Safe Haven in the Chaos

BY : IdrilsSecret
Category: S through Z > The Walking Dead
Dragon prints: 3800
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 13 Therapy Session


Daryl and Caleb returned from hunting, and turned in their weapons until next time. Caleb was proud of himself and his accomplishments with his shooting. Daryl was proud of him too, but he had other things on his mind at the moment. When Caleb asked if they could hang out for a while, Daryl apologized and said he needed to be somewhere. Caleb understood and went off to find his friends. Daryl headed for Aaron’s house, to discuss his findings about this town psychiatrist, Alison, who Caleb, as well as many other residents visited. On his way there, he came upon Aaron standing outside of Carol’s house, both of them on their knees, weeding the landscaping in front of her porch. Aaron looked up and saw Daryl approaching, stood, dusted garden dirt from his hands and smiled.

“Daryl,” he said joyfully, and touched Daryl’s arm lovingly.

“Hi Honey, you’re home,” Carol called out lightly, teasing him.

“Hey,” Daryl replied without returning a smile. He looked serious, and Carol and Aaron instantly knew something was wrong. Aaron released him, brows furrowing with concern. Carol tilted her head to the side and shared a disquieted look with Aaron.

“What’s going on?” Carol asked.

“What do you know about Alison, the town shrink?” Daryl asked both of them.

Carol shrugged her shoulders and shook her head. “I don’t know much. I haven’t really spoken with her. She runs in different circles than me.”

Daryl turned his attention to Aaron and waited for him to answer. “I don’t have any qualms with her. Never needed her services. Haven’t heard any complaints about her. She goes to all the town gatherings, doesn’t make a scene, hasn’t been a problem before. Why?”

“I don’t know. Something seems off. I was out hunting with Caleb, and we started talking. He asked me if–” Daryl stopped and looked around to make sure no one else was around. “He wanted to know if he was going to turn gay.”

“I don’t understand,” Aaron said.

“He wanted to know if he was going to become a homosexual because he’d been raped,” Daryl said quietly, as though the bushes had ears.

“What the hell is that all about,” Carol wondered aloud.

“That’s what I said,” Daryl continued. “He said Alison told him that some boys, after going through what he’s been through, turn gay.”

Aaron couldn’t help but give a nervous laugh. “Turn gay? Nobody turns gay. Are you sure it was Alison who told him this?”

“She discussed it with him during one of their sessions.” Daryl paused and checked his surroundings again. “Where did this woman come from, and how do we know she’s actually a shrink?”

“Well, she was here when I arrived. I’m not sure if she’s been here since the beginning, though. As far as her credentials, I’m just going by what I’ve been told. I never had any reason to doubt her. Quite a few people go to her for help, and no one has complained.”

“Back when I was trying to get help for myself,” Carol informed. “Before the outbreak, I went to a psychiatrist to talk about my situation with my husband.” Daryl knew about her past, but she’d never mentioned it to Aaron. She glanced at him now with bashful eyes. “My husband was abusive towards me. It was a different time and I was a different person back then.” She turned back to Daryl. “I have an idea of what psyches are like, and I’m pretty sure they’d never tell one of their patients what she told Caleb. It’s preposterous to even think such a thing.”

“I don’t know,” Daryl said. “I smell a rat.”

“You know, she has access to all kinds of people. Some of them she knows their life stories. That’s a lot of information to store up,” Aaron mentioned.

“Maybe one of us needs to … discuss our problems,” Carol suggested. “I’ll make an appointment with her if you want.”

“I’ll do it,” Daryl volunteered. “I’ve probably got the most baggage between the three of us. Shouldn’t be difficult to convince her that I need help.”

“I don’t like it,” Aaron said with concern.

Carol smiled at Aaron and wrapped her arm around his waist. “I know you don’t, hon, but we need to get up close and personal with her, and find out whose side she’s on. Alison has access to every person that’s spoken with her. If she’s not legitimate and she’s working with the others, then we need to know about it.”

“You mean like recruiting, but within the town?” Aaron asked.

“It might help explain the hostility some people have towards our group,” Carol said.

“I think I’m gonna set up that appointment as soon as possible. I’m feeling a bit depressed,” Daryl said, faking exasperation.

Aaron seemed reluctant, but he eventually agreed. “Just be careful what you tell her,” he said to Daryl. “People like Alison have ways of making you open up and discuss things you normally wouldn’t tell another living soul.”

* * * * *

Daryl made his way to Alison’s house. He climbed the steps slowly, and thought of what he would talk to her about. The most logical thing would be his inability to adjust to life in Alexandria. Everyone knew Daryl liked to separate himself from everyone else. Maybe he could even use his most recent crime of breaking into the weapons room. Feeling confident that he had a good story, he rang the doorbell and waited. He could see a figure approaching, distorted through the oval shaped frosted glass pattern in the door. It opened to reveal a woman, maybe early forties, about Daryl’s age. She had long, red, wavy hair that parted on the side and framed her face quite becomingly. There was the lightest dusting of freckles across the bridge of her nose, which added a youthful look to her face. She smiled and it touched her green eyes, making Daryl feel very welcome.

“Hello, can I help you?” she asked politely. She had a sultry voice, like a woman who knew what she wanted and how to get it.

Daryl looked back towards the street, and then glanced at Deanna’s house next door before speaking. “I was … advised to come by and speak with you.” He paused and looked back at Deanna’s house. “Call it part of my punishment.” “You’re the town shrink. Right?” he muttered.

“I prefer psychiatrist, but call it what you like,” she corrected him. “You’re Daryl, aren’t you? You came in with the new group.”

“Yes ma’am,” he answered with his gravelly southern drawl.

“I heard about the break in.” She studied him a moment, and he started to feel uncomfortable. Alison must have noticed, because she smiled again and moved to the side. “Please, come in.”

“You want to do this now?” Daryl asked nervously.

“Better now than never, unless you have somewhere you need to be.”

“I thought I needed an appointment or something.”

Alison held the door wider, making it impossible for Daryl to refuse entry. “You have good timing, Mr. Dixon. I’ve got the entire day to myself.”

“I’m surprised you know my name already,” he pointed out, as he stepped inside.

“A lot of people know your name, as well as the names of the rest of your group. You all have made quite the impression around here. Actually, I was hoping one of you would come by to speak with me. I understand your group was out there for a very long time.”

“We were all out there since the beginning,” Daryl said, taking in the sight of Alison’s home. It looked much the same as the rest of the houses on this block. Her home was simply decorated, white walls, beige furniture, a splash of turquoise here and there. Whether it was her taste or not, Daryl didn’t know. This was probably decorated by its previous owner before the outbreak. But she had kept it the same none the less.

“You must have seen some horrible things in all that time,” Alison said, bringing his attention back to her.

“Horrible is an understatement, but yeah, not a lot of good out there. What about you? Were you ever out there?” he asked, turning the talk towards her.

“I lived in a community across the river. I made due there until someone came by and told me about Alexandria.”

Daryl got up close to Alison, watching her through the slits of his eyes. He wanted to seem threatening, not only to get some information from her, but to keep her from trying to figure him out. “How many walkers have you killed?” he asked.

“Walkers?” she responded.

“Yeah, walkers, roamers, shufflers, whatever you want to call them.”

“Oh, uh …. I don’t know, a couple I guess.”

Daryl didn’t like her answer, but he wasn’t surprised. Alison didn’t come off as having been out there for very long.

“How many people you kill?” Daryl continued.

She seemed disgusted by his question. “No one,” she demanded, as though he should have already known.

“Why?” Daryl said, finishing the interrogation.

“Why?” she asked, confused. “Because it’s wrong.” She paused and looked Daryl in the eyes, giving him the answer he was looking for. “Because I haven’t had to.”

At least now Daryl knew she’d never really been out there. Alison had probably come to Alexandria not long after all hell broke loose. She might have seen a few things along the way, but it was nothing compared to what many other people had to experience in order to survive.

“Now that you’re done with your line of questions, mind if I ask a few?” she said.

“That’s what I’m here for,” Daryl said condescendingly.

“Have a seat, and we’ll get started.” She invited him the rest of the way into her home and showed him to the living room. He noticed how she was dressed, denim shorts and a red tank top. She’d been telling the truth that she didn’t have any patients today. At least that was something to go by. Alison probably did her best to tell the truth to everyone, or some variation of it. He didn’t trust her simply for the fact that she liked to get into people’s heads and have a look around.

“I’ve got iced tea if you’d like some,” she offered.

“Got anything stronger?” Daryl asked, more of a joke than serious, but he could see her judging eyes flick over him.

“I’m afraid I don’t keep alcohol in my house. I don’t touch the stuff.”

“Maybe you should once in a while,” he mumbled under his breath.

Alison abandoned the thought of tea, and had a seat in a chair across from where Daryl sat. She elegantly crossed her legs, and long slim legs they were, and placed her hands in her lap. “I have to say, Mr. Dixon, you come off as very threatening. We’ve never even met, and you already exhibit such animosity towards me.”

“Nothing personal, Doc. I just don’t like people.”

“You like the people in your group, don’t you?”

“They’re more than people to me. They’re family.”

“Hmm,” she said as though evaluating him already, which she probably was. “Tell me, do you have any family, besides your adopted one?”

Daryl didn’t like where this was heading, but he had no choice at the moment. He’d hoped that he could steer the session in his own direction. “I had family. They’re all gone now.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Alison said, displaying true regret. Daryl wasn’t buying it. “That is a common story for many people. I don’t think there is anyone out there who has not lost a loved one due to this plague.”

“You’ve lost someone too?” Daryl asked.

“I did. My daughter was one of the first casualties in my town. She was a nurse at one of the big hospitals, about thirty minutes from where we lived. She was helping those coming in with the original sickness. She had an unruly patient who bit her arm, nothing serious at the time. Later, she developed a fever. At the time, no one knew how it spread, and her treatment did nothing to fight the sickness. I was with her when the military came in and took control of the hospital. I was told I had to leave, since I displayed no symptoms, but I refused to leave my daughter alone. I stayed by her side until she died. And I was there when she … reanimated.”

Daryl knew she had some kind of story, and it was just as devastating as the rest of them. “Did you have to put her down?” Daryl asked carefully.

“No, thank God, but an armed soldier came in the room right after she turned. He put a bullet through her head, and she never woke back up. Some DEA agents in white hazmat suits put her in a body bag and carried her out. The soldier told me they were burning all the dead, ordered me to go back to my home, and remain there until they had everything under control.”

“Let me guess, nothing ever got under control,” Daryl said.

She forced a smile, but there was a misting of tears threatening her eyes. “That’s why I’m in Alexandria now.” She adjusted her position in her chair and took back control of the session. Daryl prepared himself to be dissected. “Well, if you’re ready, we shall begin. What has brought you here today, Mr. Dixon?”

“Like I said, it’s part of my punishment, or corrective process as you might want to call it,” Daryl told her.

“Let’s go back a little, and tell me why you broke into the weapons room to begin with.”

Feeling as though acting the part of a rebel would help his cause, Daryl stretched his legs out and put his feet on the coffee table, displaying well-worn and dirty biker boots. “I needed to get out.”

“Get out of where, Alexandria?”

“Yeah,” Daryl answered. “This place starts to close in on me every once in a while, and if I don’t go outside the gates, I tend to get a little stir crazy.”

“Couldn’t you have waited until someone was at the room to let you check out your weapon?” Alison asked.

“Nope,” he said with a definite pop of the ‘p’. “It’s like taking a piss. When you gotta go, you go.”

“You could have taken a knife, or perhaps borrowed Michonne’s sword.”

It didn’t surprise Daryl that she knew Michonne’s name or that she carried a sword, so he didn’t mention it. “I never leave without my crossbow.”

Alison nodded in agreement. “Can’t argue with you there. Alright then, let’s go back even further. How did you meet the people in your group?”

“Let me stop you there. I didn’t come here to talk about my group,” Daryl said with agitation.

“Alright,” she said, giving in instead of moving forward with her line of questions. She brought it back to Daryl. “Why are you here then, Mr. Dixon?”

Now was his time to set up his dilemma. “I’ve had a difficult time adjusting to city life again, and wanted to know if there was something that could help me?”

“And why are you having trouble? Don’t you like having the protection this city provides?” Alison continued her questioning.

“No place in this world is completely safe anymore.”

“And going outside the walls is?” she asked.

“I feel like I’m in control out there,” Daryl answered honestly. “In here, I don’t know, it feels like safety is just an illusion.

“Control you say? How are you in control out there?”

“I can predict walkers. They only got one thing on their minds. People, though, sometimes I never know what they’re thinking.” That was a true statement, at least towards some of the people in Alexandria.

“You have trust issues,” she determined. “Understandable in current times, but something tells me those issues go back even further. I’m going out on a limb and guess you didn’t have the happiest childhood. Am I right?”

“That’s not hard to figure out. The redneck southern boy who doesn’t get along with others,” Daryl said.

Alison continued. “And I think it’s safe to say it was your father, but I’m going to guess that’s not the only family member who has wronged you.”

She was starting to make some fairly dark and accurate presumptions. Daryl didn’t like it one bit. He remembered what Aaron told him about being careful what you said to a shrink, and their ability to get you to talk. Daryl was on high alert with this woman, and he knew to steer clear of certain parts of his past. Yes, he was wronged by more than just his father, although she was incorrect about it being a family member. It had been a friend of the family, close enough. He would never divulge that part of his past with this stranger. Still, he needed to find out as much about her as possible, and he wasn’t ready to end his session just yet. So he played into her prediction. “My dad was a drunk prick, but where he left off, my brother picked up.”

“Your brother, yes, I see. And did he abuse you too?” she inquired.

“Not in a physical way like my dad did, but he never wasted a moment to tell me what a stupid ass I was.” Again, Daryl was speaking the truth. Merle never went easy on him even up to the moment he died. “But I loved my brother, don’t get me wrong. He was tough on me because he wanted to make sure I was strong enough to survive, and I don’t mean the apocalypse,” he stated in defense of his brother. “He taught me how to hunt and track, how to use a bow and shoot a gun. He was looking out for me.”

“Usually looking out for a younger sibling means teaching him right from wrong, and how to be successful in society. I take it your brother wasn’t one for society.” Alison said.

“He had his share of problems, but so did I,” Daryl said on the defense again.

“What kind of problems?”

“He got in trouble sometimes, and it landed him in juvie a lot. He did meth from time to time, but he was never one of those crackheads who spent all their time in an abandoned house laying on a dirty mattress. He’d go off on a bender for a few days and come back sober.”

“So, like your father, he abandoned you for days at a time,” she pointed out.

“Merle knew I could take care of myself,” Daryl said harshly. “That’s why he taught me how to survive.”

“Did your father abuse Merle, too?” she asked.

“Yeah, he was into equal opportunity,” Daryl said to be a smartass.

“And yet, your brother left you with a man who he knew would beat you just as he was beat. How is that considered taking care of you?” Alison said with anger.

Daryl took his feet off the table and planted them on the floor. He leaned forwards, elbows on his knees and sighed heavily. “Because Merle didn’t know our dad was beating me too. He asked me once, after he’d been gone a while. He asked if Dad ever got rough. I lied and said no. I told him that he was always drunk and passed out, and that I had to find my own food, cook my own meals, clean my own clothes, that kind of shit. Merle said I should be doing that anyways. Then he made me swear to tell him if Dad ever hit me, and there was a look in my brother’s eyes, like the devil himself was in there. That’s when I knew that if I ever told Merle, he would kill our father. But I needed my brother, even if he wasn’t always around, and if I ever told him the truth, I knew I’d never see him again because he’d be locked up for the rest of his life.”

“And where is your brother now?” Alison asked to make a point.

 “Dead,” Daryl said in barely a whisper.

“You hid the truth so you wouldn’t lose your brother, yet you lost him anyways. There are no guarantees are there? You spent your youth protecting someone who should have been protecting you. You still stand up for him, even now, but would he do the same for you if he was still here?” That’s all she said on the subject, but her words left Daryl wondering about everything he’d ever known about his brother.

Alison stood up from her chair and made her way towards the front door, Daryl’s signal that the session was finished. Daryl got up and followed her, though his head was reeling with doubts. She held her hand out for him to shake, and after a few unanswered seconds, Daryl took it. She covered both their hands with her free one and looked in his eyes. “I’m very glad I got the chance to meet you, Mr. Dixon, and know that my door is always open. Oh, and as for adjusting to our town, just give it time. There’s really nothing else I can advise you to do, except to make a few new friends … slowly and at your own pace. I think you’ll find that we are a very accepting community, as long as you abide by the rules and don’t make a threat. No more break-ins, Mr. Dixon.” She said the last part with a smile, but he couldn’t help but feel it was a warning.

Daryl left Alison’s and went to Aaron’s house instead of his own. His bike was there in the garage, and Daryl needed to work on it. Tinkering with his bike would put his mind at ease, and give him some time to think about what Alison said. When he got there, Aaron was gone, so he let himself in and went into the garage. The bike was in good running condition, and only needed a few slight adjustments here and there. As soon as he picked up a wrench, his mind went back to his session with Alison. He’d left her house with a strange feeling of confusion about his brother. He hadn’t thought about Merle much lately. That chapter of his life was closed, and there was nothing to be done about it. But talking with Alison made him want to reexamine his relationship with his brother. He knew Merle wasn’t the best example growing up, but he was sure that his brother loved him, even if it was in some abstract kind of way. After the outbreak, he and Merle were inseparable. They learned about walkers together, figured out how to kill them, how someone caught their disease and how to avoid it. They both knew they couldn’t remain alone. There was safety in numbers, and soon they hooked up with the first group they came upon. Merle didn’t make it easy for them, and Daryl found himself having to defend his brother constantly, even when he said things Daryl didn’t agree with, but that’s what they did. They watched out for each other. So why didn’t Merle watch him when he was younger? Why did he say he would protect him, and then leave for days, weeks, even months? It was during one of those times when Daryl was raped. Why hadn’t that occurred to him before? If Merle hadn’t gone off and gotten himself thrown in the slammer, maybe Jay never would have attacked him. And then it hit him. He hadn’t realized it, but he was turning to Jay to replace Merle while he was away. Did Jay know that’s what he was doing? Here was the bigger question. Why did Daryl always feel the need to be protected? His father wasn’t there to do it, so he turned to his brother, and when Merle wasn’t there, he turned to Jay. Who was he turning to now? Aaron? Rick? Carol? Insecurity set in, and suddenly Daryl felt like nothing had changed. He was still hiding behind others to make sure he was safe. Maybe it was Alexandria itself that he was hiding behind this time.

Time passed quickly as Daryl immersed himself in the past. A couple hours flew by unnoticed by the time he was finished. He got on his bike and prepared to start it, and see how it was running. Instead, he just sat there in the quiet of the garage, and remembered what independence felt like. Riding his bike down the highway, out in the open air without anyone around to tell him what to do or where to go, that’s when he knew he didn’t need anyone else. That’s when he could forget about it all. Maybe, he thought, he should take it out for a ride, clear his head.

“Hey, whatcha doing?” Aaron asked, catching Daryl off guard.

He jumped and looked over his shoulder. “Oh, hey, I didn’t hear you come in.”

“How’s the bike running?” Aaron asked, walking around Daryl sitting on his motorcycle.

“I don’t know yet. Haven’t started it up.”

Aaron watched Daryl, who seemed to be avoiding him at the moment. “Did I interrupt something?” Aaron asked. “You seem like you were somewhere else.”

“Naw, it’s nothing,” Daryl denied, but he remembered that it was Aaron he was talking to, and he could always tell when Daryl wasn’t being transparent. “I saw Alison today. Something’s not right. I can’t tell if psychiatry is really her talent or if she’s just playing the part. If she’s a fraud, then she’s good.”

“It sounds like she might have opened up some of your old rusty doors,” Aaron commented.

“It’s nothing you don’t already know about,” Daryl said, feeling a bit guilty. “Just some details that I’d all but forgotten.”

“Hey, remember what I told you about letting her get into your head,” Aaron warned, grabbing Daryl’s full attention.

“Yeah, I know. I was careful,” Daryl responded. He watched Aaron from the corner of his eye, standing beside him, waiting for more information, but Daryl didn’t have anything yet. Instead of saying anything, he slid back on the bike’s seat and patted the front half in invitation. Aaron got on, straddling the bike’s black leather seat so that he was facing Daryl. Daryl still wouldn’t look at him, but he spoke. “What did you do before the outbreak?” he asked.

“I, uh, I was part of a NGO,” Aaron said.

“What’s that?”

“It stands for Non-Governmental Organization. I was part of a group of people who used to run food and supplies to residents of the Niger River Delta. There’s always been a lot of political turmoil in that area, and the result was dirty water and neglected residents. It could get kind of hostile at times. I guess it was good practice for the way things are now. I learned how to shoot a gun because of it.”

“I thought you were just some kid that like to go to clubs,” Daryl mentioned, remembering one of their earliest conversations.

“Well, yeah, there was that. And my party days were kind of what led me to join a NGO. I wasn’t doing anything with my life, just trying to run away from my problems and my family. Then I met a guy who told me about this group he joined that made trips to Africa to help the less fortunate. It made sense to me at the time. It was just volunteer work, but they would feed me and give me a place to sleep. It sounded good, because I didn’t fit into normal society. I’m glad I did it, though. I learned a lot, and it’s helped me survive.”

“How’d you end up here then, in Alexandria?” Daryl wondered.

“I told you about my boyfriend, the airline steward, the one I found out was cheating on me. I was living with him at the time. He hadn’t come home when he was supposed to, and I knew I had to leave. At the same time, reports were coming in about the sickness going around, and it was just starting to get bad by then. I contacted some friends I’d made through the organization I worked with in Africa. They lived in DC, and they were stateside. They told me DC was a safe place, said the military was taking extra precautions to protect it, so they invited me to come stay with them until the threat passed.” Aaron paused to laugh at that statement. “I hooked up with a group of people going the same way I was. By the time I got to my friends, some had already died. It just spread so fast. The military started evacuating the city. It was complete chaos. People were dying and getting back up only to attack the healthy. I watched one of my friends get her throat ripped out by a guy in a business suit. I saw a group of dead corner a German Shepard and eat it while it was still alive. It was all so surreal during those first weeks. Anyways, my friends and I split DC with some strangers. We were heading south and came across this place. Deanna and her husband let us in, interviewed us, and asked us to stay. My friends refused. They wanted to continue on to find their families, and that was understandable. I didn’t have any family, didn’t have anywhere to go so I stayed.”

Daryl listened to the story, but he was most impressed with Aaron’s decision to join the NGO, to go so far from home just to help the less fortunate. It took someone very brave to step out of their comfort zone like that, and he mentioned this to Aaron. “You’re choice to join that organization … that was a pretty noble career,” Daryl pointed out.

“I don’t know if you could call it a career,” Aaron said shyly. “It was charity work. You know me, I like to help people.”

Daryl considered this a moment. “While you were out there doing the work of angels, I was hitching a ride with the devil. My brother, Merle, and I took over the family business. Of course I told you all about that already.” He stopped to chew on his thumb nail with nervous contemplation. “I could have done something more with my life. I should have, but I chose to follow along on my brother’s coattails.”

“I don’t think you had much of a choice,” Aaron mentioned.

“You can always choose to do something else, but I didn’t. Merle, he was my big brother. He taught me everything I know. I looked up to him. I loved him.”

“Sure you did,” Aaron said understandingly.

“I acted like such a badass, but really, I was only mimicking him. I didn’t know how else to behave. That was never really me, though. Still, I went along with every plan. I believed everything he told me. He treated me like shit sometimes, and still, I only wanted to be like him, to please him, make him proud. I remember going to the store with him once, and he saw a couple guys together, walking close, shoulder to shoulder, bumping into each other, laughing. It was obvious they were gay. And for a split second I wished that could be me. Then Merle approached them, called them fags, threatened them, scared the shit out of them. He pulled me in to the confrontation. I had no choice but to make the same threats. I hated it. Part of me wanted to be like those men, open and free. Part of me hated them for openly displaying their affection when I knew I couldn’t. That’s the thing, though. I always supported Merle, even when I disagreed with him. Even after the outbreak, the group we were with hated Merle because of his racist remarks. There were more than a few times when they threatened to kick us out, but I always did damage control. Sometimes I think he knew that I’d always back him and that I would settle the discrepancies between members. It was like Merle never cared what he said or did, his little brother would apologize for him so he wouldn’t have to. I was never independent. I was always trailing along behind my brother like a shadow.”

Aaron rested his hand on Daryl’s arm. “I’d say things have changed now, wouldn’t you?”

“But have they? Or do I just follow a different leader now?”

“That’s not true, Daryl. Nobody tells you what to do,” Aaron stated.

“No? What about Rick … Deanna, they are the ones in charge now, and I just follow their instructions. Merle would kick my ass, want to know why I wasn’t telling them what to do. He’d have a few choice words, that’s for sure.”

“That’s not the man I know,” Aaron countered. “Before you came to Alexandria, when I was watching your group, I noticed you too, although you tended to stay away most of the time. I’d see you come in and out of the group to check on them or to let them know you were alright. You had ample opportunity to leave them, but you didn’t. And when you all were at your lowest, when that storm was coming in, it was you who led them to safety. It was you that they followed and trusted. No one told you to do that. You made that decision on your own. I didn’t know it then, but now I know what pain you were in, having lost your friend Beth, and after all you’d done to keep her safe. Someone else might have given up, left the group, gone off alone in misery, but not you. And if your brother never saw what a good man you are, then that was his loss.” Aaron took Daryl’s chin in his fingers and forced him to look into his eyes. “I see what a good man you are. Doesn’t that count for something?” He leaned in halfway, and waited for Daryl to come the rest of the way.

Daryl studied Aaron’s face a moment, his eyes coming to rest upon Aaron’s waiting mouth. He kissed him, pushing his tongue against his lover’s. He felt Aaron giving in to his demanding kiss, and surprised him when he started up his bike. Daryl smiled as they came out of the kiss, and said against his mouth, “You just like me because of the bike.”

Aaron smiled back. “You’ve found me out, my one weakness, a badass on a chopper.” He discovered the vibrations from the motor to be very erotic while kissing Daryl, both of them straddling the seat, the smell of oil and leather assaulting his senses in an arousing way. His fingers quickly unbuttoned Daryl’s shirt and traveled along the light bristling of chest hair. They moved lower and undid the belt, sliding the zipper down as far as he could until his hand grasped the pliant flesh within. After a few strokes, the flesh took shape, hardening in his palm.

Daryl turned off the bike and broke away from Aaron long enough to get off of the seat. Aaron followed almost at the same time, and they resumed kissing. Aaron’s hand returned to his cock after pushing his pants down a bit. Daryl’s hand palmed Aaron through his pants, finding him stiff within.

“Let’s go inside,” Daryl suggested, knowing what they needed to continue was on the nightstand beside the bed.

Aaron reached into his shirt pocket and produced a small tube. “Looking for this?” He handed it to Daryl.

Daryl, unable to control his desire any longer, worked Aaron’s belt loose, unzipped him and slipped the khaki pants down until they pooled around Aaron’s feet. Aaron stepped out of them and went to the workbench, placing his hands flat on the top. Daryl wasn’t far behind, as he had stepped out of his pants and had the cap off of the tube. He came up behind Aaron and kissed his neck, his hand reaching around Aaron’s hip, grasping his cock.  Daryl had put a small amount of lube in his hand, and was now slicking him up. He prepared them both, and held himself against Aaron. Daryl nudged his legs further apart and pushed him forward slightly to make him bend over the bench so he was at just the right angle. Aaron accepted Daryl with a breathy moan.

This was the only time Daryl felt normal, felt right with the world. Everything made sense when he was with Aaron. Nothing else mattered in these private moments they shared. He started to think that maybe he should stop living in the shadows. Maybe he should come out to the rest of his people, feel more freedom. This new discovery hadn’t changed him like he feared. Only a fool would fuck with him. He was still a tough, no bullshit asshole, and he’d never be someone’s bitch. All thoughts escaped his mind as his body set its rhythm. The only thing he sought now was release, and satisfying Aaron. Everything else dissolved and faded away.

* * * * *

It was sometime later, and Aaron and Daryl were resting comfortably in Aaron’s bed. Aaron’s hand rested on his chest, his leg draped over both of Daryl’s. Daryl had one arm around Aaron and the other stretched up on his pillow. They were silent, simply enjoying each other’s company, but Daryl knew Aaron wouldn’t be quiet for very long. He was right.

“So, I told you my pre-apocalypse story. What about you? What did you do? Where’d you go?”

Aaron asked.

“Well, in the beginning it was just me and Merle. We’d heard about it on the radio, the cities being overrun and the military taking over. We figured the further we were from that shit, the better we’d be. It was ok for a short while, but we knew we couldn’t stay. Wasn’t until we were out on the open road that we saw how bad it really was. Merle got this dumbass idea that we should hole up in a mall because it had everything we needed to survive. He’d watched too many movies, the dumb bastard.” Daryl let out a quiet chuckle as he thought about it. “Then he hooked us up with a dude he’d met who said he was with some people staying just outside of Atlanta. They had a fairly secure camp, some firepower, some pretty women. That’s all Merle needed to hear and we were part of their group. Carol was there, Glenn, Carl too. They all hooked up with Rick while some of ‘em were in the city doing a supply run. That’s when Merle and I got separated. He went with the group doing the run, and I stayed at the camp.  He didn’t come back.” Daryl pulled his arm out from under Aaron and sat up in the bed, leaning against the headboard. Aaron joined him. “You know, I was so pissed when they told me what they did, the group that went into the city. They handcuffed him to a pipe on the roof of a building and left him there. I trusted them to see my brother safe back to the camp, and they abandoned him, chained him up like a dog. It took me a while to hear why they did it. Merle was out of control, shooting walkers from the roof, drawing more dead in with the noise. When they tried to get him to stop, he became volatile and unreasonable, and Rick ended up handcuffing him.”

“I know you say your brother was an asshole, but no one deserves to be chained and left behind like that,” Aaron commented.

“They were all trapped in that building, you know, and they went to find a way out. They did come back, but the guy with the handcuff key dropped it down a drain … accidentally. Man, I still don’t know if that was true or not. I always thought it sounded suspicious, especially since the guy who lost the key had gotten the shit beat out of him by Merle just before all that happened. But I won’t speak ill of a dead man. Anyways, they had to make a run for it, and it wasn’t until they were in a van heading out of the city that Rick noticed Merle wasn’t with them. They got back to camp, and I didn’t know who the hell Rick was. All I knew was that he was the new guy and he cuffed my brother to the roof. I wanted to kill him, this nobody, stuck up cop. But all that changed when Rick told the others that he wanted to go back for Merle. I was really surprised. No one else wanted to go. They were happy to see Merle out of the picture. And they didn’t give a shit about me. They didn’t even know me. I spent most of my time hunting and watching the perimeter of the camp, basically staying away from them all.”

Aaron huffed a laugh. “Some things never change, do they?”

Daryl glared from the corner of his eye. “Better watch it,” he warned with mirth.

“So did you go back?” Aaron asked so Daryl would continue.

“Yeah, me, Rick, Glenn, and T-Dog, the guy who dropped the key, we all went back for Merle, but he was gone … except for his hand. That tough son of a bitch cut off his own hand and got away.” Daryl’s mood turned somber as he remembered. “For the first time, I was really on my own. Up until then, I always had Merle, or I knew he’d be back. But after we found the empty roof, I thought he might be gone for good. For a long time, I was a real prick. I’d get pretty hostile at times with whoever pissed me off. It guaranteed that the rest of them would leave me alone. What they didn’t know … what no one has ever known was that I was scared, and I’d never been more afraid of being alone. Yeah, I know when I was a kid, my brother would disappear from time to time, but he was never really gone, and I always knew where he was. He might have been in jail for a month, but I knew where he was. He might have been off making drug runs, but I knew where he was.”

“How long was it before you met up with Merle again?” Aaron asked.

“Oh, I don’t know, but it was a long time. By then, Merle had changed. I mean, he wasn’t all that good of a person to begin with, but when I found him, he’d gone really dark. I don’t know if it was the people he’d gotten himself mixed up with, or if it was the world falling apart around him, but he was really off the deep end. That’s when I knew that separating from Merle was probably the best thing that happened to me. If we had stayed together, he would have dragged me down right there with him. You see, I wound up with a group of people who believed in sticking with each other, who believed in helping each other in order to survive. Merle was with people who only cared about themselves and whether what they did would get them further or not. He thought he was in with them, but he was just another rung in their ladder. And when they were through with him, I was the one who picked him up and took him in. The tables had turned, and I don’t think he ever really accepted that. In the end, though, I think he was really trying to be good. And I think he saw who I’d become without his influence.  I think he was proud of me at the end of all things, and that’s all I ever really wanted from him.”

After telling his story, Daryl realized that he wasn’t following anyone like he followed his brother around. He was a part of this group, not because he traded his brother’s authority for Rick’s, but because he wanted to be here. He trusted these people and they needed him. They looked to him for protection. He’d found his place with the group. Now, he’d found his place with Aaron.

“It’s crazy how things happen, and they can seem devastating at the time, but in hindsight it all works out for the best,” Aaron commented.

“I was beginning to doubt myself earlier today, but talking with you and telling you my story, or part of it anyways, has set me straight again. And I’ll tell you what else. That woman, Alison, isn’t what she seems. She’s up to something, and I think she’s using people through her therapy. I want to go to her again for another session, only this time I’ll be prepared for her mind bending tricks.”

“You think that’s wise? We could just tell the others and have them start watching her,” Aaron said with worry.

Daryl shook his head. “She might become suspicious if we do that. I’ve already started something with her, so it should be me. It’s ok, though. I’ve got a handle on her.”

* * * * *

A few days later, Daryl went back for a second visit with Alison. The conversation started out on a light note, but it soon turned to questions about Daryl. This time, it wasn’t his past she was interested in. It was with the people he associated with. When he refused to give any information about the people in his group, she brought up Aaron, and this sent red flags waving from all directions.

“So,” she started. “How do you like being a recruiter?”

“It’s alright, I guess. Gets me out of the town.” Daryl was back on the couch, legs stretched out along its length.

“I’d prefer you didn’t put your feet on my furniture,” she said with annoyance.

“Isn’t this how it’s supposed to be? You’re the shrink, and I’m the subject in turmoil who is so devastated I must lay down while you listen to my problems.” Daryl dramatically threw his hand up to his forehead.

“Fine then. What is bothering you, Mr. Dixon?” Alison said, not altering from her professionalism.

“Lately, I’ve been having these weird dreams. Maybe you can help me figure out what they mean.”

Alison crossed her arms and stared at Daryl. “Really? You came here to ask me about the meaning of your dreams?”

“Well, you told me not to use the excuse that I was forced to come here as part of my punishment, and we have to have something to talk about,” he said, coming off as a smartass again.

“Hmm, because I thought you might be more concerned with the fact that there are people here that don’t like you or your group. Why do you think that is?”

Daryl dropped his fake routine and turned serious. “People are scared of what they don’t know, and they don’t know yet that we are a good addition to this community. We ain’t caused much trouble. And Deanna seems to want us here, or she wouldn’t have given us our jobs.”

“There are quite a few who disagree with her decision to put some of you in such high ranking positions before the community has gotten a chance to know you better. Rick, Michonne … you, for example. She has given you the responsibility of recruiting people with Aaron.” Alison stopped and her expression changed. Her smile was too perfect, and Daryl didn’t like where things were going at the moment. “Speaking of Aaron, you two seemed to get along quite well.”

“He’s a good man. He’s fair and honest, and he knows people. He’s also my good friend, taught me a lot about this place,” Daryl said on the defense.

“And you two spend a good amount of time together,” she added.

“So,” Daryl replied, eyes narrowed with suspicion.

“Some people in the community find it a bit odd that someone like yourself would … get along so well with a person of Aaron’s … sexual preference.” Alison worded it carefully, knowing how easy it would be to set Daryl off on a rant.

Daryl put his feet on the floor and leaned forward, his stare targeting Alison where she sat in her chair. “Well, you’re the shrink. Isn’t it your job to set them straight? Or perhaps you agree with these ‘people’.”

Alison matched his stare a moment before answering. “I am merely stating a fact, Mr. Dixon, that some people are concerned.”

“Well, it’s none of their damn business. They don’t know what’s involved with this recruiting shit. You don’t just go skipping out there hoping to find survivors. You have to map out areas, know where walkers frequents, where other survivors have been seen, know where there are dead ends so you don’t go and get yourself trapped.” His ire was evident in his tone.

“No need to be so defensive. It’s almost as though I struck a nerve,” Alison said calmly.

“Yeah, you’ve struck a nerve. Is there something wrong with a redneck and a gay being friends and working together?”

“Of course not. I’m only telling you this because there has been talk, and maybe you want to be more careful.”

Daryl stood from the couch. He went to Alison and towered over her. Then he threateningly bent down, placing a hand on each arm of the chair so that he was in her face. “You’re no shrink.”

“I am, Mr. Dixon. Still have my certificates and awards to prove it, if you’d like to see them,” she said confidently. Daryl’s threatening manner didn’t affect her in the least.

“Maybe you were before hell broke loose, but not anymore. I don’t know what your game is, but you would be smart to watch yourself around me and my people. Oh, and if I hear that you’ve filled Caleb’s head with anymore lies, you’ll get another visit from me, one that you surely won’t want.”

“It’s you who should be careful. People talk. Word spreads like fire in a small town such as this. They tend to be more observant, and they begin to wonder. You and your people would do good to assimilate with the community instead of being difficult. And for you, Mr. Dixon, be careful who you associate with.”

“Yeah, I’ll do that,” he said angrily before storming out of her house. It was time to gather the group and discuss this. One way or another, Alison was up to no good.

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