Safe Haven in the Chaos

BY : IdrilsSecret
Category: S through Z > The Walking Dead
Dragon prints: 3537
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 2  Social Parties Are Not His Thing

 

“You sure you want to do this?” Aaron said as he watched Daryl shove clothes into a duffle bag.

Daryl had made up his mind the night before to find his own place. He’d been staying with Aaron and Eric for a little while now, but he felt like a third wheel, and Eric was getting a little resentful. Daryl knew when he was about to overstay his welcome. “It’s time I went. You guys need your place back. You don’t need me hanging around.”

“Was it something I said last night? I’m sorry if it was. That moonshine made me say stuff I normally wouldn’t,” Aaron apologized.

“Naw, man. It’s cool, but you and Eric got some stuff to work through and you don’t need me here,” he admitted.

“Are you sure? I kind of got used to you being around,” Aaron admitted.

“We still got our gig,” Daryl reminded him. “And I’ll be here for pasta night.”

Aaron smiled and patted his shoulder. “Alright,” he laughed. “It’s always tough when they leave the nest,” he jested.

Daryl smiled again, the second time in such a short period. Aaron had a tendency to make him smile with his humor. “So when is our next run?”

“I don’t know. Deanna hasn’t scheduled anything yet. Oh,” Aaron remembered. “She’s throwing another get together this weekend. Eric and I are going to this one. It’s not a dinner party like before. It’s just a social get together. You can come with us if you want to.”

“I don’t know. I’m not exactly the social type,” Daryl said cautiously.

“Why don’t you come? If you’re uncomfortable, we can leave early,” Aaron suggested.

“Alright, I’ll think about it,” Daryl agreed, not sure why he was letting Aaron talk him into it. He went to the front door and opened it.

Aaron called out to him. “If you want a haircut, Jessie used to be a stylist.”

“You telling me to clean up?” Daryl called back.

“Just wondering what you’d look like with your hair out of your eyes.”

Daryl looked at him perhaps a little longer than he should have. Aaron didn’t look away, and the corner of his mouth curled into a slight smile. “I’ll think about it,” Daryl said again, and left.

As he walked down the street to Rick’s house, he thought about the exchange. If someone would have asked him a couple days ago, he would have said they were nuts to think Aaron was flirting with him. But after their open and honest conversation last night, Daryl realized that he and Aaron had a lot more in common than he first thought. They’d both come from broken families with daddy issues. And both had yet to find their niche in the new world. They made a good team as far as being recruiters and working together. That was no reason to jump to conclusions. Besides, Aaron had something going on with Eric. They’d been together for a while. They might be going through some difficult times, but that’s just how it was. Daryl knew he was being ridiculous, and pushed the thought out of his head. There were more important things to worry about … first, to find a place to crash.

* * * * *

He waited until the day of the party to do anything about his appearance. Daryl laughed to himself when he thought about Carol telling him to take a bath after they first arrived in Alexandria. He’d been so defiant about coming here that he hoped his lack of hygiene would steer everyone away. It must have been almost a week before he finally cleaned up, and even then, he washed off in the sink. It didn’t seem right to soak in a tub full of warm water, not when the people he knew, who weren’t in this world anymore, had died not knowing the joy of being normal. Daryl felt that washing away the dirt and grime was washing away the memories too. It would take some getting used to, returning to a normal life, or as normal as someone could find in this world.

Daryl stopped in and paid a visit to Jessie, one of the residents. She gladly cut his hair, but without taking too much off. He actually liked his long hair, and even though Aaron suggested cutting it short, Daryl left just enough to cover his eyes. It was his security blanket, so to say. He thought it made him look more mysterious, not being able to see his eyes clearly. His hair had been down below his collar, so he had Jessie trim it so it just touched the top. She trimmed his goatee and mustache so it was more manicured and short. His whiskers had gotten unruly without proper shaving equipment. At least he felt a little more human without losing who he was. He could live with this look. Now what to wear.

Daryl figured his leather vest wasn’t appropriate. All he had was some flannel shirts, nothing real nice. For this, he went to Carol. She took him to Rick’s house and found him a decent denim shirt, casual enough for the party, but not too stiff and anti-Daryl. She was good like that, always knowing what worked and what didn’t work. He had buttoned the shirt all the way except for the very top one. When he came out of the bedroom, Carol gave him a skeptical look.

“You trying to impress someone tonight?” she asked with a tilt of her head.

Daryl fidgeted, pulling at the shirt when his hands needed something to do. “No,” he said defiantly, but then his voice softened a bit. “Maybe. Aw, hell, I don’t know. I’m just trying to be a little more social, nothing more.”

“Here,” Carol smiled as she approached him. She unbuttoned the top few buttons. “That’s better. Show a little more of that handsome chest, but not too much. You’re not John Travolta, and this ain’t Saturday Night Fever.”

“Thank God for that,” he mumbled. Then a thought came to him. It had been a very long time since he thought about the famous people. “What do you think happened to him anyways?”

“Probably out there in Hollywood eating his agent,” Carol said with humor. She pushed his hair behind his ear and swooped his bangs to the side. “So, who you out to impress? Anyone I might know?”

“It ain’t like that,” he said. “Besides, everyone here is either married or already in a relationship.” Nice save, he thought to himself. “I ain’t got time for that. You know me.”

“I do know you, and I know it’s about time you started being human again.” She pulled at his collar so it sat up a little more without sticking straight up like some 80’s reject. “There,” she said satisfied with her contribution. “You look very handsome for someone not out to make an impression.”

“Carol,” he complained.

“I’m only teasing, but you will tell me first, won’t you? I want to be in the loop.”

“If anything happens, you’ll be the first to know that I lost my glass slipper,” he joked.

Later that evening, he arrived at Deanna’s house with some strawberries. He knew enough about a get together like this that you never came empty handed. If he could have, he would have brought a bottle of that moonshine, but since it was being brew secretly, he couldn’t. The town pantry had all the wine and booze locked up, and it didn’t seem right to present Deanna with a bottle of her own stock. But he’d been outside the gates yesterday and found a patch of wild strawberries growing. It seemed like a good idea, and when Deanna looked delighted with her gift, he knew he’d made the right decision.

“I’m very glad to see you here, Daryl,” Deanna said with a genuine smile.

“You can thank Aaron for that. He’s the one who talked me into coming,” Daryl admitted. He kind of liked Deanna. She didn’t seem all bad and scheming, though he was still leery of her. Whatever she was up to, it seemed like she had the town in her best interest. He didn’t think she was out for herself. Still . . .

“You two seemed to have hit it off,” she commented. “I wasn’t sure where you’d fit in, but I think working with Aaron was a good choice. He’s a good man … has a good sense of people’s personalities. He says the same about you too.”

“I like the job. I like being able to go outside.”

Deanna nodded. “No one is being held here against their will. You are free to leave and come back.”

“Yeah, I get that. Thanks.”

“Well, enjoy yourself, Daryl. Make some new friends. I think you’ll find that we are an accepting community.” She shook his hand and directed him into the living room where the other guests were gathered. Then she went off to the kitchen with the box of strawberries.

Daryl looked around the room, finding his group gathered on one side. Even though Deanna said they were accepting, he still got the feeling that there were people here who didn’t like them being here. Something was brewing, and he would find out about it.

He spoke with Rick and Michonne. They had their suspicions too, but they were better at pretending that they fit in. One thing was for sure, they all had to be submissive to these townspeople until they had a better idea of who was who and what their intentions were. Daryl felt that Deanna didn’t know about all her people. She was just trying to run the town as best she could, keep it safe, and only let in a select few. Meanwhile, she was blind to certain people who might be plotting to get rid of Daryl’s group, and maybe even overthrow Deanna herself. It was a lot to speculate for now. They’d just have to keep their eyes and ears open, and collect as much information as they could.

“Hey, Daryl,” Aaron called out and waved. He came over to him, a smile on his face. “Glad you made it.”

“Yeah, man, wouldn’t want to miss the excitement,” Daryl said sarcastically as he glanced around the room. People were grouped together with others that they were more familiar with. He thought they might have come to Alexandria together, and like Daryl’s clan, tended to stick together.

Aaron smiled shyly, looking at Daryl and then looking away. “I, uh, I see you went to Jessie. You … uh … y-you look … good,” he stammered, and his eyes turned back to Daryl.

Daryl looked at him solidly. “Thanks. She really knows her stuff. Did exactly as I asked her to.”

“How’s your new pad?” Aaron asked, changing the subject.

“It’s alright. Found a house the next street over. It’s not as nice as yours, but I don’t need nothing fancy.”

“You’ll have to give me a tour sometime,” Aaron suggested. “You cool living there alone?”

Daryl waved him off and smirked. “You forget who you’re talking too?” He looked around again, noticing Eric didn’t come over. He was standing with the guys from the bridge game the other night. “How’s things with you and Eric?”

“Ok, I guess.”

“That doesn’t sound too convincing.”

“He’s still peeved that I’m still going on runs with you, but I really don’t want him out there anymore It’s not that he doesn’t know what he’s doing. I’m just fearful of him getting hurt again, maybe worse,” Aaron admitted.

“Maybe you should let him go with us sometime,” Daryl suggested, though he didn’t really want Eric there. Daryl liked hanging out with just Aaron, but he wanted to show his support.

“I think he’d just get in the way,” Aaron said at a whisper. It seemed that he liked their arrangement too.

“Well, if it isn’t our new recruiter,” someone said. Daryl looked over to find the man named Gerrard approaching them, and he took a protective stance. This guy had trouble written all over him.

“Hi, Gerrard,” Aaron greeted him. “I don’t know if you’ve officially met. This is Daryl.”

Gerrard offered his hand, and Daryl slowly accepted it giving a firm handshake that was more than friendly. It was a message that said, I know what you’re about. Gerrard eyed him, though. “I noticed we haven’t had any new recruits in a while.”

“You know how it is,” Aaron said. “It’s unpredictable.”

“You pass anyone up?” Gerrard asked.

“We haven’t even seen anyone,” Daryl spoke up. He didn’t like this guy’s accusatory attitude.

“Not since you all showed up,” Gerrard made clear.

“You got something you need to say?” Daryl said, straightening up and taking a step towards Gerrard.

Aaron got between them to cut off any confrontation. “Alright guys, come on. Listen,” he said to Gerrard. “Daryl is the best tracker I’ve ever seen. We cover a lot of ground out there, and so far all our leads have fell flat.”

“So, what do you do, Gerrard,” Daryl asked pugnaciously.

“I’m on the construction team.”

“Then I suggest you just worry about keeping the walls intact, and leave the recruiting to me and Aaron.”

Gerrard eyed him dangerously, and then leaned towards Aaron. “Don’t you find it strange how they’re all finding jobs so fast? I mean, come on … you got that guy Rick who’s all of a sudden security along with that chick, and we ain’t never needed cops around here. Then there’s that Asian fellow’s wife all up Deanna’s ass all the time, following her around and looking over her shoulder. And let’s not forget G.I. Joe who is suddenly the construction manager. Now this guy’s taken over your boy Eric’s job.”

“If you have a problem with it, take it up with Deanna,” Aaron advised. “I think they’re a good addition to the town.”

Gerrard got in Aaron’s face, and Daryl was impressed that Aaron didn’t flinch or back down. “That’s because you got a hard on for this asshole.”

“Hey, motherfu–” Daryl started.

“What’s going on here?” Deanna interrupted. She said it calm with a smile.

Gerrard gave Daryl a hard look, eyes shooting daggers. “Everything’s good, Deanna. Just welcoming our guest to Alexandria.”

“If this is the welcome wagon, I’d hate to see how you treat someone you don’t like,” Daryl complained.

“I apologize if Gerrard has said or done anything to offend you,” Deanna said to make things right. It didn’t matter to Daryl until Gerrard himself apologized, but he wouldn’t hold his breath. “Gerrard, a word please.” Deanna left with Gerrard in tow, but not before he shot Daryl another warning look.

“Don’t listen to him,” Aaron said. “He’s probably been drinking, and he’s not the most pleasant person when is.”

Daryl looked around the room, finding his clan. “You should get back to Eric.”

“You ok?” Aaron asked, truly concerned.

“I’m fine. Takes a lot more than some asshole jerk to ruin my evening. Go on. He’ll be looking for you.”

Aaron seemed defiant, but he did as Daryl said. Daryl went to Carol, who was talking to some of the townswomen. “Everything alright?” she asked when she saw the mood he was in. He nodded and she excused herself from the women, pulling Daryl to the side.

“There’s some people here that don’t want us around. You noticed that?” Daryl asked.

“I have. Rick is on top of it. We’re just trying not to ruffle too many feathers right now. It would do you some good to be more social. That Aaron fellow seems to have taken up with you. It looks good to the other townspeople to be in good standing with some of them.”

“Aaron is my friend. I won’t use him as some pawn in the greater scheme of things, whatever that might be,” Daryl argued.

“I’m not telling you to do that. Just keep him on your good side and stay friendly to his friends too.”

Easier said than done. First of all, Aaron didn’t have many friends, and second, the one person who did count was already suspicious of him … Eric. “I’ll see what I can do,” Daryl told her. “Meanwhile, I’m going home.”

“Don’t go yet,” she said, coaxing him into staying.

“Naw, I know when I’m not wanted. Besides, I’ll just end up getting in trouble around some of these people, and I think that’s what they want.

Carol sighed and gave him a sympathetic smile. “Are you sure?”

“Yeah, I’ll be fine. Not much in a party mood anymore.” Daryl glanced around the room, his eyes falling on Aaron. Aaron spotted him too. Daryl tilted his head towards the door to say he was leaving. Aaron shrugged his shoulders in apology. He was standing at the food table with Eric, who was deep in conversation with someone else. Aaron looked as if he really didn’t want to be there. Seemed Daryl wasn’t the only one out of place tonight.

* * * * *

He had just laid down on the couch and closed his eyes when he heard a noise out on the front porch. Daryl was up and armed with a knife faster than a match strike. He moved under the cover of shadow until he was at the front door. The scuffling noise told him someone was just outside the door. He was pretty sure it wasn’t walkers, but it might be Gerrard or one of his minions. Daryl waited until the right moment, and then he flung the door open, knife ready to strike.

“Oh shit! Hey! Shit Daryl, it’s just me!” Aaron said quickly, completely taken by surprise.

Daryl looked around the front yard and the street, but he didn’t see anyone else. “What the hell are you doing here?”

“I just stopped by to see if you were ok,” Aaron said, his breath a little quick with adrenaline. “Jesus, Daryl, you almost chopped my head off.”

“You shouldn’t be sneaking around on people’s porches in the middle of the night,” Daryl countered. His heart was beating wildly from the shock. “Get in here, you dick.” Aaron followed him into the house and closed the door behind him. Daryl turned on his heel and berated him. “What the fuck, Aaron. Why are you here? Eric is going to be pissed.”

“Eric is home passed out in bed. He had one too many glasses of Deanna’s famous punch, and he had to be escorted home. I got him in bed. He’ll sleep it off until morning.”

“And that’s where you should be,” Daryl told him, turning on a small lamp on a desk. It gave just enough light off to illuminate the surrounding area.

“I didn’t want to be there, and I walked around until I found myself at your door.”

“How do you even know where I live?”

“I asked Carol,” Aaron informed him. “Don’t be pissed at her. I was pretty persistent. She didn’t want to tell me at first.”

“Well, you’re here now. Might as well have a seat. Want something to eat?” Daryl offered as he went into the kitchen. This house had an open floor plan so he didn’t lose sight of Aaron when he went to the fridge to grab a couple beers.

“Not right now,” Aaron answered, and caught the flying beer just before he dropped it. “Where did you get the beer from?”

“I made friends with the pantry patrol. Talked her into giving me a six pack. I gotta pay it back though. Next time were on a run, I’ll have to see if I can find something to bring back.”

“That reminds me, Deanna wants us to make another run first thing next week,” Aaron told him. He walked around the house a little, taking in the layout, and noticed the bookshelf next to the fireplace. In front of the hearth was a plush rug and two comfortable wing chairs on either side. “Got any wood? I’ll make you a fire.”

“There’s a stack on the back porch. I’ll go get some,” Daryl offered. He needed a moment to pull himself together. He was glad Aaron was here, but suspicious too. When he came back inside, Aaron was sitting in one of the winged chairs, looking through one of the books.

“Nice collection,” Aaron said, impressed by the literature.

“It’s not mine, so … yeah,” Daryl said nervously. He threw pieces of wood into the empty hearth, and tried to decipher why he was feeling this way.

“Oh here, I got it.” Aaron jumped out of the chair and went to Daryl. When he took hold of some of the wood, their hands touched. Daryl kept his eyes on their hands, but he felt Aaron looking at him. Then Daryl jerked away, not meaning to be so obvious.

“Sorry,” Aaron said. “I didn’t mean–”

“It’s ok,” Daryl said in a quiet whisper, cutting him off. He stepped back and watched Aaron get on his knees and start building the wood pile. He hadn’t really looked at Aaron closely before. He was a handsome man, tall, slightly built, not hulking but not a stick figure either. He kept his hair cut short, and Daryl could see by the waviness that it was probably unruly when it got longer. He had blue eyes, and his brows naturally drew together in a way that made him look like he was all business. Aaron was a gentle being, but Daryl had the sense that you wouldn’t want to piss him off or corner him … that he would strike out unexpectedly like a viper. That was a good quality to have, to not show all your cards.

“There we go,” Aaron said after a while. He’d got a fire going, and now they each took a seat to watch the flames build.

“It’s strange to sit … actually sit by a fire. You know, in a chair, in a house, not in the woods or in some deserted broken down cabin,” Daryl commented.

“You were out there a long time,” Aaron stated rather than asked.

“Too long, but you know, there are things I miss about it, even with all the crazy shit that goes down. I grew up in the deep woods, didn’t sleep under a roof very often. The sound of crickets, a full moon casting shadows, stars shining in the sky above, that’s the stuff I miss. Seems like every time I found myself back at home because of the familiar sounds and smells, it would get interrupted by a walker. Even now, my ears are tuned to hear one any second. I really hate that I’ve gotten used to that.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean. It was difficult coming here and adjusting to a community setting. For so long it was about keeping everyone safe. You kill a walker, and you know there is one less in the world. When I stopped killing them, it felt like they were just building their numbers back up,” Aaron admitted.

“Exactly. Crazy, huh? When you’re being attacked, you just think, ‘I want it all to stop,’ but when it stops you’re still not satisfied. It gets too quiet, and sometimes that’s worse than hearing them.”

“That’s partly the reason I agreed to become a recruiter. Deanna said I was a good judge of character, something I’d never considered before. All I could think of was going out there and vanquishing the rotters.”

“So, why’d you take Eric with you?” Daryl asked. “You said so yourself that he’s not a fighter.”

“I wanted to teach him what I knew, turn him into a fighter. Deanna was going to put him on pantry duty, taking inventory of our stock, rationing out food and guns. He wouldn’t have learned anything about protecting himself. It was a logical solution to put him in the kitchen. I wanted to make him more self-sufficient. I wanted him to do something that people would look up to him for. It takes a certain type of person to be a recruiter.”

Daryl huffed a laugh. “And Deanna just agreed with you on this?”

“I told her that Eric and I were a package deal, and she said ok, but suggested that I let him be in charge of the equipment,” he said.

Daryl unknowingly started chewing on one of his fingernails, a nervous habit of his. “You must really love him then, to take him under your wing like that.”

“Oh … well … I-I wouldn’t exactly call it that. Don’t get me wrong, I like Eric. He’s got a soft soul, but that doesn’t get you far anymore,” Aaron said, caught off guard by Daryl’s statement.

Daryl noticed this as well and got back on the subject. “Hey, at least you got her to agree.”

Aaron nodded. “Our first time out, he almost got bit. I practiced with him, taught him how to use a knife, how to shoot a gun. But once we were out there in the real world, he froze. It was a disaster. He just doesn’t have it in him, and it made my job even harder. I guess that’s partly the reason I jumped at the chance to take you on as a partner.”

Daryl heard what he had to say, but he focused on the word ‘partly’. “What was the other reason you took me on?”

Aaron smiled shyly again, got up and went back to the bookshelf to replace the book he’d been looking at. He stayed there facing the many different colored spines, running his finger along some of them. “I’ll confess that when Eric and I were watching your group to see who was the strongest, who was in charge and had the most pull, I tended to watch you the most. I know that sounds a little creepy but–”

“A little?” Daryl interrupted.

Aaron glanced over his shoulder and Daryl could see crimson running across his countenance. “It was obvious that Rick was your leader, Michonne his right hand woman. Abraham took his orders with respect. Carol was good at whispering in Rick’s ear like his conscience. But you were kind of in and out. You weren’t afraid to disagree, and you let everyone know when you thought something was a good idea. You’re strong like that. You follow your instinct before you follow anyone else’s, and I just kind of thought that if you all came to live in Alexandria, I’d want you on my team.”

It had been a long time since someone analyzed Daryl in that way. His brother never did, and neither did his father. Even other people from his original group thought of him as a hillbilly or a redneck, and so what if he was. At least he knew he’d outlast them all. And then Rick joined their clan. He didn’t see Daryl that way. Yeah, Rick thought his brother was an asshole, and rightly so, but he didn’t hesitate to go back to the place where Merle had been left behind. Daryl respected Rick for that, saw what a good man he was to care for others when most people now a days only looked out for themselves. Rick believed in him, and that was the first person in a very long time to do that. Daryl was seeing that in Aaron, as they got to know each other better, and he’d become the reason Daryl hadn’t left this screwed up town already, with or without his group.

“I’m … glad I’m on your team too,” Daryl admitted, the words rushing from his mouth. He got up right away, needing to change the atmosphere, and went to the kitchen, grabbing a couple more beers from the fridge. When he came back, he handed one to Aaron and stayed at his side by the bookshelf.

After a brief silence while they drank their beers, Aaron looked at Daryl with a bit of desperation. “I don’t want Eric out there anymore. At first I used the excuse that he needed to recover from his injuries, and it worked. But he’s almost healed now, and I’m going to have to tell him the truth.”

“I feel like this is my fault,” Daryl confessed.

“No, don’t,” Aaron said right away. “This has been coming on for a while now, but I haven’t found anyone to replace him.”

“You haven’t found a way to tell him either, obviously.”

Aaron hung his head, “No.” He took a long drink from his can.

Daryl put a reassuring hand on his shoulder. “Sorry, man.”

Aaron reached up and covered Daryl’s hand, “Thanks.” When he removed his hand, he let it slowly slide away.

The sensation gave Daryl a twinge up his spine, and some very old, but not forgotten memories pierced his thoughts. He instantly took a step away from Aaron, acting as though he was looking at the fire. “Need to move some of those logs around.” He put his beer on the mantle and knelt down, taking up the poker in his hand. He heard Aaron come up beside him and stiffened with nervousness. He stood, and Aaron was right there, gazing at him.

“Can I ask you a personal question?” Aaron said.

Daryl cringed, but something made him say yes. “What do you want to know?”

“Do you think there will be a place for people like me and Eric in the future? I mean, if they find a cure or a vaccine or something, well … this shit has bound to have spread around the world by now, and the population will have diminished. Someone like me isn’t exactly going to help bring the numbers back up, if you know what I mean.”

Daryl abandoned his previous reserve, and looked Aaron straight into his blue eyes. “There will be a place for everyone who survives when this is through, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”

Aaron nodded and gave a slight smile. “You seem kind of passionate about it, for a redneck,” he jested.

“Yeah, well, let’s just say I know a guy.”

“Daryl?” Aaron said when he looked down and away. “Are … you–”

“Am I what?” Daryl said, breaking him off with a bit of harshness, hoping he wouldn’t go any further.

“Are you … like me?”

Without hesitating and with disgust, Daryl answered. “No.”

Aaron looked embarrassed and hurt from Daryl’s tone. He didn’t mean to make the man feel this way, but it was so sudden. All his life, he’d been confused and wished there was someone he could confide in, but where Daryl came from, you didn’t dare tell another living soul if you ever had these kinds of intentions or get hung from a tree. “No,” he said again in a softer voice. “I-I don’t know.”

Aaron’s attention snapped back on Daryl. “You don’t know. So are you saying you might?”

“I’m saying I don’t know.” His answer left the conversation open for more questioning, and Aaron didn’t hesitate.

“Do you want to know?”

Daryl turned from him, placing the poker back in its rack, and fumbled with it a while. He knew Aaron pretty well by now, trusted him with his life after some of the close calls they’d had out in the open. He knew that if there was anyone he could confide in, it was this man, but Daryl was still afraid to hear the words pass his lips.

“It’s alright if you don’t want to answer that, but the fact that you haven’t beaten me to a pulp yet tells me I’ve stumbled upon some deep secret,” Aaron concluded.

Daryl picked up his can, and looked into the dark opening. “There are some things not worth telling for fear that that ghosts won’t go away,” Daryl said quietly. He downed the rest of his beer to avoid saying anything more. He was too close to telling his story and it frightened him more than a herd of walkers.

“Well, I’m here for you if you ever … you know,” Aaron told him. He shoved his hands in his pockets and bounced on his heels. “Well, I guess I better head on home.”

“Yeah man. Thanks for stopping by,” Daryl said as though the previous moment never existed. He watched Aaron go to the front door and open it. He stepped out and turned with a smile. “Good night, Daryl.”

“G’night,” Daryl called back, and then he was alone once more to consider what had just transpired.



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