven’t even thought of. Chances are we’ll see or hear something before it’s too late, but there’s still a small percentage of weakness, and that’s all it takes. That’s why you have to be prepared for anything to happen.”

Carol showed with a pair of crossbows and gave them to Daryl and Caleb with a smile on her face. “Now, you boys be careful out there,” she said.

Caleb nodded. “We will, Miss Carol,” he said like the well raised kid he was.

“Just Carol next time,” she corrected him.

“Yes ma’am,” Caleb said politely. This made Carol smile as she patted him on the shoulder. Then she looked at Daryl.

“Hey, you think you can bring back a couple rabbits? I got a recipe from one of the women I cook for. Says she hasn’t had a decent stew in a long time,” Carol asked.

“I’ll see what I can do,” Daryl told her as he hoisted his bow onto his back.

Carol regarded Caleb again. She’d taken a liking to the boy, and was glad he was doing well since coming to Alexandria. She knew his story, and wanted to help him as much as possible as he adjusted to his new adopted family. “Daryl’s a good teacher. Taught me a thing or two that’s saved me more than once. He’s an excellent survivalist. Pay close attention to him.”

“Yes ma’am … I mean Carol,” Caleb corrected himself.

“Come on, Caleb,” Daryl called. “Let’s go get Miss Carol her rabbits.” He gave her a comical exaggerated wink as she glared at him.

Daryl and Caleb headed out into the woods, navigating away from the city to a place where Daryl was sure they’d find some game. Luckily, they were not left wanting, and Daryl started his lessons for the day. His first few tries, Caleb missed his targets.

“It’s a lot harder when the thing you’re shooting at is moving,” Caleb said out of frustration.

“You do it often enough, and you’ll start being able to read the animals. You gotta get them when they’re still and listening to their surroundings, before they make up their mind to run,” Daryl said.

“It’s kind of a guessing game,” Caleb observed.

“In a way, yeah. Not with walkers, though. They’ll always move towards you. They’re not difficult to shoot, it’s just shooting him in the right place. And if you don’t have a clear headshot, then get them where you can immobilize them until you can stick a knife through their skull. Chances are, when you come across walkers, you’ll be with someone. You’re protecting each other, so if you see a walker near your buddy, you do everything in your power to stop that son of a bitch.”

“How many have you killed?” Caleb asked.

Daryl shrugged. “I don’t know, thousands I would guess, or close to it. I’ve shot more of them than I have rabbits.”

“Then how come we’re not shooting walkers instead of rabbits?”

“Good point,” Daryl responded. “So you think you’re ready? You haven’t even shot your first animal yet.”

“It’s not animals that might get through the walls,” Caleb said.

“You’re pretty smart, kid. Ok, let’s find us some walkers then. I know a place where they wander around occasionally.” Daryl led Caleb deeper into the woods, thinking about what Caleb said. He was right. He needed to practice on the actual threat. He needed to know what it was like to come face to face with them, how to kill them, how to keep from being bitten. He needed to know how to get out of a tight situation, when to use his knife versus his bow.

Daryl found the walkers wandering the woods, and prepped Caleb for what to do. They started out easy, shooting them from a distance. Caleb had a good eye. Once he got used to finding his target quickly, determining whether it was human, animal or walking dead, he got faster. After a few tries, he was hitting every one in the head.

“You got a natural talent for the crossbow,” Daryl pointed out when they were done for the day. They had run out of targets, and were on their way back to town when they decided to sit for a minute. Neither one was ready to go back inside the city just yet.

“It’s not too hard,” Caleb admitted. He looked down at his hands and spoke quietly. “I just pretend that it’s Reg … and I never miss.”

Daryl sighed deep with regret that he couldn’t have gotten to Caleb before all those terrible things happened to him. At least they made it out of there alive. “It’s gonna take a while, kid, but it won’t always be this difficult.”

“Did it take you a long time to forget?” Caleb asked.

“I’m going to be honest with you. You never forget, unfortunately, but you remember less and less as time goes by. Having someone who understands your pain can be really helpful though.” Daryl wouldn’t be anything less than honest with Caleb. The boy needed to know these things.

“I guess Aaron helps you then, since he knows,” Caleb pointed out.

“Yeah,” Daryl agreed, not quite sure why he brought up Aaron. Caleb knew they were friends, however. To break up the private moment, Daryl reached into his pack and retrieved two bottles of water, handing one to Caleb. Daryl unscrewed the cap and drank deep, but Caleb played with his first. Daryl had a feeling the boy wasn’t through with their conversation yet.

“Daryl?” Caleb said quietly after a while. “Do you … u-uh … do you think I’ll be like you someday?”

Become like him? Daryl wondered what exactly he meant by that, and he thought he was talking about his hunting skills. “You mean a hunter and a tracker? Yeah, if you keep–”

“No,” Caleb interrupted. “Will I become like you? You know … like you and … and Aaron?”

“What exactly are you referring to?” Did he mean their friendship? Their partnership as recruiters?

Caleb slowly shook his head back and forth. “I mean, um, well, like you’re together. Like together, together.” Caleb was frustrated that he couldn’t find the right words, and finally came out with it. “Will I want to be with a man?”

Daryl was completely thrown off by the question, and by the fact that Caleb knew about him and Aaron. “Who did you … what … how do you know about Aaron and me?” He wouldn’t deny it. There was no point now that Caleb figured them out.

Caleb wouldn’t look at Daryl, and continued to keep his eyes turned down to the ground beneath his feet. They were sitting on a fallen tree for the moment. Caleb shrugged his shoulders, and threw one leg across the tree so he was straddling it with his back to Daryl. “You’d have to be blind not to notice.”

Daryl couldn’t believe Caleb knew. There’s another one that figured it out, Daryl scolded himself silently. “How did you–” Daryl started to ask slowly, but Caleb interrupted him.

“I didn’t mean that everyone in town would notice. I mean, back when we were at that house, after you found me in Reg’s camp, that’s when I figured it out. You’d share a look or a touch that seemed like it was more than friendship. I don’t know, I could just … tell … that’s all.”

It had been a very emotional time, Daryl thought, and although he and Aaron hadn’t admitted their feelings for each other yet, the chemistry was there. With everything that had happened, he guessed they hadn’t tried all that hard to cover their secrets. And Caleb had been in distress. Daryl figured he wouldn’t have noticed much in his condition. Time to fess up to the boy.

Daryl slowly nodded and picked up a stick from the ground, moving dried leaves around on the forest floor. “Well, you’re right about Aaron and me, and I’d appreciate it if you’d keep it to yourself.”

“Yeah, man, sure. I mean, I’d never–” Caleb stammered nervously, making Daryl cautious.

“So what’s this all about? You coming out to me or something?” Daryl asked bluntly.

“No,” Caleb said on the defense. Then his tone softened. “I had a couple girlfriends before the outbreak, and it’s not like I ever looked at a dude and got … excited or nothing,” Caleb admitted.

“Then why are you asking me this? What, did your folks tell you it was catching or something?” Daryl asked. It wouldn’t be the first time he’d heard that. His brother used to make fun of gays in that way.

“No, it’s not that. I’m just kind of confused. Alison said that some boys, after being raped, discover things about themselves, and I know it happened to you, and just thought that maybe that’s why you and Aaron … you know.” Caleb came out with it quickly, seeming embarrassed to talk about it.

Daryl was absolutely flabbergasted, and wasn’t sure what to say at first. He felt like going on a rant, but kept his attention focused. Caleb was seriously asking for his advice, but Daryl needed to set the record straight. “First off, I’ve always known about my sexuality, though I hid in denial for many years, and that’s another story for another time. Being raped did not turn me gay if that’s what you think. It doesn’t work that way. Second, remind me who Alison is, and why the hell did she put these crazy thoughts into your head? It’s ludicrous, and she obviously has no clue what she’s talking about.”

“Alison is my therapist, remember? The town psychiatrist? She lives next to Deanna? You saw me coming out of her house a while back,” Caleb said.

“A shrink told you this?” Daryl said with disgust.

“Well, yeah, and that’s why I thought that–”

“She’s wrong. Listen, if you’re gay it’s because you were born that way, not because you rubbed up against someone, not because you were raped, and definitely not because some quack of a shrink says so. Got it?” Daryl said with ire. “What the hell else did she tell you?”

“Nothing really. We spend most of our time discussing ways for me to deal with what happened.”

Daryl thought for a moment. Maybe this Alison chick was just informing Caleb of what might possibly happen to him, in case he wasn’t straight, but it seemed pretty clear that he was. Something seemed off, though. It might be worth looking into. He’d talk to Aaron about it. Aaron probably knew something about Alison since he’d lived in the town for a while.

“You look troubled,” Caleb noticed. “Should I stop going to Alison?”

“No, I think you should continue your sessions, just don’t believe what she says about that one thing. I’m going to look into her, find out something about her background. Just play it cool with her.”

“I can do that,” Caleb said, glad to help Daryl in any way he could.

Daryl had a feeling he was about to recruit himself for a therapy session.

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