Safe Haven in the Chaos

BY : IdrilsSecret
Category: S through Z > The Walking Dead
Dragon prints: 3631
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 18 We Do It Together

 

It was their second day out, and so far they hadn’t had any luck. There hadn’t been any signs of survivors yet, but that wasn’t to say there weren’t any. Aaron told him that sometimes he and Eric were out for days without a sign of life. Just as well, Daryl thought. With everything happening back in town, he was glad not to be a part of it.

Daryl was concentrating on tracking when he came across something. “Hold up,” he called to Aaron.

Aaron came back to where Daryl stopped. “You got something?”

Daryl got down and was looking at the forest floor. He pointed and Aaron looked, but didn’t see anything unusual. Then again, he wasn’t a tracker. Daryl looked up with a smile. “Someone’s been this way recently.”

Aaron got excited, as he usually did when searching for recruitments. “How far do you think he is? Is he close?”

“Couple hours ahead, maybe? Hard to tell, but this is fairly new.” Daryl stood back straight and looked around at the forest. Then he pointed in a certain direction. “That way.”

“How do you know?” Aaron wondered.

“Broken branches.”

Aaron went towards the place where Daryl was pointing and examined the undergrowth. Something caught his eye and he pulled it from the bush. It was a piece of red material. “Look here.”

Daryl caught up to him and looked at the snagged material. “Yep, someone’s been through here. Let’s keep going.”

“Alright, but it’s going to be dark in a couple hours. We need to start thinking about what we’re going to do for shelter. It’s already getting cold, and the sun hasn’t gone down yet.” As soon as Aaron said it, they heard a distant clap of thunder.

“We got a little time yet. I’ll keep tracking, and you keep an eye out for shelter,” Daryl told him.

After about an hour, Daryl was still finding traces of life. They were on the right trail, but it might take some time to catch up to whoever this might be. This guy was traveling without much rest time, as though he was on a mission. That was not determinable just yet. And with the sun getting ready to set, finding a place to camp was becoming first priority.

Aaron was out in front of Daryl when he stopped and gave a warning whistle. Daryl froze, lifted his bow, and looked up.

“I found something,” Aaron said, proud of himself.

Daryl came up and stood by his side. There was something in the woods, some kind of vehicle, they thought, until they got a closer look. It was an old truck camper, one of those small ones that fit in the bed of a pickup truck, only there was no truck. It was on metal stilts, and there was a plastic milk crate on the ground where the door was.

“Someone might be in there.” Daryl worried that they might have found the claimed property of the person they were tracking. He considered whether or not to go inside the camper, and then he felt the first drops of cold rain fall onto his cheeks.

“Should we check it out?” Aaron asked.

“Get your gun ready,” Daryl responded, as he lifted his bow. They walked up to the camper cautiously, one on each side of the door. The windows looked like they were blocked out with newspaper, yellowed from age. There was mold growing on one side of the camper, and vines running up front part of it. It had been sitting here for a long time.

Aaron grabbed the door handle, and pulled it slowly, finding it unlocked. He nodded to Daryl, and silently counted to three with his fingers. On three, Aaron threw the door open, and Daryl rushed the doorway, aiming his bow inside the camper, ready to eliminate anyone or anything that might be in there. It seemed to be empty, and there weren’t many places to hide inside a place like this. There would be a bathroom, though, and Daryl went first to check. He rushed inside so that if there was someone hiding, they wouldn’t have time to think twice about what to do. He opened the bathroom door, but it was empty. Daryl’s heart was pounding out of his chest, but it began to slow when it seemed there was no one here. “It’s clear,” he called to Aaron.

Aaron stepped up and entered the run down camper. It smelled like mildew, and he could see water stains on the ceiling around an air vent. “I don’t think anyone’s been here in a long time,” he commented.

Daryl continued looking in cabinets and drawers. “Yeah, well, at least we’re out of the weather. It’s getting ready to rain.”

Aaron pointed up. “Looks like it might rain in here too.” He opened the bathroom door and crinkled his nose because of the stale smell of decay. “Built in shower,” he jostled when he saw the hole in the ceiling. “This place is probably full of asbestos.”

“Naw, it’s not that old of a model,” Daryl answered. He climbed the built in ladder that led to the loft bed. “At least it’s dry up here.”

Aaron looked up and saw Daryl’s boots dangling over the edge. “I’m not sleeping up there. Who knows what happened on that mattress.”

“Suit yourself,” Daryl called down. “Have fun sleeping on the couch.”

The couch was just a padded bench used for the dining area. The table came out and the back of the bench slid down to make an extra sleeping area. “Fine then,” Aaron said with disappointment. He made his bed and threw his bag down. “I’ll take first shift.”

A couple hours passed with no incidents. Aaron kept watch through the window in the door, not that he could see anything. It was black as pitch outside. He couldn’t hear much either with the rain beating down on the camper. It started about an hour ago, and instantly began dripping next to the bench where Daryl told him to sleep. Water splashed as it hit the floor, making everything soggy and damp. He had found a bucket, but he was using it to sit on. Didn’t matter anyways. They were only staying here until the sunrise, then they’d be on their way again. Aaron hoped they could still track this person they thought they found, and that the rain hadn’t washed away the trail. It had been a while since they brought anyone to the town, and he thought it might be good to introduce some new blood to the community.

With the rain coming down harder and louder, and Aaron concentrating on the darkness, he didn’t know Daryl came down from the loft until he felt arms surrounding his waist and warm breath on his neck. Aaron smiled to himself as he reveled in the feel of Daryl holding him. “You get enough rest?” Aaron asked to make sure.

“About as much as I can.” He nudged the back of Aaron’s ear with his nose. “Want me to relieve you?” Daryl asked, his voice sleepy and sultry.

“Sure, if you’re ready,” Aaron answered.

Daryl’s hand traveled around Aaron’s hip and cupped him, squeezing gently. “I’m ready.”

Aaron might have protested, but Daryl was bringing him around. “By relieving me, I thought you meant you were taking the next watch.”

“I can do that instead, if that’s what you want,” Daryl whispered. He bit into the fleshy part of Aaron’s neck.

“No,” Aaron insisted. “This is much better. I’m not tired anyways.”

“You might be when I’m done with you.” Daryl sucked Aaron’s earlobe between his teeth and moaned seductively. “Did you bring any–”

“In my bag,” Aaron answered quickly.

Daryl abandoned him and smacked Aaron’s ass. While he was searching through the bag, Aaron undid his belt. His fingers fumbled anxiously. Daryl came back and helped him by unbuttoning Aaron’s pants, and slowly sliding the zipper down. Aaron instantly calmed, and did the same for Daryl. Then he got down on his knees and slipped Daryl’s pants down over his hips, releasing his cock. Aaron took it in his mouth, licking and sucking, making Daryl hard as steel. Daryl’s hands traveled through his hair and cupped his head, holding it in place, feeling the jaw muscles move and his head bob. “Oh yeah,” Daryl whispered, giving in to the feel of Aaron’s warm mouth surrounding him. He stopped Aaron before it went too far, and made him stand, turning him around. Aaron let Daryl slip his pants down, and anchored his palms on the counter in front of him. Daryl prepared them, and proceeded to kiss Aaron along his shoulders and the back of his neck. He pulled Aaron against him, his cock hard against Aaron’s ass. Then Daryl got into position and slid inside. Aaron moaned, the sound setting Daryl on fire. He increased his rhythm, pumping against Aaron, the two moving together like a well-rehearsed dance routine. They fit so well together in so many ways, but this was the most perfect way, Daryl thought.  Aaron knew how to move, how to moan and say his name when the moment was close. Aaron knew how much that turned Daryl on.

Daryl grasped Aaron’s hips to steady him while he gyrated and pumped harder and faster. Then he reached around and took Aaron in his hand, matching the rhythm of his hips. “Come for me,” Daryl whispered, and he playfully bit Aaron’s shoulder. His tongue traveled up the side of Aaron’s neck to his earlobe, taking it between his teeth and biting. Aaron’s hand covered Daryl’s and together they moved as one.

“So good,” Aaron moaned and he looked down to watch Daryl palm him. “Oh Daryl, yeah,” he panted.

Daryl knew Aaron was close and he went deep making short hard thrusts, hitting Aaron in that special place. Aaron leaned forward bracing himself on the counter, and shoved his ass backwards. His back arched as he cried out in ecstasy. Daryl felt himself build and build until he heard Aaron take his pleasure, and then he too released himself, his warmth purling within. He was buried to the hilt, pulsating, reveling in the feel of Aaron surrounding him. His body went rigid as he held himself deep inside Aaron’s body, pulled him against his chest and surrounded Aarons with his arms. Daryl rested his chin on Aaron’s shoulder, and his hips pumped involuntarily until he was completely spent. Then he gently kissed the back of Aaron’s neck.

“Fuck yeah,” he moaned quietly against Aaron’s skin. “You always feel so good. I could stay like this forever.”

“I wish we could too,” Aaron said, hoping Daryl would smooth up inside him. “I love you,” he said, unable to keep from saying it. If only Daryl would return the words, but he knew he wouldn’t. Instead, Daryl pulled Aaron’s head to the side, and kissed him with as much passion as he could muster for his lover. Aaron knew Daryl was showing him what he couldn’t put into words, and it was alright. He understood, and knew better than to push Daryl into something he wasn’t comfortable with.

Daryl reluctantly moved from Aaron, and turned him so they faced each other. They kissed hungrily, tongues caressing, hands roaming, arms surrounding each other. Daryl broke away and looked Aaron deep in his eyes. “I don’t know why you put up with me, but I’m glad you do.”

“I’ve told you before,” Aaron smiled. “You’re stuck with me for good.”

“Yeah, well, it’s a good place to get stuck,” Daryl responded with a sultry curl of his lips. “Now, let’s get cleaned up, and it’s your turn to get some rest.”

“There’s a towel in my bag,” Aaron told him.

“You think of everything, don’t you?” Daryl said, as he retrieved Aaron’s bag. He fumbled around inside and found some pictures, taking them out, as well as a towel. Daryl tossed the towel to Aaron and looked at the pictures. They were of the town, the houses, the lake and gazebo, the sturdy steel walls and the gate.

Aaron finished dressing and looked over to see Daryl thumbing through the pictures. “Wait, don’t look at those.” It was too late, though.

Daryl took one picture in particular and held it up to look at it more closely. “What’s this?” He turned the picture around for Aaron to see, but Aaron already knew which photo it was. There was a picture of an unsuspecting Daryl walking towards the photographer, but unaware that he was being photographed. He was wearing a sleeveless shirt and his wing vest, pants, boots, bow tossed over his shoulder.

“I, uh, took that a while back … you know … before we, uh–” Aaron stammered.

“Before we were together?” Daryl accused, trying to embarrass Aaron.

Aaron seemed to blush. “Long before that.”

Daryl looked more closely at the picture, and realized that it wasn’t taken in Alexandria. “When?” he asked.

“When I was still tracking the group, during one of those times when you went off by yourself,” Aaron admitted.

“You were watching me back then?”

“I was watching all of you,” Aaron tried to justify.

“Yeah, but you didn’t take their picture.”

Aaron came up to Daryl, shoved the towel at him and snagged the picture away. “Yeah, well, they didn’t interest me the same way you did.”

Daryl cleaned himself off and dressed. Then he went back to Aaron and looked at the picture over his shoulder. “What’d you do? Beat off to a picture of me?”

“No,” Aaron said, exaggeratingly. “Maybe,” he confessed in a lighter tone. “Sometimes,” he squeaked out, expecting Daryl to protest. Instead, Daryl grabbed him and pulled him against his body.

“That’s kind of kinky. It’s fucking hot, actually,” Daryl said to embarrass him. “But you don’t need this anymore.” Daryl grabbed the photo from Aaron’s fingers. “You’ve got the real thing now.” Daryl was going to rip the picture up, but Aaron stopped him.

“Wait! Don’t do it,” Aaron protested.

“Why not. It’s not even a good picture,” Daryl argued. He started to rip it again, but Aaron stopped him once more.

“I still use it,” he admitted.

Daryl looked at him curiously. “You … use it?”

“Well … yeah … when you go outside by yourself, or when you were gone for a while, when I go out on runs with Glenn. So yeah, I used it, because I always have a little bit of you with me.” Aaron was blushing again. Daryl looked like he was about to crack a joke, but Aaron stopped him. “Have you ever really looked at your arms? Holy shit, you’ve got the hottest arms I’ve ever seen.”

“My … arms?”

Aaron shrugged. “I can’t help it. Most people like asses or dicks. I like … arms. I think they are very expressive.

“Oh yeah? And what are my arms saying right now.”

Aaron took Daryl’s arms and wrapped them around himself. “They say they want to hold me again.”

Daryl pulled Aaron hard against him. “You may be right after all. Come here.” He kissed Aaron again.

“Hey, I think we might be alright tonight. With the cold and the rain, they can’t smell us in here, and I doubt anyone will be stopping by,” Aaron said.

“What are you suggesting?”

“Maybe I take back what I said about that mattress in the loft, and I let you have your way with me again,” Aaron smiled seductively.

“Again, huh?” Daryl asked playfully.

“And again.” Aaron kissed him. “And again and again.”

Daryl captured Aaron’s lips, forcing his tongue past them, making Aaron melt. “I’ll take you all night, if that’s what you want,” he whispered.

“That’s what I always want,” Aaron said. Before they knew it, they were naked in the loft, taking it slow, making love until the sunrise.

>>------->

In the morning, they set out again. The rain had stopped some time ago. The clouds cleared out, and the sun was bright. The air was much cooler than the day before. A front had moved in, and the drier air would soak up the moisture. Although footprints left in the dirt had washed away, Daryl was still able to pick up the trail he was following. Aaron remained on watch as they went along through the trees. At one point, Daryl stopped to get his bearings, and to make sure they weren’t going in circles. The forest was thinning where they were now, and the trail was getting a little more difficult to follow.

“I think he stopped last night. The breaks in these branches are still fresh. He’s not far ahead,” Daryl informed.

“Hey, can we rest for just a moment? I think I got a rock or something in my shoe,” Aaron said.

Daryl nodded and took his canteen, unscrewed the lid and drank. Aaron sat on a fallen log and fiddled with the laces of his shoe, but he had lied about the rock. Actually, there was something else on his mind, and if he didn’t ask now, he didn’t know how long it might be until the next time he would have a chance.

“I was thinking,” he started.

“Me too,” Daryl interrupted. “Maybe we should double around, and if we find this guy, at least we won’t be on top of him. He could have a camp somewhere around here.”

“Yeah, that’s a good idea too,” Aaron said gaining Daryl’s attention.

“Why? What do you think we should do?” Daryl said curiously.

“I … uh … I—I think you should move in with me.”

This completely threw Daryl off guard. “What?” he asked shaking his head in confusion.

“Or I could move into your house. I really don’t care. It’s just four wall and a roof. If you’d be more comfortable at your place, I wouldn’t–”

“Why are you talking about this now?” Daryl really had no idea what Aaron was thinking.

“Well, Rick knows about us now, and so does half of your group. Deanna knows too. And by the time we get back, most of Alexandria will probably have heard. There’s no reason to hide anymore, and I just thought–”

“We are tracking someone. This is no time to begin planning living arrangements,” Daryl argued.

“When is the time, Daryl? Whenever I try to bring it up, you change the subject or suddenly realize you have somewhere to be. You’ve avoided it ever since I first asked you.”

“We are in the middle of fucking nowhere. We’ve been tracking this guy for three days, and we might be about to stumble on him or his camp, and you’re worried about living together? What the fuck, Aaron? We got a job to do.”

“Yes, and we have a life to live back home,” Aaron countered. “I just thought, after last night, that you might have had a change of heart. You know how I feel about you. I want to share more than your bed.”

“Well, you’ve got bad timing as far as–” Daryl stopped and raised his bow when he heard the rustling of leaves. Aaron’s attention went in the same direction, and he held his gun at the ready. Three walkers came out of the trees, and entered the small clearing where Aaron and Daryl had stopped. They all had a W carved into their foreheads. Aaron and Daryl looked at each other and nodded, knowing the routine. Aaron put his gun away and opted for his knife. He was ready just in case Daryl couldn’t get them all with his arrows, but he did. Aaron went to the dead corpses and kicked them to make sure they weren’t still moving. Then he crouched down and examined the mark.

“We keep seeing this more and more,” Aaron observed, the previous argument forgotten for the moment.

“I don’t like it one bit,” Daryl added. “Come on. We gotta keep moving.” Daryl turned to Aaron before they left the area. “We’ll finish our discussion later, ok?”

“Yeah, later, just like always,” Aaron said with disappointment.

They moved along in silence, but tension had settled between them. It wasn’t that Daryl wasn’t flattered that Aaron wanted to live together, but he just wasn’t sure it was the right time. Yes, Rick knew since Daryl’s house was vandalized and he had to come clean. Hell, they all probably knew by now. But it hadn’t been discussed. It hadn’t been dealt with, and Daryl needed to know where everyone stood. He told himself that it shouldn’t make a difference, but it did, at least with his own people. Daryl couldn’t give a shit what the rest of the town thought, and he knew where some of their opinions laid. He wasn’t used to this. He’d never been judged as a gay man. He’d been seen as a thug, as white trash, as a redneck, and he knew how to deal with that kind of ridicule. But for everyone to know that he liked dick, and that he and Aaron were a couple, it was a little too much to handle all at once. And Aaron, who had a tendency to rush into every aspect of their relationship, wasn’t making things any easier.

Aaron was just about to step into another clearing when movement caught Daryl’s eye. He grabbed Aaron by the arm and yanked him backwards. Aaron froze and looked in the same direction. “There he is,” Aaron pointed out.

Ahead of them was a small field where the grass was about as tall as their hips. Aaron took out a pair of binoculars and watched. There was a guy in a red jacket bending down to pick a plant. “What the hell?” Aaron wondered aloud.

Daryl took the binoculars away from Aaron and looked through them just in time to see the man rub the plant between his hands, and then wipe his hands on his face and neck. “Wild leeks,” Daryl said, smiling to himself. “Keeps the mosquitos away.”

“Are there even any mosquitos around this time of year?” Aaron asked.

“Well, with the warmer weather last week and the rain last night, there might be a few, especially in the shelter of the trees.” Daryl gave an amused huff, “My brother and I used to do the same thing while we were out hunting. We’d come home smelling like rotten onions, and our dad wouldn’t let us in the house until we washed that shit off in the creek,” he laughed. It was not often that he was struck with a fond memory, especially one that involved Merle. It made him miss his brother, but he wiped the memory away as fast as it came on.

“Alright, I’ll get the equipment ready and we’ll start tailing this guy. If he has a camp near here, we’ll know soon enough,” Aaron said as he got the spy equipment out.

Suddenly, the man stopped and knelt down in the grass. Daryl was still looking through the binoculars, and spotted a small group of walkers across the way. They spied the man and were going towards him. Daryl threw the binoculars on the ground and scrambled for his bow. “Shit,” he muttered.

“What?” Aaron asked anxiously, abandoning his bag and taking a look.

“Walkers,” Daryl told him. He lifted his bow and looked through the site, but he didn’t see the man anymore, and the walkers were gone too. “Where’d he go?” He lowered the crossbow. “Dammit, I lost him. Come on. We gotta follow him.”

Aaron hastily threw his equipment back in his bag and followed Daryl. By the time they got to the spot in the field where they had seen the man, there was nothing there except the faint scent of wild onions. “We’ll follow our noses,” Daryl suggested, and they were off on another chase.

After a while, the scent of onions was completely gone and the trail had run cold. Daryl and Aaron found themselves at the side of a road. Luckily it was the same road they came out on. If they just followed it back, they would find the car and Daryl’s bike, but Daryl wasn’t ready to give up on the man in the red poncho. They went the opposite direction from the cars, the same way they thought the man had been traveling, and stumbled upon a rare find. There was a building with multiple overhead doors and trucks backed up to the loading docks. The place was surrounded by a fence, though, and inside were walkers.

Daryl looked through the binoculars to see if he could find the man, but there was no one in there but the dead. “Del Arno Foods,” Daryl read. “How the harvest gets home.”

“Let me see,” Aaron said, taking the binoculars and looking. “Wow, there’s something you don’t find every day. And from the amount of roamers in there, I’d guess that those trucks are full of canned goods.”

“We can come back some other time. Right now, we gotta keep looking for this guy,” Daryl told him.

“I thought you said the trail’s gone cold.”

“I can pick it back up. He can’t be far,” Daryl persisted.

“Sometimes they get away. And besides, if we’re bringing more people in, we’ll need more food. We should at least check it out.”

“I don’t know. The longer we stand here, the further away this guy gets, the harder it will be to find him again,” Daryl said, not ready to give up.

Aaron felt like it was a lost cause, especially with all those trucks possibly full of canned fruit and vegetables, which would keep Alexandria stocked for the winter months that were fast approaching. He said as much to Daryl, trying to convince him to give up the chase. “Why do you insist on tracking this guy?”

“Because if it was me, I wouldn’t want someone giving up. I didn’t give up on Sophia when she ran off. I didn’t give up on Carol when she went missing in the catacombs of the prison. I … I didn’t give up on Beth when those people from the hospital grabbed her.”

Aaron put a hand on Daryl’s shoulder and squeezed. “How about this. We won’t give up, but let’s just take a look first, and then we’ll know whether or not it’s worth coming back here. Ok?” Aaron gazed through the fence. “There aren’t that many roamers. We can call them over and take them out on this side of the gate.” In Aaron’s opinion, finding several trucks full of food to feed the town was more important than one guy on the run who might not want to be found in the first place.

Daryl considered Aaron’s plan a moment. Then he pulled his knife out of his belt and started banging on the chain-link fence. The walkers came over, and Daryl and Aaron took them all out by stabbing them one at a time through the fence. When it was clear, they opened the gate and entered the yard. Daryl and Aaron stayed cautious as they approached the loading dock. It was a big place, and there could very well be more walkers either inside the building or on the other side of the yard. They walked between the truck trailers, keeping watch as they went, then they hopped onto the dock. The trucks were backed up as though waiting for someone to come along and unload them.

“You check it out,” Daryl said. “I’ll keep an eye out.”

Aaron went to the back of one of the trucks and checked the latch. Amazingly enough, there was no lock. There weren’t locks on any of the truck doors. “Oh wow!” Aaron called out. “You’re never going to believe what I found.”

“What is it?” Daryl asked, but he kept his vision on the surrounding area.

Aaron dug through his bag and came up with a screwdriver. He reached down below the edge of the concrete dock, working as fast as possible, and came up with a license plate. “Would you look at this? Do you know how long I’ve been looking for one of these?” he said happily.

Daryl glanced over his shoulder, and saw Aaron holding a license plate from Alaska. He looked at Aaron questioningly, but Aaron was smiling like a kid who just found a rare comic book that had been missing from his collection.

“And Eric said I’d never find one,” Aaron muttered to himself. He tapped the plate in his hand and wiped the dust from it. “When we get back, I’m going to give it to him. I think it will cheer him up.”

Daryl was still getting used to the fact that Aaron and Eric were still friends. Sometimes he couldn’t help the jealous tendencies that crept into his thinking. He knew he didn’t need to feel this way. Aaron was his now. Their relationship was solid, but that didn’t help when he remembered that Eric knew Aaron on the same intimate level as Daryl.

“Hey Aaron,” Daryl called.

“Yeah,” Aaron answered, looking up with a smile.

“The truck?” Daryl reminded him of their main goal.

“Oh, it’s unlocked. So, let’s see what we got here.” Aaron opened the back of the truck, but to his horror, it was full of roamer. “Shit!” he yelled.

Before they knew what happened, all the truck doors started opening, and every one of them was full of walkers, all looking at Daryl and Aaron like they were a meal. Daryl grabbed Aaron’s arm and pulled. “Go! Go!”

Walkers flooded the yard, and Daryl and Aaron were finding it difficult to get away. Daryl’s bow wasn’t as effective at close range, so he took out his gun and started shooting, clearing a path for him and Aaron. But his bullets were limited. Aaron had his knife, but he lost it along the way. One roamer grabbed his bag, and he dropped it in order to get away. He could see Daryl not too far ahead and tried to get to him, but he was getting blocked by roamers. The only weapon he had was the Alaska plate, and he started swinging it at their heads. He finally caught up to Daryl.

“Over there. The car,” Daryl said, and they ran as fast as they could, slashing and stabbing as they went. Daryl opened the door and jumped into the car, sliding into the driver’s seat. Aaron followed, barely making it in time, but a roamer got stuck in the door. Aaron pushed it back and kept trying to slam the door. Its head smashed like a melon, but the door wouldn’t close. Daryl leaned over Aaron and helped him pull the door closed until the skull fell away and they were finally safe inside … at least for the moment. They looked all around the car’s windows, but they were surrounded. There were so many dead surrounding them, it blocked out the sunlight. Once they caught their breath, they started thinking of what to do.

“Will the windows hold?” Aaron asked.

“For a little while,” Daryl said without much hope. He looked down and realized he still had his knife. Aaron didn’t have anything. He’d lost his knife, his gun and his bag. “Maybe we cut up the upholstery and use it to block the windows. They might go away if they can’t see us.”

Aaron shook his head. “They smell us. They know we’re in here. I don’t think it will work.”

They both sat in silence trying to figure out a solution, but it was a difficult thing to do at the moment. Daryl shook his head. “You know, it’s ironic. I come out here because sometimes it gets too confining inside the walls.” He looked at the rotting faces staring back at him and saluted them with his middle finger. “Fuck you, assholes.”

“I’m sure that will do a world of good,” Aaron said condescendingly. Realizing he was sounding like a prick, he hung his head with regret. “I’m sorry. This is all my fault. I should have listened to you. We should have kept looking for that guy, then maybe we wouldn’t be in this mess.”

“It’s not your fault. We both agreed to check this place out.” Daryl looked around the car. “Check everything in here. There’s got to be something we can use.”

“For what?”

“For anything … I don’t know, just look,” Daryl commanded. He pulled down the visor, looked in the console between the seats. Then he got up and turned around, leaning over the back of the driver’s seat to see if there was anything in the back they could use. The car was empty, completely cleaned out.

Aaron opened the glovebox and found a piece of paper. He unfolded it and read it. “Hey, Daryl,” he said.

Daryl turned back around and dropped into the driver’s seat. He took the note Aaron was handing him and read it. “Trap. Bad people coming. Don’t stay.” Suddenly they both lost all hope as they sunk into their seats.

Daryl gave a deep sigh and pulled his pack of cigarettes out of his front pocket. He fingered the tops of the filters, considering something before he took one out. Aaron watched him closely, already worrying about what Daryl was thinking. He knew the man pretty well by now, and Daryl’s cigarettes were precious to him. Smokes were hard to come by, and Daryl only lit up when he was in a dire situation. Like a new father lighting up a cigar to celebrate, Daryl saved his smokes for certain occasions, only it wasn’t to celebrate.

“W-What are you doing?” Aaron asked nervously.

“I think I’ve got a plan,” Daryl said softly. He took a crooked cigarette out of his wrinkled pack and looked at it. The thing was almost broken.

“I don’t think I like whatever it is you’re planning.”

Daryl struck a match on the dashboard and brought it to the end of the smoke, holding it there until it glowed orange. He drew in deep, held in the smoke, and then exhaled slowly. “You probably won’t like it, but there’s no other choice at this point.” He moved so that his back was resting against the door. Daryl didn’t want to see the walker faces anymore. He just wanted to see Aaron. “Here’s what we’re going to do. I’m going out first and draw them away. You jump out and run for the gate. It’s not but maybe twenty feet from here. You can make. I know you can.”

“And what about you?” Aaron asked.

Daryl shrugged and looked at his cigarette. It was burning up fast. “I’ve had a good go at it. I outlasted a lot of people. Lasted longer than my brother ever thought I would. I think he’d be proud to know I made it this far, all things considered.” He took another deep draw, the tobacco crackling and turning to grey ash. “Just let me finish my smoke first.”

Aaron looked at him in disbelief. “No,” he said, shaking his head. “I’m not going without you.”

“You have to. It’s the only way or we both die. Look, I’ve had a shitty life. I’ve been crapped on and sometimes I’ve done the crapping–”

“You’re a good man, Daryl, and maybe things haven’t been so great, but what about now? What about us? Look at what we have. Look what’s between us,” Aaron argued.

“And I thank you for everything you’ve done for me. You showed me what it was like to be blissfully happy sometimes. You helped me find myself and face my reality. I’m forever grateful for that. But … I-I haven’t given you as much in return. Even now, looking at death’s door, I still can’t–” Daryl stopped and took another long drag. “You’re going to get out of here and go back home. You’re going to be ok. You won’t be alone. You’ve still got Eric, and he loves you. You’ve at least got that much, and that’s more than me. You’re the one who has to survive this time, Aaron. Trust me on this.”

Aaron’s anger was making his face turn red and his chest puff, and when he found his voice, he laid into Daryl. “Who the fuck do you think you are to make this decision? Do you even know me at all? I told you, from the first moment I saw you I was drawn to you. And by some miracle in a world where they don’t exist anymore, you came into my life, and you were drawn to me too. It wasn’t because we were lonely. It wasn’t because we had to. It was because we both wanted the same thing. So … what? You think you can just check out and send me back to Eric, and everything will be just peaches and cream? Well, I got news for you. It doesn’t fucking work that way. So here’s what we’re gonna do. We fight … together. We go to the fences … together. We do it … together. We either make it or we don’t, but we do it together because I don’t want to live in a world where there is no Daryl Dixon. You got that!?”

Daryl had never seen Aaron like this before. He’d never seen him take charge and demand so much. He’d never had anyone say these kinds of things to him before. No one had ever believed in him as much as Aaron did. No one had ever … loved him like Aaron did. A part of Daryl didn’t feel worthy enough to have someone like Aaron in his life. Shit, and he couldn’t even tell Aaron he loved him after all the times it had been said, not even now. But there was no denying what had transpired between them. They worked together well. They respected and trusted each other. And when they made love … well, it was a true match. Like Aaron said, it was a miracle in a world full of bullshit … maybe the last true love story, and Daryl decided that the tale was not over just yet.

“So,” Daryl said after a long silence. “You like bossing me around?”

“Not particularly,” Aaron said, but he was nodding at the same time, and Daryl eyed him. “Well, if that’s what I have to do to get through to you.” Daryl narrowed his stare. “It … it kind of felt good actually,” Aaron finally admitted.

Daryl sat up and leaned dangerously towards Aaron. “Well, you know what?” he said in a deep tone, and Aaron swallowed hard. “We,” Daryl said slowly, taking hold of Aaron’s collar and tightening it in his grasp. “Are going to do it your way.”

“Good,” Aaron said, trying not to break character from his new bolder attitude. “There’s only one thing left to do.”

“Yeah? And what’s that?” Daryl asked.

“Kiss me … now … before we do this.”

Daryl pulled Aaron into him by his collar. They ignored all the chaos happening outside the car, and the fact that this just might be their end, and they sunk their souls into this one last moment together. It might have been a few seconds or a few hours, they didn’t care. In that one brief stretch of space and time, it was just them in this fucked up world, and they had beat the bullshit one last time.

They separated, though reluctantly. Daryl got his bow ready. He gave Aaron his knife. They laid their hands on the door handle of each of their doors and breathed deep.

“Ready?” Daryl asked. He laid his pack of cigarettes on the dash.

“See you on the other side,” Aaron said with a smile, and then realized what it sounded like. “I-I mean on the other side of the fence, not the–”

“I know what you meant,” Daryl interrupted. “On the count of three. Ready? One … Two … Three.”

Each man struggled to push their door open, but the walkers were thick. And then suddenly, a roamer on Aaron’s side of the car slid down the window, lifeless. Then another, and another. Aaron looked on with confusion. “What the–” he started to say when the door flew open.

“Go! Just go!” Daryl yelled as he realized there was someone helping them escape. He saw Aaron push on his door and slip out into the sea of dead. Daryl did the same, and fought against snapping jaws and rotted flesh, all trying to make a meal out of him. He used an arrow like a knife and stabbed any walkers close to him, but he was quickly becoming overpowered. He couldn’t see anything except the walkers surrounding him, but he called out anyways. “Aaron!” There was no response.

As he fought against the walkers, he thought about the note in the car, about this being a trap, and he wondered who was helping them and why. They might be escaping one nightmare just to find themselves in the middle of another one. He had to be prepared to take on whoever was helping them, just in case.

“Daryl!” he heard Aaron call out. Daryl fought with everything he had to make his way to where he heard Aaron’s voice. There he was. He’d fallen and a walker had him pinned to the ground. Daryl stabbed his way to him, calling out to Aaron as he went, but like a bad dream, every step forward seemed to take him two steps backward, as though he was walking in molasses. And then out of nowhere, it seemed, there was a black man with a stick next to where Aaron was. He shoved his long weapon through the heads of the walkers attacking Aaron and helped him up. Then the stranger grabbed Aaron by the arm to drag him towards the fence. Aaron was resisting, and Daryl knew why.

“Aaron!” Daryl shouted, capturing his attention. “Get out the gates!”

The black man shoved Aaron towards the fence and went back to clear a path for Daryl. Together, they all made it out of the fence. Daryl fired at a couple walkers outside the fence while Aaron chained the gate. Once they were sure they were safe, Daryl ran to Aaron and cupped his face.

“You alright? Are you hurt?” Daryl asked desperately.

Aaron laughed nervously. “I’m alright, Daryl. I’m not bit. I’m ok.”

Daryl had been so frightened to lose Aaron, something he’d never experienced before, and he realized how very much he needed his partner in his life … just as much as Aaron admitted to needing him. He knew they weren’t alone, and for the first time it didn’t matter. Daryl kissed Aaron to show him how relieved he was. Aaron smiled back at Daryl when he saw how scared and concerned he was. “I’m fine,” Aaron whispered. Daryl playfully slapped the side of Aaron’s face, and then they both turned to the black man.

Aaron was shaken, but more thankful than anything else. He stuttered as he tried to form words, and finally found his voice. “Thank you. I-I’m Aaron a-and this is Daryl.”

“Morgan,” the man said, introducing himself with a sense of calm, even after what had just happened.

Daryl observed the man. He carried a pack on his back, probably stuffed with everything he owned. In his hand was the walking stick he used to kill the corpses. There was a strange sense of inner peace that emanated from the man. He even smiled as he looked back and forth between Aaron and Daryl. He wasn’t exhausted from the fight. He wasn’t disgusted by Aaron and Daryl’s exchange. He seemed free from anxiety and fear, relieved that he’d successfully helped Aaron and Daryl from their trap.

Daryl had questions for the man called Morgan, but only one word came to mind. “Why?” he asked. Why would a complete stranger risk his life to save two men he did not know?

Morgan smiled, his eyes bright with hope, something Daryl hadn’t witnessed in a long time. “Because all life is precious, Daryl,” Morgan answered. It was a simple answer, but it spoke volumes.

“We, uh, we shouldn’t stay here,” Aaron said. “There was a note. Whoever set this trap will be coming back.” Aaron stopped to look at Daryl, asking him with his eyes whether they should risk telling Morgan about Alexandria.

Daryl glanced at Morgan again, and even though they didn’t have a clue as to who this man was or what he was like, Daryl just knew he was a good man. He nodded to Aaron, letting him know it was alright, and they agreed.

Aaron turned back to Morgan. “We have good news. We have a place … a-a community. It’s well protected. There are others, many others who live there in safety. We would be pleased to have you join us there. We think you’d fit in well. There’s running water, electricity, and–”

“Thank you,” Morgan interrupted politely. “But I’m on my way somewhere. Actually, I’m lost and I thought maybe you could help me?” he reached into his jacket, pulled out a map, and handed it to Daryl.

Daryl took the map and unfolded it. He huffed an unbelieving laugh, and Aaron came up to stand beside him. “What is it?” Aaron asked. There was writing on the map, a message, but that’s not what shocked Aaron. It had Rick’s name on it.

Daryl knew what this was. It was the map Abraham gave Rick when the group split up. Abraham wrote on it, ‘Sorry I was an asshole. Come to Washington. The world’s gonna need Rick Grimes.’

“Where you heading?” Daryl asked. He didn’t want to reveal anything just yet. He was still feeling out Morgan’s sincerity.

Morgan pointed to the city on the map. “Washington,” he smiled. Daryl and Aaron watched him carefully, and he explained. “I’m looking for someone. I guess you could say he’s an … old friend of mine.”

“His name Rick by any chance?” Daryl asked.

Morgan chuckled. “How’d you know?” Then he pointed to the handwriting. “I helped him once, and when we met again, he tried to help me, but I was a different person. Back then I was more lost than I am now, you see.”

“You seem awfully sure that he’s still alive,” Daryl pointed out.

“Well, I was beginning to think I took on too big of a task when I stumbled upon a church where I decided to stay for the night. I sat down in one of the pews, and asked God to help guide me.” Morgan laughed with true joy. “Low and behold, I looked down and saw this map, and there, by the grace of God, was Rick’s name. Now, if that ain’t having your prayers answered, I don’t know what is. So I have no doubt that my friend is alive. If you could just help me get back on the right road, I’d greatly appreciate it.”

Aaron and Daryl considered things for a moment and looked at each other. Daryl nodded, telling Aaron to reveal what they knew. Aaron turned to Morgan and chuckled. “Not all who wander are lost,” he said.

“What?” Morgan asked, seemingly thrown off by Aaron’s words.

Daryl shook his head and rolled his eyes. “You’ll have to excuse my friend. Sometimes he can’t help his inner geek. What he is trying to say is that you don’t need this map anymore.”

“I don’t? Why is that?” Morgan wondered.

“Because I can do you one better. I can take you to Rick.”

The man seemed flabbergasted as Aaron smiled at him. “You’re not lost, Morgan. You’re exactly where you should be.”

 



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