Safe Haven in the Chaos

BY : IdrilsSecret
Category: S through Z > The Walking Dead
Dragon prints: 3108
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 19 In the Blink of an Eye

 

Daryl, Aaron and Morgan made their way back to the car. Morgan got into the passenger seat as Aaron took his pack and went to the trunk, opening the hood. Daryl walked back with Aaron, and after he dropped the bag, Daryl captured Aaron’s lips, kissing him fervently. They separated and Daryl rested his forehead against Aaron’s.

“When I saw you on the ground, walkers all over you . . .” Daryl started.

“Hey, it’s ok,” Aaron comforted him.

“It was too close. I don’t like seeing you in that situation.”

“I don’t like it either,” Aaron joked.

“It’s not funny,” Daryl said, still upset by the close call. He reined in his emotions, and stood back to look at Aaron. “If anything were to happen to you–”

“I’m fine,” Aaron said seriously to get Daryl to realize it all worked out.

Daryl nodded and shifted back and forth on his feet. “You ok having him ride with you? We don’t really know who he is.”

“He knows Rick and calls him a friend. And he saved us … saved me from those roamers too. That’s good enough for me.”

Daryl wrapped his hand around the side of Aaron’s neck and pulled him close to whisper. “I’m sorry. I should have fought harder. I should have stayed closer to you.”

“We made it out. I told you we’d do it together and we did. So stop your worrying.” Aaron kissed him once more. “Now, I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to get back home and take a nice hot shower.”

“Mind if I join you?” Daryl asked seductively.

“Not at all. You want to stay at my place tonight?” Aaron asked.

“Not just tonight,” Daryl whispered. “Every night.”

Aaron leaned back and gazed into Daryl’s eyes. “Are you saying what I think you’re saying?”

Daryl looked down at the ground, searching for the right words. “After what happened back there … and when we were out of trouble and I looked at you … Morgan was there and I didn’t care if he saw us. It didn’t matter anymore. All I knew was that I needed to hold you, to kiss you, to know you were alright. I couldn’t give a shit what he thought of us, and I realized I shouldn’t care what any of them think. I’m tired of hiding. It takes too much energy. They probably all know anyways, and if any of them don’t like it then fuck them.”

Aaron smiled and ran his fingers through Daryl’s messy hair. “Good. This is good.” He laughed. “This is really good.”

“Alright, don’t get all fucking mushy on me,” Daryl said, trying to turn their private moment around. “Let’s go home.”

>>------->

They were about thirty minutes into the ride back to Alexandria with another fifteen or twenty minutes to go. Daryl rode out front, which Aaron didn’t mind a bit. It kept his attention watching Daryl ride his bike. It was a nice view from back here, he thought to himself. Actually, there were no bad views when it came to Daryl. Aaron couldn’t wait to get home. He especially couldn’t wait for Daryl to settle into his house. To think that he would wake up every morning and go to sleep every night with Daryl by his side, it was almost too much. It was definitely something Aaron had always dreamed of. There were times when he thought it would never happen, but now they were making it official.

“So, uh, you two … you’re together?” Morgan asked. It was the first he’d spoken since they started home.

Aaron nodded slowly. “Yep, we’re a couple.” He couldn’t help smile a little. “I apologize if I seem a little bit giddy. That’s uh … that’s the first time I’ve admitted it openly.”

“Oh … uh … congratulation, I guess,” Morgan stumbled to say, not sure if it was the appropriate response. “Can I … can I ask why?”

“Let’s just say, Daryl is a very private person,” Aaron said.

“So in other words, no one knows?” Morgan inquired.

“They didn’t until recently. Some know, some don’t, but that’s all about to change.”

“I hope you don’t take this the wrong way,” Morgan said carefully, “but you couldn’t look more opposite.”

“You’re right about that, at least from an outsider’s point of view, but we’re actually a lot more alike than some people could ever guess.” Aaron was still smiling, and he caught Morgan glancing at him. He must have been wondering why Aaron was so elated. “He just agreed to move in with me,” Aaron told him.

“Move … in?” Morgan questioned. “You have a house?”

“Oh, yes, I haven’t explained. I’m sorry. We have a real community where we’re going. Alexandria. It’s a self-sustaining neighborhood with electricity and running water.”

“You mentioned that already,” Morgan reminded him.

“So I have. Well, let’s see. The town is surrounded by a wall of steel. Each panel in the wall is fifteen feet high and twelve feet wide, framed by cold rolled steel beams and square tubing. Very secure, very safe. Nothing living or dead can get through.”

Morgan gave a laugh. “You sound like a salesman. How many times have you given that speech?”

“I, uh, well I … I tell everyone about it, everyone who we decide to bring in to the community. That’s what Daryl and I do, we’re recruiters. We go out and look for survivors to bring back, people who we feel will benefit the town. I guess I am a salesman, in a way. I would usually show you pictures of the town, but I lost my bag back in the yard,” Aaron explained.

“Have you ever come across survivors and not brought them back with you?” Morgan asked.

Aaron nodded. “There were a couple occasions. Not everyone is good, Morgan. It’s an unfortunate fact nowadays. Our main focus is to build our community without putting anyone in harm. There are those who are too far gone. We cannot risk bringing in someone dangerous.”

“Don’t you believe that everyone deserves a chance?” Morgan pressed.

“I believe most people do, but you have to remember that our community is made up of families with children from infants to young adults. We have elderly who depend on us to keep their way of living safe,” Aaron explained.

“And you won’t rehabilitate the troubled souls so that they might have a chance too,” Morgan stated.

“I’m afraid we just can’t take that risk,” Aaron said.

“Who runs this town of yours?” Morgan inquired, getting back to information about where they were going.

“That would be Deanna Monroe. She was a Congresswoman from Ohio before the outbreak. Very smart, very fair. You’ll meet her when we get home. She’ll want to interview you, not that she’ll turn you away or anything like that. All new residents get the same treatment. And besides, Daryl and I will put in a good word for you. Afterwards, she’ll set you up with your own house, and then she’ll give you a job. Everyone has a job of some sort in Alexandria, and Deanna is very good at reading people.

Morgan laughed again. “You are very enthusiastic, Aaron. I believe you have me sold. So, how many people live in Alexandria?”

“About sixty or so, give or take.”

“And you have houses for them all?” Morgan wondered.

“Some are families, some are roommates. A few live alone. Daryl did … until now. Hey, maybe you might take his old place. It’s a nice one story, maybe about thirteen hundred square feet, three bed, two bath. It’s set at the end of a road, if you like solitude.”

“I’m still getting used to the idea of living in a house. It seems strange to me.”

Aaron humbled. He knew how difficult the transition from the wild to a community could be. “It takes people a while to settle in, some longer than others. We have something good going there, something normal, something worth fighting for. Everyone in Alexandria is there because they want to be there. Those who don’t are free to leave. I don’t know what you’ve been through out here, but Alexandria is about the people, about growing the community and making it a safe place for all who live there.”

“Well, it sounds nice,” Morgan agreed.

They went another ten minutes or so before either one spoke again, and when they did, it was Aaron. “So, Morgan, how do you know Rick?”

Morgan adjusted himself in the passenger seat as though he was settling in to tell a long story. “We met back near the beginning of things. He kind of stumbled upon us.”

“Us?” Aaron inquired since Morgan was alone.

“Me and my son.”

“You have a son,” Aaron mentioned with surprise.

“I … had a son. He’s gone. Now it’s just me,” Morgan said solemnly.

“I’m sorry,” Aaron said sympathetically.

“When I first met Rick, he was injured. He’d been at the hospital when everything happened. He wasn’t fully recovered, and I helped nurse him back to health. That’s how I saved him. Then he went on his way. We tried to keep in contact, but it didn’t work out. And then one day, much later, we met again, by chance. That … was a bad time for me. I think I lost my mind for a while. Rick found me and tried to help, but I didn’t want it. I thought I was doing the right thing. And when he couldn’t convince me to go with him, Rick left, but his words stuck with me. They helped me see through the fog. Eventually I got on the right path again, and I’ve been looking for Rick ever since. I need him to know that he was right, and he saved my life after all. He’s … he’s the only person in this whole crazy world that I know. He’s a good man, and I know that together we can make a difference.”

Aaron knew Rick was a good man, but he was also a changed man, and he wondered if Morgan knew that. Aaron also wondered if he should tell Morgan what was going on in town, but he decided against it. Better just to get back home and introduce their latest resident to his long lost friend. Perhaps Morgan would be good for Rick. Maybe he could talk some sense into the sheriff. It didn’t have to come down to a battle between sides. Pete was a problem too, though. He wouldn’t let things go any more than Rick would.

“Something tells me Rick is going to be glad to see you,” Aaron said.

“Well, I’m gonna be glad to see him too,” Morgan smiled.

>>------->

It was dark by the time they arrived at Alexandria. Aaron stopped the car at the gate, and Daryl parked his bike next to the car. Daryl was surprised there was no one to let them in. Usually at night there was always someone watching the gate.

“I wonder where everyone’s at,” Daryl said to Aaron.

“Maybe Deanna is throwing another dinner party,” Aaron replied.

They glanced at Morgan, who was getting his bag out of the trunk. Aaron took the moment to kiss Daryl. “You ready to do this?” he asked, referring to Daryl’s choice to move in with him.

“I’m not moving in tonight,” Daryl said.

“I know, but tomorrow–”

“Tomorrow is another day. Tonight, all I want is to go to your place, take that shower you promised, and then spend the rest of the night in your bed making you–”

“So this is Alexandria?” Morgan said, interrupting their moment.

“Hold that thought,” Aaron whispered to Daryl. Then he went to Morgan.

“This is the only way in and out. Usually someone’s on watch, unless there’s a meeting or something where everyone is needed,” Aaron explained. He turned to Daryl. “We’ll just leave the vehicles parked out here for now. Let’s get Morgan settled first.”

They entered the gate, and Morgan stopped to take a look around. “Wow, streetlights,” he said in awe.

“Yeah, well, they’re more decorative than anything else. Actually, I’m surprised to see them on. We’ve had trouble with the generators lately,” Aaron said. He looked at Daryl. “But I guess they managed to find the parts they needed to fix it,” he said solemnly. That run cost two people their lives.

“I wonder where everyone is,” Daryl said aloud. “It’s quiet.”

“I don’t know. Let’s find Deanna first,” Aaron said. “We’ll take you to meet her. She’s probably at home.” When Daryl and Aaron left, Deanna was mourning the loss of her son, Aiden. “She lives this way.” Aaron led the way. As they went, he laid down a few of the basic rules. “You’ll have to relinquish any weapons. Should you choose to go outside the gates, you can have them back, but in here, weapons are stored behind lock and key, and they must be checked out and checked back in.”

“What about my stick?” Morgan asked.

“I’m sure it’s ok to hang on to that,” Daryl told him. “Knives are ok too. It’s mainly guns they want.”

Morgan nodded. “I’ve got a couple, but I don’t have ammo for them. Ran out a while ago and never came across anymore.”

They went past Deanna’s home, but the windows were dark. It was possible she was asleep, especially with her dealing with a death in the family. Aaron looked awkwardly around. “Perhaps we’ll give you a bit more of a tour. I’m sure you’ll want to–”

Suddenly, they heard yelling and shouting coming from an area that they called the park. Daryl squinted and could see smoke rising. “They’re at the fire pit. Wonder what’s going on.”

“Sometimes we have meetings around a bon fire, or we just kick back and hang out with the others,” Aaron explained.

“Don’t sound like no meeting,” Daryl said concerned.

“I have to agree with Daryl,” Morgan said.

The shouts were becoming louder and more intense. Without hesitating, Daryl and Aaron took off toward the park with Morgan in tow. Suddenly women were screaming and men were yelling.

“My husband! Somebody help him!” they heard Deanna cry out.

“You son of a bitch,” yelled someone else.

“It’s all his fault, him and their people.” That voice belonged to none other than Pete. “When you let them in, you let in the chaos.”

It quieted suddenly, not at all a good sign, Daryl thought. Something bad was about to go down, or something worse. The three men rounded a corner and stepped into the courtyard where the fire pit was. The first thing they saw was Abraham with his knee in Pete’s back, holding him on the ground. Pete was struggling and yelling. Rick was there looking back at Deanna. Daryl and Aaron followed Rick’s line of site and saw Reg, Deanna’s husband, lying in a massive pool of blood, his throat slashed from one side to the other. Deanna held him in her lap, weeping, trying to make him wake up.

“My love,” she cried. “What have they done to you? What have they done?”

All eyes were on Deanna and Reg, everyone’s faces full of shock and horror. No one had noticed Daryl and Aaron standing at the entrance, the light from the fire just barely illuminating them as they watched and tried to make sense of what had just happened. Daryl and Aaron hadn’t noticed that Morgan chose to stand behind in their shadow, shielding himself from these people and whatever was going on. Deanna slowly raised her head, tears streaking down her sorrowful face. She looked at the gun in Rick’s hand, and then to his face and nodded.

“Do it,” she demanded in a whisper, having lost her voice from crying out for her dead husband.

Rick gave a nod, turned to Pete, raised his gun, and without hesitation, shot him in the head. No one moved. No one spoke. Daryl and Aaron’s feet were glued to the ground, eye’s cemented on Rick, who was covered in gore, and his face had been bruised and bandaged. They hardly noticed when Morgan pushed them aside and stepped between them.

“Rick?” Morgan said quietly, as though he was seeing a ghost.

Rick looked up and saw Morgan, but his eyes were full of something else, something dark. He was not seeing Morgan or anyone else. It was as though he’d gone feral. Then he looked down at Pete, to his gun, and to the ground beside him were Daryl and Aaron finally noticed a dead walker.

“What the fuck?” Daryl said, and people finally noticed them. One of them was Eric.

Eric saw Aaron and rushed over to him. “Thank God you’re here.”

“What’s going on here?” Aaron asked him.

“I-I don’t know. We were discussing Rick’s situation, and Pete, and then … i-it all went crazy … and now–” Eric’s words faded as he looked at Pete’s lifeless body.

“What do you mean, Rick’s situation?” Daryl asked.

Eric didn’t answer him. Instead, he moved very close to Aaron, as though for protection. “We need to leave. This is a bad place to be.” Eric was very obviously upset and afraid, but Aaron was confused as to why.

“You want me to walk you home?” Aaron asked, and Eric nodded.

Aaron looked at Daryl, asking for permission. “Do you mind?”

Of course he minded, but now was not the time for jealousy. He was about to tell Aaron to go ahead, but Carol stole his attention.

Carol came away from Glenn and carefully took the gun from Rick. Rick watched her take it, as though he was watching someone else, not himself. Deanna could be heard softly crying in the background, holding Reg and rocking him back and forth. Rosita stepped over to Abraham and picked up Michonne’s sword from the ground next to Pete.

“Pete must have taken it from her house,” Rosita said.

Carol looked at Rick, who seemed completely out of sorts. “You ok?” she asked him.

“I-I tried to warn them. We knew. We all knew this would happen. This is what always happens,” Rick said softly. “But no more.”

“You fucking bastard!” someone yelled. Everyone looked over and saw Gerrard emerge from the crowd.

Eric pulled on Aaron’s arm. “Come on, let’s go now.”

“Hold on a second,” Aaron told him. He didn’t like Gerrard, and he wanted to know what he had to say.

 Gerrard stood by Pete, looking down at the blood and the lifeless body. Then his eyes slowly lifted to Rick. “Ever since you people came here, this place has been turned upside down. You think you knew this would happen? Well, we knew you’d be the ones to do it.”

“Gerrard,” Alison said sternly to stop him.

“No, you were right all along, Alison. People like Rick who can kill someone without the blink of an eye, they are the reason the world turned to shit.” Gerrard looked at Carol. “Two faced liars who smile at you when you’re looking, but as soon as you turn away they are scheming and stealing. These people are prime examples of why God has abandoned us. The world was full of sinners, too many to count.” Gerrard looked at Rick, eyes narrowed. “Adulterers, seducing another man’s wife just for his own pleasure, they are the filth.” Now he looked straight at Daryl and pointed at him. “Fags! Men having sex with each other, a complete abomination in His eyes.” Gerrard laughed evilly, as Aaron pulled himself from Eric to stand next to Daryl. “And don’t try to deny it. Pete saw the two of you … kissing and … and touching. Blasphemy! Disgusting behavior! And all of them representing the pure evil that has continued to walk this earth. We are alone now. He has left us to fend for ourselves. Now it is up to us to destroy what’s left of the ones who sent life spiraling out of control.” Gerrard pointed to Deanna, who was ignoring the outburst, so full of shock and grief. “And then there’s the Congresswoman, the politician. We all know that THEY are responsible for letting this disease spread, and they did it for greed.”

“That’s enough Gerrard,” Alison said.

“No, it’s just the beginning. It’s time to rid this town of these sinners. After all, that’s what we wanted, right? That’s what we were willing to risk it all for. Tell them, Alison. Tell them now so that others will understand, and so that Pete’s death will not be in vain,” Gerrard demanded.

Rick slowly turned his bloody face to Alison. “Yes, why don’t you tell us exactly what your plan was?”

Alison looked around at the group of people gathered. There was no other way out of the situation. “I am simply the town psychiatrist,” she started nervously. “Some of you have come to me with problems or concerns. And yes, Pete, as well as Gerrard were two of my clients, but I’ll not discuss that with anyone but them. It would go against any confidentiality–”

“Cut the bullshit,” Daryl said, stepping forward. He eyed Alison a moment before he continued. “This woman is not what she seems to be. She’s filling people’s heads with things they want to hear. Meanwhile, she’s behind organizing this retaliation, and trying to get me and my people evicted from the town.”

“What proof do you have of this?” asked a man who had shown for the meeting with his wife.

“I’ve seen her schedule,” Aaron spoke up. “She’s been having meetings with Pete, Gerrard and many others who have formed an alliance within Alexandria,” he answered.

“Are you going to believe some fag who lets a redneck bastard stick his dick up his ass?” Gerrard interrupted, pointing at Aaron. “Did you know that these two are together? Recruiters for the town, Deanna says, but how many people have they brought back? They’re not working. They’re going out in the woods and screwing each other. And before that, it was him.” Gerrard pointed to Eric. “It’s spreading throughout this place.”

Aaron stepped forward next to Daryl. “I’ve seen with my own eyes that Alison has been stockpiling weapons. She keeps them locked up in a closet under the stairs.”

“Weapons are checked into a secure room,” someone from within the crowd announced.

Aaron shook his head. “Not these. They’ve gone unaccounted for. It is my opinion that certain people are readying for a kind of civil war. They don’t want Deanna to be in charge. They want to exile Rick and his people, and they want to send me and Eric away solely based on the fact that we are homosexuals. They are bigots of the worst kind. They hide behind the word God, but they have no faith in a greater power except for their own.” Aaron looked towards Alison, standing there behind the fire, her red hair seeming to burn as the glow of the fire played tricks with the eye.

“Is … is this true?” Deanna spoke from the ground where she still held her husband. “Were you really trying to get rid of me?” She sounded so weak and frail, not at all her regular self.

Alison looked around, and everyone’s attention was on her. There was no way out for her. She had to confess. “You want to know the truth, fine. Yes, I was trying to compile a group of people who felt like I did. We believe in Alexandria. We know this place could be the start for rebuilding the human race. Like the rest of you, I want it to be safe. I want it to feel secure to the point that we have no worries, and it worked for a while. Deanna has been very successful … to a point. I think where she went wrong was by not asking the right questions in her interviews. It’s not just about saving lives and giving people a second chance. It’s about building a community that is not only safe, but one that will prosper. We need smart problem solvers. We need builders who have the knowledge of engineering. We need caretakers who can help our elderly residents, who can pass down their traits to younger people that will eventually be our own caretakers. We need warriors who will fight those things when we are being invaded. We need a variety of young healthy adults who will birth future generations. What we don’t need is violent people who would kill another precious life, who aren’t willing to better themselves. We don’t need thugs and criminals who disobey laws. And we do not need gay couples who will never contribute to society, who consume and never give back. We need to build up our numbers, not diminish them. We need to procreate, not stagnate. Alexandria will be known in history someday as the place where life rebooted.”

“Then I say we take care of the problem right now,” Gerrard seethed. “Because as long as these people are here, there will never be peace.” He looked around with wild eyes trained on Rick and lunged towards him. Daryl was closest and he grabbed Gerrard, pushing him away.

“Everybody needs to just calm down,” Daryl said.

Eric approached Aaron again. “Please, can we just go now?”

“You go on. I’ll check on you later, but I’m not going anywhere,” Aaron answered. He could see the panic in Eric’s eyes, and smiled. “It’s alright. I’ll be fine, but if you’re uncomfortable, then you need to go. I can take care of myself, remember?” Aaron squeezed Eric’s arm, and watched him disappear into the crowd.

“There’s been enough bloodshed and crazy talk,” Rick said, continuing the argument with Gerrard.

“You’re the one who’s been talking crazy,” Gerrard retaliated. He approached Rick again, but Daryl got between them.

“You don’t want to do this, man. You’re fucking with the wrong people,” Daryl warned.

“Get out of my face, you fag.” Gerrard made to go past Daryl, but was pushed away again. Then about three or four of Gerrard’s henchmen came forward to his defense.

Daryl ignored the threat. “I said to leave it alone. Now go home before I have to kick your ass,” Daryl warned a second time.

“What are you going to do, shoot me like Pete? He was only standing up for what he believed in. Well, you know what?” At that point, Gerrard pulled out a knife and waved it at Daryl. “Now it’s my turn.”

Time slowed to a snail’s pace. Daryl saw a flash of silver as Gerrard charged at him with the knife drawn. He brought his arm up and aimed the point of the blade at Daryl’s heart. As Gerrard’s arm came down in a striking position, Daryl reached out to grab his arm. He held Gerrard at bay for a moment, but the angle of his arm gave him the advantage. Daryl couldn’t hold him, and the blade was getting closer. From the corner of his eye, Daryl caught a glimpse of black and white checkered flannel, and a voice yelling in protest. Daryl looked to his right and saw Aaron about to jump in front of him. Daryl pushed Aaron away, but in doing so he lost his footing as he bumped into a chair. He slipped and fell, and Gerrard was about to knife him. At that exact moment, Daryl looked up and saw Aaron jump onto Gerrard’s back. Aaron karate chopped Gerrard’s arm, making him drop the knife, and then Aaron started punching Gerrard. Meanwhile, Daryl managed to get back onto his feet. He was going to help Aaron beat the shit out of Gerrard, but two henchmen grabbed Daryl’s arms. Suddenly, Rick was there, fighting off Daryl’s captors. There was a third one around there somewhere, Daryl thought to himself. He looked to his right, and saw Aaron punching Gerrard, who was now lying on the ground. Daryl didn’t even take a step when he saw the third man raise a baseball bat over his head.

“Aaron! Watch out!” Daryl warned. He wasn’t close enough to stop the guy.

Aaron looked back to see what Daryl was warning him about, and the bat came down at full force, striking him on the side of his head. Aaron’s eyes rolled up into his head, and he collapsed motionless onto the ground next to Gerrard.

Gerrard jumped up and backed away, standing next to the man with the bat. The two looked down at Aaron. His body started shaking uncontrollably. He was having a seizure, and blood was beginning to pool on the ground beneath his head.

Gerrard glared at Daryl, a smug look on his face. “Who’s gonna save your fag boyfriend with Pete dead?” Gerrard mocked. “You all deserve to die,” he yelled to Rick and the rest of his group.

There was nothing but a loud ringing sound in Daryl’s ears as he looked down at Aaron. Then his eyes traveled to Gerrard, and saw him backing up as though he was about to bolt. Daryl suddenly had tunnel vision as he remembered Carol taking Rick’s gun. His eyes went straight to it, and he rushed to her, grabbed the gun before she knew what was happening, and aimed it straight at Gerrard and the man with the bat. The man, who Daryl did not know his name, put one hand up, as though that would save his life, and dropped the bat from his other hand. Daryl didn’t think twice as he fired a shot. The bullet took off half of the man’s hand, sending flesh, bone and blood flying. The bullet continued into his shoulder, and he fell backwards. Daryl continued walking towards the man, gun aimed at his head. A second bullet put a hole his forehead, and he never moved again. Gerrard stood still, both hands raised, as he waited to see what Daryl would do.

“Hey, man, I didn’t do that. I didn’t club your boyfriend in the head,” Gerrard said in a panic.

Daryl shifted back and forth from one foot to the other. He glanced at Aaron, and saw all the blood. “You fucking tried to kill me and him,” he said waving the gun at Gerrard. Then he looked at Aaron convulsing. “Look at what your boy did. Carol! Help him.” She was the first person he thought of at the moment. Carol ran to be with Aaron.

“Listen, man, I’m sorry. I was wrong. I don’t know what I was thinking,” Gerrard begged. He pointed at Alison. “It was her. She put all of this together. We were supposed to get rid of you all tonight, and she was going to take over the town.”

Daryl was pacing the ground, looking at Aaron lying there lifeless. He waved the gun around, his mind a jumbled mess. “Aaron? Aaron!” he called out, hoping to see some sign of life. He saw Gerrard move from the corner of his eye and pointed the gun. “You ain’t going nowhere.”

The rest of the people stayed where they were, afraid of what Daryl might do. He was behaving irrationally. He kept the gun aimed at Gerrard, but glanced back at Aaron and Carol. She was talking to him, but he was unresponsive. “How is he?” Daryl asked, his voice cracking with emotion. Aaron wasn’t shaking anymore. He wasn’t moving at all, and Carol looked extremely concerned. “What is it?” he asked panicked. “Is he breathing? Is he … is he … d-dead?”

Carol moved his bloody hair to look at his skull. She closed her eyes and shook her head. “Daryl, I don’t–”

“No … no no no no no no,” he said rapidly, tears starting to spring to his eyes. “He can’t be. He was just right there, and–”

“Where’s Maggie,” Carol called.

Rosita stepped forward. “I’m not sure. I thought she was going to be here. She was going to check on Sasha though,” she answered.

“Go find her and bring her here, quickly,” Carol said, taking things into control.

Daryl was losing control, sobbing, flashing the gun around, bending over as though he couldn’t breathe, pacing around the area. He could hear Carol as she was trying to get a response from Aaron, but she was unsuccessful. This only upset Daryl even further. Finally, unable to keep himself in check. He rushed to Gerrard with the gun aimed at him, and pushed the barrel against his forehead. “You killed him. You fucking killed Aaron.”

“I didn’t do it man. You took out the guy who did it,” Gerrard pleaded.

Daryl was crying, tears staining his vision. He should kill Gerrard, but there was a part of him, even with everything that had happened, that thought death would be too easy. Keeping Gerrard alive meant he’d have to live with what he did the rest of his days. Daryl was torn. He could feel his finger resist pulling the trigger. But there was one person here who could help him decide.

“Rick?” he called out. It was a question, and Rick instantly knew what he was asking.

Just like Deanna had told him only moments before, Rick now said it to Daryl. “Do it.”

“No, man! Come on, please. I’m sorry. Lock me up. Send me out there. Anything but–”

Gerrard begged.

“Die, motherfucker,” Daryl said under his breath, and he squeezed the trigger. Gerrard’s limp body slumped to the ground. Daryl continued to aim the gun and fire, emptying the rest of the bullets. Even after that, he kept pulling the trigger, but now there was only a clicking sound.

Abraham went to him and covered Daryl’s hand. “It’s over, Daryl. He’s dead.” Daryl’s eyes slowly turned to him, and he felt Abraham ease the gun from his hand. Then he looked past Daryl’s shoulder. “Go to him,” he said.

Daryl nodded and walked back to Aaron. He let the rest of his emotions go, collapsed to the ground next to Aaron, and pulled him onto his lap. Instinct told him to cover the wound with his hand, and he did, but the blood ran between his fingers.

“Aaron, oh God, no. Please wake up. Please. Don’t leave me. I’m sorry. Please come back to me,” Daryl cried.

As if this wasn’t enough, suddenly Alison could be heard in the background. “You see, this is what will always happen as long as the wrong people are let in,” Alison said. She had gathered a crowd around her, people who heard what she had to say and agreed. Some were men that worked with Pete and Gerrard.

“Tell her to shut the fuck up,” Daryl said irritated by her mindless preaching.

Alison went on. “They have no loyalty to anyone but themselves, and that’s when others get hurt.”

“Shut up you stupid bitch,” Daryl yelled. “You’re the one who doesn’t give a crap. All you all, just standing there, looking around watching the queers. Well fuck you all.”

Seeing that Daryl was in an extreme state of distress, Carol moved behind Daryl and draped herself over his shoulders, as though to protect him. Abraham, Rosita, Rick, Michonne, and a few other people nearby made a tight circle around Daryl and Aaron as if to protect them, but Alison kept running her mouth, trying to take advantage of the emotional moment to gather some more followers. Rick looked up and saw Carl and his friend Enid, who weren’t supposed to be at this meeting. He gestured for them to come over. Rick removed himself from the circle, replacing his spot with Carl and Enid.

“Where are you going?” Michonne asked.

“I’m gonna see what Deanna wants me to do about Alison,” Rick answered.

“She’s not thinking clearly right now,” Michonne warned.

“Then I’ll take temporary control until she is.” Rick went off to stop Alison.

Daryl didn’t see Rick leave. His main focus was on Aaron, and he tuned out everyone else. “Remember the cabin? You can’t go now. We have to go back there. Aaron? Hey, wake up ok? Maggie’s coming. Just hang on. Just … Aaron? Shit, Aaron. Don’t do this. Not now. We’re moving in together, aren’t we? No, please. Aaron, no.” Daryl continued trying to rouse him but he wasn’t responding. He was completely lifeless. And that’s when Daryl’s heart sunk. It didn’t feel real. It was a dream. It had to be. Not Aaron. Not now when everything was so good, and Daryl had come to accept everything between them.

Daryl pulled Aaron’s body closer and cradled his head upon his chest. He started rocking back and forth, tears beginning to well up in his eyes. “No no no no no no,” he chanted. “God please no. Aaron? You can’t do this. I never … I never got to … Oh Aaron … I … I-I love you. I love you, Aaron. Did you hear me? I should have told you a long time ago. I love you, Aaron. Don’t … Don’t go.” Daryl rocked and wept as he held Aaron to him. No one around them said a word, but they wept and watched Daryl as he finally owned up to who he was, what he was, and what Aaron meant to him. For some, they didn’t know that Aaron and Daryl were a couple, but it didn’t matter now. This was like losing a family member.

Suddenly Caleb was there, having missed the meeting, but heard gunshots ring out, and came to see what had happened. He looked on in horror, for he knew how close Daryl and Aaron were. Abraham gestured to Caleb to join the circle.

Maggie finally came with a bag of supplies. “I ran all the way–” she started, but silenced her voice when she came upon the devastating scene. Tears were instant and her shoulders slumped. “Oh … no,” she said to no one. She dropped her things and slowly walked over to Daryl. She got on her knees and brushed her fingers over the side of Aaron’s face. She took Aaron’s hand in hers, noticing that it was still warm. “I’m so sorry. Daryl,” she paused at a loss for words, her eyes focused on Aaron’s wound.

Daryl looked up at her, realizing that she was there. He’d been so distraught, he never knew anyone was there. Now he saw Carol and Michonne, Caleb and Carl. Maggie wiped the tears from her eyes and watched Aaron a moment.

“Maggie?” Daryl croaked, the lump in his throat choking him. He couldn’t get barely get the words out. “Can you help him?”

She thought it was beyond that, but she had to do something. Maggie took Aaron’s wrist in one hand, and put two fingers from her other hand on his neck, checking for a pulse. She kept her eyes turned down. It didn’t look good. “Daryl, I think he’s . . .”

Another shot rang out, and a woman screamed. Everyone looked in the direction that Rick went, and saw the crowd around Alison begin to disburse. Was it Rick? Alison? And then someone shouted.

“Walker!”



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